introducing Meng Preserve.

July 19, 2020
Photo: Mae Axelrod

Photo: Mae Axelrod

In 1853, famed naturalist Henry David Thoreau wrote of an en-chanting encounter with the Wood Thrush: “This is the only bird whose note affects me like music. It lifts and exhilarates me. It is inspiring. It changes all hours to an eternal morning.”

Wood Thrush are still abundant in eastern North America, but their population has declined by about two percent a year over the last several decades—a cumulative decrease of 62 percent percent—according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey (see page 8). The species is on the 2016 State of North America’s Birds Watch List, which includes bird species that are most at risk of extinction without significant conservation actions.

The biggest threat to the Wood Thrush, and many other songbirds, is the loss and fragmentation of deciduous forests, on which they rely for breeding and overwintering. Which is why the continued permanent protection of places like Meng Preserve—Natural Lands’ newest nature preserve—is so important.

The 101-acre property, located in Lower Frederick Township, Montgomery County, is entirely wooded with impressive outcrops of diabase boulders and vernal pools. It is part of a larger landscape—the 6,777-acre Stone Hill Greenway—notable for its vast, unbroken forest.

The preserve was once the home of Eva R. Meng who gifted the land in her will to Valley Forge Audubon Society in 1994. Eva and her sister, Edna, were avid preservationists. For many years, the property was used as “Camp Ivy” where Girl Scout Troop #3 of Schwenksville engaged with the natural world. The preserve includes two miles of hiking trails, including trails named in honor of both Meng sisters.

Natural Lands began its care of Meng Preserve last autumn. “Natural Lands has held the conservation easement on Meng Preserve for many years, ensuring this property would remain open space,” said Valley Forge Audubon Society president Vince Smith. “As the owners of 43—now 44—natural areas across the region, Natural Lands has the expertise to steward and care for Meng. We know it will be in great hands.”

The steep, rocky terrain made this land unsuitable for farming, so the forest was left to mature. It makes for challenging hiking but is ideal habitat for Wood Thrush. In fact, Valley Forge Audubon documented 58 bird species during surveys conducted at Meng Preserve, including several species only found in dense forest such as Kentucky Warbler, Northern Parula, American Redstart, Hooded Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Ovenbird, and Magnolia Warbler.

Like all Natural Lands nature preserves, Meng Preserve is open daily, free of charge. But visit in the early morning or just before dusk if you want to be enchanted by the flute-like melody of the Wood Thrush.