Garden and Afield In Helmetta-Monroe-Jamesburg
2016, May 15, Sunday, to May 21, Saturday
by Joseph Sapia
Nearly a Full Corn-Planting Moon during the week
— NIGHT SKY: On Saturday, the moon turned full, the Full Corn-Planting Moon. Look for a bright red Mars for weeks. (The photograph is of the almost-full moon over Monroe and Jamesburg.)
— VEGETABLE GARDENING: I got the vegetable garden in on Saturday, May 21, working in and out of rain. I am a bit concerned I went by the calendar, using May 20 as my guide to when the soil normally would be warm enough to plant, rather than by this year’s still-cool weather. That is, the soil may still be too cool for the warm-season vegetable plants. Perhaps I should have waited to June 1. No matter if I went with my heart over my head, the crop is in: Mammoth Gray-Stripe Sunflower, Cuppa Joe Sweet Corn, Rutgers Tomato, Hale’s Best Jumbo Cantaloupe, Born-to-be-Mild Hybrid Hot Pepper, Kaleidoscope Mix Carrot, Northern X-tra-Sweet Hybrid Sweet Corn, Igloo Lettuce, Carnival Mix Sweet Pepper, and Tasty Green Cucumber.
— OLD SEEDS: The Mammoth Gray-Stripe Sunflower, Cuppa Joe Sweet Corn, and Tasty Green Cucumber are 2015 seeds, which still should produce a crop.
— HOW I SEED: For what it is worth, I do not single-seed. Instead, I place a few to a bunch of seeds per hole.
— POLLINATION IN THE VEGETABLE GARDEN: I am trying something new in the garden, adding flowers to attract pollinators. So, I threw around seeds of Burpee’s Bee and Butterfly Garden and Monmouth Conservation Foundation’s Project Pollinator/Kids for Conservation.
— GARDENING ZONES: As the area transitions from the cooler Zone 6 to the warmer Zone 7, because of global warming, we will have a longer growing season. The gardening downside, more erratic weather. For example, many days of rain, followed by long periods of droughty weather. And, of course, the environmental downside is the global warming.
— RACCOONS AT THE BIRD-FEEDER: I enjoy watching the nightly visit of a raccoon or raccoons at the bird-feeder, sometime joined by a skunk below the feeder. I guess the raccoons and skunk like the sunflower hearts/kernels I use – and they have to eat, too, while entertaining me. But I got tired of the raccoon/s knocking down the feeder night after night. So, for now, I am bringing the feeder inside the garage at night and putting it back out in the morning.
— BIRDS: House finches were flying around the yard, fluttering to trees, bird-feeder, and clothesline, having trouble landing. They must have been fledglings, trying to figure it all out.
— WHIP-POOR-WILL CALLING: About 10:45 to 11 p.m. Wednesday night, May 18, a whip-poor-will called loudly, if only sporadically. This was once a common bird here in the local Pine Barrens – calling ad nauseam through the overnight. But this one was the first I have heard in an estimated 6 years. I got reports of whip-poor-will calls from around my Helmetta Road neighborhood, so I hoping for a return of the whip-poor-will.
— MOUNTAIN LAURELS AND SNAPPING TURTLES: Mountain laurel should begin blooming about now. So, remember this bit of Pine Barrens lore: “The snapping turtle lays its eggs, when the mountain laurel blooms.” Watch for snappers crossing roads – probably a female headed to high ground from a swamp to lay eggs or a female returning to a swamp after laying her eggs on high ground. If helping the turtle along, move it in the direction it is traveling. I MOVE A SNAPPER ONLY WITH A SHOVEL, because here is more Piney lore to think about, “Only the setting sun or lightning makes the snapping turtle let go.” If bitten, try running a wire down its nostril to make it let go. (Moving a snapper by lifting it by its tail could hurt it – and, also, it could bite the mover and not let go….)
(Garden observations are from my yard in the Helmetta Road area. Pine Barrens observations are from the Helmetta-Monroe area Pines.)
Joe Sapia, 59, is a vegetable gardener, who gardens the same backyard plot as did his Italian-American father, Joe Sr., and his Polish grandmother, Annie Poznanski Onda. Both are inspirations for his vegetable gardening. And he draws inspiration on the local Pine Barrens from his mother, Sophie Onda Sapia, who lived her whole life in the local Pines, and his grandmother.
Received today from Carl Alderson, NOAA Federal
To All Interested Government Agencies and Public Groups:
Under the National Environmental Policy Act, an environmental review has been performed on the following action.
TITLE: Restoration Plan/ Environmental Assessment Draft (RP/EA) for the American Cyanamid Co. Superfund Site, Bridgewater Township, Somerset County, New Jersey
LOCATION: The Millstone and Raritan Rivers, Somerset and Middlesex Counties, New Jersey.
SUMMARY: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the lead federal agency for National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance for projects brought forth to restore injured habitat for fish and other trust resources resulting from long-term hazardous substance releases from the American Cyanamid Co. Superfund Site in Bridgewater Township, New Jersey. Projects identified in the RP/EA are compensatory for lost resources and fulfill an obligation to serve the public as required under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), also known as Superfund Law. Superfund is a United States federal law designed to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous substances and pollutants. The Draft RP/EA proposes removal of the Weston Mill Dam on the Millstone River as well as feasibility analysis and design of technical fish passage at the Island Farm Weir, located on the Raritan River.
As documented in the RP/EA, the selected projects are expected to have an overall beneficial impact on ecosystem function and species biodiversity. The project’s goals include benefits to various species, improvement of habitat function, and protection of existing habitat. Because the project is intended to restore natural resources, it is expected to cause a net increase to habitat productivity and improve ecosystem function.
INVITATION TO PUBLIC COMMENT: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration, the Department of Interior, and the State of New Jersey invite public comment on a proposed plan.
The Draft RP/EA is available at the following website: https://darrp.noaa.gov/hazardous-waste/american-cyanamid
The public comment period on this plan ends June 10, 2016.
One hard copy of the RP/EA will be available in each of the following public library locations:
Manville Public Library
Address: 100 S 10th Ave, Manville, NJ 08835
Phone: (908) 722-9722
Hours: Mon-Thurs 9:30AM–9PM
Franklin Township Public Library
Address: 485 Demott Ln, Franklin Township, NJ 08873
Phone: (732) 873-8700
Hours: Mon-Thurs 10AM–9PM
To request further information or an additional hard copy of this document or to submit your comments, please contact Carl Alderson at (732)371-0848, NOAA Restoration Center – Sandy Hook Office, JJ Howard National Marine Fisheries Science Center, 74 Magruder Rd, Highlands, NJ 07732 or by email at Carl.Alderson@noaa.gov. Please put “American Cyanamid Draft RP/EA” in the subject line.
Articles and Photos by Joe Mish
A cooper’s hawk flies off after landing in a holly tree where it jumped from branch to branch in an effort to flush a hiding songbird into the open.
Midwinter is a great time to catch a glimpse of local wildlife, especially hawks, as these large birds stand in dramatic contrast to the gray-brown leafless trees in which they perch.
The most common hawk in our region is the red-tailed hawk. Comparatively large, the adults are recognized by the bright russet colored tail. This is the only hawk whose tail is not banded or bordered by a contrasting color. The young birds have barred tail feathers, alternating russet and white, with no distinct borders.
Easy to spot at highway speeds, the light breast and faded red tail stand out like a beacon when perched in trees along the roadway. Locally, I often see these hawks atop telephone poles near pastures and flood plains where they scan the open area for small mammals and ducks. Some red tails specialize in killing gray squirrels, a worthy meal for such a large bird whose energy expenditure in the winter would hardly be covered with mice or voles.
During a winter freeze when most of the river is solid ice, there are always open sections where ducks concentrate in the water and on the ice. A red tail will make an easy meal, especially of the smaller wood duck, flushing it into the air or catching it as it naps on the ice.
Last winter I watched an eagle feeding on a wood duck, speculation was the eagle took the duck from a red tail as eagles are notorious for stealing game from ospreys and hawks.
Muskrats are also high on the midwinter menu as the males often travel during the day over ice and snow as they seek food and females to breed.
A hawk requires a large nest and now is the time to scan the treetops and high tension towers for these stick built structures. One local hawk has adapted to a giant oak in someone’s backyard bordering a cluster of recently constructed homes. I have seen several local nests situated high in sycamore trees along the river. Hawk nests are relatively flat and large, not to be confused with squirrel nests which are numerous and quite round, generally built at a lower level, among thinner branches. Red tails will also use ledges as a base for their nests.
The ultimate adaptation belongs to the red tail known as, Pale Male, whose life is well documented in film, media and print as he has mated and bred several generations of hawks among the skyscrapers in mid Manhattan. His age is estimated at 24 years. Here is one site dedicated to Pale Male.
Marsh hawks share the sky with red tails and characteristically conduct ground hugging flights across overgrown fields, flood plains and grasslands and have an ability to hover in place. These hawks are slightly smaller than a red tail with dark brown coloration and a boldly banded tail. The key to identifying a marsh hawk is the bright white rump patch. These hawks are common, though not often seen and are known to migrate while red tails remain as full time residents.
Aside from red tails, the most often seen hawks are the coopers and sharp-shinned hawks. The coopers being slightly larger than the sharp shinned. Both hawks feed on songbirds and small rodents. As each is similarly marked, identification is always controversial. More often than not, someone will submit a photo of a hawk to a website asking if it is a coopers or sharp-shinned and the replies are often split, each summarizing why they made their choice. I see the larger coopers preferring doves and rabbits while the sharp shinned has left piles of bluebird, indigo bunting and flicker feathers about the yard.
Lastly, look for the diminutive sparrow hawk, now known as the kestrel, typically perched on telephone poles and wires along open fields. This bird is about the size of a large dove, feeds on insects and small rodents. Kestrels are known for hovering before they dive on their prey and this stationary flight is a good identifying characteristic. The males are brilliantly marked with blue, shades of russet, black and white. At first glance a perched kestrel will appear as a songbird so be sure to give a second look. They are considered threatened in New Jersey and a nest box program and monitoring effort is having a positive effect on their recovery. The birds are easily baited and trapped for tagging and data collection.
This is the winter of the hawk and hardly a commute is possible without being evaluated by a feathered predator. They can see you, can you see them?
Author Joe Mish has been running wild in New Jersey since childhood when he found ways to escape his mother’s watchful eyes. He continues to trek the swamps, rivers and thickets seeking to share, with the residents and visitors, all of the state’s natural beauty hidden within full view. To read more of his writing and view more of his gorgeous photographs visit Winter Bear Rising, his wordpress blog. Writing and photos used with permission from the author.