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Archive for May, 2013

Mariton: Trails Closed

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

I have closed all of the trails temporarily .  The salvage logging operation is winding down and all of the trails leading away from the center are being used by equipment.  The trails are rough and muddy, and there is a good chance that you would encounter heavy equipment on any of the trails at this point. 

After things calm down, and we are able to grade  and seed trails, we will open again.  Hopefully, the weather will cooperate with restoring the trails. 

In the meantime, we plan to continue scheduled programs like the Butterfly Walks and Censuses.

Mariton: Birding at Lake Nockamixon

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Carole Mebus.

Our last Bird Walk of the spring was held at Lake Nockamixon State Park.  The weather forecast was once again ominous, but I thought we could get in two hours by tolerating some light rain.  I really wanted to visit this location with the group.  First, it is a good place to see Prairie Warblers.  Second, it was our last hope to actually see the elusive White-eyed Vireo. 

MEBUS CedarWaxwingFishingPierNockamixonSP0528

Cedar Waxwing

We had a great start to the morning when we saw several Cedar Waxwings.  Of course they posed on the top of cedar trees, but we got several eye-level views of them also.  Considering how active they were, we really didn’t hear their high pitched calls.  

 MEBUS EasternKingbirdFishingPierNockamixonSP0528-3

We also had a couple Kingbirds (above) perch at eye level only a few feet away. 

 The rain picked up sooner than I had hoped, but we still braved an open meadow and got a glance at a Pileated Woodpecker flying by.  A Yellow Warbler also appeared for a moment.  This is where the White-eyed Vireo started singing.  Only Bill saw the vireo before it disappeared again. 

 MEBUS PrairieWarblerFishingPierNockamixonStatePark0528

Everyone, however, got to finally see a Prairie Warbler (above) at the end of the walk.  (We heard them singing all morning.)  The song is a buzzy series of notes that chromatically climbs the scale.  Since they reside in brushy areas, it is often tough to see them in the tangles, but this one gave the group several views.

We usually end the birding series with a picnic lunch.  Fortunately, there was a covered picnic area where we could eat and watch a pair of Bluebirds on a nearby nest box.  Looking back on the five walks, we really saw a good representation of species, shared a lot of information, and found some dynamite places to go birding.

Crow’s Nest: Latest blooms

Here are a few of the plants blooming over the last couple weeks to now. In the Deep Woods there is some spring cress, Cardamine bulbosa.


The maple-leaf viburnum, Viburnum acerfolium, is just beginning to flower now.


On our Monocacy Hill (across from our visitor center barn) deerberry, Vaccineum stamineum, is in flower. Here are two photos, the second is a closeup from underneath the pendant flowers.



In any of the woods you can find false Solomon’s seal, Maienthemum racemosum (formerly Smilacina racemosa), below. Its flowers are in a terminal panicle, in contrast to “regular” Solomon’s seal (bottom photo).


The stem and leaves of Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum biflorum) may look similar but its flowers are borne under the leaf axils.


Posted by Daniel Barringer on May 25, 2013.


Mariton: Memorial Day Weekend

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

The Nature Center will be closed this weekend. 

There are several trail closures due to Hurricane Sandy, and the clean-up effort.  Trails are closed with Caution Tape.  Do not enter these areas.

The Spruce and Kit Trails remain closed. 

The Squeeze Trail and the entire Turnpike Trail are also closed again.    

The South Fox Trail and Main Trail have been reopened, but there are some muddy patches on both.

The loggers cleaning the area have been working very hard to get in and out quickly so that Mariton can resume normal operations.  It is hard to remember 6 months after the fact, how long it took just to make local roads passable.  Likewise, it took months to clear trails here at Mariton.  That was just emergency work with the goal of getting things moving again.  The salvage effort is a much larger project of cleaning up some of those dmaged areas.   Please bear with us a little longer.

Glades Wildlife Refuge: the Remarkable Red Knot’s Stay at Raybins Beach

By Kirsten Werner, Director of Communications; photos by Brian Johnson, Preserve Manager

In the 1920s, Rear Admiral Richard Byrd made aviation history with his flights over both the North and South Poles, earning him medals and accolades. But a different bird—one weighing less than an iPhone—is the real master of long-distance flight. With one of the longest migration paths in the animal kingdom, the Red Knot flies nearly pole to pole and back every year of its life.

Red Knot for blogRed Knots are migratory shorebirds in the sandpiper family. They spend their winters in Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost point of South America, wading along the tidal beaches to forage for clams and other mollusks. But when February arrives, these birds embark on a journey to their spring breeding grounds above the Arctic Circle. Traveling in flocks of thousands, the Robin-sized birds fly more than 9,300 miles to lay their eggs in shallow nests built on the sparsely vegetated tundra.

About halfway along their spring trek, the Red Knots make a critical stopover to Delaware Bay to refuel before continuing on. In fact, an estimated 90 percent of the entire species population can be found on the Bay in a single day. The birds arrive near emaciation and spend about two weeks feeding, gaining up to 10 percent of their body weight each day, until they are able to resume their trip to the Arctic.

A key component of the Red Knot diet is the eggs of Atlantic horseshoe crabs and Delaware Bay is home to the largest population of these prehistoric creatures. Every May and June, in a coincidence of timing that only nature could orchestrate, hundreds-of-thousands of horseshoe crabs leave the ocean depths to spawn on the moonlit beaches. The eggs, full of fat and protein, are the ideal fuel for hungry Red Knots, which have lost up to half their body weight by the time they arrive at the Delaware Bay.

Most of the eggs the birds consume have been damaged or disturbed by waves and storms, so their ravenous feeding does not have a significant adverse affect on the breeding success of the crabs. These remarkable creatures—more related to scorpions or ticks than crabs—have evolved little over the last 250 million years. Yet they have survived thanks in part to their hard, curved shells, which make it difficult for predators to overturn them and expose their vulnerable underbellies, their tolerance of extremes in water temperature and salinity, and their ability to go more than a year without eating.

However, the population of horseshoe crabs has declined. Over the last hundred years, millions of these animals have been harvested: used for fertilizer and hog fodder; as bait for eel, conch, and whelk; or for biomedical research. And loss of spawning habitat as coastlines are developed has also taken its toll on the species. Between 1990 and 2005, the number of horseshoe crabs plummeted by nearly 90 percent, leaving migrating Red Knots without enough food to survive their journey north.

This picture has been enlarged to show the horseshoe crab egg (the silver object) in the beak below the Red Knot.

States began regulating horseshoe crab harvests in the late 1990s. Currently, there is a harvest moratorium in place in New Jersey and tight restrictions on annual harvests in the state of Delaware. Volunteer surveys indicate that the population of horseshoe crabs in Delaware Bay has stopped declining, but only time will tell if this action was taken in time for the remarkable birds that depend on them. The Red Knot is listed by the Fish and Wildlife Service as a Bird of Conservation Concern and considered a Continentally Threatened Species. Recently, it has been named as a “Candidate” for the Endangered Species List.

Around this time of year, Raybins Beach, located within Natural Lands Trust’s Glades Wildlife Refuge, is one of the best locations for spotting these birds and spawning horseshoe crabs. Please do not walk on the beach when shorebirds are present and, as always, keep dogs on a leash. You are welcome to study them from a distance with binoculars or a spotting scope.

Glades Wildlife Refuge is an expanse of diverse landscapes: vast tidal marshes, wooded wetlands and uplands, beaches along the Delaware Bay, and a remarkable old-growth forest. By preserving this 7,500-acre property, Natural Lands Trust is, in-turn, helping to protect horseshoe crabs, Red Knots, and other species that rely on its special habitats for their survival.

Group shot (of birds) for RedKnot blog

Believe it or not, besides the Seagull, there are five species of birds in this photo taken at Raybins Beach. Can you spot them all?

Crow’s Nest: Weekend events

It may be a holiday weekend, but there are still events going on at Crow’s Nest Preserve. Tomorrow the Philadelphia Botanical Club will be visiting Crow’s Nest to do some careful surveys of plants here. Over several visits during the last few years the Club has been looking at one section of the preserve at a time to do a comprehensive inventory.

On Sunday evening the Chesmont Astronomy Club will be holding their monthly meeting at Crow’s Nest. The speaker will be William D. Hanagan, Jr., PhD, President of the Delaware Astronomical Society and Technical Associate for the Mt. Cuba Observatory. The topic is part one of a two-part program about addressing optical errors that can occur with telescopes. Also Sunday evening there will be a presentation on the “Galaxy Illusions” Advanced Observing Program and Highlights of the Texas Star Party.

This weekend will also be a good time to get outside and enjoy the preserve with your family!

Posted by Daniel Barringer on May 24, 2013.

Mariton: Little Chickadees

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Chickadee Hatching 5/12/13

In the above photo, you can see some baby chickadees.  If you look closely, you will see the egg on the bottom  is split.  The chick was actually hatching when I monitored the box. 

 Week Old Chickadees

These Chickadees hatched last week.  You can see the difference a week makes in development.  There are still four eggs in this nest, but it is unlikely that they will hatch at this point. 

 Tree Swallow Nest 5/22/13

There are three Tree Swallow nests with eggs like the one above.  They should start hatching this week. 

 We lost two broods of Bluebirds two weeks ago, when we had the frost.   I don’t know if the cold weather was the cause, but don’t lose hope.  Last year a similar thing happened and the pairs re-nested successfully.

Mariton: Birding at Jacobsburg

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Carole Mebus.

MEBUS MaritonBirdersEndOfTheWalk0521   

Our morning bird walk at Jacobsburg State Park started with fog, and ended up with sunshine and steam.  We had a great morning of birding.  There were lots of Indigo Buntings.  When the sun broke out their blue was breath taking. 

MEBUS BlueWingedWarblerJacobsburgSP0521-Notsinging

Blue-winged Warbler

Blue-winged warblers were also very vocal, but it is sometimes hard to find them.  We had one male cooperate and sing from the end of a dead tree.  It was pretty far away, but it stayed there for quite awhile and everyone got to watch it singing.  I think watching a bird sing, is a good way to imprint the call on your mind.    

A Common Yellowthroat had everyone’s attention as it flitted in a tangle.  There was also a White-eyed Vireo nearby which I searched for without success.

MEBUS GreatCrestedFlycatcherJacobsburgSP0521

Great-crested Flycatcher

A Great Crested Flycather was pretty cooperative.  I like this photo because it shows all the feeler feathers around the beak that help the flycatcher catch its prey while in flight.

We also saw lots of Baltimore Orioles, and a couple Scarlet Tanagers.

MEBUS EasternTowheeJacobsburgSP0521

This Eastern Towhee looks pretty happy.  This species used to be called Rufous-sided Towhee.  I understand the need to change names as we learn more about species, especially with advances in DNA testing, but Rufous-sided was so descriptive.

We got lucky with the weather once again.  Next week we end our birding series at Lake Nockamixon State Park.

Saunders Woods: Lending a Hand

By Paul Claypoole, Preserve Manager

Spring has sprung, and with the arrival of fresh vegetation around the preserve, the interior of the community center in the lower barn at Saunders Woods Preserve received a fresh coat of paint.

Peter Grove, who has served on the board of Friends of Saunders Woods for the past two years, said at our last board meeting that he would like to freshen up the lower barn area as a volunteer project. The Board had been talking about having this job done but funds hadn’t been available, so we unanimously accepted Peter’s offer.

The Finished ProductSaunders Woods int. kitchen 1

When NLT accepted Dorothy Saunders’ donation of Saunders Woods, which was previously known as “Little Farm”, in 1988, we inherited the Saunders’ legacy of hospitality, particularly within the barn, which has housed local college students, horses, bike riders, and foreign exchange students over the decades. It is a legacy that we carry on with enthusiasm, and to that end, we have been offering the barn’s amenities—a full kitchen, bathrooms, and indoor/outdoor meeting and eating spaces—to community groups, for a nominal fee.

 The painting needed to be done when it was not freezing cold, since the barn is unheated, and before rentals started, so there was a tight schedule. Working with Steve Longenecker (Regional Building Supervisor) on scheduling and picking up supplies, Peter and his wife, Nancy, began painting in the last week of April and completed the project in the first week of May.

 The community center in the barn, which dates to the 1800s, now looks brand new. A big thank you to Peter and Nancy for their interest in making sure the barn looks its best and their excellent handiwork!


Green Futures Workshop – registration deadline tomorrow!

If you haven’t already registered for the Green Futures: Green Solutions to Stormwater Management— you still have a little time.

It’s a workshop about successful stormwater management projects that use natural solutions. Designed for municipal officials, facilities managers, and members of township Environmental Advisory Councils, the program will include case studies, ordinance language, and how to maintain natural infrastructure (the latter sounds like an oxymoron—but isn’t). Several presentations will be by Natural Lands Trust staff, including yours truly.

Oh, and it includes dinner, and is free. The event is next Thursday, May 30 from  5 – 9 pm and will be held at Montgomery County Community College – West Campus in Pottstown. The registration deadline has been extended to May 22. Check the link above.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on May 21, 2013.


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