A Canadian goose sails off the roof of the barn toward the pond at Crow’s Nest. We don’t often have geese nesting at our pond; we allow natural vegetation to grow up around it and that limits their use of it since they can’t easily see predators coming.
This has been a spectacular year for serviceberry (Amelanchier)this spring. I like the informal sprays of white flowers (and dislike the formal pyramids of fake-looking trees with white flowers—callery pears, which are also invasive).
With the last 24 hours of heavy rain the creek is now as high as I’ve ever seen it, with a few area roads impassible. Luckily the wetlands at Crow’s Nest are able to accommodate the floodwaters as the creek’s waters rise into them.
by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager. Photos by Carole Mebus
Mariton’s Tuesday Bird Walks started this morning. It was chilly, windy and damp, but it didn’t rain. It is early to get many migrants even during a normal spring, but this spring things are just a little behind. Still I like to start the walks in April. It helps dust off our ears and eyes and gets us back into shape for finding those small warblers in the tree tops. Even though conditions weren’t ideal we had a pretty good morning.
We saw this Wood Thrush (photo above) that stood for several minutes on a rock alongside the trail. Carole suggested that it might have flown all night and was too exhausted to react to our gawking. That makes sense, because they usually don’t sit still for that long. It didn’t sing, but soon our woods will be filled with their wonderful singing.
Bluebirds, another member of the Thrush family, were easy to see in the fields. They seemed to be paired and perching where we could easily watch them.
We saw a Palm Warbler in the fields also. It didn’t give us a great look, (this photo is from Carole’s archives) but it was easy to identify by its bobbing tail, and chestnut head. It even sang for us while we watched it.
A first year Bald Eagle flew over us as we walked down the Turnpike Trail. We also saw Black Vultures, Turkey Vultures, and a Cooper’s Hawk.
Next week, we will be birding at Giving Pond, part of the Delaware Canal State Park. By then, the birds should really be arriving, and we should have an exciting morning.
About 2 weeks after the Red morph Screech Owl first arrived at the box she began laying eggs.
Screech Owls generally lay a clutch of 2-6 eggs at a pace of one egg every other day. As of yesterday when this video was taken she has laid 3 eggs.
So far both owls have continued to stay in the box during the days. As night falls the male owl leaves the box to hunt and periodically returns to feed the female, who spends most of the night incubating the eggs. In the video it seems like the male feeds her something small like an insect, but on other occasions he has returned with mice or frogs from the nearby wetlands. The female does leave the box occasionally during the night, possibly to get a drink of water or stretch her wings, but she is never gone for more than about 20 minutes.
Screech owls incubate their eggs for approximately 4 weeks before they hatch. If this holds true, the young owls should emerge during the 3rd week of May.
While I was on the mower late this afternoon I saw the storm front coming in… several families who had kids in our afternoon WebWigglers program were out enjoying the preserve while the kids were busy and also saw this.
Yesterday, Mike and Kieu Manes planted American Chestnuts at Mariton. The Manes’ are active volunteers in The American Chestnut Foundation as well as the Appalachian Mountain Club. Their hiking on The Trail led them to the discovery of American Chestnut trees, which led them to learn more about these trees and get involved. Last fall I collected several nuts from the American Chestnut trees that the Guerrero’s planted here, and gave the seeds to Mike and Kieu to germinate. They also brought seeds from two other sources.
We planted the seeds on one of the logging roads left over from cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy. From the beginning, I’ve wanted to return these areas to wildlife habitat, rather than become trails for humans. There is already some natural regeneration of tree seedlings, but we will augment that with some tree plantings, including these American Chestnuts.
After the first couple seeds, the three of us developed a system. I went ahead, chose a site, broke up the soil with a shovel, and drove a stake for a protective tube. Mike came behind and chose which strain should be planted there. He labeled and set up the tubes for placement after the planting. Then Kieu fine tuned the soil, planted the seed, and installed the tube. These shorter tubes protect the seeds from squirrels, who would love to dig them up for food. (Natural Lands Trust uses higher tubes on our big tree plantings to protect young trees from deer browsing.) Later on, I’ll put protective fencing around tree seedlings to protect them from the deer.
American Chestnuts have an interesting history at Mariton, and it is neat that now we are part of that history.
We found this juvenile Eastern newt (Notophalmus viridescens) crossing the road at the visitor center barn at Crow’s Nest yesterday. This species has an unusual life cycle because the adults return to the water and become an aquatic species like they are when they are larva. The terrestrial stage we are most likely to see in rainy woods is also known as a red eft.
In our line of work, every day is Earth Day. But today is special too, so Happy Earth Day!
We’ll be planting a few trees at Crow’s Nest Preserve as well as removing invasives to improve habitat. Other Natural Lands Trust staff will be working at Sadsbury Woods Preserve today, where Darin (“Go big or go home”) Groff has 1,600 trees to plant. We held a prescribed fire to maintain Serpentine Barrens at Willisbrook Preserve yesterday, and we have a full schedule of kids’ programs this week.
Mainly, we’re all grateful that spring has arrived!
P.S. Did you happen to hear Natural Lands Trust featured on WXPN today? If you missed the interview, listen here: NLT on WXPN 4-22-14
What a difference a week makes! Last week we had red maples blooming, plus some alder catkins and skunk cabbage was finishing blooming and beginning to leaf out.
A day later we added spicebush and bloodroot. The bloodroot flowers have been abundant this year, though the two nights of hard frost and snow did rumple them, so they didn’t stay showy. I have seen wood anemone and our Educator, Molly has reported seeing spring beauties (Claytonia virginica). We found this willow in bloom too.
In the next couple days the shadbush will be out, and then, who knows? Trout lily foliage is up so the flowers won’t be long; Solomon’s seal is unfurling.
This morning it is paradise at the preserve. While I walked with the dog (on leash, of course) I saw four wood ducks on French Creek, a red-headed woodpecker (they seem quieter now but they’re still here), heard the gobble of turkeys, and enjoyed the sights and sounds of early spring.
Registrations have begun for the Delaware River Sojourn. The Sojourn will be held from June 22 – 28 this year. This is the Delaware Sojourn’s 20th Anniversary, so expect something special. Sojourns allow kayakers and canoeists to experience this tremendous natural resource up close and personal.
Each year the Delaware Sojourn samples different river sections, which allows folks to learn the river with back up from a stellar safety crew. There are also great programs, so you learn about the river as well as where to put in and take out. You can sign up for the entire week, or you can pick and choose the days (sections of River) that you want to paddle. The fee includes boats and equipment, camping, shuttle transportation and most of the meals (and the food is great). If you bring your own equipment, your boat transport is provided. You don’t need to carry camping gear in your boat; you move that in your car when we move campsites.
I’ve been doing the Delaware Sojourn for several years and here are some my reasons for returning.
The River. The Delaware is an awesome (in the true sense of the word) resource in our backyard. It is a wonder to spend time on it.
The other people. The folks that participate are fun and interesting. I learn as much from fellow sojourners as I do from the educational programs.
The sights and sounds. I have witnessed some unbelievable wildlife sightings while on the Sojourn. The scenery and landscape is captivating.
New sections. I like the fact that we paddle some new sections each year. I learn the accesses, the safe lines through rapids, and other knowledge that makes me confident to go back on my own.
The educational programs. Biology, ecology, geology, history, etc. Interesting people addressing interesting subjects.
So, if you can take some time in June, I strongly recommend this staycation.