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TOPS Works to Reduce Invasive Phragmites

Phragmites. What is it? How did it get here? Why is it significant? Let me tell you!

The common reed, Phragmites australis, is an aggressively invasive plant species that can be found in many wetlands in the region. Phragmites is an exotic species, which means it is not native to our area. It was brought over to North America from Eurasia to be used as an ornamental plant in aquatic areas.

Phragmites is wind-pollinated and produces a large flowering head in late summer

Phragmites is wind-pollinated and produces a large flowering head in late summer

Phragmites grows in dense stands that can reach 15 feet in height. These groupings choke out other plant species, effectively forming a monoculture. The plant also produces toxins that inhibit the growth of competing plant species. In addition, stands of Phragmites are unsuitable habitat for many animals because it grows too thick.

At Sylvan Prairie Park, our Conservation Team is working to reduce and eventually eradicate Phragmites. In September, we treat the plants with herbicide to kill the new growth before it can spread. We then return in the winter to cut down the standing dead stalks to open up the area. Over several years of management, the stands of Phragmites have noticeably decreased, giving way to native plant species that are starting to flourish.

Cutting Phragmites

Volunteers from University of Toledo’s Department of Environmental Sciences help TOPS cut dead stands of phragmites at Sylvan Prairie Park.

Phragmites grows in dense monocultures, choking out native plant life

Phragmites grows in dense monocultures, choking out native plant life

Macro-invertebrate Sampling at Sylvan Prairie Park

Students from Lourdes University’s Restoration Ecology class came out last week to help TOPS staff conduct macro-invertebrate testing in the ditches at Sylvan Prairie Park. Macro-invertebrates are good indicators of stream healthiness and are used to gauge the living conditions in our waterways.

TOPS is tracking the state of the macro-invertebrates in the ditches at Sylvan Prairie to see if the restoration we’ve been doing there is having positive effects on the water quality on site.

TOPS Conservation Mission

Imagine yourself in the Sylvania area in the early 1800s … in a vast expanse of forested wetland (the Great Black Swamp) with large elm and ash trees, stands of sugar maple, wild turkeys, and woodpeckers. Here and there the trees give way to open marshlands with rushes, flowering shrubs, dragonflies, and turtles. To the south and east, you would find dry land where a huge band of sand dunes rises from the swamp. On the ribbon of sand dunes (the Oak Openings Region) grow stands of oak savanna and patches of tallgrass prairie, with spreading oaks, 8-foot tall grasses, ground-nesting birds, fox, and butterflies. But in the late 1800s, the landscape was changed. Swamps were drained, dunes were leveled, streams were straightened and forests were cleared to allow farming and settlements. In recent decades, much of the region’s remaining natural areas gave way to modern development: paved roads, parking lots, subdivisions, shopping malls and resource extraction.

The Olander Park System and its Natural Resources Team are dedicated to bringing back a little bit of nature to Sylvania.

Grey-headed Coneflower and Bergamot Photo by Sherrie Plessner

Photo by Sherrie Plessner

WHY?         The conversion of our natural areas has lead to a loss of native plants, wildlife and “ecosystem services.” Paved roads, plowed fields, roof tops and lawns don’t handle stormwater and pollutants the same way as wetlands, prairies, woods and streams. They don’t support the same plants, pollinators and healthy soils. The result of our artificial landscape is more flooding, more polluted water (including harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie), fewer pollinators (which we need to pollinate our food), fewer wildlife and plant species, and fewer spaces and opportunities for people to interact with nature.

HOW?         TOPS works to restore and preserve nature in Sylvania by purchasing land from developers and restoring our park lands to a more natural state. We have leveraged your valuable levy dollars by receiving competitive grant money to fund land purchases and natural area restoration projects. To plan and perform this restoration work, TOPS employs a Natural Resources Manager (me), an Assistant Manager (Robin Parker) and four seasonal Natural Resources staff.

Visit our parks to see what we do!

At Southview Oak Savanna, we remove trees and shrubs to turn overgrown woodland back into the open habitat of the globally rare Oak Openings Region.

At Sylvan Prairie Park, we convert farm fields to prairies and wetlands by planting native plants and removing drainage tiles. We restore drainage ditches to more natural, winding streams that can support fish, shorebirds, clean water and flood control by widening the channels and planting native trees on their banks.

At Olander Park, we convert some landscaping from turf grass and ornamentals to native plants that can thrive in the sandy soils. We grow native plants for these projects in our own greenhouse.

Is it working?  YES!

Bike to Southview Oak Savanna on the University Parks Trail and see endangered plants growing below the scattered oaks. Pick a few native blueberries or look for a box turtle hiding in fallen oak leaves.

Stroll through Sylvan Prairie Park on the Quarry Ridge Bike Trail and see fields of native flowers and tall grasses where once there was corn. On a spring night, listen to a chorus of frogs where once there was silence. View the mating dance of woodcocks where once they flew past to a better location. Watch the restored stream flow slowly through the plants that clean the water. Try to catch a glimpse of the beaver that moved in last fall.

Walk around Lake Olander and see hummingbirds, goldfinches, butterflies and native bees visit our native flower beds. Come during a rainstorm and watch the native raingardens by the parking lots soak up the stormwater, preventing it from flowing across the dirty pavement and into the Lake.

Want to help?

Livie and Alayna roll out the erosion matting as Maya and Taylor plant behind them.

Join us at our monthly Volunteer Adventures, “Restoring Wildlife Habitat,”

where you might wield a shovel to plant natives at Sylvan Prairie or brandish loppers to cut down invading shrubs at Southview Oak Savanna.

I hope to see you out in our parks, enjoying nature!

Melanie Coulter

Natural Resources Manager

Native Plantings at OLANDER

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Volunteers  and staff have been very busy at Olander Park this month. The Youth Conservation Corp. planted over 500 native plants next to the west side restrooms and the Olander conservation crew added the willow fence. The fence adds a whimsical feature to the bed and keeps the maintenance crew from accidently mowing the new plants. Toledo Zooteens spent a morning planting another native bed on the eats side of the park, over 700 plants were planted that day! A willow fence will be added to that bed as well to help protect the plants. THANK YOU SO MUCH VOLUNTEERS!!KIMG0063

Olander Youth Conservation Corps 2015: Week Four

Bergamot

 

The fourth and final week of the Olander Youth Conservation Corps has come to a close. Although we had some rain this week, it didn’t stop us from having a great time and getting a lot of work done. We started the week with a stream survey at Harroun Community Park, then spent a day at Olander’s greenhouse at Sylvan, and ended the week learning about soil science at Olander Park and Southview Oak Savanna.

On Tuesday, we visited Harroun Community Park in Sylvania. We started the day by cutting down woody invasive plants along one of the park’s walking paths–focusing primarily on common buckthorn, honeysuckle, and autumn olive. After a few hours, the rain clouds that had been threatening us all morning finally broke and a light rain started falling. We were lucky, however, and the worst of the rain passed after about twenty minutes. Once the rainfall lessened, we began our stream survey of Tenmile Creek. Dr. Todd Crail of the University of Toledo led our survey, and taught the kids how to use seines to sample for fish and invertebrates in the water as well as outline the connection between a river and the land around it. Catherine Zimmerman, of The Meadow Project, also joined us to film the kids as they surveyed the stream. Ms. Zimmerman is currently creating Hometown Habitat, a documentary exploring the importance of the native flora relationship to a healthy local ecosystem. Everyone had a great time wading in the stream and looking for fish. It was a great way to start the final week of the Youth Corps.

 

Conner and Emily attack  common buckthorn with loppers.

Conner and Emily attack common buckthorn with loppers.

Sarah neatly stacks the cut plants.

Sarah neatly stacks the cut plants.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dr. Todd Crail shows the kids how to use a seine.

Dr. Todd Crail shows the kids how to use a seine.

The kids used seines to catch fish and invertebrates in the stream.

The kids used seines to catch fish and invertebrates in the stream.

Dr. Todd Crail explains the relationship between stream and land habitats.

Dr. Todd Crail explains the relationship between stream and land habitats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Wednesday, we spent time at Olander Park and Sylvan Prairie Park. We started the day along the shore of Lake Olander, rolling erosion matting on some of the sand blowouts and planting native plants in the matting. The plants and erosion matting will help to slow the erosion of the banks and protect the shoreline of the lake. Next we headed to the park system’s greenhouse at Sylvan Prairie. The kids had a blast getting their hands really dirty while transplanting grey-headed coneflower. It was a perfect day to work outside!

Livie and Alayna roll out the erosion matting as Maya and Taylor plant behind them.

Livie and Alayna roll out the erosion matting as Maya and Taylor plant behind them.

Anna and Patrick work together to make holes in the erosion mat and plant native plants in the sand.

Anna and Patrick work together to make holes in the erosion mat and plant native plants in the sand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cindy of the Olander Park System shows the kids how to wash pots as she goes through each step of the station.

Cindy of the Olander Park System shows the kids how to wash pots as she goes through each step of the station.

The kids made a transplanting station: pots are washed, filled with soil, the soil is watered and kneaded until it is wet throughout, then the coneflower is placed in the soil.

The kids made a transplanting station: pots are washed, filled with soil, the soil is watered and kneaded until it is wet throughout, then the coneflower is placed in the soil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the last day, more rain caused original plans to be modified slightly until the rain stopped late in the morning. Dr. Mike Weintraub from The University of Toledo came to teach the kids about how compost breaks down to become soil, then showed part of a documentary, The Symphony of the Soil. Once the rain stopped, we headed to the north end of the park to conduct an earthworm survey. Dr. Weintraub taught the Corps that earthworms are not actually native to our region. They are preferred by farmers because they improve the soil to be more organic and rich in nutrients.

To conduct an earthworm survey, a mixture of hot mustard powder and water was poured onto the soil. The kids monitored their selected location for worms wriggling out of the soil. Once out of the soil, the worms were rinsed with water to remove the residue from their skin. The Corps used an earthworm identification sheet to determine each species they found.

They also determined the type of soil with a texture by feel method. They followed a dichotomous key and manipulated the soil step by step until they came to the conclusion that it was a loamy sand soil type.

Finally, we went to the Southview Oak Savanna to remove nonnative weeds including yellow goatsbeard, deptford pink, and cow vetch. The rain caught back up to us, and we were soaked by the time we headed back to Olander to conclude our second year of The Olander Youth Conservation Corps.

Dr. Weintraub, Patrick, and Anna wait for worms to come to the surface.

Dr. Weintraub, Patrick, and Anna wait for worms to come to the surface.

Alayna and Maya use their earthworm guide to identify the species they found.

Alayna and Maya use their earthworm guide to identify the species they found.

Lauren and Emily determined they had loamy sand through a texture by feel method.

Lauren and Emily determined they had loamy sand through a texture by feel method.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to all of the Corps members this year who helped make the second annual Olander Youth Conservation Corps a success! We were happy to have worked with and taught all of the Corps members this year.

blue flag iris

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Olander Youth Conservation Corps 2015: Week Three

Red Admiral

 

Week three of the Olander Youth Conservation Corps has come to a close. The Corps visited Kitty Todd Nature Preserve, Fossil Park, Sylvan Prairie Park, and Pacesetter Park. The jobs included nonnative weed pulling, fossil hunting, monarch butterfly monitoring, and annual flower planting. With time to spare on the last day of the week, the Corps was able to practice paddle boating and rowing on Lake Olander.

The first day was spent at Kitty Todd Nature Preserve managed by The Nature Conservancy in Swanton where the Corps members pulled nonnative plants from a site that is meant to be a barrens ecosystem. The desired weed to be removed was cow vetch, but yellow goatsbeard and deptford pink were also pulled. The Conservation Corps was accompanied by a Northern Mockingbird for the length of the morning making his presence known through stolen songs and showy flight between trees. The restoration crew leader for Kitty Todd’s seasonal staff, Ryan Gauger, came out to the site to explain the appropriate techniques used to manage the barrens ecosystem. The method of intrigue is prescribed fire. Burning removes the unwanted dead plant material from atop the bare sand allowing the ecosystem to remain a barrens. One of the Corps members volunteered to dress in the personal protection equipment needed to participate on the fire line. Finally,  we went on a short hike into the neighboring oak savanna to discover wild blueberries, a parabolic sand dune, and a bright orange fungus growing on the savanna floor.

 

Anna and Patrick fill a bag with cow vetch.

Anna and Patrick fill a bag with cow vetch.

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Gabe, Jordin, and Connor show off their collection.

 

 

 

Ryan explains the purpose of a fire shelter carried on the back of Sarah's web gear.

Ryan explains the purpose of a fire shelter carried on the back of Sarah’s web gear.

Bright orange fungus found on the savanna's floor at Kitty Todd.

Bright orange fungus found on the savanna’s floor at Kitty Todd.

The following day was split between Fossil Park and Sylvan Prairie Park, both in Sylvania. At Fossil Park we explored the fossil pit in search of trilobites, crinoids, brachiopods, corals, and more. Several Corps members found brachiopods in the Devonian Era shale. After the fossil hunt, we headed over to Sylvan Prairie to participate in monarch butterfly monitoring with Denise Gehring, a retired Metroparks naturalist and member of the local Oak Openings chapter of Wild Ones. She explained the complex life cycle and migration pattern of the monarch to us then led us out in the field in search of monarch caterpillars. We searched in prime butterfly habitat for three types of milkweed native to this region: common milkweed, swamp milkweed, and butterfly milkweed. The Corps members inspected the milkweed plants looking for monarch eggs or larvae, as well as other insects. They also measured the plant height and judged the healthiness of the milkweeds by looking at the percentage of dying and destroyed leaves. At the end of the day, Denise gave everyone seeds of native plants to plant at home!

 

 

Jordin, Gabe, and Conner hunt for fossils.

Jordin, Gabe, and Conner hunt for fossils.

Denise Gehring and Alayna demonstrate how to measure a milkweed plant.

Denise Gehring and Alayna demonstrate how to measure a milkweed plant.

Gabe, Patrick, Jordin, Alena, Alayna, and Lauren look for insects on a common milkweed.

Gabe, Patrick, Jordin, Alena, Alayna, and Lauren look for insects on a common milkweed.

A milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) on swamp milkweed.

A milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) on swamp milkweed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The last day of the week, we took the Corps to Pacesetter Park in Sylvania to plant annual flowers for Sylvania Area Joint Recreation District. We provided the group with a theme of red, white, and blue flowers with the occasional yellow marigold, or “firework”. The Corps members were then instructed to work together and come up with their own design. After discussing design ideas, the members broke into groups and took control of different parts of the flower bed. Some groups planted stripes of red, white, and blue, while others planted abstract American flags. Another group planted the yellow “firework” marigolds along the path and around the gazebo. By dividing the work that needed to be done and working in teams, the Corps members finished planting the flower bed quickly and efficiently. In a show of solidarity with our patriotic theme, a Red Admiral butterfly (pictured above) spent the day in the flower bed with us. As a reward for finishing so early, we came back to Olander and had an excursion out on the lake with paddle boats and rowboats.

 

Taylor, Alena, Emily, and Lauren plant begonias in a patriotic pattern.

Taylor, Alena, Emily, and Lauren plant begonias in a patriotic pattern.

Maya and Lauren set out marigolds before planting.

Maya and Lauren set out marigolds before planting.

Corps members embark on a nautical adventure.

Corps members embark on a nautical adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s all for this week, only one week left!

Pacesetter group photo

The group poses with their flowers in the gazebo at Pacesetter Park.

 

Fossil Park CLOSED July 2 to July 5

FOSSIL PARK WILL BE CLOSED FROM THURSDAY, JULY 2, THROUGH SUNDAY, JULY 5

Fossil_close11Fossil Park is the launching site for the Sylvania Area Fireworks Display on July 3rd at Centennial Quarry & Terrace. Fossil Park will be closed in its entirety, including the fossil pit, the parking lot, the restrooms and the trails.

trail closed signThe Quarry Ridge Bike Trail from Centennial Quarry & Terrace down to Brint Road will be CLOSED on these dates.

These closures are for your safety. Please respect the closures, including the closed section of the Quarry Ridge Bike Trail.

See Centennial Quarry & Terrace’s website for more information about the City of Sylvania’s “Star Spangled Celebration” on July 3

 

Olander Youth Conservation Corps 2015: Week Two

 

Grasshopper in the rain

 

The second week of the Conservation Corps is complete! The Corps did some invasive plant removal, native planting, and had a special guest speaker. We also took them on two separate guided hikes in the Oak Openings Region.

Tuesday the Corps worked at Oak Openings Preserve Metropark in Swanton, Ohio. They started by walking a firebreak, then a horse trail to cut down nonnative woody plants with loppers. The majority of the plants removed were autumn olive whose stumps were then treated with an herbicide to ensure no regrowth. While out at the metropark, we even saw a red-headed woodpecker and walked through lark sparrow nesting habitat! Before heading back to Olander Park they visited the Girdham Road Sand Dunes and learned about the geology of the Oak Openings Region and how sand dunes are formed.

Livie cuts a honeysuckle plant with loppers.

Livie cuts a honeysuckle plant with loppers.

Corps members hike up the sand dune.

Corps members hike up the sand dune.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Wednesday, we had a guest speaker visit us at Olander Park. Dean Houchen of Pheasants Forever talked to us about wildlife conservation throughout the U.S. and showed us pictures of some of the awesome animals that he’s worked with, including horned lizards, rough sage grouse, and mule deer. After Mr. Houchen’s presentation, we headed to Sylvan Prairie Park in Sylvania to plant native plants along a stream restoration project that is currently underway. Some of the native plants used were blazing star, mountain mint, big bluestem, little bluestem, grey-headed coneflower, and rose mallow. The Corps members worked through the heat to get 650 plants in the ground!

Gabe checks out the hole he dug for his plant.

Gabe checks out the hole he dug for his plant.

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Anna poses with her native plant.

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Corps members work tirelessly to get plants into the ground.

Thursday we visited Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve in Holland. We started the day lopping woody plants at the entrance of the preserve and hand-pulling small buckthorn saplings. Common and glossy buckthorn are highly invasive nonnative plants that used to dominate the landscape of Irwin Prairie. Management and volunteer work over the past decade has restored acres of land to prairie, after it had been nearly a monoculture of buckthorn. We ended the day with a nature hike on the boardwalk and used dip nets to discover what creatures live in the waters of the grass lake. We found crayfish, American Toad tadpoles, Grey Treefrog tadpoles, dragonfly larvae, and snails.

Jordin gets serious about lopping some buckthorn.

Jordin gets serious about lopping some buckthorn.

Maya isn't shy about pulling buckthorn out by the roots.

Maya isn’t shy about pulling buckthorn out by the roots.

Corps members use dip nets to survey grass lake.

Corps members use dip nets to survey grass lake.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That concludes week two of the Olander Youth Conservation Corps!

 

Group photo taken in front of the Girdham Road Sand Dunes.

Group photo taken in front of the Girdham Road Sand Dunes.

Olander Youth Conservation Corps 2015: Week One

Milkweed

The second year of the Olander Youth Conservation Corps (OYCC) has officially begun! This year’s group is comprised of 13 middle school-aged youths: all are students from Sylvania area schools. The Olander Park System’s goal for the OYCC is to provide conservation-related work sessions for the corps members at various parks and natural areas in the Northwest Ohio Region. We strive to expose the corps members to as many natural areas as possible in their 12 days scheduled with us.

2015 Youth Conservation Corps walks to their first project at Olander Park.

2015 Youth Conservation Corps walks to their first project at Olander Park.

The first work session included an introduction to conservation activities and discussion of what conservation means to each corps member while crafting beaded tassels for their backpacks. After that, we walked to the far side of Olander Park to prep and plant a new native prairie area of the park.

A variety of plants were put in the ground randomly to imitate a natural prairie. The plants include nodding onion, purple love grass, joe pye weed, grey-headed coneflower, and Ohio spiderwort.

Each plant was carefully removed from its pot to be planted in to the sandy soil.

Each plant was carefully removed from its pot to be planted in to the sandy soil.

 

Corps members first prepped the bed by raking and weeding.

Corps members first prepped the bed by raking and weeding.

Then they plant x native forbs in the new bed!

Then they planted nearly 500 native forbs in the new bed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the second day, we visited Dr. Scott Heckathorn in his botany laboratory at the University of Toledo. The Corps members were assigned two projects: determining the colors of pigments in various plants and the amount of protein in three different food types. They also studied the same plants beneath a dissecting microscope and prepared slides of corn skin and leaf cells beneath a compound microscope.

The plant material was broken down by adding liquid nitrogen and then grinding with mortar and pestle.

The plant material was broken down by adding liquid nitrogen and then grinding with mortar and pestle.

Alayna shows her plant pigment after separating the precipitate plant material from the supernatant pigment.

Alayna shows off her plant’s pigment after taking it out of the centrifuge.

The food was broken down the same way as the plants. They determined the protein content of tater tots, hot dogs, and soy patties.

The food was broken down the same way as the plants. They determined the protein content of tater tots, hot dogs, and soy patties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The third and final day of the first week was spent picking up litter at the Meilke Road Savanna in Spencer Township. Among the trash and treasures we discovered were old toy trucks, part of a mattress, over 25 intact glass bottles and jars, lots of scrap metal, the remains of an old microwave or radio, and even a kitchen sink! Afterwards we explored the sand dunes at the savanna.

After working hard to clean up the savanna, Corps members enjoyed exploring the sand dunes at Meilke Road

After working hard to clean up the savanna, Corps members enjoyed exploring the sand dunes at Meilke Road

Livie, Alayna, and Alena show off their Earth Star mushrooms

Livie, Alayna, and Alena show off their Earth Star mushrooms

Earth star mushrooms curl up into a ball when they dry out and unfurl into a star-like shape once moistened.

Earth star mushrooms curl up into a ball when they dry out and unfurl into a star-like shape once moistened.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At the end of the day, we hauled all the trash back to Olander to dispose of or recycle.

At the end of the day, we hauled all the trash back to Olander to dispose of or recycle.

Everyone is excited for next week’s projects! See you then!

Birds at Olander

The Olander Park System’s Conservation Crew, with the help of Maumee Corps employees from Partners for Clean Streams, performed our annual Breeding Bird Survey at Olander Park and Southview Oak Savanna today.

Here’s what we found: (“coolest” birds listed first)  🙂

OLANDER PARK

  • Eastern Screech Owl – 1
  • Cormorant – 1
  • Belted King Fisher – 3
    Female Belted Kingfisher Photo by Teddy Llovet

    Female Belted Kingfisher
    Photo by Teddy Llovet

  • Great Blue Heron – 3
  • Northern Flicker – 2 adults, 2 fledglings
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker – 5
  • Hairy Woodpecker – 1
  • Downy Woodpecker – 2
  • Whitebreasted Nuthatch – 2
  • Cedar Waxwing – 8
  • Eastern Wood Peewee – 2
  • Eastern Phoebe – 2
  • Baltimore Oriole – 1
  • Chipping Sparrow – 2 adults; 2 fledglings; plus 1 adult on nest
  • Song Sparrow – 1
  • Barn Swallow – 1
  • Cliff Swallow – 3
  • Tree Swallow – 2
  • Dark-eyed Junco – 1
  • Redwinged Blackbird – 1
  • American Crow – 2
  • Mourning Dove – 2
  • Turkey Vulture – 2
  • House Sparrow – 12 (some on nest box)
  • American Robin – 22
  • Canada Goose – 63
  • Mallard – 37
  • Common Grackle – 1
  • European Starling – 3

SOUTHVIEW OAK SAVANNA

  • Tufted Titmouse – 4
    Tufted Titmouse

    Tufted Titmouse

  • Chickadee – 1
  • Eastern Phoebe – 1
  • Whitebreasted Nuthatch – 2
  • Cliff Swallow – 1
  • Blue Jay – 8
  • American Robin – 4
  • Mourning Dove – 1