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Crow’s Nest: Prescribed Fire today

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Today we held our first prescribed fire of the year—very late! The late snow and rain that followed has compressed our season. We’re grateful for the opportunity nonetheless.

Above, intern Riley Clark-Long lights one line of the fire. We provide the opportunity for training for prescribed fire for our interns each year. This winter Riley completed Federal courses in Wildland Firefighting and Wildland Fire Behavior, and took training and a physical fitness test with the rest of Natural Lands Trust staff that conducts prescribed burns.

Above, the other crew, led by Sean Quinn (an intern from years ago, now Preserve Manager at NLT’s Cheslen Preserve) works its way up the hill toward us. We have to create a black line (a burned-out edge) that stays ahead of any fire they send toward us.

We strive for an upright smoke column (above). That means there is sufficient heat generated in the meadow for our management goals, and also disperses the smoke out of the immediate neighborhood.

That’s our house in the background (above). Now we can watch the field green up from our porch. It will do that quickly over the next couple weeks.

Above and below, before and after photos of a high-bush blueberry in the second meadow we burned today. Even with all the rain we had last week, the surface fuels (grass and dead leaves) are very dry, yet underneath the ground is wet enough to get a vehicle stuck (we didn’t, though).

I also like clean edges on our prescribed fires—they’re a sign of the intentionality of what we’re doing. Prescribed fire more closely mimics a natural activity than mowing, the other alternative for maintaining meadows in our region. We burn our meadows on about a 5 – 6 year rotation, and mow most of them once a year in between.

Thank you to the Natural Lands Trust team of Land Stewardship staff who cooperates to make these burns possible.

Crow’s Nest: Film series continues

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Next Saturday night, April 8, we will have our second in a series of environmental films at Crow’s Nest Preserve. We started last month with Dirt: The Movie. Our next screening will be of Hometown Habitat, a documentary about the value of native plants in our home landscapes to support wildlife. It features Natural Lands Trust board member and University of Delaware entomologist Dr. Doug Tallamy, author of Bringing Nature Home and, with Rick Darke, author of The Living Landscape.

Read more about our screening and register to attend (it’s free!) here. Bring a potluck dessert to share. We hope to see you!

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!

Pecha Kucha Presentation: Using Prescribed Grazing for Habitat Management

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Next Thursday, February 23, I will be giving a presentation at Green Valleys Watershed Association as part of a workshop called, “Monitoring the Success of Stormwater Management Practices.”

The presentations will all be Pecha Kucha style, a format developed by Klein-Dytham Architecture in Tokyo in 2003. Each presentation consists of 20 slides shown for 20 seconds each…so each presentation lasts just six minutes and 40 seconds!

I’m finding it a challenging style to use but I think it will be fun! I also think my topic might appear to be on the fringe of the overall subject, but out-of-the-box thinking is encouraged in this format. I always say that improving water quality in our streams is largely the result of doing good land management, and that grazing is simultaneously the oldest and the newest idea in land management.

Click on the link above for more details or to register for the workshop.

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.

Snow plow at 60 degrees

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Today, while others were driving around with their snow plows on, I loaded up the… lawnmower. It was a beautiful day, and while the ground was not by any means frozen (the usual condition we look for in winter meadow mowing) it was dry enough at Green Hills to mow the section of new trail that winds through the meadow, plus a few small sections of meadow. (We mow meadows typically in late winter to keep woody plants from encroaching into them.)

It was nice to get so much done today… tomorrow, well… There was plenty of time tonight to put the snow plow on, but the main downside of plowing and shoveling is that as soon as the snow melts you have nothing to show for all that work.

Green Hills: Trail Building Volunteer Day

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Next Sunday, February 12, we will be working at Green Hills to build a new trail through the newly-acquired woods there. 

We’ve laid out a route that meanders around the terrain and circles around the two ravines there before coming out near the top of a large meadow with breathtaking views. But at the moment the path is blocked by thick vegetation that will need to be cut and moved aside. We’ll bring some pruners, loppers, and hand saws, and a mattock or two; bring your own hand tools if you would prefer.

Also bring work gloves, sturdy shoes, water, and dress for the weather. Sign up to attend using our website link here.

We’ll meet at 1 pm at the parking area at 553 Gunhart Road, then we’ll drive a mile down the road to get closer to the project site. We’ll wrap up by 4 pm. Hope to see you there!

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.

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