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Archive for September, 2012

Mariton: Black-throated Blue Warbler

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Black-throated Blue Warblers are moving through on their way back to wintering grounds in the West Indies.  This is a fun little warbler in the fall.  At this time, they are pretty curious, and often feed near eye level.  I have often had them perch only a few feet away.  The photo above was taken by a simple point and shoot camera to give you an idea about how closely they will approach humans. 

I have also been seeing small flocks of Wood Thrushes in the deep woods.  Sometimes they are with a flock of Robins, sometimes they are by themselves.  I haven’t seen any of the winter Thrushes yet, but they should be arriving soon.

Mariton: Blue-stemmed Goldenrod

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

One of my favorite fall wildflowers is the Blue-stemmed Goldenrod (Solidago caesia).  Unlike many goldenrods, the Blue-stemmed likes a little shade.  You can find it growing along the woodland trails at Mariton.  Another difference is that instead of painting the landscape with a wide brush, like many goldenrods, the Blue-stemmed uses one arching stroke from a finely tipped brush to make its point.  The bright yellow flowers are arranged along a single arching stem.  It can grow 3 feet long, but I generally see stems about ½ that size or less.

Mariton: What Are The Chances?

by Tim Burris; Preserve Manger

This tree was hit by lightening around Labor Day.  Lightening is a natural power that is very dangerous, and very hard to predict.  For instance, this tree is not the tallest in its locale.  In fact, the top of this tree was blown out in a wind storm several years ago, so it is significantly shorter than the surrounding trees.  The energy from the strike actually split the tree’s outer layer, blowing bits of wood and bark several feet. 

I spend a fair amount of time outdoors.  Tenting in a lightning storm definitely puts one on edge.  So, I am always interested in how to reduce the likelihood of a strike.  I have asked friends that are industrial electricians (as well as outdoorsmen) for advice.  Their response is the same as meteorologists:  get into a car or a house.    It is just too difficult to generalize or predict what and where lightning will strike.

Mariton: Meet the Artist: Scott Shoeniger

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

This Saturday, Mariton will feature Scott Shoeniger in a “Meet the Artist” reception.  This is part of the Annual Friends of Mariton gathering which features light refreshments before and after the program.  Mr. Shoeniger is the taxidermist that recently mounted a Great-horned Owl for Mariton.  Scott will speak briefly about his profession, as well as his artwork.  (Photo above by Carole Mebus.)

While taxidermy may not immediately strike one as art, it is one of the oldest arts known to man.  Taxidermy blends sculpture, painting, composition and woodworking with nature study.  There will be time for questions, as well as plenty of time to talk with Scott personally.

ChesLen Preserve: Serpentine Barrens Research

What’s going on out at ChesLen Preserve? Come out and see for yourself, but enjoy this gallery of images as a taste of what’s to come as I report on interesting observations and activities!

My name is William Ryan, and I am a doctoral student at the University of Delaware. My research is focused on serpentine grassland restoration ecology. Serpentine grasslands are rare ecosystems, characterized by a unique assemblage of plants. Their occurrence is directly correlated with the presence of serpentinite as an underlying geological formation and a history of vegetation disturbance. This rock type weathers to produce a soil that is notably low in calcium and high in magnesium, and often high in various heavy metals, including chromium and nickel. Most of our native flora cannot survive on this harsh and toxic substrate, thus leading to a unique “serpentine flora” – those that can tolerate the conditions. As part of my research, I am monitoring the plants and birds at the Unionville Serpentine Barrens to gauge how these organisms respond to the land management techniques that are being employed by Natural Lands Trust’s staff and scientific advisors. I have completed the first of three years of monitoring and have many anecdotes to share. The following are some images from the site this summer. Enjoy!

(By the way,  I lead a free walk at ChesLen every Sunday morning at 8:00 AM – hope you can join us sometime!)

Posted by William Ryan 

rock sandwort (Minuartia michauxii)


large field mouse-ear chickweed (Cerastium velutinum var. velutinum)


Appalachian groundsel (Packera anonyma)



Crow’s Nest: Fire & Ice!

We had a fun event this weekend. Natural Lands Trust has such great members: engaged and engaging!

Here are a few photos from the event taken by volunteer Jim Moffett. Above, Darin Groff gives a presentation about the conditions and tactical concerns in fighting the Hopewell Fire this past April. Geographic Information Systems analyst Mike McGeehin prepared the map of the fire on Darin’s right.

Then the group took a hayride (below) and hike up to see a portion of the burned area.

We saw a site where the fire had backed down the hill and another where a head fire was pushed through by high winds. Natural Lands Trust Board Member and Ecologist Dr. Roger Latham, and Director of Science Dr. Jim Thorne, offered some background on fire ecology, the effects of Native American use of prescribed fire, and the state of fire in Pennsylvania today. Below, Roger addresses the group:

The forest has greened up, but the whole story of the regenerating forest is a bit more complicated. Some effects of the fire, note Roger and Jim, are not yet visible and some of the seedlings (such as tuliptree) that are coming up now will not persist under the shade of the surviving canopy. A prescribed fire in these woods after a few years would further benefit oak regeneration and, since oaks support the greatest number of native species from insects to birds and mammals, create the best wildlife habitat.

At the end of the hike we returned to the Crow’s Nest barn for ice cream and more discussion. Not a bad way to spend an afternoon!

Posted by Daniel Barringer on September 24, 2012.

Crow’s Nest: Cattle drive

Last week the little steers kept getting out of the large pasture unit where we are using them to restore habitat. The electric fence is not working right and we haven’t been able to isolate the source of the problem—so the little guys just squeezed through. So we moved them to the second unit where the goats had been, and walked the goats down the road to their winter pasture (they’ll likely return to summer pasture again briefly before winter).

Then yesterday the big guys figured out how to get through the fence, and soon the neighbors reported seeing them around. The pair got as far as our parking lot this morning before Sean, Luke and I lured them in to the second management unit along with the smaller steers. It was always our objective to maintain this area with cattle; this is the first time we’ve actually done it.

I carried a pan of sweet feed and they followed me pretty well about a half mile up Piersol Road to the other pasture. Sean and Luke followed behind to gently “push” (no physical contact required) and steer them (pun intended) in the right direction. It all went well except for the moment when the steers saw a whole field of corn, looked at the pan of grain I held, looked back at the corn field, and then took off for the field. (Sean circled around them through the corn and pushed them back out.)

The fence where they are grazing now is good, so you shouldn’t see them moseying around the neighborhood any more. But if you do, please call me. Thanks to everyone who has helped out this season—it has taken many!

Posted by Daniel Barringer on September 21, 2012.

Crow’s Nest: Plants we love—buttonbush

Here’s a native shrub that we love: buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidenatalis).

Here, the clusters of fruit are forming where the balls of white flowers have finished. This shrub is great for attracting butterflies to the flowers. It usually grows in wet, sunny meadows, and stream and pond edges. I planted one in our yard in a not-as-wet place and it is doing fine. It would be ideal for rain gardens or retention basins.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on September 17, 2012.

Crow’s Nest: alder scale

If you see white fuzzy clumps on alder twigs this fall, look closely and you will also see ants.

The white fuzzy critters are scale insects (Prociphilus tessellatus) that suck the juices from the stem of the plant. The ants “shepherd” them—protect them from predators and then collect honeydew from them: a form of mutualism. Honeydew is the aphids’ sweet excrement from the plant sap.

According to this species of scale uses silver maple (or occasionally red maple) as the alternate host along with alder. (We only have a few silver maples on the preserve but lots of red maple.) This website also mentions that the predacious caterpillar of the harvester butterfly (Feniseca tarquinius) feeds upon these aphids.

The scale insects do little damage to the host plant. Honeydew (from a variety of scale species) can be a problem if you happen to park your car under a tree that has a lot of scale insects: it leaves a sticky residue on the surfaces beneath, which then tends to be colonized by sooty molds. These can be one or more species of black, powdery fungi that feed upon honeydew.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on September 15, 2012.

Crow’s Nest: Autumn WebWalkers, WebWanderers, WebWigglers, and (new!) WebWhirlers

Our Crow’s Nest fall kids’ programs begin October 1. The theme is “Getting Ready for Winter.” We’ve shifted around the dates and times slightly to better accommodate the growing numbers of kids in the programs. WebWhirlers is a new program for 3rd and 4th graders on Monday afternoons; kids in these grades can sign up for this or other programs that overlap their age group. WebWanderers continues on Wednesdays (grades 2 and 3). After-school WebWalkers is on Thursday afternoons (grades 4, 5, 6). After-school WebWigglers is on Friday afternoons (grades K – 1). And there is a morning WebWalkers program on Thursdays for kids who are ages 8 to 11 as of 9/1/12.

You can click to see the full flyer below or call us at 610-286-7955 for more information.

Fall 2012 Nature Clubs

Posted by Daniel Barringer on September 14, 2012.


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