Philadelphia News & Search
While turkey vultures circled in Sunday’s gray skies above Ethel Jordan Memorial Park in Abington Township, Graham Perner strapped a waterproof camera to an elm tree on the banks of Jenkintown Creek. With that act, he ushered in a new phase of the Tookany/Tacony-Frankford Watershed Partnership’s efforts to restore the stream and its wildlife.
Since 2014, the partnership has planted 935 native trees and shrubs _ including 250 in the 3.7-acre park _ to filter and absorb toxic stormwater runoff into Montgomery County’s 25-mile-long Tookany Creek. The assortment of pollutants include lawn fertilizer, engine oil and pesticides, which find their way into the streams that feed the creek.
As they mature, the woodsy buffers become wildlife habitat. Perner, 25, intends to document the variety of Jenkintown Creek animals for the first time since the watershed partnership (TTF) began revitalizing the environment.
He installed a second camera aimed at the grassy hillside leading to the creek, hoping to record deer, red foxes and raccoons along with the usual squirrels and wandering housecats. Both cameras will record 24/7 and are equipped with infrared flash which emits little visible light and won’t frighten the animals.
Perner placed two pieces of plywood on the ground along the creek, intending to lift them up some time in the future and perhaps find snakes, salamanders and insects sheltering there.
By midweek, when the weather turns dry, he will coat steel plates with black carbon powder and install them on the banks to capture the tracks of animals traveling along the creek.
“Having grown up not far from this park,” Perner said, “I know people get the idea that when you’re living in the suburbs, you’re not a part of nature, you’re separated from it. But just because you’re not in the mountains of Pennsylvania doesn’t mean there’s no wildlife around. If you’re patient or lucky enough, you’ll be able to see animals around here.”
Perner plans to install similar devices at nearby McKinley Elementary School in Elkins Park, where TTF is revitalizing a vernal pool – a seasonal wetlands pond that supports salamanders, frogs, shrimp and other wildlife.
Accompanying Perner on his pioneer effort were Maria Kiernan from Jenkintown and Tom McKeon from West Philadelphia, two of TTF’s volunteer Streamkeepers who Julie Slavet, the watershed partnership’s director, calls “the eyes and ears of the creek” because they monitor water quality monthly.
Sunday, they helped install the creek’s first two “pollinator motels,” which look like pole-mounted birdhouses made of sticks and hollow bamboo sections that provide shelter for native bees, beetles and other flying insects.
The two installed at Ethel Jordan Park were painted by Abington Friends students in pastel colors that pop against the muted background of creekside shrubs.
Robin Irizarry, TTF’s Philadelphia watershed coordinator, said honey bees get all the media attention because their colonies are collapsing, but native wild bees, including bumble bees, are major pollinators of orchard crops, peppers, tomatoes, blueberries, and other staples.
The lucky bees who find their way to Ethel Jordan Park will bed down on bamboo in the new pollinator motels that look like they were hand-painted by Picasso, and may find themselves starring in a Jenkintown Creek documentary filmed by one of Perner’s 24/7 cameras.
Philadelphia News & Search