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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Lukewarm to Warm Season Grasses?

There undoubtedly tends to be a strong passion for a hawk in flight, or a bright and blooming wildflower - but what about those often colorless season grasses that cover most of the fields and meadows in the area? I'll admit I was not entirely interested in learning the many different varieties, but after two hikes focused on cool and warm season grasses, I've come to appreciate the diversity. I now find myself carefully focusing on identifying the grasses on my commute to work, rather than the road...

The Giant Foxtail (Setaria faberi), Yellow Foxtail (Setaria glauca) and Green Foxtail (Setaria viridis) may be one of the easiest to identify or spot due to its characteristic name. In image below, the Yellow Foxtail is the orange/brown/yellow colored one, and the Giant Foxtail is the green colored grass.

Green Foxtail
Giant Foxtail and Yellow Foxtail

Purpletop (Tridens flavus) is a native plant preferred by many animals and insects. It is the tallest plant pictured below.
In comparison to Purpletop, there is a non-native grass called, Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense), which has similar purpleish color to the seedlings. Botanist, Janet Ebert, leading the season grass hike, pointed out one of the in-plain-sight differences is that purpletop's seedlings will droop down, while johnsongrass's seedheads are raised. See picture:

Johnson grass
Our group was also a bit distracted by the beauty of the caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly. Read TLC's recent blog about these caterpillars

Tiger Swallowtail Caterpillar

Stilt Grass Control

For those of you who have battled with Microstegium vimineum (Japanese Stiltgrass) you know that it can be an uphill battle.  However, the one saving grace about the plant is that it is an annual grass--if you can keep it from setting seed then you can at least keep it from spreading further.  Just remember you have to be diligent because the seed has been viable in the soil for up to 7 years.  We'll keep that depressing fact to ourselves, and just realize that NOW is the time to combat stilt grass.  

Head out with your weed whacker while the flower buds are full--but before it sets seed, and weed whack away!! You will be preventing the seed from further development!! Start your weed whackers and win the stilt grass fight today!!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Can a bird really see a window??

This is an interesting and well researched article about a problem that I am sure each and every one of you have encountered over the years--birds flying into your window.   My mom has always tried to prevent it be fixing the "holiday" stickers to the windows at their house.  Each season, we have a different set of static clings on the windows (which are floor to ceiling) in an attempt to keep the birds from committing suicide--this article might help out her feats--and any of you who have a similar issue at your house. 

Link to the article:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Caterpillars Abound!

We came across yet another caterpillar at Stateline Woods, so I thought I'd pass along the photo and the identification.  This is the photo of the caterpillar of the Black Swallowtail butterfly.  The Black Swallowtail is mostly black with a blue tail and mimics the look of the Pipevine Swallowtail Butterfly.

As butterflies (and caterpillars) they feed on the parsley and Rutaceae family of plants giving them a "yucky" taste--if you are a bird!  We found this fellow on Queen Anne's Lace (in the carrot/parsley family).  

Fall has arrived--so please let us know if you are interested in learning about more ways to attract butterflies/caterpillars to your yard--our Landscape Visionaries team would be happy to help

Monday, September 9, 2013

Pennsylvania's Topology Today

The second annual Pennsylvania Master Naturalist program kicked off its first field trip with a lesson on geology from geologist, Gale Blackmer, of PA DCNR.

Master Naturalists observing an outcrop.
Take a second to think about Pennsylvania. What do you see when this word pops into your head? All of the images in your mind are most likely related to geology- forests, mills, dams, lakes, streams, mountains. We introduce Geology as the opening topic for the PA Master Naturalist program because it   lays the groundwork for the following fields such as, botany, watersheds and wildlife studies.

As some may know, Geology is a complex, detailed and expansive subject. For that reason I have decided to share just two take home facts.

1. For those who are familiar with Kaolin Road, which runs from Kennett Square and eventually turns into Limestone Road (route 7) going into Delaware. The road was named after kaolin clay that was used to make porcelain and clay pots. The clay along the road was once excavated and the clay was shipped all over the country and even to the Europe. Today, geology buffs or hobbyist will search areas for leftover traces of kaolin based clay.

2. The only igneous rock in Pennsylvania is called Diabase. This type of rock is often found in dykes and sills, and is quarried for driveway stone and other types of foundation.

2013 Master Naturalist Trainees
You can learn more about the history of Pennsylvania's geology by visiting the Geological Survey @ DCNR's website.

Lastly, say hello to our 2013 Master Naturalist Trainees!

Global Day of Service

This Saturday, September 7th was a glorious day, and some Whole Foods employees spent the morning hours at Stateline Woods Preserve for their Global Day of Service. We had eight employees that came out to help us clear away competition from the tree cages where we are in the process of developing hedgerow habitat. 

We had a few bee stings, a lot of "backtalk" from the multi-flora rose, and some distractions by caterpillars, praying mantis', and birds but got a lot accomplished!

At the end of the planting, each volunteer was allowed to pick two trees from our native nursery to plant along the hedgerow.   Thanks so much Whole Foods Market: Glen Mills for your assistance out on the preserve! Volunteers are ESSENTIAL to us fulfilling our mission, and we always appreciate their help.  If you are interested in volunteering with TLC, we have a very busy September, and are happy for your help.  Contact to learn about all of our upcoming events.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Crazy Caterpillar Sightings

Keep your eyes open when hiking the trails, and you never know what you are going to see! A hiker sent along this picture the other day asking for an ID.  

This ferocious fellow is a Hickory Horned Devil Caterpillar (aptly named don’t you think??).  The Regal Moth is the mature stage of this critter.  The caterpillars commonly are found on various species of hickory or walnut trees.  While they look quite deadly they are actually harmless!! They are one of the largest native caterpillars that we have. 

Please always send pictures to us, we love to see what you encounter as you are out enjoying nature. 

Have kids? Interested in butterflies?? Join us for the LAST Sharing Nature with Children this Saturday, September 7th at Bucktoe Creek Preserve.  Environmental Educator and all around nature guru Holly Merker will be joining us.  Maybe she can answer some questions about the lack of monarch butterflies this summer--more to come in a later blog!!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Fall Migration Ahead of Schedule??

There was very heightened hummingbird activity at my feeders from August 15 through August 20th--it wasn't uncommon to see six to ten hummingbirds in the course of a day.  I went from refilling my feeder once every week and a half to refilling it three times within that period of time.  However, the activity rapidly dropped off from August 21st through August 30th, and I have not yet re-filled my feeder, and it is only 1/4 empty.  Apparently, I am not the only one who noticed this phenomenon, and there has been some chatter on the birding list serves about the apparent hummingbird drop off. 

This leads to discussions of fall migration, and get ready for it....according to both the hummingbird movement (migration seems to be about 3 weeks early) and the farmers almanac--get your snow boots/shovels/hats/gloves ready for a cold and snowy winter.  We'll see if that prediction holds true come next March/April!

I bring this up because along with the conversations on the birding list serve there came a link to a wonderful set of pdf's to help us better identify those difficult migrating warblers. This holiday weekend we recommend that you visit this website to view the guides, then with your binoculars see if you can find early migration activity at TLC's newest preserve: Marshall Bridge Preserve! Click HERE to view directions and the amazing interactive trail maps courtesy of one of TLC's unsung hero's of the summer: Chad Hudson. 

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