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Thank you AmeriCorp Volunteers

AmeriCorp volunteers 2017 

Thank you AmeriCorp Volunteers!


Last week we said goodbye to the seven AmeriCorp volunteers that had been helping TLC for the past three weeks.  They were a great group of young people who were hard working, polite and funny.  All were 18 - 24 years old and from the four corners of the US as well as the heartland. We wish them well on their next project and will be forever grateful for their work at TLC.

For more information on their experience at TLC click here.

For additional information on AmeriCorp NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps) click here.

Three weeks spent working on the preserves

Widening one of the trails



A Fun and Interesting Summer at Bucktoe Cemetery

Another season of work has come and gone with the Chester County Intermediate Unit's Migrant Education (CCIU) students this summer at the Bucktoe Cemetery. This was the third year working with the CCIU students who braved the heat this year to help continue the restoration and archaeological work at the Cemetery and church site. The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC) has been working with the New Garden Memorial UAME Church since 2011 along with the help of restorationist Eugene Hough of Saving Hallowed Ground. You can read more about the restoration and history of Bucktoe Cemetery here. This year's program at Bucktoe Cemetery was funded through generous support from CCRES, Inc. and the Sara Bowers Fund.

CCIU students on site of church
CCIU students and staff at the church site

headstone fragment found
Headstone fragment found
Students with the CCIU work with Eugene Hough in the cemetery to help locate signs of the missing graves as there are known to be over 120 individuals buried at the site, including at least 8 Civil War veterans. This year's work paid off as part of a headstone was found in the southwest area of the site. As you can see, the headstone belonged to a woman who died in 1870 and was found at the base of a tree.





Another exciting find in the cemetery this year was a penny, but this was no ordinary penny. It dates to 1880 and is from the Netherlands. The words you see on the front of the coin say Koningrijk der Nederlanden or Kingdom of the Netherlands. The reason behind its presence is unknown at this point, but it makes for a fascinating find.

1880 Koningrijk der Nederlanden penny
Besides working in the cemetery, the students helped continue archaeological excavations of the church site. The New Garden Memorial UAME church burned in 1904 and the congregation moved into Kennett Square where they have been located on Linden Street ever since. The exact location of the church foundation is unknown, but the general location is clear. Students are helping excavate small archaeological units to uncover remnants of the church and determine the exact dimensions. This year the students began to uncover large amounts of debris from the stone church including mortar, window glass, cut nails, and charcoal possibly from the wood floor or beams. The deeper the students go, the more frequently they uncover streaks of ash from the burning of the church.

Excavating within the church
Excavating and screening within the church foundation
The final segment of the students' day included a hike around the adjacent Bucktoe Creek Preserve where they discussed how the land reflects history. Students learned to interpret the landscape to best determine where landowners were more likely to build or not based on the available resources. Students visited multiple ruins on the Preserve and learned more about the community around the church. 

TLC had a great time with the CCIU students and look forward to having them out again next summer!

TLC can help organize an evening or weekend program for anyone interested in learning more about the Bucktoe Cemetery and archaeology. TLC has worked with scout groups for badges and can arrange private hikes or programs. If interested in learning more about the Bucktoe Cemetery program, please email education@tlcforscc.org or call 610-347-0347 ext. 104. Also stay tuned for our Chronicles Day event later this fall for a chance to explore the historic sites along the Red Clay Creek corridor!

Potential Bear Sighting on TLC Preserve

Please contact Land Manager Sequoia Rock at (610) 347-0347 x 106 or landmanager@tlcforscc.org with any additional questions regarding bears at any of the TLC preserves.

February Owl Prowl & Wildlife in Winter

BucktoeCreek Preserve, TLC’s 297-acre private sister preserve, had a lot of visitors this past weekend, as we had both our Full Moon Owl Prowl on Friday night, and our Wildlife in Winter: Adaptations on Saturday. Both of these programs had been rescheduled from the brutal weekend of Winter Storm Jonas, when we had multiple feet of snow on the ground.
 

Full Moon Owl Prowl

Fortunately, no snow was coming our way this weekend, so we bundled up Friday night, met our full group of owl prowlers, along with our two owl experts, and started learning about the owls that frequent Chester County. Tim and Kelley, our owl experts for the night, went through the 8 species of owls that can be spotted in Chester County, spouting fascinating facts about owls to our captivated audience. Did you know owls are completely silent when they fly? All other birds’ feathers make a “whoosh whoosh” noise as they fly through the air, but owls’ feathers are completely silent, making it easier for them to sneak up on their prey.

Learning about the largest resident owl in Chester County, the Great Horned Owl

It was a windy, chilly night, making our chances of seeing or hearing an owl pretty low, but we had high hopes as we split our group into two for our hike. This allows each group to be quieter, which theoretically gives us a better chance of sneaking up on an owl. As the group I was with proceeded into the woodlands, we stopped to try to call for an Eastern Screech Owl, followed by a Barred Owl. We were unsuccessful, but decided to search for eye shine in case we hadn’t seen the bird fly in. As we scanned the trees, we noticed two small eyes, with greenish/yellow eye shine peering back at us from a tall, distant tree. The creature kept staring at us, turning its head away a few times, but it seemed generally undisturbed by us, until we finally decided to move on, unsure of who we had just crossed paths with. Afterwards, one of our participants Annette, did a little detective work and found out that owls only have red eye shine. I followed up her detective work with a little of my own to find raccoons are the most likely animals to be in that habitat with a greenish/yellow eye shine. How fascinating that you can identify nocturnal animals by the color of their eye shine! We continued on, but unfortunately the wind was keeping the owls quiet. We met back up with the second group, who were unable to find owls either, for a nice wrap up with some delicious hot chocolate to warm up with. While we didn’t see any owls, our participants were certainly not disappointed, and I’m sure we will see them back for the next owl prowl, held on April 22nd from 7:30pm-9:00pm.
 

Wildlife in Winter



Searching for evidence of wildlife in winter

Saturday was the day of our Wildlife in Winter: Adaptations program, but with the weather being in the 60’s it certainly didn’t feel like winter! Many families joined Environmental Educator Holly Merker, eager to learn a bit about our native animals, and hopeful that we would find some evidence and maybe even spot some critters living on Bucktoe Creek Preserve. We started out learning a little bit about the adaptations animals may use to help themselves survive through the winter. Some animals, such as fox and squirrels, do a behavior called caching. This means when their food source is abundant, they save some and store it for a time when it might not be so easy to find food. Other animals use camouflage to keep themselves hidden since the habitat in the winter is much sparser. Our taxidermy fox was a perfect example, the browns and reds of the fur blended perfectly with the meadow. We learned that some birds go into a state of torpor every night, meaning their heart and respiration rates slow down and their body heat drops, effectively conserving the energy they have so diligently built up during the day.


Once we were filled with interesting tidbits on adaptations our native animals use, we went out on the trail with a scavenger hunt as our guide. We wanted to find tracks, scat, and any other sorts of evidence left behind, and we were not disappointed! Almost immediately after being on the trail, we spotted some fox scat, along with little holes built by rodents on the sides of the trails. A participant quickly spotted a praying mantis egg case, and a little further down the trail we found an insect gall. We were lucky enough to see a rabbit scurry into the bushes, and hear an Eastern Towhee singing from the brush. Everybody had a wonderful time, and maybe even learned a little bit too! Join us for a last Wildlife in Winter program held on March26th from 1:00pm-2:30pm, focused on Migration.
Looking at a praying mantis egg case

We had a great weekend exploring the outdoors and learning about our native creatures! Join us for one of our upcoming programs and have your own outdoor adventure!




Mammals of Southeastern Pennsylvania


As I’m writing this blog post, rain and ice has been falling since yesterday. The cold temperatures, rain, and ice may make you want to stay inside, bundled nice and warm, but here at TLC, we believe “the warmth is in the walk!” Despite the 16-degree weather last Saturday, a room full of winter-ready, excited participants joined me and expert TLC Naturalist, Gary, to learn all about the Mammals of Southeastern Pennsylvania.
 
The program started out indoors at TLC’s Walnut Hill Headquarters, where Gary laid out fascinating pelts, skulls, and antlers of mammals from our area. Gary began the program by talking about what makes a mammal a mammal: being warm-blooded, having hair, birthing live babies (except for Platypuses, which lay eggs, of course), and having mammary glands. He touched on the apex predators which historically lived here, including the Eastern Timberwolf, the Bobcat, and the Black Bear, and how in their absence, the ecosystem has changed completely. Naturally, this brought us to a discussion about the White-tailed Deer, whose populations have exploded in recent years because of the lack of the apex predators. This explosion in Deer has given the invasive plants in our area an advantage; the White-tailed Deer have evolved to choose the native plants as their food source leaving invasives like Autumn-olive, Multiflora rose, and Mile-a-Minute completely untouched.
The photo on the left shows Gary holding the pelt of a Nutria, an invasive species in North America which is part of the rodent family. On the right, he is explaining how mammal's skulls have evolved to eat meat, vegetation, or both.
Then, we started to talk about other families of mammals: Canines (Coyotes, Eastern Gray Fox, and Red Fox), the Felines (Bobcats), the Weasels (Minks, Otters, Martins) and more.  Gary discussed the different senses these mammals use—how Canines with their long noses utilize their sense of smell, and Felines have short noses, but big eyes which allow them to hunt primarily by sight. He pulled out a Coyote skull, and showed us how these carnivores have teeth built for tearing and slicing meat as opposed to the teeth of herbivorous deer, which primarily have molars for grinding vegetation. As omnivores, human teeth fall somewhere in-between, with both incisors for tearing and molars for grinding.
 
At that point, we grabbed our Tracks & Scat field guides, bundled up, and headed outside to search for evidence of mammals in the area. Since we had already learned most mammals are nocturnal, we knew searching for evidence is the best way to understand what is living in our area. Just steps away, right beneath the Chandler Mill Bridge we were able to find a large amount of frozen tracks in the mud. We immediately spotted some tiny tracks leading up to the creek, which we keyed out to be a gray squirrel. We moved further along the creek, and found raccoon tracks, more squirrel tracks, domestic dog tracks, and what we believe were mink tracks!
The tracks on the left were left by a Raccoon, the photo on the right shows various different animal tracks.

TLC offers a host of outdoor education programs all year round at Bucktoe Creek Preserve. Up next we have Wildlife in Winter Part II: Adaptations with Naturalist Holly Merker. This program will be held on Saturday, February 20th from 1:00-2:30. Learn how wildlife in our area survive the extreme winter weather by using different types of adaptations, such as camouflage. Check out all of our upcoming programs here.


 

 

Winter Solstice Celebration

 

Evangela Lisa Jackson
As friends, neighbors, members of the choir and regiment, and TLC staff gathered around the bonfire last night at Stateline Woods Preserve, we certainly had a lot to celebrate. Not only were we celebrating the Winter Solstice, which marks the time of year when our days start getting longer and our nights shorter, but we were also celebrating the 150thanniversary of the end of the American Civil War. The rain had held off for the evening, and everybody was excited for the night to begin.
We started with an amazing solo singer, Evangela Lisa Jackson, whose voice reverberated through the fields. After this beautiful start to the evening, The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War regiment discussed the impacts of the Civil War and gave a tribute, which included a small artillery cannon being fired three times to honor the war dead. Eugene Hough, from Heritage Guild Works, spoke a few words about the restoration work we are doing at the Bucktoe Cemetery, and read the powerful poem “Christmas Bells” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War
It was now time to light the evergreen tree atop Crossfield Hill! All the kids helped us string the lights and hang our natural ornaments we had made during the Black Friday Celebration. While we decorated the tree, the choir from the Gailee Church in Avondale, led by Reverend Sonni Taylor, led us all in some familiar Christmas carols. Soon everyone had joined in and many were making requests for the next carols to sing! We all had a great time celebrating the Winter Solstice and the end of the Civil War, and hope you can join us next year to celebrate!
Lighting and Decorating the Evergreen Tree
 
Thank you to everybody who participated in the Winter Solstice Celebration, and a special thanks to Crystal Crampton, Eugene Hough, Evangela Lisa Jackson, The Choir, and The Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War!
All proceeds from this event benefit the Bucktoe Cemetery Living History Classroom.
TLC has year round programming, check our website to see what’s up next!


Thanksgiving Weekend

Thanksgiving weekend turned out to be the perfect weather which we filled with fun outdoor programs at Bucktoe Creek Preserve! We started out the weekend with our Black Friday 
Going on a Hike
Celebration
on Friday morning. Many families gathered at the teaching shed, excited to go on a hike to collect natural materials to create holiday ornaments. We took a long, meandering hike through beautiful meadows, forests, and conifer groves, picking out the perfect materials to create ornaments fashioned to look like reindeer, squirrels, Christmas trees, and anything else we wanted! Our crafting materials included natural items such as rose hips, foxtails, leaves, pine cones, bark, and moss. Once we pulled together all of our materials, we got our imagination and creative juices flowing. A few of our participants were kind enough to leave behind some of their ornaments to help us decorate our evergreen tree during the Winter Solstice Celebration on Tuesday, December 22nd!



Creating Ornaments from our Natural Materials

The next morning, we started off our Children’s I-Spy birding at 9AM with some very dedicated young birders. By beginning at the feeders, we were able to get beautiful looks at American
White Breasted Nuthatch
Goldfinches and White-breasted Nuthatches through the scope. We also got to learn about the call of the American Goldfinch, which sounds like a rubber ducky being squeezed! Once we started off on the trail, we were inundated with sparrows darting through the brushy habitat. We heard the White-throated Sparrows singing “Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody” and could see the gray bodies and white undersides of the Dark-eyed Juncos. As we kept walking, a gorgeous, adult Red-tailed Hawk soared right over us, letting us see the dark red tail feathers, and the dark belly band.  Our next Children’s I-Spy Birding will be held on Saturday, January 30th. Come out and join us and see what we can find!

This weekend also marked the end of our annual Bucktoe Creek Preserve Hawk Watch. Every year from September 1st through November 30th, Larry Lewis of Early Bird Nature Tours runs our Hawk Watch out of the Warm Season Grass Meadow. Even though it was the last weekend of the season, the birds did not disappoint. Sharp-shinned Hawks were flying over at a constant rate, a few Bald Eagles made an appearance, and we even had a Peregrine Falcon speed past! Mark your calendars for next year to come out and scan the skies with our experts to learn about the different migrating hawks over this area! Not only can you spot hawks, but also numerous songbirds use this amazing habitat, along with a multitude of butterflies. We have hundreds of migrating monarchs fly over the hawk watch each season!



Bucktoe Creek Preserve Hawk Watch

Make sure to check out our upcoming programs to see what programs are coming up next! We hope to see you out at one of the programs, or enjoying one of the preserves!

Halloween Owl Prowl



Last Friday, October 30th, marked The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County’s Halloween Owl Prowl. 30 excited participants gathered at Bucktoe Creek Preserve in the hopes of capturing a glimpse of these elusive nocturnal birds that frequent the property. With a little bit of light left in the day, we started out by learning about the 8 owls that can be found in Pennsylvania and the 3 target species for the night: Eastern Screech Owl, Barred Owl, and Great Horned Owl. These are the three most common owls of Pennsylvania, and are all known to live on or near Bucktoe Creek Preserve.

Comparing the wingspans of the three common PA owls
Taking a look at owl pellets found on the property

Once we were all caught up on facts about the owls, had checked out the taxidermy, and investigated some owl pellets, everybody was more than excited to get out on the trail to try to find real live owls! We split into two groups to give ourselves a better chance of finding owls, gathered our materials and set out to see what we could find. Our first two stops yielded no results, but at our third stop we heard our first owl! An Eastern Screech Owl, the smallest of our common PA owls, called its whinnycall. Invigorated by hearing our first owl, we moved on, certain that we would find more, and we were not disappointed. At our next stop another Eastern Screech Owl flew past us, landing on a tree not far from the trail, giving us a wonderful look! As we continued the walk, we saw or heard at least three more Screech Owls. They were putting on a show for us, silently flying past us to check us out. We had a great time out on the trail searching for owls, maybe next time we will get a Barred or Great Horned Owl!


Heading out on the trail!



Beatiful Bucktoe Creek Preserve sunset


The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County holds Owl Prowls every season. Our next Owl Prowl will be Friday, January 22nd from 5-6:30, please click here to register! If you are interested in an Owl Prowl for your private group, please contact Hannah, our Education Coordinator, at 610-347-0347 ext 104 or education@tlcforscc.org.

Exploring Bucktoe Cemetery

Headstone of
Corporal William Jackson,
Civil War Veteran
What does archaeology have to do with TLC?  A lot! TLC has been working on a collaborative project with the New Garden Memorial UAME Church and Eugene Hough of Heritage Guild Works to restore and preserve the Bucktoe Cemetery. Starting with grounds cleanup five years ago, the Cemetery has been restored and opened to visitors to see the ruins of the former church building and the graves of over 120 individuals including several documented African-American Civil War veterans. To learn the history of Bucktoe, check out the full write up on the TLC history page.


Starting last year, New Garden Memorial UAME members, Eugene Hough, and TLC staff have worked with the Chester County Intermediate Unit to bring out students from the Migrant Education Program to learn about the Cemetery and area history while helping excavate the church foundation and document existing stones.  This year’s project has focused on exploring the center of the church and the front foundation wall.  On our first field day last week, students started two shovel test pits (STPs) that are smaller than standard excavation units to try and determine what remains currently exist.
 
Adrian and Candido excavating in the center of the former church
After only a day of excavations, students uncovered many fragments from the collapsed church including mortar, stone, window glass, and brick from the chimney.  The students working on the front stp along the potential foundation excavated several inches and did start uncovering larger stones that could be related to the foundation.  Further excavation next week will hopefully provide more answers.

Out in the cemetery, students took turns working to uncover assorted stones that could have been grave markers and footstones.  Many people would use a large natural stone to mark a grave if they could not afford a formal headstone. The students were most excited about a small stone that was found to have a rough J carved into it.  This most likely served as a simple gravestone.

Can you see the letter J in the center?
The small stones on top were around the base to help hold it in place.
In addition to the CCIU students, TLC brings out other groups who have an interest in the site for customized programs to suit the interests and needs of each group.  This past week we were thrilled to host Den 6 from Cub Scout Pack 136 of Avondale to complete their Duty to God Adventure.  We were able to show the boys the foundation and some artifacts, they completed rubbings of the original grave stones, and we hiked them to other ruins related to the church.  This helped the boys explore a site where people show reverence with Bucktoe Cemetery serving as a great example.







This program is made possible thanks to a grant from the Pennsylvania Abolition Society Endowment Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation. Founded in 1775, this organization gives grants to organizations and programs that seek to improve conditions of African Americans throughout Pennsylvania. We are honored to partner with them to share this unique and important site of local African American history with our community. 



The Bucktoe Cemetery is open from dawn to dusk to visitors and if you’re interested in a guided tour or program, please speak to Hannah, TLC’s Education Coordinator at 610-347-0347 ext. 104 or education@tlcforscc.org

When One Bridge Closes, a Nature Preserve Emerges…

This year, after a decade of advocacy, TLC has undertaken the exciting adventure of creating the Chandler Mill Nature Preserve, Headquarters, and Interpretive Nature Center. What many may not know is the history of this project and its centerpiece, the Chandler Mill Bridge. Learn the story in this account written by TLC Executive Director Gwen Lacy.


 

HUNT_STATELINE_67

Chandler Mill Bridge, built circa 1910

In late spring of 2005, Tom Mills, who lived adjacent to the one lane Chandler Mill Bridge in an historic Bed & Breakfast named Walnut Hill, was out tending his garden when he noticed various people in hardhats, sporting pocket protectors and armed with clipboards circling the bridge. Tom wandered over to investigate. Sure enough, much to his chagrin, the assembly proclaimed that the bridge was scheduled to be demolished and replaced with a new two lane bridge. Now, Tom had lived next to the one lane bridge for over fifty years, and as a history buff, he knew that the bridge was a steel through-girder with stone wingwalls built in 1910. He also knew that the bridge was not only good to fish from with his children and later his grandchildren, but that the bridge had survived every major storm that Mother Nature had dealt it over the decades. Tom Mills also knew the bridge was built during the age of steel, and that there was a sister bridge at Runnymeade that had recently been rehabbed instead of demolished.

Petition Photo Jones

Support for an historic community asset–and a way of life

Tom had a neighbor named Tom Brokaw, an avid conservationist, who had been declaring the need to preserve the historic bridge for years. Trained as a civil engineer, Tom Brokaw knew that the bridge could be rehabilitated to its original load rating, and he was determined to see it preserved. Because of the two Toms- armed with this knowledge and the will to preserve the bridge, the Chandler Mill Bridge Consortium was born. The Consortium consisted of neighbors, conservation and historic preservation organizations, a historical architect, and a retired engineer. It was a rag tag bunch hell bent on preserving not only the bridge, but that certain quality of life that it embodied. The demolition meant they would lose the neighborly politeness of waving each other across the bridge, and since the road would need to be widened to make way for the two lane bridge, they knew their once quiet country road would become just another cut-through traffic dominated road.

Over the next decade, the Consortium advocated tirelessly through successive administrations. They educated, engaged, had the bridge listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2010, circulated petitions, gave endless presentations, and lobbied for preservation. In the midst of their advocacy, the bridge was closed on May 6, 2011, but they did not give up. Strangely enough, once the bridge was closed, people came out of their houses in droves and walked, biked, jogged, pushed strollers, walked their dogs, roller bladed, and, in essence, took back the road. As serendipity would have it, during this time ground was broken just north of the bridge on Phase I of the Red Clay Greenway, a 12 mile loop trail traversing the east and west branches of the Red Clay Creek. Chandler Mill Road and the bridge would be a vital link in the trail system.

BarredOwl2

Two residents of the Chandler Mill Nature Preserve

What started in 2005 as a will to save an historic one-lane bridge slated for demolition turned into a force of nature fueled by people who wanted a say in the future of their community. Today, a resolution beyond our wildest dreams has been formulated, resulting in our purchase of Walnut Hill as our Headquarters and Interpretive Nature Center, a donation from the Brokaw family of 45 adjacent acres to create the Chandler Mill Nature Preserve and Kennett Township’s historic rehab of the bridge as part of the Red Clay Greenway Trail System. Tom Mills is no longer with us, but his legacy and that of everyone who rallied over the years in the belief that they could make a difference will live on in the Chandler Mill Nature Preserve. This is why we do the work we do, one acre, one heart, one mind, one trail at a time. Here’s to another 20 years of advocacy for Southern Chester County.