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Archive for April, 2015

Mariton: Spring Birding

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

There was a great turn out for Mariton’s first bird walk of the season.  It was good to see people, and catch up on their adventures and sightings.  The birding was pretty good too.  Ruby-crowned Kinglets played hide and seek at in a spruce tree by the shop.  In the same area we had another warbler that never gave anyone a good enough look to identify, but it was fun trying to keep it in the binoculars while trying to direct people to where we it was active.

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Yellow-rumped Warbler

“Oh no, warbler neck” was moaned more than once during the morning, but that subsided as the morning advanced.  We got into a group of Black-throated Green Warblers.  We also found groups of Yellow-rumped warblers.  There was a pair of Turkeys in the meadows; the old tom was puffing and strutting for the hen as we watched them.  In all we saw 29 bird species.

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We also stopped to look at wildflowers and saw this Round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica americana).  This one had white petals, instead of the more common deep blue.  Notice how the leaves resemble the three lobes of a liver, which explains the hepatica name.

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We also spent time looking at this beautiful Early Saxifrage (Saxifraga virginiensis) on the North Fox Trail.  There will be lots to see on the Wildflower Walk on Saturday, but bring your binoculars too because the birding should be pretty good too.

Crow’s Nest: An amazing night hike

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


We had a great night hike on Saturday—actually several, to keep the groups small. Four groups each went to different parts of the preserve as dusk fell. Our group hiked the Deep Woods and Fox Hill Trails, starting with a hay wagon ride to get to the trailhead. Other groups hiked to the wire bridge, the top of the hill on Harmonyville Road, and the Beech Woods.

Then we all returned to the barn for a potluck dessert and bonfire. Good times!


Mariton: It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Archival photos by Carole Mebus.

I love all the seasons (including December), but in my mind this is one of the best times of the year.  The natural world will change daily for the next month and a half.  Granted, some of the changes will be subtle, but if you pay attention you will hate to miss one day.

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Spring ephemeral wildflowers appear, while others are fading and going to seed.  New bird species arrive every morning greeting us with new songs and colors.  It is tough to get very far when you are looking up at birds and down at wildflowers.

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We start our weekly bird walks at Mariton tomorrow (Tuesday).  This morning, I walked into several gatherings of warblers including Black and Whites, Yellow-rumpeds, Black-throated Greens, Parulas, and the first Ovenbird of the season.  It will be interesting to see what migrates in tonight to greet us tomorrow morning.

On Saturday, there will be a guided wildflower walk at Mariton.  There are lots of wildflowers out now, but many more to come as spring progresses.

For more information, or if you would like to register for one of the walks, please contact me at Mariton.

Wildflowers are poppin’,

Bunnies are hoppin’,

New birdsongs to hear.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Mariton: Another Eagle’s Story

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Over the weekend Gunner Gallagher, a Boy Scout with Troop 31 – Williams Township, finished an extensive project at Mariton.  The project is part of Gunner’s path to the rank of Eagle Scout.  He assembled a crew to install erosion bars on the Squeeze and River Lookout Trails.

BSA Eagle project

Gunner on the far right.

We have been lucky since Hurricane Sandy that these two trails haven’t had more impact from heavy rains.  So, I was happy when Gunner approached me about the project.  We have been communicating for some time.  The winter closed in just as his project was approved by the Scouts, so we had to delay the project due to the snow pack.  He started working in early April to prepare for the “big push”.  He came out earlier in the month with another scout to mark locations, and think about logistics.  On another weekend, he brought a small crew to cut the logs for the water bars and lug them to where they would be used.  I like to use natural materials for water bars at Mariton, and we didn’t have much trouble finding storm throws in the woods for the purpose.

Water bars

This past weekend, Gunner assembled his big crew to come out to install the water bars on the trails.  Because Gunner had done the prep work with smaller groups earlier in the month, his crew made quick work of cutting the trenches and staking in the water bars.  There wasn’t a lot of down time for his crew once they arrived.  Groups of boys efficiently leap-frogged down the trail, because the trail was marked and materials were already in place.

The erosion, or water bars, divert rain water off of the trail.  Where the trail is worn below the surrounding ground level, water bars are placed perpendicularly across the trail to stop the water’s flow.  In most rain events, the water will be absorbed by the soil.  In the big storms, water will build up behind the bars until there is enough volume to go over the dam.  Even then it moves much slower, resulting in little erosion.  More water bars are placed to keep the run off flowing slowly.  Water bars also help rehab areas and help fill soil into eroded areas of the trail.  Gunner’s project also stabilized a section of the River Lookout Trail where it travels across the slope down to the River.

River Lookout stabilization

I get a kick out of working with young men like Gunner and his fellow scouts.  It is an honor and privilege to be small part of their journey.

Crow’s Nest: Happy Earth Day!

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


Hope you’re having a beautiful Earth Day! We’re working on some landscaping around the newly-renovated Jacob house at the preserve. We’re using the guidance that Rick Darke and Doug Tallamy describe in their recent book, The Living Landscape: we’re planting the backbone of native trees and shrubs and will get to the wildflower plantings later.

We’ve ordered some more native trees to plant this spring throughout the preserve, and we’ll be doing some pulling of garlic mustard, an invasive plant that inhibits the growth of trees. We still have prescribed fires to do on two Natural Lands Trust preserves that have Serpentine barrens (Willisbrook and ChesLen). It won’t be long before we’ll be mowing the trails through our meadows.

Take some time today to enjoy the gifts around us!


Mariton: Clown Pants

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager


Dutchman’s Breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) are in bloom right now.  There are a couple of small patches of this wildflower at Mariton.   It is also known as Blue Staggers, perhaps because it is quite poisonous due to toxic levels of alkaloids .

I generally do not support changing the names of plants or birds.  In fact, I rail against having to purchase new field guides when the taxonomists make sweeping changes to nomenclature.  However…  Try to explain why this plant is called Dutchman’s Breeches to a youngster, or even a millennial.  Breeches and Britches  are now archaic words, lost from the modern vocabulary.  (It means trousers or pants for those unfamiliar with the terms.)  Even if you know breeches, combining it with Dutchman is problematic for a lot of people.  My high school math teacher told us stories about his homeland in the Netherlands, but I never saw Mr. Rezelman wear the billowing pantaloons the flower is named for, even when he wore his traditional attire for special occasions.

For local children, Duthchman often refers to “Pennsylvania Dutch”.  But they aren’t Dutch at all, rather they are Deutsche, or German.  These “Dutchmen” are most often portrayed in bib overhauls and straw hats, further adding to people’s confusion about Dutchman’s Breeches.

So, after years of frustration trying to explain pant fashions, and watching the confused expressions of children, I decided to come up with a better name.  It went against my better judgment to coin a new term, but I have ended up  calling  Dicentra cucullaria by the name of Clown Pants.  It works.  Will it stick?  In some ways I hope not.  On the other hand, having a child use their imagination to name their discoveries until they learn common names is not all bad.  And common names should have a common meaning.

Now, if I could just come up with a better name for Jack–in-the-Pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum).

Mariton: Surprise Trout Lily

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

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Trout Lilies (Erythronium americanum) are found at Mariton, but in all my years here I never saw them blossom.  For many springs I would religiously check for blooms, but never found any.  Polly Ivenz, Mariton’s Program Director for many years, told me that she also never saw it blossom in the years before my arrival.  After ten or fifteen years, I stopped checking the patches of Trout Lilies for flowers.  So, I was elated (and embarrassed that I had given up hope) when Carole sent me the photo of a Trout Lily blooming along the Main Trail.  Is the blooming a result of removing Garlic Mustard (Allaria officinalis) and other invasive plants at Mariton?  Perhaps the increased light left by Hurricane Sandy caused the plant to flower.  Some wildflowers need harsh periodic disturbances to initiate blooming.   Perhaps it was the disturbance of logging after the hurricane that spawned the blossom.  I certainly don’t know what caused the lily to start blooming, but I am happy about it.  This week you can be sure that I will be checking the other patches of Trout Lily at Mariton.

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Another surprise last week was the Hepatica (Hepatica americana).  The surprise was that I didn’t find it blooming until Friday.  I expected to find it blooming over a week ago, and I had been checking all the usual places every day.  When I finally found it blooming, I found it in relative abundance.  (Again, I just had to be patient.)  In the photo above, Carole captured a patch with both the characteristic blue flowers along with the less common white flowers.  Below is a close up.  This is probably the wildflower that most enthusiasts search for as a true indication that Winter “has left the building”, which explains my daily searches for it.

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I discovered Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) blooming while searching for the Hepatica.  It was abundant in many places this weekend, but it will disappear quickly.  Other flowers that are blooming now are the Spring Beauties (Claytonia virginica) and Rue Anemone (Anemonella thalictroides).

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As stewards, the other Preserve Managers and I enjoy directing people to where they can find blooms, birds, trees and other treasures of the land.  Our wildflowers can be found in relative abundance in some locations, but you shouldn’t presume that we have too many.  Wildflowers survive impacts from animals, invasive plants, weather, erosion, etc.  If you happen upon an abundance of wildflowers, consider your luck and admire their beauty with your sketch pad or camera.  Please, don’t think they are available for gathering  or digging.  We don’t have that many.  If you really need to pick something, ask a Preserve Manager and we will be glad to direct you to invasive plants that need to be removed to promote our native wildflowers.

Crow’s Nest: Legacy plantings

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

I am not particularly fond of forsythia, the non-native shrub that has too-garish flowers now and is nondescript the rest of the year. It’s not supporting much wildlife, and I particularly detest it when it’s pruned into hedge balls or flat-topped umbels.

That said, I just moved into a house on the preserve that has a large clump of it along the road. I don’t hate it. When pruned by removing canes at the base, it can be a lovely, wispy sight much needed after a long winter. Or ignored as this clump is, it becomes a thicket that remains best ignored.


The new plantings I’m planning here are all native, chosen for their wildlife value. But this thicket screens the road and can stay for now, a reminder of landscapes past and appreciated simply for what it is even as it takes up space from that which otherwise could be there.

Crow’s Nest: And add to that…

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

In just the day since I last wrote about what’s blooming you can add trailing arbutus (Epigaea reopens) and the first of the spring beauty (Claytonia virginica) flowers.

Crow’s Nest: Spring Green and Night Hike

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

prescribed fire

After only a week the meadow near the parking lot is showing signs of bright green grass poking up through the black. In this photo you can see the trail we left unburned.

Spring ephemeral wildflowers have started: round-lobed hepatica has been blooming in the Deep Woods, and just yesterday  I saw the first bloodroot of the season (not open all the way since it was a cloudy day). Also I saw the Dutchman’s breeches (Dicentra cucullaria) for the first time yesterday; I’ve been checking every day and it came up late but fast. Red maple trees are also blooming, adding a haze of red to the floodplain forest canopy.

Spring peeper’s calls have mostly quieted for the season, giving way to the trill of American toads.

Spring is finally here so I’m trying not to miss a moment of it.

One opportunity for getting out here is coming up on Saturday, April 25: a night hike and dessert potluck. Sign up on our website or on the Natural Lands Trust Facebook page. The event is free, just bring a dessert to share. We’ll explore the preserve as nighttime settles in, 7:30 – 9:00 pm.


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