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Archive for September, 2008

Mariton – River Kayak Trip

Nlt_04Natural Lands Trust (NLT) members got to try out the NLT-North Kayak Fleet this past Saturday.  As part of the Fall Members’ Events, Jim Thompson and I offered a trips on the Delaware River.  The weather turned out to be pretty good, despite a gruesome forecast.  It was cloudy and we barely noticed the spotty drizzle (we were having fun splashing in the waves).  Members traveled from as far away as Chester County and as close as just down the road to paddle a section of the River between Easton and Riegelsville.  Here is a photo of paddlers with the Easton skyline in the background. 

Nlt_13And here is a photo of a very happy paddler doing the run at Whippoorwill Island.  Now that we have these kayaks, we will be doing more member events.  The catch?  You have to be a member.  Now, you should want to be a member because NLT protects open space in your back yard.  You should want to be a member, because we help connect people with nature.  But isn’t it nice to know that a benefit of membership is the chance to take a ride down the Wild and Scenic Delaware River?

Crow’s Nest: Autumn Falls

Fall_color_908Last week the seasons changed, but autumn has been creeping up on us for a while. Asters and goldenrods are in glorious bloom, the native warm-season grasses look beautiful in the breeze, and we’re starting to get fall color here. The poison ivy is flaming orange, red and yellow and the Virginia creeper has turned a deep burgundy (see above). Other early turners are black gum and ash—though so far some ash have dropped leaves without their usual clear yellow and others are still green.

Witchhazel08Among the few shrubs that are blooming now are the fall witchhazels (Hamamelis virginiana). It is a beautiful time to visit the preserve.

Mariton – LTA Cook Forest Trip

Cook_forest_003Any doubts that I might have had about who we are protecting land for (See:  Mariton – LTA Rally Continued) were erased when I took a field trip to Cook Forest State Park.  Cook Forest is an ancient forest with trees over 300 years old.  Some of the tallest and oldest white pines and eastern hemlocks in the Eastern United States can be found here.  It is awesome and humbling.

This trip was one of several field trips offered as part of the LTA Rally.  Not only have I wanted to visit this forest for many years, but the trip featured interpretation by the Park Naturalist.  All of the trip leaders were great, enthusiastic and informative.  I definitely want to return during the spring to see what bird species use this special place.

Cook_forest_004The people who set aside Cook Forest, nearly 100 years ago, may not have considered who would benefit from their conservation efforts.  One thing is for sure, they recognized that this was a special place and needed to be protected before it was cut.  Yes, I am continually bewildered by people who don’t use natural areas in their "backyards".  And I am somewhat disillusioned when our efforts to share the enthusiasm for these special places goes unnoticed.  Still, I know that in 100 years, the lands that we as a society protect today, will be a vital part of the landscape, and a living legacy for other generations in ways that we can’t imagine. 

Mariton – LTA Rally Continued

Dans_van_02For our trip to Rally, I met Dan at Crows Nest, then he drove his 1985 (mint condition) Volkswagen Westfalia van to Pittsburgh.  A friend of Dan’s offered his back yard, just outside the city, as a place for us to camp in the van.  Jeff works for Western Pennsylvania Conservancy and his wife, Bonnie, works with the cultural arts in the city. 

After dinner, Bonnie took us for a walk.  At the end of their yard (and the yards of everyone else on the street) was a stream valley woodland that has been protected.  We bumped into deer, listened to owls, and made a detour around a beaver pond (the beaver slapped the water with its tail) as we followed lightly used trails.  This protected piece of woods provided such a wonderful resource for all the families that bordered it, however, Bonnie said she walked it daily and never saw anyone else using it.  As a kid, nothing could have kept me out of those woods, yet no kids are using it now. 

From that property, we connected to land protected by the Allegheny Conservancy, then crossed the street into a 500 acre township park.  We only had to walk along the street for a few blocks to get back to Jeff and Bonnie’s.  We had spent an hour and a half walking on protected lands at a brisk pace, in the middle of a populated neighborhood, yet, (almost) no one took advantage of that open space.  It makes one wonder.

Crow’s Nest – Land Trust Alliance Rally

Rally08The Land Trust Alliance is an umbrella organization that provides staff, board, and volunteer training; develops standards of practice for land trusts; and has a wonderful motto: Together, conserving the places you love. It has started a new program of accreditation that you will be hearing a lot more about at Natural Lands Trust as we approach this goal.

The conference was held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center (above), the first green-certified convention center for its use of recycled materials, natural ventilation system, adaptive site reuse, onsite water recycling, and low energy needs. It was my first trip to Pittsburgh and I took some time to see the city while Tim took a field trip to Cook State Forest. NLT staff kept our costs down by carpooling and—for Tim and I—camping while attending.

I attended sessions on connecting people to the land using events on the preserves, developing a conservation plan for a preserve, and ecological restoration of retired agricultural lands. These are all things we already do at Natural Lands Trust but I picked up a few pointers and confirmed that what I was doing is similar to what others are doing. The Rally is also inspirational—we all feel recharged to go out and work harder for conservation.

Mariton – LTA Rally Post #1

This past weekend, Dan Barringer (my co-blogger) and I headed to Pittsburgh, PA for the Land Trust Alliance (LTA) Rally.  This is a convention/conference for land trusts from all over the continent.  Meeting people with similar interests, concerns and  new solutions is a key component of the Rally.  But it is known for the wonderful presentations, and the great field trips.

There was a large contingent of Natural Lands Trust (NLT) staff, and I was proud to represent the organization in a nation-wide venue.  Several of our staff provided presentations which showcased NLT’s breadth and experience.  Dan and I did a presentation entitled:  "Managing Ecological Threats on Preserves."  Dan’s portion of our talk centered on his experience with dealing with invasive plants, and I presented on deer impacts to native plants and management options. 

Dan and I plan to post during the coming days on different aspects of the Rally and our experiences, so please check back for our stories.

Mariton – Lightning

Lightening_005Lightening_002A few weeks ago, lightning struck this Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera), and killed it.  Tulip Trees are among the tallest species in local forests, so they are prone to lightning strikes.  Mariton’s location atop Bougher Hill increases the likelihood.  This Tulip Tree is very visible to visitors.  It is located in what I call the "Tulip Grove" in the middle of the meadows, where large, stately Tulip Trees shade two benches.  This tree can be seen from several different angles as one walks the Main and Turnpike Trails.

Tulip Trees are often called tulip poplar or yellow poplar.  Calling them poplar is misleading.  Trees in the Poplar family include cottonwood, and quaking aspen among others.  Tulip Trees are actually in the Magnolia family.  (So, tulip magnolia would be a more appropriate term.)  Leaf shapes, tree form and reproductive strategies are very different between the two families, however, there are similarities in their lumber.  So, the name persists.  By the way, across the meadow, near the powerlines, is another small grove that harbors some Big-toothed Aspens (Populus grandidentata) for comparison.

I conducted research on Quaking Aspen (P. tremuloides) with my professor in college.  I spent a lot of time in the field with poplars.  While I understand why people use the term, Poplars are nothing like Tulip Trees.

Crow’s Nest: An addition to the preserve

By way of making small talk people often ask me, Did you add any land to the preserve? Although Natural Lands Trust has added lots of land recently to our preserve system and other lands under our conservation easements—many in this immediate region and some in our “Big Woods” backyard—seldom come the opportunities to add to Crow’s Nest itself.

Well, now we’ve had one. We recently added two acres to Crow’s Nest, and though the lot size is not big the parcel is of huge importance to us. It was an inholding surrounded by the preserve located in the dead center of Crow’s Nest.

The land also has thirteen large Norway maples on it, a seed source for millions of seedlings on adjacent preserve lands. We plan to cut these invasive trees down to eliminate this ongoing management challenge. We will replant with native forest trees. There is also a house, which unfortunately is in such poor condition that it must be torn down.

Please bear with us during these changes. The new habitat created on this land will be worth it! If you have questions or comments or would like to support Natural Lands Trust please give me a call at 610-286-7955.

Crow’s Nest: Dispersal

BlackratsnakeSean spotted this juvenile black rat snake perched on the vertical wall of the barn. The stucco is stippled and provides a perch on which the young snake is hanging out. We’ve seen several young snakes dispersing from the den under the barn this week.

Crow’s Nest – Recent Research

TickresearchThis summer researchers from University of Pennsylvania made use of Crow’s Nest Preserve to study Lyme disease and the bacterium (Borrelia burgdorferi) that causes it. Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease among humans in the U.S. Since it relies on ticks and alternate mammal hosts for its spread, a habitat for these animals such as that found at Crow’s Nest makes a good study site.

Graduate student Parris Humphrey carried out the research as part of Dustin Brisson’s lab at Penn with the help of Ian Hannigan, a first year Vet student, and undergraduate Eric Williams from Carleton College.

Different genotypes of bacterium infect separate species of mammal—mice, chipmunks, shrews, and squirrels—thereby avoiding competition. Humans are infected by only some of these genotypes.

To further knowledge of B. burgdorferi the Penn study has several goals:

1. Identify the different genotypes of the bacterium infecting each of the species in our region. This involves live-trapping small mammals and collecting engorged ticks from them before releasing them. (Amazingly, mice had anywhere from zero to 60 ticks on them apiece!)

2. Compare host reservoir species in the mid-Atlantic with those studied in other regions. This requires collecting data on rates of transmission of each genotype to feeding ticks, tick burdens, animal densities, and the frequency of each genotype in host-seeking ticks.

3. Build predictive models for Lyme disease risk using variables such as forest type, forest fragment size, and climate.

4. Eventually, field test a vaccine for small mammals that blocks transmission of the Lyme disease bacterium between mammal hosts and feeding ticks.

In the photo above Parris is sorting collected ticks; he will be spending the fall in the lab analyzing their bacteria. We are happy that University of Pennsylvania was able to use Crow’s Nest for this research.

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