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Crow’s Nest: Paradise

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

It was a quiet Sunday at the preserve. Many who might otherwise visit the preserve are away on vacation. It rained 2″ on Saturday so it was pretty wet. And though no rain was forecast Sunday, it looked imminent all day. It was a great day to wander the preserve—to enjoy what is close.

Early in the day I returned to the black-eyed Susans that are proliferating near our entrance sign on Harmonyville Road. Unlike those at Green Hills Preserve, this small meadow I planted as deep plugs, not seeds.

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The native Turk’s cap lily, Lilium canadense, is more prolific than ever on our Creek Trail; both orange and yellow flowers are present this year. I’ve found this species unreasonably difficult to photograph.The Creek Trail was passable with good waterproof boots.

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It was a good day to be on the flowers of the redosier dogwood, Cornus sericea.

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A bumblebee and a great spangled fritillary seemed to agree.

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There were more subtle beauties too, such as these bracts on the ironwood tree (Carpinus caroliniana).

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Yes, that looks like a spotted cucumber beetle on the swamp rose (Rosa palustris). Looks innocent here, but they can be a major garden pest (also known as Southern corn rootworm for its larvae).

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Owen and I spent a few hours in the “backyard,” just hanging out. The tidepools we examined in Maine while on vacation were fascinating, but today he found the puddles in the tractor path just as interesting.

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The (Green) Hills are alive . . . with black-eyed Susans

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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Imagine my delight as I pulled up to Green Hills Preserve yesterday and saw this! (I haven’t been to the preserve in a month; Aubrey mowed trails there while I was away.) She told me the black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia spp.) were in bud, and now they’re in flower!

This is the meadow near the parking area that I seeded in 2014. I can’t claim too much achievement here, as these species of Rudbeckia are easy to grow, even weedy, in newly-planted native meadows. But it sure beats the foxtail grass that dominated the meadow the first summer. Over time the Rudbeckia will have to compete with native warm-season grasses that are now still building their deep root systems, so it is likely we won’t see a display like this again.

Crow’s Nest: All in a day’s work

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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This isn’t the “Dirty Jobs” blog but in this photo building stewardship field supervisor Steve Holmburg is doing just that. He’s applying a coat of waterproofing (the first of two) to the concrete wall of the addition where it will be below grade. It’s hot today and he’s wearing coveralls and trying to stay hydrated.

Much of the barn addition will be below grade, as are traditional bank barns. When it is finished the visual size of the addition will appear much smaller than it does now as it’s being built in an open hole. But construction below ground must be done right to keep moisture out—there isn’t an easy opportunity later to fix it.

Crow’s Nest: New compost bins

By Daniel Barringer, Preserve Manager

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It sure was nice to take a two week vacation and come home to find that not only were things under control at the preserve but that Cody had built these beautiful compost bins to replace the rotting pallets we had been using.

With the return of rain things have started growing here again and the preserve is lush, even rank, with growth. But Aubrey and Cody stayed on top of the trail mowing and the other maintenance.

Camp starts next week so there is still a lot of work to do to keep up with the growth but I am refreshed and ready (and grateful for our staff’s good work).

Brunch with Bobolinks

By Dulcie Flaharty, Vice President of Community Planning

Bobolink in flight, Carlos Alejandro

The meadows at Natural Lands Trust’s Stroud Preserve glimmered with late spring color during the final weekend of May. The annual Breakfast with Bobolinks, a bird viewing and lecture program, provided a perfect magnet for bringing two of my book club friends for a visit to the 574-acre preserve outside of West Chester.

Several dozen folks gathered in the handsome Stroud Preserve stone barn for an informative and entertaining lecture by naturalist and musician Jim McVoy, and then proceeded up a slight hill to a perfect viewing point to search for Bobolinks in one of the preserves thoughtfully stewarded meadows.

Meadow grassesIn addition to glorious, just-right weather, several Bobolinks cooperated by offering a lively dance above the waving grasses. They were joined in the meadow by other flying friends including Northern Rough-wing Swallows and Willow Flycatchers.

Meadow viewingAll the fun looking and chatting among the group encouraged a hearty appetite satisfied by a shared light brunch in and around the barn.

Lunch provided renewed energy and a group ventured on further exploration of some of the nearly 10 miles of trails criss-crossing the Stroud Preserve.

Brandywine at Stroud bridgeFlowering meadows, the East Branch of the Brandywine Creek, multiple bird sightings (Phoebes, Baltimore Orioles), and with irresistible spring perfume throughout the walk and made the morning a total delight.

Crow’s Nest: Visitors’ Center Expansion

We’re adding on to the Visitors’ Center at Crow’s Nest Preserve!

Over the last 15 years, our program offerings at Crow’s Nest (and Natural Lands Trust-wide!) have increased substantially. The summer camp program at Crow’s Nest has grown from one week to five, the number of nature clubs during the school year has increased to five per week, and we’ve added additional weeks of programming to each season of nature club. In the last three years, we’ve also added a program for teenagers who have aged out of our other education programs. Additionally, a number of outside groups use our beautiful Visitors’ Center as a meeting space.

Visitors' Center additionAlong with the increase in programming, we’ve increased our staff. Just five years ago (seems like yesterday!), we only needed office space for our preserve manager, Dan Barringer. Since then, we have added an educator, an assistant preserve manager, a full-year intern, and a summer intern.

Whew! That all amounts to growing pains!

The new addition to the Visitors’ Center will provide office space for these new staff members, additional storage space for the supplies we use in our programs, and public restrooms for preserve visitors.

The Addition

The two-story wing–designed by architect Lou Schneider–echoes historical additions commonly seen on Chester County bank barns like our Visitors’ Center. We think the addition will enhance the look of the barn, and we’re pleased that the Warwick Township Historical Architectural Review Board agreed (and approved our plans).

The upper level will be office space for staff members, while the lower level serve as storage and work space for staff. The lower level will also include a bathroom that is directly accessible from the outside, allowing us to provide restroom facilities to preserve visitors even when a staff member is not available to open the Visitors’ Center.

Construction Timeline

Crow'sNestConstruction began in mid-May, 2015, and (fingers crossed!) will be completed by early-summer 2016.

During construction, the existing portion of the Visitors’ Center will remain open and education programs will run as normal. At times, the trail from the parking lot to the barn may be re-routed through the playground and across the lawn to keep visitors a safe distance from the construction zone.

Funding

A private donor has generously provided the funding for the Visitors’ Center addition.

Learn More

Want to learn more? Give us a call at Crow’s Nest Preserve… 610-286-7955.

Mariton: A Bear Creek Field Trip

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

The Mariton Birders are always game to check out new spots.  So, when Joe Vinton told me he was doing a Bird Walk for NLT at Bear Creek, I asked the Birders if they would like to go.  Silly question.  I filled the van with “nature nuts” and we headed north.  Joe Vinton is the Preserve Manager at Bear Creek.  I can’t say enough good things about what Joe, his assistant Tyler, and the many volunteers have done at this preserve.  The trails are wonderful.

The tail end of a Black-throated Blue Warbler

The tail end of a Black-throated Blue Warbler

Almost immediately we were greeted by the song of a Black-throated Blue Warbler.  Since they rarely breed at Mariton, it was wonderful to see them so plentiful in a place they like – and they definitely like Bear Creek.  We got to see lots of them, which was very cool.  (Here is a tip:  if you are camera shy, you can’t complain when the photographer takes a less than complimentary photo.)

This is a more representative photo that Carole took at Mariton.

This is a more representative photo that Carole took at Mariton.

Chestnut-sided Warbler

Chestnut-sided Warbler

We also heard a Chestnut-sided Warbler very early in the walk.  I associate this species with brushy areas, but we heard them continuously as we walked through Bear Creek’s forest.  This is an amazingly beautiful warbler.  We saw them several times, even though (like most warblers) they were constantly in motion.  On the ride home, Bob made the comment that we heard Black-throated Blues and Chestnut-sided Warblers singing continuously on our hike.  Amazing.

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We didn’t hear many Rose-breasted Grosbeaks singing, but this one posed for everyone to see.

Painted Trillium

Painted Trillium

When we weren’t birding, we admired the many wildflowers growing along Bear Creek’s trails.  This Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum) was stunning.  We also saw Wild Lily of the Valley, Pinksters, Sheep Laurel,  Wild Bleeding Heart, Bunchberry and other great wildflowers in bloom.  Since the habitat is so very different from Mariton and our usual birding spots, these were great finds for our group.

This field trip was important for me, because it reminded me that all the things that I am “used to seeing” at Mariton are still very special, and would be viewed with awe by someone coming from a different region.  Someone once told me that using the word treasure was inappropriate when talking about natural wonders.  They said treasure should be reserved for paintings, sculptures, and great pieces of art.  Sorry, but I don’t buy that.  Bear Creek and the other NLT Preserves are as rich as any museum, and filled with world class treasures.  I am still fascinated (and humbled) by the beauty.

Mariton: Birding Variety

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

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This week, we walked along the towpath from Wy-Hit-Tuk Park in Williams Township.  We had some interesting birds including another Yellow-throated Vireo.  We saw an Immature Bald Eagle and a female Ruby-throated Hummingbird (for size variety).  We also found the nests of a Baltimore Oriole, American Robin and Yellow Warbler.

Female Red-winged Blackbird

Female Red-winged Blackbird

Most people are used to seeing the flamboyant Red-winged Blackbird.  At least they are familiar with the male.  The female is a very different looking and can confuse you if you aren’t already thinking blackbird.  She looks more like an overgrown sparrow, until you examine the beak.

 

American Redstart - first year male

American Redstart – first year male

Two weeks ago, I showed Carole’s photo of a male American Redstart.  The females are olive colored and have yellow patches where the male has orange.  But a first year male looks like a female, with a little orange under its wing near the “armpit”, which you can see in Carole’s photo.

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This is a great photo of a Baltimore Oriole in its orange glory.

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This Yellow Warbler has a green tint from the sun shining through the leaves.  We had a variety of sizes, a variety of colors, and a variety of bird groups.

Mariton: Another Tuesday Bird Walk

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

Last week, we ventured to northern New Jersey for the Tuesday bird walk.  We had to drive through rain and fog to get there, but once we arrived the day just got better and better.  Everyone got to see a Yellow-throated Vireo (which are easier heard than seen).  This was a great place to learn the song of the Least Flycatcher.  The Least is one of the 5 Empidonax Flycatchers that are virtually identical.  Habitat can be a clue, but hearing them is the only way to be sure which species you have.  (The Least says “che-BEK”).  We heard lots of Wood Thrushes, Ovenbirds,  and Red-eyed Vireos.  There was a load of different warbler species including Black-throated Green, Parula and Black and White.

Here are just a few of the birds that Carole captured with her camera up close:

Black and White Warbler singing

Black and White Warbler singing

This Indigo Bunting was brilliant and perched in the wide open.

This Indigo Bunting was brilliant, and perched in the wide open.

This Scarlet Tanager was so scarlet that we weren't sure it was real at first.

This Scarlet Tanager was so scarlet that we weren’t sure it was real at first.

Notice how this Prairie Warbler is perched on the tips of pine needles.

Notice how this Prairie Warbler is perched on the tips of pine needles.

A big thank you to Bill and Sharon for suggesting that we visit this area.  It was worth the drive for the variety of birds and the beautiful scenery.

Crow’s Nest: A Hike of their Own, Part 3

[Part 3 and conclusion of the story.]

…the good part—it was on video and the camera didn’t get wet. The bad part—Lily got very wet!

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Then Lily went to catch crayfish with the boys and Nina and Joy went too. The crayfish hunters caught lots of crayfish and almost caught a salamander.

Then it was time to go so we radioed Molly so that she would be there with the car to pick us up and we walked out to meet her.

The kids met us at the cars for a ride back to the Visitor’s Center (we didn’t make them walk both ways!) for some lemonade. They were tired, happy, excited about the experience (even Lily, who had gotten soaked.)

In the weeks of planning for the hike, and in the week after, we saw a noticeable change in the dynamics of the group as what had been two separate groups (boys and girls) began spending more time together. The hike also increased their confidence—the next week we joked that they were going to lead the younger kids in the group on the same hike, and though they whined a little about doing such a long hike again, they had no problem with the idea of taking charge of the group.
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This was a great experience for the kids, and I’d encourage you to have your kids try doing something alone that normally they’d do with an adult. (The actual activity should vary by age and ability, of course!) You—and your kids—might be surprised by what they are capable of! (As further reading on this subject, I’d also recommend Free Range Kids, by Lenore Skenazy.)

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