day trips

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

I did post about Sandy Hook way back in 2009.

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.

Puck
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?

Rutgers Gardens in October

Rutgers Gardens flowers
Last week I had the pleasure of visiting one of my favorite places in central New Jersey: Rutgers Gardens. Rutgers Gardens is maintained by staff, students and volunteers. You can learn more on the website for Rutgers Gardens.

bench garden area
There are various garden areas within Rutgers Gardens. The one above with the bench is part of the rain garden. Vegetation in a rain garden area needs to be acclimated to prolonged periods of inundation, followed by equally prolonged periods of drought. From the Rutgers Gardens website:

Rain gardens look attractive when newly planted, but can and often deteriorate over time with the invasion of unattractive weeds and a resulting decline in vigor from the ornamental plantings as they become ‘choked-out’. The intent at Rutgers Gardens was to design and develop a garden that had all the positive environmental aspects, yet remained attractive throughout the year with minimal maintenance.

yellow flowers Rutgers Gardens
These attractive yellow flowers are part of the Donald B. Lacy Display garden. Wish I knew the name of the yellow flowers (and those red pom ones as well – maybe a kind of Gomphrena – maybe Gomphrena globosa ‘Fireworks’). I believe the magenta/purple pom ones I showed last week are Gomphrena globosa. Some of the flowers and vegetables are grown inside a fence with a gate, and the public is not allowed to enter, but it is easy to peek in and view.

fall foliage raritan river
One of the great features of Rutgers Gardens are the hikes you can take – we like taking the walk that goes along the Raritan River. There was some colorful foliage but not a lot. I like the pretty colorful reflections in the river.

As I said on the Rutgers Gardens post last week, we saw two chipmunks. Here’s one more photo of the chipmunk in the woods:
chipmunk at Rutgers Gardens in woods

Thursday Theme: Blurry

pom pom flowers
Today I visited Rutgers Gardens with my friend Hannah Katsman. I don’t know the name of these delightful purple flowers, but I nicknamed them pom pom flowers (maybe Gomphrena globosa). My photograph originally had more blur in front; I cropped out some of the front flowers. Now you can see more of the blur of the background flowers.

chipmunk
Hannah has a good eye, and thus twice we saw chipmunks. Chipmunks are quick and thus a subject for movement. His eyes were white from my flash, so I toned them down a bit with some brown. I hope it doesn’t look unnatural.

chipmunk
This was the other chipmunk we saw. Here we have a little more of our theme: as the chipmunk moves away, I get blur in my photo.

Thursday Challenge theme is: “BLURRY” (Unfocused, Moving, Foggy,…)
Next Week: LANDSCAPE (Mountains, Trees, Forest, Lake,…)

I’ll post more photos from today’s trip next week for Nature Notes. See an older post of Rutgers Gardens (or click the tag at the bottom for many Rutgers Gardens posts).

Seagulls at Point Pleasant Beach

seagulls at Point Pleasant beach in New Jersey
What a lot of seagulls we saw at Point Pleasant Beach in New Jersey. My daughter was a bit frightened of how low they swooped while we sat on the beach. It was crowded with humans; I’m pretty sure there were more humans than seagulls, but that fact is debatable.

umbrella two seagulls at beach
What do you notice about the seagulls?

seagull by blanket
I couldn’t figure out when they wanted to hang out and when they preferred to fly about. There was a lot of both going on.

flying seagulls
A whole lot of flapping of wings and flying off in this photo.

jumping seagull
This seagull in the middle looks like he is jumping.

crowd of seagulls some flying
A crowd of seagulls do their thing, flying or flapping or hanging around.

seagulls in sky
And they are off: flying in the sky are the seagulls.

seagull
Thank you to this seagull for posing nicely for my camera.

There are more than just seagulls at Point Pleasant Beach. There are amusement rides, mini golf, arcades, a boardwalk, a fun house, lots of junk food being sold (at about 4 pm half the people I saw held an ice cream cone), and many beach umbrellas.

For more Nature Notes:
Nature Notes

Birds at Philadelphia Zoo and Bird Migration, Too

McNeil Avian Center at Philadelphia Zoo - bird pattern
Bird pattern on door of McNeil Avian Center at Philadelphia Zoo

There is a wonderful educational movie about bird migration at the Philadelphia Zoo. You can see it in the McNeil Avian Center building. It stars a cartoon oriole named Otis. He is a funny yellow bird who starts off in Cape May, New Jersey talking to a heron. She tells him that he really can’t hang around in Cape May; he needs to migrate down to South America.

On the way he meets a lady oriole – she warns him not to fly down into what we know is a big city. Maybe the big city is in Texas. Otis is tempted by all the shiny lights. Bang! He flies right into a shiny, reflective tall building. He also finds out there is little food in this shiny, bright city.

It all ends happily – he makes it down to South America, finds the lady oriole, and at the movie’s end, they are building a nest together back in the north.

african starling at Philadelphia Zoo
At the avian center there is a section of African Savannah birds – this is an African Starling. Doesn’t look like the starlings we see in North America, does it?

Egyptian Plover
Another African Savannah bird: here is an Egyptian plover. An Egyptian plover has a black crown and underparts of pale orange. It was quite warm in this part of the avian center – I suppose all these African Savannah birds would prefer a climate warmer than that of Philadelphia.

black birds in tree
The black birds above were not part of any exhibit of birds at Philadelphia Zoo, but they were not afraid of the crowd at the zoo.

Peacock at Philadelphia Zoo
If you don’t watch where you are going at the zoo, you might run into a peacock.

bird on carousel at Philadelphia Zoo
Should I count this upside-down bird on the carousel as one of the birds at Philadelphia Zoo?

female cardinal eating at bird feeder
I learned at the bird migration movie that cardinals, unlike orioles, do not migrate. So if I keep feeding the cardinals in my backyard, maybe they will stick around all summer.

• • •

What do the birds in your area do? Do they hang around all winter or do they migrate? Do you know? How could you find out?

Review at the Zoo with Giraffes

giraffes at Philadelphia Zoo
Two giraffes at the Philadelphia Zoo

Elsewhere in the Blogosphere

  • Michelle is recovering from breast cancer surgery, and she is blogging about … taking care of herself by resting.
  • Lorri has been reading and reviewing books. I hope to read this book called Triumph and Tragedy about life in Poland and its Jewish communities.
  • Stuck on what to blog about? Jeri has an exercise that might help.
  • Just because you read a study in a well-known newspaper does not mean it is a well-done study: Chris Kesser talks about confounding factors in this article on Red Meat and TMAO. “The healthy user bias is one of the main reasons it’s so difficult to infer causality from epidemiological relationships. For example, say a study shows that eating processed meats like bacon and hot dogs increases your risk of heart disease. Let’s also say, as the healthy user bias predicts, that those who eat more bacon and hot dogs also eat a lot more refined flour (hot dog and hamburger buns), sugar and industrial seed oils, and a lot less fresh fruits, vegetables and soluble fiber. They also drink and smoke more, exercise less and generally do not take care of themselves very well. How do we know, then, that it’s the processed meat that is increasing the risk of heart disease rather than these other things—or perhaps some combination of these other things and the processed meat?”

Sons of Israel in Asbury Park

Congregation Sons of Israel in Asbury Park
Congregation Sons of Israel in Asbury Park, now a church

Congregation Sons of Israel in Asbury Park, an Orthodox Jewish congregation, was founded in 1904. The congregation has since moved away from Asbury Park, but for several decades it was housed in this building in Asbury Park. A few weeks ago we rented a four wheel cycle (pedal car) from Brielle Cyclery on the Asbury Park boardwalk and cycled past the building, which now belongs to a church (First French Speaking Baptist Church).

Asbury Park Sons of Israel
The building now has two large crosses in the front: one has to look carefully to see signs that it was built as a synagogue. Details to notice are the stained glass windows.

windows of Congregation Sons of Israel
What do you see in those windows? I see a Torah, menorah, ner tamid, a book, a dove, and possibly someone praying in a prayer shawl on the right.

5709 Sons of Israel
Also, if you look carefully at the carvings in the front you will see the Hebrew date of 5709 and the corresponding Gregorian date of 1949, the year the building was built for Congregation Sons of Israel.

For more information on the history of Jewish Asbury Park, see Asbury Park: Pictorial History in Brief.

Johnson Park and Delaware & Raritan Canal

Johnson Park trees in Piscataway
I visited the Piscataway end of Johnson Park at the end of July. It was a super hot day (there are a lot of those this summer), but I enjoyed taking shots of the trees in the distance.

delaware and raritan canal
When I got to the edge of the Raritan River that borders the park, I noticed you could see the Delaware & Raritan Canal on the other side. I thought: aha! that would be good subject matter for a post. Maybe it will get a little less hot, and I’ll go to take some photos of the canal itself. You can see from the three people on this canal photo that the canal is a fun place to hike and bike. There’s a lot of history behind the canal, constructed in 1834, that went all the way from New Brunswick (that’s this end of the canal) to Trenton, which is close to Philadelphia.

Johnson Park geese
These geese are regular residents of Johnson Park.

Red Beach Chair at Asbury Park Beach

Asbury Park beach red chair
This red beach chair photo may make it appear that there is hardly anyone at the Asbury Park Beach on July 4th, but in truth it was quite crowded on the beach. I hope to write a pictorial, historical post on Asbury Park in an upcoming post.

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