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Archive for June, 2010

Mariton – Birds are still singing

I took advantage of the low dew points this morning to check trails before work.  I was pleased to hear a Worm-eating Warbler still singing along the River Lookout Trail.  The Wood Thrushes and Veerys were also singing.  At this time of year, I get preoccupied with all the work that needs to be done, and sometimes forget to stop and listen to birds singing.

Crow’s Nest: Keeping our nose to the grindstone

We've had a very busy spring and early summer so far, still catching up with winter projects while the growth at the preserve, from vines to the grass on the trails, has been rampant. We had more rain than some parts of the region this spring and so now as it is beginning to dry out we have not browned out like other counties.

We've had some extremely hot weather though. In winter at our household we measure how cold is the night by the number of cats that pile on us in bed. A three cat night (our limit) is cold indeed. On summer days I measure the heat by the number of shirts soaked through. Aided by doing chainsaw work (therefore having to wear Kevlar protective gear over clothing on the 90+ degree days) I've had a few 3-shirt days and one 4-shirt day. The good news is that we've completed our hazard tree work for the season, given away several truckloads of firewood and held onto a few oak logs to be milled.

All of this chainsawing was before the major storm last Thursday; we had an additional half day of cutting up fallen trees from that. We were more lucky than many communities in our region, though Natural Lands Trust staff was busy lending a chainsaw-bearing hand where needed.

Though there are some projects that clearly yet need to be done the preserve is looking good and we are just starting our summer nature camps. We are enjoying summer's wildflowers from milkweed to phlox and our native swamp rose (though I haven't been able to keep up with tracking blooming dates). Mornings are a delightful time of day to visit the preserve and as the weather breaks this week I hope you'll visit.

Mariton – Butterfly Census

Our Annual Butterfly Census was held this morning.  Amazingly, this is the 20th year the census has been conducted at Mariton.  We tallied 20 species and 135 individuals.  The species count was good.  Not a  record, but a solid job of getting the different species at Mariton on a given morning.

We counted many Great Spangled Fritillaries.  Some of the more interesting finds were a number of Clouded Sulphurs and Orange Sulphurs.  This has been the year for Red Admirals and we tallied several.  We also had a large number of Little Glassywings.  This is a small skipper that stays down in the vegetation and is hard to find.

A first for the count was the Gray Hairstreak (very small but lovely).  Carole Mebus took these photos.

MEBUS GrayHairstreakOnButterflyWeedCount0626

We also counted a Delaware Skipper. 

MEBUS DelawareSkipperCount0626

Delaware River Sojourn

DEL SOJOURN 2010 071 I spent the early part of this week on Delaware River Sojourn.  We camped in Barryville, NY, and over three days paddled from just below Narrowsburg to Matamoras.  This is my third year on the Sojourn, and I have enjoyed all three trips.  The people come from all walks of life, and there are always interesting conversations.  I especially enjoy sitting at the campfire after dinner and talking with friends  that I only see at this event.

The educational programs are really interesting.  This year there were programs on the Roebling family and bridges, Marcellus gas drilling, water testing, and the Zane Grey museum.  The food is great.

DEL SOJOURN 2010 076 And the River!  What can you say about the Delaware River?  It always has something new to show you.  It is always spectacular.  And I always learn something new. 

The Sojourn continues on until Saturday.  Participants can choose sections to paddle, or paddle all the way through.  Because of the length of the River the Sojourn visits different areas each year, and I like going to experience the different sections (and to see old friends). 

Welcome to Summer

It really hasn't become much hotter now that summer's here but somehow the heat has "matured." We're better acclimated to it now which is a good thing since we're outside working in it.

These are good nights to enjoy the cooler air—good enough to sleep outside. This weekend is the Great American Backyard Campout. We'll be out there!

Mariton – Butterflies

We had great weather for our second Butterfly Walk of the season.  The dew points dropped over night and there was a nice breeze.  We saw some new butterfly species this week.  One of the new species was the Hoary Edge.  For some reason I get excited by Hoary Edges.  They look similar to Silver-spotted Skippers, but are generally less common.  I guess I get excited when I check what I think will be a Silver-spotted Skipper and see a Hoary Edge instead.  It pays to always double check a butterfly, you might see something you didn't expect.  Like the year we found Pipevine Swallowtails (but that is another story).

Two other neat species that we found this morning were the Eastern-tailed Blue:

MEBUS EasternTailedBlueMaritonField0615

and this Banded Hairstreak.

MEBUS BandedHairstreakMaritonField0615 

Both of these butterflies have tails that resemble antennae.  It is a defensive mechanism called Posture Reversal.  A bird looking for a meal strikes at what it thinks is the head.  Instead it gets a piece of the wing.  The butterfly can still fly away, and in the opposite direction the bird anticipated.  These two butterflies are very small.  The Banded Hairstreak is "nectaring" on Indian Hemp blossoms, which are a little larger than match heads.  (All photos by Carole Mebus.)

There is still time to join one of our Butterfly outings.  Next Tuesday will be the last butterfly walk in this series, but we will be holding the Butterfly Census on Saturday, June 26 at 9:00 a.m. 

Mid-Atlantic Wildland Fire Training Academy

WVU

I spent four days this week at West Virginia University attending the Mid-Atlantic Wildland Fire Training Academy. Tom Kershner and I took S-290, Intermediate Wildland Fire Behavior.

Pennsylvania has recently made it easier to conduct prescribed fire and in doing so has created standards of training and practices. Even though Natural Lands Trust has been doing prescribed fire for 15 years we need to constantly raise the level of training of our staff.

Mariton – Butterflies are Here!

We had a great butterfly walk this morning.  The milkweed is blooming, and the flowers' nectar is the center of the universe for butterflies at Mariton.  The Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) will bloom in a week.  Both of these flowers are blooming early this year, and butterfly watchers are taking advantage of it.  We saw Silver-spotted Skippers, Great-spangled Fritillaries (yes that is its name), Little Wood Satyrs, an American Lady and Hobomok skippers to name a few.

MEBUS SpringAzureMaritonTurnpikeTrail0608 Carole Mebus shares some of her great photos from this morning.  I am particularly taken by this Spring Azure.  They don't often sit still, and we don't always see them with their wings opened. 

There were many Eastern Tiger Swallowtails.  This butterfly lays its eggs on Tuliptrees (Liriodendron tulipifera), and Mariton has lots of Tuliptrees.

MEBUS TigerSwallowtailOnMilkweedMariton0608

Below is the same species, but the black morph female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.  It took a very docile specimen and a lot of conferring in the book to be sure.  There are several other black colored Swallowtails that it resembles. 

MEBUS TigerSwallowtailBlackMorphMaritonField0608

Mariton – Butterfly Walks

This Tuesday will start the Butterfly Walk series at Mariton.  We will be walking on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. – noon. 

MILKWEED 2010 004 During the Bird Census we saw several butterflies including Eastern Tiger Swallowtails, Little Wood Satyrs, and Great-spangled Frittilaries.  The Milkweed flowers are beginning to bloom.  Milkweed nectar attracts more than just Monarch Butterflies, so we should see good varieties during this series.  If you are interested in joining us one Tuesday, bring binoculars.

Mariton – Nesting Census Tally

We had a great morning for birding.  We counted 50 species which is a high count, tied with 1996.  Our individual count was rather low.  I wonder if several species were busy rearing young, and so have stopped defending territories vocally.  Wood Thrushes and Red-eyed Vireos seemed to be particularly quiet. 

The most common bird species were Blue Jays at 13.  Followed by Tufted Titmouses and Ovenbirds tied at 12.  Wood Thrush were way down at 8.  I will be listening during the next few weeks for Wood Thrushes to see if this was just a fluke of the morning.

We unexpectedly counted Cedar Waxwings at the River Lookout.  We also had a few pairs of Hairy Woodpeckers.  These are species that we know inhabitMariton, but we don't always count during the census. 

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