WDEL Blog: Eclectic Hobbies with Allan Loudell

Journey into New Jersey's Pine Barrens

One of my favorite ecological outings each spring: Going into the Pine Barrens in late April or early May with members of the Newark (New Jersey) Entomological Society.

I'm embarassed to report I didn't even know about the New Jersey Pine Barrens, before moving here to Delaware in 1987. But of course the Delaware "beaches" and the New Jersey "shore" are the region's travel magnets.

I only discovered the barrens in the mid 1990's, as I sought out the habitat for some fairly rare butterflies.

I soon learned to appreciate the relative tranquility of the central barrens - punctuated by the sound of an occasional airplane above - the sandy habitat, the rare pygmy Pitch Pines, orchids, cacti, carnivorous plants, the endangered Pine Barrens Tree Frog, and yes, some of the butterflies and moths. Cranberries and blueberries. Plus the legend of the Jersey Devil!

Ecologically, some species of flora and fauna have their southernmost distribution in central New Jersey. Conversely, other species jump from sandy North Carolina to central New Jersey for their northernmost distribution.

This past Saturday, our group (one professional entomologist and some serious amateurs) first walked the old railroad tracks in Lakehurst. We then checked out a key area near Warren Grove - with the obligatory side trip to Lucille's Diner in Warren Grove! - before finishing the afternoon near the "9 mile marker" off New Jersey Route 72.

For many, a highlight was looking for emerald-mint green Hessel's Hairstreak butterfly near the "9 mile marker". When these little jewels descend from the Atlantic White Cedar trees, their cryptic green coloration blends in with the sand myrtle below. As one veteran "lepper" remarked, you probably exert more energy patiently looking for one of these butterflies than nearly any other.

For others, tiny but strikingly colored moths such as the Variegated Orange represented the holy grail.

The highlight for me came in Lakehurst when the youngest in our group came up with a Four-Lined Chocolate moth, a species I had long wanted to see, but only saw in books.

Posted at 6:38pm on May 11, 2009 by Allan Loudell

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