Friday, October 18, 2013

The Wildlife Gardener's Meetup (Part 3)

On the last day of the Wildlife Gardener's Forum meetup, we went to Cape May, NJ. I had never been there before but always heard good things. On the way there we came across a grape farm (vineyard?) which still had grapes growing. It was neat to see how they protect the fruit with lines of cloth. I'll have to mimic this method myself somehow.

Also before we got there, there was a group of photographers all standing in the road, cameras focused on a tidy little garden they have down there. These people were blocking the road and all anxiously awaiting for something to happen. Apparently some west coast hummingbird species had been spotted there the previous night and everyone was standing there waiting for it to show again... we stopped a moment to think if that would be worth our time but decided it was not. While leaving we asked if it had shown and it hadn't.

Cape May is the southern most point of New Jersey which also bottle necks into a peninsula, making it ideal for viewing most things that migrate at this time of year. It was a little late though so we caught the tail end of the Monarch Migration and little else.

The park was a nice wetland area with trails leading all up and down the bays and beaches there.

The least interesting parts were those overrun with the invasive Common Reed Grass, Phagmites australis. This grass can be drown as a method of control, and though it likes growing in wetlands it's very growing habit slowly generates new land. They push up so much top growth every year that it doesn't decompose until several years more, thus the ground is slowly raised. Seeds are air born, and once established they will send out runners several feet away, making them quick to colonize.

The occasional Golden Aster, Heterotheca and Chrysopsis sp. grew in places. Overall it was a rare plant but still a nice one to see.

I don't think it's Maryland Golden Aster, but certainly something in that genus, (or the other one).

Along the beach there seemed to be some sort of restoration project. There had to be a few thousand plants of Seaside Goldenrod, Solidago sempervirens, and what might be Little Blue Stem, or it's sand and salt water tolerant counterpart.

This is a fantastic goldenrod species. If I had a dune of 100% sand in my yard I'd certainly be trying to grow it! The plant is a good size, they don't seem all that aggressive, and the flowers are as nice and showy as Showy Goldenrod.

Monarch Butterflies swooped about from plant to plant. Most of them seemed to be having difficulty staying with the plant from the force of the wind though. As I mentioned earlier this was the tail end of their migration so we really only saw a few dozen. But that's a lot more than I had in my yard this year or had seen flying around.
Beautiful Plant.

They were less common inland where the soil turned more rocky than sandy, but Monarchs found them all the same.

I got to test out my new Raynox DCR-250 Super Macro Snap-On Lens with some Monarchs and in such beautiful lighting! This little snap on works with just about any camera that has a clip on lens cap, and is well worth the money.

A queen bumblebee. She won't start a nest until next year but in the mean time they fuel up on nectar.

This one fooled me a bit because the bee that it was mimicking were on other plants.

This is a bee mimicking flower fly. They do this to be left alone, and sometimes to sneak into bumblebee nests to lay their eggs upon the decomposing parts of the nest. I don't think they're a pest to bumblebees (though I might be wrong) but this camo also means fewer predators will mess with them.

Back at the beach there were other critters in camo. Can you see it?

This grass hopper is perfectly colored to blend in with the beach.

The sky away as we looked away from the sun.

Goldenrod as we looked toward the sun.

... we were parked over by the light house.

Walking back to the car proved to be one of the prettiest moments of the whole day. I'll have to do this again next year.