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!
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!
The Olander Park System’s Conservation Crew, with the help of Maumee Corps employees from Partners for Clean Streams, performed our annual Breeding Bird Survey at Olander Park and Southview Oak Savanna today.
Here’s what we found: (“coolest” birds listed first) 🙂
- Eastern Screech Owl – 1
- Cormorant – 1
- Belted King Fisher – 3
- Great Blue Heron – 3
- Northern Flicker – 2 adults, 2 fledglings
- Red-bellied Woodpecker – 5
- Hairy Woodpecker – 1
- Downy Woodpecker – 2
- Whitebreasted Nuthatch – 2
- Cedar Waxwing – 8
- Eastern Wood Peewee – 2
- Eastern Phoebe – 2
- Baltimore Oriole – 1
- Chipping Sparrow – 2 adults; 2 fledglings; plus 1 adult on nest
- Song Sparrow – 1
- Barn Swallow – 1
- Cliff Swallow – 3
- Tree Swallow – 2
- Dark-eyed Junco – 1
- Redwinged Blackbird – 1
- American Crow – 2
- Mourning Dove – 2
- Turkey Vulture – 2
- House Sparrow – 12 (some on nest box)
- American Robin – 22
- Canada Goose – 63
- Mallard – 37
- Common Grackle – 1
- European Starling – 3
SOUTHVIEW OAK SAVANNA
- Tufted Titmouse – 4
- Chickadee – 1
- Eastern Phoebe – 1
- Whitebreasted Nuthatch – 2
- Cliff Swallow – 1
- Blue Jay – 8
- American Robin – 4
- Mourning Dove – 1
Lake Olander is now safe to use for ice fishing, ice skating, hockey and just having fun on ice!
We do not open the Lake for ice activities until the ice on the entire lake is at least 8 inches thick. With a 30-acre lake, it takes several weeks of below freezing temperatures before all areas of the lake have ice that thick.
There is currently one small area on the lake that is not safe, and we have marked that area with orange fencing. There is open water and extremely thin ice inside the orange fence. Our feathered friends, Canada Geese, Mallards, and American Coots, appreciate having some open water to use in the winter. But it is dangerous for us humans. So stay well away from the orange fence.
Ice Fishing is a popular past time in this part of the world. Here at Lake Olander, the fish are biting. The first day that ice activities were allowed on the lake, Sam Eldridge, an avid ice fisherman and seasonal Olander employee, caught bluegill, largemouth bass, perch and a sunfish. You can also catch an occasional catfish or crappie through the ice here.
Despite all the snow we had earlier this month, the ice on Lake Olander is quite smooth. Ice skaters have made an appearance this afternoon, and the skating looks good!
While you’re here enjoying the lovely winter landscape, remember that Olander Park closes at 6pm in February…which is before it gets dark. Please help our employees out by making sure you’re off the ice and out of the park by 6pm.
So come enjoy the ice here at Olander Park! But stay safe by paying attention to the orange fence and dressing warmly. It’s going to be COLD this weekend!
We are removing dead oak trees infected with Oak Wilt in order to stop the lethal fungus from spreading. Click here to find out more about Oak Wilt.
The fourth and final week of the Olander Youth Conservation Corps is complete! This last week has been packed with great activities that will be sure to leave lasting memories in the minds of all involved. Here’s a peek at what we did this week:
On Tuesday we learned how to sample fish in Tenmile Creek at Harroun Community Park!
Dr. Todd Crail of the University of Toledo visited and told us about the great diversity of fish that can be found in our local streams and rivers.
On Wednesday, Pat O’Brien, the superintendent of the Sylvania Parks, visited us and introduced us to the management that has been going on at Harroun Community Park over the past few years.
Afterwards, we cleared woody species at the park! We really worked hard and made a big impact on the woody plants that have been growing more dense every year.
On Thursday, our final day, we had a blast learning about beekeeping from Mr. Bill Buri, a Maumee resident.
Mr. Buri showed us his three colonies of bees while teaching us about the importance of pollinators. Several of the kids got to dress in beekeeper’s protective gear!
We finished our final day hunting for fossils at Olander’s Fossil Park. We found several fossils, including coral and brachiopods!
This marks the end of the first Olander Youth Conservation Corps. We have all had a great time working with these children this year, and they have been dedicated to learning about nature conservation. We hope that this program will touch more lives in the future and that those who participate have positive experiences that create conscientious and responsible individuals. On behalf of the entire Olander Youth Conservation Corps: Thank You!
See you next year!
It’s hard to believe that there is only one week left in this year’s program. One of our main goals has been to get the youth engaged and dedicated to conservation activities. This goal has required us to try to strike a balance between education, hard work, and fun. Through the help of several special visitors and local organizations, we have successfully kept our participants excited and enthusiastic about nature conservation. Take a look at what we did during week 3!
On Wednesday, Dr. Mike Weintraub of the University of Toledo taught us about the importance of soil in the Oak Openings!Part of Dr. Weintraub’s presentation included group projects in which the participants took soil samples to measure the length of the A horizon, tested the water infiltration rate into the ground, performed a soil ribboning analysis, and sampled earthworms!
Stay tuned for the final update!