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Archive for May, 2012

Crow’s Nest: Trail camera photos spring 2012

The kids and counselors at our spring WebWalkers program borrowed a trail camera (motion-activated automatic camera) and placed it at various locations around the preserve. Here’s a review of the best of the photos (color in daytime, infrared in low light). Canada goose and goslings:

Male wood ducks:

A groundhog near a small cave:

And a deer that blends well with its surroundings:

Posted by Daniel Barringer on May 29, 2012.

Mariton: Jacobsburg State Park

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

There is not much that I can say about our last bird trip of the season, except that it was great!  Since there isn’t much to say, I will let Carole Mebus’ photos do the talking.

We saw too many Indigo Buntings to count.

Good views of Common Yellowthroats.

A cooperative Scarlet Tanager.

This Acadian Flycatcher perched over us as we picnicked.  It is one of the Empidonax flycatchers, and looks just like the Willow Flycatcher that we saw earlier (in a different habitat).  The only practical way to tell the Empidonax flycatchers apart is by their songs.  The Acadian says pit-see!; the Willow says fitz-bew.  We also saw a Great Crested Flycatcher (that looks very different.)  All photos by Carole Mebus.


Crow’s Nest: I bet you’ve never seen flowers like this. Not this close, anyway.

These lovely flowers (very close up) are from poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans).

It is blooming right now at the preserve, and the vines are humming with the sound of various species of pollinating bees. (A quick online search suggests that honey made from poison ivy nectar has none of the reaction-causing effects of contact with the plant itself.) For why it is properly called contact dermatitis and not an allergic reaction, see Tim Burris’ 2010 blog post here.

No matter what you think of it personally, poison ivy is a native plant and a valuable wildlife plant both as a nectar source, food source for herbivorous insects, and fruit eaten by birds.

We do have a bit more of it than we’d like, and I do occasionally cut poison ivy away from places where visitors might come in contact with it. And off of trees along roads where it could be hiding the tree’s defects and prevent us from evaluating the tree’s potential hazard of falling.

In a world that has increasing levels of carbon dioxide, there will be winners and losers. Poison ivy will be a winner. A study in North Carolina suggests that it will grow faster and have more potent version of the chemical urushiol that triggers contact dermatitis in many people.

As you know poison ivy has more deeply lobed juvenile leaves than those that appear on mature plants that have climbed high up trees. Many species have different leaves on young plants or new growth, sometimes larger to allow for greater photosynthesis. But why not keep the large leaves upon maturity? I read a thorough explanation on the website of the poison ivy horticulturist, Umar Mycka. On juvenile leaves Mycka says, “The edges of [the leaflets] are toothed and terminal leaf has short neck. Toothing of leaves facilitates good water evaporation which leads to quick growth. The short neck enables conservation of plant tissue and allows for complete and coordinated movement of the three leaflets together to better determine and note the sun’s path.” The unlobed leaves of mature plants allows less evapotranspiration—slower growth but less susceptibility to drought.

Appreciate poison ivy from a distance. As we say, “leaves of three, leave them be.” I usually have a mild rash for much of the summer as I can’t avoid the plant while doing land management here.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on May 26, 2012.

Mariton: Bluebirds Have Flown

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

The Beatle’s song She’s Leaving Home plays in my head at this time of year.  I am not sure why I think of this song, because I don’t feel any of the remorse or anger.  Rather, I am pretty pleased that a group of birds survived to leave their nest.  After monitoring a nest for several weeks and watching it progress from eggs, to hatchlings, to feathered young, to empty I am usually left in awe; there are so many things working against them.   

The four Bluebird fledglings have left the nest in the yard.  I removed the old nesting material and hopefully a new nest will be started in the coming weeks.  Three Tree Swallows also left their nest during the week. 

The Chickadees above will be leaving any day.  This box is also in the yard and you can hear the chattering pretty much all day. 

She’s leaving home, bye bye.

Crow’s Nest: house restoration update

The Building Stewardship staff has moved outdoors for the summer to work on the addition that will go on the back of the lodge house at Crow’s Nest.

The roof is finished and most of the pointing is done. Inside they have framed the walls and started the wiring and plumbing. There are to be two porches (one for each unit, on opposite sides of the house) and a small kitchen for the intern housing in the addition. There is also a substantial amount of grading to do to so there isn’t such a large drop-off behind the house.

Underneath the old (but not original) rear porch the guys discovered an old hand-dug well, mostly filled in—and not too far from the old prviy! They will incorporate the stones of the well into the foundation of the addition (see below) so it will be visible in the area under the new porch they are building, a space that will be used for storage.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on May 24, 2012.

Space Program – the open space kind

The other day I was leafing though the April issue of Natural History magazine and reached the last page, the “Endpaper” column. Written by Rick Pruetz it was entitled, “Space Program.” But the photos were not of stars, planets, or rocket ships—they were of a covered bridge over a wooded creek and of a beautiful farm with forested hills in the background.

Turns out Mr. Pruetz has written a book called, “Lasting Value: Open Space Planning and Preservation Successes” (2012: American Planning Association) and this article is adapted from it.

He writes that of the roughly two dozen counties across the U.S. that he found to be “exceptionally creative” in their land-use practices, three were in Pennsylvania: Berks County, Chester County, and Lancaster County (way to go!). Each has lost substantial land to sprawl and faces increasing pressure as there is less land available. Each has found unique ways to keep farmland in farming, protect rural values and villages, and build the public-private sector relationships necessary to permanently protect open lands.

From Berks County’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program to Chester County’s Linking Landscapes to multiple programs in Lancaster County, the programs have been tailored to the specific needs of the community and reflect the values of the people who live there.

Pruetz writes that success stories like these “demonstrate the value of dedicated professionals, farsighted elected officials, and responsible citizens. We can save rural land, if we take action while land is still affordable and—most important—available.”


Mariton: Birders

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

(Watching a Tanager by Erich Boenzli)

Our Tuesday Bird Walk took us to Musconetcong Gorge, a trail of the Hunterdon County Parks in New Jersey.  We had a great morning on this trail.  Yes, it was wet, rugged and steep, but we were eye level with several of the birds that we  saw. 

We got great looks at a Black and White Warbler, a Baltimore Oriole, a Red-eyed Vireo, and a Scarlet Tanager.  We heard a Louisiana Waterthush and an Acadian Flycather.  We also heard lots of Worm-eating Warblers, Eastern Wood Peewees, Wood Thrushes and Ovenbirds. 

A standard joke for birders is:  “What do you think the birds think when they look down at us?”  Erich Boenzli took some great photos of our group that capture that joke.  Above is a photo Erich took of me directing Jim’s view to the Scarlet Tanager.  

To help someone find a bird in the forest, one uses all sorts of landmarks like the crooked branch, or the skinny tree, or that twig all by itself.  It makes more sense when you are standing behind someone to direct them to that one crooked branch out of a thousand crooked branches in the forest, but it still sounds hillarious.  It never fails, that as soon as someone finally locates the bird (based on incomprehensible directions), that the bird flies away.  Usually, it flies away never to be seen again, but sometimes it flies onto a bare branch in the open that a random passerby could look up and spot. Truthfully, that’s part of the charm and the challenge.   When you get a great look at that Scarlet Tanager (or a Red-eyed Vireo for that matter) it is rewarding, and you walk away saying:  “Now, that was worth the price of admission.”

Crow’s Nest: Meet the beekeeper

As you hike around Crow’s Nest you may notice beehives at several locations at the Preserve. The person responsible for them is Brent Sanders, neighbor and beekeeper.

The bees are important pollinators and are a lot of fun to watch. Right now they are all over the tuliptree flowers in the forest canopy. And the honey these bees make is the best I’ve ever had.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on May 21, 2012.

Crow’s Nest: A very good day…

Any day in which I see both an indigo bunting and a scarlet tanager is a good one. The wet week dried out enough to catch up mowing the grass on the trails and this weekend looks beautiful. There are babies everywhere: goslings on the creek, groundhog babies that look like hedgehogs, and phoebes just learning to fly. Maple-leaf viburnum and false Solomon’s seal are starting to bloom, as are the non-native forget-me-not (Myosotis scorpoides) along the stream.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on May 19, 2012.

Mariton: Board Field Trip

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Mariton had the privilege of hosting a Natural Lands Trust Board meeting.  NLT is fortunate to have a dedicated and engaged Board of Trustees.  Occasionally, their schedules work out so that they can make field trips to other preserves.  (They regularly meet at our headquarters at Hildacy Farm Preserve).   I was very excited when asked to host one of these meetings.  (I love introducing enthusiastic people to this wonderful place.)  Rob Friedman, who serves on the NLT Board, as well as the Mariton Board, helped co-host.

These truly are field trips.  The Trustees bring their binoculars, and look forward to a hike before they get down to the business of running the largest conservation organization in the region.  We were in good company with trustees like Dr. Ann Rhoads and Dr. Roger Latham pointing out plants, and Jack Terrill and Drew Schmidt pointing out the birds.    

We walked to the Chimney Rock where they viewed the Delaware River.  Almost all of the land that NLT has protected lies within the Delaware Watershed.  The Delaware River is one of the great natural resources of the region, and NLT’s land protection in the watershed is an important part of protecting that resource.  From there, the group hiked up to the meadows, where we got a great look at an Indigo Bunting.  Then it was back to the Nature Center, where they held their meeting.  The Trustees had a beautiful day for the hike, and the woods were alive with the songs of Wood Thrushes and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.


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