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Archive for October, 2010

Mariton – More on Posion Ivy

Earlier this month, I wrote a post that talked about how wildlife uses poison ivy berries.  I had written:  "Only humans suffer allergic reactions from oils on the plant, and it does not affect the other wildlife".  My co-blogger, Dan Barringer, emailed me to point out that it isn't actually an allergic reaction, but a dermatitis.  (He also admitted that he wasn't sure what the differences were.) 

So on Tuesday, I asked Virgina Derbyshire.  Not only is she the best all around naturalist that I know, but her training in the medical field is equally impressive.  "Ask Virginia, she'll know!" is a common comment on our nature walks (offered by the other very good naturalists in the group).  Well, she did know. 

If I understood her correctly, there are different types of white blood cells in our bodies to protect us from different types of assaults.  There are white blood cells that combat allergens by "marshaling" anti-histamines to the site.  When it comes to poison ivy, different types of white blood cells are activated to address hyper-sensitivity.  If the rash blisters, an even different type of white blood cell is utilized to fight off infection.  Because they are not the same kind of white blood cells that affect allergens, a poison ivy rash can't really be called an allergic reaction.  I can't recall any of the different types of white blood cells that Virginia told us about, but I now understand the difference between an allergic reaction and what happens to when you get a rash from poison ivy.

Mariton – Fall Birds

On Tuesday's walk we marvelled at the colors, but spent a lot of time birding.  There were mixed flocks of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Chickadees, Titmouses and Yellow-rumped warblers feeding in the tree tops.  Robins were in large flocks feeding on grapes in the forest canopy.  In the meadows we saw White-throated Sparrows, Song Sparrows and Juncos feeding.  Some of the other birds that I have seen at Mariton include: Hermit Thrushes, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Purple Finches and Cedar Waxwings. 

PINE SISKINS 008 Last week, the Pine Siskins arrived at the feeder.  In the winter of 2008-2009, Pine Siskins were the talk of bird watchers from the Mid-Atlantic to the Great Lakes.  That winter Pine Siskins moved down from their northern haunts to take advantage of more abundant food.  Everyone I talked to had large flocks of Pine Siskins at their feeders.  While I don't know if Pine Siskins will be quite that abundant this winter, it is thrilling to see them back. 

Mariton – Two Days

On Sunday afternoon I lead a Fall Color Walk at Mariton.  This morning, on the weekly Nature Walk, we took a similar route.  Of course, in the fall I always like to walk through the meadows to watch the progression of color in the Sassafras seedlings.  Carol Mebus was on both walks and took photos both days from similar vantage points.  The sky and sun angle are different, and Carole wrote me that the zoom setting differs between the two photos, but you can see a definite change in the foliage in less than 48 hours.

Here is Sunday afternoon's photo:

MEBUS MaritonField1024 

Here is Tuesday morning's photo:

MEBUS MaritonField1026 

As I have said before, "If you really want to enjoy the fall colors, you need to get out there everyday."  The colors change so rapidly, and they are all beautiful.  I am guessing that we should be seeing the peak color this coming weekend at Mariton.  However, the colors will still be astounding for a few weeks after the peak, because many oaks are just now beginning to change.  (All phots by Carole Mebus.)

Crow’s Nest: First frost and fall color

This morning there is patchy frost in open areas (a little late this year). The thermometer on the side of the house says 35, but although our heat is not on yet there is some temperature moderation from the thermal mass of the house. Out in the yard and on the ground it was cold enough to freeze dew.

This weekend should be spectacular for fall color, though there's still plenty of green. Many oaks are not yet turning gold and so their green makes a good contrast to the spectacular reds, orange, and yellow of red and sugar maples.

I was wrong in my prediction that fall color would be early and short. So far it is looking like it is long and late. Ash trees, always early, were disappointing this year, as was black gum, and hickory just turned brown. But the spicebush that kept its leaves in the drought now light the understory a clear yellow and the maple-leaf viburnum has turned unbelievably deep purple.

Combined with the good weather predicted this weekend now is the time to go outside and enjoy the fall color.

Crow’s Nest: …and also great neighbors

I mentioned in the previous post that we were working in a remote area. We have no road frontage for this section of woods and so I asked several neighbors if we could stage trucks in their driveways to carry out trash and carry in native shrubs.

Not only did they all say yes, some offered the use of their tractor, to provide refreshment, or to allow us to drive into their backyards (with all the help we had we didn't need to do this).

Thank you friends and neighbors. We love you!

Crow’s Nest: We have great staff…

Yesterday I hosted a staff workday at Crow's Nest to tackle some labor-intensive projects: remove trash from a remote section of woods, hand-pull Norway maple seedlings and saplings, and plant shrubs along a wooded edge. None of this area is accessible except on foot.

Turnout was actually greater because of the poor weather in the morning: projects going on at other Natural Lands Trust preserves—such as seed collection of warm-season grasses—need drier weather.

Many thanks to all who attended: Sean, Paul, Ryan, Kevin, Tom, Darin, Roger and David.

Mariton – Warblers and Phoebes

We began our weekly Nature Walk just as the drizzle was ending this morning.  Once we reached the meadow, we were treated to all sorts of bird activity.  At least a dozen Yellow-rumped Warblers were feeding in the fencerow. 

MEBUS YellowRumpedWarblerAtBerriesMariton1019-Rear 

Carole Mebus took this photo of a Yellow-rumped feeding on Posion Ivy berries.  I understand the raised eyebrows when I tell people I like to see Posion Ivy (aka P.I.) on the trees at Mariton.  I have begun to manage it on some trees, but for the most part it is safe from my pruners.  I like P.I. because the berries and seeds are important food for birds, especially during the dead of winter.  Only humans suffer allergic reactions from oils on the plant, and it does not affect the other wildlife.  I have watched a lot of different wildlife take advantage of the fruit over the years.  Squirrels in particular are comical as they balance on the thin branches to harvest the berries.  I have watched Downy Woodpeckers, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Titmouses, Robins, and Bluebirds all feeding exuberantly on P.I. 

MEBUS EasternPhoebeMaritonFieldEdge1019 We also saw several Eastern Phoebes as we walked along the trails.  Carole took this photo of one that perched in the fencerow.  Also sighted on our walk were Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Dark-eyed Juncos, and White-throated Sparrows.

The colors are really sharp right now.  The sassafras saplings in the meadows are nearing peak color.  (All photos by Carole Mebus.)

MEBUS FieldMariton1019-3 

More open space lyrics

Or more precisely, lyrics about the loss of open space:

The title song on the album Backroads by Kicking Grass contains the chorus:

They’re bringing in the blacktop, selling all the farms, running up the miles and running out of charm. I wonder to myself what we need all this road for if the backroads ain’t the backroads any more.

I'm sure you can find some more examples. Please send them along!

WebWalkers, WebWigglers, & WebWanderers begin!


Our first programs of fall have begun, nature clubs with the theme, "It's OAK-a! Let's GO!" We will be observing the web of life around oak trees. This week we hiked to a red oak that had recently fallen down, climbed on it and talked about the various ways it will be used: to mill boards for our boardwalk, as firewood, as mulch, and as wood to rot and return to the forest to provide the habitat for other trees to grow.

Mariton – Nature Walk

MEBUS AstersMaritonField1013-Close-2 Our weekly Nature Walk was moved to Wednesday, due to a persistent rain on Tuesday.  It was a good decision, and we had wonderful weather.  The blue sky highlighted the changing leaves.  The Sassafras shoots in the meadows are beginning to change color.  Most are still green, but there are clumps here and there of brilliant orange or burgundy.  There are also flowers like these Heart-leaved Asters on the right.  (All photos by Carole Mebus.)

MEBUS BluebirdAndWildGrapesMaritonFieldEdge1013 It was a great morning for a walk.  The White-throated Sparrows greeted us with song as we walked through the meadows.  Carole spotted this female bluebird eating the wild grapes.  We also watched a Eastern Phoebe catching insects in the air and feeding.  Later we got into a flock of feeding birds, which included White-throated Sparrows, Rufous-sided Towhees,  and even a Yellow-rumped Warbler.  That was exciting as the birds appeared and disappeared in the vegetation of the meadows and fencerows.

Carole took this photograph of a Staghorn Sumac along the edge of the trail. 

MEBUS SumacMaritonField1013-2 


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