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Archive for February, 2011

A visit to Peacedale Preserve

Peace at Peacedale

This weekend Owen and I visited Natural Lands Trust's Peacedale Preserve on our quest to visit the sixteen preserves in NLT's Field Guide (only 5 to go!). This is one of the few NLT preserves—and the only one in the Field Guide— that I had never visited before.

Appropriately enough I found it to be one of the quietest places I have ever been. We didn't manage to explore much of the preserve, spending most of our visit jumping in a mud puddle and picking at grass as only a two-year old can—and that was fine. A hiker returning from the trails reported the birding was good.

Here Owen walks under the iconic black locust near the parking area.

Amphibian migrations just starting

In the cold rain last night (37o F) a few Jefferson salamanders were crossing local roads. The next warm rain is likely to bring out the spotted salamanders and wood frogs, so be cautious when traveling country roads on these first rainy nights of spring.

This morning at WebWigglers sharp-eyed kids found red-back salamanders moving around in the wet leaf litter.

Nest Boxes continued

MEBUS BluebirdOnBox Last year was a good year for our nest boxes.  Two hundred and twenty-two (222!) Bluebirds fledged out of the  169 nest boxes monitored on NLT preserves.  Tree Swallows like the same habitat of open meadows.  Last year, 212 Tree Swallows fledged out of our boxes.  Boxes near the edges of meadows often attract House Wrens and Chickadees.  There were 171 wrens and 41 Chickadees that fledged out of boxes.  (Photo by Carole Mebus.)

BLUEBIRD 4.5.05 004 This is only a portion of the nest boxes on NLT preserves.  We have hundreds of boxes, but not all of them get monitored during nesting season.  Many preserve managers are looking for a volunteer to monitor their nest boxes.  The opportunity is available from early spring to mid-summer, and boxes need to be checked every 7 – 10 days.  It takes me about 1.5 hours to monitor 25 boxes.  So, if your favorite Natural Lands Trust preserve has nest boxes, you might ask the Preserve Manager if they are looking for a volunteer.  It is important that we are providing nesting habitat for cavity nesting birds, but we can do that job better if we know how many birds successfully fledge from of our nest boxes.

Nest Box Gathering

Land Stewards get cabin fever too!  You might not expect that, given our jobs and locations, but most of us are thinking about all the work that is waiting for us under the snow.  We love winter, but are getting tired of the plowing and shoveling, just like you. 

KERSHNER BLUEBIRD 139-3927_IMG So, about this time of year an email goes out suggesting a nest box building day.  Joe Vinton, Bear Creek's preserve manager, started the push this year.  It wasn't long before we had a date, location and a stack of wood.  The lumber was milled by NLT staff, with NLT's portable sawmill, on NLT preserves where trees had fallen, or were cut because they were hazards. 

KERSHNER BLUEBIRD 139-3925_IMG We met on Tuesday at Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve.  The location is central, and the shop is well equipped.  Joe Vinton (Bear Creek), Darin Groff (Binky Lee), Dan Barringer (Crow's Nest), Tom Kershner (Gwynedd), Mike Coll (Hildacy), Tim Burris (Mariton), Preston Wilson (Paunacussing), Sean Quinn (Stewardship Assistant), and Steve Longenecker (Building Stewardship) were the work crew. 

BARRINGER BLUEBIRD BOX 2011-02-22 at 10-59-39 By noon, we had cut and built 55 Bluebird nest boxes.  We call them Bluebird nest boxes, but they might be used by Tree Swallows, Chickadees, Titmouses, wrens and even flying squirrels.  After lunch, we built 14 nest boxes that could be used by Kestrels or Screech Owls.  It is pretty amazing, because there is no boss.  Every one gravitates to a station and starts working.  Whether it was ripping boards, cutting pieces, drilling holes or pounding nails, we all found a job and jumped in.  Our job is providing better habitat for wildlife and we love our job!


Crow’s Nest: Winter, Fall, Winter

Last week we had a brief break from winter, but it reminded me more of fall than spring.

Deep winter snows gradually had receded from south- and west-facing slopes. High winds on Saturday released autumn's leaves from where they had been trapped beneath the snow, stirring them around and back into the places I had previously removed them. So I spent some time raking them again so that they wouldn't mat down.

Then we received another four inches of snow and have complete snow cover again.

Paunacussing – Wildlife Sightings

You may recall reading that over the last two years a lot of work has been done at Paunacussing Preserve.  Natural Lands Trust removed a dam on an old farm pond and installed a berm to convert the area to a more dynamic wetland.  Then we planted some 1,700 trees in the fall of 2009.  In the spring of 2010, we planted 15,000 plugs of herbaceous plants.  That allowed native wetland plants get established in the wetlands.  Then last fall, volunteers helped plant another 700 trees to help convert agricultural fields back to forest.  A lot of work to improve the environment.

Kevin Mault, NLT's Stewardship Assistant, was working at Paunacussing last week and experienced first hand the rewards of all that hard work.  During the day he saw a Great-horned Owl, two Red-tailed hawks, Black and Turkey Vultures, Bluebirds, Chickadees, and Titmouses. 

On the wetland, he saw a Great Blue Heron, some Canada Geese, and over two dozen mallards.  That wasn't all.  He also saw over a dozen American Black Ducks!  Six pairs of Wood Ducks!  Four Ring-necked Ducks!  Two American Wigeons!  And finally a beaver.  As Kevin said in his email:  "If this doesn't spell Healthy Ecosystem, I don't know what does."  Well said. 

Crow’s Nest wildlife sightings

On my travels while monitoring conservation easements I have seen foxes, turkeys, deer, horses, cattle, donkeys, goats, chickens, innumerable songbirds, and tracks and signs of many other species.

Today while cleaning up storm damaged trees and later when walking with the WebWigglers I saw snow geese flying overhead. I see them migrating through only one day per year usually, and even then only if I happen to be in the right place at the right time—so you can imagine how exciting this was for me.

Even though we are still shin-deep in snow it won't be long before the amphibian migrations begin and spring arrives.

Easement Monitoring on ice

Hay on farm

I had put off some of the conservation easement monitoring this winter due to the snow, but I have to get it done and the snow has been slow to leave.

Walking is a bit tough because the crust doesn't quite hold, but the scenery is beautiful. As always I am grateful to the landowners who choose to protect their land with Natural Lands Trust and for their welcome each year.

Boulders in snow

Mariton – Louisiana Waterthrush Program

This Saturday evening at 8:00 p.m., Dr. Terry Master will be presenting a program on his research on Louisiana Waterthushes in the Poconos.  Dr. Master teaches Ornithology, Ecology, and Animal Behavior classes at East Stroudsburg University.  This has been a long term research project with some interesting discoveries.  The Louisiana Waterthush can be an elusive bird to find, especially if you don't know its beautiful song.  It frequents the edge of fast brooks and blends into its surroundings very well.  Dr. Master will also show slides of other birds that frequent stream sides as part of his program.  

While Dr. Master is an academic researcher, he is also an excellent educator.  He is skilled at presenting information in a way that you will be able to understand.  I think you will enjoy learning about this interesting warbler.  Hopefully, you will also learn more about the critical habitat that it calls home.


Crow’s Nest: WebWigglers on ice


Our after-school and homeschool winter programs are in full spring ("Simple Joys and Toys of Nature"). You'd be amazed by how much fun we have with just what we find in the woods at Crow's Nest. No batteries, no interface. Here the kids are playing on the ice in the swamp; we also did a little sledding and hiking on top of the crust of snow.

We're also doing simple crafts: tin-can stilts, braiding jump-ropes with red maple handles from the woods, spinners, pinwheels, a marshmallow catapult, tin-can and string telephones (yes, they work), and gloop.



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