The colder temperatures have made the ice stable again. Green flags are flying now, indicating that the ice is thick enough for ice fishing and skating. But check to make sure the red flags (indicating unsafe ice) aren’t up before you go on the ice.
One of the most amazing mass migrations in the world is that of the monarch butterfly. It takes four generations of butterflies to complete the 2,500 mile journey every year, and they return to the same sites, sometimes even the exact same trees, each winter. The monarch butterflies you see right here in the Midwest migrate to Mexico each winter. But this astounding event and animal may be disappearing.This year has seen the lowest count of monarchs in more than a decade.
One main reason for their decline has been the loss of their summer habitat because of changing agricultural practices in the Midwest. When the monarchs are here, they rely on the native flower milkweed as the only food source for the caterpillars. But milkweed has been declining as more grasslands, rangelands and vegetable crops have been turned into corn and soybean farms. The way modern corn and soybean fields are farmed is different now. Farms used to have more “weeds” growing in them. Those weeds included milkweed. Farms also used to have buffer strips around their edges and along ditches and streams. These buffer strips were full of native flowers like milkweed, aster and goldenrod. The flowers provided habitat for butterflies, bees and birds. But with new technologies most farms in the Midwest plant their crops right up to the edge … no more flower-filled buffer strips. And the modern varieties of corn and soybeans are herbicide-tolerant. That means the fields can be sprayed multiple times with herbicides to kill all the weeds without harming the crops … no more milkweed hiding out among the crop plants. Scientists have been studying monarchs for many years, and they have data showing that the monarchs have steadily declined as the number of acres planted in herbicide-tolerant crops have steadily increased.
Other factors have contributed to the monarchs’ downward spiral. Severe weather like cold snaps and droughts. Loss of over-wintering habitat because of deforestation in Mexico. Urban and suburban development. Increased mowing and herbicide spraying on roadsides. Mosquito spraying. The list goes on. It feels overwhelming. So what can we do?
There are two programs you can check out, the Monarch Waystation program, and the Bring Back the Monarch campaign. Both programs aim to increase the planting of milkweed and the creation of pollinator-friendly habitat. Locally, our Oak Openings Region Chapter of Wild Ones is a big part of these two campaigns and their own local ones … like trying to get native milkweed seeds planted all over Northwest Ohio. If you’re on Facebook, you can “like” a campaign they started to get Milkweed Planted at the White House.
“What else can we do to improve monarch habitat? We need to change our mowing practices. Protect our roadside native vegetation. Stop spraying herbicides, and mow less frequently or not at all. Speak up and tell city officials that we do not want them to mow or spray, and pat them on the back when they listen. Ask local plant nurseries to carry milkweed and native plants that are pesticide-free. Volunteer on nature preserves and at city parks—encourage management to plant milkweed. Collect milkweed seeds. Monitor a milkweed patch.”
And! PLANT SOME MILKWEED! That is what The Olander Park System is doing. Every habitat restoration project we’ve done since 2009 has included planting milkweed. We’ve planted milkweed all over Sylvan Prairie Park and at our Herr Road property. We protect the milkweed at the Southview Oak Savanna and collect some of their seeds to plant in more areas. We’ve planted milkweed in all the native gardens, including rain gardens, at Olander Park and Sylvan Prairie Park.
Contact us and/or the local chapter of Wild Ones if you want help getting some LOCAL native milkweed seeds and advice on planting it.
*A LOT OF THE TEXT IN THIS BLOG POST WAS WRITTEN BY CANDY SARIKONDA, MONARCH WATCH SPECIALIST, AND MEMBER OF THE OAK OPENINGS REGION CHAPTER OF WILD ONES* See one of her many articles about monarchs HERE. See more of them through the Wild Ones page.
The ice on Lake Olander is open for your use! It’s time to ice fish!
The ice was measured, and it is a consistent 8″ thick on the lake … except at the spot that the geese and ducks have been keeping open. That area has been fenced off for your safety.
Keep your eyes on our ice safety flags. They’re flying green now, but we will change them to red if warm temperatures cause the ice to start melting.
We have finally gotten our trails and roads cleared thanks to the dedicated staff at TOPS! The Parks are open and ready for you to enjoy, but dress well and stay warm! It’s still cold out there.
We have had a lot of questions about whether the ice is open yet for fishing. As you may know, we test the ice to make sure it is at least 8 inches thick before we open it for skating or fishing and then fly the green flag when it’s ready. With the snow removal, we haven’t had a chance to test it, and there is still an open spot on the west side so the red flags remain in place. The ducks and geese seem determined to stick around despite the cold. We will post here again when and if the ice does open, so keep checking!
The parks will remain closed Tuesday, January 7, so that staff can get trails and roads cleaned up. Thanks for your patience and we will be all ready for you Wednesday at 7am! Stay warm!
We are having some extreme weather this week! For the safety of our employees and our visitors, our parks will remain closed Sunday, January 5 and Monday, January 6, 2014. Please check back for updates! Stay warm and safe!
Olander Park will be CLOSED on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, and will only be open 7am to noon on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
On all of those days, the Quarry Ridge Bike Trail, Sylvan Prairie Park and Fossil Park will be open from sunrise to sunset. However, the south (back) parking lot at Sylvan Prairie and the bathroom at Fossil Park will be CLOSED all of those days. Note that the fossil piles at Fossil Park are closed until spring.
In 2013, we planted almost 500 trees and shrubs at Sylvan Prairie Park. Most of them were planted along Smith Ditch, which we have been restoring to a more natural stream system. One thing needed for a waterway to function as a healthy stream is trees and shrubs growing along its banks. The wooded zone running along side a stream or river is called the riparian zone. We planted young shrubs and trees along Smith Ditch to create a wooded riparian zone. This will create wildlife habitat along the stream, and make a corridor for wildlife to move safely up and down the stream. The shade from the trees and shrubs falling on the moving water of the stream will also keep the water at a nice cool temperature in the summer, which will allow fish to live and hopefully spawn (lay eggs) in this stream.
However, the bark and stems of newly planted young trees and shrubs are a tasty treat for deer and rabbits. Especially in the winter when their preferred foods like grass and leaves are gone. So before the winter really sets in, we needed to put protection on these young trees and shrubs to discourage deer and rabbits from munching on them. Unfortunately, as you’ll see in these pictures, our timing was a little late. Most of the trees and shrubs are still doing okay, and our tree wraps will help them make it through the winter. But we had to work through some wintry weather ourselves to get it done. Thank you to the Wild Ones hardy volunteers who came out to help us!
We had a lot of fun at Olander Park’s Christmas Bird Count for Kids last weekend. It was snowing and blowing! But we got GREAT views of a Bald Eagle. It perched for a long time for us,and we even used a spotting scope to get close-up views of its talons and beak. We also saw American Coots, Juncos, and, of course, Canada Geese and Mallards.
If you want to learn about birds and get involved in TOPS birding programs, contact Robin to find out about our upcoming birding events. rparker (at) olanderpark.com or 419-882-8313 x34