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Posts categorized Hurricane Sandy.

Mariton: Planting American Chestnuts

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Kieu and Mike Manes

Yesterday, Mike and Kieu Manes planted American Chestnuts at Mariton.  The Manes’ are active volunteers in The American Chestnut Foundation as well as the Appalachian Mountain Club.  Their hiking on The Trail led them to the discovery of American Chestnut trees, which led them to learn more about these trees and get involved.  Last fall I collected several nuts from the American Chestnut trees that the Guerrero’s planted here, and gave the seeds to Mike and Kieu to germinate.  They also brought seeds from two other sources.

Prepping the planting

We planted the seeds on one of the logging roads left over from cleaning up after Hurricane Sandy.  From the beginning, I’ve wanted to return these areas to wildlife habitat, rather than become trails for humans.  There is already some natural regeneration of tree seedlings, but we will augment that with some tree plantings, including these American Chestnuts.

A Baby Ready to Grow

After the first couple seeds, the three of us developed a system.  I went ahead, chose a site, broke up the soil with a shovel, and drove a stake for a protective tube.  Mike came behind and chose which strain should be planted there.  He labeled and set up the tubes for placement after the planting.  Then Kieu fine tuned the soil, planted the seed, and installed the tube.  These shorter tubes protect the seeds from squirrels, who would love to dig them up for food.  (Natural Lands Trust uses higher tubes on our big tree plantings to protect young trees from deer browsing.)  Later on, I’ll put protective fencing around tree seedlings to protect them from the deer.

American Chestnuts have an interesting history at Mariton, and it is neat that now we are part of that history.

Mariton: Hurricane Sandy Walk

By Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Carole Mebus

This Sunday, we will be taking a walk on Mariton’s trails to look at the changes left after Hurricane Sandy.  Nearly one year ago Sandy pushed over swaths of trees in Mariton’s woods.  It was a pretty impressive display of nature’s power.  We will take a look at the how the forest has changed after the clean up and what changes we might expect to see in the future. The walk is from 1 – 4 p.m. and will begin with some before and after photos.

Here is a view from the Turnpike Trail that has not been available for probably 30 years.  This is the Riegelsville Bridge on the New Jersey side of the River.  While you need binoculars to see this, it is quite visible now that several trees are missing from the skyline.

MEBUS RiegelsvilleRoeblingBridgeAsSeenFromTurnpikeTrail1022

Mariton: Trails Closed

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

I have closed all of the trails temporarily .  The salvage logging operation is winding down and all of the trails leading away from the center are being used by equipment.  The trails are rough and muddy, and there is a good chance that you would encounter heavy equipment on any of the trails at this point. 

After things calm down, and we are able to grade  and seed trails, we will open again.  Hopefully, the weather will cooperate with restoring the trails. 

In the meantime, we plan to continue scheduled programs like the Butterfly Walks and Censuses.

Mariton: Pardon the Mess

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

The salvage logging operation to clean up the damage from Hurricane Sandy will begin on Monday, May 13.  The process will last about a month, weather permitting.  During that period, trails will be closed periodically around the work areas.  It is important that you respect the closures.  It is not only for your safety, but also for the workers doing the dangerous work of clearing the downed timber. 

There are a number of reasons that we really need to endure the noise, mess and inconvenience of this operation. 

For one, there is the Turnpike Trail.  A section of this trail remains closed because of the number of trees blocking it.  You can’t move more than a few feet without crawling over or under a large tree.  It is more than the sheer number of trees across the trail.  Every cut is a dangerous chess move, because trees fell across the 4 foot high stone wall and are under complex tension.  Once the trees are cut, we would still need to get the large logs off of the trail (over the stone wall and tree tops).  We could do this in house, but it will be much more efficient for people with  the right equipment to do this job. 

Then there are the invasive plants.  Kevin, in particular, has made headway in controlling invasive plants in areas over the past few years.  There is still a lot to do, but we don’t want to lose ground in the areas of the blowdowns.  Maneuvering through the downed trees is easier said than done.  (I know – I’ve said it and done it.)  Getting the logs out is the first step in getting access to controlling the invading non-native plants.  We know that where we are controlling the invasives, the result has been an abundance of native wildflowers and other benefits.

I don’t plan to close the preserve completely, but areas will be closed from time to time during the operation.  I’ll post updates on the blog and at the Nature Center.  So for the next month , please excuse the inconvenience of what Sandy heaped on us.  We think the end results will be worth it in the long term.  (Quite frankly, Mariton is a long term proposition.)

Mariton: Hurricane Sandy Walk

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

WEAVER Mariton Storm Walk036

(Talking about clearing trails.  Photo by Elizabeth Weaver.)

Last Saturday, I lead a walk to see the changes in the forest from Hurricane Sandy.  We had a good group, and people asked excellent questions.  It was good for me to see the storm damage through fresh eyes. 

BARTON Invasive plants 006

(Showing everyone the invasive Burning Bush.  Photo by Suzanne Barton.)

In the next few weeks, a company will be coming to Mariton to salvage trees from the storm.  They will be focusing work in three main areas.  During the operation, I will be closing trails temporarily as needed.  I will post the closings here, and also at the kiosk by the Nature Center. 

BARTON Storm Walk 3.02.13

(The group beneath a Tuliptree root mass.  Photo by Suzanne Barton.)

Several people have asked if they can watch the process.  Removing timber is dangerous enough for the people working in the woods, and they don’t really need the added distraction of sightseers.  It could also be dangerous for you the onlookers, and thus the trail closings.   

After the walk on Saturday, I realized the need to do follow up walks.  The heavy equipment will be altering trails and the work areas, and it won’t always be pretty.  So, I would like to schedule a walk during the removal, and one after the loggers have left.  I understand the desire to see how professionals deal with the overwhelming task of removing the downed timber, but I think it would be better to do that on a weekend walk when the workers aren’t actually here.  Because of the timing (and cost) of getting an announcement out in the mail, the walks will be announced here on the Blog and on the Events Page.

A Rare Glimpse of the Seclusive Long-eared Owl

Brian Johnson, a member of our land stewardship staff, considers himself very lucky to have spotted this Long-eared Owl (Asio otus) at one of our New Jersey preserves. Brian said that Long-eared Owls are extremely secretive, and will often take off at the sight of a human, even if that person is far away. Long-eared Owls are less common than Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus) and when found are usually in dense evergreen forests.

Brian was able to take this shot from 75 feet away, using a Canon Digital SLR camera with a 400 mm lens. Brian lucked out not only because the owl didn’t fly away once he was in sight, but also because the owl had chosen an unusually low perch in an evergreen tree. They are usually much higher up, making them nearly impossible to spot through layers of branches.

How to tell a Long-eared Owl from a Great Horned Owl?  Brian says both species have prominent ears, but the Long-eared Owl’s ear tufts are closer together, and more centered on the top of its head, while a Great Horned Owl’s ears are more to the side, “like a cat’s ears.” Great Horned Owls are also chunkier than the long and lean Long-eared Owl, as seen in Brian’s photo.  Brian says the owl stretched itself out when it saw him, assuming what is known as a “camouflage posture.” However, it remained in the tree because Brian did not try to approach it too closely.

According to Brian, during some years, a fair number of Long-eared Owl winter in southern New Jersey, sight-unseen. Trees that the owls choose to roost in are often “white-washed” with owl droppings and the ground littered with owl pellets, but, Brian says, by the time you come across such a tree it is almost certain that the owl has left the tree.

Our preserve stewardship staff has observed a fluctuation in owl populations from year to year; it depends on the population of the owls’ prey: mostly meadow voles and rice rats in the tidal brackish areas. During the clean-up process on our New Jersey preserves after Hurricane Sandy (which is still on-going—see other recent posts by our management staff), Brian helped to clear preserve trails of “wrack”: uprooted or dead grasses and other debris carried by water and deposited on the trails. The wrack was full of hundreds of dead rodents that had drowned in the storm waters.

Since Hurricane Sandy, meadow vole and rice rat populations have been relatively low, and are likely to remain low until their usual breeding seasons this spring and summer. Since the New Jersey salt marsh rodents’ populations took such a hit this past fall, Brian says it is likely the owls that usually depend on them for prey may be moving further inland in search of food.

Brian recommends if you do find an owl, don’t approach too closely and crouch down making yourself less threatening. Try not to disturb the owl by returning frequently, and don’t tell anybody where you have found the owl! This way you may be able to enjoy owls roosting in the same spot year after year. If disturbed too frequently owls often abandon a roost site, and may never return again.

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