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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: Some Inspiration

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

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There is an area along the Woods Trail that has captured my attention since I started working at Mariton. It is a section of forest that is almost entirely Tulip trees (Lireodendron tulipifera).  I have watched how the light moves through it at in all seasons, and at all times of the day.  I commented to someone once that it reminds me of a cathedral, and he informed me that indeed the designers of European cathedrals took inspiration from similar forests.  Whether that is true or not doesn’t matter.  Other visitors have told me that they get the same impression.  There are tall narrow windows letting shafts of light in amongst the columns.

Mariton: Fall Nature Walks

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

Blue-stemmed Goldenrod with a visitor.

Blue-stemmed Goldenrod with a visitor.

Our Fall Nature Walks started on Tuesday, and will continue through October. It was a little overcast, but there was no rain.  Right away we came upon small patches of Blue-stemmed Goldenrod (Solidago caesia) along the trails.  This is one of my favorite fall wildflowers.  It brightens up the forest with its brilliant yellow blossoms, especially on a cloud day.  (And it catches the attention of pollinators like this bumble bee.)

New York Aster

New York Aster

The New York Asters (Aster novi-belgii) brightened up the meadow trails.  While 99% of the tree leaves are still green, there are hints of the coming autumn.  These Sassafras (Sassafras albidum) leaves are among the few that have turned color.

Sassafras leaves beginning to turn.

Black Vulture

Black Vulture

Anne noticed a dark “blob” in the trees and we found this Black Vulture waiting for the thermals to heat up. Once we reached the meadows, we saw several Cooper’s Hawks overhead and marveled at their flight.  Two airplane pilots were on the walk.  As they explained the intricacies of flight it made the hawks’ maneuvers even more amazing.

Mariton: Gnats, Cars and Jets

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Gnats are bad again this fall. I spend enough time outdoors to have gotten used to them.  If they are just swarming in front of my face I almost do not notice them anymore.  I don’t get bit very often, but when I do it is always when both hands are busy and I can’t swat at the culprit.  When the gnats are bad someone always asks “What are they good for?”  I totally understand the frustration.  Gnats make being outdoors less fun.  Before I go into my “biodiversity spiel” I’ll point out that black flies, gnats and their like feed millions of birds in the northern reaches of Earth where these birds go to raise another generation.  The insects are also important food sources for birds as they migrate back to their wintering grounds (whether it is in our back yard or the southern tip of South America).

So here is my “biodiversity spiel” (which I took from a video put out by the PA Wild Resource Conservation Fund).  Pop the hood of your car.  I’ll point to things on your engine.  If you can’t tell me what they do, I’ll remove it from the engine.  (What are gnats, posion ivy, or stick seed good for?)  At some point I am going to remove something that is vital to your car’s operation.  Just because we don’t know what something does for the system doesn’t mean it isn’t necessary.

Here is another one. Imagine you are sitting on a jet ready to take off and fly over an ocean.  As you look out your window, you see a mechanic removing a rivet from the wing.  You call over the flight attendant and they respond that you shouldn’t worry.  They fly all the time with a few missing rivets in the wing.  The person continues removing rivets randomly.  At what point do you ask to get off the jet?

Our Earth is that jet, and each rivet is a species (plant, insect, mammal, bird, amphibian, etc.). Can we continue on with a few species missing?  Maybe.  Which rivet is the one that causes everything to fail?  We just don’t know, but still the human species continues to make trivial and frivolous justifications for removing another rivet from the jet.  Except we can’t get off when the system fails catastrophically.

Yet Another Reason to Stay on Trails

by Tim Burris, Mariton Preserve Manager

You already know that staying on the trails and keeping pets leashed helps protect wildlife. You may not have thought about how keeping on the trail benefits you personally.

Fawn covered with Tick Seed

Fawn covered with Stickseed

Virginia Stickseed (Hackelia virginianna) also known as beggar’s lice is prolific right now and sticky.  As the seed heads mature and turn from green to brown they become harder to remove from clothing.  Look at this fawn covered with the green seed heads.  I know how she feels.  I was removing invasive plants from a fencerow this week and spent considerable time at the end of the day pulling seeds from my clothing.  Of course, I have opposable thumbs and fingers.  Getting these seeds out of your dog’s fur is just a pain.

Tick Trefoil Seeds

Tick Trefoil Seeds

Showy Tick Trefoil (Desmodium canadense) is another plant whose sticky seed is getting “ripe” for distribution.  This seed is flat and sticks close to the material.  I admit that I once threw out a shirt that was turned green by thousands on Tick Trefoil seeds.  I have found that a table knife or credit card works pretty good at scrapping these seeds off of jeans.  It makes it easier, but it is still a chore.  Do you really have to ask how these plants distribute their DNA to new locations?

Mariton: Hepatica Blooming

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

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The Hepatica (Hepatica americana) is blooming at Mariton.  This is one of the first native wild flowers to bloom in our woods.  You will be able to find it along (and even in) the trails at Mariton.  There is a lot of variation in the coloring from white to deep blue.  Even the sunlight seems to change the shade.  That is why I enjoy checking them day after day.

As Spring blossoms and more people start using our preserves, it is a good time to remind visitors that the many treasures on our preserves are there to view and not collect. Think of our preserves as galleries of art, rather than art galleries.  No one wants to be robbed of the experience of discovering that dainty wildflower or bird feather alongside the trail.  Plus, many wildflowers will die without the organisms found in the forest soils where they grow.  Even here at Mariton, wildflowers appear in new areas as the forest matures and the soil mycorrhizae function.

Mariton: Winter Green

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

As preserve managers we often cue in on green in the winter landscape.  These winter greens often indicate non-native, usually invasive plants.  Over time we develop the ability to identify an invasive plant off in the distance just by what birders call GISS (General impression, shape, and size).

Native green in the winter landscape

Native green in the winter landscape

Mariton is graced by several native plants that stay green during the winter.  So, finding green here often raises hope for the spring, rather than alarm.  At Christmas I wrote about Christmas Ferns.  Even after spending two weeks crushed beneath two feet of snow, the ferns above still look fresh and vernal.  Even the mosses in this photo are bright a cheery.

A hillside of green natives.

A hillside of green natives.

The native rhododendron (Rhododendron maximum) abounds at Mariton, adorning hillsides with its green foliage throughout the year, and its white blossoms in late June.

Two of my favorite winter greens.

Two of my favorite winter greens together.

 

Mariton: Another Freeze Frame

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

10/06/15

10/06/15

A few weeks back Carole shared views from the Main Trail in the fields that spanned 6 months.  Here is a one month change from the same location.

MEBUS FieldOnNovemberDayMariton1103

11/03/15

Mariton: It is coming.

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Wild Sarsaparilla in fall.

Wild Sarsaparilla in fall.

It may be hard to believe during a September heat wave, but fall is coming. The days are shorter and I now walk to the office in the pre-dawn darkness to start my work day. The perfoliated bellwort (Uvularia perfoliata) and the wild sarsaparilla (Aralia nudicaulis) leaves are turning yellow in many places. I am finding brown crispy tree leaves along the trails that weren’t there last week. Acorns are beginning to fall.

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Mariton: Another Eagle’s Story

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Over the weekend Gunner Gallagher, a Boy Scout with Troop 31 – Williams Township, finished an extensive project at Mariton.  The project is part of Gunner’s path to the rank of Eagle Scout.  He assembled a crew to install erosion bars on the Squeeze and River Lookout Trails.

BSA Eagle project

Gunner on the far right.

We have been lucky since Hurricane Sandy that these two trails haven’t had more impact from heavy rains.  So, I was happy when Gunner approached me about the project.  We have been communicating for some time.  The winter closed in just as his project was approved by the Scouts, so we had to delay the project due to the snow pack.  He started working in early April to prepare for the “big push”.  He came out earlier in the month with another scout to mark locations, and think about logistics.  On another weekend, he brought a small crew to cut the logs for the water bars and lug them to where they would be used.  I like to use natural materials for water bars at Mariton, and we didn’t have much trouble finding storm throws in the woods for the purpose.

Water bars

This past weekend, Gunner assembled his big crew to come out to install the water bars on the trails.  Because Gunner had done the prep work with smaller groups earlier in the month, his crew made quick work of cutting the trenches and staking in the water bars.  There wasn’t a lot of down time for his crew once they arrived.  Groups of boys efficiently leap-frogged down the trail, because the trail was marked and materials were already in place.

The erosion, or water bars, divert rain water off of the trail.  Where the trail is worn below the surrounding ground level, water bars are placed perpendicularly across the trail to stop the water’s flow.  In most rain events, the water will be absorbed by the soil.  In the big storms, water will build up behind the bars until there is enough volume to go over the dam.  Even then it moves much slower, resulting in little erosion.  More water bars are placed to keep the run off flowing slowly.  Water bars also help rehab areas and help fill soil into eroded areas of the trail.  Gunner’s project also stabilized a section of the River Lookout Trail where it travels across the slope down to the River.

River Lookout stabilization

I get a kick out of working with young men like Gunner and his fellow scouts.  It is an honor and privilege to be small part of their journey.

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