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Posts categorized Mariton Wildlife Sanctuary.

Mariton: Tuesday Birding Continued

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Carole Mebus.

Eastern Wood Pewee

We went to Jacobsburg State Park on Tuesday for our bird walk.  We saw birds right off, and soon found this Eastern Wood Pewee.  The flycatchers have distinctive songs (in fact some are primarily distinguished by their song).  The Pewee says its name pee-a-wee.  It is one of the birds that continues to sing during summer’s heat.

Common Yellowthroat Male

We found a pair of Common Yellowthroats in the field.  We didn’t see nesting material, but my hunch is they will build a nest in that general area.  Carole took the photo of the male facing her.  It is a different perspective for me and I like this photo.  The female, though less decorated, still displays the bright yellow throat.

Common Yellowthroat Female


Indigo Bunting

We saw a few Indigo Buntings along the way.  Like many blue colored birds, the lighting can affect the amount of blue that we see.  Tiny air pockets in the barbs of feathers refract sunlight into the blue shades that we see.  I have seen these birds go from bright blue to brown in the wave of a cloud.  (Since the female is a dull brown it warrants a second look when looking at an Indigo Bunting.)

The highlight for me was a Blackburnian Warbler.  It didn’t stay still for a photo, but everyone got to see it.  We saw several last week, and it was nice for the people that couldn’t make that walk to get to see one.  One more week of dedicated bird walks, and then we move into watching butterflies.

Mariton: Migratory Bird Census 2017

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Carole Mebus.

Scarlet Tanager

I rescheduled the Migratory Bird Census from Saturday to Mother’s Day due to the weather forecast.  We wouldn’t have been able to hear birds singing on Saturday with all the rain, and it would have been difficult to even see birds.  It was a good call, even though several birders weren’t able to make the new date.

Wood Thrush singing loudly.

We ended up with a group of three birders.  Sometimes less is more.  We ended up counting 57 species and 309 individual birds.  Wood Thrushes were once again the most abundant species on this count (25).  That says a lot about Mariton’s rich forest.  It is also reassuring to know that future generations will be able to hear this bird’s beautiful song.

A close second was Blue Jay (20).  We counted 15 Ovenbirds, and 14 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks.  We also counted 3 Hooded Warblers, an Osprey, a Screech Owl, and a Chestnut-sided Warbler.  We heard what we think was a Nashville Warbler, but weren’t confident enough without a sighting to add it to the count.  All in all it was a great morning with 11 warbler species.

Mariton: Birding at Giving Pond

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Carole Mebus

Yellow Warbler

On Tuesday, we went to Giving Pond, part of the Delaware Canal State Park. We were fortunate that Katie Martens, the Environmental Educator for the park, was able to join us and add on-the-ground-intel about the park.  As usual it was a great group.  We saw a lot of Yellow Warblers.  One of the birders remarked, “I never thought that someday I would say, ‘it’s just another Yellow Warbler.'” But that is one of the reasons we visit Giving Pond.  Besides the great bird diversity, there are a few species that we see and hear over and over again.  Like anyone, repetition helps a birder commit songs to memory.  Yellow Warbler is one species that we hope to hear and see several times during our walk at Giving Pond.

Warbling Vireo

Another species that we hope to get repeat performances from is the Warbling Vireo.  This songster is harder to see and not particularly colorful, but they are abundant and easy to hear.  Again Giving Pond is a location that a birder can see the Warbling Vireo with a little work and luck.

Baltimore Oriole

We saw lots of Baltimore Orioles, but we also saw a number of Orchard Orioles. Each year we see more Orchard Orioles at Giving Pond.  It wasn’t very many years ago that an Orchard Oriole sighting was a big deal.  We even got to see the two species side by side.  We saw three swallow species (Tree, Barn and Northern Rough-winged).

Osprey with a meal.

We also had some great views of Osprey.  We didn’t actually see this Osprey with a fish – Carole took this photo at Giving Pond the day before our visit.  We did however get several  Ospreys this close during our walk.

Mariton: Tuesday Birding

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Carole Mebus.

On Tuesday, Mariton’s Bird Club went to Woodland Hills Preserve in Lower Saucon. This was a golf course that the township bought in order to stem development.  They have let it go wild, and maintain a couple of trails through the property.  It is easy walking and fun birding.

Chipping Sparrow

We saw and heard a good number of birds during the morning, including an Orchard Oriole and several warbler species. It was the common birds that I see often that were fun for me.  I didn’t realize it until Carole sent me her great photos of bird species that are easy to find.  Right now the males are in their brightest breeding plumage.  Their colors are vibrant.  Their songs are enthusiastic.

I always get a kick out of watching Eastern Kingbirds.  Black and white doesn’t get much more expressive than a Kingbird.


Red-winged Blackbirds have such rich color, even though there are only three.


Wood Ducks are more common now than when I started birding, but no one could accuse them of looking common.


Mariton: Bluebirds Expecting

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

There are Bluebird eggs in two of Mariton’s nest boxes. Nesting activity started in one of the boxes on March 27 this year.  The two nests were started about a week apart.  One nest has 5 eggs; the newer nest has one egg so far.

There is also a moss nest started. It is probably a Chickadee nest, but I’ll have to wait to know for sure.



by Tim Burris, Mariton Preserve Manager

Josh crossing a very deep section of creek.

Josh Saltmer (Bear Creek’s Preserve Manager) and I have been working in the Poconos monitoring conservation easements.   A lot of these easements were established to protect important water resources as well as unique habitats.  With all the rain we received in March and April we have been trying to avoid wet feet.  We have been crossing creeks on logs,  hummock jumping and making treks looking for shallow crossings.

This photo was taken several years ago, when the deck was much better. We still cross it to access a wonderful piece of protected property.

It has been a few years since I monitored these easements and it is good to be back on them again.  Like many of our easements, they protect a slice of history:  habitats that were once common in their region, but are being lost to development.  I often remark that when Mariton’s founders protected this property it was just like every other chunk of abandoned farmland in the township.  Fifty years later, most of those parcels are growing houses, and Mariton is unique.  The Pocono region has experienced exponential “growth”.  It amazes me how much more traffic we have to negotiate since I last monitored these easements.  So, it is good to thank the people with foresight who protect these important pieces of our heritage.  And it is important to take a moment to think about how to cross the obstacles to protecting more of our natural resources.


Mariton: First Quarter Precipitation

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

The first quarter of the year (January – March) carried a little extra precipitation to help the deficit of 2016. January was close to average.  February was about an inch below average, and March was 2 inches above average.  In the end we received 11.98 inches of precipitation for the first quarter, compared to the average of 10.67 inches.

March had over 6 inches of precipitation thanks to a lot of rain. The snow storm mid month yielded over 2 inches of melted precipitation, which is a lot of water in a 36 hour period.  It still wasn’t the wettest March at Mariton.  In 2010, we received 7.45 inches of precipitation.  Looking back at my records, we received 3.10 inches of rain that year starting March 13 and ending March 16 (the same time frame as this year’s snow storm).  Imagine how much snow that would have yielded.

Mariton: Hi-Ho Silver

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

This marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the partnership between Mariton Wildlife Sanctuary and Natural Lands Trust. In 1992 the two boards signed a management contract that detailed the working relationship between the two organizations.   Natural Lands Trust would take on the day to day management of the property.  Mariton Wildlife Sanctuary would remain its own entity and would fund operations.  The partnership provided a small organization, like Mariton, a network for managing staff insurance and benefits, as well as resources for large physical projects.

I was hired on April 6, 1992, twenty-five years ago today.   I started work on the property two weeks later.  Over the years I have had a good working relationship with Mariton’s Trustees while remaining an NLT employee.  This could be a tricky line to walk, but it never was for me because there was always a great staff at NLT, and a great group of Trustees at Mariton.  I have managed to keep the budget within Mariton’s means, which continues to be a challenge.  Over 25 years, I’ve witnessed changes in the forest that precipitated changes in the animals that call Mariton their home.  I’ve learned a lot about resource management from seeing what worked and what didn’t over the course of decades.  And I have really enjoyed the Friends of Mariton, and the educational programs that I started here .

After 25 years, I realize that this partnership has been a great benefit to both organizations, and I feel honored to have played a role. I doubt I’ll work at Mariton for another 25 years, but I am excited about the future.

Mariton: Band Aids for Chestnut Trees

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

American Chestnuts have issues. Since the early 1900’s a fungus that results in Chestnut Blight came to North America with Chinese Chestnut trees.  It infected and nearly wiped out American Chestnuts on this continent.  Some barely resisted the blight.  Some died, but continue to send up new shoots from old root stock.  Mariton is blessed with some of these so called stump sprouts that grow, get the blight, die, and then resprout.  These wild trees offer hope if they can survive long enough for humans to discover a way to combat the blight and return full grown American Chestnuts to our forests.

For the past several years I have been working with volunteers Mike and Kieu Manes, who are volunteers with the American Chestnut Foundation. We have planted chestnut seeds (and blight resistant hybrids) at Mariton.

Blight affecting a young chestnut sapling.

Recently we have been trying an experimental technique to fight blight on young saplings. We call it the band aid technique.  The theory uses the fact that the fungus that causes the blight cannot grow in soil.  We wrap the area where blight is starting with black plastic and then fill the wrapping with soil.  We seal up this band aid for 2 months and then remove it.  This “smothers” the fungus and the tree can keep growing blight free a little longer.

Mike Manes (l.) and Tom Levendusky (r.) performing the treatment.

We first performed this technique in 2015 on a shoot that was badly damaged by blight when we found it. The band aid did stop the blight, but the damage to the tree was too extensive, and it died last summer.  Last fall, I discovered that blight was just beginning on that sprout’s “twin” (they are both sprouting from the same stump, so genetically identical).  This week we put a band aid on the new sprout.  Stewardship Assistant, Tom Levendusky, helped out with the procedure.

Mike, Kieu and Tom with our latest experiment. The area by the shovel handle was treated in 2015.

We will know better in two months, but I am hoping we caught it early enough to extend this sapling’s life a few more years.

Mariton: Snow Mow

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

I mow the meadows at Mariton each year at the end of March. This year I had to start mowing before all of the snow melted at the bottom of the fields.  The brush hog was able to handle all but the first four passes.  The snow was gone by the time I finished mowing the other fields, so I was able to go back and finish the work.

Leaving standing vegetation over the winter provides food and habitat for wildlife. Waiting until the end of March to mow minimizes the time the fields lack cover.  In April, the ground heats quickly and plants soon sprout.  Walking the meadow trails daily in April is like watching those time elapse nature films.  (Of course you can’t experience the sounds, smells and fresh air by watching a video.)

All done, except the first few rows.


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