Have a wonderful holiday season! As you celebrate with friends and family, and reflect on 2014 we wanted to share a few photos from 2014’s conservation easement stewardship visits, stream restoration projects, and the newest conservation easement. Enjoy the photos and your holiday! May you have a healthy and happy 2015!
Left column – top to bottom
June 19, 2014 – Robwood Mountain, located to the southeast of Towanda in Bradford County, is the location of a large property protected by a conservation easement held by NPC. During the monitoring visit I came upon the largest wild butternut I’ve ever seen. The tree was located in a deep hollow on the moist fertile soil that butternut prefers. Unfortunately, an apparently exotic fungus disease – butternut canker – that often girdles and kills the trees is heavily affecting butternut throughout its range. In most areas over 75% of butternut trees are infected and most infected trees die within 15 years.
Butternut is now considered “a species at risk” in the United States. Butternut wood has been a favorite of carvers and cabinetmakers and may soon be unavailable for commercial use. This tree on Robwood Mountain has a few small cankers and, unfortunately, may not be alive much longer.
April 17, 2014 –Fossil Farm Easement – In a plantation of young Norway spruce a kestrel was perched on the leader of the tallest spruce in the vicinity. While the landowner and I walked along the edge of the planting, it flew from spruce to spruce until finally circling around to land on a tree behind us. The tall grasses and goldenrod among the planted spruce provide excellent habitat for meadow voles that frequently girdle planted trees beneath winter snow – the kestrel protects those trees at no cost to the landowner by feeding on the voles.
May 13, 2014 – Carl Barlett, recently retired NPC Board member, and I inspected the Oak Meadow Farm easement on a gray rainy morning. As we walked up the lane a large bird perched in a tree overhanging the lane caught our eye. At first I thought it was a red-tailed hawk, but the camera’s telephoto lens revealed it to be a mature bald eagle. A few steps to bring us closer caused the bird to spread its wing and take flight – right over our heads. There’s a pond on the property and other ponds nearby; still it was not the kind of place an eagle would normally be found.
Middle column – top to bottom
August 6, 2014 – Today’s Field Tour on Turtle Creek was a success! Over 100 people, mostly Amish and Mennonite attended. Many of the farmers brought their sons and daughters along, so we were able to educate the current land managers, and start educating the future land managers.
July 15, 2014 – NPC’s summer intern Lilly went with me to inspect the Dickey Farm conservation easement. The property is partially cropland, but is primarily forested. As we walked along a woods road we flushed a fledgling wood thrush from a patch of fern. The young bird flew up to land on a branch in a nearby tree. Wood thrush are forest interior birds, dependent on fairly large parcels of undisturbed forest. They build their nests on limbs of understory trees, usually less than ten feet above the ground. Wood thrushes migrate to Mexico and Central America where they spend the winter.
Pennsylvania’s wood thrush population seems to have declined by more than 25% since the 1980s, probably due to habitat loss from development and forest fragmentation. NPC’s conservation easements’ forests help to protect the forest habitat needed by forest interior birds like wood thrush.
May 20, 2014 – Pinkster azalea is a native shrub that brightens portions of northcentral Pennsylvania’s woodlands each spring. Unfortunately, it can be heavily browsed by white-tailed deer, so its pink blossoms are becoming increasingly scarce. The Morgan Valley Road easement is blessed with a number of these shrubs, most in the wooded stonerows separating fields or on the border of field and forest. One large pinkster was graced by a tiger swallowtail butterfly that flew from flower to flower feeding on the nectar it found in the flowers’ corolla.
September 4, 2014 – The Scott easement is the property where I usually see a host of purple trillium; but they bloom in May and this year’s inspection was much too late for blooming trilliums. September is the time when beechdrops (Epifagus virginiana) bloom and the forest had a lot of beechdrops in bloom. Beechdrops are flowering plants without chlorophyll in their tiny scale-like leaves and therefore aren’t green. Instead of manufacturing their own food they’re parasitic on the roots of beech trees, but do not harm the trees. The small inconspicuous flowers of beechdrops are normally off-white with a red lengthwise stripe – but on this day, along a woods road, grew a yellow beechdrops plant. In 50 years of wandering the forests, never before have I seen a yellow beechdrops.
Right column – top to bottom
October 9, 2014 – In southwest Bradford County the Shedden conservation easement borders Towanda Creek. Not far north of the property the Tennessee natural gas pipeline right-of-way has been widened to accommodate a second pipeline used to transport gas extracted from the Marcellus shale. Widening the right-of-way impacted a number of wetlands and those impacts had to be mitigated to Corps of Engineers’ standards. The mitigation contractor contacted the easement landowner and NPC about installing a riparian buffer on the conserved property as part of the mitigation project. After review NPC agreed that installing a riparian buffer of trees and shrubs on the previously pastured bank of Towanda Creek would help to improve the stream’s water quality and fish and wildlife habitat. Earlier this year the plantings were completed and today’s inspection showed that survival of the plantings was very good.
November 18, 2014 – As NPC’s Technical Committee was evaluating the John F. Logue property we came upon a large straight tree with a long fresh scar from top to root. The tree was a black cherry, typically the most valuable species in a woodland dominated by a northern hardwood forest (usually called beech-birch-maple). The scar was caused by a lightning strike from a passing thunderstorm. Tree species vary in their susceptibility to being struck by lightning with black cherry being near the top of the list as is Pennsylvania’s state tree – eastern hemlock. The committee also discussed the large grape vine in the tree’s top. Many people think that grapes climb high into the tree tops. However that’s not the case: the grape and the tree both start out together as seedlings. Over the years, as the tree grows taller the grape vine keeps pace and can maintain its position in the tree’s top. Eventually as the grape vine get heavier and/or its leaves shade the tree excessively the tree may die either from breaking under the weight or, unable to produce enough sugars and starches, die from too much shade
April 17, 2014 – The Fossil Farm Easement was named for the outcrop of fossiliferous rock at its highest point. But there are other interesting features on the property – The dam of an abandoned beaver pond still holds back some water and there a green heron was foraging. As we watched it repeatedly lunged at prey, catching a small fish and other things too small to identify.