Paul and I were in New Jersey this past weekend for some belated Easter family celebrations, which meant a chance to explore the Pine Barrens some more.
On Sunday morning, Paul's dad and I drove out to look for birds, and we went by a huge area of the woods (1,000 acres) that burned in a wildfire just last week. (Paul's dad is actually the mayor of their town, so I felt a bit like I was on an official trip to survey the damage.) The Pine Barrens are usually, well, barren... but not like this:
They do controlled burns in the Pine Barrens sometimes, to help keep everything healthy, but this was not one of those times. Apparently, the cause of this fire was almost certainly human, and the word "arson" kept coming up. Why would anyone intentionally set a fire loose in the Pine Barrens? Even scarier, we drove by a bunch of houses where the fire actually burned all the way up to and around the edges of the peoples' yards -- I can't even imagine being in that situation, with flames raging just feet from my home.
Fortunately, the firefighters got control of the situation, and nobody was hurt. And these woods won't stay blackened for long. We watched a lone Wild Turkey wandering through the burnt area, and I'm sure more life will soon follow suit:
Back in the ash-free areas of the Pine Barrens, there were plenty of living things to see. Later, while we were out walking the dogs, we startled this shockingly green Six-spotted Tiger Beetle (Cicindela sexguttata) from its hiding place near the path:
And a little further down the road, I became enchanted by a patch of gorgeous Birdsfoot Violets (Viola pedata), a new wildflower for me:
What pretty flowers! Paul says it looks like they're sticking their tongues out:
In conclusion, the Pine Barrens are awesome, so please don't burn them down.