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Seeing the Sourlands Essays by Jim Amon

Dogwood (April 2022)

Dogwood (April 2022)

By Jim AmonIn autumn the leaves on flowering dogwood trees turn bright colors early and stay on the tree for a long time.Flowering dogwood tree in springThere is a myth that dogwood trees were once tall and straight like oaks, and that the wood from a dogwood tree was...

Rain (March 2022)

Rain (March 2022)

This cumulonimbus cloud is raining on the portion of the landscape on the left half of this photograph.A family with three daughters lives next door to me. The girls are now in their late teens, but when they were young I could count on seeing them running up and down...

Shagbark Hickory (February 2022)

Shagbark Hickory (February 2022)

Shagbark hickory trees are tall, straight columns reaching into the canopy.Shagbark hickory trees can live for three hundred and fifty years. That means that there could be shagbark hickory trees in the Sourlands that started their life at about the same time that...

Book Review (January 2022)

Book Review (January 2022)

My bookcase is not organized in any logical way—or more accurately—not in any way at all.I wasn’t expecting the question and I completely flubbed the answer when someone asked me, “What are your favorite books on nature?” I stammered around a bit and named a couple of...

Ten Favorites from 2021 (December 2021)

Ten Favorites from 2021 (December 2021)

The Sourlands is a special place. How many times have you heard that? Probably too many times because you are already convinced that it is true. Its ecological importance and its importance as a place of refuge or a place of recreation for people is important. The...

Spicebush (November 2021)

Spicebush (November 2021)

 In autumn, spicebushes’ leaves turn a lemony yellow and their berries are an attractive red—especially attractive to hungry migrating birds. The many holes in the leaves in the above photograph may have been the result of feeding by the larvae form of a spicebush...

Pokeweed (September 2021)

Pokeweed (September 2021)

Pokeweed is spectacular in fall.Most descriptions of pokeweed start with a warning that pokeweed is poisonous. Everything about this plant is poisonous; ingesting its roots, its stems, its leaves, and its berries can harm or even kill most mammals—including humans....

Pray Mantis (August 2021)

Pray Mantis (August 2021)

When praying mantises to move from place to place they use their middle and rear pairs of legs to hold on and propel while their front legs are available to grab prey.At first, I thought that I would write an essay that combined three or four insects that struck me as...

Water (July 2021)

Water (July 2021)

  The Stony Brook and its branches define much of the Sourlands.   I was walking on a trail that parallels the Stony Brook when I saw an opening between the path and the water, so I stepped into it and went to the water’s edge. Whenever I am hiking and see water...

Ants (June 2021)

Ants (June 2021)

I was having a little trouble getting a photograph of an ant so I put a drop of honey on a jar lid and set it out on my patio. Within half an hour this ant showed up.  Shortly afterward the lid was full of ants feasting on the honey. I unleashed a frenzy of activity...

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...