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Mariton: November Precipitation

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Precipitation in November was slightly above average. I recorded 3.51 inches of rain (3.29” average).  This is the first time I have had above average precipitation since July.  The weather system that visited the last two days of November gave us about 2.5 inches of rainfall, otherwise we would have seen another deficit month.  For perspective, my November records show a low of 0.92 inches (2012) and a high 5.76 inches (2004).  November doesn’t have the range of variation that other months have.

We are still about 10 inches behind my running average for the year. If (and that is a big IF this year) we get the average 4 inches of precipitation in December, we will wind up with around 42 inches of precipitation for the year.  That is within the spread of annual rainfall over the years, but well below the average 52 inches per year.

So what? I know a few people that are having issues with their wells.  Reservoirs are particularly low this year.  There are things that we can do to conserve water during these dry periods.  During winter, we aren’t watering gardens and using the outside faucets, so we have this illusion that we are saving a lot of water.  One of the easiest ways to conserve water is to run your washing machine only with a full load of clothes.  The same is true for the dishwasher.  I know it is tougher during the winter to take short showers, but it helps conserve your finite water supply.   Indoor plants can be watered with collected rainfall or recycled water.  (Hint:  pour half-full glasses of water and ice into a watering can by the sink instead of down the drain.)   We need to continue to conserve water until the weather patterns change and we start receiving more precipitation.

Green Hills Cleanup this Sunday!

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


This Sunday, from 1 – 3 pm, we’ll be loading this junk from the preserve on the truck for recycling and disposal. This is the last of the dumps on the preserve, I’m really amazed at what we’ve been able to accomplish with the dumps here, all thanks to volunteers!

If we have time we’ll fan out and cut vines, pick up old nursery pots scattered in the woods, and dream about a new trail that will lead to this part of the preserve.

Many hands make light work, and this is a good time of year to get back to these remote spots. We hope you’ll join us for this workday. Register online and find more information here.


Crow’s Nest: Hazard Tree Work

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

We’ve had a number of oaks die this summer, and other species that appear to have succumbed to the drought. Additionally, we are being proactive in beginning the removal of the 200 ash trees found along public roads at the preserve (see here for my 2012 perspective on Emerald Ash Borer, and here for an update earlier this year). So we have spent the week with a contractor removing these difficult trees.


With the help of a lift the trees could be topped first, then felled without causing much damage to the surrounding forest.



Other trees, such as this tuliptree below (plus the huge one near the visitor center) were pruned to remove dead wood over the trails.


These last two photos are of a tuliptree that was struck by lighting last year. While it was still alive it showed signs of damage. Trees are easier and safer to remove before the the damage gets worse.



This has been a difficult year for our trees. Each of the ones removed showed signs of stress, insect damage, or were already dead. We were able to leave a couple trunks standing, but short enough not to be a hazard, for insects and woodpeckers to enjoy as food and nesting habitat.

One more day to go on the work today, at Green Hills, where a couple more oaks along the road have died.

Mariton: Seeing Things Differently

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager


From now until the spring I see things in new ways. The leaves drop off and reveal things that have been hidden for several months.  Even things that I have walked by thousands of times can suddenly look new and interesting.  Like this hole in a Hackberry tree along the River Lookout Trail.  I have walked by it numerous times and admired it.  Then one day in the right light I recognized Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

Crow’s Nest: Remembering Frank Hartung

By Daniel Barringer    Photo by Pete Smyrl


It is with great sadness that we share the news that Frank Hartung—Farmer Frank at Crow’s Nest—has passed away. Frank grew up at Crow’s Nest Farm and farmed here like his father before him. Frank was always willing to chat and was very easygoing, even when faced with fixing a broken pin on a tractor or the transmission on the combine.

Frank was rarely seen without a feed cap on, and usually he was not far from a tractor. (The photo above, taken at our wedding, was an exception.) He farmed at night here while working a day job, and when he retired, he had more time to work the land he knew well and loved.

He was willing to create crop strips and sod waterways to reduce soil erosion, even as that meant farming here involved many difficult contortions with his equipment. He also embraced newer technologies of no-till farming in the name of conservation.

He pulled me out of the mud when I got the mower stuck, more than once (and I know I’m not the only one). You could rely on him for a better weather forecast than any meteorologist with an office could give.

We like to credit for our kids’ programs at the preserve shaping the next generation of conservationists. But really, long before we started our nature clubs and summer camp, Frank was shaping generations of kids with an appreciation for hard work outdoors. Many of the local kids over the years worked for Frank, putting up hay and learning responsibility, and then were treated to a meal at the Ridge. Significantly, many of our neighbors, now grown, still know how to operate Frank’s tractors. People in this neighborhood have a strong sense of looking out for one another (think, for example, of people helping each other after a heavy snowstorm), and I think Frank deserves credit for building a sense of community around the farm.

We miss Frank dearly, and his family remains in our thoughts.



Crow’s Nest: Some fall awesomeness

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


It may be cooling down but it’s not winter yet! Here a spotted salamander is hanging out on some leaves this morning.


The low sun illuminates a pasture and bluebird boxes…


And spicebush in the understory glows gold around the springhouse.

Mariton: Looking at Fall

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

Shagbark Hickory

Shagbark Hickory

The last Tuesday Nature Walk of the season. It was a little breezy, but no gnats.  We knew it would be a good day for watching raptors in the fields on top of the hill, but we decided spend more time in the woods.  Right now, the various hickories have a golden glow.  The spicebush (Lindera benzoin) is a kodachrome yellow.  The Tuliptree leaves on the trail “echo” the color with a little more orange.  Even on a cloudy day it is like “walking on sunshine.”

Tupelo Tree

Tupelo Tree

I have trouble identifying Tupelo, or Black Gum, (Nyssa sylvatica) by its bark, but at this time of the year its brilliant red is apparent from a distance.   I didn’t realize how much Tupelo was growing at Mariton until I started looking for it in the fall.

Witch Hazel Blossom

Witch Hazel Blossom

Right now is when the Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) begins to bloom.  This delicate yellow flower is a highlight of fall for me.  This sub-canopy, gracefully arching tree is often overlooked until this time of year.

Tuliptree seed pod

Tuliptree Seed Pod


Crow’s Nest: Moving-in Day

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


Yesterday was our official move-in day to the new addition to our visitor center barn at Crow’s Nest. Above, the conference room is looking great.

The addition also contains two offices for staff, a public restroom, a washer-dryer for cleaning the kids’ clothing we lend out during nature club programs, and storage space for education supplies.

Most of the construction was performed by Natural Lands Trust Building Stewardship Staff, mainly Steve Holmburg, Scott DiBerardinis and Luke DiBerardinis. (The roofing and heating were done by some top-notch contractors.) The project lasted just under a year and a half and was funded by a private donor.

We are very excited to have the additional (and beautiful) space!

Mariton: Elusive Bird

By Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Marilyn Hessinger.

Marilyn joined our Tuesday Walks four years ago. She is an avid gardener and I enjoy when she talks about the things she sees in nature that have technical terms in garden designs.  Over the years, she has become an enthusiastic birder.  One bird that has eluded her is a Pileated Woodpecker. Not that we haven’t seen them while on the bird walks, it was just that she hadn’t seen them.  There is a list of reasons she missed a sighting, and she has been a good sport laughing at her frustration.  She even poked fun at herself and took the above photo of a stuffed toy in her garden.

Marilyn's first real sighting of a Pileated Woodpecker!

Marilyn’s first real sighting of a Pileated Woodpecker!

This fall, we finally had a Pileated Woodpecker that Marilyn got to view for several minutes. I know she had great satisfaction in the sighting, but it was a huge thrill for me and the other birders to be able to share the sighting with her.

Crow’s Nest: Fall Color Alert

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


It’s alway difficult to predict exactly when “peak” fall color will occur, but things are looking pretty nice right now. Red maples, sugar maples, sassafras and poison ivy look spectacular right now. Oaks will come along a bit later. I would have thought that the extraordinarily dry conditions might affect color—and insofar as some trees have died it has—but there is still a lot of color out there.

This weekend should be a great time to get out and see nature in autumn’s glory.



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