Sandy Hook: Nature and History

Sandy Hook cove
One of my favorite places in New Jersey is Sandy Hook. Sandy Hook is a little peninsula (a hook?) at the top of the Jersey Shore. On one side there are ocean beaches with places for parking and restrooms. On the other side are little cove beaches. At the far end are a lighthouse and historical buildings.

We first went to the ocean side – it was crowded, and the waves were strong. We then decided to drive closer to the lighthouse, parked the car, and discovered the little cove beach at the top of this post. We swam, had lunch and discovered various beach items.

Sandy Hook lighthouse
I wanted to climb to the top of the lighthouse, but my daughter did not. This is a lesson in patience – I make lists in my head of stuff to do when I have the opportunity. We did watch a movie in the little house next to the lighthouse all about piping plovers, and how they on the threat of extinction list. I suppose I would have to wake up early in the morning and go with another bird lover if I wanted to watch the plovers on the beach myself.

mortar battery at Sandy Hook, NJ
A good number of the buildings at Sandy Hook were once upon a time used by the U.S. military. Above is a mortar battery at Sandy Hook, built about 1898. You can learn more about Sandy Hook and how it was used to defend New York City on this National Park Service article.

horseshoe crabs
I saw these horseshoe crabs (deceased!) on the beach, so I took a photo.
Some facts from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation website:

Four species of horseshoe crabs exist today. Only one species, Limulus polyphemus, is found in North America along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts from Maine to Mexico… Horseshoe crabs are not true crabs at all. Horseshoe crabs are more closely related to arachnids (a group that includes spiders and scorpions) than to crustaceans (a group that includes true crabs, lobsters, and shrimp). Horseshoe crabs are often called “living fossils” because fossils of their ancestors date back almost 450 million years–that’s 200 million years before dinosaurs existed.

A scene I found beautiful:
Sandy Hook scene

For more Nature Notes:
Nature Notes

I did post about Sandy Hook way back in 2009.

Ducks Follow Mother Duck

mama duck
When we were in Montreal last month, we had fun watching ducks diving into the pond at the Montreal Botanical Garden. I assume the duck above is the Mama duck; she seemed to be watching it all.

duck dive shot
My daughter asked me to keep taking photos of the ducks diving into the pond – I think the one above finally satisfied her. She loves animals a lot (she also likes to eat animals – but not if they are cute. So no duck meat for her).

ducks walk
After their diving session, the ducks started to walk together.

ducks follow mom
I assume these are teenage ducks following their mom.

I did a little research and Googled: “duck follows mom why.” Came up with several sites talking about imprinting and how ducks will follow whatever they see first after hatching. I’m glad these particular ducks are following a duck that does indeed look like a duck mom.

For more Nature Notes:
Nature Notes

Shakespeare at Rutgers Gardens

Shakespeare in Rutgers Gardens - character scene 1
Last week we had the great pleasure of seeing Midsummer Night’s Dream (yes, the play by Shakespeare) in Rutgers Gardens. The play was low budget with wonderful acting, simple modern summer clothes for costumes, and a Starbucks cup was a prop. I am not sure which character was which, but the above female whom I think played a male was the first actor on the stage. The first scene was outside the log cabin. We the audience had to move around with the actors from scene to scene within Rutgers Gardens. It seemed OK at first, but by our tenth time moving, it was a little bit too much up and down. I went with my daughter who had never seen Shakespeare before. I think she might enjoy the kind where you sit in one spot, and the actors wear costumes. When I grew up in a Boston suburb, we used to watch Shakespeare plays by the Charles River (I remember The Tempest, for example). And when my husband lived in Manhattan, he had the opportunity to see Shakespeare in the park.

Duke and Lysander
This is from the first scene – I am fairly sure the woman on the right is the Duke. The guy in the back is Lysander (the other main male lead was Demetrius – I get the two confused. One was in love with Hermia, and the other was loved by her). My daughter was even more confused – she had no idea what was going on at all. But she was happy to see one of her theater friends there. She said everyone was laughing at certain parts, and she did not know why. We figured some of the audience knew the play well (one of my friends did), and others like us were fairly clueless.

Nick Bottom
This actor was Nick Bottom. I enjoyed his antics. I think he was supposed to be putting on a play within a play. We never got to see the end of this production because it started to thunder and lightning at the end. But we did see a lot.

Hermia and Helena
The actress on the left is Hermia (note the Starbucks cup). The one in the blue who is on her knees is Helena. And in the back is much of the audience!

Queen of the Fairies
Here is the Queen of the Fairies (Titania).

Puck with King of the Fairies
On the left is the fairy Puck (he causes a lot of trouble, putting people to sleep and having them fall in love with the wrong people). On the right is the King of the Fairies. I am pretty sure that is a woman dressed like a man.

Here is Puck, who causes (or seems to) a lot of the mix ups and inconveniences. Spraying fairy dust is a dangerous art form.

Nick Bottom donkey
I believe Puck is one who turns Nick Bottom (above) into a donkey. That’s a pretty good donkey, isn’t it?

Hermia and Oberon
This is the finally scene we were able to see. After this, it started to rain. Soon came thunder and lightning. Hermia (the one with a Starbucks cup who is in love with Lysander and loved by Demetrius) is on the left; and Oberon, King of the Fairies, is on the right. I had to use my flash on my camera because it was getting dark.

You can learn more about Shakespeare at Rutgers Gardens on the Rutgers Gardens website. The theatrical group is called re-Think Theatrical – I hope they do more.

Have you ever seen Shakespeare performed outside? Which play?

Echinacea and Astilbe

echinacea coneflower bee
The echinacea (common name: coneflower) in our front garden are doing beautifully this summer. After years of trying to grow them (I tried the backyard first – not enough sun and too many chomping animals), I had a lovely batch in one spot last summer. I spread out the seeds all over my front yard, and we have been rewarded with lots of these purplish pink flowers. Is that a bee on it? It looks almost like a fly.

coneflower bud
Here’s how a coneflower bud looks before it turns purplish pink.

echinacea pink
And here’s how the flower looks when it is slightly pink. Echinacea is part of the daisy family.

The astilbe flowers in my backyard have been growing nicely. I finally took some photos – they will quickly start to fade. The bright color does not seem to last long for this perennial. Astilbe do well in shade – one of the reasons why I planted them.

astilbe up close
Here is an astilbe up close. From Wikipedia: “Some species are commonly known as false goat’s beard and false spirea.”

I have a wonderful problem: I have taken a lot of cool photos lately. On Thursday night my daughter and I got to see Midsummer Night’s Dream at Rutgers Gardens. So in addition to my Montreal photos and a few from the Philadelphia Art Museum, I have more photos than time to share. We shall see what comes next.

For more Nature Notes:
Nature Notes

And I am also linking to I Heart Macro:
I heart macro

Thursday Challenge: Sound

Canada Day band in Montreal
Can you hear the band playing? This band was marching in the parade down Rue Ste. Catherine in Montreal on Canada Day. We had a great time watching the parade, although we left when it started to pour. Hope to post more pictures soon of the parade.

Thursday Challenge theme is: Sound (Noise, Music, Singing, Birds, Insects, Vehicles,…).

Montréal Botanical Garden: Signs, Art, and Waterfall Shots

Montreal Botanical Garden
We went on a trip to Montréal last week. One of the highlights was visiting the Montréal Botanical Garden. I imagined all formal gardens; indeed, when you enter there are roses upon roses upon roses. However, there are also woods and trails!

I had fun taking photos of the various plants and signs.
astilbe in Montreal Botanical Gardens
One of the reasons I photographed astilbe is because we have it in our own garden. I came home (we’ve had a good deal of rain, both in Montreal and in Highland Park, NJ and points in between), and my backyard astilbe is growing beautifully! It is a deep shade of pink, and I at some point soon I should photograph it as well. Astilbe does nicely in the shade.

Lovely purple thyme was growing in the Chinese garden. There was a Chinese garden, a Japanese garden and a “The First Nations Garden.” The so-called First Nations Garden was more like a stroll in the woods. But it was quite pleasant, with lots of woodland plants identified.

beaked hazelnut
As the sign says, this is beaked hazelnut.

chinese garden
I thought the Chinese Garden the nicest, but that water doesn’t look too pleasant – a bit too opaque and a weird shade of bluish green.

Waterfall Photo Experiments

I did some experiments with my camera on the waterfall in the Chinese Garden. Below each I posted the shutter speed for the camera. If you vary the shutter speed, you get different water results.
1/250 shutter speed waterfall
This waterfall photo has a shutter speed of 1/250.

waterfall 1/125 shutter speed
This waterfall photo has a shutter speed of 1/125.

Montreal waterfall 1/80 shutter speed
This waterfall photo has a shutter speed of 1/80.

What is Art? What is Nature?

Sometimes you can look at something and think that it is nature. You look again – it’s art! So what’s this:
wild boars
Are these wild boars?

boar sculpture at Montreal Botanical Gardens
Get a little closer, and you will see it’s natural materials built into a sculpture that looks like a wild boar.

Monarch Oasis

Saving my favorite part for the end: near the Insectarium (which we did not enter, in part due to time and in part due to my daughter saying absolutely not to looking at insects) there is a Monarch Oasis garden. Of course, I immediately thought of Michelle, host of Nature Notes.
Monarch Oasis
I wonder why they put the monarch garden in that steel girded structure. Maybe just to give it emphasis. Or maybe to cover it in winter? Well, probably everything goes under all the Canadian snow.

Monarch Oasis garden

monarch flowers
If anyone wants to give identification for these lovely Monarch Oasis flowers, I will be happy to add them in. I know at least some of the bright flowers are lantana (not pictured).

Monarch Oasis in Montreal Botanical Garden

For more Nature Notes:

Nature Notes

(Of course, I took more photos of Montreal, plus some of a trip to the Philadelphia Art Museum – will be showing more on this blog. Stay tuned).