The Pine Barrens of New Jersey: A Photoessay by Michael A. Hogan

DOROTHY, New Jersey, October 27, 2005 (ENS) - New Jersey photographer Michael Hogan is the first to be featured in a new ENS occasional series of photoessays.

These images of southern New Jersey are from "The Natural Wonders of the Jersey Pines and Shore," the book Hogan illustrated, working with author Robert A. Peterson, 1956-2003, the educator, journalist, historian, and sportsman.


The Great Egg Harbor River flows through the New Jersey Pinelands. (All photos Michael A. Hogan)
Published by regional publisher Plexus in Medford, New Jersey, the book holds more than 50 nature essays written by Peterson, a former headmaster of Egg Harbor City's Pilgrim Academy. Many of the essays were adapted from Peterson's regular newspaper column in "The Egg Harbor News."

The Great Egg Harbor River drains the southern portion of the Pine Barrens, which in 1978, became the first U.S. national reserve to be established. It has also been de and a Biosphere Reserve of UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Program.

This internationally important ecological region is 1.1 million acres in size and occupies 22 percent of New Jersey's land area. It is the largest body of open space on the Mid-Atlantic seaboard between Richmond and Boston and is underlain by aquifers containing 17 trillion gallons of pure water.

Sections of the Pine Barrens have Wild and Scenic River status because of their outstanding natural resources.


Blue flag blooms along the Mullica River, flowing through the heart of the Pine Barrens and into the Atlantic Ocean north of Atlantic City.
The Pinelands is a patchwork of pine oak forests, streams and rivers, spacious farms, crossroad hamlets, and small towns stretched across southern New Jersey.

Thirty-nine species of mammals, 299 bird, 59 reptile and amphibian species and 91 fish species have been identified as occurring within the Pinelands. They include 44 animal species listed as threatened or endangered by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.

Neotropical songbirds like the yellow and prothonotary warbler nest along the Tuckahoe River and feast on the abundant insects in spring and summer.


In the Pinelands, a yellow warbler finds a dragonfly for its young. It flies thousands of miles south in the winter to Central or South America.
The yellow warbler is one of the many neotropical songbirds that migrate to New Jersey from Cental and South America to nest raise their young during the summer. "This bird was checking me out on its way back to nest to feed its young," Hogan says.

The redheaded woodpecker is a designated threatened species in New Jersey, that migrates from the south to nest and raise its young. "Birders go crazy about spotting this species," Hogan says, but developers are wary because the presence of the threatened birds puts a stop to development.

pitcher plant

This insect eating plant, the Northern pitcher plant, is found in the Pine Barrens bogs.
Because of the Pine Barrens' nutrient-poor soil, the northern pitcher plant survives on a diet enriched with insects. The northern pitcher plant has cup-shaped leaves that fill with rainwater and trap insects, which the plant then digests.

The round leaf sundew is one of three species of sundews found in the Pine Barrens, it has tiny hairs that exude a sticky fluid that traps small insects which the plant digests.

Bushy beard grass grows on the Tuckahoe River in an area that was once cranberry bogs. Long abandoned they have reverted back into wetlands. Wood ducks, great blue herons, great egrets and American bitterns, listed as endangered in New Jersey, have made their homes here.

The red-headed woodpecker was a common species throughout the Northeast during the late 1700s through the early 1900s. Large concentrations of these birds, including flights of several hundred, were observed often during fall migration, the Pinelands Commission says.


A pair of red-headed woodpeckers in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
But by the turn of the 20th century red-headed woodpeckers in the Northeast had suffered population declines due to road mortality and competition with European starlings for nesting cavities. Farmers killed them because they damaged fruit and berry crops. And the colorful feathers of these woodpeckers was harvested for the fashion trade to provide feathers for women's hats.

During the past 50 years, counts of only two to eight birds were recorded as part of the annual migratory bird counts conducted by birders in Cape May. Decreasing numbers were noted in other annual bird counts in the Northeast and it became evident that the red-headed woodpecker had suffered significant population declines in the past century. This woodpecker was listed as a threatened species in New Jersey in 1979.

The Pinelands is located in the Atlantic Outer Coastal Plain, a geological formation characterized by gently rolling terrain and sandy soils.

Underlying much of the Pinelands is the Cohansey Aquifer. This formation of unconsolidated sand and gravel functions as a vast reservoir estimated to contain over 17 trillion gallons of some of the purest water in the country.

The water in this shallow aquifer lies at or near the surface, producing bogs, marshes, and swamps. The streams of the Pinelands are fed by this aquifer, and are characteristically acidic and nutrient poor. Natural organic contents leaching out of the soils are responsible for the dark tea color of the region's streams.


Yellow fringed orchids are found in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, the northernmost limit of their range.
The protected area contains over 800 species of flowering plants including 54 species that are threatened with extinction in New Jersey.

The Pinelands are known by amateur and professional botanists alike for its native wild orchids, some considered rare.

Dragons mouth is one of the rare orchids, one of 28 species of orchids found in the Pine Barrens. People pick them for their beauty, and have gradually eliminated them until today the dragons mouth survives only in remote areas.

Also rare, the yellow fringed orchid is more common in the southern states. New Jersey is its northern limit.

"We have these white fringed orchids and the natural hybrid of the two, Plantanthera bicolor growing on our property," Hogan says. "We must have an electric fence around them to keep deer from eating them." The Pinelands region is one-third publicly owned and two-thirds privately owned.


The rare dragons mouth orchid is protected in New Jersey, but that status has not stopped people from picking.
Public lands of the State of New Jersey cover more than 300,000 acres and include parks, forests, and wildlife management areas such as Wharton, Bass River, Brendan T. Byrne, Belleplain, Island Beach, Colliers Mills, and Greenwood among others.

The historic villages of Batsto and Double Trouble are visitor attractions administered by the Division of Parks and Forests of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Federal properties include three military installations, the Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge and the Cape May National Wildlife Refuge.

Numerous county and municipal parks, as well as conservation lands owned by nonprofit organizations, exist within the Pinelands.

Designated a Biosphere Reserve in 1988 by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Pine Barrens contain the largest stretch of open space on the mid-Atlantic seaboard between Boston and Richmond.

The Pinelands is protected and its future development guided by the Pinelands Comprehensive Management Plan. The plan is administered by the New Jersey Pinelands Commission in cooperation with units of local, state and federal governments.