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Archive for September, 2016

Mariton: Gnats, Cars and Jets

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Gnats are bad again this fall. I spend enough time outdoors to have gotten used to them.  If they are just swarming in front of my face I almost do not notice them anymore.  I don’t get bit very often, but when I do it is always when both hands are busy and I can’t swat at the culprit.  When the gnats are bad someone always asks “What are they good for?”  I totally understand the frustration.  Gnats make being outdoors less fun.  Before I go into my “biodiversity spiel” I’ll point out that black flies, gnats and their like feed millions of birds in the northern reaches of Earth where these birds go to raise another generation.  The insects are also important food sources for birds as they migrate back to their wintering grounds (whether it is in our back yard or the southern tip of South America).

So here is my “biodiversity spiel” (which I took from a video put out by the PA Wild Resource Conservation Fund).  Pop the hood of your car.  I’ll point to things on your engine.  If you can’t tell me what they do, I’ll remove it from the engine.  (What are gnats, posion ivy, or stick seed good for?)  At some point I am going to remove something that is vital to your car’s operation.  Just because we don’t know what something does for the system doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary.

Here is another one. Imagine you are sitting on a jet ready to take off and fly over an ocean.  As you look out your window, you see a mechanic removing a rivet from the wing.  You call over the flight attendant and they respond that you shouldn’t worry.  They fly all the time with a few missing rivets in the wing.  The person continues removing rivets randomly.  At what point do you ask to get off the jet?

Our Earth is that jet, and each rivet is a species (plant, insect, mammal, bird, amphibian, etc.). Can we continue on with a few species missing?  Maybe.  Which rivet is the one that causes everything to fail?  We just don’t know, but still the human species continues to make trivial and frivolous justifications for removing another rivet from the jet.  Except we can’t get off when the system fails catastrophically.

Crow’s Nest: Metamorphosis

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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Of course we knew this monarch butterfly would emerge while we were away over the weekend, we’d been counting the days since the caterpillar formed the chrysalis. But I snapped this photo before I left.

Yet Another Reason to Stay on Trails

by Tim Burris, Mariton Preserve Manager

You already know that staying on the trails and keeping pets leashed helps protect wildlife. You may not have thought about how keeping on the trail benefits you personally.

Fawn covered with Tick Seed

Fawn covered with Stickseed

Virginia Stickseed (Hackelia virginianna) also known as beggar’s lice is prolific right now and sticky.  As the seed heads mature and turn from green to brown they become harder to remove from clothing.  Look at this fawn covered with the green seed heads.  I know how she feels.  I was removing invasive plants from a fencerow this week and spent considerable time at the end of the day pulling seeds from my clothing.  Of course, I have opposable thumbs and fingers.  Getting these seeds out of your dog’s fur is just a pain.

Tick Trefoil Seeds

Tick Trefoil Seeds

Showy Tick Trefoil (Desmodium canadense) is another plant whose sticky seed is getting “ripe” for distribution.  This seed is flat and sticks close to the material.  I admit that I once threw out a shirt that was turned green by thousands on Tick Trefoil seeds.  I have found that a table knife or credit card works pretty good at scrapping these seeds off of jeans.  It makes it easier, but it is still a chore.  Do you really have to ask how these plants distribute their DNA to new locations?

Mariton: Oh, How They Grow

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

June 25, 2016

June 25, 2016

The photos of these two fawns were taken by the trail camera about 2 months apart.  They may not be the same fawn, but they were born about the same time.  As the camera is located in the same place you can see how much these fawns have grown.  For the most part, this camera has picked up just one family group, a doe and her twins.

August 26, 2016

August 26,2016

For much of the summer, the two fawns were together in photos with their mother. (Or all three would be captured in sequential photos as they tripped the camera.)  Now that they are older the fawns are seen together less often in photos, even in sequential photos.  I am pretty sure by looking at the photos that one of the fawns is a young buck and the other a doe.  In my experience doe fawns will stay closer to their mother and buck fawns will start exploring on their own.  They still come together, but the trail camera reveals how much the buck fawn is traveling on his own.  It won’t be long before their winter coat starts growing and their spots will fade.

Crow’s Nest: Sleepy snake

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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It’s Monday morning; maybe you’re not the only one trying to sleep in?

This garter snake was found snoozing in the garden in the location where a raised bed (the last for the vegetable garden at the visitor center) is to be built. Once it woke up it didn’t stick around long!

For scale this juvenile is about the diameter of a pencil, and maybe 50% longer in length. There were also a lot of crickets hanging around in the same area, suggesting a potential food source. The cloudy eye suggests that this snake is preparing to shed its skin; the eye covering is a scale that is shed with its skin.

Green Hills: Rain garden grows

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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Despite a lack of rain, the rain garden is doing well at Green Hills Preserve. It was just planted this year by volunteers and we have been trucking a 125 gallon water tank there a couple times a week to keep the plants alive until they are well rooted or we actually get some rain. (Many thanks to neighbors who report on the status of scattered storms there; although only 15 miles from Crow’s Nest the weather there is different and Green Hills has received more rain this year than Crow’s Nest Preserve, where we are struggling with a severe drought).

In the front is blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) and the yellow flowers of sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale). Then there’s blue vervain (Verbena hastata) and a rejuvenated sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana). Oddly enough the original plantings suffered from too much water, the result of a poorly-designed berm that lacked a spillway—something we addressed before replanting. Bluebird boxes and an upland meadow we planted are in the background.

The garden also suffered this year from having five or more shrubs stolen from it (really, I’m flattered that someone liked them enough!) and I did not replace them, just filled the holes with mulch. Nonetheless it is looking good and, when it rains, the garden will help filter runoff from the parking lot.

Mariton: Another Dry Month

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

August was yet another dry month this year. At Mariton, I recorded 2.02 inches of rain for the month.  The average is 4.44 inches.   Our total for the year to date is 29.96 inches, and the average for the same period is 34.70.

It is fascinating looking at my spread sheet of 20 years of data. During that time there were 6 Augusts when the rainfall fell below 3 inches:  2.70 (2014), 1.42 (2010), 2.08 (2008), 2.54 (2006), 2.23 (2002), 2.67 (1998).  With all of those dry years it is a wonder that my average for August is as high a 4.44 inches.  Again looking at the spread sheet, there are two outliers that drive the average upwards.  In 2011 Irene and several thunderstorms brought Mariton 15.45 inches of rain.  In 2009, 11.31 inches fell during the month (no tropical storms that year just a period of wet weather).

Tropical weather systems are getting active right now. We could use some extra rain, but we need to be careful what we wish for.

Crow’s Nest: Critter Cam

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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I left the wildlife camera out for five more months and it captured 1,500 photos. I hadn’t meant to let it go that long but it was still snapping away the day I switched the chip. Among the wildlife it sensed were turkeys, a raccoon, and lots of deer.

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Significantly it also caught more changes of growth than you’d expect for just two seasons—from bare early spring woods to lush early summer growth (the lens was hidden behind vegetation for a while, and the wind moving the leaves accounts for many of the motion-triggered photos), then senescence of late summer (or drought) opening up the views again. Anyone who thinks that plants are not dynamic in growth and movement has not reviewed this series of photos.

Above, two of the more artistically posed deer photos.

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