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Posts categorized Green Hills Preserve.

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!

Green Hills: Force of Nature Cleans Up

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


Last weekend volunteers at Green Hills cleaned up this old shed and everything that was in it (sinks, lawnmower, lots of unidentified stuff) and returned this spot to its natural appearance. We also gathered some tires and plastic trash elsewhere on the preserve. This location is not yet accessible from any trails but as we add to the trail system it likely will be.

Thank you all for the good work!

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.


Green Hills: New kestrel boxes!

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


This weekend Jim Moffett, Brett Gundy and I installed two kestrel boxes that Jim had made, using a post design that Jim developed.

The American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) belongs to the family of birds known as falcons, and is the smallest and most colorful American raptor. Kestrels will hunt small mammals as well as toads and lizards—they need to supplement their diets with these small mammals during the winter months when insects are not available. On occasion, they may take a small bird if the opportunity presents itself.

Kestrels build their nests in cavities—usually trees hollowed out by woodpeckers or other birds—but adapt well to man-made nest boxes. Though the most abundant falcon in North American, their numbers are in decline as nesting habitat is lost to development. So man-made boxes like these are important to the species’ breeding.

The boxes are held about 19′ above the meadow but can be brought down to the ground for cleaning and maintenance.


Installing them in in the fall gives the kestrels plenty of time to check them out before next year’s breeding season.


In this last photo below, the kestrel box is dwarfed in the distance by the power line tower, but the nesting box location in the newly-planted grasslands should make for great habitat for the birds.


The kestrel boxes at Green Hills are just the two newest to be installed across our network of nature preserves. We also have successful (birds have successfully reared young in them) at Mariton, Stroud, Summerhill, and Gwynedd.

Green Hills: Rain garden grows

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


Despite a lack of rain, the rain garden is doing well at Green Hills Preserve. It was just planted this year by volunteers and we have been trucking a 125 gallon water tank there a couple times a week to keep the plants alive until they are well rooted or we actually get some rain. (Many thanks to neighbors who report on the status of scattered storms there; although only 15 miles from Crow’s Nest the weather there is different and Green Hills has received more rain this year than Crow’s Nest Preserve, where we are struggling with a severe drought).

In the front is blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica) and the yellow flowers of sneezeweed (Helenium autumnale). Then there’s blue vervain (Verbena hastata) and a rejuvenated sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana). Oddly enough the original plantings suffered from too much water, the result of a poorly-designed berm that lacked a spillway—something we addressed before replanting. Bluebird boxes and an upland meadow we planted are in the background.

The garden also suffered this year from having five or more shrubs stolen from it (really, I’m flattered that someone liked them enough!) and I did not replace them, just filled the holes with mulch. Nonetheless it is looking good and, when it rains, the garden will help filter runoff from the parking lot.

Green Hills Preserve: Gazebo then and now…

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

I really love then and now pictures, and while I didn’t set out to take these two, I stumbled across somewhat similar images in my photo library and wanted to share. There is a gazebo at Green Hills that predates the preserve. It was covered in poison ivy but was surprisingly sound.

I haven’t even had time to get back to finish repainting it, but still the improvements have been dramatic. This is what the site looked like in January:

IMG_8343And in June:

The funny thing is, the gazebo is not located on any of our existing trails (yet). So as I was painting I knew that very few people would be able to appreciate my labor. We’re not quite ready to build the next loop of trails (planting grasslands and making some other habitat improvements has come first, and we have a limited budget). But when the trails reach here the gazebo will be stabilized and ready to be enjoyed. That’s stewardship.

Green Hills: The Rain Garden Rain

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


Sooo, we planted native perennials and shrubs in the rain garden, and we had (a little) rain. But what about the last week, when we have had desiccating winds, sunny warm days, and no precipitation from the sky?

When their roots are well established these plants will be able to handle a wide range of moisture—that’s why these species were chosen as good rain garden plants. (See a Penn State Cooperative Extension list here.)

But until then? I’m spot watering each of them every evening after work. The 125 gallon tank stays on the truck and gravity feeds the hose. It’s a bit labor intensive but my son comes with me and we have a good time watching the wildlife and meeting the after-work preserve visitors whom I wouldn’t ordinarily get to meet—I’d rarely spent any time at Green Hills at dusk.

It’s still touch-and-go but we’ll try to give these plants the best possible opportunity. A good rain will fill the basin under the plants and provide plenty of water for a couple days.

Crow’s Nest & Green Hills: Thank you volunteers!

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

We are thankful for all our volunteers, without whom we would not be able to get all our work done. The Owen J. Roberts Club came over to Crow’s Nest this spring and pulled invasive garlic mustard. Here they are with bags of garlic mustard they collected after school from an otherwise pristine habitat area at the preserve. Special thanks to Margot Taylor from Green Valleys Association for organizing the outing.

Volunteers play an important role in these labor-intensive projects. I may just be speaking for myself, but as much as we on staff enjoy pulling garlic mustard, there is a point each spring where we experience “garlic mustard fatigue.” Many hands make light work.

DSC_0196 (1)

Last weekend volunteers planted plugs of native wetland wildflowers in the rain garden at Green Hills, shortly before it rained. You do the math: the two hour project would have taken me, alone, perhaps ten hours. Thank you all!


Green Hills: Volunteer planting day

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager


On Sunday, June 5 from 1 – 3 pm we will be planting plugs of native wildflowers in this otherwise drab rain garden at Green Hills. Please join us to help us get these plants in the ground! Wear gardening clothes, sturdy shoes, and bring gloves, a hat and water. We’ll meet at the parking area at 553 Gunhart Road.


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