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Archive for November, 2005

Now you see it, now you don’t

The creek trail is submerging again under beaver floodwaters. Preserve assistants Joe Vinton and Sean Quinn recently finished brushcutting invasive bamboo and multiflora rose alongside the trail, and it looks great, except that unless you have hip boots, you are not going to be able to see the results.

I had thought the beavers were finished with this section of the creek, but perhaps their failure to maintain this dam had been simply a seasonal change in activity. In the summer they eat perennials and grasses, in the fall and winter the green cambium under the bark of twigs. Many of these they collect and store underwater in the late summer and fall. It seems a bit late for this new activity, but there it is…

Earlier this fall I watched the water levels rise elsewhere along French Creek as beavers flooded a red maple swamp. I noticed first because the water that had been below my knee-high boots the week before was suddenly above them. It was a hot day, so I didn’t mind.

CanalBeavers had created a series of “rooms” in the otherwise three to five foot tall vegetation. It looked they had gathered there to feed, and the rooms were connected by tunnels through the plants and in places, by canals they dug.

Visitors can bypass the creek trail from the parking area and pick up the northern trails behind the barn at 401 Piersol Road. The southern half of the preserve doesn’t make use of the creek trail, so although there is beaver activity there you can still use all the trails.

NorwaysAnother activity that occupies our fall each year is controlling Norway maples (Acer platanoides). The woodland to the left in this photo is unmanaged adjacent property that is filling with Norway maples. To the right is Crow’s Nest where we have been cutting and hand pulling this invasive tree over the last few years.

Norway maple leafs out earlier than our native forest trees, and cast dense shade. Almost nothing can grow under a Norway maple other than another Norway maple. Spring ephemeral wildflowers disappear, and Norway maples outcompete seedlings of other trees. We don’t know exactly what this forest will look like in the distant future—forests are dynamic, not stable, systems. But we know that the possible trajectories of future forest composition will be diminished by a monoculture of Norway maple.

Most of what we find now are first-year seedlings, and there will always be some of these, since several specimen trees are found in neighbors’ yards. But we no longer have any mature Norway maples on the preserve.

Normally we control Norway maples in late October when they are the last trees to still have leaves and easy to located. This year we are doing it a couple weeks later since leaf drop has been so late.

Giants in Waiting

If you have visited the Stroud Preserve recently, you would have noticed that our horizons are markedly different.  Thousands of tree tubes point to the sky, but, from a distance, they seem to be devoid of life or substance.  As you draw nearer, you will see that each tube encapsulates a gaunt little sapling shivering like an unsteady newborn.

Stroud’s metaphorical horizons are also markedly different.  Now, the tree tubes pierce the future with a potential moment in time.  That moment will come at a different time for everyone. I look forward to the moment when my friend from South Brandywine Middle School returns to Stroud with his children and recalls the day when he helped make a forest (and also looked at a lot of really cool spiders).  Those tree tubes are boots waiting to be filled; they are Stroud’s giants in waiting.

I’d like to share a poem written by a friend, that (in my opinion) better articulates the message I’m trying to convey:

"Acorn"
Once, we took a walk
And planted an acorn.

Our children climbed that oak.
They made a ladder to the top of the world –
They could see forever.

Their children climb that oak.
They’ve built a tree house that touches the sky –
They can dream amidst the stars.

Come, let’s take a walk
And plant another acorn.

written 10/05 by Sam Wagner

Thanks to everyone that invested time and hope in the Stroud Preserve.  May your memories here forever illuminate your present.

A Splash of Color at Glades Wildlife Refuge

The changing colors of the tree leaves have added a splash of color to the landscape at Glades Wildlife Refuge. Below are some pictures of fall colors at the Glades:

Glades_1 Glades_2 Glades_3 Glades_4 Glades_5 Glades_6

Black Gold

Compost1Like the bumper stickers say, “Compost Happens!”

This week on my day off I finally got around to turning the compost pile, and was rewarded with these sights. I guess I am a lazy composter; I don’t sweat the details, and turn it only a couple times a year, but I am always rewarded with black gold.

I put in the spent plants from the vegetable garden, and what few leaves I rake from the yard end up there too (most I let blow back into the woods). Kitchen scraps, coffee grounds, rabbit bedding (made from recycled paper) and the occasional load of horse manure that comes my way joins the pile. A pile should have a 15:1 to 30:1 carbon to nitrogen ratio. The leaves and bedding add carbon balanced by the high nitrogen of the food scraps and manure. I don’t measure, it just seems to work out.

Composting isn’t exactly a natural process—nature doesn’t pile organic material and allow it to “cook” the way we do, but composting takes advantage of the insects and microbes that naturally more slowly break things down.

I’ve grown into a three-bin system using shipping pallets tied together with heavy electrical wire. Raw material goes into the first one, then is forked into the second after it starts to break down. Then a shovel makes a better tool for transferring it to the last bin for finishing and storage, since it looks more like soil at that point. One of the bins is topped with plywood so I can control how much moisture rains in. Too wet or too dry could be a problem, but I have never experienced it.

Compost2Composting solves a solid waste problem for me—where to put these things I no longer need—and has the benefit of providing a soil amendment I use in the garden and spread lightly over the lawn.

Monitoring Our Conservation Easement

Each year we monitor the lands upon which we hold a conservation easement, to make sure there have been no changes that violate the terms of the easement. A conservation easement is a legal document, the terms upon which both a landowner and an easement holder—usually a nonprofit land trust—have agreed. The easement may limit development of the land, restrict natural resource extraction, and protect the natural resources on a property in perpetuity. The easement goes with the land even when it is sold to another owner, who is held to the same restrictions and conservation goals. Easement_1Even land owned by a land trust can be held under easement by another one. For example, Brandywine Conservancy holds an easement on much of Crow’s Nest Preserve. It is not uncommon for one conservation organization to monitor the land owned by another, though this easement predates Natural Lands Trust’s ownership and stewardship of Crow’s Nest. This offers a double-layer of protection. This week staff from Brandywine Conservancy monitored the easement they hold on Crow’s Nest, walking all of the nearly 600 acres, observing conditions and talking with us about our plans and management of the land. It makes for an enjoyable day sharing strategies with colleagues and enjoying the beauty around us.

Mamma Don’t Take My Kodachrome!

Fall_color110705_004 Well, we may be past the peak colors, but the show is not over yet.  The tuliptrees (Liriodendron tulipifera) are a rich yellow-orange this week.  The sassafras (Sassafras albidum) in the fields are deeper shades of yellow and orange.  Most of the beech trees (Fagus grandifolia) are now a bronze-gold.  Many of the oaks (Quercus) are a red burgundy, while some are still green.  The maple-leaved viburnum (Viburnum acerfolia) are a light pink right now, but may not last long. This photo was taken yesterday from the River Lookout.  This is the view across the river at New Jersey.  I imagine their view of Mariton is similar.

There are bare trees in the forest.  The ash trees (Fraxinus americana) and sweet birches (Betula lenta) have lost their leaves.  But that actually helps one see the leaf colors while walking on the trails.  With rain forecast for this week, it is hard to tell how long we will be blessed with this show.

WebWalkers Season

Hawkmtn2The fall session of of WebWalkers after-school nature club came to a close this week, culminating with a field trip to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary with kids in the program and their families. We were rewarded with great views of golden eagles, red-tailed hawks, and kestrels. This past Sunday Hawk Mountain Sanctuary had its greatest number of visitors for the year, but there was plenty of room on the rocks to sit and enjoy the view. And having a large crowd means that there are lots of eyes to spot hawks as soon as they come into view, and lots of people can help with identification of these beautiful birds. The Hawk Mountain-area migration is one of the greatest natural phenomena of our region, and attracts visitors from all over the world. We also finished our raptor mobiles at WebWalkers this week and took a hike to an area near the preserve that turkey and black vultures use for roosting. The kids were treated to seeing very large birds wheeling and perching very close over our heads. Nobody got "whitewashed" and we were amazed to see how the vultures almost crash into the branch on which they land. Looking forward to the new year, another session of WebWalkers will run January 26 to March 2. We will also be holding a reunion January 21 for anyone who has ever attended camp or WebWalkers at Crow’s Nest. And we will be having a dinner and owl prowl February 25 where we will have an opportunity to dissect owl pellets (this will be well after dinner since it involves picking apart the coughed-up fur and bones of creatures the owl consumed). Bring the whole family!

More Coral Fungi Photos

Here are a few more pictures of orange and yellow Coral Fungi, as talked about in the last post:

Coral_fungi1 Coral_fungi2 Coral_fungi3 Coral_fungi4

Fall Color Report 11.02.05

Fall_color110205_003 In the last few days the fall colors have really changed at Mariton.  On Tuesday, the ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba) in the yard was totally green.  On Wednesday morning it was yellow.  I think the next few days would be a great time to view the colors at Mariton.  There is a lot of variability from one location to another.  Dan Barringer, my colleague at Crows Nest, wrote on his blog that last weekend was probably the peak of their color.  (You can access Dan’s blog from a bar in the right hand column.)  Rebecca Shields Moose, one of our Stewardship Assistants, told me that driving north on the Northeast Extension that there was vibrant color until she reached the Lansdale Exit.  North of the exit the colors were still dominated by greens.

Fall_color110205_005 The spicebush (Lindera benzoin) turned yellow seemingly overnight.  The tuliptrees (Liriodendron tulipifera) are now mostly yellow.  Many are even a warm orange.  The various hickory species (Carya) are now a yellow-orange.  The sassafras (Sassafras albidum) is turning yellow and many are orange and reds.  Some of the beech trees (Fagus grandifolia) have turned a bright yellow, but many are still quite green.  The European larch (Larix decidua), planted along the Main Trail, are just beginning to turn color.  I think that next week they will turn a lovely golden yellow. Larches are one of the few deciduous conifers.

Sassafrasfields Besides walking through the forest and looking up to see the individual trees aflame.  I recommend visiting the River Lookout Trail and the Chimney Rock Trail.  These two spots offer views across the river of a color mosaic.  Of course the view comes with a price.  Both trails drop about 150 feet in elevation and have to be climbed again, and there are short rocky sections.  But then, you will be so buoyed by the experience, you will hardly notice the ascent.    Another good viewing area is anywhere in the meadows.  Walk up one of the trails that leads to the meadows and you will be "on the outside looking into" the forest.  Since three of the meadows are populated with sassafras shoots this also offers some stunning colors.  This photo of one of the sassafras meadows was taken by Carole Mebus on Tuesday.

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