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Archive for February, 2017

Crow’s Nest: Not a big night, but some salamander migration…

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

It was certainly warm enough, but maybe not wet enough, or maybe we were late to the party…

Crow’s Nest: It’s dry (and warm)

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

This is the first time in 20 years of meadow mowing that I have done winter mowing of meadows when the ground is not frozen.

Normally by the time the sun hits the frosty ground in winter, our fields start getting gooey. This year, it’s so dry that I can mow this week any afternoon. By the end of the day today we’ll be finished most of the winter meadow mowing—and not a moment too soon as it seems like spring is almost upon us already!

Mariton: Cleaning House

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Photo by Carole Mebus

I cleaned out my nest boxes this morning. Eastern Bluebirds have been singing on nice days for a few weeks now.  I have seen Bluebirds occasionally over the last months.  During winter, they can feed on dry berries and other fruits to get them through the winter.  This was a tough winter though, because the drought last summer and fall didn’t leave much fruit for wildlife.  Fortunately it has been a mild winter so far, and the Eastern Redcedar (Juniperus virginiana) produced a good crop.

Mouse nest

This is a little earlier than I normally clean out my boxes, but it seemed like a good day to do the job. Bluebirds have started investigating the nest boxes looking for potential nest sites for future use.  As I expected, there were mouse nests in most of the boxes located in the thicker parts of the fields.  After cleaning out the old nests, I prop the box open with a twig.  It will help air things out, and deter mice from building another nest.  It is supposed to rain this weekend, which will also help in the spring cleaning.  I’ll monitor the boxes for the next two weeks and do some winter maintenance.  Then I’ll close them up just in time for Bluebirds to start house shopping.  I didn’t have mouse issues in the short grass areas of the fields, but I still propped open the boxes.

Pecha Kucha Presentation: Using Prescribed Grazing for Habitat Management

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Next Thursday, February 23, I will be giving a presentation at Green Valleys Watershed Association as part of a workshop called, “Monitoring the Success of Stormwater Management Practices.”

The presentations will all be Pecha Kucha style, a format developed by Klein-Dytham Architecture in Tokyo in 2003. Each presentation consists of 20 slides shown for 20 seconds each…so each presentation lasts just six minutes and 40 seconds!

I’m finding it a challenging style to use but I think it will be fun! I also think my topic might appear to be on the fringe of the overall subject, but out-of-the-box thinking is encouraged in this format. I always say that improving water quality in our streams is largely the result of doing good land management, and that grazing is simultaneously the oldest and the newest idea in land management.

Click on the link above for more details or to register for the workshop.

Mariton: The Day After…

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Most of yesterday was spent getting the parking lot and walks cleared of snow so people could visit and enjoy the snowy scenery. This morning I went out to check out the trails.  I knew there would be some branches down, as the snow was sticky and heavy.

Here are a few of the scenes I found along the way.


February 10th, 20 degrees F, and the Christmas Fern is still green.

A trail waiting for you.



Crow’s Nest: Winter Scenes

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Last night’s snow left us with some pretty spectacular scenery. The springhouse nestles in the valley, below.

This oak-leaf hydrangea displays some beautiful branching, just one of many reasons to plant this native (including exfoliating bark, pretty flowers, spectacular fall color):

The snow was wet and heavy but not deep. We’re hoping it firms up as the temperatures drop later to make for better sledding. Right now it’s blowing and drifting.

Here a trailhead beckons:

French Creek looks charming from the Harmonyville Road bridge.

This scene makes it look colder than it is.

Finally, a photo I call “Bliss.” The cattle enjoy a little bit of stored-up summer.

Snow plow at 60 degrees

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Today, while others were driving around with their snow plows on, I loaded up the… lawnmower. It was a beautiful day, and while the ground was not by any means frozen (the usual condition we look for in winter meadow mowing) it was dry enough at Green Hills to mow the section of new trail that winds through the meadow, plus a few small sections of meadow. (We mow meadows typically in late winter to keep woody plants from encroaching into them.)

It was nice to get so much done today… tomorrow, well… There was plenty of time tonight to put the snow plow on, but the main downside of plowing and shoveling is that as soon as the snow melts you have nothing to show for all that work.

Green Hills: Trail Building Volunteer Day

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Next Sunday, February 12, we will be working at Green Hills to build a new trail through the newly-acquired woods there. 

We’ve laid out a route that meanders around the terrain and circles around the two ravines there before coming out near the top of a large meadow with breathtaking views. But at the moment the path is blocked by thick vegetation that will need to be cut and moved aside. We’ll bring some pruners, loppers, and hand saws, and a mattock or two; bring your own hand tools if you would prefer.

Also bring work gloves, sturdy shoes, water, and dress for the weather. Sign up to attend using our website link here.

We’ll meet at 1 pm at the parking area at 553 Gunhart Road, then we’ll drive a mile down the road to get closer to the project site. We’ll wrap up by 4 pm. Hope to see you there!

Mariton: Lean On Me

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

This gracefully arching rhododendron (Rhododendron maxiamum) is located along the Main Trail just past the intersection with the Woods Trail.  (You can see the photo was taken on a cold day, because the leaves are rolled up to conserve water.)  It is a magnificent specimen, and around 100 years old.  Over the years this tree has sagged lower and lower.

I can’t bear to cut it yet. I prop it up because the tractor’s roll bar is about a foot higher than the bough. I often travel this way with the tractor to perform trail maintenance.  Without the prop for elevation, the roll bar would rub off the bark.  The prop doesn’t harm the tree, and has been a good compromise between the two of us.  I really hope this rhodie is still at Mariton long after I am gone.  (On the other hand, I hope it falls of its own volition before something else happens.  I don’t want to be the one that has to cut it.)


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