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Archive for December, 2013

Thank you, Board

One icy morning last week I was at Hildacy Farm, our headquarters, around 7:30 am. I had a short task to do before a project at another preserve later that day. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to the main office that early, since it is also more than an hour’s drive away.

Despite the early hour, there was a meeting already underway. It was the Finance Committee of our board. These folks had traveled to the office to volunteer their time to provide Natural Lands Trust with financial guidance, budget oversight, and to approve expenditures for land acquisition. The reason for the early hour? So that these volunteers could then go on to their day jobs.

Natural Lands Trust is blessed with contributions from all kinds of volunteers, from trail maintenance to tree plantings, bluebird box monitoring to invasive plant management. Some of it is difficult, some of it is also fun. Most of it is probably more fun than a Finance Committee meeting at sunup.

We are grateful to all of our volunteers. I especially want to acknowledge here those who share their business expertise, perhaps at an early hour and for which they may receive little recognition. Many thanks to all the committees of the Board and of the President’s Council for their service. We couldn’t do it without you.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on December 20, 2013.

Mariton: What’s At the Feeders?

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

Our parking lot is clear.  Mariton’s parking lot is paved and tilted to the south.  Because we are on the “sunnyside” of the hill, once I expose a little blacktop, it melts and dries quickly.  In a way it is a passive solar parking lot.  That means I have very little ice, and thus use very little salt.  The trails are crusty with a layer of powder on top.

On Sunday, the Delaware Canal State Park held a Digital Photography Workshop at Mariton.  I was still busy plowing and shoveling, when they started, but I saw some of the impressive results when they returned from their walk.  They spent over an hour in the bird blind.  Because of the crusty snow, the birds were at the blind to take advantage of the seed I had put out.  Carole Mebus was in attendance and shares these photos.

Check out this Tufted Titmouse opening a sunflower seed:

 MEBUS TuftedTitmouseMariton1215-WithSunflowerSeed

MEBUS TuftedTitmouseMariton1215

Above is a more normal view of the same bird.

 Sparrows lack a little respect from bird watchers, probably due to the proliferation of the exotic House Sparrows.  I am amazed at the richness of tones in sparrow plumage.  Look at this White-throated Sparrow.  The arrangement and combinations of browns, white and black is stunning.

 MEBUS WhiteThroatedSparrowMaritonBirdBlind1215

Likewise, Carole’s photo below of this Mourning Dove shows a whole new complexity to its seemingly drab feathers.

 MEBUS MourningDoveCloseupMaritonBirdBlind1215

The moral of the story?  Good optics do a make a difference when it comes to appreciating birds.

Crow’s Nest: Snow conditions & parking advisory

We’ve had more snow before winter officially starts than we have some years before winter ends. None were large snows but they haven’t melted and are accumulating into a slippery crust.

This is good news for cross country skiing or sledding (it’s not really deep enough for snowshoeing). But it’s not great news for traveling to and parking at the preserve.

We’ve kept up with clearing the sidewalks at the visitor center and the macadam entrance to the parking lot. But the loose gravel of our parking area cannot be plowed bare, and so it is accumulating some of that packed snow. If you have good snow tires and/or four wheel drive you should be okay. Others should consider parking on our barn ramp (also snow-covered, but slopes back toward the plowed road).

Posted by Daniel Barringer on December 17, 2013.

Crow’s Nest: Photogenic snow

This snow has been particularly beautiful. When I was a kid, it never seemed to snow before Christmas; I remember because we always wanted a white one as in the books…

Here is the Swinehart barn at Crow’s Nest Preserve. Taking out the second driveway, as we did this year, sure makes sense as you see this untrammeled snow.

snow

This is French Creek from the Harmonyville Road bridge. Two red-headed woodpeckers were chattering around me here.

snow

The light at the end of the day was warm. A little melted. Most will be with us for the week.

snow

The official “from the seat of the snow plow” shot.

snow

Another view of the restored Swinehart barn. That’s a catalpa with an ash tree in front of it. They make the barn look small. It isn’t.

snow

Posted by Daniel Barringer on December 10, 2013.

Crow’s Nest: I feel some XC skiing coming on…

IMG_3923

Once the roads have been cleared so you can get here, there should be good conditions for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing at Crow’s Nest Preserve…

Posted by Daniel Barringer on December 10, 2013.

Mariton: November Rain

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

We ended November with 2.51 inches of precipitation at Mariton.  That is about 0.80 inches behind the average for the month.  As things go, it wasn’t bad.  There were several years with drier Novembers.  Last year, 2012, was the driest that I have on record.  Thank goodness that following Hurricane Sandy, we only received 0.92 inches.

For the year as a whole, we are about 1.4 inches behind.  If we get 4 – 5 inches of precipitation in December we should end up very close to average.  Based on what we have already received in December, I think that is possible.  Even if we didn’t get another drop of rain through New Year’s we are still ahead of many of the dry years on record.

Crow’s Nest: Trail improvements

We have two new trail improvements this month at Crow’s Nest. The first is a stepping stone path behind the visitor center that makes an unpleasant muddy trail section passable. This is not yet on the trail map—it’s part of a network of trails behind the visitor center that kids use during programs here. But the work here has turned out so well, and this trail links the yellow and red loops of existing trails on our map (Creek and Chief’s Grove Trail with the Deep Woods Trail) , that I will blaze this and use it as part of the red trail that gets visitors to the southern half of the preserve.

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Second, the “bouncy” bridge on the Creek Trail that was threatening to break any day has been replaced with this sturdy span of white oak decking. Aubrey Smith designed and built the bridge with the help of a couple volunteers. Aubrey also painstakingly set the stepping stones above, with help from Liz Pascale, after Luke Hamilton and I carried the stones into the woods this summer.

IMG_4623 (1)

Both of these places, coincidentally, are good places at the moment to observe the red-headed woodpeckers at Crow’s Nest. We are pleased that these improvements make the preserve a little more welcoming to visitors.

I should note that the more distant parts of the Creek Trail, following yesterday’s steady rain, are still pretty muddy. Wear muck boots and you’ll be fine.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on December 7, 2013.

 

Crow’s Nest: Mowing in December

I don’t think I’ve ever done this before in December, but I mowed the lawn around the visitor center yesterday. It’s not that the grass had grown—I was just chopping up leaves. I would have done this one last time for the season in November except the mower had broken down. Now fixed, I chopped up the leaves in place and left them as a source of carbon for the soil there.

Winter winds will blow some more leaves into the yard, but most of them will blow out again too. Only those that hit a solid object like the barn will collect and have to be managed again, about once each month until spring.

I’ve written before about how I dislike the smell of burning leaves. At best it is a waste of a compostable resource. At worst it contributes to air pollution. With air quality alerts being posted for our region each day this week, we really don’t need more smoke filling our valley.

Posted by Daniel Barringer on December 4, 2013.

 

 

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