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Posts categorized Crow’s Nest.

Crow’s Nest: Splash blocks

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Aubrey installed this week a series of cobblestones under the dripline of the barn addition overhang. Without a gutter the rain falling off the roof was scouring away the soil beneath it. I’ll take credit (or blame) for the idea, but Aubrey, along with Riley, did all the work. Thanks also to the Building Stewardship guys for cutting a couple of the stones in half so they could be staggered. I think it looks great!

Crow’s Nest: Not a big night, but some salamander migration…

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

It was certainly warm enough, but maybe not wet enough, or maybe we were late to the party…

Crow’s Nest: It’s dry (and warm)

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

This is the first time in 20 years of meadow mowing that I have done winter mowing of meadows when the ground is not frozen.

Normally by the time the sun hits the frosty ground in winter, our fields start getting gooey. This year, it’s so dry that I can mow this week any afternoon. By the end of the day today we’ll be finished most of the winter meadow mowing—and not a moment too soon as it seems like spring is almost upon us already!

Crow’s Nest: Winter Scenes

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Last night’s snow left us with some pretty spectacular scenery. The springhouse nestles in the valley, below.

This oak-leaf hydrangea displays some beautiful branching, just one of many reasons to plant this native (including exfoliating bark, pretty flowers, spectacular fall color):

The snow was wet and heavy but not deep. We’re hoping it firms up as the temperatures drop later to make for better sledding. Right now it’s blowing and drifting.

Here a trailhead beckons:

French Creek looks charming from the Harmonyville Road bridge.

This scene makes it look colder than it is.

Finally, a photo I call “Bliss.” The cattle enjoy a little bit of stored-up summer.

Crow’s Nest – Family hikes

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

It has been a real pleasure over the holidays seeing how many families have been out hiking together at the preserve. The weather has been pretty good and people have had some time off; I’m glad to see that going for a walk in nature is how people chose to spend that time. Many of the local trail clubs offered “First Day” hikes at various places today.

Above is the view where I see people hiking… a spot of color traversing one of the far fields.

Crow’s Nest: On my winter night table…

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

I have been reading Silas Chamberlain’s On the Trail: A History of American Hiking (2016: Yale University Press). It’s a thoroughly-researched and entertaining book based around a thesis that there was a fundamental change in how Americans approached hiking during the 20th century.

Walking as a leisure pursuit began in the 19th century when people began to have jobs that were not so physically demanding that they had the time and energy to stroll about the countryside, Chamberlain writes, and in the early 20th century organized trail clubs came into being.

These various clubs promoted walking as good for the health, mind and spirit, and hiking was a communal, social activity. Soon these clubs began building trails to better access the mountains, culminating in places like Vermont’s Long Trail, the  Appalachian Trail, and Pacific Crest Trail. But by the 1960’s and 70’s, Chamberlain argues, hiking shifted from being a group activity to one undertaken alone or as a family. Even as total numbers of hikers exploded, the percentage who belonged to trail clubs plummeted. Hikers switched from creators and maintainers of trails to consumers—of hiking gear and of the trails themselves.

Chamberlain was a trail maintainer on the Adirondack Trail Crew and more recently was Director of the Schuylkill River Heritage Area, so he has the experience working on trails and knows the local trail clubs—which critically still promote and maintain area trails. But this book also has a national scope and nicely draws together the picturesque pastoral movement of the 1800’s to the history of environmental advocacy among groups like the Sierra Club. This book provides valuable insights into how membership in a social movement has changed, with lessons which might be applied to the future.

Crow’s Nest Preserve 25th Anniversary

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


The first parcels of Crow’s Nest Preserve were donated to Natural Lands Trust in 1991, so this year we’re celebrating our silver anniversary, twenty-five years of careful land stewardship, renovation of historic structures, and connecting people with nature here.


In many ways, the land looks the same. The farm fields are still being farmed, the hedgerows and woods are still there, though the trees are taller and have fewer invasive vines dragging on them. One of the purposes of protecting the property from development is to keep it looking the same: still providing natural habitat, hosting functional plant and animal communities, and protecting the water quality of the local streams. One of the challenges of land stewardship is that if we are doing our job well, it isn’t apparent to the casual observer that we are doing anything.

However, the trails are better than they were a quarter-century ago. New and older, well-maintained boardwalks span muddy spots. New plantings of native species have been added here and there. The meadows are mowed annually, hazard trees removed, bluebird boxes installed and monitored, and signs, brochures, and now even a mobile app help guide visitors around the preserve.

Kids grow up and some of them are now helping run our education programs, now more extensive than ever.

Where the most dramatic differences can be seen on the preserve is in the buildings, which—through generous support from donors—have undergone renovation and adaptive reuse to support our mission.


Above, before-and-after photos of the tenant house at the preserve, and below, the same for the Houck house. Both provide housing for staff.


Here are Steve Holmburg and Bob Johnson in the late 1990’s working on the visitor center barn:


Both are very much still here but unlikely to stand still for a photo, so instead I include below a photo of the same location taken today.


The barn which is our visitor center has undergone first stabilization and then transformation, from this…


…to this.


Similarly, the Jacob barn was restored and made into a maintenance shop and storage for the preserve:


And, not the least—the Jacob house which provides housing for the preserve manager and family, as well as an apartment for each year’s intern:


Above, before. Below, after. The photos don’t convey how much work went into these projects!


Among future projects are renovations at the Hartung farmstead near the middle of the preserve (below). The same level of expertise and care will be applied here.


As I mentioned above, our kids’ programs have been around long enough that many of the kids have grown up and some now help with the programs. Fortunately, the staff and volunteers haven’t aged a bit in that time…


How do we sum up 25 years in one weblog post? I can’t. I can say that we have been fortunate to be surrounded by the very best of staff, volunteers, visitors, and supporters during that time.


We’re excited about what the next quarter century will look like at Crow’s Nest Preserve! The best part is that you can come out and enjoy our seven miles of hiking trails, natural habitats, and historic landscapes today!

Crow’s Nest: Beavers on French Creek

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


The other day the Roamers Club came for a hike here and we found this freshly-chewed ash tree along the Creek Trail. Beavers come and go in this stream valley and so this is not entirely a rare sight. In fact, we’ve caged some of the trees we planted along the creek—and many others that were already growing there—so that beavers can’t gain access to them. Over the years we have lived with varying degrees of their activity here, from flooding that lasted a couple years, and a lodge, and a few dead trees. Overall the wetlands they produce make excellent habitat for many other species.

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.


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