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Archive for August, 2007

Mariton – Butterfly Talk

Mebus_easterncomma5Karl Gardner will be the featured speaker at the Annual Picnic on Saturday, September 8.  Mr. Gardner will present his slide show "Understanding Butterflies," which will help butterfly watchers hone their skills.  Mr. Gardner is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about butterflies, as well as the plants that support their different life cycles.

Mariton’s Annual Picnic starts at 6:00 p.m.  Please bring a dish to pass.  Grills will be fired, so you can bring hot dogs or burgers for your family also.  Mariton provides place settings and drinks.  We suggest that you bring a blanket or chairs.  Please call if you plan to attend:  610-258-6574.

Mebus_cloudedsulfurand_unknown2At 7:00 p.m. we will move into the Nature Center for Karl’s program.  Butterfly watching is a great pastime.  I admit that I am a novice, but learning more each year.  Karl’s program will be a great introduction for those that have been watching butterflies in their yard, and helpful for those people who are starting to keep a list of different butterflies sightings.  (Photos by Carole Mebus.)

Summer into Fall

Already it is feeling like fall. Before I left on vacation it was definitely summer; I was starting work early to avoid the heat of the day. Now after only a week I am starting a bit later to let the grass dry out. Normally I don’t mow before 10 am to let the dew dry on the grass; now the grass isn’t dry until 1 or 2 pm. The nights are cooler, the dew heavier, and starlings are massing in the farm fields.

Fall WebWalkers & Spiderlings programs

KidsonrockThis fall we’re planning shortened four week WebWalkers and Spiderlings sessions (the program fee has been adjusted accordingly; we’ll return to the six week programs in the winter).

The theme is “Sunshine and Shadow”—fall is a good time to enjoy the contrast of light and dark on colorful leaves at the preserve. We’ll go on hikes, play games and observe nature at the preserve.

The dates for these morning and after-school programs are as follows:

After-school WebWalkers (grades 4-6): Thursdays, October 4, 11, 18, 25 from 3:30 to 6:00 pm.

Morning WebWalkers (same program as above): Fridays, October 5, 12, 19, 26 from 10:00 to 12:30 pm.

After-school Spiderlings (grades 1-3): Fridays, October 5, 12, 19, 26 from 4:00 to 5:30 pm.

The fee for each four-week program is $15/child. Please call us for more information: 610-286-7955.

Plant it and they will come…

I attended a natural areas management conference earlier this month and heard a presentation by Douglas Tallamy, Chair of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology at University of Delaware.

IocaterpillarHe argues that since suburbia is our largest regional land use and nature preserves alone are too small to support all the native species that evolved here, we need to plant our yards not with exotic ornamentals but with the native plants that support the herbivore insects that are essential to all other wildlife in the food web.

It may be a bit of adjustment for gardeners to enjoy minor insect feeding on their plants, but if the landscape is diverse enough, the gardens will still be aesthetically pleasing. Tallamy’s studies indicate that native trees and perennials support roughly an order of magnitude more native species of lepidoptera (butterfly and moth species) for example, than the most commonly used non-native ornamentals.

Want butterflies and birds and all the other parts of a healthy natural community? Then you need to plant some of the native plants that support the animals that coevolved with them. And if backyard buffer plantings connect to each other the effect is much greater than a single plant in a lawn.

Dr. Tallamy also dovetailed his presentation to one made earlier at the conference by Larry Weaner, a landscape architect who has perfected the art of using natural succession and native plants to promote healthy landscapes (and simultaneously reduce maintenance). Tallamy sent his undergraduate students to the homes of Larry Weaner’s clients and to similar homes nearby that were “conventionally” landscaped with non-native ornnamentals. The naturally-landscaped yards had measurably higher wildlife numbers and diversity than the ones that weren’t Weaner’s clients.

I have long noticed that the native perennials by the porch at home draw many small native bees that are as entertaining as the plants themselves.

After hearing Dr. Tallamy’s talk (illustrated with beaufitul photos, many of which were taken in his own backyard) I was newly sensitized to seeing beautiful caterpillars at the Preserve.

Above is the caterpillar of the Io moth (Automeris io) that I spotted on a willow along Pine Creek. (For a view of the adult photographed at our Mariton Preserve click here.) I didn’t touch them as spiny caterpillars sometimes cause stinging when handled. Indeed, David L. Wagner in Caterpillars of Eastern North America (Princeton, 2005) notes that the sting of this species can be the same intensity as stinging nettle but longer lasting—and since some people are more allergic than others he doesn’t recommend anyone handling (238). But I was sure happy to see these beautiful caterpillars and know their part in a healthy ecosystem.

Preserve sights

ViburnumRight now the native viburnums such as arrowwood viburnum are in fruit, though birds will soon strip them bare.

Blue lobelia is flowering in wet sunny meadows now, and just a bit of the goldenrod is starting, hinting that fall is coming.

SedgeflowersAlso, this beautiful sedge is in flower along Pine Creek.

Assembly and Disassembly

BarbedwireIt is useful to remember that everything we build someone someday may have to be taken apart.

After all these years we still find barbed wire embedded in trees—long after it was in use for pasture—even though we thought we had found and collected it all.

So when we build something new—a boardwalk, a fence, or other project at the preserve we need to think about its eventual disposition.

Mariton: Recent Happenings

Right now at Mariton the meadows have yellow highlights from blooming goldenrods.  Also in bloom are the Queen Anne’s Lace and yarrow.  If you are blaming goldenrod for all of your allergy suffering right now, your wrath is misplaced.  Goldenrod is out in force, but has large pollen which doesn’t affect allergy sufferers.  Also out in force, but having green, inconspicuous flowers is ragweed which is the culprit of most suffering at this time of year.  So, appreciate the artistic sprays of goldenrod along the roads, and in local meadows.

A pair of Cooper’s Hawks nested and raised at least two young in the pine grove, right above the nature center.  On most mornings and evenings, I see the young flying around the yard practicing the aerial skills.  I also find piles of bird feathers in the yard, which I am sure are the "crumbs" of a Cooper’s Hawk meal (adult or juvenile, I don’t know).

Four bluebirds recently fledged from Mariton nest boxes.  This brings the season’s total to 14 bluebird fledgelings.   

Mariton: Kayaking on the Delaware River

P1060175lowLast week, I was able to assist a kayak trip down the Delaware River, from Phillipsburg to Riegelsville, NJ.  Steve Eisenhauer, NLT’s Regional Director of Stewardship and Protection, set up the trip with the NJ OWL (NJ Outdoor Women’s League http://www.njowl.org/).  Steve referred to me as the leader, but it was really a team effort.  Steve brought the kayaks, PFDs and paddles from southern New Jersey.  I handled the shuttle logistics and local information.  Jim Thompson, from Paunacussing Preserve, joined to help with kayak instruction and environmental education.

P1060183lowThe trip was on one of the hottest and most humid days of the summer, so it was a perfect day to be on the River.  Unfortunately, a storm the night before turned the River brown with silt, just before we were to launch.  While the paddling was still great, we couldn’t see the river bottom, or watch fish and turtles below the surface.

P1060187lowPart of trip went along Mariton’s boundary, and provides a different view of the Sanctuary than most people get to see.  From the River, one can understand the magnitude of Mariton’s impact on the surrounding landscape.  I hope one day that Mariton has its own fleet of kayaks, so that we can extend our education programs to water resources.

I have helped Steve with this group before, and always enjoy the time.  The women are enthusiastic about the outdoors, open to  learning, and always have fun.  Most states have programs to introduce women to the outdoor sports (whether they be kayaking, hiking, camping, or hunting and fishing).  They are run by enthusiastic people who want to share.  Photos by Steve Eisenhauer.

We’ve lost a good one…

MollyIt is with regret that I report that Molly Smyrl has left Natural Lands Trust to pursue a broader career in environmental education. She volunteered for us for many years, eventually spending two summers as an intern in land management and education. Then she spent three years on staff: planning membership events, managing member relations, and publications including overseeing this very weblog, where she has given its authors astounding latitude (how else can you explain all that appears here?).

As Crow’s Nest intern she remains the most recent person to clean the rafters of this barn; she also expressed particular joy in having the opportunity to mow the barnyard—repeatedly, naturally—with the hand-pushed reel mower (“It’s the golf green of the preserve,” I told her), and she has plenty of experience pulling mile-a-minute.

She has also brought to our summer camp programs a touch of stability, a sense of humor (recently described, I think, as “upbeat cynicism”), and lots of fresh ideas. She has added a lot to the kids’ great experiences at camp. Above, a typical shot of Molly taking pictures of campers in the creek while she’s crossing the wire bridge.

We’ll miss her and wish her well in her new endeavors. And hope that she’ll be back. So not goodbye, just so long.

Crow’s Nest bloom highlight

Cardinal2
For the last couple weeks one of my favorites has been blooming—the cardinal flower, Lobelia cardinalis. It is a shocking shade of red and appears in wet, sunny meadows along the creek.

Garden807_2The garden is also full of flowers. Some are companion plants meant to attract beneficial insects (pollinators or insectivores) or repel the ones that we compete with for our food. They also add beauty to the garden and, as in the case of sunflowers, provide food for birds. The garden is producing wildly right now. Zucchini, anyone?

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