August 31, 2008
Denise and Dan are thrilled to welcome our son Owen Daniel, our new little camper/conservationist.
Though of course the preserve remains open, you may have trouble reaching me at the office for a few weeks. We hope you’ll still get out to enjoy the preserves, and stay tuned for the schedule of fall WebWalkers and Spiderlings. Also mark your calendars for the October Elverson Contra Dance at Crow’s Nest, October 4.
Thank you to the Natural Lands Trust staff who have been so accommodating with my leave time and for looking after our household while we were gone.
August 28, 2008
I recently was at the Post Office and remembered to purchase a federal Duck Stamp. Technically, they are called Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamps (a term I have never heard used). The stamp is required to hunt migratory birds like ducks, geese, woodcocks and doves. I haven’t hunted any of these birds in decades, but I still purchase the stamp every year, because it is a tax that I support.
On the back of the card are printed two important facts: "To date, Duck Stamp sales have provided $700 million that has been used to purchase 5.2 million wetland acres for the National Wildlife Refuge System." The stamp costs $15. This year’s stamp features a print by Joseph Hautman of a pair of Northern Pintails.
There are several National Wildlife Refuges (NWF) within a few hours drive. Most recognizable are probably John Heinz NWF, near Philadelphia; Great Swamp in Basking Ridge, NJ; Cape May and E.B. Forsythe (Brigantine). Most of the regional refuges have free admission, but in other parts of the nation one has to pay to visit. The Duck Stamp is a season pass to all NWFs.
Fifteen dollars. 52 million acres protected. Free pass into any National Wildlife Refuge. My way to say, "I support wetland conservation."
August 23, 2008
Today we saw (and heard—their wings’ noise is a phenomenon!) starlings massing in the trees—a sure sign of fall. We’ve had more than a week of fall-like weather. On our walk today Denise and I also saw wood ducks, several red-tailed hawks, turkeys, ring-necked snakes, and that the beavers have again raised the waters downstream of Harmonyville Road.
We’ve had some questions lately about the fall webworms (Hyphantria cunea). They’ve certainly had a good year, binding the branch tips of many trees with their webs and shredded leaves. They’re easy to distinguish from another native caterpillar, the Eastern tent caterpillar, whose “webs” are in the crotches of branches (mainly black cherry) and appear in spring, not at the tips in later summer. We see the fall webworms most on black walnut trees, but also on hickory, persimmon, and black cherry. People find the fall webworms’ damage unattractive but it is rarely harmful to a whole tree.
The building stewardship staff has been repointing the gable end of the Jacob barn. Here they are a month ago at the top of the scaffolding; Steve, Scott and Luke are just now reaching the bottom of the wall (and there are other sides to do!). Their work is beautiful and will extend the life of the wall.
August 16, 2008
Today had that crystal clear light that makes me want to take pictures. Here are a few “postcards” from Crow’s Nest:
Let’s start with another view of the lotus flower (actually yesterday, its second day). It won’t last much longer. American lotus doesn’t grow at the preserve naturally, though it is native to Pennsylvania.
Here Asiatic dayflower (Commelina communis) grows up through a cart wheel by our garage. This species is weedy and nonnative but can be tolerated most places: it’s not so invasive as to disrupt native ecosystems.
The Houck house is nestled in the valley in the southern end of the preserve; Buzzard Hill in French Creek looms in the distance.
I brought the camera with me as I mowed trails today. I’m thinking of starting a a series of photos called “from the tractor seat.”
August 15, 2008
I still come across plants at the preserve that are new to me—even after all this time. This one I spotted the other day beside the trail that leads to the Chief’s grove. It is a perennial vine in the pea family that reminded me at first of hog-peanut. But instead of three leaflets this one has 3 – 7. And the flowers are maroon instead of cream.
It is ground-nut (Apios americana) and is named for the tuber at its roots.
August 14, 2008
I planted an American lotus (Nelumbo lutea) in the water garden by the front door this year. It started blooming today!
August 11, 2008
Last week, I shared a day on the Delaware River with a great group. The NJ Outdoor Women’s League (http://www.njowl.org/) scheduled a kayak trip from Phillipsburg, NJ to Riegelsville. NJ OWL is a wonderful organization that provides opportunities for women to experience different activities outside. NLT has done several trips with the OWLs over the years and I am always excited to team up with them. The group always brings people that are engaged, enthusiastic, and open to learning new things.
We took the opportunity on this trip to not only talk about the water quality of the Delaware, but also to introduce these NJ residents to some interesting places on the Pennsylvania side of the river. We stopped to eat lunch at Wy-Hit-Tuk Park, part of the 60-mile long Delaware Canal State Park (just below Easton, PA). The Park is undergoing a massive reconstruction to repair the damage from recent floods along the river. I am very excited about the construction, because the state park is an fantastic recreation resource that brings millions of people in contact with one of the great natural resources of the eastern United States: the Delaware River.
We took another break at Groundhog Lock in the Canal State Park, in Raubsville. Here the group learned how canal locks work. They also saw how the canal in this location was once harnessed to generate electricity locally.
Of course, we took time to talk about land preservation as we floated right in front of Mariton Wildlife Sanctuary. I took time to talk about the generosity of the Guerrero’s who protected the land for future generations. And about Natural Lands Trust who continues to protect green space, which will provide opportunities for countless generations to re-create in the wonderful outdoors. (A big THANK YOU to NLT employees Jim Thompson and Ryan Hopkins who helped lead the trip, and Steve Eisenhauer who scheduled the trip with NJ OWL.)
August 11, 2008
This beautiful summer is passing and I have not had time to write much about what’s blooming here. Except for a short dry spell in June we’ve had plenty of rain and the preserve is lush. The lawns this August are growing like it was May.
The milkweeds, Joe Pye weed, New York ironweed, monkey flower, and coneflowers have been in full bloom. Here are a few more:
Here’s a photo of cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis) in its wet habitat with rushes along the creek trail, with Buzzard Hill in French Creek State Park in the background.
The prescribed burn in the upper half of the parking lot field this spring has really stimulated the Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota), a naturalized biennial of roadsides and meadows. Look for the small purple flower at the center of each umbellet, the Queen Anne’s “blood” stain.
I knew I had written about wild germander before, even though when I saw it blooming this summer I was stumped… It took some looking, since it appears in an earlier version of this weblog, but here’s the link to the 2005 entry.
And here’s blue vervain (Verbana hastata) along French Creek. You can also see it around the pond.
August 11, 2008
Sean and Kendra installed a second bat box, about a mile from the one Luke and I put up last fall.
This one also faces south and is near a hayfield, meadow, and woods. We’ll keep an eye on it for its use.
August 11, 2008
Dan Barringer, my blogging colleague, asked me a question about Mariton’s rainfall recently. I realized I haven’t posted on this subject lately, so I went back through the records. I have been recording the daily rainfall at Mariton for several years and have records going back to 1997. (Lighting strikes fried the computers that stored the 1992-1996 records.)
At the end of July, we had received 30.41 inches of precipitation. The average for the same time period over the last 12 years is 29.67 inches. So, we are close to average for the last decade. Meteorologists say that rainfall will usually average out in any six or twelve month period. It is how we get to those averages that can make or break a farmer or a roofing contractor.
For instance, in April we received 2.70 inches (not a lot of April showers), and Mariton’s average is 4.49 inches. May was right at average receiving 4.63 inches compared to the average 4.46 inches. June was very dry and several gardeners complained about this. We received 2.12, the average is 4.95.
July is either a month of feast or famine. Many years it is the month with either the most rainfall, or the month with the least. This year Mariton received 6.20 inches, the average is 5.17 inches. What makes July so variable is the thunderstorms (and hurricanes). Sometimes the storms drop water on you, sometimes they pass just south or north. I felt that at Mariton we were missed by most of the deluges this year and just nipped by the edge of a storm cell. Still we received over an inch of rain each week. It kept the lawn needing mowing, and the gardens needing weeding. Conversely, some areas within the region were hammered by every storm cell that developed, while others areas were completely missed and stayed dry during the month.
So far in August (about 1/3 of the month), we have received 0.87 inches compared to an average of 3.72 for the entire month.