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Plants we love (most of the time), Part 1

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Philadelphia fleebane (Erigeron philadelphicus) is a pretty, native wildflower that is also occasionally a bit weedy—but only in our lawns and gardens. It’s a member of the aster family and opens in spring with pinkish ray flowers that fade to white.

I’ve never seen it behave aggressively in the natural areas at Crow’s Nest Preserve, in fact it’s not that common in our native meadows or on the edge of our woods. But it shows up reliably in our turf, around trees and shrubs that are the landscaping, and at the edge of garden beds. It survives any place it escapes the lawnmower, and even though it is weedy I make sure that most of it isn’t nicked by the lawnmower. But I also don’t feel bad about accidentally cutting one—there will be more next year.

Crow’s Nest: Ash tree removals along roads

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

We are continuing to address the eventual decline and death of our ash trees due to the introduced pest, emerald ash borer, by cutting down ash trees a few at a time along the roadsides where the trees could become a hazard.

As of March 2017 emerald ash borer has been confirmed in all but three counties in Pennsylvania. Chester County is one of those three, but I am certain it is already here. Although I haven’t seen the insect itself, I have seen the damage it does elsewhere in the state and I am seeing similar damage and death here.

We have identified that there are 200 ash trees along our roads at Crow’s Nest, and started last year to take them down. We will spread the effort out over several years but hope to be well underway before trees start dying and becoming more difficult to take down. For this round we chose about 30 trees in a variety of sizes but we prioritized those that were not entirely healthy-looking ones.

We will also be treating with insecticide a handful of specimen ash trees—about a dozen. Ash trees in the woods will be on their own, and as they die their wood will become habitat for insects and birds before recycling their nutrients back into forest soils.

While the arborist was here he also took down two oaks along the roadsides: one that recently died and one (below) that has been declining for years. There was a lot of dead wood suspended overhead.

As much as we love trees, everything that lives also dies, and where they pose a potential hazard we choose to manage these trees.

Mariton: Tuesday Birding Continued

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

Eastern Wood Pewee

We went to Jacobsburg State Park on Tuesday for our bird walk.  We saw birds right off, and soon found this Eastern Wood Pewee.  The flycatchers have distinctive songs (in fact some are primarily distinguished by their song).  The Pewee says its name pee-a-wee.  It is one of the birds that continues to sing during summer’s heat.

Common Yellowthroat Male

We found a pair of Common Yellowthroats in the field.  We didn’t see nesting material, but my hunch is they will build a nest in that general area.  Carole took the photo of the male facing her.  It is a different perspective for me and I like this photo.  The female, though less decorated, still displays the bright yellow throat.

Common Yellowthroat Female


Indigo Bunting

We saw a few Indigo Buntings along the way.  Like many blue colored birds, the lighting can affect the amount of blue that we see.  Tiny air pockets in the barbs of feathers refract sunlight into the blue shades that we see.  I have seen these birds go from bright blue to brown in the wave of a cloud.  (Since the female is a dull brown it warrants a second look when looking at an Indigo Bunting.)

The highlight for me was a Blackburnian Warbler.  It didn’t stay still for a photo, but everyone got to see it.  We saw several last week, and it was nice for the people that couldn’t make that walk to get to see one.  One more week of dedicated bird walks, and then we move into watching butterflies.

Mariton: Migratory Bird Census 2017

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

Scarlet Tanager

I rescheduled the Migratory Bird Census from Saturday to Mother’s Day due to the weather forecast.  We wouldn’t have been able to hear birds singing on Saturday with all the rain, and it would have been difficult to even see birds.  It was a good call, even though several birders weren’t able to make the new date.

Wood Thrush singing loudly.

We ended up with a group of three birders.  Sometimes less is more.  We ended up counting 57 species and 309 individual birds.  Wood Thrushes were once again the most abundant species on this count (25).  That says a lot about Mariton’s rich forest.  It is also reassuring to know that future generations will be able to hear this bird’s beautiful song.

A close second was Blue Jay (20).  We counted 15 Ovenbirds, and 14 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.  We also counted 3 Hooded Warblers, an Osprey, a Screech Owl, and a Chestnut-sided Warbler.  We heard what we think was a Nashville Warbler, but weren’t confident enough without a sighting to add it to the count.  All in all it was a great morning with 11 warbler species.

Mariton: Birding at Giving Pond

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Carole Mebus

Yellow Warbler

On Tuesday, we went to Giving Pond, part of the Delaware Canal State Park. We were fortunate that Katie Martens, the Environmental Educator for the park, was able to join us and add on-the-ground-intel about the park.  As usual it was a great group.  We saw a lot of Yellow Warblers.  One of the birders remarked, “I never thought that someday I would say, ‘it’s just another Yellow Warbler.'” But that is one of the reasons we visit Giving Pond.  Besides the great bird diversity, there are a few species that we see and hear over and over again.  Like anyone, repetition helps a birder commit songs to memory.  Yellow Warbler is one species that we hope to hear and see several times during our walk at Giving Pond.

Warbling Vireo

Another species that we hope to get repeat performances from is the Warbling Vireo.  This songster is harder to see and not particularly colorful, but they are abundant and easy to hear.  Again Giving Pond is a location that a birder can see the Warbling Vireo with a little work and luck.

Baltimore Oriole

We saw lots of Baltimore Orioles, but we also saw a number of Orchard Orioles. Each year we see more Orchard Orioles at Giving Pond.  It wasn’t very many years ago that an Orchard Oriole sighting was a big deal.  We even got to see the two species side by side.  We saw three swallow species (Tree, Barn and Northern Rough-winged).

Osprey with a meal.

We also had some great views of Osprey.  We didn’t actually see this Osprey with a fish – Carole took this photo at Giving Pond the day before our visit.  We did however get several  Ospreys this close during our walk.

Crow’s Nest Internship 2017-18 Applications Open

We are accepting applications for the 11-month long paid, residential internship at Crow’s Nest Preserve. The intern splits his or her time between land management and staffing environmental education programs at the preserve.

The land stewardship activities include maintaining areas around the buildings—mowing, weed whipping, pruning, planting—as well as natural areas management: invasives management, mowing trails and meadows, planting trees, maintaining fences for prescribed grazing areas, and more.

The education role includes planning and staffing a five-week summer camp as well as year round after-school and homeschool Nature Clubs, cleaning and preparing the visitor center for groups, and light maintenance. Our kids’ programs are based on outdoor play in a natural setting: unstructured, supervised play and exploration in the preserve’s 621 acres of habitat.

A job description is posted here.

We are looking for an individual with a strong interest in working with kids. Candidates should also be able to maintain a positive attitude while doing long hours of physical labor outdoors in all weather conditions. Training is provided and some educational and networking opportunities are available during the internship. Housing is included onsite (utilities not included).

To apply: Send your resume and cover letter to: Jeni Albany, Natural Lands Trust’s human resources manager, at  .

Mariton: Tuesday Birding

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

On Tuesday, Mariton’s Bird Club went to Woodland Hills Preserve in Lower Saucon. This was a golf course that the township bought in order to stem development.  They have let it go wild, and maintain a couple of trails through the property.  It is easy walking and fun birding.

Chipping Sparrow

We saw and heard a good number of birds during the morning, including an Orchard Oriole and several warbler species. It was the common birds that I see often that were fun for me.  I didn’t realize it until Carole sent me her great photos of bird species that are easy to find.  Right now the males are in their brightest breeding plumage.  Their colors are vibrant.  Their songs are enthusiastic.

I always get a kick out of watching Eastern Kingbirds.  Black and white doesn’t get much more expressive than a Kingbird.


Red-winged Blackbirds have such rich color, even though there are only three.


Wood Ducks are more common now than when I started birding, but no one could accuse them of looking common.


Stoneleigh: Air Power

By Ethan Kauffman, director of Stoneleigh

Work continues at Stoneleigh as we ready the property for its public debut (spring, 2018).

Last week, our friends at Shreiner Tree Care once again helped us out (they also donated their services to crane in the massive white oak stump used to carve our famous hare sculpture) by doing some air spade work for us.

The work was part of the installation of a porous-pavement walking path around the property. The air space lets us blow soil away without damaging tree roots, so we could note the exact location of roots that would be impacted by construction of the path. That way, we can adjust the location of the path slightly to avoid damaging the ancient trees here at Stoneleigh.

If we can’t relocate the path in a spot, the next best option is to cleanly cut the exposed roots. This not only allows them to heal more effectively, but also prevents lateral tearing of roots further back towards the tree, which can increase exposure to rot and disease, and is generally very bad.

In the photos, you can see two air spades trenches, each representing the outside edges of the trail. It’s interesting to note that the further the trench is from the tree (even only 6 feet), the roots are much smaller, and therefor less critical to the trees continue growth.


A Snake Enjoying the Sun

by Tim Burris, Mariton Preserve Manager

Earlier this week when Josh Saltmer (Bear Creek Preserve) and I were monitoring easements, Josh spotted black snakes in two different locations. I thought they might have been the more common Black Rat Snake.  When I got back to the office I checked my photos and the guides and then realized they were Northern Black Racers (Coluber constrictor constrictor).  Both of the snakes were probably  four to five feet long and sunning themselves when Josh spotted them.  Once discovered, they didn’t stay still for a clear photo.  The one quickly slithered up a tree when we tried to get its photo.  It was gone when we returned to the spot about 30 minutes later.

Mariton: Bluebirds Expecting

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

There are Bluebird eggs in two of Mariton’s nest boxes. Nesting activity started in one of the boxes on March 27 this year.  The two nests were started about a week apart.  One nest has 5 eggs; the newer nest has one egg so far.

There is also a moss nest started. It is probably a Chickadee nest, but I’ll have to wait to know for sure.



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