Friday, May 30, 2014

A Vacation At The Shore - Part 2 of 2

Sand, Surf, and Sun

A perfect trio 

The Island Beach State Park experience continues.  This is a state park in New Jersey, a barrier island reserved for the enjoyment of everyone.  People can sunbath, surf, swim, fish, kayak, bird-watch, follow nature trails, pick wild blueberries in season, go beach-combing, or just wade in the water.  Our experience is mainly fishing, but the camera is always along and there are moments of sheer delight as something wonderful presents itself.

This post is for the Friday after Memorial  Day - it is always a good time to honor our veterans and currently serving military personnel and their families; they need and deserve our support.  

The flowers on the island are lovely to behold.  They have their special times of the year to bloom, just like in our area and everywhere, and springtime starts off the year with beach plums and wild blueberries and cherries.   Summer has beach roses, trumpet vines, plantains and Marine Peas (to mention only a few).  Fall shows off the goldenrod and ripening beachplums.  There are also cacti, marsh mallows (a member of the hibiscus family) and phragmites (invasive marsh grass).

Bayberry bush.  As kids we went to the marsh and gather here berries then sewed them into little pillows.  Running a hot iron over the sachet released the beautiful scent of these berries and also released the wax that made the iron glide smoothly.  IRON?  I almost forgot what that is - LOL!

 I thought this wild grass was graceful and pretty against the wooden walkway.

Reindeer lichen - this grows on the dunes and makes a nice color accent for all the greens and browns that also grow there.

 Plantain flower head

This was early spring and I'm not sure what kind of shrub this is.

Wild cherry tree as the fruits are ripening.

Wild Marsh Mallow - these are wetland flowers and love having wet feet:>)  Although we see them regularly on the margins of salt marched, they are even more apt to be found growing in fresh water wetlands.

 This is how beach plums look before they are ripe and beautifully purple.  These are native plants and the fruits make wonderful jelly.

Poison Ivy - The poison ivy at the beach is especially strong and thick.  It grows on dunes, into trees, and you must watch out for it if you go walking.  The rash we humans get from the oils on the plant is awful, and every part of the plant is bad news to touch.

Trumpet vines also grow through the trees and along the edges of parking lots on Island Beach State Park.  My guess is that they are escapees from the governor's house or judge's shack, or one of the other places that served as residences in the past.

The beach roses are especially lovely.  They survive growing in sand with the salt spray and strong ocean winds constantly buffeting them.  It goes to reason that they would be sturdy and have some of the most effective thorns I've ever seen.  They are normally either white of pinkish red, and the perfume from the flowers is carried a long way on the breezes - what a heavenly scent!

The two images below are of the Marsh Pea.  They, like the roses, are a hardy breed growing in sand and the tough conditions of the seashore, but they can also be found in sandy or gravely areas inland.  They are vines and grow on neighboring plants or other available support; the gorgeous flowers bloom in the summer months.  Although I've seen instructions on how to prepare these for eating, I've also read that the seeds are poisonous when eaten in any amount - smart thing to do?  Don't eat the seeds!  Enjoy the lovely flowers:>)

Dragonflies and damselflies are common near and on the beach - there are plenty of mosquitoes and flies for them to eat, and they do a great job.  I wish there were more of them and they ate more annoying bugs, but I'll take what I can get.

This blog post won't do what I want it too - yes, I'm whining!  I'll try to get around it by telling you what the pictures below represent.  Damselflies are often mistaken for tiny dragonflies, but they are different.  One way to quickly tell if what you see is a damselfly is to look at how they fold their wings.  Look at the 3rd picture down (damselfly) and you'll see the wings are held down and along the "back".  Dragonflies have a variety of ways they hold their wings - outstretched, downward, upward, but they don't hold them like damselflies.

First - probably a Blue Dasher type of dragonfly - love those turquoise eyes:>)
Second - Eastern Pondhawk Dragonfly
Third - a pretty golden colored damselfly
Fourth - a lovely yellow dragonfly I haven't identified
Fifth - Slaty Skimmer Dragonfly
Sixth - Widow Skimmer Dragonfly
Seventh - another Eastern Pondhawk

There are a number of types of butterflies and moths that frequent the beaches.  Monarchs have flyways on their migrations that included shore locations, and Island Beach State Park had (may still have) a program to capture, band, and release the butterflies.  We see them and also see many Red Admirals.  The picture below is a Red Admiral resting on the sand after flying in from over the ocean.

Even in the fall and winter there is beauty to be found.  Solidago is a name for goldenrods - there are over 100 kinds of goldenrod, and those living at the oceans edge are usually more succulent in appearance than those in meadows and fields.  This plant hasn't begun blooming yet.

Virginia Creeper is a vine we find commonly growing on the dunes.  It's also a familiar sight inland, and it is a beautiful vine.  The pretty leaves are a beautiful green in the summer, then turn a gorgeous red in autumn.  The berries are blue and much-loved by wildlife.  The first picture is a close up of a vine in one of the parking areas, and the second is a dune fence that serves to keep sand in place alongside Barnegat Inlet.  More importantly, it supports a wonderful Virginia Creeper:>)

This is a seed head of a Wild Lettuce plant.  It kind of like like a very tall (over five feet) dandelion and the flower is yellow.  We see them growing on the bay side of the island.

When winter comes and the wild roses are history, they leave their seeds in the rose hips.  Some folks make jelly from them when they are fresher - loads of vitamin C.  These are what survived the harsh winter.

Even a mushroom can find a home in the sand.  This image is actually from Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Beach Amaranth is now a threatened species of plant, and the State Park takes steps to protect this treasure.

Here are four views of the park.  First is a dune with native plants; second, a dune fence in winter snow, third, sunsetting behind a dune with beach grass, and fourth, a sunrise in a tidal creek in another New Jersey town where we rent a boat to go crabbing.  If you look closely at the very middle of the picture of the creek you'll see a heron at the edge of the muddy shelf.

A word about the beach grass.  This rather modest plant does the Herculean job of keeping sand in place during wind, rain, hurricanes, and floods.  If it weren't for the dunes being held together by the grasses and helped by other vegetation, I think the park would be mostly gone.

Trash is everywhere and even with all the efforts of the park rangers to keep it clean, visitors insist on leaving their trash on the beach.  Each tide also brings in more trash, and the majority of it is plastic.  If we want to keep areas like Island Beach State Park a joy for all of us to experience, we need to take care of it.  Trash receptacles are provided at every parking area and that includes places to recycle.  People who fish should not leave line on the beach.  There are special receptacles for dropping in used and cut fishing line.  This protects the wildlife.  We are so fortunate to have natural areas to explore!

There are a number of pictures left over, so expect another dose of seaside images at some future date.  There are quite a few from Island Beach State Park, and I also have pictures  from the Outer Banks and Cape Cod.  Two postings in a row are probably pushing it (Are you bored yet?), so I'll keep my word and make it only a two-parter:>)

There is an elemental draw to the sea that just about everyone experiences.  I encourage people to go to the beach and enjoy that unique habitat.  Keep your eyes and ears open; smell the salt air; feel the sand between your toes and the cool ocean on your feet.

I have a tiny, little WOW that I'd love to share - a group of artists on one of the websites I belong to publishes a stunning e-magazine.  I was honored to be told they featured me (among others) on pages 72 through 79 - this is a glamorous publication, in my view, and exceedingly well done.  I'm so tickled!!!!!

We'll meet again next week when there will be a different theme.  Meantime, travel safely and enjoy!

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Vacation At The Shore - Part 1 of 2


Be safe and have fun:>)

Part 1 of 2 - Part 2 comes next week

Amid all the fun with family and friends, let us remember the sacrifices of our military men and women - that includes their families who serve as surely and as patriotically as those who are actively on duty.  

This is the first big weekend of Spring, and many people head to the beach.  The three "S"'s are what they seek - sun, sand, and surf.  Parking and space to lay your blanket maybe be at a premium, but stay cool and just think how marvelous it is not to have snow:>)

We, on the other hand, will avoid being anywhere close to the shore - you can use our parking space and blanket acreage.  We will be here, under the trees, no traffic, and instead of waves, we'll hear birds.  Each to their own - ENJOY YOUR TIME AT THE OCEAN!

When we go to the beach it is usually Island Beach State Park in New Jersey.  Fishing is our main focus, but I manage to get in a few photos on the majority of trips.  Here are some of the sights that impressed me and almost all of them are from Island Beach State Park.  On the south end of this barrier island is Barnegat Inlet, and across the water stands "Old Barney" - Barnegat Lighthouse - which is on the Northern end of Long Beach Island, NJ.  The inlet is a busy waterway for all manner of vessels and a few are included here.

A shout out goes to the Coast Guard who keep us safe on the water.

Coast Guard Patrol Boat in Barnegat Inlet
Here are a couple more boats passing through the inlet.

Fishing can be done from the beach.  We set up close to the high tide line, get the sand spikes ready, and bait up the rods.  If there are fish like Bluefish or Stripers feeding close to shore, we use plugs (also called lures).  There is a whole culture built up around the old time, wooden lures used back in the 1940's, 50's, and even the 60's.  These are venerable warriors that caught many a game fish and were usually made of wood.

Collectors of the serious kind want old lures in mint condition; it's an expensive hobby.  I love the lures that show the effects of battles with fighting fish - let them show some age and some honor for the wars fought:>)  My husband has a nice, small collection, and he makes his own wooden lures for us to use.  This 2-part post will show you some of his work and YES, they do catch fish!

This is a lure called a "flaptail" because of the metal tail that spins as the lure is retrieved.  My husband creates his lures by loosely modeling them on the vintage ones but using his own touch.  He uses an air brush, glass eyes (sometimes decal eyes), and my mesh onion bags to create the scale design.

This is an "antique" (more correctly termed "vintage") wooden lure

My husband made this beauty; it is called a needlefish.

This is a swimmer of smallish size.

Some lures are made to plop along the surface of the water and create a disturbance that draws the game fish.  These are called "poppers", and you'll note the cupped front that makes the popping sound as the plug is retrieved.

This is a section of beach called "The Judge's Shack".  There are a couple terrific
holes in the water (right in front of the building) where fisher people vie for space
to try their luck.  Island Beach State Park sells annual beach buggy permits so fisher people can drive on the beach to fish.  Bathing beaches are exempt from drivers, but everywhere else is for fishing.  You need 4 x 4 vehicles and must have all the required equipment to be allowed to drive on the beach.  Believe it or not, it can look like a parking lot sometimes.  This is on the ocean side of the island and is, by far, the more popular side for all activities.

This is a picture taken from the bay side of the island where there is mud, mosquitoes, and biting flies.  Here you also find wild blueberries (DELICIOUS!!!), shorebirds, and quiet waters for wading to fish.  Weakfish like to hang out in the warmer waters of the bay.  There are kayaking tours here, too.

The dunes are home to a huge variety of plants and animals, including some that are rare.  It's a landscape (dunescape?) unfamiliar to many but beautiful and unique.  The Beach Heather shows pretty yellow flowers and creates nice, mounded plants.  The trees are scrub oak, pine, and holly, not to mention the shrubs like beach plums and wild blueberries.  I love the Virginia Creeper vines and Poison Ivy - yes, I do love the gorgeous vines of Poison Ivy:>) 

This is a fence on the dunes that run next to Barnegat Inlet.  The Virginia Creeper vines have taken it over and covered it. 

There is one, two-lane road that runs down the island.  Off to the sides there are numerous parking areas where folks can pull off, park, and take advantage of any number of activities.  One of these parking areas had this old, weathered fence festooned with Beach Plum shrubs.

People can walk to the beach on either side, take a nature tour, go bird-watching.  There is even an Osprey cam that shows viewers the nesting life of a pair of Ospreys in real time.  
(  )

The dunes are beautiful.

Although there aren't a lot of exotic shells, I can always find lovely ones to take home, along with wave-washed stones and even the occasion piece of honest-to-goodness beach glass created by wave action in the ocean.  There is any manner of flotsam and jetsam to be seen - far too much trash, especially plastic.  I won't get on my soap box about this, but please try to be aware of what you do with your trash.  Read about the Gyres that spin around in our various oceans and seas and you may be surprised,  (  ).You'll enjoy making time to do some beach-combing - here are a few treasures to be found.  But first, if the day is particularly still and the sun is warm, you'll need some kind of bug protection to keep away the flies and mosquitoes, especially the flies - don't forgot your sun screen, too:>)

Horse fly

Shells are always available and the most common are the big surf clams.  You can also find conch, scallops, jungle shells, and any number of beautiful, wave-polished rocks.  There is seaweed, skate egg cases, driftwood, and crab shells, too.

This little crab is a Mole Crab, sometimes erroneously called a Sand Flea which is an entirely different and biting critter.  Mole crabs live right at the water's edge and as waves leave the beach you can see the holes their bubbles create in the sand.  Digging down about a foot will get you many of these guys - all sizes from tiny to the size of the top joint of a man's thumb.  They do not bite but they are digging demons!  They are also great bait, especially the soft-shelled ones that have just shed and haven't had a chance to have their shells become hard and protective.

Feathers are everywhere, of course, since birds are everywhere.  This is a seagull feather.

These are stranded jellyfish.  As you can see from the middle picture, hundreds, indeed thousands of these little guys, are washed up onto the beach at certain times of the year and at certain tides.

One of my favorite parts of any day at Island Beach State Park is a visit to the jetty.  This is where a lot of fishing happens; people brave the waves and slippery rocks to go out and cast to where the "big ones" are.  I go seeking photo ops along the rocks, in the dunes, whatever I can find.  Right now the jetty is under reconstruction and we con't get real close - maybe a football field away.  Hurricane Sandy did her best to make the jetty disappear and almost succeeded, but in a year the rocks will be back and the fishing will be in full swing.

When the birds are working (3rd picture below) they show that the big fish are in and hungry.  As the fish chop into the schools of bait fish like bunker, the birds wheel and dive and scream - look for birds "working" and you'll probably find fish.

Here's a shot of Barnegat Lighthouse, affectionately called "Old Barney"

Now for some seascapes - you know, sunrise, sunset, skies, waves . . .

To finish off this first part of the posting about the shore, I have some of the animals you can see when you visit.  I think this post is too long since the page won't let me write captions and it keeps moving the pictures around.  Sorry about that - these last few images will complete today's post.

First - Great Black-backed Gull
Second - Great American Egret
Third - Sanderlings
Fourth - Red Fox vixen
Fifth - Snail with a barnacle brooch - LOL

Until next week when the shore vacation is done - be safe.  Wishing you loads of happy moments, great food, and many smiles!

This is a Grey Seal and the photo was taken in chatham, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA