March 29, 2007
Natural Lands Trust has begun its spring Prescribed Burn programs at various preserves. We don’t use fire to mange habitats at Mariton. Someday I would like to use fire in different sections of Mariton’s forests and research how it affects oak regeneration. Oaks are important food sources for wildlife, and fire seems to be an important tool in keeping oaks healthy in our forests.
Natural Lands Trust is about the only regional lands trust that has its own Prescribed Fire Team. Members of the Lands Stewardship staff receive annual training in order to be able to manage our properties with this tool. Yesterday, we burned two meadows on a preserve in Montgomery County. The purpose of the burn was to promote certain wildflowers that respond well to the burning regime. On the right is a photo of one unit after the fire is completed. I will try to post a photo of the same meadow in May, after things have greened up.
DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME – The conditions that make it possible for us to professionally manage environments with controlled fire, also make it dangerous for wild (un-controlled) fires. Again, we are trained to respond to various fire behaviors, and operate within a prescription that is based on weather conditions, as well as the conditions of the materials we are burning.
Today, we planned to burn three small units at one of our preserves in Chester County. However, the National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning due to low humidity and windy conditions. We would never burn in these types of conditions. But, I am sure some landowners will burn today, and their routine brush or leaf fire will become a wild fire that will endanger land, animals and people needlessly.
Before each fire, the team holds a briefing to go over weather, hazards and predicted fire behavior. We discuss plans of action "just in case" the unexpected happens. Following the fire, we go over what went right, what went wrong, and what we will do differently next time. I am proud to be part of such a cohesive team. Members react instinctively to the various situations that arise during a fire. That is a reflection of our training, as well as our experience.
March 29, 2007
The end of March marks the annual meadow mowing at Mariton. I mow the three meadows that the Main Trail takes hikers through. Here are before and after photos of Meadow #2.
In a sense, I set back the clock on these meadows each year. They want to become a forest again, but I keep impeding that progression by mowing. What will happen during the next 12 months simulates what would happen if a forest was knocked down by a storm, or harvested for lumber. The tree roots will re-sprout and send up new saplings. By November, these fields will be populated by thousands of young trees, some over five feet tall.
Because the forest at Mariton has been released at intervals over the last century, you can see the natural progression from harvested forest to mature forest. For me, this is an exciting element of Mariton. One can literally walk through a hundred years of forest succession in the period of an hour. What a great teaching tool!
March 29, 2007
We had a great Walk on Saturday. It was a wonderful spring day, and I think people were just glad to get outside. We answered a few questions, but we asked ourselves a lot more questions.
This was the first time that Dan Zackey and I examined Mariton’s stone walls together. We have each walked them many times in the past. Dan and I had previously discussed some of the things that we each wanted to cover, but during the walk, Dan would say something that would get my mind working, or visa versa. In a sense, we had an open conversation about the stone walls and what we were seeing. Which led us to speculate on how the walls were built, and who built them (perhaps three hundred years ago). We invited the folks attending the walk to ask questions and contribute ideas.
In the end, Dan and I realized that there was a lot more that we each wanted to know about these interesting walls. So, we decided we need to do this walk again next spring. Meanwhile, Dan and I will be digging up information, examining the walls, contemplating and asking ourselves more questions.
March 24, 2007
Last week we were skiing and enjoying the snow; this week the peepers are peeping.
We’ve had a couple good amphibian migration nights on Thursday and Friday. Spring peepers seem very happy with the weather and there are a few wood frogs calling. We saw some salamanders crossing the road.
With all the snowmelt and rain the Creek Trail has been more creek than trail. In a few days it will be drier. In a few years we hope to have a boardwalk there so that it is always passable.
The red maples are just beginning to bloom, and the catkins of filberts are expanding. Skunk cabbage is up but little else is in bloom. Don’t let this fool you; spring is here and the season’s beauty will pass quickly.
We hosted the Chester County Trail Club for an 11-mile hike today that ranged into French Creek State Park. The rain held off and we had a great hike; the only downside is that on such a hike I see all the work that needs to be done!
March 21, 2007
Mariton has miles of stone fencerows running through the woods. At one time in history, farmers tended fields within these fencerows. Even before that, someone removed the rocks from the fields and built these beautiful dry-laid walls. These walls have stood the test of centuries, and without any mortar to hold them together.
I have always been fascinated by Mariton’s stone walls. As a teenager, one of my spring jobs was helping farmers pick the stones out of their fields. We had the luxury of a tractor for prying out the most stubborn stones. We also used a tractor and wagon for hauling the stones away. So, I have a ton of respect for the laborers who not only cleared the fields, but laid these beautiful walls that now serve as monuments to their hard work. (Photo by Carole Mebus.)
On Saturday, March 24, from 2 – 4 p.m., we will take a walk along Mariton’s stone walls. Many of our trails take walkers along these walls, but we will also diverge from the trail to follow walls through the woods. I think you will gain a whole new appreciation for the people who converted forest to farmland. Not to mention a lot of respect for the horses and oxen that pulled the plows.
If a spring walk to admire these structures were not enough, my good friend Dan Zackey will accompany us. Dan is a stone mason who specializes in dry walls. He will be able to add a lot of insight as to what was involved in building these fencerows.
It should be a great program. If you plan to attend; the Walk is free, but you must register by calling 610-258-6574.
March 16, 2007
The bears are still hibernating…you should too. At least for tonight. Due to the weather, I am postponing tonight’s video on Pennsylvania’s Black Bears. I will show the video on Saturday, March 24 at 7:30 p.m. Please call if you plan to attend on this new date (610-258-6574).
Winter weather – I don’t recommend that anyone drive to Mariton today (Friday), but tomorrow should be a great day to walk in the snow. I should have the parking lot and sidewalks cleaned up by 10:30 Saturday morning. Dress appropriately as the forecast is calling for windy and cold. It shouldn’t be too bad in the woods.
March 14, 2007
Hopefully all of you who were reading the blogs from different Natural Lands Trust preserves have found your way here, to our new combined blog. We hope that by putting entries from all the different preserves into one place, you’ll get a better idea of all the different things that are happening on our preserves. We hope that you will enjoy reading all the entries, but if you’re only interested in finding out what’s going on at your local preserve, you can always click on the links on the left side of this page to sort those entries out from the others.
And while reading these blog posts is a great way to keep up-to-date on what’s happening on the preserves, an even better way is to get out and visit the preserves in person. We hope to see you on the trails soon!
March 13, 2007
We had a wonderful afternoon Saturday at the reunion of summer 2006 Crow’s Nest campers. We played games, went on a hike, made crafts, and got muddy. We crossed the creek on the wire bridge and compared our summer and winter experiences there. These kids are looking forward to summer camp 2007. The theme is water: meet creek critters, water cycle obstacle course, French Creek Regatta, drippy olympics, build a beaver habitat, waterwheels & pumps, and lots more.
General registration opens at the end of March. Please call 610-286-7955 if you’d like more information or a brochure.
March 12, 2007
Let me start off by saying that I am nuts about black bears. Over the years, I have been fortunate to watch several bears foraging unaware of my presence while hiking (not at Mariton). I have even bumped into a few bears on the trail. Each encounter is a treasured memory. (This photo was taken by my friend Fred, in his back yard.)
For some decades, Pennsylvania has led the nation with its bear research. "On the Trail of Pennsylvania’s Black Bears" will be the featured film this Friday night at Mariton Wildlife Sanctuary. This video was produced by the PA Game Commission, and highlights some the ground breaking research that was started in the 1980s. The film is still timely and introduces you to the seasons of a black bear’s life. There are still many misconceptions about black bears and this film addresses them concisely. The wildlife photography is spectacular (you will crawl into a bear den).
I plan to start right at 8:00 p.m., as the movie is 100 minutes long. We will take a short break in the middle. We will serve popcorn and lemonade as refreshments. Please call (610-258-6574) if you plan to attend, so we can plan accordingly.
March 12, 2007
At the end of our winter WebWalkers and Spiderlings programs we tapped some maple trees—red maple, not sugar, because we have more of them—and are now collecting the sap. Red maple (Acer rubrum) sap is not quite as concentrated in sugar as the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) but can still be made into syrup.
The kids in the photo are doing something else, too. They’re are listening through a stethescope that Sean is holding against the tree, listening for the sound of the sap rising. It isn’t loud but there is some swooshing noise. Remember, the theme for the winter programs was "Things we cannot see."
We’ll begin spring sessions of WebWalkers on April 12 and 13. The programs cost $25 per child for the six-week program. Please call for more information.