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Archive for September, 2013

Mariton: Wildlife Kayak Trip

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

We had a wonderful Saturday morning in the kayaks on Lake Nockamixon.  When I put together my Events Schedule months in advance, I can think about what the weather might be like in the future.  I can imagine what birds might be migrating, and what animals might make an appearance.  But it is all just hope and luck when the day arrives.

Kayaking on Lake Nockamixon

Well, Maureen and I got really lucky with this trip.  The weather couldn’t have been better.  When we pulled up to the launch with the kayak trailer, an Osprey flew over us, and then we watched it dive into the water after a fish and fly off.  (I’m actually very optimistic, but figured that by the time the people arrived this osprey would be long gone.)  We unloaded the boats, and organized gear.  People started arriving and we greeted them and got their kayaks and PFDs fitted.  We hadn’t been on the water 10 minutes when I looked back to check on everyone and saw an Osprey flying low.  It flew over our group and then circled a time or two while we scrambled to get our cameras turned on and positioned.

What A Day!

We had a leisurely paddle and saw Great Blue Herons.  We stopped by the beaver lodge (where we got to see the beaver on our nighttime paddle two weeks ago – another stroke of luck).  There was a Painted Turtle sunning itself on the edge of the lodge.  Then someone noticed another; and another.

Sunbathing Turtles

We continued paddling up the channel and saw fish swimming and  two Green Herons.  We kayaked until it was too shallow to go further.  We got out there and stood in the cool, clear stream to stretch our legs and chat.  When we turned around and headed back there were dozens of photogenic turtles sunning themselves on every log and stump.  Everyone had fun taking pictures, and scanning through the lilies to find a turtle that someone had missed.

Bald Eagle Posing

I was talking to one of the ladies when she pointed asked what kind of hawk is that?  Up in the sky, I saw a large raptor with the broad flat wings and thought, “Oh my.”  I hedged for a second until it banked and sun shone on its white head.  A Bald Eagle!  It wasn’t super close, but everyone got to see it as it flew down the lake.  Then, a Bald Eagle flew directly towards us and landed in a tree above the water, about 30 yards away.  We were able to paddle by it and take lots of photos from a respectful distance.  As we paddled to the take out I wondered at my luck.

Crow’s Nest: Season’s Greetings (Autumn, that is)

I haven’t kept up with all the blooms that have exploded over the last month, and the preserve has been beautiful. Here are a few random recent photos. First, an updated picture of the ladies’ tresses orchid (Spiranthes cernua) I found last week. There still is, as far as I know, only one on the whole preserve:

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The fruit of false Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum racemosum) has turned a deep red:

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A walking-stick climbed up on intern Liz’s hat:

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Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) is now in its all-too-brief bloom:

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The fruit of  Jack-in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum) shines after the rest of the plant withers away…

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Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) can be found in fruit all over.

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Beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana) can be found in the deep woods:

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The fronds of New York fern (Thelypteris novaboracebnsis) glow in the shade of the woods along our Hopewell Trail.

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Posted by Daniel Barringer on September 25, 2013.

 

Mariton: Annual Reception

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

The Annual Reception for the Friends of Mariton is scheduled at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, October 5.  This is a chance of members to gather and chat.  Light refreshments like wine and cheese and dessers will be served.

Turnpike Clean up Before

This year I will be presenting a slide program about Hurricane Sandy effects at Mariton.  I have been assembling before, during, and after photos of the clean up.  Hurricane Sandy was a major event at Mariton.  It is worthwhile to take a look back and see the progression through the last 11 months, as well as a look at future goals.

Turnpike Clean up After

If you plan to attend, please let me know.  It will help us with food preparation.

Crow’s Nest: Found, Lost, Found Again

We’re not talking about my mind, here, though sometimes I wonder.

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I found nodding ladies’ tresses orchid here for the first time in years. Above is a snapshot from my phone of the only plant I could find in one of our wet meadows. It’s probably Spiranthes cernua, but I’ll want to take a closer look as the flowers open.

Below is a scan of a 35mm slide from the last time I photographed ladies’ tresses orchid here, back in 1998—before we had a digital camera. The film was developed in September but the season (and the flower bloom) was further along that year.

Spiranthes - ladies tresses orchid - close - 269

Posted by Daniel Barringer on September 18, 2013.

Mariton: Moonlight Magic

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

The Moonlight Kayak Trip on Saturday night was excellent. ( I had doubts earlier in the day.)  The skies turned cloudy and winds really picked up on Saturday afternoon.  The temperature was already chilly and forecasted to drop into the low 40’s overnight.  I was having second thoughts about doing the trip.  But I looked at the satellite imagery and projected that the clouds would lift and the winds would drop.  (A heavy cloud bank is a problem when you are relying on the moon for light.)  It was going to be cold, but I contacted people and reminded them to dress warmly.

 Conrad at Sunset

The clouds were breaking up when everyone arrived at the launch at Lake Nockamixon.  They were all excited and dressed appropriately, so I dismissed my doubts about the conditions.  By the time we got everyone on the water, the wind had dropped.  The group headed towards the sunset that reflected off the remaining clouds.   We saw Great-blue Herons along the shore and small flocks of Wood Ducks whistled over us as we paddled.  We hung out awhile at the end of the cove and chatted before heading back toward the bridge.

Lake Nockamixon at Sunset

As we passed under the bridge the last of the sunlight faded, the clouds disappeared and we paddled towards the moon on glass smooth water.  It was magical.  The moon lighted our way, and the stars got brighter.  We heard a Great-horned Owl and later on a Screech Owl.  We would paddle for 15 minutes then gather up for a few minutes.  Then paddle a little more, etc.

Considering our leisurely pace, we traveled quite a ways on the lake.  When we returned to the shore, everyone helped organize and load the kayaks back into the trailer.  Even though it was cold, it was a wonderful night to be on the lake.  Sometimes even I forget that time spent outdoors is always worth the time.

Just Before Dark

Mariton: Chestnut Walk

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

 Mike Manes on Chestnut Walk

Mike and Kieu Manes led a Chestnut Walk at Mariton on Saturday.  Over the past few years, they have been locating and documenting Chestnut Trees at many locations, including Mariton for The American Chestnut Foundation.

The American Chestnut was a marvelous tree that all but disappeared from our landscape due to a fungal blight that entered the continent in the early 1900’s.  Very few people are still around to recall when Chestnuts were the dominant tree in forests along the Appalachian Range.  So, it would be easy to write off the loss as one more species gone.  However, there are still American Chestnuts in our forests that continue to re-sprout from ancient root stock.  In most cases those sprouts will get the blight and die off, but the root will send up another sprout.  There are a few American Chestnut sprouts at Mariton that have been re-sprouting for close to 100 years.   Imagine the potential if we could find a way to inoculate sprouts to help them withstand the blight.

The American Chestnut Foundation has spent a lot of time with a breeding program to breed the blight out of an almost pure strain of American Chestnut.  Right now we have five tree seedlings at Mariton that are 15/16 American Chestnut that should be blight resistant.  Both programs offer hope for the future of American Chestnuts returning to our forests.  The propagation program is exciting, yet I continue to think of all the sprouts out there in our forests just waiting for a chance to grow old enough to flower and produce nuts again.  The story of the American Chestnut is just one more reason that we should protect our relic forests.

Imagine a hope chest built from lumber of a 21st century American Chestnut tree.  Now that is hope.

Wildlife Watching

by Tim Burris, Mariton Preserve Manager

Maureen and camped over Labor Day north of Williamsport.  Several families come up for the weekend and we shared campfires with some close friends.  We had a couple work projects to do on the club grounds.  But most of the time was spent visiting around the campfire and enjoying the wonderful scenery.  In the past, we’ve seen bears walk across the meadow where we camp.  No bear this year, but we did watch a large porcupine cross the field one afternoon.   

One evening we were sitting around our campfire, we were watching the bats fly over the meadow.  Two shapes flew over our tents.  Before I could comprehend the weird shapes, my buddy said, “Those are woodcocks!”  Absolutely.  I’ve had a few woodcocks explode from my feet while walking in the woods (talk about heart stopping).  I have watched their courtship dance many times.  But seeing them fly nonchalantly across the field took me by surprise.

One of the neatest things that we saw was a dragonfly migration. Like Monarch butterflies a few species of dragonflies also migrate in the fall.  If I had ever seen a dragonfly migration, I didn’t recognize it before this past weekend.  The sky above the little field where we camp was filled with dragonflies large and small.  It really was an amazing sight.  With a little reading, I learned that dragonflies usually migrate in the same weather that spurs hawk migrations.  For us, that would be northwest winds ahead of a weather front.

Lightning Show

by Tim Burris, Mariton Preserve Manager

Over Labor Day, Maureen and I were camping north of Williamsport, PA.  We are members of a sportsmen’s club in Marsh Hill and camp on the grounds several times during the summer.  We camp in a little meadow that is ringed my mountains.  It is a very beautiful setting and we can watch all sorts of wildlife right from our tents.  Saturday night we were treated to a lightning show like I have never seen before. 

The show lasted about an hour and a half, but we never got rain.  Most of the activity was a couple mountains over and they were probably deluged.  I feel sorry for the people living in the heart of the storm.  It must have been harrowing.  We watched bolts of lightning shoot up from the top of a mountain and split into half a dozen branches.

We also saw what looked like fireballs in the clouds that traveled upwards at an angle.  Some of these balls of light broke out of the clouds into lightning bolts that branched off many times.

Finally we saw at least a dozen horizontal cloud to cloud lightning strikes.  These bolts had multiple branches and some of the branches even branched off.  Some were blindingly bright.

I have watched quite a few lightning storms over my lifetime, but I had never seen so much horizontal lightning.  In fact, there was really no cloud to ground lightning during the storm.  There were about 20 other people camping there and they all agreed that they had never seen anything like it.  The closest the storm ever got to us was about one mile.  We did get a few sprinkles as the storm was winding down.  I should have tried to capture some of it with the camera, butI was so mesmerized, that I couldn’t leave my chair. 

Eventually, I will study to find out what was happening in the atmosphere to cause this show.  For now, I just want to remember it as a wonderful display of nature’s power, without the scientific explanation.

Mariton: Summer Rain

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Meteorological summer has ended.  The months of June, July and August were wet at Mariton.  June was exceptionally wet with 11.27 inches of rain for the month.  That is over 6 inches above average (5.00”) for Mariton.  The only thing that comes close was 2006, when I recorded 10.93 inches for June.

July ended up with 6.61 inches of rain.  The average for the month is 5.37.  This was not the wettest July that I have ever recorded at Mariton. Mariton received 12.27 inches of rain in 2004.  July 2013 will be remembered for the strings of 90 degree days, not its rainfall.  However, there were 14 days with measureable rainfall during the month.

August ended with 5.90 inches of rain.  While this might be the driest month this summer, it was still over an inch above average.  This August can’t compare to 2011 when we had several large thunderstorms and Hurricane Irene.  There were 15.25 inches for August 2011.

The three month period combined for 23.78 inches of rain.  That puts the total for this year at 39.94 inches.  (In 1997, we received 40.39 inches for the entire year.)  That puts things at nearly 5.5 inches above average; and we haven’t even received a named tropical storm yet.

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