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Posts categorized Nature camp.

Mariton: Year in Review

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

As I put the new calendar on the wall, I thought I would do a brief review using photos from this year’s blog posts.  This isn’t everything, just some of the highlights.  We had a snowy and cold winter and I wrote a series on dressing to enjoy the weather.

Winter Hats

Some of the photos of the season:

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Photo by Carole Mebus

Bladder nut in ice

During the spring Mike and Kieu Manes planted American Chestnuts.  The wildflowers at Mariton were glorious.  There were several bird walks.  The  nest boxes had a lot of activity.

planting Chestnuts

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Trillium by Carole Mebus

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Swainson’s Thrush by Carole Mebus


Moving into summer, the Bird Walks transitioned to Butterfly Walks.  There were Kayak trips on Lake Nockamixon.  And we had a great group of children for Nature Camp.

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Coral Hairstreak by Carole Mebus

Haycock Run


Nature Camp visits Traugers by Carole Mebus

The fall colors in 2014 were fantastic. During our weekly walks in October we marveled at the colors, along with being treated to exciting bird sightings and more butterflies.

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Mariton Field by Carole Mebus

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Female Bluebird with Fall Backdrop by Carole Mebus

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Eastern Comma butterfly under Pawpaw Tree by Carole Mebus

2014 was a special year for Mariton.  It marked the 45th anniversary of the Guerrero’s establishing the Deed of Trust that protects Mariton.  It also marked the 70th anniversary of the first purchase of land that would later become Mariton Wildlife Sanctuary.  During the year we showed the movies that the Guerrero’s made when they first moved to the property(in the late 1940’s), along with a slide show of vintage photos.

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The Guerrero’s in Belgium in the early 1960’s

I’m wishing you a Happy New Year for 2015.  I hope you find time to be inspired and moved by nature’s beauty.

Mariton: Camp’s Friday Night Program

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

One of the neat things about our camp is that we end Friday night with a family potluck and special program.  This was something that Polly Ivenz, our longtime program director, started many years ago.  It gives kids a chance to show their parents and siblings what they did during the week.  Carole posts all the photos she has taken during the week up on the walls of the Nature Center.  The kid’s get to narrate the photos for their parents, which I think helps reinforce the things they have learned.

Following dinner we have our program.  We have featured Kathy and Eric Uhler of Pocono Wildlife Rehabilitation Center as the speakers for several years.  They present a fantastic educational program using live animals.  For instance Flame pictured below is a female red-phase Screech Owl.  She can’t be released into the wild, but she has served as a foster mother to many Screech Owls.  Being raised by an actual owl is a better education for an owlet, and they have a better chance of survival when they get released back to the wild.


Is there a better way to learn to learn about why Opossums have a pouch?  Opossums give birth (in human terms) to pre-mature babies and the pouch serves as an incubator where the young continue to develop.  When a female is killed by a car, sometimes her babies in the pouch can be saved and released back into the wild.  (As was the case with this female baby.)


This porcupine was a hit with everyone.  Since they live in northern Pennsylvania, we don’t see them here.  While no one got to touch, it was interesting to see one up close.


And the goal is releasing wild animals back into the wild.  Kathy and Eric brought a Great-horned Owl that they released.  We watched as it flew to the pine trees, and then disappeared in the darkness.  What a great experience for everyone.

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Mariton: Trees and Shrubs

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

Friday at Nature Camp we concluded our series on plants with the trees and shrubs.  We talked about compound leaves and simple leaves.


We talked about bark.


Here the kids point at Tuliptrees (Liriodendron tulipifera) in the forest after learning how to identify the whole tree, not just the leaves.


While walking we chanced upon this Downy Woodpecker working on a Common Mullein stalk (Verbascum thapsus).  This is a plant that the children learned earlier in the week, so it was neat for them to watch wildlife utilizing the plant.


It was a great week in camp, and the children had fun and learned a few things also.


Mariton: Plants and Animals

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager.  Photos by Carole Mebus


One way to talk about the inter-connections between plants and animals is to talk about butterflies.  Many butterflies are dependent on just a few species of plants for egg laying (where the caterpillars will eat).  Remove those plants from the landscape and you can expect repercussions.  Many butterflies feed on nectar from flowers, and in the process pollinate them to provide seeds for another generation (of both plants and butterflies).  So, butterflies are a great way to talk about plants.


The milkweed seed pods caught the kids’ attention when we got into the meadows. But it is a good walk to reach the meadows and the children asked questions about many of the plants that we saw along the way.  Some of those included common mullein, hawthorne, and grape leaves covered with galls.


And then there is the sweet birch (Betula lenta).  It doesn’t matter if you are a kid or an old timer.  There is something about the smell and taste of wintergreen in the twigs that mesmerizes people.  While the kids haven’t learned how to recognize the leaves, they have memorized the locations of the trees.  And just like me, they can’t pass by without grabbing a twig and sucking on it.  For me, it is fun to watch the experienced campers show the newbies the locations, how to bite the twig and what to do. Normally, I don’t encourage defoliating trees, but there are many places where I purposely don’t trim back branches overhanging the trails in order to provide easy access to those in the know.  Hopefully, this will inspire someone to learn how to identify trees just so they can find sweet birch to sample.

Mariton: Nature Camp – Day Two

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


You can’t really give children a good overview of plants without talking about our food.  So, the folks at Trauger’s Farm took some time from their busy day to lead us around the farm and show us everything that they have growing right now, and how they manage the space.  This is a great opportunity to learn about what our food looks like before it gets packaged in the supermarket.  It also gives one a better sense of what is involved in growing the food that we in the United States take for granted.


There was a chance to smell different things.


And a chance to eat things fresh from the earth.


There was also a chance to see how the kids measured up.


As one famous pig is fond of saying:  “T-t–t-that’s all folks!”


(Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

Mariton: Nature Camp

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


Nature Camp started at Mariton, and we have a bright group of children attending.  We are focusing on plants this year.  Virginia is seen here giving an overview of how plants fit into the order of life, along with the things that make plants special.


After Virginia talked, we took a walk where we could find out more about plants.  We took a look at galls on the Hackberry.  It is a neat adaptation where an insect injects a plant hormone while laying its egg, thus causing the plant to grow a protective structure that protects the egg and larva.


Above are examples of moss and lichen side by side.  These are two very special types of plants.  On our walk, we also examined tree roots that had been exposed by storms, poison ivy, leaf miner tracks and other plants.  The kids are asking really excellent questions this year, so we are looking forward to the rest of the week.

Mariton: Nature Camp – Mammals

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

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Today was a great program for a Friday.  Scott Shoenigger of Hunter’s Moon Taxidermy brought in literally a truck load of animal pelts and a box of predator skulls.  He talked about how mammals hide can be removed and preserved.  Taxidermy is one of the oldest jobs known to humans, so Scott spent a little talking about his job.

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He spread the hides of bears, moose, deer, coyotes, mink, fox, otter, etc. on the floor.  Then he invited the children to sit on the hides on the floor.  How cool is that?  Of course, having access to all those different animal skins was a sensory overload, so I am not sure how much they learned about mammals today.  They will remember how big a moose is, and what a fox pelt feels like.

Mariton: Nature Camp – Herptiles

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

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We had a wet day for talking about amphibians and reptiles.  It was a little wetter than I would have liked, but the children didn’t seem to mind at all.  We started by the little frog pond.  It is perfect for frogs; there is lots of vegetation for hiding.  Of course that makes it tough for the kids to see the frogs that abound there.  Virginia found the Green Frog pictured below.  Once the kids got their “frog eyes” adjusted, they were soon spotting more hiding along the edge of the water.  They were really good about not spooking them into the water, and making sure the other kids saw too.  (A first rate group of kids this week.)

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We then walked to the birdblind.  We made it just as it started raining hard.  It was great to be under the roof, but the birds weren’t interested in visiting the feeders.  Someone found a baby toad in a corner.  I caught it and held it for everyone to examine. 

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The rain seemed to let up a little so we headed out on the trail.  We checked logs and rocks, but didn’t locate any salamanders.  When we got back to the Nature Center, the kids shed the wet shoes and boots. 

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Virginia covered reptile and amphibian distinctions.  She showed some photos of local specimens and played recordings of several frog calls.  (The kids loved that.)  We had a video about Bog Turtles.  And then the crayons came out.

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Mariton: Nature Camp – Creekin’

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

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Nature Camp went on a field trip to Fry’s Run this morning.  Bob Schmidt, of Fry’s Run Watershed Association, talked about the importance of protecting our local watersheds:  the small watersheds are part of bigger watersheds (like the Delaware River watershed).   We could see Mariton rising up on the other side of the creek, so it was easy to understand how rain falling at Mariton could eventually make its way into Fry’s Run.

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Then Bob helped us collect and identify the aquatic insect larvae that can be used to monitor a stream’s health.  The kids enjoyed looking at all the interesting bugs that live in our streams. 

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I took the field microscope, so things looked really awesome.

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Collecting and learning about creek critters are important to camp.  Splashing, tossing stones and getting wet is an important part of camp too!

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So how did the creek score today?  Well, Bob tallied a score of 23 based on what we found this morning.  That is a Very Good grade.  Bob had our score sheet for 2010 when Nature Camp visited and we had a score of 30 (or Excellent) that morning.  There are a couple things that could account for the different scores.  We had some major rainfall last weekend that could have washed some of the organisms downstream, or covered them with silt.  We also had a major heat wave a few weeks back that heated up the water and depleted oxygen.  The lack of oxygen eliminates some of the higher scoring aquatic insects.  (I think the intensity on the children’s faces speaks volumes.)

Mariton: Nature Camp – Birds

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

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Tuesday’s focus at Camp was birds.  Carole started with a slide program on bird watching before we headed outside.  We had barely made it out the door when the kids saw a Mourning Dove land on a branch.  Binoculars came up and they helped each other locate the bird in the tree.  A cardinal soon flew by and their excitement was barely contained.

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They settled right in when we got to the birdblind.  They were teased by a Chickadee that would fly in for one seed and then zip back into the brush to eat it, before returning.  The Downy Woodpeckers were more cooperative. 

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The kids were having so much fun in the blind that we had to practically pry them out.  But as soon as they were back on the trail, new wonders caught their fancy.  We had another fun (and educational) hike through the woods.

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