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Crow’s Nest: Winter white

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


Finally, a pretty winter storm!




Mariton: Winter Green

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

As preserve managers we often cue in on green in the winter landscape.  These winter greens often indicate non-native, usually invasive plants.  Over time we develop the ability to identify an invasive plant off in the distance just by what birders call GISS (General impression, shape, and size).

Native green in the winter landscape

Native green in the winter landscape

Mariton is graced by several native plants that stay green during the winter.  So, finding green here often raises hope for the spring, rather than alarm.  At Christmas I wrote about Christmas Ferns.  Even after spending two weeks crushed beneath two feet of snow, the ferns above still look fresh and vernal.  Even the mosses in this photo are bright a cheery.

A hillside of green natives.

A hillside of green natives.

The native rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum) abounds at Mariton, adorning hillsides with its green foliage throughout the year, and its white blossoms in late June.

Two of my favorite winter greens.

Two of my favorite winter greens together.


Stunning Footage of Bear Creek Preserve

Thank you to Joshua Miller for compiling this gorgeous footage of snowy Bear Creek Preserve.  This incredible drone footage takes you over the water and through the woods of our 3,412-acre preserve. This video may be how the songbirds that migrate through Bear Creek see our preserve.


Crow’s Nest: On my winter night table…

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


More like “On my coffee table” since this is a large and beautiful book…

Over the last couple months I have been working my way through this complex book on landscape design by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West: Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes (Timber Press: 2015).

Not to drop names here, but I have met one of the authors at a book club meeting a few years ago. I met Claudia West long before I knew that she was working on a book. Probably, though, she knew she would be writing a book.

West and Rainer do not advocate a strictly native approach but focus instead on resilient landscapes that use native species and substitute non-native species when they can be functional analogs. These are low-maintenance spaces that look natural and, in our drastically human-altered world, function like natural places in providing habitat, flowers for insect pollinators, and beauty and inspiration for our senses.

Rainer is from the U.S. His story is one of habitat lost to suburban development—and what can we do in our own landscapes to make up for that. West is from the former East Germany and her story is about how resilient nature is—how it has come back in just a couple decades since industrial ravages there curtailed.

Like others who design natural landscapes, Rainer and West ask us to observe natural communities of plants and replicate some of their principles. Plants don’t naturally grow in beds surrounded by mulch—they are members of communities that share cultural requirements (conditions under which they grow well) and they weave amongst each other, filling available niches.

What sets their design principles apart is the vertical layering of plants. A typical “plan view” of a landscape design may show all areas occupied, but when you look at it at the ground view, many spaces under tall plants are empty, a place for mulch and weeds. The authors identify layers of structural and framework plants, seasonal theme plants, and ground-covering plants to fill in between. There are no sweeping masses of single species; groups of plants interact with each other and the site.

When a community is designed, as opposed to a random assemblage of plants, maintenance shifts to management. No longer are we caring for individual plants, but we are managing the conditions under which the community thrives and flows (my shorthand for the dynamic changes that also occur). The authors note that management is an affirmation that, “…design does not happen solely during the initial act of creation” (p. 61).

The photos of gardens and natural habitat are inspiring. When I have the opportunity to plan and plant I hope to employ as many of these concepts as I am able. This book joins Rick Darke’s The American Woodland Garden and Rick Darke’s and Doug Tallamy’s The Living Landscape: Designing for Beauty and Biodiversity in the Home Garden on my bookshelf for inspiration and reference.






A Snowy Hike at Stroud Preserve

by Mae Axelrod, Communications Coordinator

Stroud Preserve. Photo by Mae Axelrod, staff member

Stroud Preserve. Photo by Mae Axelrod, staff member

Last Friday I strapped on my best hiking boots, pulled on some warm clothes, and took a hike out at snowy Stroud Preserve. When I entered the preserve I saw two intrepid visitors cross country skiing. I envied their preparation, as I had to take giant steps to get over the snow left by Winter Storm Jonas. My efforts were rewarded through, because I got to see a Great Blue Heron taking off over the Brandywine Creek, and Turkey Vultures riding thermals in the sky.

My hike up the hill got me to the scenic overlook where I could see the beautiful landscape of Chester County spread out before me. Every season in nature has it’s rewards and on Friday I got to see gorgeous snow covered vistas and birds soaring overhead.

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Want to see for yourself? Stroud Preserve is open every day from dawn till dusk. Come join us outside!

Mariton: Another Snow Time Lapse

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

These two photos show red foxes in the snow.  The first shot was taken on January 13 after we had a dusting of snow.


The second was taken on January 26 at 2:00 a.m.  This fox is taking advantage of a trail made by a deer  around 9:00 p.m. on January 25.

Mariton: Snow Time Lapse

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Dan Barringer’s blog post featuring his trail cam photos reminded me that I hadn’t checked my camera for awhile. Dan’s shows how a little snow can really change the landscape.


First, a photo before the storm.

When I checked my photos I saw another dramatic change. With warm weather, the snow shrank in the woods.  The following photos show the snow compaction in a time lapse.  The deer are different, but they are standing in the same place, so you can watch the snow dissolve before your eyes.  I brightened the night photos to make details a little easier to see.

This was the first photo on the trail after the snow storm.  It was taken at 1:30 a.m. January 25.  That was about 24 hours after the snow storm stopped.  Notice how deep the snow is on the buck’s hocks.

The above photo was taken before midnight on January 27.  Close to 72 hours after the other photo.

This last photo was taken at 4:30 p.m. on January 29.





Crow’s Nest: Come on out, the weather’s fine!

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


Finally, a week after the big snow, I’ve gotten some time to get out just to enjoy it. It has thawed slightly and refrozen a number of times, packed down a bit, so it’s 8 – 12″ of nice powder. While we had plenty of kids out for Nature Clubs this week there has been a dearth of casual visitors to the preserve. The only cross-country ski and snowshoe tracks out there belong to staff who were inspecting trails, which by the way are fine—if you have a way of staying on top of the snow.

I’m sure there are plenty of people with cabin fever. The days are pretty mild and now is the time to get out to enjoy the snow while it is here!

Crow’s Nest: New trail camera

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


We have a new trail camera at Crow’s Nest. It’s installed in a random location (i.e. no bait, no animal carcasses to lure scavengers). It has produced a number of nice photos in the last three weeks. I particularly like this pair of photos, possibly the same two deer over the course of a couple different days. The land looks so different at different times of day, and with and without a dusting of snow.

Our Families: The Unsung Heros

by Tim Burris, Mariton Preserve Manager

It has long been said that being a preserve manager is not a job, or a career – it is a lifestyle.  There are lots of things that come up that can’t be captured by a job description.  Because it is a lifestyle, our families (particularly spouses) have to buy into the dream too.  Maureen does a lot of behind the scenes work at Mariton.  She is there to help set up, clean up, and shop for programs like this weekend’s Meal and a Movie.  She greets preserve visitors on the weekends.  She is the detail person when I am the broad stroke.

Shoveling the roof

After snow storms, she also jumps in to help with snow removal. She runs the snow blower, shovels, plows, and helps pulls out equipment when it gets stuck.  This past weekend, she volunteered to shovel off the flat roofs while I plowed with the tractor.  It is a nasty job after a big snowfall.

Roof raking

This post is in recognition of our families who work behind the scenes to make the preserves special. I spent three days this week on the tractor moving snow.  So I had a lot of time to think about all the things our families contribute for us, and to the preserves we love.


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