September 29, 2006
This morning while working in the office, I heard some noises upstairs in the Nature Center. It was gray, windy and still wet from last night’s rain. I thought it odd that someone would be walking the trails. (Then again, I had already been walking the trails). I glanced out the window and didn’t see any cars in the parking lot, so I continued tapping at the keyboard.
When I heard it again, it finally dawned on me. I grabbed the camera and snuck upstairs as quietly as possible. There were three hen turkeys pecking at their reflections in the glass doors. Though it is more common in spring, hens can get territorial. Often they will chase unfamiliar hens from their breeding territory, or a strutting tom. Today, it was probably more about feeding territories. It could have even been something as petty as, "why didn’t you say Hi?"
Turkeys have unbelievable eyesight. Even as they looked at the reflections of themselves and the woods behind them, they were able to detect my movement inside the Nature Center. I snapped some photos (through the glass) quickly before they deicided something was amiss and exited.
September 28, 2006
Last week Natural Lands Trust staff received training from the nonprofit Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics. The focus of the training was how to handle a situation where a visitor to a preserve is doing something that could harm the land.
The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to educate the public on how to enjoy the outdoors in an environmentally responsible way. Subaru sponsors their traveling trainers who share this message at parks and preserves throughout the country.
Some of our preserves have heavy public use, and Natural Lands Trust’s preserve managers have to work harder to manage that activity. People’s activities may impact the resource or other preserve visitors, including dogs off leash, dog waste, trash, or damage to vegetation.
Those of us who manage land chose to do so out of a love for the land, and we hate to see the resource threatened or damaged. Our first reaction to seeing someone doing something they shouldn’t usually involves some anger. But confronting and referring to written rules may not be the most effective way to modify their damaging behavior. The Leave No Trace people articulate a method that uses the appeal of the place—and the "authority of the resource"—to make people aware of the consequences of their actions. It’s not easy to use at first—it’s going to take some practice, but I am sure it will be an effective tool for us.
September 18, 2006
This morning, a Broad-winged Hawk flapped over the parking lot just as the fog was lifting. I made a mental note to keep checking the sky. I figured the appearance of this hawk signaled that there were several in the immediate area that were waiting for thermals to form so they could migrate. While we don’t see the number and species that one sees at Hawk Mountain, a watcher at Mariton can see a good number of raptors when the conditions are right. There is often a thermal that forms to the northwest of the Nature Center, and over the years I have watched hundreds of hawks fly directly overhead while working in the yard. Walking the trails to the top Bougher Hill can be even more productive.
Around 10:15, I looked up to see a kettle of Broad-winged Hawks forming. There were a dozen hawks gathered already, and more were flying in from different directions. I ran and grabbed my camera and attempted to take a couple photos. Too far away to do them justice, but perhaps you will get the idea.
I put away the camera and was resuming work when a large raptor approached, flying very low. It had come from the Delaware River and was headed directly for the thermal the hawks were using. As it flew directly overhead, only about 50 feet above me, I realized it was a mature Bald Eagle. I ran to retrieve the camera and managed to take a photo before it got too far out of sight.
As the day progressed and the temperature reached the mid-eighties, I saw many more Broad-winged Hawks, and lots of Turkey Vultures. But my day was made by the sighting of the Eagle directly above Mariton.
September 18, 2006
The rain held off for Saturday’s Environmental Stewardship Festival at Willistown Meeting, and there were lots of groups represented—from solar power to native plant nurseries, and land conservancies, equestrians, sportsmen’s clubs, and beekeepers. Here, Director of Communication Oliver Bass points out where Natural Lands Trust preserves can be found. We often have an exhibit at local events and these are good places to learn about what we do and how to find our preserves.
September 16, 2006
As it turns out, I was lucky with the weather. I mowed in light rain on Wednesday, something I really hate to do. Mowing in the rain probably isn’t good for the grass and it clumped up miserably. But not only was that my last chance to mow this week—due to weather and being away from the preserve for a few days it will have been my last chance for at least a week, at a time of year when the grass is growing fast and we have programs coming up.
Why do we have lawns anyway? They are of limited value as wildlife habitat and they are intensive to maintain. At the preserve, they are limited to the area around the houses and barns and visitor center, to keep views open and to provide space for programs and event parking. We’ve turned the rest into meadows.
To save time, money, and gasoline, I mow as infrequently and as high as I can, but I can’t cut too much off at a time: that’s hard on the grass plants and the mower. I try not to mow immediately before an event so that clippings don’t stick to everyone’s shoes.
So I really needed to mow both this week and next. The barnyard of the visitor center (“the golf green of the preserve”) is where a majority of programs take place. I even occasionally mow this space with our hand-pushed reel mower for a neater look.
Yesterday I was looking at pictures from the barn renovation and cringed at the sight of the concrete trucks parked in the mud of the barnyard in the late 1990’s, pouring the floor and the walkways. It’s a miracle we have grass growing there at all.
September 15, 2006
Dancing in an old barn is fun. On October 7 the Elverson Dance will again be holding an evening of contra and square dances, waltzes, and traditional dances at Crow’s Nest Preserve. The caller will be Bob Isaacs, and the music will be by the Hot Tuners.
Beginner’s instruction is at 7:30 pm; the dance begins at 8:00. Wear comfortable clothes and soft-soled shoes. Admission (payable at the door) is $8, seniors and students $5. It is not necessary to bring a partner, and bring a snack to share at the break.
I hope you’ll be there! Please contact us for details.
September 15, 2006
The fall season of WebWalkers and Spiderling starts soon. This after-school kids’ nature club is a six-week session one day each week.
WebWalkers is for kids in grades 4 – 6 and this session is called "Preserve(d) Trees." It runs Thursdays, September 28 through November 2, from 3:30 to 6:00 pm. The cost is $25 per child for the six-week program.
Spiderlings is for kids in grades 1 – 3 and the theme is "Fall, Fun-derfull Fall!" It will be held on Fridays, September 29 through November 3, from 4:00 to 5:30 pm. It is also $25 per child.
Please call the preserve at 610-286-7955 for more information about these programs.
September 15, 2006
It seems too soon for summer to be ending. I don’t feel like I have had my fill of fresh sweet corn and tomatoes. I’ve spent too many days in hiking boots and steel-toe workboots, and not enough in sandals. But autumn is near, and I will enjoy that season as well.
September 15, 2006
The general theme for this year’s camp was “Play with Nature.” After reading Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder (Algonquin, 2005) the staff decided to emphasize supervised but unstructured time for the kids to play in the woods. Each day the group traveled to a different habitat at Crow’s Nest Preserve and the kids were free to explore, play games, draw, or build things there.
The camp also broke into small groups for various activities at each of these five sites that would also help introduce them to the preserve or have fun with nature there: orienteering with a Global Positioning System device and with compass and maps, building “fairy houses” with natural materials, making slingshots for nuts, and playing a game using periscopes.
In other group activities the kids built this shelter, with a deck, sliding board, and sturdy roof. Inside there was a table and chair suitable for use as a field office.
We had a little time for crafts, including these fabric balls. Camp was fun this year, we hope everyone comes back next year!
September 15, 2006
I promised to write more about summer camp, and am just now getting around to it (can you tell that it’s pouring outside?).
Kids spent a lot of free time playing in the creeks at Crow’s Nest: Pine Creek, French Creek, and Mine Run.
After July’s major storm the creeks ran like chocolate for water. When the turbid waters cleared the kids searched for fish, climbed across the creek on a cable bridge, hung out in a natural (simulated) whirlpool, and built villages in the streamside sand.
We also played in the giant arcade in the barn, with nature-themed games such as giant checkers (cherry versus walnut tree cookies), Chinese checkers made from six different woods from the preserve, and tic tac toe: invasive plants versus the preserve manager.
The whole barn was made into a giant game of chutes and ladders where the kids moved through the life-sized game board with the roll of the dice. Rewarded for good environmental choices ("You freed a tree from invasive vines") when they landed on these spaces, the kids climbed ladders and walked scaffolding to advance in the game (this also built their self-confindence). Landing on spaces with poor environmental choices ("You littered") the kids regressed in the game via cardboard and fabric tunnels. The 5th and 6th graders developed the criteria for the game’s progression and regression squares. "Winners"—everyone who completed the game, were awarded the title "Eco-Star: Pride of the Planet."