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Archive for April, 2008

Mariton – Bird Walks

Bird Walks are back.  It was a chilly morning, but we had a great outing.  Right off the bat, we had Rufous-sided Towhees singing.  Their Drink your tea-e-e-e-e song is so distinctive and is an easy song for beginners to learn.  Towhees are sometimes very shy, and other times will display only a few feet away.  I find them charming and enjoy their singing while I work on the trails or in the garden. 

Ovenbirds also sang loudly and repeatedly around us.  We did not see this large wood warbler, but its song is another one that is easy to learn and remember.  Listen for an emphatic teacher, teacher, teacher.  I love to hear these ground-nesting warblers.  They need good ground cover in the forest to protect their nests from raccoons, opossums, and skunks. 

We heard the beautiful Wood Thrush song, but not enough for people to learn its song.  Several other birds just gave us a short sampling, including Black and White Warblers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Scarlet Tanagers and Red-eyed Vireos.  That is okay, there will be plenty of time this spring to see these birds (and many others) and hear their singing over and over. 

We had the fortune of seeing a red fox trotting in the distance with what appeared to be a ground hog in its mouth.  It was surely taking it to its den to feed its young.  The fox was our worth the price of admission moment.  It is a saying the group uses for those special times when we are in the right place at the right time to witness something truly spectacular in nature.  Fortunately, it happens frequently on our Tuesday morning walks.

We also found time to admire some of the flowers that are blooming at Mariton right now.  Foam Flower, White Baneberry and Blue Cohosh are in bloom.  There are several Perfoliated Bellworts blossoming, but many more buds yet to bloom.  Solomon’s Seal is just starting to bloom.  The Trilliums (White, Lemon and Stinking Benjamin) are in bloom, but beginning to fade a little.

Next week, we will be going to Giving Pond in Tinicum.  We always see a good variety of species there.  Call if you would like to join the group.  610-258-6574.

Crow’s Nest: Bloom Update

Redbud08_2The redbuds are now blooming, and the dogwood bracts have opened, so the area around the visitor center is spectacular.

I saw the first wild geraniums (Geranium maculatum) flowering yesterday—many more to come. The trout lily has finished, but if you look really hard you can see the fruit forming from the flower. Bloodroot and hepatica seem to have finished as well, but the rue anemone and wood anemone are still going strong. And the spring beauties are, well, beautiful.

Mariton – New Crops

A new crop of wildflowers is in bloom this week.  Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) has made its appearance.  Rue Anemone (Anemonella thalictroides) is blooming all over the place this week.  Last week there were just a few blossoms here and there.  Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema tryphyllum) is up and in bloom in many places.  Wild ginger (Asarum canadense) is blossoming, but the flowers are brown/purple, close to the ground and often hidden by the leaf litter.

Solomon Seal has flower buds, but they haven’t opened.  I found one perfoliated bellwort blossoming, but most were just setting flower buds.  Maiden hair fern on the River Lookout Trail has come up, but is still very thin.  The Christmas Ferns and Evergreen Wood Ferns are sending up fiddleheads.

Two of the bluebird nests that were new last year have eggs.  One had three eggs, the other had one.  I imagine that both females are still laying.  The nest in the yard now has 5 eggs, and the female was sitting on nest when I checked the box. 

I am also beginning to hear warblers in the tree tops.  My ears are a little rusty.  I look forward to Tuesday morning when I will have to really get back into tune.

Mariton – Bird Walks and other Programs

Next Tuesday, there will be a bird walk at Mariton Wildlife Sanctuary.  This is the beginning of the Tuesday morning series that will go into July.  Several volunteers will be on hand to help folks learn bird songs and spot birds.  This is an informal group that stops to enjoy flowers as well as birds.  We start at Mariton, but will car pool to different locations in the following weeks.  You can view the schedule at

Happy Earth Day!

Please take some time today to enjoy nature, whether it be taking a walk, photographing wildflowers, or reading a book about nature. Better yet, share your favorite part of nature with someone…

SpiderlingsshelterHere’s a shelter the Spiderlings have been building in the woods at Crow’s Nest: spontaneously and without direction they’ve been cooperating to move big branches into place.

Earth Day is a good time also for reflection. What can I do to reduce my ecological footprint? What can I conserve, recycle, or restore? What can I find out about the nationwide initiatives called “No Child Left Inside”?

We’ll be planting trees at Crow’s Nest later this week. Today I’ll be rescuing some more trees from invasive vines.

There are a lot of upcoming events to celebrate the earth. Natural Lands Trust has a full schedule of events for spring and early summer. We’ll also be at Warwick County Park’s Outdoor Fest on May 3 and many township celebrations over the next few weekends.

You can pick and choose several other local environmental events: they’re even close enough to attend several. May 3 is also Green Valleys Association’s Envirofest and that weekend is the Great Green America Fest at Mount Hope Estate & Winery. (We’ll be going on that Sunday to see singer-songwriter and promoter of sustainable agriculture Adrienne Young perform.)

We also hope that you’ll visit a Natural Lands Trust preserve soon!

Mariton – Four Nests; Four Eggs

The nest in the yard had 4 new eggs this week when I monitored it.  Bluebirds built four new nests in the boxes in the meadows.  It is very common to see them while walking there.  I will be honest.  I don’t think that two of the new nests will get used, as they are very close to each other.   It does however indicate that we have at least three pairs of bluebirds nesting.  Next week more eggs should be laid and we will be able to see which nests are active. 

As I was walking, a red-tailed hawk flew across the Turnpike Trail in front of me.  I put up the binoculars and saw a squirrel tail hanging limply from its body.  The hawk perched on a branch and continued eating its meal.  As agile as squirrels are, I am always amazed that they are regularly caught in the wild.  I, of course, realize that the predators have evolved to take advantage of the high numbers of squirrels available.  I find squirrel hair in fox scat, as well as other signs that they have become some creature’s meal.  But squirrels have likewise evolved to avoid being eaten, and have lighting reflexes.  It is an amazing dance – "sometimes you’re the windshield; sometimes you’re the bug."

Crow’s Nest: Avalanche!

At least, that’s what it seems like: the effect is cumulative, since last week’s flowers are still blooming and there are many new ones this week!

Amelanchier08Now blooming, as of yesterday, is the shadbush or serviceberry tree (Amelanchier canadensis). It’s a pretty small flowering tree that I like so much more than the Bradford pears that are common landscape trees in flower this week. Bradford pears look so formal they look artificial, like the trees that came with my childhood train set. (Bradford pears are also doomed to branch failure and they’re invasive, too, escaping into the wild in parts of our region.) The serviceberry is much more delicate looking, especially against the backdrop of the deciduous forest just waking up.

Bloodroot08In addition to the spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) that will continue to bloom and the spicebush (Lindera benzoin) that have a yellow-green flower throughout the woods, the bloodroot has been really spectacular this year (Sanguinaria canadensis). There seems to be larger masses of this flower that I remember. Look for them along Northside Road where it passes through the deep woods.

Hepatica08Also still blooming from last week is hepatica (Hepatica americana). The distinctive leaves of this hepatica, called round-lobed hepatica, is not visible in this photo.

MarshmarigoldI made a discovery today of a plant that I knew was in the area but had never seen at Crow’s Nest: it’s marsh marigold (Caltha palustris). This is definitely not the highly invasive lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria) that you see carpeting floodplain forest floors. Marsh marigold has 4 – 6 petals and lesser celandine usually 8 – 10. Plus lesser celandine forms dense carpets as its tubers get spread around in floodwaters; marsh marigold is much less common.

Thalictrum08Also blooming now is rue anemone (Thalictrum thalictroides). As its common name suggests, this thalictrum is sometimes botanically classified as an anemone.

AnemonequinquifoliaAnd just a few feet away in the deep woods part of the preserve is wood anemone (Anemone quinquifolia). Another small white flower this plant has much different leaves.

(This is the kind of stuff that I tend to forget over the winter each year. I pull out a few books to check up on things: Wildflowers of the Southern Mountains by Richard M. Smith and The Plants of Pennsylvania by Ann Fowler Rhoads and Timothy A. Block with drawings by Anna Anisko.)

Troutlily08Here’s a view that you might not expect of a plant that is only a few inches tall. It’s the trout-lily (Erythronium americanum). The speckled leaves are in thick patches on the forest floor but it only blooms sporadically.

Violet08And violets (Viola spp.) are blooming now too. Up close this humble flower is very beautiful.

(You can click on the pictures to enlarge them.)

Mariton – Wildflower Update

Rue Anemone and Spring Beauties are blooming.  Bloodroot is out all over.  Remember it doesn’t stay in bloom for very long.  There is a beautiful patch of Hepatica in bloom along the River Lookout Trail, along with a nice display of Bloodroot.  Also on the Lookout Trail, Shadbush (Amerlanchier sp.) flower blossoms are just beginning to open.  It is worth the trip.

If you want to avoid the climb back from the Lookout Trail, you can also find Hepatica along the Chimney Rock Trail, near its junction with the Fox Trail.  This location is also the best place to view Bloodroot.

Crow’s Nest: Weekend pictures

RedmaplevistaIt was a wonderful weekend to get out on the preserve and I managed to get some photographs Saturday as the light turned golden. The red maples here are starting to drop their flowers as the hayfields green up; last year’s little bluestem still glows.

WillowThis willow by the pond hasn’t leafed out yet; I really like the tree’s architecture from this angle—a different angle than from where I usually see it.

PondripplesThe American toads were poking their heads up around the edges of the pond and trilling. A few pickerel frogs called from one corner “Errrrrrrrr.” The ripples in the pond answer the question, “Do you think the snapping turtle still lives in there?”

Dicentra2And, yes, the Dutchmen’s breeches are blooming at Crow’s Nest right now.

Mariton – Bats are Back

BatOn Saturday, the forecast was for warm and raining.  It turned out warm, but rather sunny and delightful.  A lot of people took advantage of the fine weather to walk the trails.  While Maureen was talking to one couple, she heard bats "talking" in the bat box on the side of the Nature Center.  She shared the news with me, and sure enough they were very chatty when I investigated.  That evening while sitting on the porch watching the sun go down, we saw this little guy perched on the stone wall.  He soon took off, to get a meal of insects.  More power to him.


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