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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Weekend To-Do List

So my to-do list has two main items on it for this weekend (actually it has a lot more than two--but two that specifically relate to all things nature). 

  • Make some sugar water and hang my hummingbird feeder.  If it is not already out, the hummingbirds are starting their trek back to their breeding grounds and will be happy to stop at refueling stations along the way.  The benefit to this--you may be the first one in your family to find a hummingbird this season, you may find a hummingbird that does not typically stay in our area, and the hummingbird feeder gives the Easter bunny another spot to put his eggs...
  • Another thing that is on my to-do list for the weekend is to FINALLY (at least I'm sure that is what my neighbors are probably thinking) trim the tall grasses and flowers that overwintered in my garden before the new growth begins.  The reason that I did not cut them back was not for a lack of time (or laziness if that is what you are thinking!) but because the seed heads provided a seed source for the birds and small mammals all winter long, it would have been especially helpful if we had substantial snow because the plants would have been above the snow.  Don't worry--I am not upset that we didn't have snow, if this past Monday was any indication, I never want to see snow again!! At any rate, I will finally be cutting back my plants to allow for this years growth! The other benefit to leaving the seed heads up all winter is that they spread themselves. I'll have a few more plants popping up throughout my garden, and maybe a few I need to thin out, so let me know if you are in the market for a new plant!

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The New leaf Eco Center Bioswales Event

On March 16th TLC successfully conducted phase one of our Bioswales Demonstration Workshop thanks to all of the participants that came out to learn about stormwater management and help dig! We had a group of 10 people brave the cold, and at one point snowy weather, to dig one 18"x18"x100 yard bioswale on the hill at the north west corner of the property. Another longer bioswale was installed the next day with the excavator and some additional volunteer help. After a presentation on storm water management and bioswale installation, we used a mini-excavator and hand tools to dig the bioswale and create the planting bed.
 First we had to gently move a groundhog that was in the way, which shows that there are some things you don't plan on that you may have to work around. Once the groundhog was safely in his hole we marked out the area where we wanted to install the bioswale with orange flags.

 Once we knew where we wanted the bioswale to be we started digging with the excavator and hand tools to give us the proper shape.

There were many rocks, roots, and clay filled soil but we persevered and soon we had an excellent bioswale dug out and ready for wood chips to be added.   

 After we add wood chips the next steps are to mix in compost with the soil in the planting bed and plant native plants to help with water infiltration and making the bioswale beautiful.

Thanks again to everyone who came out and I hope to see you and more at the next phase of the bioswales installation later this spring when we plant our native plant species. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

On the Job Today

After yesterday's very un-springlike weather, it was nice to be out and about today.  We were conducting a duel Landscape Visionaries and Conservation Stewardship Organization walk ( CONTACT US  to learn about our Conservation Stewardship Organization and how it can help you implement your management plans!) and came across some Lesser Scaup hanging out with a Great Blue Heron!  I know I have posted a lot of pictures of Scaup this winter, but I happen to think they are neat ducks, and relatively unseen by the human eye!

This shot is a nice view of the female's eye ring! 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spring Birding

Though the weather may not yet feel very spring like, the longer days are signalling to our avian friends who are soon to start (or in some cases) have already started migrating through our area once again.  This blog post was shared with me, and I thought that the wonderful photography and writing was too good not to pass along.  Check out: "The Eyes Have It" by Jim Flowers by clicking on this link:

Friday, March 22, 2013

Lesser Scaup Again

The Lesser Scaup made another visit to a local pond, and I thought I would share the picture.  Keep your eyes open because Wood Ducks are already in their nests. I mean we are two days into spring!!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

It's back and looking healthy

I feel like I spend a lot of time talking about Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) but that is because it is one of the invasive plants that I really think we can get a handle on! This plant is a biennial, so as long as you keep it from setting seed you can win the Garlic mustard battle.  I haven't seen any of our wonderful spring ephemerals popping up yet, but I have seen some Garlic Mustard looking green and healthy.  So as long as you can CORRECTLY identify it, now is the time to start removing it.  Remember that you should create as minimal soil disturbance as possible when pulling any plants!!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Common Mergansers on the Brandywine

Though not quite as stunning as their cousins, the Hooded Mergansers.  I enjoy watching the Common Mergansers and other ducks that spend some time on the Brandywine this time of the year.  The males are the two in the front with the green heads and the fairly white bodies.  The female is tailing behind with the brownish head and the body with more of a greyish tint.  They were hanging out with the geese this morning!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

St. Patrick--Florida needs you!

So at least in the legends St. Patrick is known as the "man who drove snakes out of Ireland".  Depending on your background, you may celebrate or know St. Patrick's Day for a variety of ways--in my family, it is the day you plant your snow peas--so if you are thinking of planting some peas this spring--I am giving you a day's notice to prep your garden.  Just as a news flash, I typically don't actually get my peas in until the end of March or beginning of April (don't tell my parents they would be so disappointed) and they still do just fine! 

I thought with all of my recent talk about invasives, it would be fun to check out the snake angle this year.  I briefly touched on how devastating the exotic snake problem is in the Everglades and throughout southern Florida, but you should hear what the Everglades National Park is saying.

Click on the photo below to read what the Everglades National Park has to say about their snake problem and why a St. Patrick would be a great boon to the ecology of the Everglades.  


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Red Winged Blackbirds

A huge flock of Red Winged Blackbirds recently visited my friend's pastures and left quite an impression.  They were searching for food sources and as an omnivorous species, they will eat almost anything.  In addition to watching their dining habits which are typically entertaining, you should always scan the large flocks to see if you spot the ever elusive Yellow Headed Blackbird!!

Check out all the divots made by their beaks! Talk about aerating a lawn!!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wildlife in Winter, Part III

The weather could not have been more perfect for the event!

On Saturday, we gathered at the Bucktoe Creek Preserve for the third and final installment of this year’s Wildlife in Winter Series, focused on migration. Naturalist Holly Merker led the group through the preserve, drawing our attention to the role our local area plays in the migratory routes of many species.    

Getting a closer look at hawks and geese

We saw (and heard) many birds during the workshop. Some, like nuthatches and woodpeckers, were regular visitors to the preserve, while others, such as the Canada geese and red-tailed hawks we spotted overhead, were visitors from afar. Holly spoke about the many species of birds who pass through our local area during their regular migrations, such as the Red Knot. This amazing bird breeds in the Arctic before traveling up to 10,000 miles to warmer climates during its migration. We may be lucky enough to spot the red knot during its migration this summer, as it often passes through on its way to nearby shores, where it finds much-needed replenishment in the eggs of horseshoe crabs.

A red knot looking for horseshoe crab eggs on the shore
 We stopped at a vernal pond and learned to identify the chirps and croaks of several different species of frogs and toads. Frogs and toads must migrate to ponds in order to lay their eggs. The migration from nest to pond may seem like a minor distance to us. However, when a development such as a road is built between a toad’s primary habitat and the nearest pond, what was once a simple journey becomes quite an adventure. If you happen to see a frog, toad, or salamander trying to cross the road on a rainy day, stop!!! And perhaps even help them along (as long as it is safe to do so), like this group in Roxborough.

The group checks out a tadpole that came to the pond's surface

Our walk ended up at one of the Red Clay Creek’s feeder creeks. Holly showed us some of the many macroinvertebrates that had found homes on the sides of rocks at the water's edge, like the water penny larva. Not only do these tiny creatures serve as food for the fish that migrate through the creek, they are extremely sensitive to foreign toxins such as pesticides and oil runoff, so their presence is a sign that the creek is clean and untainted by chemicals.  

Holly pointing out a water penny to the group

Today, the creek is shallow enough that you could easily cross it by foot. But hundreds of years ago, before dams were constructed by European settlers, it was deep and wide enough to accommodate for the size of much larger fish, who traveled upstream from the ocean, like Atlantic salmon and sea bass. I can only imagine what it must have looked like to see a huge sturgeon swimming up the creek at Bucktoe, which was probably not such an uncommon sight for the Lenape tribes who once populated our area. 

Holly had a wealth of knowledge to share about pretty much everything in sight. I think all who attended now have a better understanding of the role our area plays in the migration of so many creatures, countless numbers of which travel in and out of Bucktoe each day. The workshop was a great ending to our Wildlife in Winter series, and a perfect lead-in to the many programs we have coming up in the spring. Coming up next at Bucktoe is our Bat Workshop, March 23rd from 10:00am-2:00pm. Bats often stop in Bucktoe's wooded areas as they migrate, and during the workshop we'll talk about the importance of protecting them and their habitats!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

From the Economist

Pollinators play a very important role in our economy.  Farmers depend on pollinators to produce their crops---basically, without pollinators we wouldn't have apples, and many, many other things that most of us consume on a daily basis.  Typically farmers keep honey bee hives to aid in pollination, and while they are effective, and TLC has an apiary on their property, honey bees are not our native pollinators.  Check out this very interesting article from the Economist that discusses wild pollinators important role in helping us with our food consumption.  And since we are in the bee mood..start checking our website for our open hive days which will begin in May.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

If you can't beat it...

then maybe we should just make it dinner...another great link to a blog with some awesome recipes for some of my "nemesis" invasive plants.  What does everyone think about a Invasive Species Wild Foraging Walk once things are up and growing??

Friday, March 8, 2013

Why So Red, Mr. Cardinal? NestWatch Explains

If you are even mildly interested in birds you should be checking out the Cornell Lab for Ornithology's wonderful website! They have such informative articles.  This one answers a question that I have been asked numerous times over the last few weeks!! 

Why So Red, Mr. Cardinal? NestWatch Explains

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Monday, March 4, 2013

Management Thoughts

Today's photo will delve into invasive species management and perhaps a little riparian buffer ideas.

So, first, What is a Riparian buffer?  A riparian buffer is a vegetated area near a stream, usually forested, which helps shade and partially protect a stream from the impact of adjacent land uses.

As you can see from this photograph, the riparian buffer could use some filling out to aid with protection "buffering" of the stream area.  This area could be supplemented with some native trees and shrubs.  I would recommend:  Amelanchier canadensis (serviceberry),    Staphylea trifolia (American Bladdernut), Viburnum prunifolium (Blackhaw viburnum) and Nyssa sylvatica (Black Gum) for starters.  There are many native trees that would work in this area those are just a few suggestions.  The other things that are apparent to me from this picture are that there is a small population of Rubus phoenicolasius (Wineberry).  Mostly it is the reddish tinged plants along the bank. The wineberry in this area should be controlled by cutting the plant at the base and applying a dab of non-dilute glyphosate to the base of the plant.  It is always important to be very careful when using any chemicals close to a creek, but the method of actually directly applying a small dab (think a Q-Tip) onto the actual base of the plant will minimize any adverse affects.  Wineberry is typically very easy to pull out of the ground, but I would be concerned this would make the bank less stable.  If you are planting this area with shrubs,  I would probably just cut the multi-flora rose that is also around the bank, and keep after it until the trees shade it from getting too much sun.    

I realize these are just small snapshots of properties, but does it make it seem like a more feasible project when you are just looking at small portions of a project as opposed to an entire project?  

Make sure you look at "snapshots" of your property in order to achieve the management goals that you wish.  

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A photo review

So I thought in honor of Invasive Species Awareness Week, I'd post some pictures of various places and properties and discuss some management techniques that could be used to improve the habitat for each property.

So at first glance this may just look like a photo of what you are wishing will happen soon (at least where we are in SE PA).  I know we are hoping that the understory becomes green soon enough, but this is the wrong kind of green understory.  First we had talked about targeted areas that you could easily win the "battle" against invasives.  The first thing I notice is that there are a few vines growing up some of the trees.  The second thing I notice is the nice wonderful ground cover of pachysandra (NEWS FLASH: THIS IS NOT A GOOD PLANT FOR GROUND CONTROL!!) 

I would recommend controlling the Pachysandra now before our spring ephemerals start to peak out of the soil which will be happening within the next few weeks.  The most efficient way to control pachysandra is to spray it with a dilute solution of glyphosate at this time of the year.  It should control the plant without harming any of the native vegetation.  ***IT IS ALWAYS IMPORTANT TO READ AND USE ALL HERBICIDES ACCORDING TO THE LABEL.  If you are not interested in using herbicide control on your property, you can attempt to pull it, but the extensive root structure of pachysandra typically makes this task difficult and can create more soil disturbance and issues.  Repeated cutting of the pachysandra when it starts to grow seems to slowly have an effect on the plant, though it may become more vigorous before "behaving."

The next thing I would do is to cut the vines away from the trees before they become a real issue.  At least in the portion of the property that we are viewing, there are only three or four Oriental Bittersweet vines that need to be removed from the property. 

This was a fairly easy one to discuss.  More to come as the week continues.

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