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Archive for July, 2011

Mariton: Friday Night Program

Mariton’s Camp concludes on Friday night with a potluck, and a program.  It allows the parents meet each other and see what the children have been doing during the week.  Over the years we have had some pretty interesting speakers.  The favorite is Kathy and Eric Uhler of Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation Center.  They bring wildlife that can’t be released back to the wild.  Then they do a wonderful job helping us learn about the different animals, and how to be better citizens of nature.

This time they also brought a special treat.  Two Screech Owls that they released before the program.  You will notice the two birds are different colors.  Screech Owls, like Ruffed Grouse, come in two color phases.  We still aren’t sure why, as a Gray pair can have red or mixed young, and visa versa.  Probably the best explanation is that one color blends in better in evergreen forests, while the other blends in better in deciduous forests.


Maureen and I will be listening for these birds to be calling when we sit outside in the evenings.  (All photos by Carole Mebus.)

Mariton: Hatched

The eggs have hatched, and there are 5 baby bluebirds in the nest box along the driveway.  They probably hatched sometime last weekend.  I just read a research paper in the Journal Wildlife Management written by Allyson K. Jackson, et. al.  Their research of urban bluebirds showed that mortality decreased for bluebirds hatched later in the season.  That is good news.

Mariton: Camp, Day Five

The campers took a long walk this morning.  While Virginia, Carole and I looked for things to show them, we let them be guides also.  Right out the door we discovered the Walking Stick above. 

In the Dark Habitat, they wandered for quite some time looking for owl pellets, and finding lots of other treasures. 

I love this tree that met adversity in its youth, and adapted to find its way in the world.  (All photos by Carole Mebus.)


Hopewell Furnace NHS Establishment Day

Saturday, August 6 is the annual celebration of the establishment of Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. There will be the ceremonial lighting of the fire to make charcoal—a reenactment of the activity that once took place all around here and that has shaped the forest that has grown back. The event runs 10 am – 4 pm and is free of charge. Stop by Crow’s Nest Preserve for a walk on the way over or back from nearby Hopewell Furnace.

Mariton: Down on the Farm

You can’t really talk to children about plants without talking about where our food comes from.  So, today we took a field trip to Traugers Farm Market in Kintnersville.  Myron Kressman guided us as we rode around the farm in the wagon. 

Myron showed us his family’s operation from beginning to end.  We started in the greenhouses, where planting begins in February.  Right now this greenhouse is being used to store and dry onions.   

When one crop winds down, another crop goes in the ground.  This is where the greenhouse fits into the operation.  Seedlings are constantly being planted, so that there is a steady supply of fresh vegetables.

You can’t beat fresh out of the field.  The kids learned that as many had their first taste of uncooked sweet corn, picked fresh.

In the orchard, we sampled peaches.  Yummy.  Hopefully, the children have a better understanding of how food gets to their table.  (All photos by Carole Mebus.)

Mariton: Fungi at Camp

Marion Kyde was the speaker today, and she talked about fungi.  She brought several samples for the children to see.  Fungi are not plants, but many plants could not survive without fungi.  Why?  Well fungi send out miles and miles of mycelium (almost microscopic threads) that direct water, minerals and other nutrients to plant roots.  In exchange, trees and other plants pass on some of the sugars that they produce through photosynthesis to the fungi.  Fungi are also instrumental recycling the nutrients in dead trees and other organisms.

The children loved these Birds Nest Fungi (above).  Inside the little “nests” are tiny “eggs”  that each hold thousands of spores.  When a drop of rain hits the edge of the nest it displaces the “egg” into the air.  The egg has a “sticky tail” that it deploys during its flight.  The “tail” is several inches long and catches on the surrounding vegetation as it flies through the air, leaving the “egg” hanging.  This makes the release of spores more effective than if it was just laying on the ground.  (Now, something is wrong if you didn’t say:  “WOW!” after reading that.  There is something right about the kids in our Nature Camp.)

We were able to find some fungi when we walked on the trails.  Because it had been so dry (until Monday afternoon) the mushrooms were hard to find.  Marion figured that by Friday, we should see a lot of fungi.  Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of some types of fungi.  (Just like an apple is the fruiting body for an apple tree.)  The bulk of the fungus is working underground, but when conditions are right it sends out fruiting bodies to release spores and so disperse to new areas.

One of the cool fungi we found on our walk were these “Dead Man’s Fingers”.  What a great name.  They poke up through the soil and look like – you guessed it – reaching up from the grave.  Marion felt that this specimen was more extensive that any she had seen.

I have been calling these Turkey Tails for years, but these are the False Turkey Tails.  Now I know how to tell the difference, and will look more closely.  (All photos by Carole Mebus.)

Mariton: Camp and Butterflies


Today Virginia Derbyshire was our speaker as she introduced the children to butterflies.  You might ask what do butterflies have to do with plants (the camp theme)?  Well, many butterflies species lay their eggs on specific plants.  Those eggs hatch out caterpillars, which are adapted to feed on the leaves of those species.  So, the butterfly species you find in an area are often attracted by the plant species that grow there. 

It lays the groundwork for the concept of connections in nature .  To see a field full of plants and to know that a monarch will lay its eggs just on the milkweeds.  That the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail will lay its eggs on the tuliptrees.  They can understand that each plant has a role besides just making oxygen, or having pretty flowers. 

The weather was perfect and we saw lots of butterflies.   (All photos by Carole Mebus.)

Crow’s Nest: Photo round-up

Here are a few recent photos that haven’t made it into other posts.

I know I’ve posted photos of wolf spiders and damselflies already this summer but the kids at camp made me take more…

This wolf spider has an egg sac:

And here are the calves taking a break from their prescribed grazing:

This summer the interns received training on the chainsaw. Here Liz is clearing a fallen log off a trail.

Mariton: Sweet Smell of Rain

After over two weeks without rain, we finally received it yesterday.  It smelled so great when it started as a gentle light rain.  You could almost hear the plants breathing a sigh of relief.  Of course, it strengthened and we experienced some torrential downpours. 

We received 3.58 inches of rain yesterday.  In just a few hours, July’s rainfall was doubled, so we are now at 7.18 inches for the month.  I’ve said before that July can be the wettest month, or the driest month.  It just depends on which thunderstorms cross your area, and if the tropics are active.  July’s average at Mariton is 5.47 inches, so we are already above average for the month.  We are still running about 3.5 inches ahead for the year.

Because we went so long without rain, the soil was compacted and much of the water ran off the surface,  This led to the flash flooding in many locations.  Fortunately, forested areas like Mariton soften the effects of heavy rain.  The raindrops make their way down through the leaves almost like a light rain.  It allows the soil pores time to open and absorb more of the rainfall.  The roots of the trees and forest plants are ready to suck up the moisture.

Mariton: Nature Camp – Forests

Mariton’s Nature Camp started today.  With Plants as our theme, today’s guest speaker was Tim Dugan from the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry.  Tim is the Assistant District Forester for District 17, which is Southeastern Pennsylvania.  He works to keep our State Forests in his district healthy.  While Pennsylvania has a lot of publicly owned forest lands, most of the state’s forest is privately owned.  So, Bureau Foresters works with private landowners to help them match their management goals with the long term goal of a healthy forest.  

Forest management is long term stewardship.  As Tim noted, the forests that he helps manage today may not be mature until long after he retires.  So, he has the responsibility to carry on the vision of Foresters before him, while passing on his responsibility and trust to those Foresters that follow in his footsteps. 

Tim started our morning talking about his job, and then presented some amazing fun facts about trees in or forests.  For instance, the black T-shaped mark in the “tree cookie” above indicates that the tree was in a fire when it was just a sapling.  We then took a walk to look at some of the interesting trees that grow at Mariton. 

Of growing concern to Foresters is the threat of the Emerald Ash Borer, an introduced insect that has wiped out Ash trees in some areas of the country.  It was recently found in Wayne County, which is not that far from us.  One of the easiest ways for it to reach an area is moving firewood.  Some people harvest firewood in another part of the state and bring it home.  Campers may also carry firewood from their home to a campsite.  Either way, if the wood is harboring the Borer (or other insect pests) it can be transported and introduced to a new area.  Ash trees are one of the most abundant trees  in southeastern Pennsylvania, so the effects could be devastating.  (All photos by Carole Mebus.)


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