Seeing the Sourlands Essays by Jim Amon

Tent Caterpillars (May 2021)

Tent Caterpillars (May 2021)

Tent caterpillars are social; hundreds can share the same nest and they often entwine for protection from the cold. Every year in early autumn an undistinguished-looking brown moth known to scientists as Malacosoma americanium flies to a place in a tree where two...

Global Warming Part 2 (April 2021)

Global Warming Part 2 (April 2021)

Green leaves capture carbon dioxide then convert it, along with water and minerals, into glucose. The trees and shrubs use the glucose to grow. The carbon dioxide is stored in the wood for decades or centuries before the plant dies and the carbon dioxide is slowly...

Global Warming Part 1 (April 2021)

Global Warming Part 1 (April 2021)

Ice floes broken from glaciers in Glacier Bay, Alaska. Global warming is the defining issue of our time.  How often have we heard some version of that statement? We read it in newspapers, hear it on the radio and see it on television all the time.  I recently realized...

Cicadas (March 2021)

Cicadas (March 2021)

This is a dog-day cicada, named because its peak period of singing is in late summer when the constellation Canis Major (Big Dog) rises before dawn in the east. This period is known as the “dog days” of summer. I was sitting on my patio one summer afternoon and saw...

Red Oak (February 2021)

Red Oak (February 2021)

Two red oaks, side by side, reaching for the sky.  In 1950 New Jersey Governor Alfred Driscoll signed a proclamation making the red oak the state tree.  These official state designations usually don’t mean anything to me—I don’t really care that the honeybee is the...

Winter Silence (January 2021)

Winter Silence (January 2021)

Visual rewards are plentiful for winter forest walkers. It was perfectly still and quiet while I walked in the Sourlands on a cold December morning.  Usually, on winter mornings I can count on seeing squirrels busying themselves, but this morning they were sleeping...

Ten Favorite Photos of 2020 (December 2020)

Ten Favorite Photos of 2020 (December 2020)

I spent a lot of time in 2020 walking in natural areas alone, enjoying the quiet, looking closely at things that I had walked past in other years, and photographing.  That was my way of dealing with the pandemic and the presidential election, which combined to bring...

Fungi (November 2020)

Fungi (November 2020)

Mushrooms growing from a dead tree in the Sourlands. Writing a brief essay on fungi is daunting because it is such a vast subject.  It is vast in terms of its size—there are about ten times more fungal species in the world than plant species, but the fungal world is...

Crabapples (September 2020)

Crabapples (September 2020)

Crabapple in bloom I grew up in rural Ohio at a time when the legend of Johnny Appleseed was widely known. My recollection is a little fuzzy about the details of this legend but the image I have retained is of an eccentric-looking man walking the countryside while...

Summer Meadow Flowers (August 2020)

Summer Meadow Flowers (August 2020)

August 2020: Summer Meadow Flowers Bloodroot, toothwort, spring beauties and the other spring ephemerals brighten the forest floor after a long winter of brown and black. I love those flowers as much as anyone but I also love the brighter, showier, more colorful...

Nature in the Time of COVID 19 (July 2020)

Nature in the Time of COVID 19 (July 2020)

July 2020: Nature in the time of COVID-19   As I walked in the Sourlands during the pandemic I tried to make photographs that reflected the times. The ones that succeeded best for me are soft and a bit fuzzy. Several years ago scientists interested in human...

Bird Reproduction (June 2020)

Bird Reproduction (June 2020)

June 2020: Bird Reproduction Snow geese have increased in population by 300% since the 1970’s. For a dozen or more years the females lay 3-5 eggs. I was frying eggs for my breakfast one morning recently when it occurred to me that it was a pretty neat trick for birds...