Archive for June, 2009
On Day Two of the Delaware River Sojourn, we paddled from Ten Mile River Access to Pond Eddy. The River was still high, so most people rode in rafts. I was able to paddle my solo canoe, as it has flotation bags.
The Delaware Sojourn is attractive to me because I live so close to the river. There is also a professional interest. Mariton Wildlife Sanctuary overlooks the Delaware and was shaped by the same forces that formed the river's channel. In the larger context, Natural Lands Trust (NLT) has affected and been shaped by the Delaware River Watershed. Of the 41 preserves, and 255 conservation easements that NLT is responsible for (nearly 40,000 acres), only 4 preserves and a dozen easements lie outside of the Delaware Watershed.
To bring it from an eagle's view to a sparrow's view… We camped a few days at Kittatinny's Milford Beach Campground. The Cummins Creek flows right through the campground and into the Delaware River. I monitor a Conservation Easement of over 500 acres that protects the headwaters of Cummins Creek. I also monitor another 140 acre easement that protects two small drainages that flow into Cummins Creek. If those 640 acres (one square mile protected by conservation easements) were developed, the water quality of Cummins Creek would be much lower when it enters the Delaware River.
We started Day 2 directly across the River from a 200 acre easement that NLT helped protect in 1983. The conservation easement is part of a larger tract of land that had been subdivided for development. In the interim, that 2,700 acre tract was protected by the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Had it been developed, the easement would have provided an important buffer between houses and the Delaware River. Later that day we took out at Pond Eddy, just downstream from a 300 acre easement that sits alongside the River.
These lands were protected by private property owners with NLT's help. In most cases, the Conservation Easement allows the property owner to have a residence, but the easement keeps the rest of the property from being developed, even if the landowner sells the property.
Everything that happens on each of the million little runs that flow into a thousand little brooks that flow into a hundred creeks that flow into a dozen rivers affects the Delaware River's water quality. The lands protected by various organizations and private landowners balances the affects of people on one of the most populated watersheds in the eastern United States. It is part of what makes the Delaware River a national treasure. It is also what makes it so vulnerable to degradation. Balance. I want to live and work near such a wonderful resource. It is seeing the Bald Eagles and Osprey; the fish and clear waters that attracts me. But, if I build my house on the river's edge, will those things that attract me to the river move away and disappear? Balance.
Today I volunteered some time to help with a trail relocation adjacent to the preserve. The Horse-Shoe Trail Club found a way to move a section of trail off of a section of road and onto some private land and nearby State Game Lands #43.
The Butterfly Census started slowly this morning. Last night's storm, along with lingering clouds, had the butterflies hunkered down in the vegetation. Then around 10:00, things started picking up and we had one of the best counts ever. We ended the morning with 26 species (a new record) and 169 individuals. It certainly helps that we have become better butterfliers. I (and I think the others would agree) would still be lost without Virginia to identify the difficult skippers. (Photo of Virginia Derbyshire by Carole Mebus.)
Great-spangled Fritillaries were the most common butterfly this morning with 44 individuals. We counted 22 Silver-spotted Skippers, and 21 Monarchs. Some of the other interesting butterflies included both American Lady and Painted Lady. This photograph of a gorgeous Coral Hairstreak was taken by Carole Mebus.
Carole also captured this lovely Eastern Comma. Most butterflies look totally different when their wings are open, compared to when the wings are closed over their back. It can be frustrating for a beginner, because you have to learn to identify each species from different positions. Carole did a great job of illustrating the different appearances of this individual. Many of us grew up looking at butterfly collections pinned with their wings spread open. Wings open is usually the more colorful vantage. However, when watching butterflies in the wild, it is more common to see them with wings closed. You can see why binoculars are handy for watching butterflies. We sight them, and let them continue feeding.
I was a participant on the Delaware River Sojourn for four days this week. The Sojourn's theme this year was No One Left Inside; a reference to Richard Louv's book Last Child in the Woods. The Delaware Sojourn is a seven day event that educates participants about this wonderful river. Because it is such a long waterway, the Sojourn is not a contiguous voyage, but rather it samples portions from the upper stretches to the tidal areas near Philadelphia. Each year the organizers explore different portions of the river, so its worth doing over and over again. This was my second year on the Delaware Sojourn.
Because of all the rain this month, the River is unusually high. I applaud the organizers and boat liveries for adapting to the conditions and continuing the Sojourn when it would have been very easy to cancel a day or two. We didn't stick to the schedule, but we were still able to paddle every day on the Delaware River in a manner that was enjoyable and safe for everyone involved.
On Sunday, we paddled rafts from Kittatinny's Milford Beach Campground to the Dingman's Ferry access. We went on a section that was fairly flat (but fast moving) for safety. The National Canoe Safety Patrol is our escort for the Sojourn. They are the most wonderful people (and volunteers). The Safety Patrol is there to scout the river, to help you become a better paddler, and if necessary to perform rescues. They make the trip enjoyable.
I have been away on the Delaware River Sojourn (more about that in a later entry), but the Tuesday Butterfly Walk was still held. Anne, Carole and Valerie saw several species that included Great-spangled Fritillary, Hoary-edged Skipper, Monarch and Summer Azure. A special find was a fleeting glimpse of a Pipevine Swallowtail. This beautiful Mourning Cloak (photo by Carole Mebus) was also seen. Mourning Cloaks are one of the first butterflies seen at the end of winter. In the fall, if you leave a few un-raked areas in the yard, you will be providing habitat for Mourning Cloaks to overwinter. At Mariton, they can emerge when there is still snow on the North Fox Trail, but the sun warms the south slopes. Not only are they beautiful when viewed through binoculars, but they let us know that spring is on its way.
Common Milkweed is blooming at Mariton. The nectar from Milkweed blossoms attract butterflies, so the fields of Mariton are a great place to be for the next few weeks. Milkweed leaves are food for Monarch caterpillars. The residual chemicals from the plant are retained when the larva becomes an adult (butterfly). This makes the Monarch Butterfly poisonous (or at least unpalatable) to birds. The Viceroy caterpillar does not eat Milkweed, yet the Viceroy butterfly resembles the Monarch butterfly in an example of Batesian Mimicry. A non-dangerous species (the Viceroy) resembles the dangerous species (Monarch) as a strategy to avoid predation. (Photo by Carole Mebus.)
You can learn more about butterflies at Mariton's Butterfly Census this Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to Noon. Bring binoculars if possible. You will learn how to identify at least 3 species of butterflies, and be amazed at the diversity of butterfly species in our area.
It is not that rare to see a Cooper's Hawk near the Nature Center at Mariton. After all, a pair is nesting in the pines just beyond the front door. But it is uncommon to see one when I look out of my office window. I was working at the desk first thing this morning when movement caught my eye. This photo was taken from outside my office door, but still too far away for a good photo. The mature bird preened for several minutes while I snapped photos.