How would you like a personal tour led by an expert nature guide of some of Delaware’s finest preserved natural landscapes? Now The Nature Conservancy is making just that possible— but with a twist: you download a map and podcast of the Pemberton Forest Preserve Ponders Tract near Milton, Delaware before you leave home. When you get there you’ll have a tour at your fingertips led by John Graham, the Delaware Chapter’s Land Steward.
Graham knows of whence he speaks: he is an Entomology and Wildlife Ecology graduate of the University of Delaware’s Department of Agriculture, with more than 30 years of experience in landscape construction and freshwater wetland habitat restoration, and reforestation.
The 908-acre Ponders Tract was acquired by The Nature Conservancy in 2004, five years after establishing the adjacent Pemberton Forest Preserve. Soon after the Conservancy began an ambitious and aggressive restoration effort to reclaim coastal hardwood forests that once covered much of the site.
Utilizing a mix of state-of-the art timber thinning and old-fashioned manual labor, the Conservancy has transformed 240 acres of the loblolly pine plantation into a native coastal forest of oak, hickory, tulip poplar, sassafras, red maple and other hardwoods. The Conservancy transformed former logging roads into more than nine miles of public trails. The pod cast will present the story behind the restoration efforts and the natural world at Ponders at ten stops along the trail.
In the podcast Graham says this is a great time of the year to take in this dynamic landscape. “It’s a wonderful place to come, particularly in the spring for viewing migratory neo-tropical songbirds,” says Graham. “Summertime is a little bit difficult as we get into the bug season with ticks and chiggers. But come in the spring and you’ll really enjoy yourself!”
The site features salamanders, frogs, snakes and an array of dragonflies, damselflies and butterflies. The rare and threatened Hessel’s Hairstreak butterfly has also been observed in this portion of the preserve. Among the exceptional plants indigenous to the site are Atlantic White cedars, violets and orchids.
A trail head kiosk, directional and interpretive signage and benches have been installed, largely due to the efforts of volunteers, along the trail, which is closed to public visitation from August 15 to February 15 when the exploding deer population is kept under control.
Information about the preserve, and the map and podcasts can be downloaded from The Nature Conservancy of Delaware website: nature.org/delaware then checking the link for “Field Trips and Events”. In the lower right hand corner of the screen click on “Ponders Trails Opening.”
A similar podcast for the wide range of habitats, plants and animals at the Chapter’s nearby Edward H. McCabe Preserve is also being developed. The McCabe Preserve was planted with 2,000 native seedlings of red and white oaks, green ash and black gum nearly 16 years ago, providing a buffer from pollution for sensitive wetland habitat. Now it provides a welcoming site for an array of migratory songbirds.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.