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Archive for January, 2017

Mariton: The Nose Knows

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

The first deer to cross my trail.  Her front feet are literally where I walked to the camera.

These trail camera photos capture the surprise of deer as they came across my trail in a remote part of the Mariton. I normally try to change camera cards just before (or during ) a rain in order  to wash away my scent.  I departed from that in this instance because I wanted to change the card and batteries before a cold spell.  I have to cross the deer trail to get to the camera.  This was the first group of deer to come down the trail after I had been there.  Not only do they “sense” my tracks, but I think they can smell my scent on the camera. They came by the next day and didn’t bat an eye.

They have walked by the camera plenty of times, but this time the smells are different.

Mariton: Snow Can Be Beautiful

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

This was just one of hundreds of decorated Goldenrod heads after a dusting of snow last week.

Stocking up for Winter Storms

by Steve Eisenhauer, Preserve Manager

Every winter storm I check the two Screech Owl nest boxes at Harold N. Peek Preserve. Screech Owls aren’t generally disturbed when their nest boxes are checked during the day. They rarely move, even while lots of photos are being taken a half foot away.

Sometimes the owls cache food in the nest boxes they use for daytime and foul-weather roosting. Perhaps they can sense the approach of a snowstorm. Once I found three dead mice next to a roosting Screech Owl and, when I checked again a couple days later, three regurgitated owl pellets had replaced the rodent carcasses.

On Sunday, January 8th, one of the boxes had a rusty phase Screech Owl using a flying squirrel carcass as a mattress! Or perhaps it just ate the front half of the squirrel for breakfast and was saving the back half for dinner.

Photo by by Steve Eisenhauer, Preserve Manager

2016 NLT Nest Box Review

by Tim Burris, Mariton Preserve Manager

Photo by Carole Mebus

One of my roles, in addition to managing Mariton, is collecting information about nest boxes from the other NLT preserves. Some of the Preserve Managers are very involved in the nest boxes on their preserves.  Other managers utilize volunteers, including the Force of Nature, to manage their nest boxes.

Chickadee in a Mariton nest box by Carole Mebus

We often think of bluebirds when we talk about the nest box program. Bluebirds are important to Natural Lands Trust’s nest box program, but depending on the management goals of a particular preserve, other species also benefit.  For instance, Mariton’s fields are pretty small.  Early in the season it is good habitat for bluebirds, but later in the season it gets a little brushy for them.  Chickadees often do as well as bluebirds in our nest boxes.  Other preserves manage large swaths of grassland which provide a habitat that is quickly disappearing from Pennsylvania’s landscape.  This benefits many bird species, and while bluebirds use the boxes, this type of habitat is ideal for tree swallows.  NLT’s nest boxes provide nest sites for a variety of cavity nesting species, not just bluebirds.

Tree Swallows

In 2016, we had 15 preserves reporting nest box data. Again, a big thank you to volunteers who helped maintain boxes and monitor activity.  There were 298 boxes, and 252 of them showed nesting activity.

Bluebirds nested in 134 of the boxes and produced 407 fledglings.  (45% of boxes showed bluebird activity.)

Tree Swallows nested in 116 boxes (39%) and fledged 395 chicks.

House Wrens nested in 70 boxes and produced 125 fledglings.  Carolina Wrens also produced 6 young from the nest boxes.

Chickadees were in 14 boxes and produced 53 young.

Bluebird chicks

You may have added up the different nests above and realized that it exceeds the 298 nest boxes that were monitored. That is because 87 of our boxes were used more than once during the season.  House Wrens and Tree Swallows nest a little later in the season.  So, it is pretty common for them to use a box that may have been used by Bluebirds earlier.  Bluebirds often rear a second brood, generally using a different box, but sometimes reusing a box if it is cleaned out quickly.  This is a very good reason to remove old nests as soon as the young leave the box.

Mariton: 2016 Precipitation

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

As expected, we ended 2016 with a deficit in precipitation at Mariton. December came in about 1.5 inches below average.   We were already around 10 inches below average at the beginning of December, so the deficit at the end of the year was 11.37 inches.

We ended the year with 40.84 inches of precipitation. That is only a little more moisture than 1997 when I recorded 40.39 for the year.  Since the yearly average is around 52 inches, the 11.37 inch deficit is equivalent to 3 months without rain.  Of course it rained throughout the year – just less.

When looking at the chart below, remember that the average for the last 20 years is around 52 inches per year.

Crow’s Nest – Family hikes

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

It has been a real pleasure over the holidays seeing how many families have been out hiking together at the preserve. The weather has been pretty good and people have had some time off; I’m glad to see that going for a walk in nature is how people chose to spend that time. Many of the local trail clubs offered “First Day” hikes at various places today.

Above is the view where I see people hiking… a spot of color traversing one of the far fields.

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