It is spring, and Natural Lands Trust has a redesigned website. You should check it out; it is a whole new look. The Website Team worked feverishly all winter to get the new and improved site up. I think they did a great job. I have been exploring it for a couple weeks now, and find it very user friendly. It is easy to find the walks and programs that we offer at the preserves. It is also very interesting to learn more about what Natural Lands Trust does as an organization.
With the new website, the address for the blog has changed. So, if you have bookmarked this location, you will want to change your bookmark to the new blog location. We (Dan and Tim) will continue to post our sightings, news, and thoughts on the blog, along with occasional postings by other Preserve Managers. Some of the Preserve Mangers post their news on our Facebook page, so you should check out that also.
While I am excited (and sometimes a little overwhelmed) with this technology, don't forget to push away from the keyboard, and actually visit our great preserves. All of the Preserve Mangers love the land. We want people to visit and appreciate the preserves as much as we do. We want you to discover the same things that amaze us.
I have been looking for Round-lobed Hepatica (Hepatica americana) ever since Dan told me he had found Bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) blooming at Crow's Nest Preserve. Since he is usually a litte ahead of me, I figured there was still time to find some Hepatica. I found a few speciments along the Chimney Rock Trail.
I desperately wanted to find a Hepatica this spring in memory of our friend Denis Manchon. Denis was a volunteer that visited several Natural Lands Trust preserves taking photos of wildflowers. He then generously donated his artwork to the preserves. Denis passed away over the winter, and I think of him especially at this time of year.
When I found the first Hepaticas each spring, I would email Denis. He would visit within 48 hours, camera in hand and a smile on his face. All of these photos are Denis' Hepaticas.
Like the other Preserve Managers at Natural Lands Trust, I monitor easements. Unlike, most of them, I am still monitoring (most mangers have finished by now). Like Dan, I was delayed because of the deep snow. Some of my easements are in the Poconos and I had to reschedule a few monitoring visits in March due to snow storms.
Conservation easements are a tool for land owners to protect the natural resources and values of their property for future generations. I feel privileged to talk to these landowners once a year when I do my monitoring. They are heroes in my book.
I also get to visit some very special places. For instance several of the properties have escarpments, a geological formation often found in Pike County.
This formation broke off of an escarpment ages ago. It is interesting because the formation is almost a perfect right angle, and relatively uniform in thickness.
Many of the Conservation Easements protect wetlands, or the headwaters of small creeks in the Poconos. I often cross paths with Wood Ducks and other waterfowl on my monitoring forays.
Here is a lovely waterfall that flows into and upland pool. The waterfall will stop flowing in dry weather, but this pool will remain (except in the severest drought) to provide habitat to all sorts of wildlife.
Speaking of wildlife, I often see lots of wildlife like this turkey. I have seen fisher tracks, Bald Eagles, black bear, porcupines, coyotes, deer and beavers while monitoring conservation easements.
I know it will get cold again; even our probable last frost-free date of May 15 has been exceeded in recent years. But yesterday it was like a switch had been flipped.
Heated buildings were suddenly colder inside than out. Some we opened to get some more heat inside. Others—such as the workshop—I left closed, already thinking of keeping the cold inside, icehouse-like, for those hot days of summer.
Last night was the first I heard American toads calling this year, adding their song to the chorus of spring peepers, themselves much louder and faster in the warmth than the last few weeks' cold.
Overnight rains turned the lawn green, seemingly just like that.
We had a successful morning planting trees at the preserve. While the number (80) is not in itself remarkable, the logistics of planting at three remote sites spread over a mile and not accessible by vehicle made for a challenging day.
Volunteers carried in by hand the trees and tools as well as tree protection tubes and the stakes to hold them up.
We planted gaps along both sides of French Creek, an area near the Chief's Grove where we had earlier cleared invasive multiflora rose, and filled gaps in a hedgerow.
I am grateful to the twelve volunteers who made this possible: Stan, Isaac, Luke, Bob, Chad, Marvin, Aidan, Chris, Dave, Brian, George, and my wife Denise. I couldn't have done it without you!
I should mention that several of these volunteers have been coming out for our spring cleanups for more than a decade. That's a remarkable service. Thank you.
This week I finished chipping our brush piles and winter's storm damage. My favorite species to chip? Sassafras, for its wonderful smell. Of course I prefer them standing and healthy so that they don't need to be chipped...
But much of the storm damage was black cherry (Prunus serotina) which has a bitter smell when chipped. Black cherry is an early successional species, and our woods are leaving the stage of early succession from field to forest, so some of the black cherry trees are declining deep in the woods. Many of the survivors grow at the woods edge near farm fields and so lean out to the sunlight, leaving them susceptible to ice and wind damage as we experienced this winter. Where they fall in the farm fields they must be cleaned up which involves giving some away as firewood, leaving some to rot in the woods, and chipping up the mass of the tree top.
With this last of the winter projects finished we turn our attention to spring: tree planting, prescribed fire, and controlling invasive plants that are already leafing out.
We had a wet March at Mariton: 7.13 inches of precipitation. (The average is 4.41 inches.) There were two big rain events at the beginning of the month, and measurable precipitation every few days throughout the month. The two big rains, combined with snow melt, caused the Delaware River to leave its banks. While the flooding was limited, the damage to the Delaware Canal State Park was bad in many places. (Photo by Carole Mebus.)
Interestingly, in 2010 we received 7.45 inches during the same period. When you put the data from the two years side by side, they are quite similar in the amounts of rainfall and timing during the month. The big difference was that in 2010 there was no measurable snow during March. (There was also no snow pack to cause Delaware flooding from the big rains in 2010.)
We received 3" of snow this March, mostly in mix-precipitation events, and it melted quickly. We didn't have any big snow storms. (Do you remember March 12, 1993, or Easter Monday 1997?)
For the year, we are about 3 inches above normal for precipitation.
The buildings crew has been plugging away on the farmhouse renovations at Crow's Nest in between projects at other preserves. They are framing walls, replacing rotten beams, and building new stairways. This week there was a lot of noise while four new wells were being drilled as part of a geothermal heating system. This system, while expensive, will lower operating costs in the long term.
The flowers are subtle: they're small and high in the trees, but American elm (Ulmus americana) is now in flower at the Crow's Nest. Many of our elms have died during drought years but you can still find some in the floodplain woods and hedgerows. Across North America large specimens of this once-common tree are now very rare due to Dutch elm disease, a fungal disease spread by the elm bark beetle.