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Archive for February, 2014

Crow’s Nest: More trail clearing

By Daniel Barringer

As we finish our clearing our core trails we have been moving outward into nearby ones. We have cleared the Horse-Shoe Trail where it passes by Crow’s Nest Preserve: the section from Trythall Road west to Mine Run, and then up over the ridge to Northside Road.

Here’s the old railroad right-of-way adjacent to the preserve (after clearing):


Below is a photo of a wooded section of Horse-Shoe Trail just south of Northside Road, before it was cleared. Some trees we lightly prune so they can spring back up and out of the trail. Others are damaged and need to be removed. We’ve been using hand pruners, a small chainsaw and a power pole pruner. These sections have taken almost three person-days to complete a mile. The hardest part is hiking.


It’s still deep snow, and we were the first to venture down these trails. Below, looking down at an oxbow on Mine Run from the Horse-Shoe Trail. This section of woods lost about 50 large trees in a tornado in 1995 and is recovering nicely.


Enjoy Winter! The Core of the Matter.

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

I have outlined ways to keep our extremities (feet, head, and hands) warm during the winter in this series.  However, you need to keep the core of your body warm to make all those methods work.  Heat retention and heat regulation is similar when it comes to the core.   It is good to start with an under layer that will keep you warm, but dry, during strenuous activity.  While those old waffle knit cotton long johns had great insulation, they were lousy when it came to wicking moisture away from the body.

If you haven’t caught on yet, I love wool.  I have merino wool thermal underwear that is light, and warm.  It is my go-to underwear for cold, stationary activities.  You can feel the warmth as soon as you put it on.  Wool also seems to regulate heat well.  (So, I don’t usually overheat when I get back inside.)

My only problem with wool is it is relatively expensive.  “Stuff” happens at work and I don’t’ want to rip it on multiflora rose, sharp tools, or other equipment.  So, I often rely on synthetic thermal underwear for everyday use.  There has been an explosion of synthetic fabric technology in recent years.  The polyester blends are usually proprietary information for manufacturers, so I just stick with mid-weight options in my price range.  These products work well for a range of activities and temperatures.

For my second layer, I might add another set of thermal underwear if it is cold and I will be stationary.  My everyday work layer is a flannel shirt if I feel I will stay dry, otherwise it would be light wool sweater.   I might add a fleece, wool or down vest if I need more warmth but don’t want to restrict movement in my arms.  My regular work shell is an insulated canvas jacket with a hood.  The canvas is fairly wind and water resistant.  The hood helps regulate heat loss from my head and keep my neck warm.  Otherwise I have a closet of wool jackets and coats.  I also have nylon shells for snowy activities like cross country skiing.  I usually wear jeans, but have shells in case it is wet.  Gore-Tex coats and shells are ideal for the winter.  Down jackets are also great in the winter.

A couple things that I have found useful are tops and coats with a product called Windstopper.  It is a liner fabric (similar to Gore-tex) that blocks wind.  It is great for heat retention, especially when the wind is a factor.  Turtlenecks are often overlooked for keeping warm.  I think keeping heat from escaping the core is an important function of the turtleneck.  They also negate the use of a scarf and keep my neck warm.    I have a few wool dickeys that I keep in my winter arsenal.  Dickeys are the butt of many jokes, but they add an extra layer over the heart and back, yet they don’t restrict movement.  (They can also be removed relatively easily if you are getting overheated.)

Winter isn’t over yet.  While we are getting tired of the shoveling, there is still fun to be found outside.  Like the Scandinavian saying goes:  “There is no bad weather, just bad clothing.”

Crow’s Nest: The wildlife camera

Posted by Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

We’ve set up a motion-sensing camera in the woods here for a few months, and I am gradually getting better at how to deploy it. I’ve had to keep lowering it, as most of our wildlife lives at a lower height than my expectations. These photos, from January, are the first that show more than deer.

We started seeing raccoons on the photos, sometimes more than one at a time. Still too high for them.


A fox leaping.


A deer in the snow. I was surprised that there were any photos of January that were not under snow, but indeed, there were. (However, that time included a period of bitter low temperatures.)


Hello from the Canada geese…


And from a deer (look carefully):


Lots of the photos look like this, taken in the wee hours of the morning.


And the fox again.


There is no doubt that the animals can see the infrared flash. You and I might not see it, but in many photos the animals are investigating the camera. It takes just four photos at a time and shuts off for a period. But there are several photos like this:


And finally, starlings massing set off the camera in November.



Crow’s Nest: Preserve conditions update

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

We’re making progress clearing trails at Crow’s Nest. The trails are open with some significant caveats.

The parking lot is still closed due to ice. I plow it after each snowfall, but there is ice under it all and I can’t clear it down to bare gravel. It is slippery enough that I can make the 4wd truck with snowplow pirouette across it gracefully with no traction. It’s like an ice rink tilted so that all the cars would pile up at the bottom, so there is a barricade across the driveway which is plowed down to bare pavement. There’s room for one car there and a sign letting you know it is okay to park there.

Local roads are still lined with high banks of snow so it is occasionally difficult for two cars to pass.

The trails are still knee deep in snow, so unless you have snowshoes or cross-country skis you are probably only going to want to walk in the footsteps other visitors have already made. We haven’t had many visitors so it’s really hard going.

Aubrey and Liz in the photo below are breaking trail and are using a chainsaw and kombi tool to cut bent and broken trees out of the way yesterday. It was not fun due to the depth of the snow but they kept in good spirits.

clearing trail

All of our wooded trails have been cleared of fallen trees: The Creek Trail, Deep Woods Trail, Fox Hill Trail, and Hopewell Trail. There are still trees down in farm fields but I think our time will be better spent cleaning them up when access to them gets a little easier.

Each day brings new, difficult weather so trail conditions are likely to change. Check with us before you plan your trip.

We are still holding our kids’ programs. Since there is no parking we are having the parents drop the kids off one-by one at the barn.

Crow’s Nest: Spring is coming…

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

If I recall correctly our magazine editor put out a request last year for more photos of the preserves in snow. Done. Let’s have a look at them in, say, August.

What we all need right now is some reassurance that there is more to life than day after day of blizzard conditions. Here you go, some random photos from the preserve archives:






Sure, the preserve is closed right now due to icy conditions in the parking area and walking around is difficult in knee deep snow. But spring is coming: the days are longer, birds are singing more, wildlife is beginning to show some signs of breeding behavior, and—perhaps this is my imagination—there is just a hint of spring in the air.

Crow’s Nest: More snow & ice

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

The eastern red cedar behind the visitor center was the first casualty of the storm. Snow broke half of it one day, ice the other half the day after this photo was taken. It always made a nice focal point in the meadow to rest your eye upon while rocking on the porch…


The snow settles in over the farm.


Then, the ice. Here we are along Northside Road clearing branches and pruning trees to release them from being bent over. Some will rebound when the ice is gone. Some are broken and will not.


The photo below was taken the second day after the ice storm. I’ve never seen ice persist on trees more than a day in southeastern Pennsylvania. Lovely, but damaging. It could have been far worse: we didn’t have high winds, the volume of ice could have been greater, and unlike the snowstorm of October 2012, most of the trees do not have leaves. Hard hit were young beech trees, ironwood, dogwood, sassafras, red maple, and to a lesser extent elm and ash. Also, Natural Lands Trust has a hazard tree management program on our preserves, so we had already pruned or removed trees that would have been most susceptible to damage.


I believe some of the problems our region has experienced with power outages in recent years’ storms is due to landowners’ failure to recognize that all trees someday will fall—no exceptions. Over the last few decades trees have grown up around utility wires in places that would have been better managed as meadows or low-growing shrub lands. These lands should be low-maintenance areas, not zero-maintenance ones.

Of course the timing of tree failures cannot always be predicted, and we also have to recognize that more storms are likely on their way this winter.

Crow’s Nest: Preserve conditions update

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


We have spent the last three days clearing roadsides of fallen and bent-over trees and these areas are starting to look pretty good (that is, they look like we were never there, but also that the storm didn’t do extensive damage—which it did). Travel is again possible (for two days we were seeing the same cars going back and forth as drivers tried to find a route that was open).

Here Liz smiles as she stacks wood from a tree damaged in the ice storm. Honestly, we cut down (and cut up) so many trees I struggled to remember exactly which one this was. Oh yes: red maple on Piersol Road.

Our work was made more difficult because Route 23 was closed for two days and some of the heavy traffic was routed onto the back roads through the preserve. It’s difficult to drop damaged trees into the road with so much traffic. (We have about seven miles of road frontage if you count both sides where various roads pass through the preserve.)

The ice in the trees has lasted three days so far; I’ve never before seen it stay more than one. Our neighborhood looks like those winter photos of the White Mountains in New Hampshire, or Mt. Mitchell in North Carolina, that you see in the Appalachian Trail Conservancy magazine—photos of high elevations you might not personally have hiked to in winter, but are glad someone did. Instead, those conditions have come to visit us. Very beautiful.

More photos to follow, now that we have electricity again.

Since we’re still working on the roadsides, we haven’t assessed or cleared the trails yet. The preserve will be closed this weekend to give us time to catch up on the damage. Also, our gravel parking area is now a sheet of ice.

Turns out the cure for back pain from shoveling snow may just be doing a lot of chainsaw work. Loosens things up. Sleep well at night.

Gotta give thanks for good help from Intern Liz and Stewardship Assistant Aubrey. I am also grateful for the quality tools—chainsaw, power pole pruner, generator, truck, plow, and tractor—that make this work possible.

Green Hills in winter


By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Green Hills Preserve was lovely last week with a little snow (I think this was the snow before last, before the ice storm, but really, I’ve lost track of the weather).

It’s hard to believe we’ll be planting wildflowers and native warm season grasses here in just a month. There will be a gradual transition from row crops to grasslands over the next few years. Look for new trails there this summer!

Mariton: Breaking Trail

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Wood Trail

I used the tractor  to break through the crust on a couple trails.  It was tough going in some places because of all the powder underneath.  I was able to open the Woods Trail, and the Main Trail to the intersection with the Chimney Rock.  It is easy walking in the tire tracks.  The woods are really beautiful right now, but walking the trails without snow shoes  or crampons is tricky.  So, if you have cabin fever and need to take a short walk in the woods, Mariton is the open for business.

Main Trail

Mariton: Winter Walk

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Mariton didn’t get as much freezing rain as was predicted on Wednesday.  So, we didn’t lose power, or have branches come down.  It was a mess here though, and I spent all day Wednesday plowing and shoveling the slush.  We ended up with 1.39” of melted precipitation from that event, which is a lot of moisture.  Unfortunately, many of NLT’s other preserves were severely impacted.  Our headquarters at Hildacy was also without power, meaning that I couldn’t receive or send emails.  So, if you sent me an email during this period and it was returned, please try to send it again.

Main Trail

The freezing rain did leave a crust on the snow.  In places I break through the crust, in other places it will bear my weight.  It is tough walking.  With snowshoes I was able to stay on top of the crust and check trails.  Unfortunately, the snow shoes were really noisy.  The woods are really beautiful.  These are some photos take on Thursday during my walk.

 South Fox Trail

(South Fox Trail)

Bladdernut seed pods

Bladdernut seed pods Staphylea trifolia

One of my goals for mowing meadows in March is to keep the vegetation above the snow during the winter.  Right now, the crust is keeping birds and other small animals from access to seeds and food on the ground.  Not all seed heads in the photo below are encased in ice, and many more thawed in Thursday’s bright sunlight.  All of this food would be inaccessible to wildlife if I had mowed during the fall.  (Granted, I don’t need frozen ground to get my tractor into my fields to mow.)

Winter Field



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