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Archive for April, 2009

Mariton – Bluebird Eggs Hatch

BLUEBIRD 04.29.09 003 This week, the four bluebird eggs have hatched into four tiny little bluebirds.

I came across something new while monitoring this year.  One of the boxes had a bluebird nest and 3 eggs two weeks ago.  When I monitored last week, there was moss on top of the bluebird nest.  I assumed that a Chickadee was building its nest on top of the bluebird nest and eggs.  (That is a problem with House Wrens, but I have never seen Chickadees do it.)  I asked some other nest box monitors and it was something new for them also.  I left everything intact to see what would happen.  This week, the bluebird eggs had been broken, some hair had been added to the Chickadee part of the nest, but there were no Chickadee eggs.  Again, I left things as they were.  Stay tuned; I will let you know what happens next week.

Mariton – Tuesday Bird Walk

It was hot on Tuesday, which probably made some of the Neo-Tropical birds happy.  Anyways, they were singing.  (A little joke.)  We started the walk with a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  We had males singing throughout the walk and one even showed off at the top of the Turnpike Trail.  The Wood Thrush greeted us with its flute like song as we entered the woods.  Scarlet Tanagers were singing in abundance, and we even saw one.  Were were pleased to hear Great-crested Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.  Ovenbirds also sang throughout our walk.  Other warbler species included:  Black and White, Worm-eating, and Yellow-rumped warblers.  Bluebirds and Tree Swallows gave us a show in the meadows. 

Two interesting birds that you wouldn't expect to see at Mariton were a Double-crested Cormorant and a Great Blue Heron.  Both were seen flying over at tree top level. 

Next Tuesday, we will be birding at Giving Pond, where we always have good sightings.  If you are interested in joining the group, contact Tim at 610-258-6574.

Crow’s Nest leaves expanding


Spring is not all about wildflowers (though the nodding trillium is starting and the showy orchis is getting close). I also enjoy seeing leaves expanding from their buds, like on this beech sapling. I also saw morels yesterday.


I also liked seeing this pattern of growth and weathering in the fork of a fallen tree.

Crow’s Nest – redbuds in bloom


The redbuds are in bloom now brightening the edge of the woods beside the house. The dead tree behind has become great habitat for woodpeckers.

This morning I saw an indigo bunting on the finch feeder.

Crow’s Nest: WebWalkers explorations


Our spring sessions of WebWalkers, WebWigglers, and Spiderlings are underway and the kids are exploring their favorite parts of the preserve. I am reminded how special a place this is as they discover "playgrounds" of fallen trees to climb on, cross the log bridge, crawl into a cave, build structures with branches, climb trees, examine wildflowers, and grow a little bit each week.

Crow’s Nest: highlights from paradise


The shadbush flowers have already started looking a little beat up, but here it is in full bloom. As you can see it makes a good small tree for the yard as well as an understory and edge tree in the forest.

Another good small native tree, the redbud, is just now starting to bloom. In the woods the rue anemone has joined the wood anemone.

I have been spending time over the last couple weeks trying to control garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata). There are parts of the preserve where it is well established and beyond control. But in other places we are giving it a try. There is some research that suggests that chemicals in garlic mustard may inhibit the growth of fungi that are symbiotic with native forest species, so removing it may improve conditions for other species (in addition to removing its direct competition for light, water and nutrients).

I can say that in the few places where over the years we have successfully reduced the density of stands of garlic mustard we are seeing a resurgence of native wildflowers: bloodroot, Solomon's seal, cohosh, and trillium.

This morning I heard my first wood thrush of the season. A phoebe and Carolina wren are both nesting on our porch.

Yesterday's Backyard Habitat lecture was informative and inspiring. After it was over I nominated our yard as a National Wildlife Federation Certified Backyard Habitat. Aside from being located in the middle of 600 acres of protected open space that Natural Lands Trust manages for natural habitat, the yard around our house and the preserve visitor center is intended to be a demonstration site for native plants and wildlife. It's more than having feeders, though we have a few to bring birds closer for our observation.

Our yard is surrounded by mature trees: oak, hickory, ash, tuliptree, walnut, and black cherry. I've planted the yard with native insect and wildlife-using species: American dogwood, pawpaw, sumac, persimmon, winterberry, chokecherry, maple leaf viburnum, trumpetcreeper and native honeysuckle, shadbush, blueberry, buttonbush and many more. We have a pesticide free "freedom" lawn. We have water available: a heated birdbath in winter, a small water garden in summer. The rear of the yard is meadow filled with goldenrod. The perennial beds are planted with natives such as Joe Pye weed, bee balm, butterfly weed and purple coneflower. Our vegetable garden uses raised beds and drip irrigation for soil and water conservation. We've left dead trees at the edge of the yard and woodpeckers are moving in. My wife Denise and I refer to the place where we live as paradise.

Mariton – Tuesday Morning Walks Resume

The Tuesday Morning Bird (and other nature) Walks resume this coming Tuesday (April 28), at 7:30 a.m.  We will start off the weekly series with a walk at Mariton.  It should be pretty interesting. 

This morning I took a short walk on the trails and heard a Wood Thrush singing as soon as I entered the woods.  I also heard a lot of Blue-Gray Gnatcatchers and  a Black and White Warbler.  Farther into the woods I could hear a Scarlet Tanager.  When I got back to the house there was a Baltimore Oriole, a Parula Warbler, and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak singing on the edge of the yard.  This bodes well for this week's walk.  The leaves are just beginning to open, so we should be able to sight a fair amount of species as well as listen to their songs. 

Mariton – Nature Walk on the Water

NOX 4.26.09 004 After my walk on Mariton's trails, I loaded canoes and met a buddy at Lake Nockamixon.  As soon as we had the canoes in the water, I heard the ascending song of a Prairie Warbler.  We saw a lot of Painted Turtles on logs as we paddled.  Because of the hot sun and cold water, the turtles were very tolerant, and didn't slide into the water as we approached.  I also passed several that were floating at the water's surface as we paddled along. 

NOX 4.26.09 011 NOX 4.26.09 015 We started up Haycock Run when two Green Herons flew in front of us.  These are really pretty birds with striking (yet subtle) colors.  These two photos show different poses of the same bird.  It would be easy to mistake this for two different species, because the posture is so different. 

Other wildlife that we saw at the lake, included two muskrats that swam within feet of the boats.  Great Blue Herons, a Great Egret, and a Double-crested Cormorant were some of the other sightings.

Happy Earth Day!


Spring is emerging at Crow's Nest. Plants and animals were discovered everywhere yesterday. The fiddleheads of ferns unfurled from the swamp. Some of the animals were naiive—they were not prepared for human (photographic) pursuit either because of their youth or their winter's dormancy left them vulnerable.


Here a Jefferson's salamander turned up under some leaves.


And marsh marigold (Caltha palustris) grows in a redosier dogwood thicket. I was cutting multiflora rose and Japanese honeysuckle twining up the dogwoods when I snapped this picture.

Earth Day is a good time to reflect on where our stuff comes from and where other stuff goes. Mitch Thomashow writes in Bringing the Biosphere Home that it doesn't take long thinking about the environment before we come around to existential questions: Why are we here? What is our relationship to this world?

Mariton – Water Bars

No – Not saloons for H2O aficionados.  (Although that could be the next Big Thing.)

Waterbars 001 We place water bars along trails to prevent water erosion.  With Mariton's relief, there are certain trails that get a lot of run-off during heavy rains.  The Turnpike Trail in particular, with its straight vertical climb, is particularly prone to erosion.  The stone walls on either side of the trail make it impossible to divert water off of the trail.  (Although, the original builders knew that erosion would be a problem and built dry wells a long the trail to collect water and sediment.)

Waterbars 002 Ryan Hopkins and I recently placed a lot of "speed bumps" along the Turnpike Trail to slow water run-off.  Some were actual log bars placed across the trail.  While in other places we arranged stones to catch the water.  We might not be able to divert the water, but by slowing it down, we can reduce the amount of erosion.  We can even place bars strategically to allow nature to repair some of the erosion from past storms.

It is an ongoing process that involves some patience.  You set up the water bar that eventually rehabs a section of trail.  Then you move on to repair another section.  I don't have a specific formula (which may have frustrated Ryan).  I guess it is experience gained from draining mud puddles as a kid, and observing what happens during rainstorms as an adult. 

The stones and logs need a couple rains to get seated.  Until then, be careful as you walk down the trail.


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