Tag Archives: invasive plant species

This Week at Bear Creek: Frogs, Turtles, and Snakes – Oh My!

Look for this feature early each week! Cam Mannino shares her latest observations, photos, and inspirations from Bear Creek Nature Park. Thanks Cam!


April 5-11, 2015

Cam at Bear Creek Nature Park.
Post and photos by Cam Mannino

What a week for amphibians and reptiles! One of the best features of Bear Creek Nature Park is its vernal pools. These temporary pools appear from runoff in the spring and slowly evaporate with warmer weather. Vernal pools are perfect places for spring frogs – plenty of water and no fish to eat their eggs! So the park is now filled with their music.

Those of you who live near Bear Creek no doubt are being serenaded each night by the Spring Peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) tiny (1”-1.5”) nocturnal frogs that trill and hunt all night long. This one was sleeping on a leaf but woke when its picture was taken a few years ago.

Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)
Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)

During the day, Chorus Frogs and Wood Frogs carry on the concert. Last Saturday, Wood Frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) floated in the pool near Gunn Road. They pulse their sides to emit a duck-like croak and propel themselves forward in the water looking for mates.

Wood frog makes circles in the water.
Wood frog makes circles in the water.

I spent an hour trying to spot a Chorus Frog (Pseudacris triseriata) from the small bridge over the vernal pool just north of the playground. Their piercing, ratchety calls literally made my ears ring as I scanned the web of branches in the dark water. Finally I saw this tiny male’s vocal sack ballooning beneath his bulging eyes as he sang. Quite a thrill!

Chorus frog mid cheep
Chorus frog mid cheep
Chorus frog full cheep
Chorus frog full cheep

As amphibians emerged from the mud at the edge or bottom of vernal ponds, reptiles were seeking spring sunlight. Like amphibians, they are cold-blooded animals which can’t regulate their body temperature. So basking is important. A graceful Eastern Garter Snake slipped off the warm path and under a log as I approached.

Eastern garter snake
Eastern garter snake

And a Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta) let its dark shell absorb the heat near the center pond.

Painted turtle
Painted turtle

Near the marsh, a tiny Brown Creeper (Certhia americana) spiraled up a trunk, hunting with its long, curved beak for spiders and insects in the bark. It moves like a nuthatch, but is smaller (4-5”). Here it is from a distance.

Brown creeper at Bear Creek
Brown creeper at Bear Creek

The Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) is often the first butterfly to appear in Bear Creek, having probably overwintered in tree bark. It can survive before the flowers bloom because it feeds on tree sap and decaying material. This Saturday’s Mourning Cloak fluttered off into the bushes, but here’s a slightly tattered one from later in a previous season.

Mourning cloak
Mourning cloak

And a favorite species appeared in the park again this week, a small flock of human volunteers who worked steadily and diligently pulling large patches of sprouting Garlic Mustard (Alliaria petiolata ) just south of the parking lot.

A second-year garlic mustard plant rosette early in the spring.
A second-year garlic mustard plant rosette early in the spring.

By eliminating this leathery-leaved invasive plant near the parking lot and trailhead, Ben hopes to prevent their seeds from being tracked into the park on the unsuspecting feet of park visitors. Many thanks to this cheerful, hard-working crew for a thorough job!

(L to R) Debbie, Ben, Eric, Mackenzie, Colton, and Karla pulled 5 bags of garlic mustard and dame's rocket!
(L to R) Debbie, Ben, Eric, Mackenzie, Colton, Karla, and Cam (not pictured) pulled 5 bags of garlic mustard and dame’s rocket!

Fighting common buckthorn with a song… check out this video!

Today I’m sharing a great video from the New Ulm, Minnesota Community Buckthorn Removal project. They are working together to control common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) in their community! A great watch if you’re up for a laugh and a quick buckthorn ID lesson.

The description of the video says, “Over the past 25 years, buckthorn, brought from Europe as a landscaping plant, has escaped to become one of our most ubiquitous and destructive species in the landscape, choking out native trees and shrubs for light, moisture and nutrients in addition to reducing diversity of plants, shrubs, wildflowers and songbirds. It forms an impenetrable thicket or understory in woods, destroying nearly all other plant and wildlife habitat where it grows.

The Buckthorn Song was created to raise awareness about the New Ulm, Minnesota Community Buckthorn Removal Project and the importance of removing buckthorn from personal property and surrounding woods. Please help to control or eliminate the spread of buckthorn in your community. Thank you!”

Be a good neighbor – take care of your invasive plant species!

Stewardship Network Conference Report: Connecting with new and old friends over restoration agriculture, invasive species, and prescribed fire

What are you doing January 15 and 16 of 2016? If you’re interested in working together to care for our lands and waters, you might want to pencil in the 2016 Stewardship Network Conference. Last Friday and Saturday I attended this conference for the first time and enjoyed connecting with everyone in the conservation-oriented crowd of Michigan and surrounding states and learning more about natural areas stewardship. Federal, state, and local governments were well-represented and were joined by land conservancies, watershed councils, universities, students, ecological restoration companies, utility companies, and private citizens hoping to learn more. Here’s a synopsis of my conference experience.

TSN_Conference

Restoration Agriculture

We kicked off the conference with a rousing keynote by Mark Shepard, founder of New Forest Farm and author of the new book Restoration Agriculture. Mark converted eroding row-crop agriculture fields at his Wisconsin farm to a perennial agriculture model mimicking oak savanna in an attempt to do profitable sustainable agriculture that enhances habitat for native plants and wildlife instead of degrading habitat. Traditional agriculture has a problem: it works against nature for short-term profit, resulting in a system where our soil runs down the river to lakes and oceans at the rate of tons per acre every year and where our native pollinators are disappearing at an alarming rate. Take home message: by working with nature instead of against it, we can do profitable, sustainable agriculture.

Sharing experiences through roundtable discussions

For the rest of the conference I focused on connecting with people doing on-the-ground natural areas management. At the invasive species roundtable discussion I learned about techniques that have been successful for others, and techniques that haven’t worked. At the oak savanna round table discussion we talked about doing oak savanna restoration at a large enough scale so that natural processes are working with you instead of against you. I also learned about two oak savanna related books that I’ll be adding to my library soon: Prairies and Savannas in Michigan (O’Connor, Kost, and Cohen 2009) and Forgotten Fires (Stewart 2009).

Practical tips for prescribed fire

I spent time learning about some important considerations when using prescribed fire in Michigan, including burning techniques that minimize damage to sensitive amphibian and reptile populations. I picked up practical tips about maintaining the equipment needed to do prescribed fire and natural areas management.

Mike Hahn of Natural Areas Preservation in Ann Arbor fills us in on the finer points of regular maintenance and field repair for chainsaws.
Mike Hahn of Natural Areas Preservation in Ann Arbor fills us in on the finer points of regular maintenance and field repair for chainsaws.

Volunteers

Finally, I spent time learning about building a volunteer program. I want to build a program that gets you connected with the natural areas in your parks and helps you know that when you come out to volunteer, you are making a difference and are an important part of our mission. Jason Frenzel of the Huron River Watershed Council has been managing volunteers for years and led an excellent workshop about designing an effective volunteer program.

IMG_0154
Jason Frenzel with the Huron River Watershed Council led an excellent workshop on Results Oriented Volunteer Recruiting.

The best part of the conference was making new friends and connecting with people I hadn’t seen in years. The folks with The Stewardship Network did an excellent job hosting this conference. Their hard work and attention to detail were evident. Thanks!

*Any mention of specific products, people, or services does not imply an endorsement or agreement. I mention them to help you and me focus our learning about natural areas and the processes that make them tick. Let’s learn together!

2014 Stewardship Report: Learning from the past, looking to the future

As we look forward to our natural areas stewardship goals for 2015, we look back at what we accomplished in 2014. It was an exciting year! Check out the highlights of the year below, or read the full 2014 Annual Stewardship Report (click the title).

  1. Stewardship Blog: I launched this blog, the Natural Areas Notebook in June 2014 to help inform residents about the cool biota in the township and advertise the many opportunities to help care for our natural areas.
  2. Prescribed Burns: We contracted with Plantwise LLC for prescribed burn work. We completed burns in old fields at Bear Creek Nature Park and Charles Ilsley Park on May 19, 2014. We completed prescribed burns along the Paint Creek Trail at the Art Project, Paint Creek Heritage Area – Wet Prairie, Kamin Easement, and Nicholson Prairie on November 5, 2014. The remaining burns in the contracts (Lost Lake Nature Park, Bear Creek Nature Park forest, and Stony Creek Ravine Nature Park) were postponed due to early snow and will hopefully be completed in Spring 2015.

    The ignition crew communicate closely with the holding crew to make sure the fire does not burn in areas outside the burn unit.
    Prescribed fire at Bear Creek Nature Park in May 2014
  3. Volunteer Program: Volunteer workdays were held two times per month from July to November. Participation was generally low (ranging from 0 to 7 volunteers per workday), but the workdays provided invaluable experience with scheduling, preparing, and leading volunteer workdays.

    SE Michigan Summer Conservation Corps crew, Bear Creek Nature Park, July 2014.
    SE Michigan Summer Conservation Corps crew, Bear Creek Nature Park, July 2014.
  4. Floristic Surveys: I surveyed Gallagher Creek Park, O’Connor Nature Park, and Paint Creek Heritage Area – Fen during summer 2014 to document the plant species growing in each park.
  5. US Fish and Wildlife Service Partners for Fish and Wildlife Grant: Prairie restoration at Charles Ilsley Park and Draper Twin Lakes Park was jump started by a $15,200 grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service through their Partners for Fish and Wildlife program. The stewardship crew worked hard to clear invasive woody shrubs in 18 acres of old fields at Charles Ilsley Park and 20 acres of old field at Draper Twin Lake Park to prepare for planting in 2015.
  6. USDA Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) grant: work continued on the 2008 WHIP grant, which funds habitat restoration along the Paint Creek Trail to benefit native pollinators.
  7. Seasonal Technicians: We had three outstanding technicians in 2014. Matt Peklo returned for his third year, Alex Kriehbel returned for his second year, and Jonah Weeks worked her first year.

    The stewardship crew pulled lots of garlic mustard in 2014. Help us make 2015 even more successful!
    The stewardship crew pulled lots of garlic mustard in 2014. Help us make 2015 even more successful!
  8. Natural Areas Stewardship Manager: I started with Oakland Township Parks and Recreation as the Natural Areas Stewardship Manager in April 2014.

 

Friday Photos: Playing Multiflora Rose Jenga

At the Charles Ilsley Park prairie restoration workday on Tuesday I tried out some time-lapse photography to show the progression of shrub removal. Cutting a large multiflora rose patch by hand is like playing Jenga: you have to choose the next shrub or branch to remove carefully or it’s game over.

Join me next week Tuesday from 10 am to 1 pm as we keep working on the multiflora rose, autumn olive, and other invasive shrubs and trees in these fields at Charles Ilsley Park. I can’t promise the beautiful blue sky I enjoyed this week, but we’re sure to have a great time anyway!

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