Olander Youth Conservation Corps 2015: Week Three

Red Admiral

 

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.

 

Anna and Patrick fill a bag with cow vetch.

Anna and Patrick fill a bag with cow vetch.

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Gabe, Jordin, and Connor show off their collection.

 

 

 

Ryan explains the purpose of a fire shelter carried on the back of Sarah's web gear.

Ryan explains the purpose of a fire shelter carried on the back of Sarah’s web gear.

Bright orange fungus found on the savanna's floor at Kitty Todd.

Bright orange fungus found on the savanna’s floor at Kitty Todd.

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!

 

 

Jordin, Gabe, and Conner hunt for fossils.

Jordin, Gabe, and Conner hunt for fossils.

Denise Gehring and Alayna demonstrate how to measure a milkweed plant.

Denise Gehring and Alayna demonstrate how to measure a milkweed plant.

Gabe, Patrick, Jordin, Alena, Alayna, and Lauren look for insects on a common milkweed.

Gabe, Patrick, Jordin, Alena, Alayna, and Lauren look for insects on a common milkweed.

A milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) on swamp milkweed.

A milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus) on swamp milkweed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Taylor, Alena, Emily, and Lauren plant begonias in a patriotic pattern.

Taylor, Alena, Emily, and Lauren plant begonias in a patriotic pattern.

Maya and Lauren set out marigolds before planting.

Maya and Lauren set out marigolds before planting.

Corps members embark on a nautical adventure.

Corps members embark on a nautical adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s all for this week, only one week left!

Pacesetter group photo

The group poses with their flowers in the gazebo at Pacesetter Park.

 

American Beaver

American_Beaver

The American beaver is North Americas largest rodent. Their fur is typically reddish brown in color and very dense. They have a  large flat scaly tail that they use like a rudder in the water. Their back feet are webbed to help propel them thru the water.  Beavers are mainly active at night and are excellent swimmers. They construct their lodges out of twigs and sticks and mud at the edge of ponds. Beavers have one litter of 2-3 kits per year. Offspring will stay with the family for up to 3 years before moving out on their own.

The Olander  conservation crew discovered a beaver lodge at Sylvan Prairie Park late last summer! Much to our surprise! We noticed several trees around a pond in the park that had been felled. Several staff members have seen the beaver swimming in the pond carrying large branches and eventually they discovered the lodge. Go to this website to see videos; www.arkive.org/american-beaver/castor-canadensis/videos.html20100722161014

Sylvan Prairie In Bloom

Our largest park, Sylvan Prairie Park, is full of native wildflowers in bloom!

Greyheaded Coneflower, Black-Eyed Susan, Bergamot

Grey-headed Coneflower, Black-Eyed Susan, Bergamot

Get an up-close view of these beauties by biking, walking or rollerblading on the 3-mile section of the Quarry Ridge Bike Trail that loops through the park.

Sylvan Prairie Park’s parking lots are located at 8601 Brint Road.  More info about Sylvan Priarie : http://www.olanderpark.com/pages/Sylvan

Native wildflowers you can see blooming there right now include:

  • Black-eyed Susan
  • Brown-eyed Susan
  • Swamp Milkweed
  • Common Milkweed
  • Butterfly Milkweed
  • Dogbane
  • Grey-headed Coneflower
    Grey-headed Coneflower

    Grey-headed Coneflower

  • Obedient Plant
  • Spiderwort
  • Virginia Mountain Mint
  • Wild Bergamot
  • Whorled Rosinweed
  • Oxeye Sunflower
  • Sawtooth Sunflower
  • Foxglove Beardtongue (Penstemon)
  • Monkey Flower
  • Bushclover
  • Smooth Hedge Nettle
  • Blue Vervain
  • Hoary Vervain
  • White Vervain
  • Ground Cherries
  • Heal All

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

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

Holiday Hours

 

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.

Protecting Young Trees

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!

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Dedicated volunteers from Wild Ones!

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Is this protective tree wrap, or an artistic sculpture?

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It was windy out there!