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Archive for March, 2010

Earth Hour — Tonight!

This evening from 8:30 to 9:30 pm local time people around the world will be turning off their lights to show support for conservation and environmental awareness. Please consider joining us as we briefly turn off the lights!

Crow’s Nest: Now blooming

On Thursday the bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) petals were out but the flowers were closed (it was overcast). Yesterday they were open and blooming. Today if it warms up they will reopen. We even saw a little bit of spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) in flower—lots more of that to come.

Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is just starting to bloom, its chartreuse flowers brightening the understory of the woods. And red maple (Acer rubrum) gives the woods a flush of color up in the canopy.

Crow’s Nest Volunteer Day April 3

We will have a morning of spring cleanup at the preserve on Saturday, April 3 from 7:30 to 11 am. We'll be cutting vines and invasive shrubs, removing them from the hedgerows where they prevent tree regeneration. Bring gloves, pruners, and loppers or a hand saw if you have them.

We'll start with coffee and doughnuts at 7:30 and be in the field by 8 am. We'll meet in my garage at 201 Piersol Road and then drive over to the site. Join us anytime in the morning—we'll leave a map in the garage of where we're working. Give me a call at 610-286-7955 if you think you might come.

Crow’s Nest: Welcoming Spring

I am in Somerset today giving a talk at the Pennsylvania Recreation & Park Society Conference—and there is still snow here! That's a big change from yesterday's 75 degrees at the preserve.

Crow's Nest is in a bit of a cold hollow for southeastern Pennsylvania—but from the weather stickies to the left I notice it is usually a couple degrees warmer than Mariton Wildlife Sanctuary. Actually the weather station for the weblog sticky is several miles from the preserve and so we probably are getting the same weather as Mariton, perhaps just a few hours earlier.

The last week has brought us glorious sunny dry weather. The creeks are still running high from the previous weekend's storms but the surface of the ground has dried out—enough so that this weekend was rated high wildfire danger on the Bureau of Forestry website.

The rain immediately started greening the lawns. Alder catkins are extended and blooming. There is a blush at the tips of the branches of red maples—the first of our native trees to bloom.

Crow’s Nest Spring WebWalkers planned

Spring 2010 flyer

The flyer above lists the dates and times for our spring WebWalkers, Spiderlings, and WebWigglers programs, starting in just a few weeks (click on it to enlarge the flyer).

As spring proceeds we will see plants put on their summer garb. The six weeks of each session of Crow's Nest programs is an ideal time to witness changes in the landscape.

Crow’s Nest: What to hear…

Now you can hear wood frogs calling at either end of the Creek Trail here; they are in wetlands adjacent to the creek.

But if you want to experience a much louder chorus stop by our Hildacy Preserve near Media, Pennsylvania; the peepers and wood frogs in the restored wetlands there are deafening. The season is a bit advanced there relative to Crow's Nest and these sites are just teeming with frogs.

Crow’s Nest: The big weekend

Owensalamander

This weekend the weather was perfect for an amphibian migration—so perfect, that the first part of the journey is already over.

While folks sat inside and watched TV a wild migration was taking place in slow motion outside their windows. On Friday night Owen and I walked outside with a headlamp to see the yellow-spotted salamanders. Between the house and the barn (100') we saw a half dozen in just two passes. Two ended up on our doorstep, including the one above (our house is an obstacle for the migration from upland forest habitat to wetland breeding grounds). We found one smushed (not a word, but that still best describes it) on our road and dozens more on Harmonyville and Trythall Roads. Thankfully, hundreds of others made the crossing successfully.

The caption for the picture above is "Owen and the salamander regard each other"—although I also welcome clever suggestions. Owen didn't know what to make of the critter. The blemish on the salamander's tail is actually a leaf stuck to it. I believe this is a female based on the bulge—eggs—in the abdomen.

We also saw just one wood frog on Friday night but they were making the move throughout the rainy weekend. Now we can also already hear spring peepers peeping.

Salamander and wood frog migrations are not like church services or public meetings where people arrive gradually and then leave suddenly when the event is over. These migrations occur suddenly and then the animals disperse somewhat more gradually. There will be a reverse migration again in a few days when conditions again are just right—a warm and rainy night—but it will likely be more scattered and less of a spectacle than what we've just witnessed.

Crow’s Nest: Spring is coming!

We still have some snow but spring is getting closer. The mild weather gently melted most of the snow without flooding, but that may change with the rain we're getting.

We can hear red-wing blackbirds in and around the cattail swamp. Denise says she saw snow geese flying high above the other day, probably going to nearby Marsh Creek State Park (we see them fly over the preserve only once or twice a year).

I spent the other day in the woods with some Landscape Architecture students who are taking a course in restoration ecology. They plan to use the plant communities along a relatively undisturbed section of creek at Crow's Nest as a benchmark to plan a restoration of a damaged but otherwise similar creek in a local park. We noted tree species and size and how far apart they naturally grew. We saw leaves of spring beauties, round-lobed hepatica, and other spring ephemerals, but no flowers yet. They will design a planting that mimics the natural stream as a way to move the disturbed site closer to functioning like a natural one.

This weekend is likely to be a big one for amphibian migration in our region. We will be having the first rainy nights of the year over 40 degrees F. If it is warm enough wood frogs and spotted salamanders will be moving from upland homes to vernal pools, the temporary ponds where they will seek a mate. (Ephemeral pools are best because since they dry up in summer they don't support the fish that would prey on their eggs or their young.)

These amphibians exhibit "site fealty"—loyalty to a wetland even if it has been paved over and is gone; they cannot adapt to the change or loss of habitat so these populations die out. They will also be crossing roads to get to remaining wetlands so be cautious when driving on these early-spring rainy nights. If you can stay off the back roads near these wetlands you will save the lives of many of these frogs and salamanders.

Mariton – Flying Squirrel

FLYING SQUIRREL 001 Visitors are attracted to the Flying Squirrel that is mounted in the Nature Center.  That squirrel met its demise from carbon monoxide while it was hiding in a chimney.  Because Flying Squirrels are nocturnal, they are very seldom seen, even by people who spend a lot of time outside.  People assume that they don't live in this area, but that is not the case at all.

Today, I took my own advice and cleaned out our nest boxes.  A Flying Squirrel was nesting in one of the boxes.  It was a little sleepy and since I moved slowly, it decided to stay put.  I was able to get a pretty good photograph of its face.  (I remembered the camera today.)  It occupies a box in which I don't expect much bluebird activity, so I will let it stay for awhile.  I imagine that it will move out when the weather gets even better.  It is nice to know that we do have Flying Squirrels around, even if I don't see them gliding through the forest.

NEST BOX 3.11.10 008

Mariton – Spring Cleaning

MARCH WALK 009 It is time to clean out your nest boxes.  Bluebirds have been singing every morning when I walk out of the house.  Because of all the snow, cleaning bird houses really snuck up on me this year.  It is good to get the old nests out of the boxes so that the birds can start with clean nesting material.  Old material can collect moisture, mildew, mold and parasites.  Plus bird boxes may have become homes for mice or flying squirrels over the winter.   Last year on the different NLT preserves, over 200 bluebirds fledged out of nest boxes.  The earliest nesting activity was recorded on March 9, 2009.  At Mariton, our first activity was March 30, so there is no time to lose.

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