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Mariton: Oh, How They Grow

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

June 25, 2016

June 25, 2016

The photos of these two fawns were taken by the trail camera about 2 months apart.  They may not be the same fawn, but they were born about the same time.  As the camera is located in the same place you can see how much these fawns have grown.  For the most part, this camera has picked up just one family group, a doe and her twins.

August 26, 2016

August 26,2016

For much of the summer, the two fawns were together in photos with their mother. (Or all three would be captured in sequential photos as they tripped the camera.)  Now that they are older the fawns are seen together less often in photos, even in sequential photos.  I am pretty sure by looking at the photos that one of the fawns is a young buck and the other a doe.  In my experience doe fawns will stay closer to their mother and buck fawns will start exploring on their own.  They still come together, but the trail camera reveals how much the buck fawn is traveling on his own.  It won’t be long before their winter coat starts growing and their spots will fade.

Crow’s Nest: Sleepy snake

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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It’s Monday morning; maybe you’re not the only one trying to sleep in?

This garter snake was found snoozing in the garden in the location where a raised bed (the last for the vegetable garden at the visitor center) is to be built. Once it woke up it didn’t stick around long!

For scale this juvenile is about the diameter of a pencil, and maybe 50% longer in length. There were also a lot of crickets hanging around in the same area, suggesting a potential food source. The cloudy eye suggests that this snake is preparing to shed its skin; the eye covering is a scale that is shed with its skin.

Green Hills: Rain garden grows

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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Despite a lack of rain, the rain garden is doing well at Green Hills Preserve. It was just planted this year by volunteers and we have been trucking a 125 gallon water tank there a couple times a week to keep the plants alive until they are well rooted or we actually get some rain. (Many thanks to neighbors who report on the status of scattered storms there; although only 15 miles from Crow’s Nest the weather there is different and Green Hills has received more rain this year than Crow’s Nest Preserve, where we are struggling with a severe drought).

In the front is blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) and the yellow flowers of sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale). Then there’s blue vervain (Verbena hastata) and a rejuvenated sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana). Oddly enough the original plantings suffered from too much water, the result of a poorly-designed berm that lacked a spillway—something we addressed before replanting. Bluebird boxes and an upland meadow we planted are in the background.

The garden also suffered this year from having five or more shrubs stolen from it (really, I’m flattered that someone liked them enough!) and I did not replace them, just filled the holes with mulch. Nonetheless it is looking good and, when it rains, the garden will help filter runoff from the parking lot.

Mariton: Another Dry Month

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

August was yet another dry month this year. At Mariton, I recorded 2.02 inches of rain for the month.  The average is 4.44 inches.   Our total for the year to date is 29.96 inches, and the average for the same period is 34.70.

It is fascinating looking at my spread sheet of 20 years of data. During that time there were 6 Augusts when the rainfall fell below 3 inches:  2.70 (2014), 1.42 (2010), 2.08 (2008), 2.54 (2006), 2.23 (2002), 2.67 (1998).  With all of those dry years it is a wonder that my average for August is as high a 4.44 inches.  Again looking at the spread sheet, there are two outliers that drive the average upwards.  In 2011 Irene and several thunderstorms brought Mariton 15.45 inches of rain.  In 2009, 11.31 inches fell during the month (no tropical storms that year just a period of wet weather).

Tropical weather systems are getting active right now. We could use some extra rain, but we need to be careful what we wish for.

Crow’s Nest: Critter Cam

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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I left the wildlife camera out for five more months and it captured 1,500 photos. I hadn’t meant to let it go that long but it was still snapping away the day I switched the chip. Among the wildlife it sensed were turkeys, a raccoon, and lots of deer.

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Significantly it also caught more changes of growth than you’d expect for just two seasons—from bare early spring woods to lush early summer growth (the lens was hidden behind vegetation for a while, and the wind moving the leaves accounts for many of the motion-triggered photos), then senescence of late summer (or drought) opening up the views again. Anyone who thinks that plants are not dynamic in growth and movement has not reviewed this series of photos.

Above, two of the more artistically posed deer photos.

Happy Centennial, National Park Service!

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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Today the National Park Service celebrates 100 years, and (like the PBS documentary suggests) I think it is America’s Best Idea. These breathtaking places are a national treasure and making them parks has democratized them so that everyone can enjoy them—truly an American social as well as environmental legacy. And think of how much of the conservation movement worldwide has been a result of the ethic that wanted these lands protected, managed and shared.

We are particularly fortunate at Crow’s Nest Preserve to share a boundary with a unit of the National Park Service: Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. More than just a neighbor, we have enjoyed the benefits of being their partner on many projects, from trail building to invasive plant management to dark sky initiatives to the land preservation efforts of the Hopewell Big Woods.

It’s hard for me to believe that it has been almost 20 years since we built the trail that connects Crow’s Nest to Hopewell Furnace. You can hike to the village (or many other trails there or in French Creek State Park) from our parking area and visitor center, or start there and find your way here! Their Baptism Creek Trail connects to our Hopewell Trail and you can easily walk from one to the other without using public roads.

Happy Centennial, National Park Service!

Crow’s Nest: Ash Tree Management Update

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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We’ve started the next step of ash tree management to reduce the number of ash trees along our roads before they die (from Emerald Ash Borer) and become a hazard. We contracted the removal of 16 trees or clumps of trees, less than 10% of what occurs along roadsides at Crow’s Nest.

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Some of the wood is given away to neighbors for firewood, some is left to become the nurse logs for a future forest, and some is chipped to provide material to surface our trails. We’ve started with the more difficult trees, around wires and close to the roads, but there are plenty more to go. Notably it’s easier and safer to work with trees that are not dead and brittle.

Below, Aubrey hauls a log out of a roadside hedgerow.

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Emerald Ash Borer was recently found in Philadelphia, and is present in all the counties around us, and it is 100% fatal in untreated trees (we’re also treating about a dozen ash trees with insecticide so that when the borer dies out after it wipes out its host, the tree species will not be extirpated from our region).

Crow’s Nest: Brutal Summer

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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This summer has been really brutal. I’m not sure we’ve set any record highs, but it has been consistently, brutally hot. We can’t ask staff and volunteers to work too hard in this heat—they need to take lots of rest.

We’ve missed most of the rain that places only a half hour north or south have received. Enough rain has now fallen to green up the grass, but lots of trees and shrubs are wilting. It has been a rough year for planting (the rain garden at Green Hills, a butterfly garden at home, 90+ acres of meadows at Green Hills). It’s taken a lot of extra work just to keep things alive.

Alas, we don’t control the weather—but we can complain about it. Hey, winter will be here soon enough.

Crow’s Nest Camp Week Five

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

The fifth week of summer camp is over; the summer was a whirl of activity. I enjoy hanging out with the 7th and 8th graders who have been through our programs for years and who we have watched grow and mature. We went on several field trips including kayaking the Schuylkill River and visiting Natural Lands Trust’s Cheslen Preserve. I ducked away from the program as needed to stay on top of land stewardship but I snapped photos from a few of the events.

We kayaked first on Hopewell Lake, did team-building activities, and hiked the perimeter of the lake. Here is one group at the new Hopewell Big Woods trail that connects Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site with French Creek State Park with an accessible trail. (If you drive from one place to the other it’s a few miles’ roundabout trip; but to walk from the core day-use area of the state park to the village at Hopewell Furnace only takes a few minutes.)

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Here’s an amazing wisteria vine at the park picnic area.

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The campers did a lot of service projects to give back to the preserve: they put away the building supplies the earlier camps had used, they moved rocks to build a low wall around the fairy village, they spread gravel on footpaths, and built a “vine house” that future campers can play in and on:

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The trip on the Schuylkill Canal and River was sublime, a glorious day to drift down the river. At the end of the week we cleaned up the kayaks before returning them so we don’t transfer any weeds or pests from one water body to another.

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The 7/8 camp is always bittersweet as we are saying goodbye to our oldest campers. But we hope that they will remain friends of Crow’s Nest and keep us up to date about their adventures.

Mariton: July Showers

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

The yearly precipitation deficit was drawn down during July at Mariton. I recorded 8.80 inches of rain for July.  The average for the month is 5.61.  Although 9 inches is a lot of rain for a month, it is not the wettest July.  In 2004, we received 12.27” at Mariton.  I have written before that July can be the driest month (0.40” in 1999), or the wettest.  It just depends on where thunderstorms dump rain, and if a tropical system moves up the coast.

Mariton’s tally for the year is now 27.94 inches, and the average for this point is 30.26”. We were lucky to receive some showers during the month that other areas did not receive.  A drought watch has been declared for the area.  It seems a little strange after all the rain last week, but overall we are in a dry weather pattern and the precipitation deficit could increase again.

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