Youth Conservation Corps – Week 2 Roundup

Week 2 of the Youth Conservation Corps is complete! We had a fun-filled learning experience, packed with adventures in Wildwood Metropark, Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve, and Kitty Todd Nature Preserve.

20140624_113311On Tuesday we took a geology field trip at Wildwood Metropark with Dr. Timothy Fisher of the University of Toledo.

20140625_104837Ryan Schroeder, the local district preserve manager of the Ohio Natural Resources Department, gave us an exciting tour of Irwin Prairie State Nature Preserve on Wednesday.

20140625_105126We found all sorts of interesting critters in the water at Irwin Prairie, including crayfish, tadpoles, and snails!

20140626_100622We visited Kitty Todd Nature Preserve on Thursday. Ryan Gauger of the Nature Conservancy gave us a great trek through the savanna and prairie at the preserve and showed us several rare plants!
20140626_095739 We learned a lot about the role of fire in the Oak Openings. The kids also got to see what kind of safety gear practitioners of prescribed fire wear on the job.20140626_110950After the nature walk with Ryan, we worked hard to clear away encroaching woody plants on the preserve.

This year’s program is already halfway complete! We are striving to get kids interested in nature by immersing them in our local natural areas and creating positive, memorable experiences for them. Through hands-on activities and instructive lessons, we hope to make the Oak Openings region a more meaningful place to our youth.

Youth Conservation Corps – Week 1 Complete!

The Olander Park System’s Youth Conservation Corps is underway! This program runs for 4 weeks from June 17th to July 10th. It aims to teach middle school children about environmental conservation and increase their awareness of the Oak Openings Region. Here are some photos from the first week of activities. More to come!

Learning how to prepare and plant a native bed at Olander Park

On Tuesday we learned how to prepare and plant a native bed at Olander Park.

On Tuesday we thinned encroaching plants around newly planted saplings!

On Wednesday we thinned encroaching plants around newly planted saplings at Sylvan Prairie!

On Thursday we planted native plants at Pacesetter Park

On Thursday we planted native plants at Pacesetter Park…

On Thursday we also rescued native plants from a property that is likely to undergo development.

And also rescued native plants from a property that is likely to undergo development.

Next to come: Adventures during Week 2!

Ground Nesting Birds

We’ve been seeing lots of bird nests at Sylvan Prairie this week.

Eastern Meadowlark - under grasses

Eastern Meadowlark – a woven nest on the ground, under a grass roof

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Red-winged Blackbird – woven onto cattails, about 3 feet off the ground

KilldeerNest SPP 2012-04-25

Killdeer Nest – on the ground, in the open

Birding the Warbler Capital – Saturday, May 10th

Ohio Young Birders – Birding at the Warbler Capital During The Biggest Week In American Birding

Magnolia Warbler - By William H. Majoros via Wikimedia Commons

Magnolia Warbler – By William H. Majoros via Wikimedia Commons

Date: Saturday, May 10th
Location: Magee Marsh Wildlife Area 
Time: 9 AM to Noon-ish

*Meet at the EAST end of the Magee Marsh boardwalk

Ohio Young Birders will celebrate International Migratory Bird Day by birding along the southwest Lake Erie shore at Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, and Metzger Marsh Wildlife Area. 

Join young birders from all over the state to look for the beautiful neo-tropical migrants
on Saturday, May 10th. Warblers and other migratory birds stop in NW Ohio during their northbound migration in huge numbers. We will bird the Magee Marsh boardwalk looking
for these amazing little gems. We will have several guides to helps us along the way. Target species will be warblers, other neotropical songbirds, and shorebirds. This trip is
free and open to birders ages 12-20.

Bring a packed lunch and beverage and enjoy a group picnic lunch at noon. We can exchange bird sightings and share exciting stories of our past birding adventures! The weather by the lake is usually 5 to 10 degrees cooler, so dressing in layers is a good idea. Also, please wear sturdy walking shoes.

For more information, please check out the OYBC Event Calendar description for May 10th.

Directions to Magee Marsh Boardwalk:  Along State Route 2 follow signs for Black Swamp Bird Observatory (13551 W. State Route 2, Oak Harbor, OH 43449). Turn onto entrance road from State Route 2 (about 18 miles east of Toledo and 16 miles west of Port Clinton) and follow this road to boardwalk.


Salamanders at Sylvan Prairie Park!

The Olander Park System’s Conservation Crew found several salamander larvae (aka salamander tadpoles) in a small wetland at Sylvan Prairie Park!

Salamander Larvae

Salamander Larvae at Sylvan Prairie

This is exciting because we have never seen salamanders at Sylvan Prairie before! They are an encouraging sign that our restoration efforts are creating good wildlife habitat. Salamanders lay eggs in wetlands, and their larvae (babies) live underwater. After several weeks, they become adults and begin living on land. Because of their need for both wetland and upland (dry land) habitats, they are considered an indicator of environmental health.

Look at this picture of a salamander larvae. It is tiny, but you can see the gills sticking off the sides of its head. That is how we know it is a salamander and not a frog or a toad. Frog and toad tadpoles do not have visible gills.

We’re going to keep track of the salamander larvae at Sylvan. Hopefully they will survive to become adults, and we’ll be able to identify what kind they are.

See Ohio Amphibians web site to learn more about Ohio’s salamanders

Ambystoma salamander. Photo by Greg Lipps

Ambystoma salamander. Photo by Greg Lipps

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.

Monarch Butterflies Need Our Help

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.monarchs

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.


The article “Monarch butterfly numbers hit record lows” By Jaymi Heimbuc on Mother Nature Network was also used for this post.

Seed cleaning time at Olander

native seeds come in a variety of sizes

  native seeds come in a variety of sizes



these are Ironweed seeds the little hairs are called awns

these are Ironweed seeds
the little hairs are called awns they help the seed to fly in the wind




butterfly milkweed seeds

butterfly milkweed seeds

blue flag iris seed  very large in the seed worldblue flag iris seed
very large in the seed world

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Christmas Bird Count 4 Kids

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) or 419-882-8313 x34

Participant Alex gets a great look at the Bald Eagle. With Volunteer Birding Expert Diane Deyonker.

A young participant gets a great look at the Bald Eagle. With Volunteer Birding Expert Diane Deyonker.

CBC4K Olander 2013-12-14

A young participant, her Grandfather, and Diane Deyonker, keeping the snow off the spotting scope.


Wildlife at Southview Oak Savanna

We have been working hard at Southview Oak Savanna. TOPS own Conservation Crew has been spending a lot of time there, but so has another group from our collaborators Partners for Clean Streams. Here’s a Blade article you can read to learn more about Partners for Clean Stream’s Maumee Conservation Corps and what the Corps has been helping TOPS do out at the Savanna.

While working hard, we’ve been seeing lots of cool critters! Here are a couple:

Box Turtle

Box Turtle

2013-08-14 Ian with Snake

TOPS Conservation Crew member Ian Anderson and a Bull Snake