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Archive for July, 2010

Crow’s Nest Critters


The sharp-eyed kids at camp spotted this wolf spider on the underside of an upturned root plate of a fallen tree.


They also spotted this mushroom, called ruffles or cauliflower or noodle mushroom (Sparassis crispa). The kids called it the brain mushroom.



And file this one under "plants we love": our bottlebrush buckeye (Aesculus parviflora) attracts a greater abundance of butterflies than any other shrub we have. The flowers are past peak (as are some of the butterflies) but the plant is covered with Eastern tiger swallowtails, spicebush swallowtails, and silver-spotted skippers.


Mariton – Bluebirds still nesting

I checked bluebird boxes last week and found a new bluebird nest.  I thought it was late, and doubted that the female would lay eggs.  But this week when checking, the female flew out of the box as we approached, and I found four eggs in the nest!  I checked my records, and the latest egg laying I could find was July 16, 2009.  Most years, there is very little activity in the boxes by mid-July.  I usually would have stopped monitoring boxes by now.  But it looks like I will continue monitoring at least one box to follow the progress of these bluebirds.

This year, mice have been using the boxes all summer.  When I find a mouse nest, I usually leave the door to the box open.  That allows the mice to relocate on their own.  The following week, I remove the mouse nest and close up the box. 

Crow’s Nest: Camp Week 3


We've had another great week of camp, this time of morning and afternoon sessions for kids entering first and second grades. The theme is the same—"Motion in Nature"—but our approach is different for this age group. We try to get the kids comfortable in nature at just one location at the preserve: our remote campsite on Pine Creek.

We take a hayride to get there each day, have a snack on a quilt spread in the woods, challenge ourselves crossing a wire bridge, and play and discover critters in the stream.


And comfortable the kids became. Here a bunch charge into the deep spot in the creek. Not all of the time was spent in the creek, though you wouldn't know it from these pictures…

Back in the barn the kids practiced nailing then built boats to float down the stream. On the last day the boats were launched in French Creek for a regatta.



Crow’s Nest: Camp Week 2


Last week we had another great week of camp (despite the heat and a couple days of rain). The schedule for the 4th and 5th grade group was similar to the 5th and 6th grade the week before—just a different bunch of great kids.

We spent free time in the woods, climbing trees, building shelters, playing games, observing nature, and hanging out.


In the creek we looked for fish, crayfish, macroinvertebrates, and mussels. And we played in the sand and rocks at the edge of the stream.


The kids built more parade floats demonstrating some aspect of motion. This one was transformed into a duck-billed platypus (below). The platypus dropped eggs along the parade route.


Another float was designed as a ladybug with its parasol wing covers moving as it floated by.



Adirondack Vacation

Last week, I was in the Adirondacks with my canoe and a bunch of friends.  I started out near the town of Saranac Lake, attending the Adirondack Freestyle Symposium.  I took some new classes and learned a lot.  I also spent time in the evenings around campfires with some really nice people.

From there, three of us went to the St. Regis area and camped on Long Pond.  My friend, Paul, served as our guide and we made small trips from our campsite in different directions.  We paddled our canoes to different ponds and up little creeks.  I listened to Hermit Thrushes and White-throated sparrows sing all day long.  We watched loons with little babies perched on their backs.  We saw an Osprey fishing.  And we got to watch a fawn experience a lake shore for (seemingly) the first time.  It was comical as it splashed into the water and suddenly jumped out, only to try it again. 

Pickerelweed along the shore near our camp.

LONG POND 2010 019

Pitcher Plants in a sphagnum bog on Little Pink Pond.

Pitcher Plants

Our campfire in the moonlight.

LONG POND 2010 079

Crow’s Nest: cicada emerging


I snapped this photo last night while walking the dog. A cicada had just emerged from the shell of its exoskeleton.


Crow’s Nest: local road work and its effect on travel

Another bridge in our area, on Route 345 over a tributary to Pine Creek, is closed for replacement. But this one—unlike the one in the middle of the preserve just completed this spring—should have minimal impact on you if you are visiting Crow's Nest Preserve. If you are coming from the north you would turn off of Route 345 onto Hopewell Road before you reach the closure. And from the south you would normally turn off onto Harmonyville Road before you reach the closure anyway.

A happy outcome of the construction is that a visitor happened by this weekend who had become lost on the detour and discovered Crow's Nest; it was like he was blown here by the winds of chance. He was thrilled to make the discovery.

The official detour is a whopping 12 miles and if you are visiting nearby Hopewell Furnace or French Creek State Park the closure could really affect your plans. Call ahead or consult a map to find alternatives.

Crow’s Nest: A short wish list

We have reached the point where our rag collection is getting small. If you have clothes or bedsheets that are too worn for continued use please consider donating them to us… We can use them as drop cloths or cut them up for rags to grease the tractor or clean up messes.

Also we can use empty coffee cans, for painting projects or storing small parts or hardware. Any of these items you'd like to see re-used please pass along. You can call us at 610-286-7955 to donate or drop them off when you visit the preserve at 201 Piersol Road in Elverson.

Down on the waterfront this weekend…

This weekend I'll be down on the Delaware waterfront at the XPoNential Music Festival. Natural Lands Trust is sponsoring a booth there to let people know about what we do and to encourage them to visit our preserves.

I hope to see you there!

Crow’s Nest: Now blooming


We are well into summer's blooms—the peak of flower color at the preserve. This butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is blooming in several meadows, here attracting a spangled fritillary butterfly.


Also starting to bloom is the blazing-star, Liatris spicata. Look for it in the northern wildflower meadows. We also have in flower blue vervain, some of the New York ironweed, milkweed, monkey flower, black-eyed Susan, mountain mint, and dogbane.

It is gloriously raining this morning, ending more than two weeks without rain when every day was over 90 degrees and a few over 100. Even some of the larger trees were beginning to wilt. Jewelweed went beyond wilting to dying back. The farmer pointed out that the corn and soybeans look okay in the morning but by each afternoon the leaves were pinched and curled. It has been the kind of drought where you suddenly discover exactly where the old outbuildings were located around the farmhouse—the shallow soils over their foundations don't hold the moisture to keep the lawn alive.


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