Journeys of Dr. G at Tyler Arboretum

The sabbatical project continues, exploring all that Tyler Arboretum has to offer


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Tyler Arboretum is an IBA (Important Bird Area)

Photos at Tyler on 12/18/13

Photo on the front of the Visitor Center at Tyler Arboretum

The more time I spend going through Tyler Arboretum’s website, the more interesting “nuggets” of information I come across.  For example, on the Tyler At A Glace page under the About Us section, there is a bullet point under the Natural Lands section that reads:

Tyler is recognized as an IBA (Important Bird Area) by the National Audubon Society and maintains an active Bluebird Nest box program with 47 monitored and maintained boxes.

I immediately became curious – what does it mean to be an IBA?  What does this designation mean for birds – and for Tyler?  My Google searching led me to find the answers I was looking for!

As stated on Tyler’s website the National Audubon Society oversees the Important Bird Areas Program.

Important Bird Areas, or IBAs, are sites that provide essential habitat for one or more species of bird. IBAs include sites for breeding, wintering, and/or migrating birds. IBAs may be a few acres or thousands of acres, but usually they are discrete sites that stand out from the surrounding landscape. IBAs may include public or private lands, or both, and they may be protected or unprotected.  —  from What Is An IBA?

The IBA Program has an impressive, interactive website that allows the user to search by state and/or through an interactive map.  I quickly found the information for Pennsylvania’s Important Bird Areas Program.

Formed in 1996, Pennsylvania developed the first statewide Important Bird Area (IBA) program in the country. A group of scientific advisors (known as the Ornithological Technical Committee) has identified over 80 IBA sites encompassing over two million acres of Pennsylvania’s public and private land. These areas include migratory staging areas, winter roost sites and prime breeding areas for songbirds, wading birds, and other species. Pennsylvania is making an important contribution to the conservation of bird habitat in the western hemisphere. Penn’s Woods are critical to many interior forest birds, providing nesting habitat to 17% of the world’s Scarlet Tanagers and 9% of the Wood Thrushes. By focusing attention on the most essential and vulnerable areas, the IBA program helps to promote proactive habitat conservation, benefiting birds and biodiversity. Audubon Pennsylvania works with a multitude of partners across the Commonwealth to advance the conservation of Important Bird Areas. — from PA’s Important Bird Areas Program

I was then able to drill down and found Tyler Arboretum on their map as part of a larger area designated as the Upper Ridley/Crum Site.

Site Description
The Upper Ridley/Crum Important Bird Area includes Ridley Creek State Park, Tyler Arboretum and a vast expanse of primarily private land north of Route 3. Other publicly-accessible sites include Willistown Township’s Okehocking Preserve (Route 3 and 926), and several preserves owned by the Willistown Conservation Trust.

Ornithological Summary
The site is significant for its use during migration and the nesting season. As a large patch of green in a fully suburbanized region, the IBA acts as a vital stopover site for many species of neotropical migrant songbirds. Several woodland species of concern stay for the summer and nest within the IBA, including Kentucky Warbler, Hooded Warbler and Wood Thrush. Grasslands and agricultural fields in the IBA provide stopover habitat for Bobolinks and nesting habitat for a few Eastern Meadowlarks.

The Audubon Pennsylvania website has even more information specific to Pennsylvania about the IBA program, along with some helpful responses to IBA FAQs and a complete, detailed site profile for Upper Ridley/Crum.

My investigation in to the IBA program has given me an even greater appreciation for the role Tyler plays in biodiversity and conservation of our avian population.  Now I need to work on my bird identification skills to see if I can spot some of these critical species!


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Preparing for the Pancake Breakfast!

The tables are set and ready for breakfast!

The tables are set and ready for breakfast!

Tomorrow (Saturday, February 22) is Tyler Arboretum’s Pancake Breakfast & Maple Sugaring Celebration.  I love this event!  It is so much fun and offers the opportunity to get out in the winter for a fresh, hot breakfast and some time to explore the maple sugaring process (similar to my blog post on the maple sugaring class I attended back in January).  After having attended many pancake breakfasts, I decided to lend a hand today in helping set up the event.  It took a mini-army of volunteers, but under the organized and watchful eye of Sally Rogers (Tyler’s Special Events Manager), we stacked baskets with sugar and tea packets, filled bins with napkins and butter packets, and filled bottles with maple syrup from Aunt Jemima and 100% maple syrup from Vermont!  Hope to see lots of people at the breakfast tomorrow!

The griddle pans are lined and ready to go for the pancake flippers!

The griddle pans are lined and ready to go for the pancake flippers!

Don't forget that pancakes and sausage will be served upstairs AND downstairs!

Don’t forget that pancakes and sausage will be served upstairs AND downstairs!


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Roundtop Farm – the Minshall Family Farmstead

If you saw my post back in August 2013 about Touring the historic buildings, you might remember the end of the post (reproduced here):

We joked that we may meet again investigating Roundtop Farm in Ridley Creek State Park, which we learned was the original Minshall family farmstead (until I make it there, I’ll have to enjoy exploring the images in flickr)!  I also found a 1993 Masters Thesis from the University of Pennsylvania titled “Preservation in Ridley Creek State Park : documentation of the historic farmsteads.”  The thesis is available online as a free download and has more information on the Roundtop Farm home of the Minshalls, especially the case study section that starts on page 89 of the thesis (p. 193 of the PDF file).

I went searching for the Roundtop Farmstead not long after I took the Tyler Historic Building Tour – and I walked right by the building twice before I was able to find it!  Although the ruins are only approx. 20 feet off the hiking trail, it was the thick vegetation that blocked the view.  But now, in the winter months with all of the “green” missing from the trees and low plants, I had no problem finding the building – at least, what is left of it.  (At the end of this post, you can find my directions on how to find Roundtop for yourself!)

Roundtop Farm

Roundtop Farm became part of Ridley Creek State Park in 1978 in a property exchange between Tyler Arboretum and RCSP.

According to the thesis by Jeffrey Barr, the original portion of the house is believed to have been constructed in 1711 by Jacob Minshall (the second owner of the Tyler property).  Jacob’s son, John Minshall, inherited the property in 1734 and is believed to have built the additions on to the barn.  Unfortunately, it is only the house and ruins of the barn that are left standing, but Barr’s thesis has some impressive detail from his research on the chain of title of architectural records to speak about the layout of the structure and additions over the years.  I strongly encourage you to check out the link above and read for yourself!

And you can click here to view a slideshow of my images!

To find Roundtop, you can travel one of two pathways: (1) Start on the Painter Trail (formerly called the Red Trail) in Tyler Arboretum, take the turn in the trail that crosses in to Ridley Creek State Park, keep walking and Roundtop will appear on your left; (2) Park at the Sycamore Mills/Barren Road entrance at Ridley Creek State Park, and follow this map I created in Google (no log-in necessary) to find the house.

MOST IMPORTANTLY… when you reach Roundtop, do NOT enter the ruins.  Be incredibly careful and respectful of this historic structure, and keep your distance (just use the “zoom” on your camera like I did to snap some incredible photos!).

PLEASE ALSO NOTE… I made my trip to Roundtop and took these photos in mid-January, before the recent flurry of flurries we have been receiving.  I don’t know how many trees are down and how much damage Roundtop has sustained from the recent ice storms – please be safe and wait until the snow clears and you can journey on the trails once again.


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Starting Super Bowl Sunday at Tyler Arboretum

Some people wait an entire year with great anticipation for this day – Super Bowl Sunday!  This is a day where people gather around television screens in their homes, in restaurants/bars, and even in airport lounges to see two teams battle it out (and the odds are that neither team is one that you were rooting for during the season!).

Knowing that I would be glued to my TV for the Super Bowl game and commercials, munching on chips and dips and all sorts of other unhealthy snack foods, I took advantage of the mild weather this morning and took a quick stroll on the Scenic Loop at Tyler Arboretum.  If you haven’t been out in the winter months, I strongly encourage you to get out and stroll.  You don’t need to have a pair of snowshoes or cross country skiis to head out and enjoy Tyler.  The Scenic Loop was perfectly clear today and filled with others such as myself enjoying the outdoors.

Below, I’ve included some photos from my time outside this morning.  Something I really like about the winter is the ability to see across the Arboretum – the sightlines are just impressive.  Be sure to get out and snap your winter views! Although, Punxsutawney Phil tells us that we have six more weeks of winter to “enjoy”….
Tyler Arboretum

Tyler Arboretum

Tyler Arboretum

Tyler Arboretum

Tyler Arboretum

I’m also going to brush up on 14 fun facts provided by the Smithsonian Institution about Sea Hawks and Broncos – everyone loves to learn new science facts at a Super Bowl party, right?  Such as – there is no actual thing as a “seahawk.”  As to who I’ll be rooting for?  (Hint – I used to live in Colorado before moving to Pennsylvania).