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Mariton: Year in Review

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

As I put the new calendar on the wall, I thought I would do a brief review using photos from this year’s blog posts.  This isn’t everything, just some of the highlights.  We had a snowy and cold winter and I wrote a series on dressing to enjoy the weather.

Winter Hats

Some of the photos of the season:

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Photo by Carole Mebus

Bladder nut in ice

During the spring Mike and Kieu Manes planted American Chestnuts.  The wildflowers at Mariton were glorious.  There were several bird walks.  The  nest boxes had a lot of activity.

planting Chestnuts

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Trillium by Carole Mebus

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Swainson’s Thrush by Carole Mebus


Moving into summer, the Bird Walks transitioned to Butterfly Walks.  There were Kayak trips on Lake Nockamixon.  And we had a great group of children for Nature Camp.

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Coral Hairstreak by Carole Mebus

Haycock Run


Nature Camp visits Traugers by Carole Mebus

The fall colors in 2014 were fantastic. During our weekly walks in October we marveled at the colors, along with being treated to exciting bird sightings and more butterflies.

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Mariton Field by Carole Mebus

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Female Bluebird with Fall Backdrop by Carole Mebus

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Eastern Comma butterfly under Pawpaw Tree by Carole Mebus

2014 was a special year for Mariton.  It marked the 45th anniversary of the Guerrero’s establishing the Deed of Trust that protects Mariton.  It also marked the 70th anniversary of the first purchase of land that would later become Mariton Wildlife Sanctuary.  During the year we showed the movies that the Guerrero’s made when they first moved to the property(in the late 1940’s), along with a slide show of vintage photos.

Belgium 1960s

The Guerrero’s in Belgium in the early 1960’s

I’m wishing you a Happy New Year for 2015.  I hope you find time to be inspired and moved by nature’s beauty.

Mariton: Christmas Present

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

At Christmas, one of Mariton’s members donated a Game Camera.  If you aren’t familiar, these cameras are in housings to protect them from the elements.  They are triggered by a motion detector.  You attach the housing to a tree or something sturdy and download the memory card periodically.  Most use an infrared flash system to take photos at night.  The infrared doesn’t cause a “light” flash, so photos remain dark, but illuminate the subject within a given distance.  (See the raccoon photo below.)  There are lots of settings that relate to how often the camera can be triggered, etc.  These cameras don’t usually take high quality photos; but that isn’t their purpose.


I set it up the new camera in the Bird Blind at first to become familiar with its sensitivity and settings.  I captured hundreds of images of squirrels under the bird feeders.  Besides raccoons, I also captured a few of turkeys.  I like the photo below, notice that there is a Chickadee on the feeder.

Turkeys in Bird Blind

After I got a feel for how the camera worked I moved it to a game trail in the woods.  I captured some pictures of deer using the trail.  I like the comparison of these two photos because it shows two similar deer in similar locations on the trail at different times of day.

Deer on trail

Deer at night

Many might recall that member, Bob Koppenhaver, had a project with several game cameras set up at Mariton a few years back.  He collected over 70,000 images and put booklets of his game cam photos in the Nature Center.  He did presentations at the nature center of photos he had collected.  He analyzed information on the timing of events, along with moon phase, etc.  It was really quite interesting.

I don’t plan to go into the detail that Bob did for his project.  In fact, you probably won’t see a lot of game-cam photos on the Blog, unless I capture images of really interesting animals or behavior.

Daytrip Discoveries: Glades Wildlife Refuge

By Dulcie Flaharty, Vice President of Community Partnerships

Dulcie’s “Daytrip Discoveries” represent her quest to visit all 17 of Natural Lands Trust’s publicly accessible nature preserves within one year–an adventure she hopes will inspire others to do the same! Dulcie was the Executive Director of Montgomery County Lands Trust, which merged with Natural Lands Trust in 2012.

In early December, 29 energetic hikers gathered at Natural Lands Trust’s Glades Wildlife Refuge along the Delaware Bay. We were eager to visit the Preserve’s old-growth forest, and to warm up with a vigorous hike. Among those on the excursion were Natural Lands Trust staffers Steve Eisenhower, Brian Johnson, and Debbie Beer.

Glades Hike Gathering 1

Glades Wildlife Refuge is the result of decades of land conservation work—beginning in 1964—and is comprised of 222 separate parcels. The 7, 700-acre preserve is the largest of Natural Lands Trust’s 42 preserves.

Our pathway through forests of sourgum, sweetgum, swamp chestnut oak, holly, pitchpine, and sweetbay magnolia kept us busy with tree identification. With almost every footstep, we were reminded that this was a swampy forest. Mosses and fungi dotted the pathways. Standing water was often visible between the trees.

Moss on leafy floor

Watery Forest Floor

Sourgum and swamp chestnut oak stood together as stately guardians of the swamp.

Chestnut Swamp Oak & Sour gum standing tall

Susan McNeill, a member of Natural Lands Trust’s Force of Nature® volunteer corps, joined us on the hike and enjoyed visiting the sandy venues that were a surprise to many on the trip.

Sandy trail with Susan

While at the beach, looking over the large 1,000-acre “lake,” Regional Director Steve Eisenhower told the story of how sand and gravel mining began here in the 1920s. The product of the mining fueled a burgeoning glass manufacturing industry in South Jersey along with producing an important component for many road-building projects.

Steve explains the history of the lakes

Big Lake through trees

Excited by the day’s unexpected sights, a final loop walk took us to one of the largest trees on the preserve. A massive sweetgum welcomed us and made many of us feel very small, as if we gathered at the foot of an unpretentious and elegant giant.

Giant Sweet Gum tree

On the way back to our cars, we stopped for another lakeside view. A keen-eyed birder spotted a circling Bald Eagle across the water. We all focused our binoculars and were delighted as the group spotted five more eagles, both mature and juvenile.

Our four-hour visit to Glades Wildlife Refuge was proof of the wild diversity found there… it is a wonderful place for those who revel in knowing that such a places exist and are protected and stewarded forever.

As we hiked out of Bear Swamp West, one last swamp could be seen along our route and provided a fitting finale to an adventure filled with a wonderful assortment of new experiences.

Last swamp heading home

When planning a trip to Glades, remember that it is a remote location. Please visit the preserve page for info to fully enjoy your visit.

Crow’s Nest: Looking West at Sunrise

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

And looking East at sunset…

We’ve had the kind of weather conditions lately where the sky clears at the horizon just as the sun rises or sets, resulting in a blaze of firelight reflected on the opposite horizon. It’s an ephemeral sight not to be missed; the color fades in just a few minutes, or fewer if the clouds move back in.


This kind of view we have seen before, posted in the weblog in November, 2006, and the photo appears in the blurb book of selected photos and writings from the first five years of blogging, a Christmas gift from Denise in 2010.


I suppose there is a metaphor here too—that we can, and should, look for the unexpected, the beauty in the everyday, the glory that greets us if we are open to it.

This weblog is celebrating ten years this month, having debuted in December 2004. It has gone unexpected places and helped me look at the landscape in a new way.


We’re having our share of glorious sunsets to be seen facing West, too. Newly-moved into the house at 401 Piersol Road, perched on a knoll, we now have this view from our back porch, looking out over Crow’s Nest Preserve with the hills of Hopewell Furnace in the background.



Crow’s Nest: Mowing in December?

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


You might expect that we mow some parts of the preserve—trails and turf around buildings—from late April through November (this last month just to chop up leaves). And you probably know that we mow most meadows as late in winter as we dare, while the ground is still frozen, leaving grasses and wildflower stems as wildlife cover for as much of the winter as possible. So we’re mowing again in February with the bush hog, or else the meadows will grow up into forests, or even more likely, thickets of invasive plants such as multiflora rose and autumn olive. And if we wait too long into spring and the ground is too soft to get equipment in—it’s not the end of the world but this has us playing catch-up for another season.

But if you were out at the preserve today you would have noticed us mowing in two, very specific places—in December! One is the steep slope behind the Jacob house on the preserve, a bank that is too steep for me to want to mow often and has grown into a nice little meadow. And the other is the patch of meadow below the slope behind the visitor center, just below the bunny hump of the sand mound.

You guessed it, both of these sites are good sledding areas—if we mow down the thick grasses before it snows. The snow last month came before we’d prepared for sledding. Now we’re ready.



Mariton: Wet Again

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Monthly rainfall totals at Mariton were below average starting in August.  However, the year’s total stayed just above average, thanks to a wet first half of the year (you just might remember a bit of snow during the first quarter).

November had above average rainfall, ending the month with 4.12 inches (average is 3.36’”).  The 5 inches of snow that started the day before Thanksgiving is what tipped the scales from a deficit month to an above average month.  That snow was preceded by a lot of rain, because when I melted the slush there was a total of 1.17 inches of liquid precipitation.

It looks like we are headed for an average year, precipitation-wise, for 2014.

Crow’s Nest: About those cedars

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

A preserve visitor today stopped in today and talked with my wife Denise; he wondered why the cedars in the deep woods are dead, while others (presumably in hedgerows or other sunny places) are doing fine.

I wasn’t at the preserve today to answer this, one of my favorite questions. This query addresses the history of the land use as well as plant physiology, and references one of my favorite books, “Reading the Forested Landscape” by Tom Wessels with illustrations by Brian Cohen. It is part of the story we tell about the history of the land here, along with the cobblestone quarries also visible along our Deep Woods Trail, and barbed wire embedded in our trees.

The visitor didn’t leave his name or contact, so I mention it here. I wrote about this subject a while back. The presence of dead Eastern red cedar in our woods indicates that these woods were once clearcut. Cedar is an early-successional species that was later shaded out by the forest canopy that grew up around it. Cedar wood is rot-resistant so many of these trees died many years ago and their trunks and branches are left standing, indicators of the land’s history. Nature is a library, if we just know how to read it.

Crow’s Nest: Inside the house renovations

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

For those who missed our open house in October, here are some photos inside the “Jacob House” at Crow’s Nest Preserve. Our Building Stewardship staff has done a complete renovation of the building into two units for staff and interns. Later I’ll post a few before and after photos. These are a few details the work:


Above, a corner of the kitchen cupboards with built-in window seat. Below, detail of a fireplace trim, carefully stripped and repainted. The house was originally the home of Henry and Elizabeth Swinehart and was built in 1817.


Our staff added a window into one of the original walls to show what the original framing and lath look like beneath the plaster. Much more work went into this project than is visible in the finished product!


Luke DiBerardinis made all of the handles and latch hardware, as well as the wall sconces.


Even the stairs to the attic are dramatic:


The main stairs were rebuilt but the handrail is original.


The attic is a beautiful space with surprisingly airy light, at least until it gets filled with items to store.


Here’s the kitchen shelves and looking into the living room, taken from within the walk-in fireplace.


And the walk-in fireplace, once buried behind drywall.


A closeup of the door Luke made for the bread oven in the fireplace.


We hope you enjoy these photos! We are very fortunate to have talented, dedicated people on staff who do this work, and private donors who are willing to fund it. Although it was difficult to corner them for a photo, the three people who worked on this project every day for years are Steve Holmburg, Scott DiBerardinis, and Luke DiBerardinis. Bob Johnson supervised the project and several more people joined the effort to complete it: on staff Steve Longnecker helped for the last few months and volunteers Eloise and Pete Smyrl did a lot of the wood trim prep, painting, and cleaning. Many others contributed time and labor—thanks to you all!


Crow’s Nest: Welcome Cody Hudgens

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Cody Hudgens

He’s already been here a month and intern Cody Hudgens has jumped in on several projects. Cody comes to us from Riverside, California, and is looking forward to new experiences at Crow’s Nest and with our east coast climate.

Cody has a background in Geographic Information Systems and has extensive experience working at kids’ nature camps. He also managed a theater and its staff. He has helped out with the fall kids’ programs here, taken on fall vine control, undergone chainsaw training, and helped at a Force of Nature volunteer day.

He has moved into the apartment created in the newly renovated house at 401 Piersol Road, just up the road from the visitor center. We’re happy that Cody is here. If you see him on the preserve please welcome him!

Mariton: Wilderness First Aid

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Back in 2008 several Natural Lands Trust staff members participated in a Wilderness First Aid and CPR course.   The course was conducted by Wilderness Medical Associates at our Hildacy Farm headquarters.  This is an intensive two day/16 hour course, with about half of the time spent covering how our bodies react to an array of injuries that one might encounter in places where help is not a quick call to 911.  The other half of the course is spent outside (rain or shine, cold or hot) analyzing a number of mock scenarios, and treating patients for everything from lightning strikes to bad falls.   It was a wet and cold November weekend, so if you were a patient in one of the scenarios you could be lying on the ground for some time while your “rescuers” figured out what the problem was and came up with a course of action.  We usually conducted our analyses of the various scenarios outside also.  (We froze.)

I was enthusiastic about taking the course, because emergency personnel would have difficulty quickly reaching some areas at Mariton and other NLT preserves in the case of an accident.  The fact that I spend a bit of free time in remote places with friends and loved ones made taking the course even more relevant.  Quite frankly, the course was intimidating and I left feeling concerned about my abilities.  The class was great and I did very well, but I felt a little overwhelmed by all the circumstances that one needs to take into consideration when assessing a patient.

Still I thought it was important knowledge, so I decided to recertify in 2011 at the Adirondack Mountain Club’s Heart Lake Center.  I felt much more comfortable after taking the class a second time.  I was still nervous, but I felt I processed the information better the second time.  The instructors were fantastic and brought real world scenarios into the classroom that made understanding the materials easier.  The weather was challenging during that class also.

This past weekend I returned to the Adirondacks for a recertification course.  (The course is offered all over the world, but this was the only course that worked with my schedule.)  It was cold and snowy, but I knew the drill and came prepared for the situation.  (Saturday started in the teens and reached 30F.  Sunday was a balmy 38F, but there was still snow on the ground.)  Well, the third time was the charm.  I came away with much more confidence.  The information really clicked this time.  I did really well in the scenarios; quickly analyzing patients’ problems and formulating treatment.  Again, the instructors were great at making all this information understandable.

One of the things that kept coming up (and has guided me for many years during my work and play) is that prevention is key.  Being prepared for anything prevents a lot of accidents.  Preparation also keeps those minor accidents from becoming life threatening situations.  Donning a life jacket before getting into your kayak, or wearing micro-spikes when it is icy are two examples of simple things that can protect us when we do what we love outdoors.  So, be careful out there.  (Sorry, no photos.  As I said this class is really intense.  There were opportunities for the camera, but I stayed focused on the class, not photo documenting it.)


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