We wanted to share this message from Black Swamp Bird Observatory. Many bird species are declining, and these are simple yet important ways YOU can help with bird conservation. THANK YOU!
On May 12, eighty 7th graders from Timberstone Junior High School spent their school day outside at The Olander Park System’s Sylvan Prairie Park. The students planted 300 native trees and shrubs, and 1,000 native grasses and wildflowers, and participated in an educational water quality activity led by Partners for Clean Streams’ Mike Mathis.
This is the 5th year Timberstone Junior High’s 7th Grade Reading class has partnered with The Olander Park System for this day of community service. Teachers Melissa Dubiel and Tammy Gordon organize the 7th Grade class’s annual community service program called “Packed with Pride.” Each year, the 7th Grade Reading students organize, publicize and complete drives for local organizations. This year they collected items for Paws and Whiskers, Hannah’s Socks, Fellowship Matters and Austin’s Book Club. The field trip to help The Olander Park System plant trees is a culminating activity for a year of helping the community. The school funds the field trip through a grant from Target.
This year at the field day, teachers Joe Wendt, Ellen Bellemore and Melissa Dubiel supervised groups of students who worked with staff from The Olander Park System to plant native trees and grasses and wildflowers at Sylvan Prairie Park. The planting is part of a floodplain restoration project financed through a grant from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, under the provisions of Section 319(h) of the Clean Water Act. Olander Parks designed the project to create new wildlife habitat in the floodplain and improve water quality in the streams of Sylvan Prairie Park. The 7th graders learned about these water quality benefits and about the critters that need clean streams to survive during a fun hands-on stream activity put on by Mike Mathis from Partners for Clean Streams.
The 7th graders were excited to see wildlife using the land they were helping to restore. They saw Leopard Frogs, American Toads, Deer Mice (babies!), Crayfish, Snapping Turtle (baby!), Killdeer (eggs!), Red-tailed Hawk, and even a Long-bodied Cellar Spider eating ants. TOPS was excited to partner with the school and Partners for Clean Streams to make the “Packed with Pride” field trip a meaningful learning experience for the 7th Graders of Timberstone and to promote a connection with nature in this young generation.
You’ve heard that April Showers Bring May Flowers. But there are beautiful wildflowers blooming in April, too! We call them Spring Ephemerals because they bloom in Spring, and they don’t last very long! They are small flowers that grow in shady spots in the woods. We have several species of spring ephemeral wildflowers in the little pockets of woods at Sylvan Prairie Park, including those pictured here, plus Virginia Waterleaf, Nodding Trillium, Giant Trillium, Spring Beauty, White Trout Lily, and Wild Ginger. They’re still blooming now, but they won’t be for long, so head out to your favorite wooded park and take a look!
Every spring (and fall) Lake Olander plays brief host to several species of migrating waterfowl. These swimming and diving birds (ducks, grebes, coots and more) use lakes like this one as resting spots while they make their long journeys between their wintering sites in Mexico or the southern U.S. and their breeding grounds in Canada or Alaska.
And some of them are here right now!!
Just in the past hour, I’ve seen pied-billed grebes, a pair of ruddy ducks, a bufflehead, and a possible horned grebe. Plus everybody’s favorite Lake O spring visitor… a Common Loon!
I got a special treat while I was focusing my spotting scope on the ruddy duck … one of our resident adult Bald Eagles swooped over the lake right in front of me. It was carrying a bird in its talons! The eagle carried its prey across the lake a couple times before finally settling right by the playground to finish eating its dinner. What a sight.
This week is a great time to come check out all sorts of birds at Olander Park!
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 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.
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.
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.
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 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?
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!
Natural Resources Manager
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!