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Seeing the Sourlands Essays by Jim Amon

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...

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...