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Archive for April, 2007

Crow’s Nest: Now showing

There are a few new blooms in the last couple days: swamp buttercup, redbud trees, and a patch of Dutchman’s breeches that you can see from Piersol Road.

ArbutusAnd today we found trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) blooming in the woods. You can see some along the road too, but that has mostly white flowers. The vines in the woods had pink flowers; they are sweetly fragrant.

LichenLichen looks good at any time of year; I just happened to photograph this bit today.

Crow’s Nest: Burn site grows lush

0meadowbeforeHere are photos of the parking lot meadow, one of three we burned this spring at Crow’s Nest. First is the “before” picture.

Second is the photo taken immediately after the burn, with the trail curving around to the right of the meadow.

After one week there is already a little bit of green showing…

This is two weeks after the burn….

And three weeks later….

By four weeks after the fire the burned area is greener than the unburned portion of the meadow, the result of ash fertilizing the plants.

We’ll put up more pictures later to show how the grasses thrive this summer.

Crow’s Nest: WebWalkers in Water

KidsinswampWe state in our flyer for our WebWalkers and Spiderlings nature club programs that we go out in almost any weather, and we do.

It stopped raining today but the kids seemed determined to get wet anyway. They worked their way out toward the flooded creek by walking on logs and woody debris, and occasionally just through the water. Though there were many wet socks, there were few complaints…

Crow’s Nest camp planning

Crow’s Nest camp counselors have held our fifth meeting to plan summer camp; interns are hired, a theme has developed, kids are registered, and we are purchasing supplies and planning the schedule.

Last evening the counselors walked the preserve to locate a second remote “campsite”—a place kids can call their own away from the barn. Pictured, staff and volunteers from left to right: Sean Quinn, Patience Kaltenbach, and Pete, Eloise, and Molly Smyrl.

Many thanks to the DeMarco Foundation for their support of summer camp at Crow’s Nest Preserve.

Crow’s Nest: now blooming

Hepatica2Right now the round-lobed hepatica (Hepatica americana) is blooming in the woods near Northside Road at Crow’s Nest.

Some of the wildflowers are running late this year relative to the last few years—perhaps due to the cold spell we experienced this spring. I last photographed hepatica on April 11, 2005; you can see the entry in the archive of the old Crow’s Nest Preserve weblog here. (I need to review this so that I don’t repeat myself too much!)

Birding at Mariton

This morning we started our weekly Spring Bird Walks.  Every Tuesday morning, from now until June, we will be taking bird walks around the region.  Some of the places we plan to visit are Lake Nockamixon, Wy-Hit-Tuk, and Merrill Creek. 

Spring_walk_009We start the series here at Mariton.  This first walk is always a little early to get migrating species.  This year, because of the long winter, it is really early.  But for me, this first walk is kind of like spring training for baseball players:  it gets me in shape.  My ear gets tuned for different bird songs.  I practice tuning out louder, more common birds while listening to fainter songs.  I work on the fundamentals of mounting my glasses, picking out bird locations, and giving directions to other birders.

While bird activity was a little slow we did take the opportunity to admire some spring wildflowers.  Bloodroot and hepatica were in bloom along the River Lookout Trail, as was the shadbush.  Fiddleheads of different ferns had popped out and will soon be unfurling.  We also saw several butterflies:  cabbage white, mourning cloak, spring azure, and a very early (male) black swallowtail.

Spring_walk_007The birding wasn’t bad either. We got our first ovenbird.  The black and white warblers were beginning to sing.  We also listened to ruby-crowned kinglets singing away, as they hopped from branch to branch.  We saw a palm warbler, a hermit thrush, and a male bluebird.  This rufous-sided towhee gave us a show.  Finally, we ended the walk with the first vireo song of the spring.  It was probably a red-eyed vireo, but we couldn’t locate it and it only sang twice.

Next Tuesday, we will be heading to Giving Pond, in Tinicum.  Last year this was one of the hottest places we visited.  We saw a long list of species; some that were very uncommon.  Call if you are interested in joining our bird walks (610-258-6574).  We meet at Mariton at 7:30 a.m. and carpool to the different locations.  We try to return to Mariton by noon.

Gwynedd: Prescribed Burn

Gwp_burn_41107_005 The Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve once again used a prescribed burn to control non-native and other woody plants in the grasslands around the preserve. This year we burned the native warm season grass meadow along the right side of the driveway near the office. The warm season grasses are still dormant at the time of the burn so they are not affected by the intense heat the thatch layer creates. Gwp_burn_41107_015 On the other hand, the non-native plants are already beginning to leaf out and are killed by the flames. Everyone on Natural Lands Trust’s fire team is federally certified to fight wildfire. Thanks to all who helped out in this year’s burn. Check back for photos of the grasses regeneration in coming months.

Happy Earth Day!

Be sure to enjoy the beauty of the world we are blessed to have on this beautiful Earth Day. Today the serviceberry trees (also called shadbush) are blooming, and the bloodroot has reached peak bloom. I saw a few Dutchman’s breeches and a few of the multitude of spring beauties to come. Yesterday American toads added their voice to the chorus of spring. Please visit one of our preserves soon!

Mariton: Remembering a Dear Friend

Ruth_timRuth Hoyt passed away on April 11, after a short period in the hospital.  She was 88.  Ruth was an integral part of Mariton for 50 years.  She worked for Mary and Tony Guerrero for many years as their housekeeper and gardener.  (The name Mariton is derived from Mary and Tony.)  She served as Mary’s personal assistant, and oversaw the property and contractors when the Guerrero’s traveled.  After the Guerrero’s established Mariton, she continued working in the gardens, until just a few years ago. 

She told Maureen and me many wonderful stories about the people she adored and served faithfully.  Even though I never met the Guerrero’s, Ruth helped bridge that gap.  That bridge helps me keep the "Mary and Tony" in Mariton as I do my work here.

Even though she was such a big part of Mariton, most people never met her.  She was shy, and focused on her work.  She made sure there was always something in bloom in the yard, and there was a variety of color.  She worked in the gardens and greenhouse five days a week, and even stopped by on the weekend to check the greenhouse.  Even after she suffered a severe stroke, she continued to work for many years at Mariton.  Getting back into the garden seemed to be the best physical therapy for her.

I will always remember Ruth for her love of plants and animals.  She could grub at weeds for hours in the hot sun, or transplant a tiny flower seedling smaller than a toothpick.  I will never forget the time she showed me a hummingbird in her hand.  It had flown into the greenhouse to sip nectar, but had gotten confused by the glass and couldn’t get out.  She cupped her hand against the window and carried it outside to release.  The delicate, colorful bird in her strong, calloused hands was the perfect paradox.  To realize a hummingbirds strength, you have to hold one in your hands.  And you probably needed to hold Ruth in your heart to recognize her inner beauty.

Crow’s Nest: An extraordinary day

Flying_squirrelIt’s not every day I see a flying squirrel—much less one that stays put under the bird feeder during daylight while being photographed and while kids arriving for WebWalkers observe it. This normally nocturnal species glides from tree to tree, dropping to near the base of the destination tree, then climbing it to gain height for the next glide. Most people’s experience with flying squirrels is limited to having them get into an attic or chimmney and being awakened in the middle of the night by their flurry of activity. I think this is probably the southern flying squirrel, Glaucomys volans. I don’t know why it was out during the day (or why its ears are bald!). We didn’t approach too closely—the sharp photo is testimony to a good digital camera. Then while we were watching the flying squirrel we heard a loon calling as it moved up the creek. That’s a first that I’ve noted here at the preserve, but not impossible during migration season (they are sometimes seen at Marsh Creek State Park and on other large lakes in the area). Their call is a very wild sound that I have heard on lakes in the Adirondacks and in Maine. Later the kids went hiking in the chestnut oak forest; on our way we ran into Eleanor Morris, co-founder of French & Pickering Creeks Conservation Trust. When we told the kids about how instrumental she has been in preserving land in our region over the years, the kids burst into spontaneous applause. It was a wonderful moment coming at the end of a unique day.


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