We have been needing storage space for educational supplies at our visitor center, so Natural Lands Trust's building stewardship staff took a couple weeks to build us this nifty storage room inside the upstairs of the barn, with a loft above (just like the barn at Mariton Wildlife Sanctuary).
Pictured from left to right, Scott DiBerardinis, Steve Holmburg, Luke DeBerardinis.
This washer drum has been buried in the otherwise pristine Pine Creek for as long as I can remember. Full of silt and gravel it has unofficially marked the boundary between Crow's Nest and the State Game Lands upstream, probably for decades. I've always meant to pull it out, but it was no small task. Finally yesterday Kendra and I, with the aid of a come-a-long, winched it out and carried it a hundred yards to the nearest vehicle trail. Now Pine Creek looks like it should.
This summer we welcome Kendra Luta to our land stewardship staff. She is the summer intern in land management and has already been helpful pulling garlic mustard, black swallowwort, mile-a-minute, and bittercress, and brushcutting multiflora rose, bittersweet, and honeysuckle. In the photo she is pruning some low-hanging branches over the tractor paths.
Kendra is a student in Environmental Biology at Millersville University. We are grateful for her help this summer.
This pretty relative of mountain laurel is now starting to bloom. It is only found in the crease of one hillside at Crow's Nest Preserve, and I think this is the only time I have caught it in bloom.
A small shrub, sheep laurel (Kalmia angustifolia) grows in some of the same habitat as mountain laurel, deerberry, blueberry, huckleberry, and pinxterbloom azalea here at the preserve. Sheep laurel also goes by the more evocative name, sheepkill.
The Nesting Bird Census was scheduled for June 7th. I have rescheduled the date. The new date is Saturday, June 14, from 7:30 a.m. to Noon. Mariton has been conducting this census annually since 1981. We normally tally close to 50 different bird species. This is an interesting morning. If you are interested in joining us, call the Center at 610-258-6574.
This week, the "Mariton Bird Club" went to Gollub Park in Forks Township. Anne was our guide at this little gem on College Hill, with overlooks of the Delaware River and Easton/Phillipsburg. Before we even entered the park we were greeted by the songs of Blackpoll Warblers; a sign that the warbler migration is coming to an end. Once again, I was unable to find one of these birds, even though I could tell they were perched quite close. We did see Indigo Buntings and flocks of Cedar Waxwings. Bill's keen eye caught movement on the ground and we all had a wonderful look at a female Scarlet Tanager gathering nesting material. In all we saw 32 species.
When I checked the nest boxes I found that Tree Swallows are now laying eggs. Two different boxes had 6 eggs a piece. The Black-capped Chickadee eggs have hatched out. I think I can see 5 young Chickadees in this photo. Bluebird chicks are also in two of the boxes. One brood is about a week away from leaving the nest box.
Four of the steers that were here in the fall have returned to Crow's Nest to perform the prescribed grazing as part of the wetland restoration. They're a little bit bigger than they were last fall and settled right in to the task at hand, or rather hoof.
We are using their grazing to help return a red maple swamp to a tussock sedge wetland and eat some invasive plants. Look for them grazing in the valley. Be cautioned that the fence around them has electrified strands of wire.
This is the last thing a blade of reed-canary grass sees!
There are lots of new things blooming at the preserve this week. The black cherry trees (even those hard hit by tent caterpillars) are flowering, as are the tuliptrees—though you mainly see those flowers when they drop to the ground.
But here's a flower I never took much notice of before. It's on greenbriar (Smilax rotundifolia), a thorny native vine that grows in the hedgerows here and there at the preserve. It's a mess to try to walk through and is not that showy, but we leave it for its wildlife value.
And here's another overlooked flower: deerberry (Vaccinium stamineum). It's a member of the blueberry genus but has sour and thick-skinned fruit (wildlife doesn't seem to mind). From the botanic name you might guess that the stamens are prominent; they stick out well beyond the corolla.
Mariton's "Bird Club" visited Jacobsburg State Park today. We knew we might get wet, but everyone still came out. We did get slightly rained on, but it was worth it. We had some great views of birds during which we were able to point out field marks and watch the birds sing. The Common Yellowthroats were very accommodating. We were listening to Blue-winged Warblers and commenting that while we often hear them, we never see them anymore. Right after that a male displayed and checked out our group for several minutes. The eye stripe and the blue wing with bars were all very visible for everyone. (As you can see in Carole Mebus' photo of the Blue-winged.) And then he sang beee-bzzzzz. Wow. Down the trail a little ways, a Prairie Warbler was just as indulgent. (Okay, we didn't see the small rust flecks on its back, but there was no doubt what it was with it singing and singing.)
But the highlight came just after the drizzle became more pronounced. Carole had scouted the trip yesterday and had glimpsed a Yellow-breasted Chat. The group decided we should try to locate it. We waited in the area where she had seen it. We listened and called with no response, so we finally headed back to the cars. Then, I heard a whoit, and Virginia heard an Oriole-like chuckle, and we called everyone back. By pure luck, I scanned my binoculars in the general direction of the sound and there sat the Chat - in full view - in a dead tree - singing! (Photo by Carole Mebus - on Wednesday when it was sunny.)
This is exciting. It has been 20 years since I have seen a Yellow-breasted Chat (and that was just a glimpse). Many in our group had never seen one. They are uncommon at best. This bird wasn't going anywhere, so as we absorbed the sighting I checked my field guide. Chats are large wood warblers, but right away I noticed that they are of the genus Icteria. Blackbirds are in the family Icteridae, and Orioles are of the genus Icterus. Bill checked his Sibley's and that said that over the years classification for Chats has been debated, but scientists believe it still fits best in the wood warbler, or Parulidae Family.
After some wonderful sightings, the Chat was my "worth the price of admission" bird of the day (probably the spring). Thank you Carole.