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Archive for March, 2013

Green Hills: Botanical Research

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This week we laid out study plots at Green Hills Preserve for plant community surveys. We are excited that former Natural Lands Trust board member Dr. Ann Rhoads will be conducting plant inventories in a series of plots in a wetland at Green Hills (she is also the recent Senior Scientist in Botany at Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania and author, with Tim Block, of The Plants of Pennsylvania).

With GIS analyst Megan Boatright (above) Ann is laying out randomized quadrats along three transects according to a research protocol developed by ecologist (and also NLT board member) Dr. Roger Latham. The layout is designed to capture sites at various elevations (and therefore hydrology) in the wetland while still ensuring sites are randomly chosen. We can verify the randomness of the sites since some were located in thorny thickets of raspberry that no one would otherwise choose to enter.

The rebar will be left in place so that Ann can revisit each quadrat through the season and over multiple years to track community changes. As with other research projects we ask that visitors not disturb the study site or markers.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on March 30, 2013.

Crow’s Nest: The Force

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Members of our volunteer team, the Force of Nature, toured Crow’s Nest this week to talk about current and upcoming projects. Two years of Force of Nature volunteers are represented, 2012 and 2013. From left to right: Jodi Stancato, Jim Moffett, Jason Dolfi, volunteer coordinator Angela Michie, Dave Sautter, and Nancy Toothaker. Other volunteers joining the Force of Nature at Crow’s Nest this year but not pictured: Jean Shervais and Matthew and Suzanne Roberson. We are thrilled that these highly trained volunteers have chosen to work at Crow’s Nest and look forward to the coming year working with them.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on March 29, 2013.

Crow’s Nest: Making lemonade with lemons, or, the onion snow…

 

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This is a small meadow at Crow’s Nest in which we would normally be conducting a prescribed burn in late March. That, and several other projects planned for this week, is not happening any time soon.

But over the winter some storm-damaged trees had fallen into this meadow, a wet site into which we can’t take the tractor or other equipment, so we have been cutting up the trees into firewood and carrying them out to the road by hand (we give away the firewood to neighbors). There remained many large chunks that we just couldn’t carry.

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Enter the onion snow (a late March snow; neighbor Jack just rototilled his garden this weekend and planted onions).  Add the Flexible Flyer from my childhood, safely stored in our basement lo these many years. I whisked it out of the house with only mild protestations from our four-year-old. The snow made it possible to move the heavy loads with minimal damage to the surrounding woods.

We told intern Aubrey (who is from Phoenix, Arizona) that this is what we call sledding in the northeast; I don’t think she believed that. Or maybe we looked out the window and said, “Whee, it’s snowing! Let’s go sledging!”

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In any case we had a good time moving log sections on the sled, and now the meadow is ready to be managed with a prescribed fire—as soon as the snow melts and the surface grasses dry out again.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on March 25, 2013.

 

 

Crow’s Nest: Go fly a kite!

We held our summer camp reunion this weekend and were happy to see so many campers again. We went on hikes, flew kites (something we can do in March but not July), toasted s’mores over a fire, and watched movies from last summers’ camps.

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It won’t be long now… see you this summer!

Posted by Daniel Barringer on March 25, 2013.

Mariton: Rewards

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Cummins Creek, Pike County

If you watch television at all you will be bombarded with rewards.  You can receive rewards for using a certain credit card, or flying a certain airline.  Rewards for you phone, and rewards for your calling plan.  But, let me tell you a little something about REWARDS.

Haycock Township, Bucks County

I have the greatest job in the world (at least it is for me), and am constantly rewarded by the things that I find, people I meet, and stunning scenery.  This winter as I monitored conservation easements I was again humbled by listening to the stories of those who protected their property using a conservation easement as the tool. 

Williams Township, Northampton County

Their stories are different, but similar.  In most cases, the people setting up the easement discovered something special about their land.  It could have been seeing a Pileated Woodpecker, or finding bear tracks in their woods.  It could have been a special sunset.  It could have been watching native brook trout spawning in their little feeder stream.  In many cases, that discovery led to a spiritual connection to the land. 

Turkeys in Pike County

The discovery that they had something special led them to consider options to protect it for future generations.  Fortunately, Natural Lands Trust was there to provide the know how to help them through the process.  And setting up a conservation easement is a process, but these people were still willing to go through with it.  “It was just the right thing to do.” is something I hear over and over again from landowners. 

Stone Wall, Pike County

So, if you want to talk about real world rewards, you have to talk about the landowners that set up conservation easements to protect these special places for wildlife.  For the creeks that flow through them.  For the hillsides that are protected from erosion.  And finally for the people that find refuge and solace there – now and in the future.

Silver Creek, Bucks County

What is even more inspiring, most of these landowners talk about how rewarding it is for them to have the easement and know that their special place will be special for others as time goes by.  Now that is a REWARDS program.

Skunk Cabbage, Williams Township, Northampton County

Crow’s Nest: Spring WebWanderers, WebWalkers, WebWigglers!

The spring sessions of our kids’ outdoor web-programs have started… though for the moment it’s more like winter. The kids don’t mind!

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Posted by Daniel Barringer on March 23, 2013.

Crow’s Nest: Deer research

This winter Pennsylvania Game Commission biologists are conducting a study of deer survival rates and causes of their death. They will be live-trapping deer at various locations throughout our region, releasing them immediately with ear tags and a few with radio collars. The radio collars will allow them to know where a deer travels while it is alive; the ear tags will give biologists information when they are turned in regardless of the cause of death.

Crow’s Nest, Stroud, Green Hills, and other Natural Lands Trust preserves are sites that will likely be used over the next few weeks. If netting traps are used there will be an interpretive sign explaining what is going on, and the netting will only be deployed by PGC researchers when the deer can immediately be released. If you see a research site please do not disturb it. Most of the activity will be taking place at night.

Please feel free to contact us with questions, 610-286-7955.

 

Mariton: Spring Cleaning

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Bluebirds Ready to Fledge

It is time to clean out your bluebird boxes in preparation for the upcoming season.  Emptying your nest boxes of last year’s nests is an important step to getting bluebirds and other cavity nesting birds to utilize the boxes you provide.  Other cavity nesters that are great to have in our backyards include Tree Swallows, Chickadees, Titmice and House Wrens.  If the birds find a box full of debris, they will waste valuable energy cleaning out before building their nest.  Or, they just might decide to nest somewhere else. 

In case you need more incentive to get out there soon; last year we had bluebirds nesting by March 20 at the Reineman Preserve.  While sometime in April is a more likely start date, it is important to get out there and clean those nest boxes now.

Crow’s Nest: Spring will come

Spring may be here, but it hasn’t felt like it much yet. This morning peepers call tentatively from wetlands surrounded by wet snow. They were more vocal last week when it was warmer. Wood frogs squabble in a couple wetlands here, but they too have been a little muted so far.

The mud is relentless, the wind blows strong, and so far only alder catkins count as the first of native spring blooms. Snow still appears in the forecast. So here’s a reminder that spring will eventually come, followed by summer.

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Posted by Daniel Barringer on March 21, 2013.

Crow’s Nest Bird Surveys

Volunteers Scott Stollery and Nikki Flood have been conducting bird surveys at Crow’s Nest Preserve for several years and are gathering data for a seasonal guide to birds here. Scott and Nikki contribute the following:

It has been another productive winter of bird surveys at Crow’s Nest, and, now that we are on the cusp of spring, we have had some particularly interesting observations. On March 11, a huge gaggle of wild turkey were seen foraging in a field near the refurbished barn. There were approximately 71 wild turkey observed, which is by far the largest number ever seen at Crow’s Nest. A quality control volunteer on eBird also believed that it was one of the larger flocks ever reported in Chester County. It truly was a sight to see, but, like always, the elusive wild turkey have moved on, and they have not been seen since. It is amazing that birds of that size can be such enigmas as to where they are at any given moment.

Also on March 11, we began monitoring for American woodcock breeding displays on the property. These displays are done by males in order to attract a mate, and are a fascinating and beautiful rite of spring. The males fly high in the sky, their wings making all sorts of interesting noises, and then they dive-bomb back down to earth with the hope that the female likes what she sees. I am happy to report that we have a strong population of American woodcock at Crow’s Nest. We had detections of these breeding displays in various suitable parts of the property, and we will continue to monitor where they are setting up territories into spring.

It is always exhilarating to see the early migrants start to appear on the property. On March 15, we detected our first eastern phoebes of the year on the Hopewell Trail off of Bethesda Road. Two birds were seen foraging together and quietly calling. The next day, we found another eastern phoebe in shrubs near French Creek. Another exciting observation was two eastern meadowlark that were seen foraging in a grassy field. We had not detected meadowlarks on the property since the fall of 2008, so it was wonderful to see them again. We do not have any evidence of meadowlarks breeding at Crow’s Nest, so most likely they were just passing through on their way to their chosen breeding grounds. But that is what makes Crow’s Nest such a viable spot for birds. Whether the birds are breeding here, or are year round locals, or just passing through for a quick meal, Crow’s Nest offers abundant and diverse habitat to cater to the various needs of the avian community.

Our surveys will continue through the spring and will culminate in a bird checklist for the preserve in July of 2013. This checklist will serve as a guide for what birds have been seen on the property, and when. Be on the lookout for that! But in the meantime, enjoy everything that Crow’s Nest has to offer, and expect to see interesting things whenever you get a chance to visit!

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