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Green Hills: Glorious Vistas

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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Mowing the trails at Green Hills Preserve gives me a good opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the preserve, both close up and of the vistas.

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I’ve added trail arrows at the trail junctions. The total trail mileage is about two miles, though you can do a shorter distance by not including both loops. The parking lot is finished so come on by and enjoy the preserve yourself!

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Mariton: Breezy Morning on the Lake

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Sunny Lake Nockamixon

We had a small group for our Sunday morning kayak trip.  It was chilly and breezy when we started, but the sun was bright and it was a great day to be on the lake.  We saw lots of Great Blue Herons.  We also saw a Cattle Egret just before we entered the inlet.  We had a kettle of both Turkey and Black Vultures circling directly overhead.  It was a great visual aid of the differences between these two species.  You could easily point out the white tips on the Black Vulture wings.

A large Snapping Turtle was resting on top of an exposed stump.  It was the same diameter and color as the stump, so I didn’t notice it at first.  I did a double take as I paddled closer.  By the time I got the camera turned on and positioned, the turtle was in the water.  I hadn’t expected many turtles on the chilly morning, but we also saw lots of painted turtles sunning themselves on logs.

One of the more interesting sightings was Double-crested Cormorant perched on a branch.  While cormorants aren’t unusual anymore, we all paddled within a couple yards of this individual.  I’ve never had them let you get that close.  I didn’t even bother fussing with the camera, because I was sure it wouldn’t stay put.

Haycock Run

It was a great morning to be on the lake.

Daytrip Discoveries: Wawa Preserve

By Dulcie Flaharty, Vice President of Community Partnerships

Dulcie’s “Daytrip Discoveries” represent her quest to visit all 18 of Natural Lands Trust’s publicly accessible nature preserves within one year–an adventure she hopes will inspire others to do the same! Dulcie was executive director of Montgomery County Lands Trust, which merged with Natural Lands Trust in 2012.

It’s a very warm day in late summer with tight schedules… where might we go to get a quick pick me up? The answer to the morning’s challenge has no coffee, fast gas, or foot-longs, but does go by the name “Wawa.”

Only 10 minutes from Natural Lands Trust’s Hildacy Farm Preserve headquarters, tucked behind the Wawa corporate campus along busy Route 1 (Baltimore Pike) on Valley Road, you will find the 98-acre Wawa Preserve. The property is owned by Natural Lands Trust and managed in partnership with Middletown Township.

wildgoosecrossingPassing under a dramatic bridge marked “Wild Goose Crossing” (a reminder that Wawa means “Wild Goose” in Ojibway), look for the preserve parking area and welcome kiosk immediately to your left. This was the starting point for our walk.

Debbie Beer, Natural Lands Trust’s engagement manager, asked to join me for a quick sojourn if I promised to have her back in the office within 90 minutes.

From the parking area, we were greeted by the chatter of American Robins, Goldfinches, and Carolina Wrens, as if to say… “we like it here!”

With the heat of the day upon us, the wooded path was the obvious choice. (An alternative trail, which traverses a former pasture, we decided to save for a future visit.)

1st trail picture

Within a few yards, the trail opened to a wide and inviting corridor weaving along the clear-running Rocky Run stream, well named with its boulder-strewn banks.

Rocky Run Creek #1

This path, although carpeted with tree roots and stones, provides a wonderful place to hike with a friend. How nice it was to take a walk, two-by-two, rather than the usual single-file!

Day moths could be seen flying in between the shafts of summer sun and perfusion of shady spaces.  Floating in speckled light, a delicate spider web provided a reminder of Mother Nature’s elegance.

Spider Web in sun

 

A plethora of native beech, poplar, red oak, and sycamore trees provided a sheltering canopy to our hike.

Tall Trees

With abundant trees and a stream along the trail, the pathway was surprisingly cool and breezy on such a warm morning. We almost forgot our timetable as the trail opened even wider.

Last Trail w.Debbie

All too quickly we needed to make a u-turn and head back to our car. But Wawa Preserve had fulfilled our desire for a quick and convenient respite, right around the corner from our busy world.

On the walk back, a patch of woodland sunflowers visited by a bee reminded us that humans are not the only busy creatures in Mother Nature’s world. Pollinators are working constantly to complete their mission of collecting food and sharing pollen.

Pollinator

Wawa Preserve allowed for a brief visit to an inviting and quiet place, not far from the hustle bustle… a perfect preserve for a busy world.

Want to plan your own visit? Preserve details and highlights can be found here.

Mariton: Seasonal Subtleties

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

Pokeweed berries

Meteorological Fall is upon us.  While the Equinox is still a couple weeks away, the subtle changes that usher in Autumn are unmistakable.  The Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana) berries have changed from green to blue-black.  There stems are turning bright purple, and leaves are becoming yellow.  One of the things that I noticed last week was the almost overnight change of Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) berries to scarlet.  Tree leaves are different too.  Leaves that were dark green last week are beginning to fade – just a little bit.  Take time to really look at a scene that you see every day.  You will see it too.

Every morning and evening I am greeted by the sounds of flocks of Robins on roost.  Sure, we have been seeing Robins all year, but not flocking together like they are at this time of the year.  You can’t walk through the woods without hearing the clucking of robins as they canvas the forest for food as they fatten up for migration and winter in other places.

Thistle and goldenrod

In the meadows, the patches of yellow Goldenrods have really changed the texture of the scenery.   It is funny that in our personal lives we resist change, yet most people really look forward to the changes of the shoulder seasons .  I especially appreciate the subtle changes of new shades and new songs that herald the new air of a new season.

Thistle flower

Crow’s Nest: Blooms continue

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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It has been our best year in memory for the blooms of Joe-Pye weed, New York ironweed, and cardinal flower. The goldenrod has started blooming, joining the white-flowered boneset. Ragweed was a little late but now is just past peak (my allergies keep me informed).

It also seems to be a good year to see monarch butterflies here at Crow’s Nest, at least better than the recent past.

Mariton: August Rainfall

by Tim Burris, Preserve Manager

I ended up with 2.70 inches of rain at Mariton for the month of August.  That is a bit below average (4.62”) for the month.  That is not an unheard of departure from average; we received 1.42 inches in 2010.  But this year has been running wetter than average, so it is the first month that has dipped substantially below the average.

Still, we are 6.25 inches above average for this point of the year.  That is what makes me cautious.  The average usually balances out over a twelve month period, and we could use some rain right now.  It makes you wonder if we are in for an extended dry spell.  Of course, we will know the answer to that musing in a few months.

Firewood quarantine comes to Chester County

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Walnut

A disease of black walnut trees called “Thousand cankers disease” has been found in southern Chester County, so that means all of Chester County, along with Montgomery, Delaware, and Philadelphia Counties locally join Bucks County in a quarantine to prevent the spread of this disease.

The disease is a fungus carried by walnut twig beetles that burrow under the bark. It can take ten years for a tree to die after initial infestation. The beetles themselves are tiny, about the size of a poppy seed.

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has enacted a quarantine effective immediately upon the discovery August 4. The quarantine restricts the movement of all nursery stock, and all walnut material whether living or dead, include cut or fallen wood, stumps, roots, branches, mulch and composted and uncomposted chips. Nuts, processed lumber and finished wood products without bark are exempt from the quarantine.

The statement also reads, “Due to the difficulty in distinguishing between species of hardwood firewood, all hardwood firewood is considered quarantined.”

(We generate a lot of firewood when pruning trees and taking down hazard trees at Crow’s Nest Preserve, and give a lot of it away. None of it shall now leave the county—a tough but necessary restriction since we’re only a mile from the county line we share with an un-quarantined county. Meanwhile, black walnut is a major component of the woods in the north-central part of the preserve shown above, so enjoy the trees while they are here. There is no cure or treatment available for Thousand cankers disease.)

There are other forest pests that are spread by moving firewood, so it was already a good idea not to move firewood far from where it was cut to where it is being burned (think camping trips) but now it is also illegal here. They say, “Buy it where you burn it.”

For more information read the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture press release here.

Green Hills luna moth

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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While mowing trails at Green Hills Preserve (more on that later) I spotted this luna moth. I usually associate them with showing up on a screen door at night—where they stick out in plain sight—so I didn’t realize just how well camouflaged they are in the natural environment.

Crow’s Nest Camp Week Five

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

Photos by Molly Smyrl, Educator

The seventh and eighth graders rounded out the summer’s weeks of camp. All are returning campers from previous years and are very familiar with Crow’s Nest. So we explore how Crow’s Nest is part of a larger conservation effort Natural Lands Trust undertakes in our region.

camp photos by Molly Smyrl

That means we see how land is interconnected, including by water that passes through it. Campers kayaked on Scott’s Run Lake in French Creek State Park, part of the Hopewell Big Woods that also includes Crow’s Nest Preserve and is the last large unbroken forest in southeastern Pennsylvania.

camp photos by Molly Smyrl

Then we kayaked on the Schuylkill River, the watershed that ties many of our preserve lands together. Natural Lands Trust has a small preserve that is an island near Phoenixville.

camp photos by Molly Smyrl

On another day the kids went to visit our ChesLen Preserve which is developing its own kids’ play area and becoming a community resource as well as regionally-significant open space.

camp photos by Molly Smyrl

Upon returning to Crow’s Nest the campers “gave back” to the preserve in the form of a service project addressing some of the problem areas that have developed on the Creek Trail. An eroded incision in the treadway they filled with gravel which required a bucket brigade to get the gravel from the edge of the woods to where it was needed. And they added a second board to a boardwalk over a gully that was getting more difficult to cross as it got wider and more muddy.

camp photos by Molly Smyrl

We are grateful for the kids who have made this summer’s camps so memorable and fun!

 

Crow’s Nest: New steers

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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If you read the Crow’s Nest Facebook page you already know about this: We’ve added a couple new steers at Crow’s Nest to do additional prescribed grazing. They’re still getting bottle fed but soon will be employed to clear brush for habitat improvement at specific parts of the preserve.

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Meanwhile, we moved the big steers to the larger habitat improvement area. And we moved Duffy the goat to be with the little steers.

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