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Posts categorized Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve.

First (belated) prescribed fire of the year…

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Finally the weather cooperated and was within prescription for a burn on a Natural Lands Trust preserve. Today we burned an 18-acre warm-season grass meadow at Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve. Usually by this date in spring we’re all finished, but spring has arrived late this year. In the photo below the point of ignition is at the upper right, and one crew is working right to left across the top of the field and our crew is working toward me (I was staffing the truck-mounted water pump so was on standby). The wind was the reverse of what we usually experience at this site, so we just burned from the opposite corner so that we could have a backing fire creeping back into the wind.


The end result: habitat managed for wildlife and native plants. Prescribed fire mimics a natural process, creates the conditions where  desirable grassland species thrive.


We have a great crew of well-trained, reliable staff that comes together for these burns. We’ve been doing these for almost 20 years (so I don’t have digital photography that goes back that far).

Kestrels At Gwynedd Preserve

By Ronald Zigler, volunteer at Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve in Ambler, Pa.     

All bird photos are the property of Ron Zigler and were used with permission.        

                                 IMG_1024-Edit         IMG_1898-Edit

My interest in Kestrels emerged from an interest in both birding and my hobby of bird photography. Kestrels are the smallest and most colorful raptor of America and are part of the “family” of birds known as “falcons.” They are about the size of a Blue Jay, but very difficult to approach and, hence, rather challenging to photograph. While sometimes called a “Sparrow Hawk” Kestrels are more closely related to the Peregrine Falcon than to the smaller members of the hawk family. In many ways, “Sparrow Hawk” is a misnomer since their diet consists almost overwhelmingly of insects. However, Kestrels will hunt small mammals as well as toads or lizards. On occasion, they may take a small bird if the opportunity presents itself. One of the photos I was able to capture of a male Kestrel at the Gwynedd Preserve this spring shows him on the top of a fence post with a vole. Kestrels need to supplement their diets with these small mammals during the winter months when insects are not available.


Some, but not all Kestrels will migrate south during the winter. Often a male Kestrel will remain in the territory of his established nest and defend his territory year round. Early in the spring when I began observing the Kestrels at the Gwynedd Preserve, I often noticed the male perched on his nest box. It was not until later that I observed a female Kestrel who had dropped by to inspect the nest box. It looked as if he was trying to impress her with the new nest box that had been set up there.

Kestral Pair IMG_1006

Kestrels adapt well to man-made nest boxes since they are cavity nesters. They do not create their own cavities, however, and have traditionally nested in tree cavities. In the 1990s, there emerged a growing effort to set up nest boxes for Kestrels in order to compensate for the development that had reduced their traditional nesting sites, which resulted in a drop in their population. By the end of the 90s, the birds began to rebound as they proved themselves highly adaptable to these nest boxes. However they do often compete with Screech Owls and Starlings for these sites.

While Kestrels are not endangered, their numbers have once again declined somewhat in recent years. The reason for the decline is not clear. This is, however, one of the reasons why the American Kestrel Partnership was established—to set up and monitor Kestrel nest boxes so that we may help wildlife biologists around the country collect data on both successful as well as unsuccessful nest boxes. 


Gwynedd Preserve Manager Tom Kershner took this photo of me using an infrared camera mounted on a pole to monitor the Kestrel nest

The Partnership has emphasized that much is learned from either outcome. Unsuccessful nest boxes can help researchers understand the threats that Kestrels are encountering. This spring, the Kestrels at Gwynedd were clearly successful, and the activity, which was monitored, was typical of their mating cycle. Usually, 4 to 6 eggs are laid around the end of April or early May (the Gwynedd nest box had 5 eggs, but only 4 hatched).


The eggs are then incubated for about 28 days after which the nestlings will hatch. 


Another 28 or 30 days later, the young birds will fledge, looking like somewhat smaller adult birds with the distinctive plumage of the male and female Kestrel.


Next year, we plan on having a second nest box set up the recommended one half mile away from the nest box that was occupied this year. We look forward to increasing this bird’s presence on the preserve all year long.

Empty Nest IONX0001-2

The Kestrels have fledged the nest. The unhatched egg is at the bottom of the frame.


Prescribed fire at Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve

Yesterday we held our second prescribed fire of the year at Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve. (Last week a smaller Natural Lands Trust crew conducted a burn at the Serpentine Barrens at Stroud Preserve.)

Aubrey Smith, intern

Aubrey was able to make use of her training to join the crew and was the ignitor.

Aubrey Smith, intern

Conditions were dry but not as dry as we have experienced some years at Gwynedd. The fire burned well but you don’t see the high flame heights that we have seen other years.

Aubrey Smith, intern

Posted by Daniel Barringer on April 11, 2013.

Preserve-inspired poem: “not even January”

after the melting of a foot of snow
with inches of rain,
the walk I took was soggy.
but the sun on the grass
in that oasis from man was bright,
grasses bright, making scratchy-line halos
around the path of sunlight. Van Gogh
I see what you saw. I step
from hummock to hummock,
the battered green resilient,
buoyant, forgiving. And so am I then,
lifting my arms to the sky,
a small gesture in the wide stillness.
I wait a minute for transformation,
feel my old stiff muscles trying to open
past pain toward spring.
I want redemption, but all I get
is a bit of a thaw.
the language I hear best is still man’s,
the hum of plane and car and machine
penetrating even that expanse,
softened by the gentility of old farms,
the gypsy wings of a heron,
the watchfulness of deer in the dappled shadow,
the superior stare of a red-tailed hawk
on a fence post. I soak up sun
in lieu of salvation. puddles evaporate
into thin blue air. walking,
finding butternut shells littering the skirts
of a lone tree, a bench where a single leather glove
awaits a hand, the moon a white shell
poised for sunset. I breathe in this open air
and breathe it again.

Natural Lands Trust (and White Oak Society) member Jenny French penned this poem in December of 2009 after a hike at our Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve.

Explore the Meadows of Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve with Natural Lands Trust and L.L. Bean

Saturday, September 29
10:00 AM
Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve

Explore the meadows, woodlands, and wetlands of Natural Lands Trust’s Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve near Ambler. Preserve manager Tom Kershner will take you on a guided tour of this 279-acre nature preserve, highlighting the varied wildlife that call the preserve home. Co-sponsored by L.L. Bean King of Prussia and Natural Lands Trust.

To register, please email .


Meadow Masquerade at Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve

August 25, 2012
3:00 PM to 7:00 PM
Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve, Ambler, PA

Bring your family and celebrate the end of summer:

  • Explore incredible meadows and meet animals along the way.
  • Jump and jive to family friendly tunes.
  • Create your own mask.
  • Chow down at the ice cream sundae bar with ice cream from Philadelphia’s own Little Baby’s Ice Cream!
  • Sip beer from Victory Brewing Company. Root beer for the kids!

Advance registration is required and space is limited. You do not need to be a member to attend but Natural Lands Trust and WXPN members enjoy half off ticket prices.

To register, please click here.

Adults: $15. Kids 4-12: $10. Kids 3 and under are free.

Presented by Natural Lands Trust and WXPN’s Kids Corner.

Gwynedd: Prescribed Fire

This week we had our first Prescribed Fire of the season at Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve.  We use fire at Gwynedd to promote warm season grasses.  It is just one of the tools in the land managment tool box that Natural Lands Trust uses. 

Darin Groff, at Binky Lee Preserve, is the Fire Managment Coordinator for NLT.  He writes the prescriptions for the different controlled burns. The prescription dictates when we can burn based on the temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, the particular fuels, etc.  Thursday, we almost didn’t burn, because the weather forecast wasn’t very accurate.  Humidity levels were too humid, and outside the prescription.  After lunch, the humidity dropped into the prescription parameters and we were able to burn the 18 acre meadow.

A Prescribed Burn is a group effort. Each member has an assignment, and we have radios to stay in contact with each other.  Preston Wilson, Paunacussing Preserve, took the lead on this fire, as well as leading one of the crews.  Joe Vinton, Bear Creek Preserve, lead the other crew.  Crews consisted of igniters, pump operators and the holders.  When you work within the parameters of the prescription, the fire is very controlled.  (Photos by Joe Vinton.)

Gwynedd: Solar Array

Our Building Stewardship staff members have put the finishing touches on our first solar array, which was installed on an addition to the management center at our Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve. The panels generate enough power to serve the entire management center.

There is a meter on the electrical inverter that keeps track of how many pounds of carbon dioxide emissions the panels save the world. The inverter also tells the current output of the panels and keep track of the total amount of electricity generated since the panels were activated and hooked to the PECO grid.

The most commonly asked question is, “How much money will the panels save and will they pay for themselves?” As we watch the numbers on the emissions meter grow every day, I have no doubt the panels will pay for themselves not only in money saved on buying electricity for Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve, but also in the carbon dioxide that is not produced!

This initiative is part of Natural Lands Trust’s commitment to sustainability in all of our practices.

Tim Parkany
Regional Director, Building Stewardship

Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve: Bald Eagle Sighting

Recently, two members of our stewardship staff spotted a Bald Eagle flying over our Gwynedd Wildlife Preserve. They watched, mesmerized, as it soared past Swedesford Road and out of sight.

Within minutes the raptor reappeared only to land in the lone hickory tree out in the middle of the warm season grass meadow. The bird rested just long enough for staffer Steve Longenecker to a get a shot with his camera. It was only the second Bald Eagle sighting at the preserve to the best of anyone’s memory.

 Here are some facts on this spectacular species:

– The Bald Eagle is the second largest North American bird of prey after the California Condor.

– The Bald Eagle prefers habitats near rivers, large lakes, oceans, and other large bodies of open water with an abundance of fish. The species requires old-growth and mature stands of coniferous or hardwood trees for perching, roosting, and nesting. They are extremely sensitive to human activity, and is found most commonly in areas free of human disturbance

– Bald Eagles are monogamous and thought to pair for life.

– Once common across much of North America, the Bald Eagle underwent a dramatic decline between the late 1700s and the 1960s as a result of intense hunting, habitat loss, and poisoning by pesticides (notably DDT), lead shot and other pollutants. In addition, DDT is believed to have caused widespread eggshell thinning and reproductive failure.

– In the United States, the species was listed for protection under the Bald Eagle Protection Act in 1940 (now the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act), and later under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and various regional recovery plans were produced. However, the dramatic recovery in bald eagle numbers led to the species being removed from the federal list of threatened and endangered species in 2007, as it was no longer considered to need the protection of the Endangered Species Act.


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