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Archive for April, 2012

Mariton: Tuesday Bird Walks!

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Beginning this week (May 1), Mariton will be leading bird walks on Tuesday mornings until the end of the month.  We will start at Mariton this Tuesday, and then visit different natural areas in the following weeks.  There are a number of spring migrants returning.  This week will be a tune up for our ears (as we listen to bird songs) and our necks (as we look up into the tree tops).  Bring binoculars, or borrow a pair of ours. 

This Tuesday, we will start at the Nature Center at 8:00 a.m.  On following weeks, we will meet at 7:30 a.m. here, and then carpool to the different locations.  We welcome all levels of birders.  While we love to bird, this group also stops to smell the flowers (literally).  We are often distracted by wildflowers, butterflies, fungi and other wonders of nature.  Please contact me if you plan to attend, so we can plan the carpools.

Mariton: Nest Box Update

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

By next week we should have eggs starting to hatch.  Right now there are two Bluebird nests.  Both nests have four eggs each. 

Chickadees are really taking advantage of Mariton’s boxes.  Four of the boxes hold active Chickadee nests.  There are a total of 26 eggs in those nests.  Chickadee nests can be distinguished by moss with a layer of hair on top.  Below is a photo of a side view of a chickadee nest.

Below is a look into a nest.  There are seven eggs; white with rust colored speckles. 

Mariton: Garlic Mustard

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Garlic Mustard (Alliaria officinalis) is blooming.  This is one flower that I hate to see.  It is an invasive plant that not only squeezes out other plants, but kills mycorrhizal fungi.  Soil mycorrhizae increases access to water and nutrients for many plants.  Some plants won’t grow or germinate without soil mycorrhizae.  So, not only can Garlic Mustard take over a forest floor by its prodigious seed dispersal, but it works underground to weaken and eliminate plants that depend on mycorrhizal fungi to survive.

At Mariton, we have been working for more than five years to control Garlic Mustard simply by pulling it out before it goes to seed.  This is one of the success stories.  It takes a lot of time, but we have greatly reduced the amount of Garlic Mustard growing at Mariton.  It has paid dividends.  I think the removal is one of the reasons that we are seeing wildflowers like the Showy Orchis (Galearis spectabilis) expanding into new areas in the forest.

(Showy Orchis)

Saturday, April 28, you can help us pull Garlic Mustard between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m.  Bring gloves.  Can’t make it then, but would like to help?  No problem.  This is a great project for someone wanting to spend some time on the trails.  Just let me know, and I will point you in the right direction.  Oh, and this is the one plant that you can collect at Mariton and take home.  Some people eat the flowers like broccoli and there are other recipes for Garlic Mustard.

Crow’s Nest: Now blooming

At Crow’s Nest Preserve wild geranium (Geranium maculatum) and showy orchis (Galearis spectabilis) are in bloom; you can see them along the Deep Woods Trail.

Also Canada mayflower (Maianthemum canadense) is blooming at scattered locations in the woods, and nodding trillium (Trillium cernuum) is blooming near the visitor center barn.

The pink ladies slipper orchids are not yet in bloom… they are usually out in the first week of May. Edit: Some are still in bud but others are now in bloom!

Posted by Daniel Barringer on April 26, 2012.

Happy Earth Day!

Hope you get out and enjoy the outdoors today! And if it’s raining, bring an umbrella. The rain is welcome.

Crow’s Nest: old rags and newspaper wanted

We use rags and newspaper to clean parts and tools and prevent messes in the workshop (you saw the post below about the tractor, right?).

Our supplies of both are running low, so if you have old clothing that is not suitable for reuse please consider giving it to us. And newspapers diverted from recycling will be put to good use here. Give me a call at 610-286-7955 if you’d like to make arrangements for dropping off either one. Thank you!

Posted by Daniel Barringer on April 21, 2012.

Mariton: Bird Sightings

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

The warblers are coming back.  I heard my first (of the season) Black and White Warbler this week.  The Yellow-rumped Warblers have been here for awhile, but I am hearing more and more singing from this species.

Blue-gray Gnatcatchers returned this week.  Their nasal bee-jee-jee can be heard in the tree line from the parking lot of the Nature Center.   I was also enchanted by a melodic song, when I realised I was listening to a Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  The sounds are quite cheerful if you walk the trails in the morning. 

The tom Turkey is still displaying in front of the Nature Center.  We have also seen a hen near the beginning of the Main Trail.  I think she has a nest in the brush over the hillside.

The nest boxes are active.  Bluebirds (above) have a total of 8 eggs in two different nests.  The Chickadees (below) have 4 nests and a total of 5 eggs. 

Crow’s Nest: Tracks and Scat

At this spring’s sessions of WebWalkers, WebWanderers, and WebWigglers we are looking at tracks and scat.

Perhaps because of the lack of rain there are plenty of mudflats where there used to be water, so the tracking has been good.

We have seen lots of signs of animals at the preserve. Sometimes the signs are there and you don’t even realize it. In a sandbox we have re-created and studied the “track of the week.” A high point of each session is the edible (chocolate) “scat of the week” that Molly Smryl has prepared for us. Here the kids are “sampling” the realistic-looking “raccoon poop”—don’t try this at home!

Posted by Daniel Barringer on April 20, 2012.

Crow’s Nest: Two halves of a tractor…

…make one whole tractor (when they’re put back together).

Roger Nichols came up to visit us from ChesLen Preserve on Tuesday to split our tractor in two in preparation for replacing the clutch which we had worn out. Splitting the tractor itself doesn’t take long, it’s the removing of hydraulic, fuel, electrical and exhaust lines that cross the split point that takes a while. Needed parts are on order. I could never put this thing back together myself but Roger’s got it figured out.

Crow’s Nest spring so far…

It has been an unusual experience of an extremely dry spell this spring, following the wettest year on record (which also had a dry spell in late spring/early summer). We also had last autumn the worst storm damage in 50 years (my guess) in the October snowstorm, and wildfires this spring of a nature not experienced in a 100 years around here.

On the plus side, the dry spring preserved the flowers that were already open so it has been very pretty. Pollen, especially from oaks, has been worse in other years but is close to peak right now. If you’re not allergic you don’t notice it until it blankets in chartreuse  a smooth surface like a car. If you use a headlamp, like we do when walking the dog at night, you can also see pollen blowing like a blizzard in front of your face.

Visitors have reported seeing a beaver on French Creek and our WebWalkers (who are studying tracks and scat this spring) have seen a beaver print.

I heard my first gray treefrog of the year the other day. The American toads and spring peepers resumed calling this week after going quiet during the dry spell. They actually started again Saturday night, before the light rain we received Sunday morning. The rain hasn’t added up to much accumulation but it is still welcome. Many vernal pools and wet sloughs have dried up this spring, stranding frog eggs and tadpoles.

I also awoke the other morning to the “Who cooks for you?” call of a barred owl.

Yesterday while looking at tracks along French Creek behind the visitor center, the kids saw that the creek was really muddy, as if we had gotten a lot of rain and soil was eroding. But when we walked upstream along French Creek above the point where Pine Creek flows into French Creek, the water was clear—a mystery at first. I assume the sediment is from the bridge reconstruction over Pine Creek on Harmonyville Road; they are probably digging and forming the bridge’s footers and pumping the creek around an area of coffer dams. This is the third highway bridge replaced in this immediate watershed in the last decade so we know what to expect.

At another property I manage for Natural Lands Trust in the headwaters of Pine Creek I came across this gooseberry shrub in flower—I’ve never seen them around here before. It’s a member of the genus of currants: Ribes, probably species hirtellum, Northern wild gooseberry.

Other things blooming at the preserve include Jack-in-the-pulpit, rue-anemone, trout-lily, nannyberry viburnum, pussytoes, American dogwood (bracts), blueberries and pinxterbloom azalea. I missed marsh marigold this spring and the few trailing arbutus flowers I have seen so far were shriveled.

Bellwort is just about to bloom, so I guess we’re just a little behind Mariton in blooming times.

Mayapple is blooming now too, though I think I appreciate it more for the foliage:

It is definitely garlic-mustard (Alliaria petiolata) pulling season, with several locations on the preserve where isolated populations make control a possibility. Other places it is so widespread it would be futile to try. Mile-a-minute weed (Persicaria perfoliata) is already up, and beyond the cotyledon stage. I found one in my yard (the nerve!) that already had six mature leaves.

The trails at French Creek State Park where the forest fire burned appear not to be posted closed now. There are still signs cautioning hikers there to be aware of the risk of damaged trees falling or dropping branches.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on April 19, 2012.


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