Monthly Archives: May 2015

Bobolinks Thrive at Bergen County’s No-Mow Zone

bobolink-jim-macaluso 3-401“Since the 1900s, bobolink populations in the northeast have been declining- with a 75% decrease occurring in the past 40 years according to the Breeding Bird Survey. Bobolinks are a grassland bird and a ground nester. The loss of North American grasslands and modern farming practices, that call for the harvest of the hayfields during nesting season, have led to their waning numbers.  But creating No-Mow zones, like those at Overpeck County Park, is one way that we in suburban New Jersey can help.”

This according to DonTorino, whose column Don’s Jersey Birding appears weekly in Wild New Jersey. Read the full article here.

A Late Snowfall?

_DSC0728No, not snow. It’s the ‘cotton’ from the cottonwood trees, accumulating in the grass at DeKorte Park.  The Eastern Cottonwoods (Populus deltoides) are shedding their seeds in dense fluffy masses that are scattered by the wind. Each tiny seed has a tuft of silky white hairs which carry it aloft in search of fertile ground. In late spring, millions of cottonwood seeds fill the air around the meadowlands.

whirling nutMany plants use the wind to disperse their seeds. Adaptations include gliders, spinners, parachutes, flutterers, and more. In the meadowlands, many common plants spread this way, since there are fewer mammals to transport seed (whether stuck to their fur or in their droppings) and fewer perching places for birds who might carry seeds to distant places.

Read a good seed dispersal article on Wikipedia here.

A variety of other wind-borne seeds. Images, including moving GIF, from:

Audubon Walk at Laurel Hill This Sunday

IMG_9901Look for Peregrine Falcons and Osprey – among others – at Laurel Hill County Park in Secaucus this Sunday with members of the Bergen County Audubon Society. Peregrines have apparently taken over a Common Ravens’ nest, having previously taken over an Osprey nest nearby. Don’t mess with Peregrines!
The walk starts at 9 am. Meet at the farthest parking lot. Directions to to this sometimes tough-to-find park are here. Contact Don Torino ( or  201-230-4983) for more information.

Folk Art as the Original Recycling

Photo: Catie Leary.

Photo: Catie Leary.

Creative minds have always seen the potential in junk. And frugal minds have always seen ways to re-use old things. Add a dose of divine inspiration and amazing art gets made. Certainly that was the case with folk artist Howard Finster, whose magnum opus, his home and garden in Summerville, Georgia, is undergoing an extensive restoration.

“Reverend Howard Finster is widely hailed as the “grandfather of modern folk art,” and for good reason — he only started making art after the age of 59. Born in 1916, Finster spent the first half of his life in northeastern Alabama working as a born-again Baptist preacher and bicycle mechanic. He later moved across the border to Georgia, where he eventually opened Paradise Garden,” write Catie Leary for Mother Nature Network.

Readers of a certain age – or a certain musical persuasion – may remember Mr. Finster’s album cover for the Talking Heads 1985 release Little Creatures.  Earlier, the band R.E.M. filmed the video for Radio Free Europe at Paradise Gardens, while Michael Stipe collaborated with Finster on the cover for R.E.M.’s Reckoning.

Read more about this amazing artist and the restoration of Paradise Garden, with lots of pictures, here.

In an upcoming post, I’ll introduce you to an current Sussex County, New Jersey artist whose extraordinary home/ studio/garden could be described as our local Paradise Garden.

Making Room for Ducks in England

Duck lanes are meant to reduce ruffled feathers on narrow towpaths. (Photo: Bethany Clarke/Canal & River Trust/Getty Images)

Duck lanes are meant to reduce ruffled feathers on narrow towpaths. (Photo: Bethany Clarke/Canal & River Trust/Getty Images)

“The Canal & River Trust is designating duck lanes — yes, lanes for ducks — along certain high-traffic routes, marked by a white line and a duck silhouette. Ducks are frequent users of the slender canal walkways, also known as towpaths, but they must compete for space with a gaggle of joggers, cyclists and other humans, many of whom are distracted by smartphones.
Even England’s most astute ducks probably won’t get it, of course, and no one really expects the birds to stay in their lanes. The markings are meant as visual reminders for humans to slow down and be courteous. ”

Read more on Mother Nature Network here.


Amazon Now Rents Goats to Mow Your Lawn

goats_Jesse SwickWhen the NJMC used goats to clear a neglected woodland in Rutherford in 2012 and 2013, a few eyes rolled. Now you can rent them on Amazon. But think about it – how did our ancestors maintain their lawns? Grazing. You can feed your livestock and manage your meadows at the same time. The great estates of Europe, with their elegant sweeping lawns, employed sheep and other grazers to keep their lawns manicured. They even wore shoes to prevent their hooves from damaging the turf.

But I digress. Rented goats are not a magic bullet for clearing overgrown lots – they cleared the 2-acre Rutherford lot of poison ivy, Japanese knotweed, and, to a lesser extent, phragmites in a couple of weeks. But they can only eat leaves and stems so the roots remain, which means the weeds grow back, though not as vigorously as before. Resident goats could keep down new growth as it emerges. The goats, of course, require fresh water and other care.

But consider this: the cost estimates to bring in a crew to hand-pull and spray with glyphosate (Round-up) were as high as $30,000. The goats cost less than $3500 for each visit. So you could hire goats for 8 years or spray one time. The goats would leave a lot of fertilizer as well.

See the article on by Lee Mathews here.

New Remedy For Bats With White-nose Syndrome

little-brown-bat-US Fish and Wildlife“Scientists have successfully treated and released dozens of bats that had white-nose syndrome, an invasive fungal epidemic that’s wiping out some of North America’s most important insect-eaters. The fungal epidemic has killed about 6 million bats in 26 U.S. states and five Canadian provinces since 2006, pushing several species near the brink of extinction.”

Read more by Russell McLendon on Mother Nature Network here.