The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County is a non-profit charitable organization based in Chester County, PA. Our mission is to ensure the perpetual preservation and stewardship of open space, natural resources, historic sites, and working agricultural lands throughout southern Chester County.
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Tuesday, February 23, 2016
February Owl Prowl & Wildlife in Winter
BucktoeCreek Preserve, TLC’s 297-acre private sister preserve, had a lot of visitors
this past weekend, as we had both our Full Moon Owl Prowl on Friday night, and
our Wildlife in Winter: Adaptations on Saturday. Both of these programs had
been rescheduled from the brutal weekend of Winter Storm Jonas, when we had multiple
feet of snow on the ground.
Full Moon Owl Prowl
Fortunately, no snow was coming our way this
weekend, so we bundled up Friday night, met our full group of owl prowlers,
along with our two owl experts, and started learning about the owls that
frequent Chester County. Tim and Kelley, our owl experts for the night, went
through the 8 species of owls that can be spotted in Chester County, spouting
fascinating facts about owls to our captivated audience. Did you know owls are
completely silent when they fly? All other birds’ feathers make a “whoosh
whoosh” noise as they fly through the air, but owls’ feathers are completely
silent, making it easier for them to sneak up on their prey.
Learning about the largest resident owl in Chester County, the Great Horned Owl
was a windy, chilly night, making our chances of seeing or hearing an owl
pretty low, but we had high hopes as we split our group into two for our hike.
This allows each group to be quieter, which theoretically gives us a better
chance of sneaking up on an owl. As the group I was with proceeded into the
woodlands, we stopped to try to call for an Eastern Screech Owl, followed by a
Barred Owl. We were unsuccessful, but decided to search for eye shine in case
we hadn’t seen the bird fly in. As we scanned the trees, we noticed two small
eyes, with greenish/yellow eye shine peering back at us from a tall, distant
tree. The creature kept staring at us, turning its head away a few times, but
it seemed generally undisturbed by us, until we finally decided to move on,
unsure of who we had just crossed paths with. Afterwards, one of our
participants Annette, did a little detective work and found out that owls only
have red eye shine. I followed up her detective work with a little of my own to
find raccoons are the most likely animals to be in that habitat with a
greenish/yellow eye shine. How fascinating that you can identify nocturnal
animals by the color of their eye shine! We continued on, but unfortunately the
wind was keeping the owls quiet. We met back up with the second group, who were
unable to find owls either, for a nice wrap up with some delicious hot
chocolate to warm up with. While we didn’t see any owls, our participants were
certainly not disappointed, and I’m sure we will see them back for the next owl
prowl, held on April 22nd from 7:30pm-9:00pm.
Wildlife in Winter
Searching for evidence of wildlife in winter
Saturday was the day
of our Wildlife in Winter: Adaptations program, but with the weather being in
the 60’s it certainly didn’t feel like winter! Many families joined
Environmental Educator Holly Merker, eager to learn a bit about our native
animals, and hopeful that we would find some evidence and maybe even spot some critters living on Bucktoe Creek Preserve. We started out learning a little bit
about the adaptations animals may use to help themselves survive through the
winter. Some animals, such as fox and squirrels, do a behavior called caching.
This means when their food source is abundant, they save some and store it for
a time when it might not be so easy to find food. Other animals use camouflage
to keep themselves hidden since the habitat in the winter is much sparser. Our
taxidermy fox was a perfect example, the browns and reds of the fur blended
perfectly with the meadow. We learned that some birds go into a state of torpor
every night, meaning their heart and respiration rates slow down and their body
heat drops, effectively conserving the energy they have so diligently built up
during the day.
Once we were filled with interesting tidbits on adaptations
our native animals use, we went out on the trail with a scavenger hunt as our
guide. We wanted to find tracks, scat, and any other sorts of evidence left
behind, and we were not disappointed! Almost immediately after being on the
trail, we spotted some fox scat, along with little holes built by rodents on
the sides of the trails. A participant quickly spotted a praying mantis egg
case, and a little further down the trail we found an insect gall. We were
lucky enough to see a rabbit scurry into the bushes, and hear an Eastern Towhee
singing from the brush. Everybody had a wonderful time, and maybe even learned
a little bit too! Join us for a last Wildlife in Winter program held on March26th from 1:00pm-2:30pm, focused on Migration.
Looking at a praying mantis egg case
We had a great weekend exploring the outdoors and learning
about our native creatures! Join us for one of our upcoming programs and have
your own outdoor adventure!