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Archive for September, 2011

Mariton: Tuesday Walks

Mariton will be hosting nature walks on Tuesday Mornings in October.  Beginnning on October 4, walks will be held each Tuesday of the month from 9:00 a.m. to noon (weather permitting).  These are general nature walks and we will be looking at fall flowers as well as fall colors.  Birds, butterflies, trees, and anything else of interest will be topics. 

I am very excited that Marion Kyde will be joining us on October 11.  Marion (Martie) studies mycology, and will be helping us understand and recognize some of the fungi at Mariton.  Martie did a program for the children at Nature Camp and it was great. 

If you plan on attending any of the walks, please let me know.  That way I know who to contact if we have to cancel because of the weather.

Glades Wildlife Refuge: Bald eagles and school children

In a year’s time, approximately 6,500 school children participate in education programs at several Natural Lands Trust preserves. Many of these kids explore the tidal pools and sandy shoreline at Raybins Beach, part of our 7,500-acre Glades Wildlife Refuge in Cumberland County, NJ.

Last week, we hosted groups of fourth-graders from Lawrence Township Public Schools at Glades. The students were fascinated by the sandcastle worm colonies, which were visible at low tide. These marine worms build elaborate, coral reef-like colonies made out of grains of sand that are stuck together by a protein the worms secrete.












They also enjoyed the fiddler crab races (all crabs were returned safely to their habitat) and watching mud snails emerge.



But perhaps the highlight of the field trips was a visit from a Bald Eagle, who perched close enough for some great observation.

Mariton: College Birding

Dr. Megan Rothenberger, of Lafayette College brings her Conservation Biology Lab to Mariton for a section on bird surveys.  I am excited about the opportunity to showcase Mariton as a living laboratory.  But I am even more excited about being able to showcase our knowledgeable volunteers as they lead the students in bird identification and ecology.

On Wednesday, the group of students that Carole Mebus and I were with had some neat sightings.  At our first sampling site, we were getting a good selection of birds and I was thrilled to see a Cooper’s Hawk.  We had been watching some Turkey Vultures when I noticed one that didn’t quite fit.  It was a mature Bald Eagle!  The students got to view it through their binoculars and were amazed.  I see Eagles, but not regularly; and I never would have expected to see one with a group.

When we reached Site #3, we got into a huge flock of American Robins that were feeding on grapes.  They came over us in several waves of 8 – 10 birds.  We also were able to show the students White-breasted Nuthatches, and Downy Woodpeckers.  An Osprey even flew over us quickly.

Finally, as we headed back to meet the other group, the students got to watch two Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at the feeder.  Pretty good for a dreary fall afternoon.

Mariton: Delaware River Island Tour

This Saturday (October 1) is Mariton’s Annual Reception for the Friends of Mariton.  Things will get started at 6:00 p.m. with light refreshements.

At 7:00 p.m., Bob Koppenhaver will present a program on the Delaware River Islands.  Bob will be focusing on the islands between Belvidere and Upper Black Eddy.  His Powerpoint presentation uses aerials, maps and on the ground photos as he talks about history and interesting facts.  You are invited to attend, just let us know you will be coming by calling the office at 610-258-6574.

You can learn about other events hosted at Natural Lands Trust preserves by checking the website.

Crow’s Nest: more blooms

The flowering season is not over yet. Here are a couple of things now in bloom:

Here’s a top-down view of turtlehead (Chelone glabra). I tried to get a photo from the side of this distinctive, heavy-lipped flower in the Scrophulariaceae, along with the bumblebees disappearing into the flower interior, but they didn’t turn out.

And along with the yellow goldenrods that are glorious right now there is the white golderod, or silverrod, blooming (Solidago bicolor). It’s more subtle but just as lovely.

Mariton: Paulownia Lumber

Dan Barringer posted a thread in June about his chicken tractor built in part from Paulownia lumber (Paulownia tomentosa).  As Dan mentioned in his post, some of the NLT preserves established Paulownia plantations as a way to augment endowments.  Mariton doesn’t have a Paulownia plantation, but there are a few large trees that were planted for aesthetic value.  For the past few years I have been looking for new markets for the Paulownia that is growing on NLT preserves. 

We removed a large hollow Paulownia that was hanging over the garage at Mariton.  When I got ready to mill it, I called Bill Mitchell who builds custom guitars in Riegelsville, PA.  He came up to supervise the milling.  I gave him some pieces of wood, so that he could experiment.  He recently finished a parlor guitar using that paulownia wood.  The back, sides and neck are Paulownia.


The top piece is spruce, reclaimed from a piano that was ruined, and the bridge and fret board are from Osage Orange.  The headstock is walnut.  So the guitar was built from a hazard tree and a recycled piano.  Talk about sustainable.  Bill’s craftsmanship is exquisite.


Because Paulownia has a high strength to weight ratio, I thought canoe paddles might be another great market.  Because paddles are laminated, we could use smaller pieces, and the quality of the board is less critical.  So, I gave Marc Ornstein of Dogpaddle Canoe Works some boards to test.  Marc builds beautiful paddles and cedar strip canoes.  (He is also my mentor for freestyle canoeing.  Marc has been the reigning gold medalist for several years.)  Marc uses a lot of red cedar in his paddles, which is also light, strong and beautiful.  Marc called back shortly after I gave him some samples and bought more boards. 


Of course, I had to have a paddle built from Paulownia that came from Mariton.  So,I in turn ordered a custom paddle from Marc.  I picked it up  at the Midwest Freestyle Symposium and it is a beauty.  The Paulownia has an interesting grain reminiscent of ash or oak.  Weighing in at only 20 ounces it is as light as the proverbial feather. 

So, I found two new markets for Paulownia.  Both the guitar and paddle are museum quality pieces of work.  But they shine best when used as intended.

Crow’s Nest: Fall WebWalkers, WebWanderers, and WebWigglers

Our fall season of nature clubs begins October 12, 13, and 14. We offer three after-school programs and two morning ones for home-schooled kids.

The theme this fall is On the Move (seeds, nuts, burrs, cones… kids).

WebWanderers (grades 2–3) runs Wednesdays October 12 to November 16 from 4 – 5:30 pm.

Morning WebWalkers (ages 9 to 11 as of September 1, 2011) will be held Thursdays October 13 to November 17 from 10 am to 12:30 pm.

Afternoon WebWalkers (grade 4–5–6) offers the same program Thursdays October 13 to November 17 from 3:30 to 6 pm.

Morning WebWigglers(ages 5 to 8 as of Septembe 1, 2011) will run on Fridays October 14 to November 18 from 10 to 11:30 am.

Afternoon WebWigglers (grades k–1) offers the same program Fridays October 14 to November 18 from 4 – 5:30 pm.

Kids should dress for the weather, nearly every session includes a hike or play time out in the woods. The first half hour of afternoon WebWalkers we stay close to the barn to allow for varied bus schedules’ effect on arrival times.

The fee per child for each six-week session is $30. Questions? Call us at 610-286-7955.

Crow’s Nest in the community: September 24 events

Mark your calendars: next Saturday Natural Lands Trust will be represented at a couple of community events. First I’ll be giving a walk and talk about two challenges for gardeners and ecosystems—invasive plants and deer—at a local native-plant nursery, Sugarbush Nursery on Route 10 in Mohnton. We’ll begin at 11 am. A suggested donation is $3 for adults; RSVP requested at .

Then in the afternoon and evening I’ll be at Warwick County Park for their Autumn Celebration. It runs from 4 to 8 pm and includes fitness, family, and fall activities: a 5k and kids’ runs, rock wall, orienteering demonstration, food and ice cream, a reptile programs, and wagon rides and petting zoo. We’ll have a tent there with trail maps, guides to natural gardening, and kids’ activities.

Mariton: Pawpaws

On Wednesday morning, I found some fruit that had dropped over night.  The pawpaws will be ripening soon.  Pawpaw (Asimina triloba) is a very interesting North American tree that produces a fleshy fruit with the texture of a banana, but the flavor of …  I don’t know.  I have heard the flavor described many different ways.  Mango/banana, or pear/mango flavor are probably the most common responses when I ask people what they think it tastes like. 

It is worth trying.  If you visit Mariton in the next month, check under the tree by the parking lot.  You will be looking for fruit that has dropped on the ground and is turning yellow and soft.  You are welcome to sample, but leave the other fruit for school groups and other visitors to find.

I realize now that the photo above is somewhat misleading.  Pawpaws have simple leaves (one blade) and not compound leaves (made up of several leaflets).  Horse Chestnut, Walnut, Hickory and Ash are some trees that have compound leaves.

Crow’s Nest: trail conditions

With all the rain last week we went a stretch where the grass surface of many trails grew long. Now most trails have been mowed. An exception is a trail that lies across the “spring ditch” from the trail that connects the Creek Trail to the Jacob barn (if you’ve walked it you know it is often wet). The ground there is still too soft to run the lawnmower over it. Some of the rain that fell on surrounding hills is still working its way down to French Creek.

The Creek Trail is still posted closed, though it is technically open to its far end, where the oil tank culvert is being replaced (that project has also been held up by rain and soft ground). You can use it until you reach the work site but please do not enter the silt-fenced area.

The Deep Woods and new Fox Hill Trails (see post below) are dry and clear and make for good hiking.


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