Friday, March 1, 2013

Hunkered Down at Hildacy

Hildacy Farm is the headquarters of the Natural Lands Trust, a non-profit land conservation organization that protects forests, fields, streams and wetlands in eastern Pennsylvania and Southern New Jersey ( Crum creek skirts along the edge of the 55 acre property just downstream of Springton reservoir. The water looked a little milky and churned up by the outfall below the dam a couple hundred yards upstream. I wasn’t sure if I would see anything, but I hoped for the usual assortment of winter insects and fish, mostly caddisfly and river chubs. There wasn’t much life here, at least not at first, so I admired the unique asteroid texture of the clay and gravel stream bed. I grappled my way upstream and surveyed the bottom. It was winter and life wriggles into the bottom and moves to deeper spots which makes it hard to see. The river carved a 3 foot hole out of the clay and cobble under a tree root mass. It was dark in the back of this hollow and I almost ignored it. I took a breath, clung to the bottom and inched my way in. As soon as my eyes adjusted to the low light I saw the large turtle wedged into the bottom. I came up for an excited breath and eased back down to try to get a positive identification and a few pictures. I didn’t want to disturb the reptile since I was fairly certain it was hunkered down here for the winter. I never considered that I might encounter a turtle here today. Seeing first hand where and how a turtle hibernates was incredible. A lot of turtle species numbers are declining due to the loss of habitat to suburban development. It is no coincidence that this turtle is here on a Natural Lands Trust preserve. I left the stream feeling energized and excited for my next Natural Lands Trust adventure. What we do on land matters. The critically important work of the Natural Lands Trust protects not only essential terrestrial habitats but aquatic ones too, and I can’t wait to see what discoveries await in other Natural Lands Trust creeks.

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