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