Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Eastern Wild Turkeys: Habitat Basics

The wild turkey has made an amazing comeback in the United States. This wary game bird is a favorite of many hunters and wildlife watchers alike, and it’s doing well. Five wild turkey subspecies are found in the U.S. They include the Eastern, Rio Grande, Merriam’s, Florida and Gould’s wild turkey. Their habitats change with available plants in their region of the country, but are similar. Here’s what the Eastern wild turkey likes.
Food preferences. The diet is more than 80 percent plant food, with 10 to 20 percent primarily insects. Young poults eat insects, berries and seeds, while adults will eat anything from acorns and berries to insects, salamanders, snails and small reptiles. Fruits of wild grape, dogwood and wild cherry are favorites.
Turkeys also eat numerous seeds, including those of native grasses, sedges, trees and ferns.
Water. A source of open water is necessary to support a wild turkey population. They drink from spring seeps, streams, ponds, lakes and livestock watering facilities. It’s critical to have water as well as foraging, nesting, brood rearing and roosting cover all available near each other to support populations.
Nesting cover. Eastern wild turkeys nest on the ground in hardwood or mixed forest, usually at the base of sizable trees in dense understory cover. They may also nest under a brush pile, in thickets or under downed trees and branches.
Preferred nest sites are near openings or on forest edges where newly hatched poults have access to insects after hatching.
Roosting cover. Wild turkeys roost overnight in trees to avoid predators. The exception is for hens with up to one-month old poults-- they roost on the ground in habitat similar to nesting habitat. Ideal roosting trees are mature, open crowned trees with branches spaced 18 inches apart that run parallel to the ground, with trunk diameters at least 14 inches, locating within a half mile of a food source.
Brood rearing cover. Wild turkeys like open areas of grass, forb and legume mixtures for feeding. A forest opening of a half to three acres is a good size - poults can eat insects but also see and hide from predators.
For more information, stop at our office at 9711 East Pike, Cambridge, 740-432-5624 or visit the National Wild Turkey Federation  website.
Did you know....
In the early 1930s the wild turkey was on the verge of extinction. But today, thanks to wildlife restoration programs and willing landowners, the wild turkey is abundant and thriving.It’s found in every state except Alaska.

Scholarship to Ohio Forestry Camp Offered to Guernsey County Youth

Have you ever wondered what types of trees are in Ohio's forests? Or about the relationships between wildlife and woodlands? Or are you interested in the products that can be produced from the forest? If so, Ohio Forestry & Wildlife Conservation Camp, sponsored by the Ohio Forestry Association, is the place to be! This camp is held at FFA Camp Muskingum, which is situated on Leesville Lake in the beautiful rolling hills of Carroll County, on June 13-18, 2010. Any student who has completed 8th grade and is at least fifteen (15) years of age is welcomed to participate. Be prepared to obtain valuable forestry information, make many new friends and HAVE FUN!!!
Fire Fighting Course
Many past campers have continued their interest in forestry by furthering their education in outdoor-related fields and careers. Other campers have gained a greater understanding and appreciation of Ohio’s forestry heritage.
Campers will attend many different programs and demonstrations led by resource professionals who are employed in both the public and private sectors. Each camper will have opportunity to demonstrate his or her knowledge on the last day of camp. One camper who demonstrates the highest level of knowledge gained at camp will receive a scholarship for one quarter at Hocking College.
Besides the knowledge gained, each camper will receive a notebook containing the week’s schedule and materials. A tree ID book, tree measuring stick, and T-shirt are also included.
Using Biltmore Stick
There is time for fun and relaxation each day, as well, to enjoy group and individual activities. These include volleyball, softball, basketball, hiking, Frisbee, swimming, boating and fishing. Meals are included.
This year, the Guernsey SWCD board of supervisors has approved a scholarship covering $225 of the entire week’s fee of $325 to be offered to a Guernsey county youth who meets the camp criteria of at least 15 years of age and having completed 8th grade. Applications for this scholarship can be obtained by writing the Guernsey Soil & Water Conservation District at 9711 East Pike, Cambridge, Ohio 43725 or by calling 740-432-5624. Applications must be completed and postmarked no later than May 21st, 2010 for consideration for this scholarship.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's Time for Bluebird Boxes!

And we have them!   Our boxes are made from 3/4 inch cedar, with all stainless steel hardware.  They will last for a LONG time with no painting or other maintenance other than cleaning out old nesting materials.  They are $20, and can be picked up in the office now.
Its time already to clean and repair nestboxes on your Bluebird trail, or to build or purchase new nestboxes and get them installed and ready for their occupants. Bluebirds are already in our area, searching out safe nesting sites in preparation for spring.
When it comes to attracting bluebirds, offering housing is the key. Bluebirds need to nest in a cavity, relying on tree cavities and old fence posts in the wild. When natural nesting sites are scarce, bluebirds will readily use manmade bluebird houses built to correct dimensions. The hole needs to be 1.5 inches to exclude starlings. Avoid the use of perches on the box, as they attract sparrows. Adding a predator guard will help to foil raccoons and cats, making it harder for them to reach through the opening to snag baby birds. Mount your bluebird boxes on a fence post or pole no higher than five feet from the ground. The opening should be facing the southeast, away from prevailing winds. Providing nesting materials is a strong factor in attracting nesting bluebirds since collecting nesting materials can take hundreds of trips. Bluebirds like soft grasses and fragrant pine needles as nesting material. The female builds a neat, cup-shaped nest of grass. Provide these nesting materials in an empty suet cage, or simply gather bunches of material and situate in the fork of a tree.
Bluebirds prefer to live in open grassy areas near a park, golf course, meadow, pasture, or even cemetery. Bluebirds eat large quantities of insects; in fact 60-80% of their diet is insects. They like to perch on fence posts or small trees and swoop down to eat insects in the grass. Make sure you have an open, grassy area in your yard with perching space to attract them. Limit your use of chemicals and pesticides to provide insects like beetles, grasshoppers and caterpillars that bluebirds love to eat.
Have your Bluebird boxes out early in the spring, as they begin to nest as soon as the end of March. Clean the box out after each brood fledges to encourage a second nesting that year. Each box should be spaced 100-200 yards apart to best attract Bluebirds. Placing the box too close to brush or shrubs will encourage its use by wrens.
Another way to make your backyard habitat more attractive is to offer water sources. Bluebirds can be drawn to a backyard birdbath or ground level water source with lots of nearby perching space.
Bluebirds enjoy the berries and fruits of wild grapes, currants, dogwood, red cedar, sumac, bayberry, Virginia creeper, deciduous hollies, blackberry, raspberry, juniper, pokeweed, mistletoe, blueberry, hackberry, euonymus and elderberry. Planting scattered fruit and berry trees, mixed with open lawn creates a desirable habitat for attracting Bluebirds.

Tiger of the Vernal Pool

Tiger of the Vernal Pool
The silent migration of early spring.

While toads and frogs make their presence known in early spring with their calls, salamanders are voiceless and very shy. Many species are only seen in any numbers in the early spring when the weather conditions are just right. During this time massive migrations of adult salamanders can be seen as they move from their winter hibernation grounds to bodies of water where they breed. Like all amphibians, salamanders must lay their eggs in water so the young can undergo metamorphosis. In the early spring, they make their way to ponds and vernal pools to mate and lay eggs, after which they return to a solitary lifestyle. Most salamanders are nocturnal and prefer to spend the daylight hours hiding under rocks and fallen trees, often nearby streams.
Many Ohio salamanders measure only a few inches in length, the tiger salamander is one of the few exceptions. They are the largest terrestrial salamander in Ohio, can grow to nearly 12 inches in length and can live 20 years! Tiger salamanders belong the family Ambystomatidae, commonly called the mole salamanders. Members of this family are large, fat bodied animals, which spend most of their lives underground. Unlike their lung less cousins, who breathe through their skin, mole salamanders have well- developed lungs. Other members of this family include: smallmouth salamander, Jefferson’s salamander, marbled, spotted and streamside salamanders. Mole salamanders are burrowers and prefer moist, sandy soils for their habitat. Although they are not common in Guernsey County, they can be found in the western and northwestern parts in Ohio where the soil is favorable.
One of the places to view salamanders in Ohio is a vernal pool. A vernal pool is an ephemeral wetland which fills with rainwater in the spring and slowly dries up as the summer season progresses. Because they only hold water part of the year and have low oxygen, the vernal pool does not host a population of fish, but instead provides a rich habitat for many other species, especially amphibians. Because vernal pools vary by size and location, each contains a unique variety of living things. Other residents include: insect larva, clams, snails, leaches and fairy shrimp. These animals not only share the vernal pool with our amphibians, but provide the young frogs and salamanders with an available food source. All vernal pool residents are uniquely adapted to living in this temporary ecosystem.
The populations of salamanders and most other amphibians have been steadily declining over the last decade. Loss of habitat, pollution and disease have dramatically reduced populations of many species significantly. Amphibians serve as environmental indicators, their presence or absence can determine the health of an ecosystem. They are also vital parts of the food chain and help control population of many pest insects. So, what can we do to help them? The most important thing we can do is support habitat conservation. Wetlands are vital to healthy amphibian populations as well as many other species. Conservation of these precious ecosystems is essential to both people and wildlife. Something else we can do is if you see amphibians on the road, try to move them off and avoid roads near wetlands on warm, rainy, spring nights when amphibians are migrating. Finally, if you find one of these animals, treat them kindly and leave them in the wild.

The tiger salamander is another reminder to me off all the amazing animals we share our world with, even if we don’t know it.
Joe Lehman

Friday, March 19, 2010


Don't forget to order your seedlings in the district's annual sale.  We still have some of each species available, but are running low on some of the hardwoods.  Call today!  You can print off the order blank from the link above, and get it postmarked today.  We have white pine, Douglas fir, red oak, black walnut, black cherry, shagbark hickory, chinese chestnut.   Besides the trees, we also have blackberries and blueberries.  Something unusual is the Shitake mushroom growers kit.  We also have booklets on birds, as well as top quality cedar and stainless steel birdfeeders and houses. 

Successful Foodplot Clinic

The district hosted this event, held in our meeting room yesterday evening.  We had 39 people signed up for the clinic.  This is Dave Sayre, district technician, speaking on how to best establish a seeding.  He talked about several seeding methods, and the benefits and drawbacks of each method.
This is our wildlife specialist, Joe Lehman.  He is explaining to the group how to manage the seeding to its best advantage to attract wildlife and provide food and cover.

Clif Little and Mark Landefeld from OSU extension also did presentations that evening, talking about crop types and soil fertility.   As you can see, the event was well attended with much interest in this topic.  Although the program was scheduled to end at 8PM, many people stayed afterwards to ask questions specific to their situation, remaining until nearly 9PM.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Home Show Display

We had a booth at the home show this past weekend, with a drawing to win a free soil test.  Pat Graven of Cambridge was the happy winner of the drawing.
This display explains the reasons for taking a soil test, as well as showing some of the things our office does in the community.  We also had a scale model of a "peanut butter fence."   This is an electric fence designed to exclude deer and other wildlife from gardens and other plantings.   Here are a couple views of an actual fence in use around a vegetable garden.