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Archive for April, 2010

Happy Arbor Day!

It is Arbor Day in Pennsylvania. If you aren't planting a tree, maybe climb one or just sit in the shade of one.

We already planted our trees this spring at the preserves—good thing, since they leafed out so early this year. It is less stressful on most trees to be moved and planted while they are dormant.

But this week we did plant 15,000 wetland plants as part of a restoration at Paunacussing Preserve (see another post). Re-grading the pond to create the wetland opened up a couple acres of mud flats. Rather than wait to see what weeds colonize the wetlands (purple loosestrife and phragmites are likely two) we planted a diversity of native plants we desire to see on the site. Ideally these plants will occupy most of the available space leaving little room for undesirable ones.

Mariton – Nest Box Progress

NESTBOX 4.29.10 003 A lot has happened in the nest boxes.  We now have two bluebird nests with eggs.  One nest has four eggs, the other has two.  (I am hoping more will follow.)  Even in the sunshine the male parent was brilliant blue as it perched nearby while I quickly checked the box.

We also have three different Chickadee nests and the all have eggs.  Two of the nests each have 7 eggs, and one has 6 eggs.  I moved this nest a little to get a photo of the eggs, but it was undisturbed when I sealed the box back up.  Take note of the moss bottom.  Where the eggs are held is lined with mostly deer hair and some fine grasses. 

NESTBOX 4.29.10 001

Mariton – Weekly Bird Walks

BIRD WALK 4.27 001 Our Tuesday Morning Bird Walks started this past week.  While the flowers are way ahead of schedule, the birds seem to be arriving on time.  As we walked we heard a Rose-breasted Grosbeak (the first of the season for most of us).  We had other "first of the season" birds, like the Ovenbird, Wood Thrush, and Black and White Warbler.  Most of us have been hearing the Rufous-sided Towhee, but it was still fun to watch one.

MEBUS BluebirdOnStickMaritonField0427 It was an overcast morning with bits of sunshine, and Bluebirds were brilliant.  (Photo by Carole Mebus.  Click on the photo for an enlarged view.)  We got a great look at a Yellow-rumped Warbler in the meadows.  While birds might not have been super abundant, they will be next week and will be ready after our April walk.  Plus it gave us a chance to revel in all the flowers that were in bloom.

Next Tuesday, we will be headed to Giving Pond in Upper Black Eddy.  We have always seen a lot of different birds at this locaiton, and I expect next week will be no different.  I heard Black-throated Green Warblers singing at Mariton this morning.  By next Tuesday, there should be many warbler species arriving.

Crow’s Nest: A much different spring this year…

Many people have commented on how early plants have bloomed this year—around two weeks. To confirm that impression here are photos of the same redbud and dogwood trees taken on April 28, 2009 and 2010.



This year the redbud flowers, which were long-lasting and spectacular, are mostly gone and the tree has leafed out. A hot spell earlier in the spring likely pushed things along to open the flowers, then temperatures cooled and kept things blooming.

Two years doesn't constitute a pattern; they're just two very different years. Zoe Panchen's plant phenology study at Crow's Nest has a larger scope—to identify any trends.

Crow’s Nest: Plant phenology study

I mentioned a while back that Zoe Panchen, a Longwood Graduate Fellow at University of Delaware, is doing her masters' thesis on plant phenology—a plant's blooming (and fruiting) time relative to climate. She is calling upon 150 years of herbarium records at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia and other sources, and collecting data in the field for current boom times for thirty species of plants that have specific and relatively short flowering periods.

Seeing the plants flowering in the field will help identify what is peak flowering in the herbarium specimens and the long period of time covered in the study, made possible by using herbarium specimens, will identify trends. Ms. Panchen is also using the Mt. Cuba Center for the Study of Piedmont Flora in Delaware (about an hour south of here) as a site for data on this year's bloom dates.

The research seeks to assess the impact of climate change on flowering time of native plants growing within the greater Philadelphia region from before industrialization to the present. Second, it will compare, substantiate and expand the evidence of similar studies that focused on non-native species by using Philadelphia area native species over a wider time period and from a wider geographical area. Third, it will assess other factors that may affect the responsiveness of the these species to climate change.

If you have any questions about this research or what's in bloom right now please feel free to contact us at Crow's Nest Preserve.

Crow’s Nest tick research: third season begins

If you see people in white suits walking around in the woods at Crow's Nest this summer, don't be alarmed. They are researchers from the University of Pennsylvania who are studying ticks and Lyme disease. The white suits make it easier to find ticks on themselves and remove them.

Now in its third year year the study aims to determine if a vaccine delivered to white-footed mice in the wild can break the life cycle of the Lyme disease bacterium. So every aspect of mammal and tick life is being examined here, and the researchers study the Lyme disease spirochete back in the lab.

Godefroy Devevey is heading up the field work at Crow's Nest this summer and he will be assisted by graduate students Rob, Trang, Fred, James, and Alexandra.

The folks in the white suits are very friendly and are eager to talk about their research and their recent wildlife sightings. Stop and say hello to them.

Crow’s Nest: Update on Harmonyville Road bridge


This picture says it all. The bridge is nearly complete and I think it looks great. This weekend we had a neighborhood "block party" on it.

Frost. Stone Walls. Birches

MANN 2010 007 I spent half of this week in the Poconos monitoring Conservation Easements.  On Friday morning, there was frost in many areas.  While this is an unimportant fact, it is important to my seeing things on that morning.  Shortly after I started walking the first easement, I came across this stone wall.  Of course, I thought of Robert Frost's poem Mending Wall.  While I don't mend walls, I do love seeing them in the woods.  Stone walls are like reading a history book for me.

MANN 2010 008 I little farther along, I found these Wild Columbines (Aquilegia canadensis) growing in a stone wall not made by man.  What a wonderful discovery to find them growing on the side of a steep slope.

Robert Frost is one of the great American poets (to my thinking).  When I discovered his work in high school, his poetry touched me deeply.  His poems about horses stopping to pause along a road, and his descriptions of life were familiar.  I had actually listened to my grandpa and father tell similar stories (without the spoken introspection) as we tramped through the woods when I was a boy, or around a kitchen table.

MANN 2010 025 I swung birches as a child.  So, Frost's poem Birches was a revalation when I discovered it.  That morning while monitoring that easement, I was transported when I stepped out of the woods into a meadow and saw this White Birch (Betula papyrifera).  I recalled wonderful memories of my child hood.  I hope that young boys (and girls) still swing birches.  I hope they walk through woods and marvel at things like columbine growing on a rock.  And I hope they still read Robert Frost in school.  Alas, I fear this may not be the case.  So, I hope all hope that there are other memories and poets that spark recognition of these wonders for today's children (and tomorrow's children turned gray.)

Crow’s Nest: Spring blooms

There have been so many spring flowers blooming that I can't keep up with them. Many are blooming a week or two earlier this year than last. And many of those that started flowering earlier have kept blooming through the later date that they peaked last year, so it has been a glorious spring here so far.

I've included a few photos Denis Manchon took this week at Crow's Nest.

The only species that came and went quickly was shadbush (Amelanchier)—just two days for its delicate beauty. The redbud trees this year have looked great for weeks. The wood anemone (Anemone quinquiflolia) is still blooming after a few weeks. Spring beauties (Claytonia virginica) carpet the forest floor. There are even a few trout-lilies (Erithronium americanum) in flower, though most have come and gone, and only a fraction of the profuse plants flower in any given year.

In our yard and around the preserve center barn the Carolina silverbells (Halesia caroliniana) and witch-alder (Fothergilla gardenii) look great, and our paw-paw (Asimina triloba), below, is in flower.


In the woods dwarf ginseng (Panax trifolius) is still blooming. This week we added Solomon's seal (Polygonatum commutatum), nodding trillium (Trillium cernuum), photo below, and pinxterbloom azaleas (Rhododendron periclymenoides), below that, to the list of blooms.



And our two orchids, the pink ladies' slipper (Cypripedium acaule) and showy orchis (Galearis spectabilis), below, also started blooming.


Happy Earth Day!

Enjoy the beauty of the earth today and take some time to think about your relationship with it.

We'll be holding our morning and afternoon sessions of WebWalkers at Crow's Nest. We're lending some tools to a cleanup of the Schuylkill River Trail and also doing some of our usual land stewardship here at the preserve: cutting vines and removing garlic mustard.

This spring's tree plantings are completed at Natural Lands Trust preserves (thank you to all who participated!) but we'll be planting native perennials as part of a wetland restoration at Paunacussing Preserve next week.


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