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Frog Surveys at Sylvan Prairie

The sounds of frogs calling is a part of spring.

We document the frogs and toads at Sylvan Prairie Park four times each spring, in late March, late April, late May and late June. We go out just after sunset and listen at six different locations around the park.

In late March we heard a few Wood Frogs, Chorus Frogs, Leopard Frogs and Green Frogs. But not very many frogs overall. It was barely warm enough for most of them!

Late April’s count was last night, and we heard lots of American Toads and Spring Peepers and a few Leopard Frogs and Chorus Frogs. We saw a lot of Leopard Frogs hopping around, too.

Then this morning, we found some Leopard Frog egg masses, just hatching! The little black specks here and there around the whitish egg mass are teeny tadpoles.

Leopard frog eggs just hatching

Leopard frog eggs just hatching

OYBC NW Chapter Kick Off event

022The NW Chapter Kick off event was enjoyed by all! We had several families come out to Olander to learn more about the NW Chapter Ohio Young Birders Club. We made plans for summer field trips. Nature’s Nursery provided us with the wonderful opportunity to see raptors up close!  In the photo is a beautiful Barn Owl, we also saw a Barred Owl, a Screech Owl, a Kestrel, and a Red Tailed hawk!

Why are they removing leaves from the Savanna?

If any of you strolled by the Southview Oak Savanna along the University Parks Trail these last couple of weeks, you might have been asking yourself that question.

ZOOTeens

ZOOTeens moving leaf piles

TOPS Conservation Crew, along with awesome volunteers from the Toledo ZOOTeens, the University of Toledo’s Department of Environmental Sciences, and the local chapter of Wild Ones, have been hard at wok removing the fallen oak leaves from a couple of areas in the Savanna.

Why??

The Southview Oak Savanna is part of the Oak Openings Region. The soil is sandy, and on this site there is a remnant high dune built by the wind after glacial Lake Warren receded roughly 12,000 years ago. A lot of these ancient dunes are now gone, flattened for farming or bulldozed for developments. There are only a handful of places left where you can see the sweeping dunes, topped by oaks, tall grasses and wildflowers that once characterized this entire area. This is why it is such a privilege for us to have the Southview Oak Savanna, a remnant, as small as it is, of the globally unique ecosystem that once existed here.

Bare Soil - Leaves Removed!

Bare sandy soil after leaf removal. And the big piles of leaves ready to haul off.

So why do we want to remove downed leaves from this sandy ecosystem? The answer lies in that sand…and in fire and flood suppression. The tall grasses and wildflowers that grow on these ancient sand dunes rely on the sandy soil which has very low nutrient content. When dead leaves break down, they put a lot of nutrients into the soil. Historically, the nutrient content in the sandy Oak Openings soil stayed low because there weren’t that many trees growing in the sandy dunes. Nowadays there are WAY more trees in the Oak Openings Region because people have been stopping wild fires and lessening floods. Fires and floods stop trees from establishing. So now we have too many trees, dropping too many leaves, and creating soil with too high of a nutrient content for the native grasses and wildflowers.

So for the past 7 years, we have been removing the leaves from parts of the Southview Oak Savanna to make the sandy soil better able to support the rare plants that like sunny, sandy spots in the Oak Openings Region. And it’s working! Non-native invasive plants like garlic mustard love high nutrient content, and now they are gone from the Savanna! And rare native plants are really making a comeback!

Take a look at some of the wildflowers blooming at the Savanna this spring and summer.

Butterfly Milkweed

Butterfly Milkweed with Bee

There wouldn’t be nearly as many of them if we didn’t clear out those leaves for them every year!

Volunteer Work Day this Sunday

Looking for a way to make a difference in the community? Join us to restore wildlife habitat in Sylvania this Sunday March 30 from 9am to noon.

We’ll be working at the Southview Oak Savanna, removing leaves to make the sandy soil better able to support the rare plants that like sunny, sandy spots in the Oak Openings Region.

Wear long pants and bring gloves if you have them. Meet at Olander Park’s Maintenance Building at 9am Sunday. Volunteers will need transportation to and from the worksite.

Mel SylvaniaOakSavanna

Bald Eagle Pair

From late fall to late January, we had a pair of bald eagles visiting Olander Park almost every day. One day in late fall / early winter, we saw three eagles at Lake Olander! But then one of them chased another one away. This was likely territorial behavior … getting the newcomer to stay away from the pair’s territory.

Bald Eagle Flying

by John & Karen Hollingsworth / USFWS

When Lake Olander started freezing over this winter, the eagle pair was here every day, perching over the small holes of still open water,  watching the ducks and geese and occasionally eating one! Then once the lake froze over completely, we stopped seeing the eagles. Where did they go?  We had learned that they had been hanging out at Camp Miakonda a lot in the fall and winter. We had also seen them at Sylvan Prairie Park. But in February, we figured out that they had picked a spot to build a nest along Ten Mile Creek! One day we saw them lining their large stick nest with soft materials, and then we saw them mate!

We’re not sure if they will successful lay and hatch eggs this year. But we’ll be watching, and we’ll let you know! We aren’t the only ones watching. Toledo Metroparks has a volunteer Breeding Raptor Monitor program that shares the information they gather with state officials and the Ohio Breeding Bird Atlas.

You can learn more about Bald Eagles and their nesting habits from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.