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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Snow Rollers...

 The "perfect" weather conditions: frozen ground covered with the perfect consistency & temperature of snow, and a windy day allows Mother Nature to attempt to create her own snowmen or "Snow Rollers".

These Snow Rollers were popping up in fields throughout western PA, Ohio, and New York on Monday and trended fairly heavily on social media.  Quite a few news stations picked up on the odd but neat phenomenon.  I don't know about you, but I didn't notice any snow rollers around Chester County, however TLC will be exploring snowflakes and snow related crafts at a program on February 8th.  Bundle up and come out to Bucktoe Creek Preserve to learn more about Chester County's take on snow. 

**I used quotes on perfect, because I'm not sure even the cold weather fans (or polar bears) can call this brisk weather we have been having perfect weather. 

Click on this link for a great video of snow rollers being created along with a little more in depth description:  http://www.foxnews.com/science/2014/01/28/holy-snow-rollers-strange-snowballs-invade-us

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tracking Along...

Fresh snow is a wonderful canvas to learn all about animal tracks.  It is fun to take a hike out in the woods after snow to see what animal is out and about--after all, they never have a #SnowDay.  They still need to "make a living" whether or not snow is on the ground.  For some creatures, snow makes it easier for them--the smaller rodents are a little better concealed from their predators, and able to take longer than they might frolicking in an open field.

Can you recognize the track in the photographs?  The distinct pattern of where the four feet are placed should give it away. 

Have you guessed yet??

This is the track of an Eastern Cottontail (bunny rabbit), my guess is it is probably the same one that occasionally likes to make a snack out of my Echinachea but I'll let him/her slide this winter!! Did you know that PA is home to three species of rabbits/hares? The other two are: Appalachian Cottontail and Snowshoe Hare.  These are both extremely rare and unusual to spot!

Bundle up and come out to one of our wonderful winter programs or visit a TLC Preserve to try your hand at tracking: http://tlcforscc.org/preserves/  Remember to send us your pictures!!


Monday, January 27, 2014

Wildlife in Winter

"Tracks lead on, showing no interest in possible food, and no concern over the rompings and retributions of his neighbors. I wonder what he has on his mind; what got him out of bed?" - Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac

TLC kicked off the Wildlife in Winter Series with Part I focused on habitat and hibernation this past Sunday at Bucktoe Creek Preserve. The sun was shining, all was white, and everyone had one goal in mind: explore the winter happenings. Many different species had left behind their unique markings on the trails. We followed tracks, scat and other clues that led us through meadows, woodlands and along the path of a small stream known as Gregg's Run. We eventually stumbled upon this den hole, which had a trail of fresh fox tracks leading out.

Fox den with tracks leading out.
As most of us know, hibernation is one way wildlife adapt to the winter conditions. During the fall season they stock up on food to begin storing fat while also finding the safest and most efficient place to prepare their winter hideaway. Once winter hits, body temperatures drop and their heartbeat and breathing rates slow down significantly. Animals often enter different levels of hibernation and in southeastern Pennsylvania we have certain wildlife species that, depending on winter conditions, cycle between a hibernation state and an active state.

Mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and even insects all have their own unique way to deal with the elements. An easy one to observe is the insect egg case of a praying mantis. Look near a meadow or brushy area and you will see tons of these little cases attached to thin and sturdy twigs near ground level. Photographed is one from the hike. This tiny case will produce 100-200 tiny mantises.

Praying mantis egg case.
As mentioned, hibernation in one way animals survive over the winter months, but what are the other ways? Join us for Part I and II of the Wildlife in Winter Series on February 15th and March 29th from 12pm - 1:30pm back at BCP!



Friday, January 24, 2014

Red Among The White

Spring planting season may seem like it is eons away, but it is really only a few months (THANK GOODNESS!!).  Among all of the white landscape, one plant stood out that I thought was worth mentioning to put on your spring planting "to-do" list.   

Cornus sericea (Red Twig Dogwood) is a plant that grows quickly, likes wetter soil, and has beautiful characteristics no matter what the season. It features white blooms in the spring followed by a bushy green appearance throughout the summer.  In addition to its beauty, the plant provides high wildlife value to song birds and serves as a host plant for the Spring Azure.  The white berries are loved by songbirds, and persist through the fall--at least until they are all consumed.  As the leaves start to drop from the shrub, the red twigs are a show of their own.   This plant will spread through root suckers where it is happy, so you can get a maximum from your investment.

TLC's Landscape Visionaries team is available to give you more tips about wonderful native plants to include in your spring planting.  Schedule your appointment by calling 610-347-0347 ext. 103 or online:  http://tlcforscc.org/stewardship/landscape-visionaries/

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Red Sky Warning??

Red Sky in the Morning
Yesterday, we had quite the winter storm hit Chester County.  The day started off fairly quiet, but I (and many other people) noticed the red hue to sunrise. The saying, Red Sky in the Morning, Sailors take Warning--would be put to a test. 

Sure enough, a few hours after sunrise, the flakes started to fall.  I thought we could all do with a little research about the adage.  It  may be an old wives tale, but there is some science to back it up.    Reddish hues to the sky are indications that the atmosphere is loaded with dust and water particles.  Red wavelengths are the longest in the color spectrum making them easily visible to the human eye.  The red sky at night (Sailors delight) is due to the sunset through the high concentration of dust particles--indicating a high pressure system and stable air.  The red sky in the morning means that there is a high moisture content and indicates that a storm could be moving to the east.  There are a lot of "coulds" and "mays" but it is fun to learn a little more about the old sayings!
Snow Cover by Afternoon

As a fun aside: Some of my friends also noted the red sky and remarked shepherds take warning", so after a little research I found out that this comes from Shakespeare's play,
"Venus and Adonis: “Like a red morn that ever yet betokened, Wreck to the seaman, tempest to the field, Sorrow to the shepherds, woe unto the birds, Gusts and foul flaws to herdmen and to herds.” 

You never know what you can learn when you attend a TLC Program! Hope to see you out on the land: http://tlcforscc.org/education/education-programs/

Monday, January 20, 2014

MLK Day Volunteering

Dr. King was quoted as saying: "Life's most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?" With this in mind, we celebrate Dr. King by volunteering within our community.  This does not need to be done merely on the day celebrating Dr. King's life (and birth) but can happen at any time throughout the year! 

The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC) has many volunteers who help us out throughout the year in the fields, at our educational programs, at special events, and with every day office tasks.  We could not further our mission without the support of these people in our community!!   We at TLC want to take MLK Day to thank those of you who have given so much to us for your service, and encourage those of you whom we have not yet met to consider donating a few hours of your time (a month, week...whatever works) to help us as we continue the preservation and stewardship of open spaces, natural resources, historic sites, and working agricultural lands throughout southern Chester County.   Contact us: 610-347-0347 ext. 101 or admin@tlcforscc.org to begin volunteering with TLC!

“Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Repurpose Your Holiday Decorations

Help the birds as we prepare for Polar Vortex Part II by re-purposing your holiday decorations!  You may be ahead of the game, and have already disposed of  your live greens, but I am guessing at least a majority of you have them either sitting in your compost pile in the backyard, or haven't quite gotten around to taking down the last remnants of the holiday.  If it makes you feel better, I fall into the latter category!

Will this Downy stick around for the GBBC?
These greens can serve another purpose by creating piles that act as shelters for some of the birds during the predicted cold nights ahead.  Another way to re-purpose the live greens is to "plant" them in your yard.  By placing the sticks of evergreens into the ground, you are providing cover for some of the smaller birds and even creating a place where snow may not accumulate giving additional protection and food sources.  This also gives you hours of endless entertainment using nothing more than your binoculars! (if you are sports fan, it's a great way to fill the lull between the end of the NFL
playoffs and the beginning of the Olympics!)

The bonus is that as you create this additional habitat, you may be able to attract new and exciting birds to your backyard just in time for the Great Backyard Bird Count which is taking place February 14-17. The Great Backyard Bird Count is citizen-science in action and helps to provide the big picture on bird and habitat conservation to organizations like The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC)

Friday, January 17, 2014

On the Prowl for Owls

Sunset @ Bucktoe Creek Preserve
Winter is a great time to look and listen for owls, especially between January and March for it is prime breeding season. Winter conditions are also helpful because the leaves are off the trees. Although, owls mostly roost in conifers for this reason, it is easier to see them flying by or perched on a limb when the leaves are absent. Seeing is the key. Owls has a unique ability to fly silently. The serrations on their leading feathers reduce noise. This enables them to hunt in the still of the night, but also makes it hard for us to see!

TLC held our first owl prowl of 2014 on Thursday night at Bucktoe Creek Preserve. We watched a beautiful sunset followed by a rising full moon through our scope and then headed off to the pine forest to listen for owls. No calls or sounds were heard at first, other than deer snorts warning others of our presence, but as we headed back a strange sound came echoing through the brush about 50 yards away. It was an uncharacteristic call of a Barred Owl. At first it sounded like a fox at night (if you know what I'm talking about, you understand how alarming that can be), but as the call went on it was clearly a Barred Owl. It was one long and continuous note, and that was all he/she wrote.

Resident Barred Owls of Bucktoe Creek Preserve.
Photo take by Timothy Zador.
Wildlife is unpredictable and we can never guarantee to see or hear owls on these prowls, but I think that is what keeps owls so mysterious and interesting. For folks new to owl prowls or for those looking to experience another exciting night on the preserve, contact education@tlcforscc.org for information on our next owl prowl. TLC's next nature program, Wildlife in Winter Series, will be held Sunday, January 26th from 12pm - 1:30pm. You can register by
clicking here!


Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Flying V

The Flying "V" may have been made famous by Emilio Estevez and the Mighty Ducks film series, but it originates from the flying pattern of birds. 

As we make our way through winter you can look skyward to see birds flying in the perfect V formation.  Learn more about why birds make this perfect formation by viewing this article from USA Today.  Click HERE to read the article which describes the power saving tactic of the Flying V. 

Trail Creek Outfitters, TLC, and Stroud Water Research Center will be showcasing emPOWERment at The Trail Creek Outfitters 2014 Wild and Scenic Film Festival.  Learn more about this event at: http://tlcforscc.org/wild-and-scenic-film-festival/

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Residents? of Marshall Bridge Preserve

 If you are not a tracker, you may not recognize the footprints to the left, but they are of Castor canadensis or (American beaver) who is spending some quality time along the Red Clay Creek at TLC's Marshall Bridge Preserve.

Beavers have a fairly bad rap of negatively impacting the ecosystem around them, and many conservation organizations have had to take proactive approaches to removing them from their properties.  In the creation of their homes, they can remove valuable trees that are part of a riparian buffer.  They also will dam up creeks and floodplains to create a disruption in the flow of water, erosion of stream banks, and flooding in abnormal places.

Beavers also have positive impacts on water quality and habitat by creating wetlands and slowing down sedimentation.  We have decided for the moment to monitor our beaver population and see if living in harmony with our residents is suited for Marshall Bridge Preserve.

If you happen to see activity please let us know, and send pictures our way!! Also, if you are hiking at Marshall Bridge Preserve, view our new bird blind--you can rent it for optimal duck viewing activities!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Stateline Woods Preserve Visitor

As you may know, Stateline Woods was recently closed for deer hunting.  During this time, our hunters made an observation that lead them to believe that there were coyotes on the property.   Since that time, we have confirmation through trail cameras that there are indeed coyotes spending some time at Stateline Woods Preserve.  We want to make sure that you are aware but not alarmed by this fact.

Eastern Coyotes are a popular topic of discussion and they typically get a fairly unforgiving light shone upon them.  Eastern coyotes typically weigh 30 to 50 pounds and they are 48 to 60 inches long.  Territories of coyotes range from 5 to 25 square miles and the territories are shared by a mated pair and their offspring.   Coyotes breeding season is January to March and they are quite vocal during this time.

Coyotes are a natural and important part of our ecosystem (the rumors that they were introduced by the game commission or insurance companies are false) and it is worth learning more about them and their habits.  Coyotes have a wide ranging diet and are advantageous eaters.  Open trash containers are easy pickings for food sources, as are small pets.  It is important to lock up your pets in the evening.   Coyotes have been in Chester County for a number of years, and potentially have been in the Stateline Woods area for quite some time.

As a species, coyotes have been very adaptable in increasingly urban settings but with proper precautions, we can coexist with this predator quite nicely.   We want to make sure you are armed with information, but also know that coyotes are not cause for alarm.  Please feel free to contact us with any additional questions regarding coyotes at Stateline Woods Preserve at 610-347-0347 ext. 103 or stewardship@tlcforscc.org

Thank you to Dan Mummert, Wildlife Biologist from the PA State Game Commission for the wonderful information!  

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dining Out for Conservation

In case you haven't heard, The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County is partnering with Half Moon in Kennett Square in January and February.  Every Tuesday, Half Moon will donate 10% of the bill to participating customers who either write Marshall Mill House on their bill, or bring in a pine cone.  Last evening kicked off the first Tuesday and was met with great success!!

They are AMAZING I assure you!
I highly recommend trying the West Coast IPA from Green Flash Brewing Company! My party was arguing between our two favorite appetizers: Crab Nachos and Gorgonzola Fries--so we had both!  Buffalo Tacos and Buffalo Burgers were the choices "du jour" for entrees. As you can well imagine, we were stuffed and did not even attempt dessert!

I encourage everyone gather a dinner party to spend a Tuesday night at Half Moon You can have your choice of delicious food (the Wild Game burger last evening was Boar), and great drinks (the regular bartender, Jamie, makes an excellent vodka tonic or try one of the 25+ beers on tap) while supporting conservation in southern Chester County!


Remember your pine cone or write Marshall Mill House on the bill so we receive a donation!! *If you are pine cone deficient, stop by our office (102 E. Street Road, Kennett Square PA) to pick up a pine cone, if we are closed they will be in a basket by the front door. 
 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Its Cold Outside!!

I realize that It's Cold Outside" can be considered a rhetorical statement, but with temperatures dropping to a brisk 5 degrees F tonight (supposed to feel more like -10 with wind chill) I think it is an apt statement.

Portions of my family who live in much warmer climates like to especially harass me when it gets this cold with pictures of flip flops and warm beaches, but with the right clothing we can survive the cold.....however, the creatures of nature who choose to overwinter in the colder temps do not have the luxury of adding layers (winter coats non-withstanding) or coming into a heated house.

Mr. Cardinal bulking up at my feeder in the cold
Instead of shopping at their local outdoor outfitter they have many great adaptations from sizing (nothern animals are typically larger bodied than southern animals) to antifreeze-like blood in frogs to prevent "frogsicles".   

I do not know if it happens to you, but whenever we are going into a cold snap, my birds empty my feeders quite rapidly--and spend a lot of time snacking on the seeds of plants that were cut in my flower beds.  It is not a lack of maintenance issue--I leave my plants tall in the winter to provide food for birds, insects, and probably a few small rodents too....  The reason that the birds eat so much is because they are burning valuable calories staying warm, and need to consume more calories just to stay warm.  Brings new thoughts to the phrase "eating like a bird" doesn't it? 
 
Are you interested in learning more about Wildlife in Winter??  Join TLC for Part I in our Wildlife In Winter Series on January 26.   If you like to read, you may want to check out Winter World: The Ingenuity of Animal Survival by Bernd Heinrich.  It is a fascinating snapshot of life in the wild in the winter. 

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