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Crow’s Nest: Caption this!

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

“Sit down, pull up a chair!”

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Never a dull moment at the preserve.

 

Crow’s Nest: Sunday Sunrise

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

The days are getting shorter and the hour when I open the chicken coop is getting closer to the start of day. This is the view today, looking across at the cornfield.

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Crow’s Nest’s 620 acres includes about 180 that are leased farmland, a rotation of field corn, soybeans, winter wheat and rye, and hayfields. That’s not including the handful of acres devoted to prescribed grazing for habitat improvement and a winter pasture used to support the steers when they are not working the habitat areas. Nor does it include the yard where our chickens range.

Crow’s Nest: Luna moth

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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Yesterday a luna moth (Actias luna) appeared at our house on the preserve. Above, an abstract view. Below, on the woodpile. It’s always wonderful to see these; I usually come across just one a year, though they likely raise two generations a year in our climate. Adults don’t live long, just a few days, and they are more active at night.

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This is one more reason to grow native plants in landscaping. This species relies on hickory, walnut, birch, and alder to feed its caterpillars.

 

Crow’s Nest: Walking

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


Just a reminder that we have seven miles of hiking trails at the preserve—a wonderful reason to get out to walk.

 

Crow’s Nest Camp Week Five

By Daniel Barringer  Photos by Pete Smyrl & Aubrey Smith

Our final week of camp was our largest ever and this oldest group of campers explored places well beyond the boundaries of Crow’s Nest Preserve. Our goal with the seventh and eighth grade camps is to introduce them to our other Natural Lands Trust preserves so that they can see how Crow’s Nest fits into the larger conservation picture.

So after practicing kayaking (and T-rescues) on Scott’s Run Lake at French Creek State Park, we kayak on the Schuylkill River where we can observe water quality in the same watershed as Crow’s Nest and where Natural Lands Trust has an island preserve, Andruss Island.

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The older campers also do a service project to give back to the camp that many of them have attended for years. This week we added stepping stones leading up to a footbridge and rolled away rotting log sections in the stump playground and replaced them with fresh ones that had been generated by our hazard tree management program. Others cleared an area where a fairy village will be built by younger campers, and worked on ideas for directional signs for the network of trails in the play area.

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We took a field trip to Fulshaw Craeg Preserve so that campers could see another Natural Lands Trust preserve and climb on the rocks, play in the stream, and hike there.

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And the campers also made a field trip to St. Peter’s Village to explore the rocks and swim in French Creek there.

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It’s been a great summer and we are grateful for all the wonderful kids who have attended. I am also thankful for the staff and volunteer counselors: our Educator Molly Smyrl who leads the camp, Aubrey Smith, Cody Hudgens, Emily Smulowitz, Eloise Smyrl and Pete Smyrl. After a break we’ll be back with our fall kids’ programs.

Crow’s Nest: As the evening settles…

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Here’s another scene from the preserve as the day is done: the kayaks used at 7th & 8th grade camp have been washed and left out to dry. It is important to make sure no plants or other aquatic hitchhikers get moved between one body of water and another, so the campers wash the kayaks when they are finished with them, before the boats and paddles are moved to another watershed or lake.

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Another form of summer camp transportation is parked in the background. The hay wagon gets a lot of use during summer camp to move kids to different parts of the preserve. It too is parked as the summer programs wrap up.

Crow’s Nest: Late afternoon light

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

A walk along the Creek Trail in the late afternoon looks like this:

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The large steers rest in the afternoon heat from their labors doing prescribed grazing for habitat management.

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And this last one is a ringer, as I am not at the preserve at all right now, but overlooking the Juniata River in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, at “The Cliffs.” I am attending the Mid-Atlantic Invasive Plant Conference and took a late afternoon stroll up from the Juniata College campus to see the view.

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Crow’s Nest Camp Week Four

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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The summer tradition of camp continued with a second week of 3rd and 4th grade camp (spreading it out over two weeks kept our groups small).

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The kids also continued the tradition of getting comfortable in nature. A giant hammock helped, and kids climbed and swung from the trees.

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Inside the barn we made use of the life-sized game of chutes and ladders. After all, the theme this year has been “Nature’s Ups and Downs.”

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Mariton: New Nest Box

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Kestrel box with bat box in the background

Kestrel box with bat box in the background

If you are up in the meadows you may notice a new addition. Last week, Josh and I put up a new Kestrel nesting box at Mariton. We used a dead Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) for the post. I keep track of locations of these trees as they eventually get shaded out in the forest, and are very rot resistant.  We kept the post above the box to provide a perch for hunting.

Josh setting the post.

Josh setting the post.

We used the truck and a ladder to install the box and a baffle.

We used the truck and a ladder to install the box and a baffle.

Kestrels were called “sparrow hawks” in the past, but they also feed on a lot of insects.  If a pair settles into the nest box, they should be able to find lots of food in the meadows.

Crow’s Nest: Plants we love, and compost

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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I am fond of the native trumpetcreeper (Campsis radicans) growing in the barnyard garden. It has a reputation for being aggressive but we have had no trouble keeping its growth in check here. This year I am paying more attention to the insect life that visits it.

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Below, tall coneflower (Rubeckia laciniata) is growing with a backdrop of New York ironweed (Vernonia novaboracensis). I love these spontaneous compositions.

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Finally, I saw moveable signs at a community garden in Maine that identify which sections of compost piles are ready to use and those to which fresh material can be added. Cody executed a set with a wood burner for the new compost bins he built here. The signs can be slipped into the joints of the bins and moved as necessary.

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