Hacklebarney: park of a thousand picnic tables.
This New Jersey State park was a bit higher elevation and a bit colder than Lord Stirling on our visit in late March, Hacklebarney’s trails scramble down into the ravine of the Black River, Trout Brook and Rhinehart Brook.
A few last shadows of snow remained
There were several of these some early bugs about
We found what turned out to be blooming skunk cabbage. The plant produces its own heat, allowing it it bloom before the ground thaws. I don’t remember who took which pictures, except Mike took the skunk cabbage pictures. He did the conversions too.
Visiting New Jersey in late March, spring was not yet taking hold at Lord Stirling Park. The deciduous forests looked delicate and crisp with their bare branches, all shades of brown and cream from the mud to last years leaves to the tree bark. Still, some moss, some bulbs, and a fern here and there were peeking through, and then a beautiful blue sky above added color.
We were sharing the NEX 5n. I took the robin and swamp picture. Mike did the photo conversions.
This is a lowland park, marshy with sections that are seasonally flooded near the Passaic River. There are boardwalks in some places. Trail maps are posted at intersections. There was quite a bit of damage remaining from Sandy. The holes left from uprooted trees had filled to make small ponds. There northern trails were still closed.
Tussocks in the Woodpecker Swamp
When researching the park, we found reports of seeing bluebirds. We were lucky to see one too.
Several times we heard croaky choruses, which we figured were far off geese, but as we came nearer to some of the calls, it sounded more like frogs to us. We thought it must be too cold for frogs (I think it was in the upper 40s). At Earwig Bridge we decided to stay still for a few minutes, and probably a dozen frogs popped up.
Walking past the pond almost back to the parking lot, there were more geese and swans.
After visiting Manatee Park, we went to a second park, Caloosahatchee Regional Park.
We found an unconcerned raccoon walking along part of the trail near the river. Nearby there was a collection of shells, perhaps left over from a raccoon meal.
I’ve been calling these pincushions, but the book calls them pipewort. I have no authority on the name, but I also happen to disagree on the size they list for the flowers. The book claims 3/4″, but I think they are nearer to 1/4-3/8″ diameter. The beetle then, is quite small. This and the rest of the pictures are Mike’s, and he did the photo processing.
Baby lubber grasshopper. “The lubber’s only natural predator is the loggerhead shrike, a cool little bird that decapitates them and then impales their carcasses on thorns or barbed-wire fences so the sun can bake out the toxins before mealtime.” (Tampa Bay Times)
Blue Spring is a beautiful place, with clear blue water and oaks dripping over the spring run. The manatees we saw there were keeping as far as possible from the throng of humans crowding along the viewing platforms. I could tell that they weren’t submerged logs, but that was about it. Lee County’s Manatee Park, on the other hand, is an industrial canal filled by the warm exhaust water from the nearby power plant. The park’s website said there were 20-30 there the day in early March when we visited. The fenced trail along the canal lets humans be fairly close to the manatees. Although the dark water kept the manatees hidden until they came close to the surface, there were many of them and they were close enough to see their cute snouts and see the scars on some of their backs.
The rest are Mike’s pictures, and he did the processing.
Visitors aren’t allowed in or on the canal, but there are several plaques presenting information about manatees and a speaker that plays sounds picked up by an underwater microphone for when the manatees are vocalizing. There was a possible rescue going on for a manatee that seemed to be having trouble surfacing while we were there.
Though only 17 acres, Manatee Park also has several mini habitats and lots of different kinds of birds. There were volunteers clearing away weeds in the butterfly garden while we were there.
We were thrilled to see a painted bunting on the bank of the canal.
Gray catbird, related to mockingbirds and they are the similarly aware of people.
The night before we visited Little Manatee River State Park in mid February we had a rare light frost. As we were walking through the park, it smelled like fall when the leaves start decomposing.
Some birds were hopping around the inner parking area. This is probably a thrush of some kind. Mike’s picture (and he processed the photos for this post).
Many plants of course did fine, or were sheltered from the worst of the cold. The trail, maintained by the Florida Trail Association, has boardwalks over the marshier sections.
Lots of butterflies made it through fine as well. The next four are Mike’s.
A rare sighting for us, a red-banded hairstreak. It rubs its hind wings together causing the fringe at the end of its wings to spring back and forth, drawing your eye away from the main part of the butterfly’s body.
We often see white butterflies along roadsides, but this was one of the first times we’ve gotten a picture of one. There were several along the river. Great Southern White.
While I was taking pictures of the White, Mike was watching a hairy camouflaged spider blending in with a branch.
This brilliant colored moth was perched on a flower off a steep bank so we couldn’t get a good perspective. My best guess is that it is a scarlet-bodied wasp moth.
Damselfly and flower by Mike.
On the north side of the loop, it is much dryer
There were still some butterflies on the scrubby flowers. American Lady.