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Posts categorized Tim Burris.

A Snake Enjoying the Sun

by Tim Burris, Mariton Preserve Manager

Earlier this week when Josh Saltmer (Bear Creek Preserve) and I were monitoring easements, Josh spotted black snakes in two different locations. I thought they might have been the more common Black Rat Snake.  When I got back to the office I checked my photos and the guides and then realized they were Northern Black Racers (Coluber constrictor constrictor).  Both of the snakes were probably  four to five feet long and sunning themselves when Josh spotted them.  Once discovered, they didn’t stay still for a clear photo.  The one quickly slithered up a tree when we tried to get its photo.  It was gone when we returned to the spot about 30 minutes later.

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.

 

Crossings

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.

Mariton: Snow and the Vernal Equinox

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Last week, I would go inside during breaks in my plowing and shoveling to flip on the television to see the latest predictions. I found both disdain and amusement in the anchors who showed such shock that a winter storm could strike so close to the Vernal Equinox.  My, my.  I am ready for some spring too, but all things will come in good time.  Sitting on the tractor I knew there was verse that addressed my feelings on the situation.  Over the weekend I went to the bookshelves.  (Sure, I could have typed in a few key words and quickly found the poem.  It just isn’t the same – just as it isn’t the same to read about the outdoors without actually going outside.)  I found what I was looking for in Robert Frost’s The Onset. In high school I was attracted to Frost’s poetry. Sure, he wasn’t as hip as some of the modern poets, but he sure captured the many moods of nature.  He put into words the same things I had been discovering as a young woods walker.  In the following poem he also captured my mood about the latest snow fall.

The Onset

by Robert Frost

Always the same, when on a fated night

At last the gathered snow lets down as white

As may be in dark woods, and with a song

It shall not make again all winter long

Of hissing on the yet uncovered ground,

I almost stumble looking up and round,

As one who overtaken by the end

Gives up his errand, and lets death descend

Upon him where he is, with nothing done

To evil, no important triumph won,

More than if life had never been begun.

 

Yet all the precedent is on my side:

I know that winter death has never tried

The earth but it has failed: The snow may heap

In long storms an undrifted four feet deep

As measured against maple, birch and oak,

It cannot check the peeper’s silver croak;

And I shall see the snow all go down hill

In a water of a slender April rill

That flashes tail through last year’s withered brake

And dead weeds, like a disappearing snake.

Nothing will be left white but here a birch

And there a clump of houses with a church.

 

The world keeps turning.

Mariton: A Wee Bit o’ Green

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Thanks to St. Patrick I challenge anyone to find a snake at Mariton today. My wife gave me that little pearl of wisdom.  My wife could pass for Maureen O’Hara’s prettier sister.  Her grandparents spoke with a heavy brogue.  When asked if she is Irish, she adamantly replies, “I’m American!”   I loved that response when I first met her, and it still brings a smile to my face.  She is proud of her heritage, but she doesn’t need to proclaim it.  You can obviously see it in her blue eyes.

They say that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Well even in the depths of winter, Mother Nature wears a little green.

Mariton: Storm Stats

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Our most recent nor’easter (March 14 & 15) was interesting. Nor’easters are high energy lows that often tap into coastal moisture (and warmth) before merging with a colder northern low.  Like all low pressure systems they rotate counterclockwise, so the winds start off in a north easterly direction.  A nor’easter packs strong winds.  If located off shore, those winds can lead to coastal flooding as water is continually pushed on shore with no escape.  Because of the high winds and drifting, it can be difficult to estimate snow depths.  The snow can be wet or dry depending on how much warmth the system picks up while forming in the south.

I generally don’t measure snow fall depths. While it is interesting, there is so much variability that I put more faith in my rain gauge after the precipitation is melted.  On Tuesday, I was about to start plowing around 11 a.m. as I didn’t see it snowing outside the window.  When I opened to the office door I discovered a down pour of soft sleet.  It was more like rain than sleet.  It didn’t fall as crystals, but it didn’t fall as drops either.  “It must have been sleet though, because the radar and weather forecasters all said there was absolutely no rain in the area.”  Anyways this heavy precipitation fell for about an hour.  Trust me, this type of precipitation affected snow depths.

The storm was interesting from a rain gauge standpoint. From the two day storm, I recorded 2.03 inches of melted precipitation.   Two inches is A LOT of water in a day and a half.  This however came as mixed precipitation.  To put it into perspective, with colder temperatures in the upper atmosphere this could easily have yielded 20 inches of snow.  Had this been a January storm with shorter days and extremely cold temperatures, we could have seen 30 inches or more of snow.  Yet, when I ran the snow blower through the grass for a snow depth indicator I couldn’t find more than 9 – 10 inches of snow.  That is why my rain gauge tells me more than a yardstick.

If you thought it was heavy to shovel you are right.  Two inches of water on a 18″ x 12″snow shovel weighs over 15 pounds.  You can do the math on how many shovelfuls you lifted.

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