Week One

Today ends the first week of my internship, luckily with no injuries (knock on wood). Philadelphia’s getting some rain from the tropical storm coming up the coast, so I’m inside in my awesome cubicle working on this blog. It’s been a great week so far. I’ve gone on tours of the refuge with each employee, who covered different topics. Gary, the Refuge Manager, taught me some basic wildlife identification, mostly songbirds and tree species. I’m still working on remembering everything he identified, but it’s progress. We saw a blue-phase snow goose, the first that Gary has ever seen on the refuge. The blue-phase snow goose used to be considered a different species from the traditional white-feathered snow goose, but is now regarded as merely a different color morph. Tom and Mike, affectionately called “the boys” by the staff, showed me around the different projects going on in the refuge in maintenance. There’s a lot of cleaning up that needs to be done, which we’ll be tackling throughout the summer. The wildlife biologist, Brenda Lee, pointed out the different invasive species all over the refuge, particularly Phragmites and Japanese Knotweed. We’re hoping to get some of it under control throughout the summer.

I got to take part in a few different projects this week. The first was in Visitor Services, starting off with some visiting Drexel University students. The class came to the refuge to do an identification scavenger hunt, and I worked with a few of the groups in identifying turtles and other animals. The students were really interested in exploring the refuge, but they were on a time limit, unfortunately. I also got to work with a class of 50 first grade students in the refuge’s Pollinator Garden. Their teacher, Chuck, was my Student Conservation Association (SCA) crew leader last year, so it was a blast to work with him again. Back in 2010, he, the Friends of John Heinz, and the refuge worked together to build this garden, and his class has been taking care of it ever since. Those kids were amazing. Their project was to pull weeds and mulch the beds, and they treated it as if it were the greatest project ever. Some of those kids had never even been outdoors in nature before, yet here they were, discovering bugs and taking care of those plants like it was an adventure. I loved working with them and hearing what they thought of the project. We took the kids on a nature walk after the garden was finished, and I had a few of them grouped around me wanting to hold my hand. I never met those students before that day, yet they completely trusted me and wanted to tell me about their lives as we walked. I hope that they continue to come out to the refuge, both with their class and their families, and continue to have an interest in nature.

On the maintenance side of the refuge, we completed a project of our own. The refuge’s dike was built up and restored, which resulted in a lot of the grass dying and needing to be replaced. I worked with Mike, Tom, and Brenda Lee to spread new soil over the areas needing to be regrown, and spreading grass seed. Because of the impending storm, we also covered the ground in mats of straw, to keep the soil and seeds from washing away. A few visitors stopped to ask what we were doing, and I got to explain the project to them. They told me we were doing a great job, and they were grateful that we were working so hard, which was pretty nice to hear.

In between projects, I got to explore the refuge and see some wildlife. John Heinz has a pair of nesting bald eagles, who this year had two babies. The eaglets are full grown now, and will be taking their first flights soon. Telescopes were set up so that visitors could see the eaglets, and I was able to see them a few times. I don’t think I’ve ever seen eagles before coming to the refuge this summer, so I’m really glad I got such a good view. Groundhogs, snapping turtles, and goose families like to travel the trails, so I’ve gotten some good views of them. The best moment of the week was coming to work Wednesday morning, where I was stopped by a group of turkeys. The turkeys were gathered around the doors of the refuge, staring at themselves in the glass. I couldn’t get into the building until they moved, which they took their good old time in doing, silly birds. It was pretty awesome being so close to them, though. I was about five feet away before they noticed me, and even then they mostly ignored me.

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One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Carol Fern Culhane on June 10, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Welcome to Philly! I am going to enjoy following your adventures and work this summer. You write well and your topic is one of my favorite places! Sounds like Heinz will benefit greatly from your presence as well!


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