The Willisbrook Preserve, 3 May 2013

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Some how or another in the three miles between my house and the Stroud Preserve my GPS malfunctioned and I ended up at the Natural Land Trust’s Willisbrook Preserve near Paoli! Some people have asked me if I go birding in places other than the Stroud Preserve. Yes, occasionally.

My interest in the Willisbrook Preserve has less to do with birds and more to do with flora. The Stroud Preserve has a small serpentine out crop (a couple hundred square yards at the most) that has a small community of native plants that are adapted to serpentine soils. Willisbrook has about 20 acres of serpentine soils and likewise, the plant community is larger and more complex than the one at Stroud. Getting to know the plants at Willisbrook will probably help me understand things at Stroud a little better.

My interest in small grasslands isn’t just in passing. In graduate school I studied bird and plant communities in the remnant glacial outwash prairies of the South Puget Sound. While the details of the natural history between these grasslands are vast, literally a continent apart, the conservation and management concerns are quite similar.

As far as my visit today I saw my Prairie Warbler and Northern Paula for the spring. The wind was blowing pretty good which made picking up movement through the trees difficult, still, I ended up with 46 species which was pretty good for the small amount of ground that I covered.

American Holly Ilex opaca Aiton. 3 May 2013 Willisbrook Preserve, Malvern, Chester County, Pennsylvania.

The understory of the wooded area is completely dominated by greenbrier. The leaves weren’t out enough for me to identify the species but I suspect it is Smilax rotundifolia. The other tree related find was an American Holly (Ilex opaca). When I moved back here I was surprised to see this species on the Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory List as endangered. There is certainly no shortage of it in the urban areas planted as an ornamental. But, as I have walked through the woodlands here I have certainly noted its absence. The one today was the first that looked like it was truly wild.

Tufted hairgrass Deschampsia cespitosa (L.) P.Beauv. 3 May 2013, Willisbrook Preserve, Malvern, Chester County, Pennsylvania.

The small patch of grassland is an absolute gold serpentine mine of grasses and sedges. The only one that I have identified with any confidence so far is Tufted hairgrass (Deschampsia cespitosa) which is a endangered species in PA found mainly in serpentine barrens.

Start time: 9:00

End time: 11:45

Temp: 55-63°

Wind: 18-10 mph from the east

Skies: clear

Species Total: 46

  • Turkey Vulture – 3
  • Red-tailed Hawk – 1
  • Killdeer – 2, with a chick or egg nearby as they were giving me quite the distraction display.
  • Mourning Dove – approximately 10
  • Chimney Swift – approximately 30
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker – 2
  • Downy Woodpecker – 1
  • Northern Flicker – 2
  • Eastern Phoebe – 2
  • White-eyed Vireo – 6
  • Warbling Vireo – 1
  • Blue Jay – approximately 10
  • American Crow – approximately 15
  • Fish Crow – 1
  • Tree Swallow – approximately 10
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow – 1
  • Barn Swallow – approximately 15
  • Carolina Chickadee – 8
  • Tufted Titmouse – 2
  • White-breasted Nuthatch – 1
  • Carolina Wren – 2
  • House Wren – 5
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – 4
  • Eastern Bluebird – 2
  • American Robin – approximately 10
  • Gray Catbird – 1
  • Northern Mockingbird – 3
  • European Starling – approximately 10
  • Northern Parula – 1
  • Yellow Warbler – 4
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler – 5
  • Prairie Warbler – 1
  • Palm Warbler – 1
  • Black-and-white Warbler – 1, heard only
  • Common Yellowthroat – approximately 10
  • Eastern Towhee – approximately 20
  • Chipping Sparrow – 4
  • Field Sparrow – 5
  • Savannah Sparrow – 1
  • Song Sparrow – approximately 10
  • White-throated Sparrow – approximately 10
  • Northern Cardinal – approximately 10
  • Red-winged Blackbird – approximately 20
  • Common Grackle – 2
  • Brown-headed Cowbird – approximately 10
  • American Goldfinch – approximately 15