Print this page


Archive for January, 2012

Mariton: Trail Trimming

Stewardship Assistant, Kevin Mault

One of the winter jobs at Mariton is trimming back the edges of trails.  We use a weed whacker with a steel blade.  Then, it is a matter of going step by step alongside each trail, and cutting all the woody vegetation on the shoulder. 

The purpose is to keep shrubs and trees a few feet back from the trail.  During the summer, their branches reach into the walk way.  Unfortunately, then those branches have to be pruned, which is even more time consuming.  And during the summer, we really don’t have time.   Trees right on the edge send roots into the trails and are more prone to damage from routine trail maintenance.  Without the edge trimming, the trails gradually close in to narrow paths.  While it very difficult for most people to see the difference, you can definitely feel it.  We have had to skip the job some years because of heavy snow cover, and you could feel the trails closing in the following summer.

When I started this winter job many, many years ago, it was just about keeping tree trunks, roots and branches out of the trails.  Over the years, I have discovered the added benefits of this job.  The most noticeable is that when we pushed back the woody vegetation the wildflowers moved off of the trails and onto the shoulders.  Instead of getting trampled, the flowers along the edge flourished, going to seed, and spreading along the trails.  There are a lot more wildflowers at Mariton now.

Winter trail trimming is a very time consuming project, but it is less time consuming than trimming back the individual branches during the summer.  Plus, more trail maintenance during the summer would mean more impact on wildflowers.  Finally during the winter, we can comfortably wear heavy protective clothing.

Crow’s Nest WebWigglers: Going to find some mud!

…they found it! (On the Creek Trail.)

Crow’s Nest: Pileated woodpecker on eastern cottonwood

This pileated woodpecker I photographed first from our bathroom window. Then I had to get closer (I don’t have a long zoom lens).

It is tearing into an Eastern cottonwood (Populus deltoides) at the edge of the woods. The damage (not shown) will become significant, but since the woodpecker is going after insects, the woodpecker’s work is likely letting us know that there is already some insect damage inside. If other cottonwood trees here are a guide, this one will hang on for many years while it is being chipped away.

Crow’s Nest WebWanderers, WebWalkers, and WebWigglers in Winter

Winter programs are underway. The forest rings with the sound of kids having fun. Laugh at the cold—the kids do!

Annual Easement Monitoring

This is the time of the year when we monitor lands held under conservation easement with Natural Lands Trust. I have scheduled on average one per day almost every day this month.

I know I say this every year but it is a remarkable privilege to inspect these private lands that people have chosen to protect, and to meet the landowners who have been so generous.

Some are farms, others are forests. All are beautiful.

They don’t call this the Great Marsh for nothin’. We were here the day after (another) torrential rain. The marsh soaks it up, slows it down, and gradually releases the water.

These woods also protect water quality in local streams, provide native plant and wildlife habitat, increase home values for people in the community, and preserve a family’s multi-generational history on a farm.


Diabase Farm Preserve

Paunacussing Preserve

Mariton: Nature Art Program

Mariton will be presenting the Andy Goldsworthy film:  Rivers and Tides – Working with Time:  Saturday, January 28 at 8:00 p.m. in the Nature Center.  Andy Goldsworthy does sculpture art using natural materials, such as rocks, leaves, twigs and even rock dust.  Many of his works are temporary, such as icicle sculptures, or stick structures built in the tidal zone.  In this highly acclaimed film, Goldsworthy’s pieces reflect the natural movements of Rivers and Tides.

If you are a frequent visitor at Mariton, you may have seen Goldsworthy-inspired works.  An art teacher at Holland Middle School brings her students to Mariton to observe, sketch and photograph nature.  Then they work on sculptures using natural materials.  I truly enjoy strolling through the “gallery” to view their works from all angles.  Here are some photos from one of those classes, taken by Carole Mebus.

This film will inspire you to play outdoors.  It will also give you some ideas for making your backyard more interesting.  The program is free, just let me know if you are plan to attend, so that we have enough popcorn.

Winter conferences and meetings

Here’s just a few of the winter meetings that have piqued my interest:

The Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture will be holding their annual conference at State College February 1 – 4, 2012. Brian Halweil, senior fellow at Worldwatch Institute and author of Eat Here: Reclaiming Homegrown Pleasures in a Global Supermarket will open the conference with a talk about trends in localizing food and the social and ecological impact of how we grow food. Farmer and writer Shannon Hayes will be the Plenary speaker; she is author of The Grassfed Gourmet, Farmer and the Grill, and Reclaming Domesticity from a Consumer Culture. Workshop topics include building and managing soil fertility on the farm, forest succession and its lessons for ecological design, four-season growing, raising healthy chicks, grafting fruit trees, pastured poultry 101, value-added products on the farm, using the web for marketing, advanced seed saving, and many, many more.

Practically in our (Crow’s Nest Preserve) backyard—Morgantown, Pennsylvania—there will be a workshop entitled, “Wildlife in our Backyard Woods: Create and Enhance the Wildlife Habitat Around Your Home.” It is being held by Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, Forestry for the Bay, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, and the Pennsylvania Game Commission. It will be held at the Morgantown Holiday Inn on Friday, January 27 from 8:30 – 4 and costs $40 per individual or $50 per couple. Click here for the brochure and registration information.

Bowman’s Hill Wildlife Preserve will be hosting their annual Land Ethics Symposium: Creative Approaches for Ecological Landscaping, on February 16, 2012 at the Sheraton Bucks County Hotel in Langhorne, Pennsylvania. Topics will include Great Natives for Tough Places, Make Waves with Native Wetland Perennials, and Landscape Design, Construction and Management from a Watershed Perspective. Registration information can be found on the Bowman’s Hill website.

There’s lots more to experience this winter—this is just a sampling!

Mariton: Tufted Titmice or Titmouses?

A long time ago, I read, or was told by a respected birder that the plural of Tufted Titmouse was Titmouses.  It stuck; and I never gave it much thought.  It definitely came up on bird walks, but I never remembered to follow up once I was back at my desk.

Well, my friend Carole Mebus, (who took the wonderful photo above) did do the research one day.  She found that the Cornell website uses Titmice exclusively.  That led me to look at bird books in the library.  Sure enough, Sibley, Crossley and National Geographic use Titmice for the plural of Titmouse.  Even my spell checker prefers Titmice. 

So, I will be calling them Titmice from now on.  However, I did a little more research and found out why I learned it the “other way”.  It seems that the mouse comes from an Old English word mase, meaning small bird.  It has nothing to do with little rodents.  From a purely etymological sense, calling several birds Titmice is like using Mongeese as the plural of Mongoose. 

Either way, Tufted Titmice are charming birds.  I like to see them around the feeders in winter, and hear their “Peter Peter Peter” calls in spring.


  • expand2017 (41)
  • expand2016 (141)
  • expand2015 (167)
  • expand2014 (197)
  • expand2013 (192)
  • expand2012 (241)
  • expand2011 (244)
  • expand2010 (223)
  • expand2009 (233)
  • expand2008 (201)
  • expand2007 (227)
  • expand2006 (269)
  • expand2005 (187)
  • expand2004 (5)