We are thrilled to have Andrew Kirkpatrick join the Willistown Conservation Trust staff as Associate Director of Stewardship, working with Director of Stewardship, Bill Hartman. He joins us from the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education where he was Land Stewardship Manager, in charge of its 340-acre preserve. As part of his duties, Andrew led trail projects, coordinated volunteer activities, and managed their retail native plant nursery.
So how does a guy with a bachelor’s degree in politics and government wind up in land conservation and stewardship? Well, it started in Georgia and ended in Maine.
But before that, fresh out of college, Andrew worked for the Department of the Treasury. It was a great fit for his background and interests at the time. But he found the work, in his words, “really boring.”
He decided to take a little time-out and hiked the Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Pennsylvania. He walked home, as he put it. Then after a short hiatus, he picked up where he left off and continued on to the northern terminus in Maine.
Along the way, he marveled at how well the small, tightly knit community of hikers communicated. The way he describes it, the flow of information was organic and seamless, which turned it into a literal and figurative voyage of discovery. Through-hikers like Andrew usually have a trail name – his was Leaf Treader, taken from a Robert Frost poem that describes an individual’s awareness of nature and its cycles. And it was his own awareness of nature, being immersed in it day-after-day (even grim periods of non-stop rain), that led Andrew from the trail to a career in conservation.
He learned about a master’s program in Landscape Architecture and Ecological Restoration at Temple University from his wife. Upon graduation from that program, he started on the path of his new career at Morris Arboretum. And the rest is history.
Andrew is most excited to learn more about conservation easements and monitoring. He and Bill have already hit the ground running conducting monitoring visits throughout our program area and with more than 100 easement properties, there will be plenty of opportunity to learn!
Not surprising, in his free time, Andrew enjoys gardening and hiking with his 7-year old daughter, Stella. When you see him out-and-about, please say hello and join us in welcoming him to the Trust!
As the sun rose over the meadow that was formerly Ashbridge Lake on October 4, the first of our three days of tree planting, I stood and surveyed the planting area that was soon to be home to 300 trees and shrubs and felt a sense of excitement (and some stress) for the event that was about to take place. Months of effort and planning had gone into making sure the next three days were to go smoothly. Now, as I stand at the edge of the meadow and gaze at all of the beautifully planted and caged trees I have only one feeling: gratitude. I was recently taught my first Lenape word: Wanishi (“Wah-ni’-shee”), which is a profession of gratefulness. Used to start every meeting, it feels appropriate to start this post of appreciation for all of the effort that went into this project.
Thank you to each and every volunteer who came out over the course of the summer to help prepare the planting site –from weedwacking and digging holes, to planting, caging and watering the trees. A major thank you to Mother Nature, who was thoughtful enough to break the drought with a gentle rain the day before the planting was due to take place, which made life much easier for the group of hunters who had volunteered to assist yours truly in digging holes for the trees.
Each planting day was cool, clear, and perfect for all of the labor that took place. Over 60 incredible volunteers came out over the course of three planting days – families, individual volunteers, friends, coworkers – each day was filled with laugher as friends, old and new, bonded over planting new life into the meadow. Our fabulous Watershed team was reunited, as past interns and Drexel co-op students returned with friends; enthusiastic freshmen in the Drexel University Biodiversity, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES) program came out with their fearless leader and professor Dr. Marie Kurz; a local scout family came to work hard; Tree Tenders from Goshen and elsewhere leant their expertise and guidance. Two teachers from Kennett Square school district came out – neither of which knew the other had signed up! Rain began to fall as the final cages were being placed around the trees, saving us from hauling buckets of water to our new plants.
We could not have done this vital work without the hard work of every single volunteer. Your effort is helping to improve the habitat both on the stream banks and in the channel. As the roots of each tree grow into the soil, they will stabilize the sediment and slow the rate of erosion. Over the coming years, the canopy will spread and begin to shade the stream and keep the water cool. The impact of each tree will improve the water quality in our watershed, and we are excited to monitor the changes that take place over the next several decades. Already, I am starting to see an improvement to the ecological value of this meadow (before it was filled with invasive canary reed grass and mile-a-minute vine and inhabited by a stunning number of non-native Chinese praying mantis). In the areas that we have cleared since the spring, we are seeing native sedges begin to appear and an increase of butterflies using the area. I have been observing the wildlife starting to use the space – birds now move in each morning, hopping from tree to tree and exploring the new habitat. As the birds learn, so do the deer, but the cages that were placed around the trees by volunteers should help to keep them safe from the curious white tails.
The next time you’re talking a walk through Ashbridge Preserve, please take a moment to pause in the planting site. I hope you feel the same way I do as you look at trees growing in the meadow. We’re already planning the next round of planting, so please watch for announcements if you want to join us! Also, take a look at the time lapse video we shot over the tree days.
Of course, none of this would have been possible without the generous funding provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and TreeVitalize. A special thank-you goes to REI. As if the joy of planting trees was not enough, they donated amazing door prizes to raffle off to a lucky volunteer each day!
Bottoms up! Here’s to the things done and left undone in 2015, the birds that were seen and those that got away, the dreams that took flight and those that are still taking root, and the rejuvenation and calm we found in the natural world amid the kaleidoscope of our lives.
“All birds, of course, are miracles, and humans have known this for millennia. We have looked to birds as oracles. Our hearts soar on their wings and their songs. Even the tiniest bird can teach us that life is larger than humankind alone.”
— Sy Montgomery, Author, Birdology
Happy New Year,
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Ode to a Bander’s Autumnal World by Blake Goll
As the ardent air of autumn eclipses the weary haze of summer’s last breath,
The wind whispers to the wild wings that it is time.
Oh how the northern trees must weep as they somberly settle into winter solitude
And yearn for the intimate avian romance that enchants their days of green.
By most of mankind, the birds’ desperate southern voyage goes unseen.
But to the fortunate few, like you and me, this is the splendor we have feverishly awaited!
As if a million precious gems of a giant royal chest were catapulted south,
We scramble frantically to touch as many as we can before they continue spilling past,
Each jewel in hand more exquisite and exciting than the last.
Like secretive spiders faithfully tending their dewy webs by dawn’s dim light,
We raise our mist nets in hopes of gently snaring a few denizens of the sky;
A small silver ring upon the ankle, a reverent study of intricate feathers, then the rapturous release that leaves us breathless in awe,
Each lovely feathered captive feeds our hunger to understand
The storied lives of the heavenly birds with whom we share the land.
Fall songbird banding is well underway, and the season is off to a spectacular start. We’ve had a couple 80-bird days, largely composed of gregarious Gray Catbirds with a smattering of thrushes, sparrows and wood warblers mixed into the palette. Some of our handsome migrants are pictured below:
The highlight so far this fall was our first foreign banded songbird (or passerine) in 6 years: an adult female American Redstart! According to banding records from the Bird Banding Lab, she was originally banded in South Carolina last year on August 24th as a young bird hatched that year. That August, this redstart may have been getting a headstart on her first epic voyage to her wintering grounds in Central or South America. Alternatively, she could have hatched in South Carolina. Either way, she must have spent her first breeding season this year in Pennsylvania or points north. If she does indeed hail from South Carolina, she must have decided she didn’t want to be a southerner this year! As a neo-tropical migrant not bound to the earth, she has the liberty of these kinds of choices.
Even though information-rich foreign recaptures like these are rare, bird banding is important for understanding bird populations and how they change from year to year. Click here to learn more about the importance of our bird banding efforts in our spread in County Lines Magazine: “Meet The Birds of Rushton; Live the Banded Life”.
Bring a friend or the family and stop by the bird banding station at Rushton Farm tomorrow, September 19, anytime between the operating hours of 6 am and 11am to observe the fascinating science of bird banding and see gorgeous migrant birds up close. These lovely creatures depend on ecologically healthy places like Rushton to fuel up and rest on their arduous journeys south.
We’re also open to the public every Tuesday and Thursday until the first week of November. Nets are open from 6am-11am when it’s not raining. Early bird gets the worm.
There’s a lot going on in the woods,