Sunday, August 19, 2012

Field Report: Exton Park Pond, August 19, 2012

Valley Forge Audubon Society holds a bird walk at Exton Park in West Whiteland Township on the morning of the third Sunday of every month. On August 19, Vincent Smith lead a group that saw thirty species of birds. The complete list, as submitted to eBird, follows:

Canada Goose  2
Great Blue Heron  1
Great Egret  1
Green Heron  1
Cooper's Hawk  1
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  2
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Downy Woodpecker  3
Eastern Kingbird  3
White-eyed Vireo  3
American Crow  34
Barn Swallow  9
Carolina Chickadee  2
House Wren  11
Carolina Wren  4
Eastern Bluebird  2
American Robin  2
Gray Catbird  22
European Starling  13
Cedar Waxwing  4
Common Yellowthroat  5
American Redstart  2
Song Sparrow  4
Northern Cardinal  3
Indigo Bunting  3
Red-winged Blackbird  10
Baltimore Oriole  2
American Goldfinch  21

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

VFAS Awarded Grant to Promote and Restore Early Successional Scrub Habitat

We're excited to announce that Valley Forge Audubon Society has received a $20,000 grant through Toyota's and the National Audubon Society's Together Green initiative. We'll be using this money in partnership with Audubon Pennsylvania, the Willistown Conservation Trust, The Achievement Project (TAP - a nonprofit after-school enrichment program from the city of Chester),  and the Charles A. Melton Arts and Education Center to promote the importance of early successional scrub habitat and to restore this habitat in areas of the Ridley/Crum Creek Important Bird Area.

While the environment of the northeastern United States is most often associated with forest and woodlands, fields and meadows are also an important habitat in the area. When forest trees are cleared by fire, flooding, weather, or age, the open spaces become fields and meadows. Eventually, these areas will turn back into forest as new plants begin to colonize the land. Early successional scrub habitat is the transition stage between meadow and forest.

Common Yellowthroats are one of many warbler species
that depend on scrub habitat. Photo by Vincent Smith
Characterized by low woody vegetation and herbaceous plants, early successional scrub habitat is extremely beneficial for juvenile survivorship of an extensive variety of bird species. The “Early Successional Scrub Habitat Awareness Initiative” will be an Innovation Grant-fueled effort to resuscitate the image of these vital natural areas, often disregarded and cleared, to produce a model that will provide an example and motivation for spreading the habitat. The plan will initially involve the development of early successional scrub habitat demonstration areas at three different sites in the Ridley/Crum Creek IBA: Ashbridge Preserve, Rushton Woods Preserve, and Ridley Creek State Park. Hands-on activities will include the removal of invasive plants and the addition of native shrubs, the mowing of grassland plots to make room for more native species, and fencing plots for deer protection. Bird surveys and banding will be an additional and critical component of the habitat restoration, and community engagement and education will occur throughout all stages of the initiative.

Brown Thrashers are another species associated
with scrub habitat. Photo by Vincent Smith
“The volunteers from the Melton Center and TAP, representing a broad range of ages, races, and backgrounds will be a revolutionary force with which to restore and raise awareness of early successional scrub habitat,” said Audubon Pennsylvania Important Bird Area Coordinator Brian Byrnes. “By involving urban and suburban volunteers and landowners in the creation of this model and by actively promoting its importance and replicability though workshops, brochures, and self-guided tours, we hope to shift area residents’ suburban mentality to a mindset that allows them to see the natural and ecological beauty of early successional scrub habitat.”

As part of this project, we'll be posting regularly to update our members and the community on its progress. We'll also be posting articles detailing the importance of early successional scrub habitat and the birds and other wildlife that depend on it for their survival. Anyone wishing to volunteer their time  for this project can contact VFAS through the contact page on our website or by calling us at 610-666-5593.

Since 2008, over $5.5 million in Together Green Innovation Grants funding has been awarded to more than 200 environmental projects nationwide. This year’s grant projects will receive over $1 million in funding and will involve more than 500 partner organizations nationwide. Many of the projects focus on engaging audiences that have traditionally been under-served by the conservation movement, from landowners to religious institutions to inner city students. For more details about the 2012 Audubon Toyota Together Green Innovation Grants projects, visit: