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Archive for December, 2015

Crow’s Nest: Nature in Art

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


While on a holiday break this week my family visited the Philly Photo Arts Center in Philadelphia, where I had a photo on display from Philly Photo Day 2015. All of the photos in the exhibit were taken on October 9 in the greater Philadelphia region. This exhibition closes in just a couple days but you can see the photos at the link above.

So ends 2015, and wraps up the 11th year of the Natural Lands Trust blog. Wishing everyone peace and joy in 2016!

Mariton: Fungi

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager


This December is certainly different.  The warm and wet weather has all sorts of plants responding as if it were April.  The fungi have really stood out on my walks this month.  Here are but a couple examples of mushrooms looking fresh on Christmas Eve.  Besides these, the Turkey Tails are showing rich hues, and lots of other fungi are fruiting.


Merry Christmas Fern to You and Yours

by Tim Burris, Mariton Preserve Manager

Christmas Fern in December 2015

Christmas Fern on Christmas Eve 2015

The Christmas Fern (Polystichum acrostichoides ) is so-named because it stays green throughout the winter. This winter has been a little different, but in past years I have dug down through snow in February and still found green fronds of this beautiful fern.  It is easy to imagine a colonial wife using this fern to decorate her dark cabin in the woods at Christmas time.  (In fact, my wife uses it as part of our table’s centerpiece.)  Like most ferns, deer don’t bother it, so it is a nice addition to the yard with moist shade.  While most of our trails are naturally “landscaped” with Christmas Ferns, we have a little spur trail on the Main Trail, that really makes one appreciate their beauty.

Christmas Eve 2009

Christmas Eve 2009

When it snows – and it will – take a walk on the trails and notice how much this fern warms up a winter walk.


Crow’s Nest: Planting trees in December

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


This isn’t the first time we’ve done tree plantings in December… but it’s certainly not something we can do every year! We thank Octoraro Native Plant Nursery for the donation of trees that now grace several of our preserves.


Crow’s Nest morning light

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


On those days when it isn’t foggy it can also be glorious. This morning’s light only lasted a few minutes, reminding me that almost everything is ephemeral.

The calves waited impatiently while I took a few photos. Then the sun rose into a cloud and this light was gone.


Crow’s Nest: Closing the circle

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


As part of the ongoing landscaping of the newly-renovated Jacob house at Crow’s Nest Preserve I am adding organic matter where soils are thin. In this case that’s bedding from the cattle run-in-shed, straw well mixed with urine and manure. To spread it uniformly I dumped a pile where desired and added cracked corn. Our chickens will spread it evenly as they search for the corn.

(Can you see all six chickens? From left to right, a Rhode Island Red, Barnvelder, Black Australorp, Java, Plymouth Barred Rock, and Gold-laced Wyandotte. Named, respectively, Cacciatore, Schntizel, Marsala, Florentine, Tetrazinni, and Paprikash. Despite their dinner-entree names, they are family pets that will stay long after their egg-laying days are over. Three are now 2 1/2 years old, three are now 1 1/2 years.) They reside in a portable chicken tractor when not cruising the yard for seeds and bugs.

An additional advantage of using the bedding as a soil amendment is that we won’t have a manure storage pile to maintain. The straw we use was was grown here or at another nearby farm. They hay the cattle forage in winter is grown right here.

We try to keep input to a minimum on the preserve—not importing expensive, unsustainably-sourced materials to subsidize growth here, nor exporting undesirable waste. To the extent we can, we try to and close a nutrient cycle or other energy flow entirely onsite. That’s often the way nature does it and seems like a good model to follow.

Crow’s Nest: Misty mornings

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

There’s something peaceful about tending our livestock in the early mornings and late afternoons. (The cattle is used for a specific conservation objective and the process is called “Prescribed Grazing.”)

Whether bitterly cold or shrouded in soft fog, these are quiet moments that frame the day’s activities. I feel very fortunate for this to be part of my life.




Mariton: Butternut Rebirth

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

PRITCHARD 20151021-CRW_0472

Photo by Nathan Pritchard

In October, I met Paul Felton during a walk that I led. Mr. Felton has been a member of Natural Lands Trust since 1967, one of the our longest serving members. Paul was a state forester and is still passionate about trees and forests . One of the species that he champions is the Butternut, or White Walnut (Juglans cinera). Butternuts are handsome trees that produce delicious nuts. Unfortunately, Butternut Canker Disease is quickly killing this species.


Butternut saplings in blow down area.

Soon after the walk I received a bucket of nuts and five established saplings from Mr. Felton. He has a healthy tree and wants to spread the joy. Mariton’s last butternut died a few years back and just recently toppled over.  So, I was thrilled to get Mr. Felton’s gift. Josh and I planted the saplings in one of the blow down areas, and protected them from deer with Tubex.

Butternut Seed Nursery

Butternut Seed Nursery

The seeds were another matter. I needed to protect them from squirrels while they germinated. I started out by cutting several Tubex in thirds and then planted them in our old (deer-proof) garden. After 20 seeds were planted, I still had dozens of seeds in the bucket. I asked Tom Kershner, my colleague at Gwynedd, for ideas. He suggested planters with loose soil so the seedlings could be transplanted easily.  I commandeered several of Maureen’s planters from the basement. Josh planted the remaining seeds, and then wrapped the planters with chicken wire to prevent squirrels from stealing the seeds. We will nurse the seedlings that germinate, and then transplant them to help reestablish this interesting component of Mariton’s forest.

Crow’s Nest: New kiosk!

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

We’re a little late to the party (last of the preserves to build a new information kiosk) but our new one is finished and installed! We waited until our old one was rotting at the base. First, a photo of the old one when it was installed in 2002:


Thirteen years of service was pretty good for this design and materials. We’re hoping the new one will last even longer. We removed this on Thursday and installed the new one yesterday. By the way, the bulletin board cabinet will be repainted and reappear… at Green Hills Preserve.

First step: dig holes. Deep ones. Here Brittany is testing the depth.

Then, placing the new one in the hole. We found another use for the truck’s recovery strap and shackle (not pictured, but the one that pulled cars out of the snow last winter). The strap safely hoisted the panel with the front-end loader. Next it’s a matter of setting it plumb.


Two panels finished, one to go. We did some photo documentation of the process to remind us when it comes time to replace these in future decades that yes, there is concrete at those bases.


The finished kiosk! The new one is bigger, more durable, and more readable. A greatly expanded brochure box at the bottom has room for trail maps, Hopewell Big Woods regional maps, membership information, as well as information of seasonal and natural interest. We think that it will contribute to visitors having a good experience here.


Like most projects this one involved lots of cooperation. Many thanks to Holly Harper and Tarra Campbell for graphic design and layout, Kirsten Werner Leonard for wordsmithing, Steve Holmburg for yanking out the old posts (remember what I said about concrete?), and Aubrey Smith and Brittany Grabois for installation. I’m thrilled with how it turned out, hope you are too!

Mariton: Hidden Camera

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager


I recently took a deer carcass to a remote area of the preserve and set up the game camera to capture which animals exploit the windfall of protein, fat and calcium.  I can’t take credit for the photography.  The camera has a motion activated trigger.  (On windy days there are a lot of empty frames.)  Here are the best raccoon photos.



It is tough to get a good photo of a Red Fox. They always come out a little blurred.  (Most of the photos of foxes are just a blur with a “tell tail“.   They are always in motion, but I also believe they really do sense the camera’s presence. These are probably the best photos I have from dozens of blurry shots.


This Red-tailed Hawk doesn’t seem to mind the company of Turkey Vultures.



I plan to keep the camera at this location for a few weeks to watch the composition of species, as well as the decomposition of the carcass.  I will be interested if in time it attracts a coyote (they’re uncommon at Mariton) or perhaps a Bald Eagle.  I am not sure if the motion detector is sensitive enough to pick up Chickadees, Tufted Titmice and other small songbirds.  I’ve watched them feed on carcasses in the past, so I know they will feed here.  It will also be interesting to see which animals chew the bones for the marrow and calcium.






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