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Archive for November, 2009

Paunacussing Preserve

Blog photo 11-24

Our Paunacussing Preserve is  a 102 acre property located in Buckingham Township, Bucks County, that includes the headwaters of the Paunacussing Creek. This waterway eventually flows into the Delaware River at Carversville, PA. There are seven springs on the property that contribute greatly to the health of the stream and, by extension, the Delaware River.

Recently, Natural Lands Trust completed a project to reestablish wetlands on the site of a former farm pond on the property. The project was a partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Army Corps of Engineers, and the Bucks County Conservation District. The four-month-long project involved lowering the water level, installing flow control structures, and installing 900 native shrubs and trees in and around the newly-restored wetland area.

The photo shows the results of this ambitious project. During the next few blog posts, I’ll going highlight the different steps of the process.  Please feel free to stop by Paunacussing Preserve to see the fantastic results for yourself! (Contact us at 215-598-8465 to arrange a visit.)


Mariton – Art and Nature

HOLLAND TWP. ART CLASS. MEBUS 026 This past week, a group of eighth graders from Holland Township School visited Mariton to work on sketches, and scultures using natural materials.  Unfortunately, I was unable to be here.  Fortunately, Mariton has some wonderful volunteers that are fantastic at leading school groups.  I asked Virginia and Carole if they could accompany the group to help answer natural history questions, and find good locations for the group's projects. 

HOLLAND TWP. ART CLASS. MEBUS 006 I am attracted by trees that form natural sculptures, as well as leaf arrangements on the trails.  So, I was hoping to join the group to see what they noticed.  Carole and Virginia told me that it was an enthusiastic group of students.  As they walked along the trails, they snapped many photos of interesting objects (ferns, holes in trees, lichens on rocks).  Normally, the pieces would be dismantled after taking photographs of the sculptures, in a Leave No Trace ethic.  But Carole asked the teachers and students to leave the works up, so that other visitors could appreciate the art.  I particularly appreciated viewing the different pieces when I got home.

Most of the artwork is located near the two benches along the Turnpike Trail.  Milkweed pods, leaves and branches were some of the components.  Birds and bird nests seemed to be one theme that attracted the students.  The wind on Thanksgiving Day rearranged some of the pieces, but Carole had taken these photos during the class. 


Crow’s Nest: On my night table… Summer World

I have read several books by Bernd Heinrich: Winter World, The Geese of Beaver Pond, The Trees of My Forest, and now Summer World (Harper Collins 2009). There's nothing like curling up with a book about summer as the winds become damp and raw outside in late fall.

Few writers today observe the natural world as carefully and Heinrich, who is disciplined and patient in his work and offers a view of nature around us that now I can enjoy and apply to our woods. He carries out many field experiments to test his hypotheses and turns to specialists when he needs more information or to confirm his independent observations. The book profiles strategies plants and animals use for coping, competing, and relating to each other in the short summer of the north woods.

One chapter addresses caterpillars—some of whom are unpalatable to birds by virtue of their hairs or spines, and others who have to not only hide themselves but any sign that they had been feeding on the leaves of a tree. I hadn't realized that many species snip off entire leaves at the end of each feeding period to disguise their having been there.

I recommend this book as ideal winter reading that will add to your own enjoyment of the woods.

Mariton – Flurries?

Not exactly.  The Tuliptree seed pods have dried out, and on breezy days millions of seeds flutter through the air resembling a snow fall.  Some people think the Tuliptree is messy, but the seeds break down pretty quickly and I will clean the gutters one more time before the snow threatens.  Until then, I will watch the seeds gracefully fall to Earth, and recall beautiful snow falls.

GOLDENROD II 006 GOLDENROD 002 The goldenrods have also gone to seed.  In the right light, they look snow covered.  I will leave the meadows unmowed during the winter.  The standing vegetation provides food and cover for lots of birds and small mammals during the winter months.  Right now, there are always mixed flocks of sparrows and Juncos in the meadows.  Most of the sparrows are White-throated Sparrows, but you have to look because you never know what else might be foraging with them.   

Mariton – Unexpected Sightings

Recently, I greeted some people that came to walk the trails and take photos of animals.  It was the middle of a warm afternoon, when wildlife activity is usually low.  The people were also limited on time.  I wasn't too optimistic, but suggested a couple routes for them to try that day, and some more routes for a visit when they had more time.  They decided they really didn't have time to spare and left. 

Copy of DEER CAMO Shortly afterward, I checked the trails.  It was a beautiful day, but I didn't expect to see any wildlife.  Was I surprised when I came across these deer standing just off the trail.  They watched cautiously as I snapped photos nonchalantly, while walking along the trail. Farther along, a Great-horned Owl glided across the hill side at eye level.  I would not have assumed to see deer while walking in the dry leaves, but a mid-afternoon owl was totally unexpected.

FALL PHOTOS 005 Another surprise happened recently when a flock of turkeys looked in my office window.  The office is built into the hillside, so while the window is at ground level on the outside, it is about two feet above my desk.  I literally have to stand up to see out the window.  So, when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye while typing, I thought it was a leaf blowing by.  When the movement continued, I stopped and looked up to see a turkey looking back at me.  Because of the angle, the turkeys had to be right beside the building for me to see them.  I grabbed the camera when they weren't looking, stood up, and took this photo before the exited from view.  There were a dozen birds in the flock.  Two different flocks have been hanging around the yard, but I never expected to see them looking in my window.

Crow’s Nest: Fall beauty


I love the fall color of the oak-leaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia). With its exfoliating bark in winter and summer's flowers it looks beautiful all the time.

We will be treated to months of fall and winter beauty from the native warm-season grasses in our meadows. Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) looks great in fall and winter, especially when backlit by the low sun.

And here are the seed pods of a plant we saw in flower a few months ago: ground-cherry (Physalis subglabrata) which you can see in the meadow around the parking area.


Crow’s Nest: Harmonyville Road bridge update


Work is progressing on the replacement of the state highway bridge near the middle of Crow's Nest Preserve. The second bridge abutment is much larger than the far side and required a big hole.


Those are our kitchen windows in the background of this photo. The contractor has been very conscientious and accommodating but this is as close to a project this size as I'll ever want to live. By the way, this bridge replacement has nothing to do with the preserve or Natural Lands Trust—it's simply a highway bridge that PennDOT has long planned to replace due to its deteriorating condition.

Crow’s Nest: What are those orange flags for?

Poop flags

If you start down the Creek Trail from the parking lot these days you'll see a bunch of orange survey flags in and alongside the trail. Each one represents a spot where we found dog poop that hadn't been picked up, starting on October 23.

Crow's Nest is home to scores of wild plants and animals and is a source of peace and beauty to all who visit. We hold kids' programs and walks for families and are open to the public every day.

Unleased dogs can disturb wildlife and other preserve visitors. Not only does dog waste smell and look unsightly, it is a health hazard and impacts the water quality of the adjacent French Creek.

Please leash your dog and always clean up your dog's poop.

Here's a picture of our puppy, Tillie, smartly leashed on a trail hike.


Safety Training


We attended safety training yesterday at our ChesLen Preserve. Since we share equipment among preserves one of the topics was a review of how to transport equipment safely.

Here Roger Nichols demonstrates chaining a tractor on a trailer. He and David Casteneda, the managers at ChesLen, hold commercial drivers' licenses and have more experience trailering big equipment than the rest of us do.

As a preserve manager at primarily one location I benefit from the different knowledge and experience of colleagues at other Natural Lands Trust preserves.

Crow’s Nest: Invasives Presentation at the Montgomery School

On November 14 I will be participating in a Stewardship Workshop on Invasive Plants at the Montgomery School in Chester Springs. This is part of the school's Program for Environmental Awareness and Sustainability and is being held in partnership with Natural Lands Trust's Center for Conservation Landowners and Yellow Springs Farm & Native Plant Nursery.

The workshop is recommended for landowners, teachers, and others interested in what they can do locally for the environment. It runs 1 pm to 4 pm and will have a hands-on field component—so dress for the weather. The program is free but pre-registration is required; click on the Stewardship Workshop link above for more information or to register.


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