Flanked by waist-high meadow grass that seemed to insulate us from the din of nearby roads, we walked toward a series of vernal pools. This location was a little off the beaten track. When entering Valley Forge, I thought that finding a spot of solitude would be impossible. The park is surrounded by urban sprawl, and is itself a latticework of residential roads (which I haven’t yet gotten the hang of navigating). But, these shallow pools—a haven for nesting waterfowl and small reptiles—were the first sign of quiet. In just a few days, I’ve seen that the park is actually home to a number of meadows, forested areas, and ever-refreshing creeks. It serves not only as a refuge for flora and fauna, but also for those people who need a break from the hustle and bustle of nearby Philadelphia.

Our rooster friend, Foghorn, in his temporary enclosure. He makes for a great alarm clock.

I was jokingly told by a staff member that the park has an identity problem. It is an important conservation oasis in the midst of buildings and roads, but is a recreational hotspot for bikers, hikers, and history buffs alike. So, it is up to the natural resource team to reconcile the two. The question of how best to manage species within the park while still providing the best experience for recreational park-goers, is one that comes up every day.

My position is as versatile as the park itself. Everyone does a little bit of everything. Today, we put tree tubes around saplings in order to stabilize them and clear them of competing invasive plants. This proved pretty difficult because there were field mouse dens and wasp nests in many of the preexisting tree tubes. There were a few close calls, but somehow no one got stung!

Later, we removed invasive crayfish from a stream and inventoried the native crayfish population. In the past few days we picked up a lost rooster and are currently looking to give him a new home, maybe a new family.We also got a call to pick up an abandoned wood duck duckling. After naming the little critter and becoming his surrogate parents for a day, we took him to a rehabilitation center. I’m looking forward to dipping my toes into more projects and odd jobs like these.

Puddles the duck, sleepy after a meal of foraged ants.

 

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