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Archive for November, 2013

Crow’s Nest/Green Hills: Projects

In addition to the invasives management (Norway maples, bittersweet, shrub honeysuckle and autumn olive) that keeps us busy at this time of year, we also have a couple improvement projects we’re working on at Crow’s Nest and Green Hills Preserves.

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At Green Hills I’ve set up a temporary panel near the future parking area (which is where you all are parking anyway, right?) that has a map, a description of the preserve, and a notice about the managed deer hunt that takes place at the preserve. We’re still developing new trails here so it’s still pretty rough, but now that plants are dormant it isn’t too hard to explore. Started after lunch and just got that installed before dark today. The preserve is getting fair visitation despite its lack of visitor amenities, but this should help make it a bit more accessible.

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Back at Crow’s Nest Aubrey and Liz are replacing rotted boards on the boardwalk and footbridges. By now all of these boardwalks are on at least their third generation of boards. Even white oak doesn’t last forever, and we replace some more every winter. When the maintenance is complete it is a huge improvement.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on November 18, 2013.

 

Mariton: Field Trip to Crow’s Nest

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Ed Norman

When Dan informed be of the Red-headed Woodpecker sightings at Crow’s Nest Preserve, I decided to organize a field trip for Mariton’s Bird Club. We communicated through emails and organized the meeting places, etc.  It all came together on Wednesday and we loaded up my mini-van for the trip.  Dan graciously rearranged his schedule to guide us. Liz and Aubrey also joined us, giving us three Crow’s Nest educators for our group of 9.

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(Check out the coloring of this immature Red-headed woodpecker.)

At the beginning or our walk we found an immature Red-headed Woodpecker in the company of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker!  I hadn’t seen this species in over 25 years, so this was quite a thrill for me (as it was for the rest of the group).  Later on the walk we found a mature Red-headed Woodpecker and it was brilliant.  The red on its head was just stunning.  During the morning we also saw (or heard) other woodpeckers:  Downy, Red-bellied, Flicker and Hairy Woodpecker.

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(The coloring of this mature bird is spectacular.)

While the Red-heads were the main reason for the outing, we had an excellent bird morning.  A mature Bald Eagle flew by fairly close, and an immature Bald Eagle was sighted.  We also got a quick look at a Merlin darting though the woods.  We saw lots of Bluebirds and Cedar Waxwings.  We even saw a couple Swamp Sparrows.

While it might not be as glamorous, we saw a group of Rusty Blackbirds.  This is another species that I haven’t seen in 25 years.  It is one of those species that we could see in the winter, but their populations seems to be dwindling.  The habitat along The Creek Trail at Crow’s Nest was ideal.  I was delighted.

 

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(One of the neat things about this species is that they cache food.  Ed captured this bird with corn kernels stashed in the bark of this Shagbark Hickory.)

The trip was worth the price of admission.  I personally can’t single out one specific thing that I would call my Price of Admission sighting – it was the whole package.  I spent the day with a wonderful group of people, walking through great bird habitat, sharing knowledge, and then eating lunch with them in the beautiful visitor’s center.  And thanks Ed for these wonderful photos!

Mariton: New Library Books

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

We have two new books in Mariton’s library.

 Woodpeckers of NA

The first is Woodpeckers of North America by Frances Backhouse.  The book starts out with chapters on woodpecker anatomy, communication, nesting, etc.  Then it continues with species profiles.  Each species gets a half page photo, and a two to three page description.  The photography is excellent and the information is in depth.  I find it is a handy reference when people ask me about our local woodpeckers.

 Gulls

The other book is Gulls of the Americas by Steve N.G. Howell and Jon Dunn.  This is one of the Peterson Reference Guides.  This book covers some general gull characteristics and then dives into the species.  Gulls can be difficult to identify, because they have different appearances at different ages, as well as breeding and non-breeding plumage.  This book uses lots of photos to discern the differences as well as in depth descriptions.  The book covers 22 North American species, as well as South American and incidental species.  I am not much of a gull enthusiast, but then I don’t spend that much time along oceans or bays.  I think that this book would be a worthwhile addition if you did spent a lot of time in those environs.

My friend Howard (Hoppy) Master donated both of these books to Mariton’s library.  They are a great addition.

Crow’s Nest: Exploring the backyard

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The woods behind the visitor center barn and the tenant house at Crow’s Nest Preserve lead down to French Creek, and provide a wildlife corridor and water-quality buffer for the stream. Over the years I have been managing it to get rid of Oriental bittersweet, multiflora rose, Japanese honeysuckle, and Norway maples, with a few winged euonymous, privet, and Tatarian honeysuckle too. Over the last couple decades the scrubby trees have grown up and the understory that these weeds had occupied has opened up.

In the last couple years we have also started building trails back there. There’s always been one that leads to the ol’ swimming hole. Then we added a “stump playground” for camp and nature club kids’ programs. Now there is one that leads downstream along through the woods and comes out on Harmonyville Road, and another that leads out onto an island in French Creek. None of these trails show up on the official trail map yet—they’re mainly used by kids attending group programs. But anyone is welcome to explore back there.

It is a wonderful place for a five-year-old to explore. It feels wild and remote, but if you turn around you can still see the house. We’re blessed to live in such a wonderful setting. The important thing is to get out and explore nature nearby, no matter what form it takes in your backyard.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on November 12, 2013.

 

Crow’s Nest: Red-headed woodpeckers

Birders have been visiting Crow’s Nest Preserve over the last few weeks to see red-headed woodpeckers (Melanerpes erythrocephalus). We’ve seen them here occasionally over the last few years but this fall they have been numerous and easily observable as they cache acorns in the cavities found in dead branches and trees. Both adults and juveniles (which don’t have a red head) are active here.

Photos from Jim Moffett

Birder George Tallman has been organizing observers to estimate the size of the population. He is developing a protocol for the observations so that the results are repeatable and comparable.

Natural Lands Trust Force of Nature volunteer Jim Moffett shared these photographs he took at Crow’s Nest Preserve.

Photos from Jim Moffett

Notably, on the red-headed woodpecker the whole head is red, not just a patch like you see on a downy or hairy woodpecker, flicker, or the red cap on a red-bellied woodpecker or the comb on a pileated woodpecker (all of which occur here). Sightings of red-headed woodpeckers are unusual enough in our region to warrant attention.

Photos from Jim Moffett

The red-headed woodpeckers can be seen along the Creek Trail, particularly in the area where beaver flooding killed a lot of trees several years ago. But they can also be seen along French Creek near our entrance sign on Harmonyville Road, and sometimes in the woods around our parking lot meadow—so they are an easy find.

Photos by Jim Moffett. Posted by Daniel Barringer on November 9, 2013.

 

Paunacussing Preserve

Diabase Farm Preserve

Mariton: View from the River

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Maureen and I were supposed to canoe with friends over the weekend on the Tohickon Creek during the release of water from Lake Nockamixon.  Unfortunately, there was an equipment problem and the State Park was unable to release water.  Since we already had our boats loaded and were dressed in our dry suits, we decided to paddle on the Delaware River.

It was a beautiful day Saturday.  We saw a Bald Eagle eating something on the shore when we also stopped for snacks.  This is a photo I snapped of Mariton from the river.

 Mariton From the Delaware River

Here is our group.

November Delaware Paddlers

Crow’s Nest: Fall color update

We are past peak fall color but it is still glorious here. Last week’s storm knocked many leaves off but the oaks in have come into their own.

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Posted by Daniel Barringer on November 4, 2013.

Mariton: October Rainfall

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Mariton received 1.62 inches of rain during October.  That is about 3 inches below average for the month.  It was a dry October.  We never received more than half an inch in a 24 hour period, and only recorded rain on 9 days during the month.

To put things in perspective, it isn’t the driest October that I have on record.  In 2001, we received 0.28 inches of rain.  We were doing the renovation of the Nature Center that year, and having a dry October really helped with our building schedule.  In 2000, we received 1.21 inches of rain, for another dry October.  So far, we have already received more rain than we did for the entire year of 2000, or 2001.  My records show the wettest October was 2002 with 8.21 inches.

Based on a 15 year average, we have slipped into a deficit of about a half inch for the year.  That isn’t that much, although it is getting dry.  If we can get 3 inches for November and December, we will be ending up near average.

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