2023 Conservation Easement Site Visits Begin

When our members support working with landowners to conserve property with conservation easements, NPC is taking on a perpetual duty. As an organization we need to ensure the terms and conditions of the conservation easement are being honored. NPC staff visit each conservation easement property a least once a year to walk the property and answer landowner questions.

The lack of winter weather has allowed the 2023 visits to get underway.

Sara has visited a couple of properties and is scheduled to have visits through out March. If the weather changes and we start to get snow (there’s still a lot of winter left) we can always reschedule.

We try to change up the time of year we visit each property. Each season has its own plants. Something we see in the spring might not be there in the fall and what we see in the fall might not be there in the spring.

The birds change with the season too. Sara was out at the Logue-McMahon property and had company. A Canada Goose was enjoying the day.

A few fun Canada Goose facts – Some Canada Geese aren’t migrating as far south in the winter as they used to (like Sara’s friend). Theories about why they’re staying farther north include: farming practices have changed and more grain is available in the fall and winter; there have also been changes in hunting patterns; and changes in weather.

A fun goose fact – The oldest known wild Canada Goose was banded in Ohio in 1969, and was recorded to be at least 33 years old when it died in Ontario in 2001.

Raise Up Land Conservation

Beginning at 6:00pm on Wednesday, March 8, 2017 the First Community Foundation Partnership of Pennsylvania’s Raise the Region 2017 will allow you to make a donation and have your donation “stretched.” By using their online portal, you’ll make a donation to FCFPP earmarked for NPC. The Foundation will then “stretch” your donation using funds from the Alexander Family of Dealerships and others.

To make a donation during the event visit our online giving page at “Raise the Region.”  Please note, the link won’t work until 6:00pm on March 8, 2017 and will stop working at 11:59pm on March 9, 2017.

Ephemeral Forest Pools a.k.a. Vernal Pools

Vernal ponds are temporary wetlands that fill with water each Spring. They are seasonal breeding and feeding grounds for many amphibians, reptiles, insects, birds, and mammals. Some of these animals need the pools for breeding while others rely on them for food.

The word “vernal” comes from the Latin word for spring, vernalis.

Vernal ponds are formed each year in the late winter or early spring. A shallow ground depression fills with spring snowmelt, precipitation, and the rising water table. They are generally less than 40 yards in diameter and no more than 4 feet deep.

Feeding Birds Month is Wrapping Up

Feeding birds month is wrapping up. The last thing to think about is when to stop feeding birds. Dr. Brittingham notes that feeding into spring may allow you to see some migratory birds on their fly through, and the birds that are normal “PA residents” in the spring and summer, but leave for the winter.

She suggests you keep an eye on the area you’re using and if you start to see mold or mildew, to stop feeding, or change your feeding area. Typically in the spring there’s more moisture from melting snow and spring rain. Things might get moldy, and you’ll want to prevent it from becoming a problem.

She also states that if a bear visits your feeders, you need to stop feeding. Bears coming out of their winter hibernation are really hungry and your bird feeder is an easy source of yummy calories.

Penn State Extension and the Pennsylvania Game Commission both have resources to review about bears in general, with some information about bears and bird feeders.

Who Eats What?

Penn State Extension provides the following chart to help you understand, who eats what, and what kind of feeder you need for that food source:

Species – Food Preference -Feeder Preference

Mourning dove – Cracked corn, millet, sunflower seeds – Ground, platform feeder
Red-bellied woodpecker – Suet, sunflower seeds, peanuts – Suet feeder, hanging feeder
Downy and hairy woodpeckers – Suet, sunflower seeds, peanuts – Suet feeder, hanging feeder
Blue jay – Sunflower seeds,  suet, peanuts – Platform feeder
Black-capped chickadee – Sunflower seeds,  suet, peanuts – Almost all feeders
Tufted titmouse – Sunflower seeds,  suet, peanuts – Hanging feeder, suet feeder
White-breasted nuthatch – Sunflower seeds,  suet – Almost all feeders
Red-breasted nuthatch – Sunflower seeds,  suet – Suet feeder, hanging feeder
Carolina wren – Peanut butter, suet – Suet feeder
European starling – Peanut butter, suet, sunflower seeds – Suet feeder, platform feeder
White-throated sparrow – Sunflower seeds, millet – Ground, platform feeder
Song sparrow – Sunflower seeds, millet – Ground, platform feeder
Dark-eyed junco – Sunflower seeds, millet – Ground, platform feeder
Northern cardinal – Sunflower seeds, seed mixes – Ground, platform feeder, tube feeder with tray
Common grackle – Cracked corn, sunflower seeds – Platform feeder, tube feeder with tray
Brown-headed cowbird – Millet – Platform feeder
Purple finch – Niger, sunflower seeds, millet – Niger feeder, hanging tube feeder
House finch – Niger, sunflower seeds, millet – Niger feeder, hanging tube feeder, ground
American goldfinch – Niger, sunflower seeds – Niger feeder, hanging tube feeder, ground
House sparrow – Niger, sunflower seeds – Platform feeder, tube feeder with tray

Your Bird Feed Determines Who You See

Different bird species eat different things. While a Mourning dove likes cracked corn, a Red-bellied woodpecker prefers suet. What you put out in your feeder will be a large factor in determining who you end up seeing at your feeder.

Penn State University’s Dr. Margaret C. Brittingham, Professor of Wildlife Resources, recommends small black-oil sunflower seed as the best all-round bird seed. In a publication she wrote for Penn State Extension she noted, it “is preferred by many smaller species, including chickadees, nuthatches, and titmice. It has a high oil content that is nutritionally important for birds, and a thin seed coat that is easy for them to crack open.”

Dr. Brittingham also suggests providing a variety of foods to help increase the variety of birds you see. Your feeder will need to be one designed to dispense the seed. For instance striped sunflower seeds are larger than the black-oil sunflower seed. A feeder that easily lets the black-oil sunflower seed out might jam up because striped sunflower seeds are too big to exit the holes in the feeder.

She also recommends using a seed mix if you’re interested in a variety of birds, but don’t have the desire to maintain a variety of feeders, or space for a variety of feeders. She does caution, that some mixes contain items that birds in our region don’t eat, so you want to be sure to read the label and pick a seed mix that “fits” what birds in your area eat.

Dr. Brittingham shares the recipes for “Marvel Meal,” a favorite for chickadees, titmice, wrens, and bluebirds. The mixture can be smeared on the trunk of a tree, or a tree stump. You can also freeze the mixture into blocks, slice it and put it in a suet feeder or put it on a feeder tray.

  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 4 cups cornmeal
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 handful of sunflower seeds (optional)

February is “Feed a Bird” Month

While we’ve celebrated “Feed a Bird Month” before it’s too much fun to not celebrate again this year.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology coordinates Project Feeder Watch which allows citizen scientists to track and report the bird species they see at their backyard feeder. PA’s top ten birds are feeders are:

  • Dark-eye junco
  • Mourning dove
  • Tufted titmouse
  • Northern cardinal
  • Blue jay
  • White-breasted nuthatch
  • Downy woodpecker
  • House finch
  • American goldfinch
  • Black-capped chickadee

This is a statewide survey, so what you’re seeing in your backyard in Tioga County is probably going to be a little different than what a NPC member in Lebanon County is going to see. The landscape might be different and the few degrees difference in average temperature can make a big difference.


Warm Holiday Wishes from Cold Marsh Creek

The Pine Creek Rail Trail runs for 62 miles from Wellsboro Junction to Jersey Shore using the rail bed that once hauled celery, lumber, and ginseng to market. The Trail is popular with tourists, Boy Scout Troops earning bicycling badges, and local residents staying healthy by biking and walking.

From Wellsboro Junction to Ansonia the Trail runs along Marsh Creek. Through this area, the stream has a defined channel, but there is also a network of wetlands that help feed the stream. During spring high water events, it’s not unusual for there to be standing water in areas for days.

NPC is working with the Bureau of Forestry on the Cavanaugh Access. While the site will provide more recreational access to the Trail and opportunities to develop walking paths into wetlands, the property also is important for its ecological values.


Cavanaugh Access Begins

When you think of NPC does the word “agile” come to mind?  How about “speedy,” or “fast?”  Well, all of those words could be used to describe the latest project NPC’s members and donors are making possible.

The Pine Creek Rail Trail runs for 62 miles from Wellsboro Junction to Jersey Shore using the rail bed that once hauled celery, lumber, and ginseng to market. The Trail is popular with tourists, Boy Scout Troops earning bicycling badges, and local residents staying healthy by biking and walking.

One need at the northern end of the Trail is for more access and for rest areas. People have said they’d like to have a place they can sit and watch wildlife, as well as just taking a break to enjoy the day.  In this stretch the Trail runs along Marsh Creek and a large wetland complex (known as the Muck). The Trail is bordered on both sides by private land with the Bureau of Forestry in charge of maintaining the Trail.

Back in October there was an opportunity to purchase 132 acres along the Trail. The property was being sold at a court ordered auction. When the Tioga State Forest staff saw the auction sign they quickly called their central office in Harrisburg to see if there would be some way to buy this property.

Staff from Forestry’s central office called NPC’s office.  There isn’t a way for the state to attend an auction and buy properties. The rules, systems, and laws in place require various state offices and  state departments to review sales contracts for real estate. As you can imagine it takes time for these multiple reviews to take place.

NPC talked to the staff from Harrisburg on a Monday. The auction was set for a Thursday.  Yep, NPC had 72 hours (almost to the minute) to figure out if the property had conservation value and if NPC could buy it.

Because of the support NPC receives from its members and donors, the organizational systems were in place that allowed staff to research the conservation values, visit the property to document its condition, gain board approval of the project and authorization to bid, attend the auction, and be the high bidder!!!

57 days after that initial conversation with Forestry’s Harrisburg staff, the Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy took title to an amazing 132 acres!!

With the continued support from our members and donors we’re now working toward conveying the property to the Bureau of Forestry and preparing the property to become an access point to the Pine Creek Rail Trail.

The property’s ecological features include wetlands along Marsh Creek. The wetlands are extensive, fed by Canada Run, and close to wooded areas. This allows wildlife to use the wetlands and Creek by moving from the forest to the stream and wetlands and back.

Marsh Creek is a major tributary to Pine Creek. Marsh Creek meanders and bends through this property for nearly one mile. This Creek and its associated wetlands are a huge sponge that provide water year round that helps keep Pine Creek’s water cooler in the summer.

The Bureau of Forestry plans to create a parking area and access to the Pine Creek Rail Trail. A few benches will be added to the property to allow bikers, hikers, walkers and wanderers a place to sit rest, and enjoy the day. Forestry will eventually create a walking trail to allow people to see more of the wetlands, and hopefully see more wildlife.

There is some work to do before the property becomes useable as the Cavanaugh Access. There is household debris on the site and a house that isn’t in great shape. These need to be cleaned up and removed from the property before a parking area, benches and walking trails can be constructed.

But, we’ve come a LONG way in the last 57 days.  Thank you for making this project possible. It really is because of your membership support and donations over the years that NPC could help take this possibility and make it a reality.

If you’d like to donate to the project and help get the site ready for public access, please click here.

The Northcentral Pennsylvania Conservancy is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Contributions are deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.  The official registration and financial information of the  Conservancy may be obtained from the PA Department of State by calling toll-free within PA 1-800-732-0999.  Registration does not imply endorsement.

Tree and Their Fruit

ginko_logue-mcmahon_editedA landowner with a property under conservation easement recently reached out to NPC about a concern with the property’s ginko tree. This year the tree didn’t bear fruit and the landowner was concerned this could be a sign of declining health.

Charlie explained, “Fruiting in most trees, from apples to oaks and all the rest normally have a fruiting cycle of fruiting heavily for a year or two and then having little or no fruit the following year. Our apple had a bumper crop last year, probably four bushels from one tree — this year it had six or eight flowers and only one apple, which fell when it was only half size.

“Trees need a “rest” year to build up their reserves after fruiting heavily.

“This year’s very dry summer may have caused the tree to abort whatever fruit that was forming in order for the tree to keep its leaves making sugars.

“A tree that’s having difficulty often does what is called “distress fruiting” and puts out a tremendous crop(s) of fruit — probably to insure that some of its genetic material survives its demise.

“As long as the crown has its normal complement of leaves and they weren’t extremely pale or yellow the tree is probably alright. The summer drought may even have caused the tree to drop its leaves earlier than normal, although most trees did not.”