July 26, 2007
We are wrapping up our third week of camp—an exhausting but rewarding part of our summer. With our youngest group of kids (1st & 2nd grade) we try to get them to know and be comfortable in one small part of the preserve—the “campsite” along Pine Creek. With the next older group (3rd & 4th) we try to explore different parts of the preserve so that they get to know a range of habitats here. With the 5th & 6th graders we approach these diverse habitats with a series of activities that will help them get to know the preserve better. And with the oldest group—all long-term campers—we use Crow’s Nest as a springboard to become familiar with a range of other natural open spaces in our region.
A key component of the program is small group hikes where just two to four kids explore an area with one counselor. We find the kids more focused and observant in small groups and they return to the larger group with news of what they saw.
I find myself stopping to see more things with the kids at the preserve than I would if I was working on a project.
One one hike I took a bunch of pictures of this Indian pipe (Monotropa uniflora), eventually getting it in good light.
Also blooming at Crow’s Nest right now: blue vervain, blazing-star, and lots more:
Along the creek you can see butterflies all over the swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) as well as some monarch butterfly caterpillars.
In the wetlands bur reed (Sparganium americanum) has been blooming for a while now.
New York ironweed (Vernonia novaboracensis) is blooming in our wet meadows.
And in the hedgerows growing over other things the virgin’s bower (Clematis virginiana) is beginning to bloom. It’s as well known for its showy seed pods as for these dainty flowers.
July 26, 2007
(And I don’t mean me!)
Farewell to an old lawnmower that has served our family well, by most accounts, more than 40 years:
You’ve outlasted all expectations and reason. You mowed my childhood home, earned me a little money in school, were loaned to friends in need, and returned to mow our little garden plot that is too small for our larger commercial mower.
Before I was born you also cut my uncle’s toe off in a freak mishap involving sneakers, wet grass, and a small but steep slope (and yet we kept you!). You lack all modern safety features, use prodigious amounts of gasoline, and stink of partially burned hydrocarbons much more than newer mowers do.
Until recently, you started regularly, if not always easily. You cut a beautiful swath of grass (and why else would we mow our lawns?) and vacuumed leaves and, if run over the driveway, loose gravel or anything else in the way.
But after a day at work on the tractor, weed whipping weeds, or chainsawing—coming home to another noisy machine was just not what I wanted to do. And this latest repair I’ve decided is just not worth making. So… You’re being replaced… by a rechargeable electric mower that is quiet and maintenance free and appropriate for the small area of lawn left around the garden. Thank you for your lifetime of service.
(Really, I’ve tried to minimize the area of lawn we have and the frequency of mowing, but it is a good play surface. We also have an hand-operated reel mower, but it won’t cut the plaintain flower stalks that are common in our “freedom lawn.”)
July 23, 2007
This summer Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site is sponsoring Ranger Guided Walks from Hopewell Furnace to scenic St. Peter’s Village, every Wednesday through Sunday at 10 am.
The hike is ten miles round trip, five miles one way; there is no charge for hikers. The hike passes through parts of the National Historic Site, French Creek State Park, State Gamelands #43, and alongside Crow’s Nest Preserve. The trail is rated as moderate difficulty and includes woods, meadows, a former railroad right-of-way and the history that goes with this landscape.
For more information contact Hopewell Furnace at 610-582-8773.
July 19, 2007
This bluebird built its nest on top of a house wren nest, and laid four eggs. The wren nest had been in this box for a few weeks and I was waiting to see if she would lay eggs. Sometimes wrens build nests in several boxes and then choose the one they like the best for laying eggs. I think this wren chose a nest in another nearby box. The bluebirds decided they liked the location and moved in. The twigs are from the wren; the bluebird builds its nest with grasses.
House wrens often build nests on top of active bluebird nests. I have seen them pierce bluebird eggs, and even build nests on top of baby bluebirds. I have never seen a bluebird evict a house wren from a nest box. (I don’t consider this case an eviction, because the wren abandoned the nest.) I am still crossing my fingers and hoping this bluebird can raise another brood. (And hoping that the wren doesn’t decide to move back and destroy the bluebird eggs.)
July 18, 2007
The second week of camp has begun and we are doing many of the same activities, now geared toward a younger group. We are exploring the creek and examining the critters that live there.
And we are modeling the water cycle, where the kids “evaporate” through our custom-made “el-vaporator” (another building stewardship staff creation) only to condense and fall as rain, snow, or hail (down the sliding board).
And while at the creek the kids have gotten comforable playing in a natural setting. Here a camper, looking a bit leafy himself, crosses the wire bridge against a backdrop of summer foliage.
And the creek provides an ideal location to spend a hot day building castles, moats, houses and docks out of the natural materials at hand.
July 18, 2007
It seems like each year there are plants that I forget and have to re-learn when they appear again. One of those for me is hog-peanut, Amphicarpa bracteata. It has three leaflets like poison ivy but is no relation and is no cause for concern.
There are lots of plants blooming right now: monkey flower, black cohosh, and fringed loostrife are just a few.
We also recently found this mayfly shed skin on a window screen. The mayfly had briefly perched above it and then flew off…
July 18, 2007
I went to the Poconos this week to check some NLT preserves in that region. While working, I kept noticing White Admiral (Limenitis arthemis arthemis) butterflies. I took a few photos, but my (rechargeable) batteries crashed. This is the best photo that I took. This was the first time that I really studied them. The white ring is spectacular, but the light blue spots on the wing edges are gorgeous.
I may have mentioned here that we saw a lot of Red Admirals (Vanessa atalanta) at Mariton this summer. I mentioned it to Karl Gardner, and he said that he felt that this species (among some others) had periodic irruptions. He felt that this year might be one of those years. Carole Mebus took this photo last week during Day Camp. It is a excellent photo of particularly beautiful Red Admiral.
I also saw a lot of Common Wood-Nymphs (Cercyonis pegala) while in the Poconos. I used to see a lot of these at Mariton, but the last few years I have not seen as many. (I don’t know why.)
July 13, 2007
We have had a wonderful group of kids this week. The most important thing for me to say at this point is thank you to the many people who have made this camp possible—in addition to the dedicated counselors you will see in camp photographs there are many who have worked behind the scenes.
For example, the kids operated this human-powered water pump, lifting and pressurizing water from the creek. The pump was fabricated from scratch by Bob Johnson (building stewardship staff) with welding by Erich Estes (Stroud Preserve manager) and some construction by Crow’s Nest’s Pete Smyrl, Luke DeBerardinis and Katie Flachs. The pump turned out to be a big hit with the kids as it was a way for them to squirt each other.
The 5th and 6th graders this week completed the beaver dam and lodge in the upstairs of the barn and made it ready to be used by the younger groups in the next few weeks.
And today is the day the kids will be taking apart the rafts they built so that other camps can build new ones…
July 13, 2007
We are nearing the end of our first week of summer camp, the week of 5th and 6th graders. The theme is water, and we have been doing many related activities: playing in the creek, studying the creatures that live in the water, looking at how people use water, and hiking around the preserve to the various springs, ponds, wetlands, and streams. There are many photos to follow.
On one of the hikes two girls found an owl pellet that they brought back to the barn to dissect. Some happy news—among the things they found the owls had eaten and coughed up indigestible parts: Japanese beetles.
July 12, 2007
The topic for the day was "things that eat insects." But the kids just wanted to walk, and look, and explore, so we went with that. We stopped at the birdblind and watched several chipmunks, and a variety of birds. Most of the birds that we saw eat insects (when they aren’t eating seeds at feeders). The white-breasted nuthatch, tufted titmouse and black-capped chickadee all look for insects hiding under tree bark, as well as caterpillars on leaves and twigs.
I was trying to talk about the pileated woodpecker holes on this tree, but one of the boys saw an insect disappear into the loose wood at the base of this tree. He rooted around and found this camel cricket. They are so named because of their humped back. They dwell in dark places. We often find them in the birdblind about this time of year. People think about chirping and crickets, but these crickets rarely make noise. Many species in this family of crickets actually lack hearing organs.
Eventually, we made it to the meadows where we were treated to lots of butterflies, dragonflies and bees. The bergamot is in bloom now, and so were these woodland sunflowers. Photos by Carole Mebus.