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Seeing the Sourlands Essays by Jim Amon

Black Birch Friends (October 2022)

Black birch trees can live for over 350 years, but few of them do. If taller trees overtop them they die from insufficient light. About a hundred years ago many farm fields were abandoned in the Sourlands and black birch trees were among the first trees to take...

Mosquitoes (September 2022)

I had to resist swatting this mosquito until I had photographed it.My family and I were having a pleasant evening in our rented Maine vacation house when mosquitoes suddenly inundated us. It didn’t matter how many we swatted, there were always more. After a while, we...

Insects (June 2022)

This ebony jewelwing damselfly was looking right at me while I took this picture, but since—like all insects—damselflies have compound eyes, it was also looking at its shadow, at a limb above it, and checking to make sure nothing was threatening it from either side,...

Dragonflies and Damselflies (July 2022)

Several years ago I published a Seeing the Sourlands essay on dragonflies and damselflies. I am doing another one now because in the intervening years I have become an avid watcher of dragonflies and damselflies. After years of bird watching, I started paying...

Violets (May 2022)

Common blue violets are found in sunny spots throughout the Sourlands forest. When I walk in the Sourlands I am usually drawn to the spectacular over the modest. I am transfixed by an ancient white oak, majestic in it girth and sheer presence, and scarcely see the...

Fireflies (August 2022)

By Jim Amon Fireflies have good eyesight, which as nocturnal insects, suits them. The two orange blobs on their head, shown in the above photo, are coloring on the cover of their thorax; they are not eyes.  Their eyes can only be seen from the side or bottom.  I...

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...