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Archive for June, 2013

Crow’s Nest: Camp Week One

This week we had a great bunch of kids at camp and we managed to dodge the many thunderstorms that rolled through. Appropriately enough the theme this week was water: Nature’s Plumbing.

In the barn the kids got a chance to be water molecules being pulled up inside a giant plant stem via capillary action:

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Down at the creek they acted out the water cycle, evaporating and then precipitating back down the sliding board:

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The water extravaganza included, of course, a water balloon toss.

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There was time to play in the woods.

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Among the discoveries there was this yellow-spotted salamander:

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In the barn the kids built rafts out of recycled materials: old boards, milk jugs, and mesh laundry bags.

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They really float! This is the regatta on French Creek.

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We also went on small group hikes. Mine went to visit the goats and calves. Here Duffy enjoys the attention.

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Posted by Daniel Barringer on June 29, 2013.

 

Crow’s Nest: Tiny toads

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This week on the trails along the creek we have been seeing hundreds of tiny toads, no bigger than houseflies. They are probably similar in size to the ones we raised from tadpoles in a tank, but because they’re out in the much larger world they just seem so small. They give me pause, not just to scrutinize my next step, but to ponder the wonder of their lives.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on June 25, 2013.

 

Mariton: Striped Hairstreak Butterfly

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

MEBUS StripedHairstreakMaritonFieldButterflyCount0622

Striped Hairstreak

We saw a Striped Hairstreak (Satyrium liparops) on the Butterfly Census on Saturday!  Not only was this a new sighting for Mariton, but it was a new sighting for everyone there.  What a great find.  Imagine our surprise when Virginia located another Striped Hairstreak on Tuesday’s Butterfly Walk. 

Saturday was a good day.  We counted 19 species and 202 butterflies.  Cabbage Whites were the most abundant on the count.  Looking back over the records, they are often the most abundant, but not always.

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Great Spangled Fritillary

We counted 38 Great-spangled Fritillaries, a close second.  These are very common at Mariton, and very beautiful. 

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Silver-spotted Skipper

Silver-spotted Skippers were also very abundant. I always find it strange that this species is so abundant at Mariton.  The main food for the caterpillars is Black Locust.  We don’t have any of those trees on the property, and the nearest ones that I know of are about a mile away. 

If you like butterflies, the milkweed and butterfly weed is prime at Mariton right now.  Butterflies are abundant.  And if you look closely you may see a Striped Hairstreak.

Mariton: Trails Are Open!

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Mariton’s trails are open again.  The operation to remove the downed timber from Hurricane Sandy has been completed.  We are still fine tuning trails, but things are getting back to normal. 

Please keep in mind that some new skid roads were built in order to move logs during the process.  These skid trails are not open to the public.  We will allow them grow back into forest.  These areas will soon revert to rich habitat for Mariton’s wildlife.   Our present trail system provides blocks of undisturbed areas for wildlife.  These mini-refuges within the Sanctuary are an important component of Mariton’s attraction for both wildlife and visitors.  We don’t want to reduce that size of those areas by adding new trails.  Please stay on the existing trail system.

I am more aware than anyone of how different Mariton’s forest looks.  It can be shocking and disorienting to see so much open sky where there were once trees shading the trail.  Yet, every time I walk through our meadows, I am reminded how much this hill wants to revert to forest.  I mowed three of the meadows in March and they already have tree saplings that are knee high.  Many of these baby trees will be over my head by autumn.  The stone walls also tell the story of farm fields that quite successfully reverted to mature forest with no help from humans.   Likewise, the areas of the blow downs will return to forest.  With a little wise management that conversion will happen quite quickly – even on human scales.  The change will be a flash in forest time.

Great American Backyard Campout

No matter where you are, this weekend is the Great American Backyard Campout. Get outside and get a different perspective on things. See you outside.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on June 20, 2013.

Crow’s Nest: Getting a break in the weather

It has been raining a lot lately and that has posed some challenges for land management. Not only can we not mow trails or lawns, but everything grows faster. We can’t get equipment out on the land without damaging wet soils. There’s still plenty to keep us busy but it’s easy to get behind schedule on the summer’s work. (And, Crow’s Nest Camp starts next week!)

We got a break on Monday and Natural Lands Trust arborist Tom Kershner came out to take down a tree that had died next to the springhouse on Northside Road. Tom pruned this tree many years ago and we have watched it gradually age and decline. It is close to the road and probably had poor root development, but generally had just reached its time. We had planned to remove it over the winter but bad weather had forced rescheduling then.

This spring only two branches leafed out, so we knew we couldn’t wait until next winter. (Tom has a little more time to do tree work during that season, as he also has Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve, among other Natural Lands Trust lands, to manage.)

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Tom did an excellent job with the tree removal. We chipped the brush into our trailer and will use the chips in the kids’ play area in the woods near the visitor center barn. We’ll give away the firewood. And we’ll replant another tree somewhere nearby.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on June 19, 2013.

Mariton: Common Yellowthroat

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Carole Mebus

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The Common Yellowthroat is one of the warblers that we look forward to seeing when it returns in spring.  The male’s bright color and Lone Ranger mask is visually striking.  The witchity witchity witchity song is loud, recognizable and pleasing.  This can be a tough species to see in the spring.  They favor brushy habitats and hide easily in tangles of vines and branches. 

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During nesting season, however, they often sing in the open.  Our best views of this bird come in June, once butterfly season starts.  On our Butterfly Walk, we saw several different Common Yellowthroats.  One pair in particular caught our attention as they kept returning to one specific location along the trail. 

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When we reached that location, I moved some vegetation and looked down to find their baby perched on a seedling.  We paused long enough to take some photos and then walked away.  The nest was close and probably hidden by the dense vegetation, so we watched our steps very carefully.

Crow’s Nest: Woodland path

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We have started laying stepping stones on a path through a wet spot in the woods behind the visitor center. It’s not an official trail and does not appear on the trail map but it does connect the kids’ play area in the woods with the southern part of the preserve, avoiding the need to cut out to the road to get there.

The project was started by the teenagers who have aged out of our summer camp; since then staff, volunteers, and interns have been adding to it as stone has been available. Some of the stone is left over from a building restoration elsewhere on the preserve. Not all the stone has been set in place yet, and there are still some muddy spots on the way there, but it is much improved over the wet spots we had before. Frankly, the kids never seemed to mind walking through the mud but this path will limit the trampling to only a narrow treadway.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on June 16, 2013.

 

Stroud Preserve: Ferns

By Russell Rogers, Stroud volunteer

Spring is a time when most people look forward to seeing the explosion of colors of all the wildflowers and songbirds of our area. One look at a singing Yellow Warbler or a hillside full of Virginia bluebells, and the gray doldrums of our long winters suddenly become a distant memory. One reason these vibrantly colored elements of our countryside stand out so well is that they are cast against a sea of green. With so many brightly colored things to catch our eye this time of year, it can be easy to look past the vast variety of trees, grasses, sedges and ferns that serve as their background.

Ferns, and their allies, including horsetails, adder’s tongue and royal ferns, are an incredibly diverse group of plants found in just about every habitat type in Pennsylvania. The Stroud Preserve is a great place to see many of these, most of which are easily viewable from the preserves many trails.

From the Creek Road parking lot it is a very short walk to what is probably the preserve’s most strange and interesting fern, the Purple cliffbrake. It can be found growing on the stone walls of the bridge that goes over the East Fork of Brandywine Creek.

Pellaea atropurpurea

Purple cliffbrake Pellaea atropurpurea (L.) Link

This fern is fairly uncommon and found only in the eastern portion of the state. Ferns, having neither flowers nor seeds, reproduce via spores that are held and released from the underside of a fern’s leaves. Only some of a fern’s leaves carry the spores. At first glance, it is difficult to tell which of a fern’s fronds bear the spore-producing leaves (“fertile” leaves/fronds), and which fronds are non-spore-producing (“sterile”). The Purple cliffbrake’s fertile and sterile leaves, however, are so different in shape and color that, if it weren’t for their proximity to each other, you would think the fronds belonged to separate plants. That is to say, Purple cliffbrake exhibits “frond dimorphism”. The Purple cliffbrake prefers limestone cliffs and other rocky outcrops and, occasionally, the stone walls of old barns and bridges. It is also unusual in the way of ferns because its fronds are evergreen and can be seen on the bridge year round.

Keep walking west down the road over the bridge, and on the right you will see a creek that has a large population of Sensitive ferns.

Onoclea sensibilis

Sensitive fern Onoclea sensibilis L.

Some people assume that, because of their name, they fold up like a Venus flytrap when you touch them, and that would be a truly remarkable thing if it were true. Unfortunately, it is not. In fact, it gets its name because it is sensitive to extremes in temperature. In the cold snap that we had the other week, these ferns lived up to their name –the following day, the new fronds were brown and shriveled up.

From here, choose any of the preserve’s trails through the woodlands, and you will almost certainly see Christmas and Lady ferns. They are by far the most commonly encountered ferns in the preserve. Like the Cliffbrake, the Christmas fern is green all year long. In contrast to the thick leathery leaves of the Christmas fern, the leaves of Lady ferns are light and wispy, indicating their ephemeral nature.      Polystichum acrostichoides                                 Christmas fern Polystichum acrostichoides

Athyrium filix-femina

Lady fern Athyrium filix-femina

Be sure also to keep an eye out for some of the lesser known and harder to find ferns like Rattlesnake fern, Long beech fern, and Evergreen wood-fern, all of which can be seen within several feet of the preserves trails.

Botrychium virginianumDryopteris intermediaPhegopteris connectillis

Rattlesnake fern                Long beech fern                Evergreen wood-fern

If you make your way around to the serpentine outcrop on the north side of the preserve, look closely in between the cracks in the rocks and you will see a few ebony spleenworts, one of the few ferns that can tolerate the serpentine environment. Lastly, don’t forget to take a broader look around. You might even see a vivid pink of a wild geranium or the neon orange of a Baltimore Oriole!

Asplenium platyneuron

Ebony spleenwort Asplenium platyneuron (L.) Britton, Stearns & Poggenb.

Staff Meeting at ChesLen Preserve

Yesterday we held our first staff meeting in the new Lenfest Center at ChesLen Preserve. It’s a beautiful space in a beautiful preserve, and we took advantage of the good weather to take a hayride to see a portion of the preserve and the Stargazers’ Stone. Molly Morrison and others presented information about the facility and events being planned there.

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Below, Diane Rosencrance discusses with Steve Longnecker the plantings that will grow around the arbor. Diane designed the planting and with some help planted it yesterday.

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If you would like to check out this space it will be opening to the public in a little more than a week. Sunday, June 16 will be the Lenfest Center Community Day. There will be building tours, preserve walks, refreshments, and activities for the whole family. This event is free and pre-registration is not necessary. Drop by anytime between 1:00-4:00 PM.

Lenfest Center Community Day is part of a weekend-long celebration of the completion of the facility and philanthropists Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest, whose generosity made the facility possible. An evening of cocktails, music, and star-gazing in the Lenfests’ honor will also be held at the Center on Saturday, June 15. Proceeds for the event will go to ChesLen-based land conservation efforts. For tickets and more information, click here.

The Lenfest Center provides offices and maintenance facilities for the preserve’s management staff, as well as gathering spaces for visitors, volunteers, and local community groups.

 

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