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Archive for February, 2013

Willisbrook Preserve Workday

Today we had a Land Stewardship workday at Willisbrook Preserve, a site in Chester County that has globally-unique habitat on Serpentine Barrens. We were removing invasives from an outcrop of barrens above a parking lot on an adjacent landowner’s property. The site had once been used as a dump (so we still have to remove some demolition fill that comes from a time before our ownership) and had become overgrown with undesirable invasive species: shrub honeysuckle, autumn olive, buckthorn, crabapple, bittersweet, multiflora rose, and privet.


There is a fence at the base of the outcrop and we found it easiest to chainsaw the base of the shrubs and rotate them head-over-heels, over the fence and into the parking lot.



It is a very steep bank and not the easiest work.


Then we ran the brush through the chipper. This area will be cleared more to expose the unique serpentine soils and will likely be managed with prescribed fire. It looks a little messy right now but this is one of those cases, “To make an omelet…” It is turning the worst part of the preserve (literally, a dump) into a showcase of native grasslands.


Posted by Daniel Barringer on February 28, 2013.

Crow’s Nest: Orienteering for Beginners next weekend

The Delaware Valley Orienteering Association will be holding a beginner’s workshop on orienteering next Saturday, March 2, 2013 at Crow’s Nest Preserve at 10 am. Training indoors will be followed by a short beginner’s course outdoors at the preserve.

If you ever wanted to see what traditional orienteering, using maps and compass, is all about, this will be an excellent opportunity. The program is open to all ages and donations to DVOA are welcome. The indoor portion of the program will run about 45 minutes and then people can try the outdoor course which takes about an hour. The program is rain or shine; please dress for the weather.

For those wanting to explore Crow’s Nest Preserve and surrounding public lands in their choice of orienteering courses, the DVOA will be holding a full event on Sunday, April 21. For full events like the one in April, participants can start their courses anytime between 10 am and 1 pm and a small fee is charged. Beginners could take what they learn at the March 2 workshop and apply it at the April 21 event! Check out the DVOA website for more details.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on February 25, 2013.

Crow’s Nest: Chesmont Astronomical Society meeting

Last night we held another monthly Chesmont Astronomical Society meeting at Crow’s Nest Preserve. The meetings feature a speaker on a research subject of interest, or talks on the best hardware for observing celestial objects. The society also holds local star watching nights where anyone can come see the night skies through their telescopes.

Recently the group has been drawing upon speakers from a much larger geographic area, now possible due to technology. Last night’s speaker was Tom  Fields of Field Tested Systems in Seattle, Washington, speaking about Amateur Spectrascopy for Astronomy. He broadcast his presentation via the web; we could see him and he could see us—it was like he was in the room, but without the jet lag.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on February 25, 2013.

Crow’s Nest: Winter mowing of meadows

We’re about 90% finished our annual mowing of meadows at Crow’s Nest. A couple small ones remain to be mowed, and a couple are set aside to have prescribed fire this year. It took some weekend and holiday mornings, starting before first light, to get this done—but the benefit is seeing the distant hills light up as the rising sun hits them. The meadows need to be mowed when the ground is frozen, so typically days 25 degrees or less, preferably below 20 degrees F. And once the sun hits the fields the ground begins to soften and the tractor would make ruts. We never know how many more cold mornings we’ll get this winter so we try to make use of every one we can. Riding around on the tractor in the cold is, well, cold. You’re not moving around much except to shift and steer, so it’s a bit like sitting in a lawn chair reading a book in the middle of winter.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on February 24, 2013.

Crow’s Nest: Mid-Atlantic Center for Herpetology and Conservation

Last night Owen and I attended a lecture of the Berks County-based Mengel Natural History Society at Nolde Forest Environmental Education Center, on the subject of Pennsylvania Herptiles (reptiles and amphibians). Marlin Corn from the Mid-Atlantic Center for Herpetology and Conservation (MACHAC) discussed the conservation status of some rare species in our state. While many have declined, a few that were thought extirpated from the state have been rediscovered (but perhaps not in numbers that can sustain themselves).

MACHAC is working on a new citizen-science effort, the Pennsylvania Amphibian and Reptiles Atlas (PARS). Once it is online people will be able to submit their observations.

An interesting fact Marlin related is about a study in New Hampshire which measured the biomass of six species of salamanders (of which eastern red-backed salamanders comprised an overwhelming majority); it exceeded that for all birds present on the site during the nesting season and was similar to the biomass estimate for all small mammals (Burton and Likens, 1975a). If you have seen amphibian migrations on a “big night” in spring you would not be surprised by this statistic, as the forest around us comes alive with a teeming mass of migrating salamanders (for us, mainly yellow-spotted salamanders).

Speaking of which, it won’t be long now. Look out for the first night of rain in the 40’s in the next few weeks when salamanders leave upland woods and may be crossing roads to get to the wetlands where they breed. (Stay off the roads then, if you can, or offer to volunteer with local groups helping minimize the risk for amphibians crossing the roads.)

Posted by Daniel Barringer on February 23, 2013.

The Green Hills project day

Stewardship staff got together this week for a workday at blustery Green Hills, cutting down and removing from one site the invasive autumn olive and shrub honeysuckle that are closing in an open wetland and reducing its habitat value. They dragged the trunks out to the edge and ran them through the chipper. Many thanks to all for an impressive project. Before-and-after photos coming soon!

Posted by Daniel Barringer on February 22, 2013.

Green Hills Preserve in winter

We’re gearing up for a workday this week at Green Hills—to remove autumn olive and other invasives from a section of the preserve—and I snapped a few photos while scouting the project site:

We do a few group workdays each winter, when staff from all over can convene to knock out a large project. Here we’ll be using chainsaws to remove autumn olive, dragging it out to the closest place we can reach with the chipper, and chipping the shrubs onto trails and the woods edge. We’ll be doing a similar project on Serpentine barrens at Willisbrook Preserve the following week, weather permitting. By that we mean cold and dry; we need the ground frozen enough to get the truck and chipper in place. (These are the same conditions we need to mow meadows as well.) In winter sites like this are far more accessible than once summer’s growth starts.

While at Green Hills on Sunday a brief snow squall passed.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on February 18, 2013.

Crow’s Nest: Welcome, Aubrey!

Aubrey Smith has joined us at Crow’s Nest Preserve as a Land Stewardship and Environmental Education Intern. She is a recent graduate of the Longwood Gardens Professional Gardener Program, completed the Cooperative Extension Master Gardener Program and has worked at Desert Botanic Garden and The Arboretum at Flagstaff. She will be with us through summer camp. Welcome, Aubrey!

Posted by Daniel Barringer on February 16, 2013.

Crow’s Nest: It’s all melted now, but…

…here are some photos from this morning’s snow:







Posted by Daniel Barringer on February 14, 2013.

Crow’s Nest: WebWanderers, mud, & fun

Recent snows have not persisted and we have experienced a long mud season. This does not diminish the fun for the kids in any of our programs.

One group of WebWanderers slid along the Creek Trail to the new culvert yesterday and admired the hydrology of the creek there. Later in the hike Molly showed them an oak gall that had been raided for insects by a bird.

If you visit the preserve and are thinking about hiking the creek trail, bring your rubber boots (and pair of shoes to change into when you are finished).

Posted by Daniel Barringer on February 14, 2013.


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