Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Frosty November Morn

I awoke on Saturday morning (November 9) to the beautifully frosted native grasslands on Raytharn Farm.  I did my best to capture the crispness before the rapidly rising sun dispelled the magic.

Weedy, non-native foxtail (Setaria spp.) in front of tawny Indian-grass (Sorghastrum nutans)
Rimed thistle rosette and oak leaf
Submitted by David Robertson
Executive Director

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Discouraging Forest Restoration Setback

In 2003, the Pennypack Trust expanded a forest restoration project originally begun in 1990.  In the expanded planting of 200 trees, we included a dozen pure American chestnuts (Castanea dentata) that we obtained from a nursery in Oregon.  The Oregon nursery said it believed its seedlings were resistant to the chestnut blight fungus (Cryphonectria parasitica), a pathogen introduced into the United States in the 1920s via imported Chinese chestnut trees.

For those who don't know the story of chestnut blight, the fungus quickly spread from the point of introduction (New York City) throughout the eastern United States.  By the time the pandemic had subsided, one quarter of all trees in the eastern deciduous forest had died, and what had been a major component of the forest became, for all intents and purposes, ecologically extinct in only a few decades.  (Not all chestnut trees died outright; the roots of some of the trees remain alive and continue to produce sprouts.  Once the sprouts reach about 20 feet in height, they are attacked by the fungus again [the fungus remains in the environment] and die back to the ground.  Some saplings even survive long enough to flower and set seed.)

With regard to Pennypack's planting, the chestnuts have grown tall and beautiful over the last decade; perhaps, I hoped, they really were resistant to the fungus as the nursery suggested.  Then, two weeks ago while on a walk, I noticed that one of the trees had a wound located right a the top of the tree shelter we use to protect all trees from deer damage.  Maybe the tree shelter had rubbed the bark and caused the wound...  But, you probably already know where this is going.  On closer inspection and upon comparison with references, the wound turned out to be a canker caused by the blight fungus.  In fact, there are tiny tell-tale red fungal fruiting bodies on the bark surrounding the canker as well, visible above the canker if you look closely at the image accompanying this post.

I contacted the American Chestnut Foundation (which is trying to develop a resistant chestnut strain) to determine if I should destroy the tree to prevent or delay the fungus from spreading to the other chestnuts.  The Foundation's representative told me that my story was all too familiar and that destroying the tree would only delay spreading the fungus by a very short time.  Better, the person said, would be to let nature takes it course and, hopefully, the roots will re-sprout once the above-ground portion of the tree dies back.

By the way, the Trust has also planted about a dozen American-Chinese hybrid chestnut seedlings we obtained from the American Chestnut Foundation in a different reforestation planting.  (The Foundation hopes that crossing American chestnuts with the closely related and fungus-resistant Chinese chestnuts will make the hybrids resistant.)  Those hybrid trees are still too young to show signs of resistance, one way or the other. 

Submitted by David Robertson
Executive Director

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Hayrides and More on a Perfect Autumn Sunday

Because of rain two weekends ago, we postponed Pennypack's annual autumn festival until Sunday afternoon, October 27.  Though it didn't end up raining on the date the event was originally scheduled, the sky that day was still mostly overcast and the Raytharn Farm trails were muddy; in contrast, last Sunday offered a perfect fall weekend, so I'm glad we waited.
The hayrides are popular with children, their parents, and their grandparents.  Our wagon will accommodate about 25 people for a 45-minute ride.  The first two rides weren't full, but the third ride was "sold out" and wouldn't hold another person.

You can see from the images that the native grasses are at their peak right now - tawny and beautiful - but the trees in the background remain dull green or muted shades of tan and brown.  Pennypack's forests are never as vibrant as the New England forests on October calendars because we don't have many maples in our woods, but this year's colors are not be among the best regardless.
There's a 10-acre private in-holding in our grasslands: a gentleman's horse farm.  While the in-holding breaks up the sweep of the grasslands, it nonetheless adds an  accent to the landscape.
Following the hayrides, children had an opportunity to decorate pumpkins and have their faces painted with Halloween themes in the Visitor Center.  A few kids took advantage of early leaf-fall to dive into a pile and have a great time.

Submitted by David Robertson
Executive Director

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Surrounded, but No Surrender!

Porcelain-berry, the "kudzu of the North," on the periphery of the Pennypack Preserve
For some reason (perfect temperatures, soil moisture, carbon dioxide concentrations, or a synergistic interaction of all three), the invasive Asian vine porcelain-berry (Ampelopsis brevipedunculata) "exploded" in the Pennypack Preserve this summer.  The perennial vine is ever present, and always the biggest threat in the natural area.  When I began my job here 25 years ago, one of the first tasks I set for myself was to bring the plant under control in the most heavily infested areas, and I was really able to knock it back with several years' intensive mechanical and chemical control efforts.  But, as I said, this year it has re-surged with a vengeance. 
Porcelain-berry fruits in varying stages of ripeness
Porcelain-berry was introduced to the united States from eastern Asia, probably as a garden ornamental.  It's fruits are attractive for about two weeks in the fall, but the rest of the year the plant just looks like a sprawling grapevine - to which it is very closely related.

Once the plant escaped the bounds of gardens (undoubtedly aided by birds that eat its fruit and then defecate the seeds elsewhere), it found a perfect home in the Mid-Atlantic.  It grows up into the canopy, spreads out to capture sunlight, and blankets the trees supporting it, eventually shading the trees to death or ripping off their limbs when the weight of the vines becomes too much for the tree to bear, especially when covered in snow and ice in the winter.
Porcelain-berry flowers attracting a honeybee
Porcelain-berry is served by generalized pollinators, so it is not dependent on a specialized bee, wasp or bat to spread its pollen.  And, while it's an introduced species, our native North American songbirds (and white-tailed deer) consume it readily, helping to spread the plant across the landscape, probably because it is so closely related to the grapes that are already familiar to our native species.

The only insects I have ever observed damaging porcelain-berry leaves are invasive, non-native Japanese beetles, but they never become numerous enough to inflict real harm to the plant.  I suspect that even if the plant has a specific disease or insect pest that keeps it in check in its East Asian homeland, such a disease or insect could never be imported into the United States as a biocontrol agent because it likely would also attack commercial grapes.
A porcelain-berry rhizome
Porcelain-berry develops an extensive, thick underground stem or rhizome.  The rhizome grows through the soil and sends up shoots ever few feet or so.  An infestation of porcelain-berry may actually consist of only a few plants all growing from the same underground stems.  Cutting off a few of the above-ground vines hardly fazes the plant, which has plenty of resources stored underground.  The only feasible method of control is to poison the plant with a broad-leaf herbicide applied either to the foliage or directly onto the rhizome after an above-ground stem is severed.
One of Pennypack's board members asked me to do a photographic inventory of land parcels on the periphery of the preserve that we might be able to acquire to add to the natural area.  I completed the inventory and prepared a PowerPoint program that I presented at the last board meeting.  In my remarks prefacing the presentation, I alerted the board members to note that every single one of the parcels I had photographed that was not maintained as a meadow or as lawn was completely overwhelmed by porcelain-berry.  Even if we got the plant under control within the preserve, the Vandals are at the gates on private properties we can't touch.

But we do have a chance to maintain the natural diversity inside the preserve, and we will redouble our efforts to try to bring porcelain-berry under control or the winter and during the next growing season.

Submitted by
David Robertson, Executive Director

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Of Birds and Men

Pennypack Executive Director David Robertson (left) with Pennsylvania Game Commission grassland bird expert Dan Mummert
For the last thirteen years, Pennypack's land stewardship staff has been working to convert the 160-acre Raytharn Farm into native warm-season grasslands.  Our goal has been to create habitat that will support breeding populations of "grassland obligate" birds - birds that nest in grasslands and in no other habitat.  Good examples in our area include Bobolinks; Eastern Meadowlarks; Savannah, Grasshopper and Vesper Sparrows; and Upland Sandpipers (the last one being, admittedly, a real long shot).

When we bought the property in 1997, the land was used to grow non-native cool-season grasses that were harvested for hay.  We started small with our conversion; each year, we would herbicide a 10- or 25-acre patch of the pasture grasses, and then reseed the area with native grass seed.  In 2008 we finally finished the conversion by reseeding the final 50-acre patch.
The grasses have performed well, and our farm now looks much like a tallgrass prairie in the Midwest.  Though the grassland conversion has been very successful, none of the grassland obligate birds has chosen to nest in the fields yet (with the notable exception of one very rare species that occurs in only a few very scattered locations in Pennsylvania - our resounding success to date).  We routinely observe Bobolinks and Eastern Meadowlarks stopping for a few days in the fields during spring and autumn migration, and each year we hope they'll linger to raise a brood, but inevitably they move on.
We have our suspicions about why they don't nest here.  The largest contributor to their decision may be that the fields are just too dense with grasses, and they can't find suitable small open patches in which to build their nests.  We know this is an issue, but there's a good reason why there aren't many openings in the fields:  we have an absolutely horrendous problem with non-native invasive plants. Any openings in the dense grass cover are quickly colonized by invasive plants, which then begin to spread and take over the grasslands.  So, we use herbicides to control the broad-leaved invasive weeds, which reduces competition for the grasses, and the grasses grow in to fill the openings.  Result: few nesting sites.
Grasslands with desirable diversity
Furthermore, the grasslands are not diverse and don't contain many meadow plants that would attract insects and pollinators on which the birds could feed.  Again, most of the good native wildflowers that we could seed into the grasslands would be killed by the broad-leaf herbicides we use to control the pernicious invasive plants, so we can't create a diverse meadow with a mixture of grasses and broad-leaved native wildflowers.  A 60:40 grass:wildflower mix is ideal; we probably have 90:10.      

Oh, and another thing.  The Pennypack Preserve is in the middle of the suburbs.  We're largely surrounded by houses, roads, and businesses.  So our grassland is an island in a suburban sea, and it simply may not appeal to these grassland obligates that are used to wide open expanses of grassland in an agricultural matrix.
So, long and short, we may never be successful in getting grassland obligate birds to nest in our grasslands, but it doesn't stop us from trying.  One of our premier birders, Harris Brown, called the Pennsylvania Game Commission when he learned that the commission employs a consulting grassland expert who would be willing to visit and share his knowledge and recommendations with us.  The expert, Dan Mummert, visited the Pennypack Preserve on Tuesday, August 27 and Harris and the staff escorted Dan on a tour through the fields.
From left:  Staff members Brad Nyholm, Christopher Dartley, and David Robertson; volunteer Harris Brown; and Dan Mummert
Dan commended us for our success in establishing our grasslands in light of the nearly overwhelming pressure of invasive plants, and considering that we cannot use the two tools best suited to managing grasslands: prescribed burning and disking.  (We can't burn because of air pollution regulations and because the local fire marshals are terrified that we'll burn down houses on our periphery.  We can't disk the fields because we'd open up bare ground that would be colonized by invasives.)  
He did note that some of the grasslands contained wildflowers and that not all of the fields were grass monocultures; he encouraged us to try to create similar diversity in fields that were dominated solely by grasses.  He also recommended that we remove trees that had become established in fence-rows; the trees serve as perches from which raptors can survey the fields for prey, and the trees interrupt the "flow" of the broad grassy expanses the birds are seeking.  And last, but not least, he recommended that we consider closing some of our trails through the center of the grasslands during the birds' breeding season (May to mid-July) to limit disturbance by human activity.
None of these recommendations was new.  We'd had other wildlife biologists make similar suggestions in the past, but it's good to hear that everyone is "singing from the same hymnal."  We'll have to give all of these suggestions some thought since we have to weigh aesthetics, land management, and public use in the preserve.

Submitted by
David Robertson, Executive Director

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Forest Ablaze

For three perfect evenings just before the summer solstice, my wife Mary and I walked the same route through the Pennypack Preserve.  As we neared the parking lot near the Visitor Center, I noticed that beams from the low-setting sun were penetrating deeply into the woods and setting it aglow. Naturally, I didn't have my camera with me the first evening, and I forgot to carry it along on the second as well.  But, I didn't make the same mistake a third time.  On June 19, 2013, I captured these dramatic images, which are even more impressive when they're enlarged (if I do say so myself); click on an image to enlarge it and see what you think.

I'm most satisfied with the first image, but the second, taken just before the beams disappeared, is more atmospheric.  I've been meaning to share them with Pennypack's members and friends here, but kept forgetting that I have the images in my archive.  I hope you enjoy them.

Submitted by David Robertson
Executive Director

Thursday, August 8, 2013

High Summer

Exuberant Indian-grass (Sorghastrum nutans), Black-eyed-Susans (Rudbeckia hirta), and Queen Anne's-lace (Daucus carota) on a crystal clear morning along the Raytharn Trail
Cicadas are shrieking during the day.  Katydids are sawing away in the trees during the early hours of darkness.  New York ironweed's flat-topped, regal purple flowers and Joe-Pye-weed's dusky magenta globes are heavily laden with swallowtails and bumblebees.  And the first of the early-flowering goldenrods have burst like sparks onto the otherwise emerald meadow blanket.  It's high summer in the Pennypack Preserve!

Walk the northern end of the Raytharn Trail and the portion of the Beech Springs Trail that winds through the low meadows for the best of the late summer show!

Submitted by 
David Robertson, Executive Director

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Too Tame for Eric

Eric Weihenmayer (left; back to camera) with uncles and nephews
My wife Mary and I had the privilege of walking three miles in the Pennypack Preserve with blind adventurer Eric Weihenmayer on Sunday, July 21.  Eric is the nephew of one of Pennypack's board members; he was in town with his wife, daughter, and adopted son for a family reunion.  We were joined on our walk by several uncles, nephews, and nieces.

Eric, who has been blind since his early teens, has climbed the highest peak on each of the seven continents, including Mt. Everest.  He is planning to kayak through the Grand Canyon when he can find a radio communication system reliable enough to allow him to negotiate the rapids with the guidance of coaches traveling with him.

Eric is a motivational speaker and a mentor to other people with handicaps.  This is the second opportunity we've had to walk with him; he's very knowledgeable about the natural world (but not terribly familiar with the flora and fauna of the Mid-Atlantic since he has relocated to Colorado) and - as you might imagine - extraordinarily self-reliant.

We had a good walk, but the biggest challenges I could offer Eric were a few muddy spots in the otherwise mostly smooth Pennypack Creek Trail.

Submitted by David Robertson
Executive Director
Eric (left), holding his daughter's shoulders, and flanked by his wife and adopted son (in a brown t-shirt)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Redbird Smackdown

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) [image from Internet source]
For the last 22 springs, I have been censusing the birds nesting in a 40-acre forested section of my preserve.  The censuses involve walking a rough path through the forest, stopping every 50 meters and then observing and listening quietly for 10 minutes to try to delineate breeding territories.  I have to do this eight times over the course of the late spring (Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology protocol), and each individual census takes 3 hours and 10 minutes to complete, plus 15 minutes walking to the forest and 15 minutes back.  I'm really glad when the last of the eight censuses is completed each year, since I have to awaken at 5 a.m. to get to the forest by sunup.

With two decades of observations under my belt, I've noticed a few trends, but nothing earth shattering or spectacular.  For example, Red-eyed Vireos (Vireo olivaceous), one of the most common birds early in this series of surveys, have nearly disappeared, an observation that I attribute to the fact that the forest has gotten more mature and Red-eyed Vireos are birds of woodlands and young forests.  I've also stopped observing Brown-headed Cowbirds (Molothrus ater)--a great thing, because cowbirds are nest parasites that lay their eggs in other birds' nests and allow the "other" birds to foster the aggressive cowbird chicks, usually at the expense of their own young.

This year, however, I noticed a real shift in the "redbirds," the Northern Cardinals and the Scarlet Tanagers.  Cardinals are usually among the most common birds in the forest; 6-8 territories in the 40 acres is not uncommon.  But this year, I only had two cardinal territories; I wonder what's up? 

In contrast, I had three pairs of Scarlet Tanagers nesting in my forest, an area where I'm usually lucky to get one pair.  It was really a treat to be greeted by their gravelly call from high in the treetops, and to be able to watch the males defend their territories.  The Cornell Lab has estimated that 10% of all Scarlet Tanagers worldwide nest in Pennsylvania, so I'm glad that my preserve can provide them with some of the habitat they so desperately need.  I hope that they're back again next year in even greater numbers. 

Scarlet Tanager (Piranga olivacea) [image from Internet source]
By the way, last winter, taxonomists (the scientists who classify living things) saw fit to group together cardinals and tanagers into a single genetically related group, the tanager family Thraupidae.  I sure hope they know what they're doing, because to my eye, these birds could hardly be more disparate.
Wood Thrush (Hyloxcichia mustelina) [image from Internet source]
On the eighth census this year, completed on Sunday morning, June 16, "action" was limited at some of the listening points.  (As the breeding season progresses, the woods tend to become increasingly quiet; birds have established their territories and it only takes an occasional foray to the edge of the territory to fend off one's neighbor, so the birds can concentrate more on raising their broods.)  I always carry a pair of plant clippers with me to trim away the vegetation that constantly threatens to overwhelm the path, and I occasionally venture off the path to clip an errant Japanese honeysuckle vine that his twined up into an understory shrub or cut back an aggressive multiflora rose.

On this, my eighth census morning, I spotted a particularly large clump of flowering Japanese honeysuckle off the trail and so went over to clip the stem and unwind the vine from the spicebush plant.  No sooner had I clipped the vine than I realized I'd made a horrible mistake--a pair of wood thrushes had secreted their nest under the sheltering umbrella of the honeysuckle.  The birds flew off to the nearby bushes and scolded me harshly.

Once the honeysuckle dies, the leaves dry up, turn brown, and the whole umbrella-like protection disappears.  I probably ruined this pair of birds' breeding for the season with one well-intentioned but misguided clip of an invasive plant.  I'm still fretting over it. 
Submitted by
David Robertson, Executive Director

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Belated Casualty

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy last year, I noticed that a "crack" had developed in the soil between a huge, old tuliptree (Liriodenron tulipifera) and the edge of the Creek Road Trail in the Pennypack Preserve.  The storm had undoubtedly tilted the tree up a bit, but not enough to tip it over.  (The trail adjacent to which the tree was growing had been a public road until 1984 when the Pennypack Trust petitioned the municipalities in the area to close and abandon several roads so that the right-of-ways could be incorporated into the trail network in the growing preserve.  About three miles of roads were eventually abandoned.  But I digress.)

The soil "crack," a few inches wide and about two feet long, appeared to be stable.  My wife and I walk the trail frequently and hadn't noticed any changes during the months following the storm.  Then, last week, our area received three periods of very heavy rain.  After the first deluge, one of our members telephoned on his cell phone to say, "I'm on the Creek Road Trail, and a huge tree has fallen away from the trail."  When the call came in, I knew which tree had fallen over.

Last evening, about a week after the tree toppled, Mary and I walked the trail to inspect the damage and take some photographs. Fortunately, as the caller had said, the tree had fallen away from the trail, but the root ball had torn up half the trail surface.  In the interval between the tree's falling and our walk, Pennypack's stewardship staff had built a wooden retaining wall and re-filled the trail surface with crushed stone.

As everywhere else we lost trees to Hurricane Sandy, we'll now have to do battle with the sun-loving invasive plants that will quickly colonize this gap in the forest canopy.  Tuliptrees are not valuable for lumber, so we'll just let the tree decompose over time in place.  And, as the limbs and branches decompose, we'll plant new trees to replace this impressively regal giant.
Submitted by
David Robertson, Executive Director

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Licking His Chops/Snake Sex

Last week, Mary and I took a walk in the Pennypack Preserve after dinner.  As we rounded the corner in the Management Trail, we startled a white-tailed deer buck in velvet that had been eating.  I managed to get the camera "up" just in time to catch him licking his chops; it must have been some succulent vegetation.  This buck allowed us to watch him for a full half-minute before he finally spooked and ran off up the hill.

Then, last Sunday, in preparation for a walk, we connected with two friends who had bought a house adjacent to the preserve along the creek.  The previous owner of the house loved and protected all wildlife in her yard, including some pretty fearsome but non-venomous northern water snakes (Nerodia sipedon sipedon) that liked to curl up and sun themselves on the rocks lining her walkway.  I asked our walking companions (the new owners) if the snakes were still there, and they led me to the top of the steep streambank above the creek and encouraged me to look over the edge.

There, on a flat rock at the water's edge, were two of the snakes.
Northern Water Snakes along the creek; look on the light gray rock center right bottom
Serpents close up
When we returned from our walk an hour later, the snakes had moved to another rock.  This time, we caught them in flagrante delicto:
And, there was a third snake coiled up and sunning itself on the stones lining the walkway to the house!  Just like old times!

Submitted by:
David Robertson, Executive Director

Monday, April 29, 2013

A Startling Reminder

Pennypack Creek along the Webb Walk in the Pennypack Preserve
The Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust has been around for 43 years now and its natural area has grown from the original 26 acres into the 810-acre preserve we enjoy today.  The Trust's staff and volunteers have put incalculable time and resources into protecting and restoring the land.  Occasionally, we should step back and look at all the great things the Trust has done to protect Pennypack Creek and its tributaries because, with so much beauty around, it's easy to take the Trust's efforts for granted.

Just upstream of the Pennypack Preserve is an area that serves as a reminder of what the preserve could become if the Trust ceased to exist.  Nestled in a hidden, largely forgotten hollow where the Pennsylvania Turnpike, SEPTA's Warminster regional rail line, and Pennypack Creek converge are 15 acres of neglected creek floodplain and early-successional forest.  Most people don't know of the existence of this place.  Two privately-owned bridges span the creek, but the bridges are off-limits to the public.  Because of the site's remoteness, it has become a "playground" for local youth who have left a permanent mark on the landscape.  The area is littered with the remains of weekend parties, paintball supplies, spray paint cans, miscellaneous trash from floods, the remains of campsites, and even a "zip" line with an accompanying 20-foot tower.
The derelict, hopeless nature of the site is depressing.  One can barely find a spot that hasn't been violated by some piece of trash or outright destruction.  The woods are crisscrossed by ATV trails interrupted by iron-stained puddles.  The landscape actually is quite colorful - thanks to the graffiti covering every possible vertical surface.  Here, even Pennypack Creek looks foul - a shadow of the beauty we experience within the boundaries of the preserve.
The owner or owners of the property should feel embarrassed and ashamed that this area has been allowed to deteriorate so badly.  This place serves as a reminder of why Pennypack employees and volunteers labor so diligently to protect the Trust's holdings.  Knowing that places like this exist within a few minutes of the preserve reminds us that we are all responsible for maintaining the beauty of the Pennypack Preserve.

With Earth Day barely behind us, let's remember to always leave a place better than we found it.  That applies to public places in the Pennypack watershed as well as the to Pennypack Preserve.  Pennypack members deserve special thanks for supporting the 810 beautiful acres we are so privileged to protect!

Submitted by
Gary Snyder, Stewardship Assistant

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Earth Day Tree Planting

Stewardship Assistant Chris Dartley planting a tree aided by Upper Moreland 6th-graders
The Upper Moreland School District has committed to bringing all students from 6th- through 9th-grades to the Pennypack Preserve each year for an environmental education field day.  On Earth Day this year (Monday, April 22), about 125 6th-graders (half of the 6th-graderes in the district) arrived for a morning full of environmental activities.  The students broke into four groups, and each group headed for a different activity station.  Throughout the morning, at 45 minute intervals, the students switched stations so that all students got a chance to rotate through all four activities: tree planting, invasive plant control, stream ecology, and searching for salamanders

Smaller trees need require smaller holes - always a consideration with 6th-graders
The tree planting occurred near our office.  Last winter, the staff and volunteers spent many hours clearing invasive plants from a hopelessly weedy and vine-infested thicket in preparation for planting this spring with the students. 

Chris positioning a deer-proofing cage while a student readies a stake
The students love getting out of the classroom - especially in the spring when the weather starts to improve.  I'm sure the teachers like the change, too.

At any one time, there were a dozen students planting trees
The second half of the 6th-graders came to the preserve on Tuesday and repeated the activities of the previous day.  Between the two groups, Stewardship Assistant Chris Dartley reported that the students, teachers, and chaperones had planted over 100 trees.

Submitted by David Robertson
Executive Director

Monday, April 15, 2013

43rd Annual Creek Cleanup

Trash collected by Viridian Energy volunteers
The Pennypack Trust held its annual creek cleanup along Pennypack Creek and several tributary streams last Saturday.  Despite showers on Friday, the streams were not particularly high on Saturday, and the day was sunny and temperatures were perfect - in the low 60s.

With over 100 individuals from Scouts, church groups, and companies volunteering at this event, we needed to spread the workforce over the landscape.  I took a group to Upper Moreland Township's Terwood Park where Round Meadow Run, a tributary draining downtown Willow Grove, originates.  Because of the commercial activity in this stream's headwaters, we can always count on collecting plenty of trash on the floodplain.

Round Meadow Run, the tributary where I worked,  near its mouth
I had volunteers from Viridian Energy, an electric utility supplier in the region, and from Planet Aid, a non-profit organization that re-purposes and distributes donated clothing and housewares.

Viridian Energy volunteers
Because we have not had a major flood since August 2011 when Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee roared through the valley (2012's Hurricane Sandy caused tremendous wind damage but did not produce much rain), there was not an inordinate amount of trash to collect.  Floods wash debris out of the watershed and deposit it on the floodplain, but this year we mostly collected routine stuff, especially plastic bottles and Styrofoam.

Round Meadow Run (foreground) joining Pennypack Creek (right)
Pennypack Creek is too large to ford easily, so volunteers from Planet Aid used a downed tree to access the opposite bank
Heading back for lunch
The three Planet Aid volunteers; it's not apparent in the image, but Dave (center) had fallen in the creek
Lavonne Cain (left), Pennypack's marketing assistant, and Mary Robertson distributed t-shirts
Back at the Visitor Center, we treated the volunteers to lunch provided by Whole Foods Market in Jenkintown, and we gave each volunteer a commemorative t-shirt.

Lunch in the picnic area
The creek cleanup, Pennypack's biggest event of the year, is hectic and chaotic, but it's also fun and satisfying.  Participants always feel good about being able to do something to help the environment.

The Pennypack Trust extends special thanks to our partner in this annual event, Upper Moreland Township, which collects and disposes of much of the trash gathered by our volunteers.

This year's cleanup was also sponsored by Susquehanna Bank, Giroud Tree and Lawn and MLCS Woodworking.

The following local businesses also provided support for the event: Bickel & Scena

General Contractors; BLue – A hair studio; Carr and Duff, Inc.; DeMarco Land Clearing & Tree Service; Rems Automotive; Star Lawn Mower; The Fredericks Company; and Vaporfoxxe.

Submitted by David Robertson, Executive Director