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Archive for October, 2012

ChesLen Preserve: Autumn highlights

Posted by William Ryan 

The autumn season is progressing at ChesLen Preserve — with chills, rain, and wind! On a walk this evening at sunset, the newly mowed fields finally look as if they are dormant until the spring.  Just a day ago, we were visited by the “storm of the century,” as winds lashed the bones of the forest, stripping nearly all of the little red, orange, and yellow hands from their outstretched arms. Now the birds are quiet in the prolonged misty dusk, save a few White-throated Sparrows gleaning seeds from the field edges and American Crows flying to roost for the night. This week marks the beginning of the darkest quarter of the year and the end of the harvest. The farmers who rent the fields from Natural Lands Trust just removed the corn crop this week, before the storm, and the last of the hay bales sit in the meadow, neatly stacked and awaiting their departure.


ChesLen floodplain meadow and cornfield at sunset.


The Sunday morning walks have been well-attended since their initiation in early July. Participants have gone from t-shirts to winter jackets in these 4 months. We have had a great time thus far, with many referring to the weekly event as a nature “club”. With nearly two square miles of landscape to explore, we head off in different directions each week in search of interesting natural phenomena and beautiful scenery. Here are some images from this summer and autumn, showing some highlights of the walks


Discussing maple leaves. Norway or sugar? Red or silver?


American beech, beech blight aphid, and Scorias spongiosa: a perfect example of host specificity in plants, insects, and a fungus. The aphid (white fluff on the branches) feeds only on American beech, and the fungus (tan-colored mass) grows only on the “honeydew” droppings of the aphid.


Surveying the results of the timber-removal phase of the serpentine grassland restoration project. This took place in early September. More to come in upcoming blog posts.

Surveying the results of the timber-removal phase of the serpentine grassland restoration project. This took place in early September. There will be more details and descriptions of this project in upcoming blog posts…


Mariton: Eagle Scout Project

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

This past weekend an Eagle Scout candidate performed his project at Mariton.  He and his team of Boy Scouts installed water bars on the lower section of the Turnpike Trail.  (Another Eagle Scout worked on the upper section for his project last year.) 

Because the Turnpike Trail runs straight down hill, it has suffered a lot of erosion over the years.  The water bars will slow down water that is running down the trail, thus decreasing erosion.  The Scout also put wood chips in the deepest ruts of the trail.  The wood chips level out the trail, provide a growing medium for vegetation, and will absorb rain water better.  We will be adding more wood chips to this section of trail in the future, but wanted to wait for Sandy to pass before adding the finishing touches. 

This is already a great improvement for the trail.  Plus it helps the environment by keeping soils in place.

Mariton: Nature Walk Cancelled

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Tuesday’s Nature Walk (October 30) has been cancelled.  It is no surprise, the remnants from Sandy will be winding down at that time.  If the weather allows, I will be busy tomorrow working on clean up.  (If not here, than at one of the other preserves.)  Prepare for the worst, hope for the best and please stay safe.


Crow’s Nest: Volunteers Rock!

Several volunteers showed up this weekend to get the trees and shrubs planted before the storm. Digging at this site was difficult due to rocks and roots, but the group persevered.

I am so thrilled to have this project completed, and relieved that the plants are safely in the ground.

(We’ll take the “after” photo some day when the sun is out.)

There is a lightweight deer fence around the whole site, plus we’ll use deer repellants here. Some of the single-stem trees have netting around them as well.

Thank you all for your help!

Posted by Daniel Barringer on October 28, 2012.

Stewardship Retreat 2012

by Tim Burris, Mariton Preserve Manager

(Just part of the team, along with the featured guest.)

About this time of year, NLT’s Stewardship Staff gets together for our retreat.  The main agenda of the retreat is to relax after a busy growing season, and to catch up with the other folks in the department.  Over my 20 years with NLT, the stewardship staff has doubled in size.  So, we don’t get to see each other nearly as much as we used to.

(L to R:  Jeremy, Jarrod and Lee Shull)

This year, Lee Shull hosted the gathering at Reineman-Carlisle.  Lee and his sons got up in the wee hours to start roasting a pig.  It was a potluck and there was a lot of food.  After lunch, we had a washer tournament (kind of a cross between bean bags and horse shoes).  Some folks went off for a tour of the preserve’s many miles of trails.  Some stayed and played horse shoes.  I had the pleasure of getting a tour of the preserve by Jarrod Shull.  Jarrod is now one of our Stewardship Assistants working in Chester County.  He is also Lee’s youngest son, and literally grew up on the preserve.  Jarrod knows all of its trails, outcrops, scenic views, etc.  In fact, for his internship, he did a GIS overview of trails and significant features of the preserve.   What a great tour.

(The tournament is down to two teams as everyone watches.)

(Scott D. makes a great toss while Jarrod and Darin watch.)

Twenty years later, I still feel privileged to work with this group of individuals.  NLT’s Stewardship Department is one of the most respected in the country because the entire team brings complimentary skills and knowledge to the table.

Crow’s Nest: New directional sign helps you find us

Yesterday we installed a new sign on the corner of Piersol and Harmonyville Roads to direct people to our parking lot and visitor center barn.

Amazingly, after hours of planning, permitting, and designing, installing the sign took only about five minutes from unloading it from the trailer to planting it in the ground—though it took five of us to lift it. That’s also not including the hour I spent to dig the hole and another to fill it and tamp…

In this age of electronic navigation devices—not all of which accurately direct you here—an actual sign should help people find us.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on October 25, 2012.

Mariton: Tuesday Walk at Giving Pond

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Because of the road closure, we decided to head to Giving Pond for our Tuesday Walk.  What a great idea.  We counted over 42 species of birds, and had a great walk, even if there were a couple light showers. 

Immature Blackpoll Warbler by Carole Mebus.

Probably the highlight was an unidentified confusing fall warbler.  Fortunately, Carole Mebus and Ed Norman got several photos that were later emailed around for analysis.  We eventually came to the consensus that it was a first year male Blackpoll Warbler.  “They don’t call them Confusing  Fall Warblers for nothing.”

That was just one highlight, we saw several interesting species.  A Pied-billed Grebe.  Several hawks, including a Merlin, a Northern Harrier, and several Sharp-shinned.  We saw a Palm Warbler and Yellow-rumped Warblers.  The birding was great.  The fall colors were great.  And the company was wonderful.

Mariton: Sunnyside Road Closure Alert

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Williams Township has been working on Sunnyside Road this fall. The final project for this year will be replacing culverts that run under the road.  So, they plan to close Sunnyside Road tentatively on October 22 and 23 , between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. (above County Line Road East).  You won’t be able to drive up the road to Mariton during this period. 

This project may stretch into Wednesday.  If you are planning a trip to Mariton to walk the trails, it would be worth a call to check on the status of the road work. 

The Tuesday Nature Walk will be held at Giving Pond this week.  We will meet at the Giving Pond at 9:15 a.m.  If you would like to carpool from Riegelsville, call and I can tell you where we are meeting.

Mariton: Scatology

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

While it may not be breakfast conversation, checking animal scat is interesting.  It can tell us about the animals using our preserves.  It also tells us what they are eating, what fruits are ripe and what insects are abundant. 

This Coyote scat that I found in the Main Trail, tells me volumes.  For instance, I only find coyote scat about once every few months.  I don’t believe coyotes live at Mariton, but I do believe they visit occasionally as part of a large loop of hunting territory.  This was fairly fresh, less than a week old.  So, I know coyotes are moving (or have already passed) through.  If I find more in other locations at Mariton, I might think they spent a couple days here.

Without too much prying with a stick I found a jaw bone and other large bones of a meal.  The jaw bone wasn’t intact, but I thought it looked like a raccoon jaw.

Disclaimer:  Poking at scat isn’t so bad.  Just remember to wash your hands with soap and water.  And Don’t, DON’T, DON’T play with raccoon scat.  Raccoon feces can contain thousands of microscpic eggs from a roundworm (Baylisascaris prosyonis) that can be really dangerous if inhaled or entering a cut.  Raccoons can have some other nasty parasites.  What are the chances?  I don’t know, however, I don’t poke raccoon scat anymore.

Crow’s Nest: Saturated fall color

Here’s a few photos from Crow’s Nest this weekend:

The hickory trees are a bright, clear yellow and many of the oaks (above) are a flash of orange. The red maples (below) and sassafras still look great, and now the maple-leafed viburnums (Viburnum acerfolium) are also wonderful ranging from pink to maroon.

Here’s our wolf poplar near the barn surrounded by the yellows of spicebush, ironwood, and a few beech saplings:

Trees form a tunnel over Piersol Road where it runs through the preserve.

On my travels this week (to Hamburg, to give a talk at a workshop for the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society, and to Carlisle, for a Stewardship Staff retreat at our Reineman Wildlife Sanctuary) I saw some breathtaking fall color on the Blue Mountain ridges at both places.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on October 20, 2012.


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