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Crow’s Nest: November sunsets

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the sunsets at Crow’s Nest. Nor, for that matter, moonsets at dawn (below).


November doesn’t have the wildflowers and lush greenery of spring and summer, nor the sparkly snow of January, but is does have beautiful colors and textures unique to its season.

Green Hills volunteer day

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager   Photo by Jim Moffett


We had an enormously successful volunteer day Sunday at Green Hills Preserve, cutting vines along the edge of the woods at the top of the photo above.

We freed trees of a load of vines including Japanese honeysuckle and Oriental bittersweet and “edited out” some of the non-native autumn olive and shrub honeysuckles there. Then staff returned early this week with chainsaw and gas-powered brushcutter for the big stuff hand tools couldn’t cut. The difference doesn’t photograph well but the woods look much more natural without a thicket of non-native species along the edge.

The combination of hand tools and power tools works well and allows us to be selective in only cutting the undesirable invasive species. Many thanks are due the hard working volunteers who made this project possible.

Mariton: Fall Fungi

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager


As dry as it has been this fall, there are still mushrooms to be found in the woods. This group of shelf fungi was found on a downed Tuliptree recently. (The logs lying in the forest always hold moisture.)  Several years ago, I worked hard to learn to identify mushrooms. The important thing that I learned was that the diversity and number of species of fungi is amazing. There are so many identical looking mushrooms that can only be differentiated by a spore print, or an even more subtle difference. The most important thing I learned is that poisonous mushrooms can kill you before you even know you are sick. (In other words, by the time you start feeling sick the fungi has already destroyed your organs.)

The great thing about being a nature lover is that you don’t have to eat something to enjoy it!  Sometimes I enjoy just looking even if I don’t know its name.

Crow’s Nest: Stewardship Briefs

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Managing each invasive plant has its own season, and fall is a great time to identify a few species that stand out now. If you walk around the woods here and see clumps of seedlings stuffed into the crotches of larger trees, these are likely Norway maples (Acer platanoides) that staff or volunteers have pulled from the forest floor where they aggressively compete for light. We’ve long since removed all of the large, seed-producing trees from the preserve although there are plenty in people’s yards around. We pull the seedlings for a couple days each year and hang them off the ground so that they don’t re-root.

Norway maples stand out in the fall because they are still green when most other trees have turned color, and later they are still yellow when most other trees have lost their leaves entirely. Their leaves are strongly five-lobed (sugar maple has only three large lobes) and if you pluck a Norway maple leaf during the growing season the sap that oozes from the petiole (or even the veins of the leaf, if cut) is latex-white (other maples have clear sap or frothy, but not thick and white).


Other species that are easy to identify and manage in the fall are oriental bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus) which hold onto yellow leaves late into fall and have distinctive red fruit inside yellow capsules that split open. Shrub honeysuckles are also keep green leaves late into fall and Japanese honeysuckle is evergreen or semi-evergreen and easy to pick out all winter. So even as we wrap up mowing season we have plenty of projects to do at the preserve.


Above is a pile of shrub honeysuckle and autumn olive that have been cut and piled waiting for the chipper.


Cody used his wood-burner tool to create small signs in the play area behind the visitor center (above). I made a couple tic tac toe games on stumps near the kids’ play area—smooth river stones vs. rough native rock.


I have been using Google Earth (TM) to map our ash trees along roads that will be affected by Emerald Ash Borer, and so have spent a lot of time looking at the aerial images in it. I like this one taking early spring of 2013 because it shows a bit of our management technique: when we mow the meadows like this one around the Chief’s Grove we leave small portions un-mowed that show up as the darker circles in the field north of the large circle of the Grove.

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Our goal is to create a mosaic of different habitats so that not all of the field is mowed at once; there is still some cover left in the field even as overall the meadow is maintained as it must be to keep it a meadow. The circles are left in different places each year and some of the meadow at any given time has growth in it older than one season to improve habitat for pollinators by providing structure for eggs and cover from predation. I’m just amazed that this small effort shows up in aerial photographs.

Mariton: Fall Flowers

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

Witch Hazel Blossoms

Witch Hazel Blossoms

A delicate and long lasting flower is found on Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)  at this time of year.  Witch Hazel is a large shrub or a small tree depending on who you talk to.  Most would consider it a shrub as it doesn’t grow upright, but generally has a graceful arching form.  I think of it as a small tree because even bent over, it can reach 20 feet above the ground.  So, it provides another horizontal layer in a healthy forest.

MEBUS WitchHazelMariton1103-2

There are a number of places at Mariton where you can find this beautiful tree.  What I really like about witch hazel is that after the leaves fall off the delicate yellow blossoms will persist casting yellow halos in the woods.  If you notice a faint yellow glow in the early winter woods, chances are it is coming from a witch hazel.

Mariton: Another Freeze Frame

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



A few weeks back Carole shared views from the Main Trail in the fields that spanned 6 months.  Here is a one month change from the same location.

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Mariton: More Color Shots

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

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A lot of leaves have fallen off the trees, but we took a leisurely on Tuesday just going from one colorful tree to another. The American Beech (Fagus grandifolia) trees looks great right now. There are still lots of Red Maple (Acer rubrum) trees that are brilliant. The oaks are beginning to show a variety of shades. Here are some of the things that Carole captured on Tuesday’s walk.


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MEBUS AutumnCanopyMariton1103

Green Hills: Just another beautiful Sunday

Text by Daniel Barringer   Photos by Jim Moffett

On the Sunday that Force of Nature Volunteer Jim Moffett and I scouted possible new trails, we paused as some birds flew overhead and did a little birding. I had brought Owen with us and he, being a budding entomologist, flopped down and started building a “bug house” out of some leftover soybean plants. Jim got down on the ground and snapped this photo. I consider myself very fortunate that Owen enjoys playing with simple, natural materials, and is such good company out in nature.

It was an immature Red-tailed Hawk that first caught our attention. Jim got that photo too.

Jim also spied this group of Cedar Waxwings flitting over. I love that this image catches them in different stages of their wing motion.


On our way out he also got a photo of the red maple listed on the Big Trees of Pennsylvania. In the background to the left you can see a couple bluebird boxes he built and installed.


You, too can join us at Green Hills on a Sunday afternoon. We’ll be having a Force of Nature volunteer day at the preserve on Sunday, November 15 from 1 – 3 pm. We’ll be cutting some vines off of the trees at the edge of the woods; bring gloves, sturdy shoes, and pruners or loppers if you have them.


Happy Halloween: Dead Man’s Fingers

by Tim Burris, Mariton Preserve Manager


Rising from the earth…grasping a branch.

I was splitting some firewood this morning and found this fungus know as Dead Man’s Fingers (perhaps Xylaria polymorpha).  It is often found poking out of the ground at the base of rotting tree stumps.  Perhaps you can see the similarity?  Below is a photo that Carole Mebus took during one of our Nature Camps.

Well named fungus.

A well named fungus.



Crow’s Nest: Now with fewer leaves!

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Actually, there are just as many, they’ve just moved from the trees to the ground.

The preserve is still spectacular after the storm, just different. In the valley this morning, mist.


The view from Northside Road; the mist is in the valley at Harmonyville Road.


Tuliptrees are at peak color, glowing candles of the forest.


A highbush blueberry looks bright in the northern meadows.


Dawn illuminated the underside of these red maple leaves.


Dusk was also beautiful.


Red oaks are now at peak, as are the yellows of beech. Others species are totally bare—the progression of the season.


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