Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Conservation Day Camp

Sign-up has begun for our annual 2 day camp for 8-11 year olds.  The dates are Wednesday, August 11th, and Thursday, August 12th.   It runs from 9am-2pm, and we provide bussing from 2 different convenient sites in the county.  The cost remains $5 total for 2 days of fun including lunch.
The theme this year is Healthy Habitats.  The kids will play games, do science experiments, crafts, and other fun ways to learn about their natural world.   On the second day, we'll take a field trip to the Senecaville Fish Hatchery, and then spend the afternoon at the lake, fishing and canoeing. 
Please call the office for a brochure and to sign up.  The camp is limited to 40 kids, so don't delay!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Build your own: Nests for wood ducks, mallards, bluebirds, and bats

Guernsey Soil & Water Conservation District reminds you; “Build it, and they will come.” That’s not true of nests you could build for many species of wildlife, but there are a few species that have proven they will take up temporary occupancy if you follow their rules of habitat.
Those species include bluebirds, bats, wood ducks, mallards, and Canada geese.
There are very specific rules to follow in both building and placing artificial nests, if you want to be successful over time in attracting specific birds. We have plans in our office free of charge. Ohio Department of Natural Resources offers free plans on the Internet, as well, and there are books with detailed plans and instruction on location of specific nests. Of course, these nesting boxes can also be purchased from our office.
The world wide web has a wealth of helpful information on nesting structures: you can quickly get very good information from an Internet search with key words such as “bluebird boxes”, “mallard nests”, or “bat houses”.

Some thoughts to get you started:
1. Know where you’ll put the nest. Read about other biological needs of your intended species, such as food and cover needs of young. For instance, the mallard hen and ducklings leave the nest together within 12 hours of hatching to look for nearby wetlands with emergent plants for cover and aquatic insects to eat.
2. Follow specific construction plans. Size of box, materials, size of the opening and other details are critical. For instance, if the precise opening sized for Bluebird boxes isn’t used, competitor birds will likely be more of a problem.
3. Think about aesthetics.  Curved shapes and earth tones blend into the outdoors better than sharp angles and glossy paint.
4. Plan now for maintenance.  Lack of maintenance is the number one cause of failure for most nest structures. For instance, waterfowl don’t carry nest material to their sites, so you have to do that for them. Be sure to clean out Bluebird boxes after each use.
5. Have some patience. Don’t get discouraged if your nest isn’t used immediately. Where birds aren’t used to nest structures, it could be several years before they try them. Once they do, they and their offspring are likely to return year after year.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Thank yous from Ag School Days

Each year, we get thank you notes from all the kids who attend the Ag School Days field trip put on by our office, the Noble SWCD, the OSU extension service, and the EARS staff at Belle Valley research station.
We love getting them and reading each one!

Monday, June 14, 2010

In Support of our Local Farmer's Markets!

Why have a farmer's market?   Because farmers' markets benefit:
  • They cut out the middleman allowing increased financial returns through direct selling, price control, and a regular cash flow.
  • They provide the producer with direct customer feedback on produce and prices.  
  • Transport and packaging requirements are less thus reducing the producers' costs.
  • They provide a secure and regular market outlet. This is especially valuable for; new producers, producers in organic conversion, and small scale producers who are unable to produce the quantity required by supermarkets
  • With the increase in market numbers it is possible for individual producers to attend a substantial number of different markets. A number of farmers have indicated that this form of marketing has prevented their businesses from bankruptcy.


  •  They provide direct contact and feedback between customers and producers, so you can be sure how your vegetables are grown and meat produced.
  • They help to improve diet and nutrition by providing access to fresh food.
  • They play an important role in educating the consumer as to the production and origin of their food.  
  • They can be a source of information and inspiration on how to cook and prepare fresh ingredients.

 The Environment

  •  They help reduce food miles, thus vehicle pollution, noise, and fossil fuel use.
  • They help to reduce packaging.
  • They encourage more environmental production practices, such as organic or pesticide free.
  • They encourage farm diversification and hence bio-diversity.
The Community & Local Economy
  • They help bring life into towns and cities aiding regeneration.  
  • They encourage social interaction particularly between rural and urban communities.  
  • They stimulate local economic development by increasing employment, encouraging consumers to support local business, and thus keeping the money within the local community.  
........And they are fun!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Golden rules for great food plots for wildlife

If you want to help wildlife through harsh winters, food plots can help. But there are a few key rules you should follow in planning and planting the plots to attract and aid your favorite wildlife species.
Food plots near escape cover.
Food plots will tend to concentrate wildlife--both the species you want and the species you don’t. If you’re planting the plot so you can find a covey of quail or pheasants, you can bet that fox and other predators will also be looking in the prime feeding area for them. So escape cover needs to be close so that the food plot isn’t a cruel trap for your favorite species.
Several small food plots are better than one larger one.
You’ll get more diversity of species with more locations, and the escape cover will be closer to feeding wildlife. But larger food plots may be needed if you have heavy deer populations that wipe out the food supply before the winter is over. You want your food supply to be available to your favorite species all winter.
Guard against soil erosion.
Steeply sloping soils plowed or disced for planting are exposed to water and wind, and will erode if precautions aren’t taken. See the Guernsey SWCD to be sure the land is protected against erosion. The District has a no till drill for rent that can be used to establish these food plots without plowing under existing sod.
Plant food to attract and support the wildlife species you want.
Along with other recommendations, the SWCD office has information on the best foods to offer various wildlife species. The three common types of food plots are annual grain plots; green browse plots, and fallow
areas. Corn, grain sorghum and forage sorghum are favorite grain plots for pheasants and quail. Green browse plots with pure stands of high-protein legumes and grasses are used by quail, pheasants, turkeys, songbirds and others. Winter wheat, rye, millets and buckwheat are favorites of migrating waterfowl. Fallow plots are disced or otherwise disturbed croplands that are tilled but not planted, that encourage new annuals and weeds to grow that are essential to young quail, turkey and many songbirds.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Five tips to Better Forest Habitat for Wildlife

National forests cover only 19% of forested land in the United States. Non-industrial private landowners own 59% of the forested land; their actions are critically important to birds, deer, turkeys, and other wildlife that depend on forestland habitat.
Just as croplands can produce crops yet yield habitat for wildlife, forestlands can be managed to produce wood products and at the same time benefit wildlife.

Managing a forest with wildlife in mind is like shooting at a moving target. As the trees and other plants in a forest grow and change, the structure, size and species of trees and other plants changes. That shift in habitat also means there will be a shift in wildlife species that live in the forest at the time. For example, the seeds and fruits of shrubs, grasses and forbs in the early successional stage, after a harvest or other major disturbance, are just what songbirds and small mammals want. On the other hand, woodpeckers, wood ducks, bats and other cavity nesters want the dead snags and den trees of a mature forest.

For the greatest diversity in wildlife, you want a diversity in the size, age and structure of the forest. That can be achieved with selective harvesting of single trees, to always leave a canopy, or by clearcutting small areas of a forest (15 acres or less) at different times, resulting in several successional stages of even-aged stands of trees within the forest. The flush of plant growth in clearcut areas lasts for several years.

Techniques to improve fish and wildlife habitat include:

1) Regenerate new growth in open spaces. This may be done by mowing, using herbicides, or planting seedlings.

2) Thin stands; remove weak trees.

3) Maintain forested riparian zones along streams, to allow stream shading and for wood to fall into streams. The leaves, limbs, fruit and insects that fall from streamside forests into the stream build the food supply for fish.

4) Leave snags and den trees.

5) Follow a plan. A variety of federal, state, and private organizations give both technical and financial help in managing forests for profit and wildlife.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Going Batty!

Bats can’t seem to catch a break. Just as soon as more people find out how helpful they are, another vampire movie comes out and terrifies a whole new audience.

The truth is, only three of more than 900 species of bats feed on the blood of other animals.

Many others feed on crop pests. Bats are important worldwide for their role in plant pollination, insect control, and dispersal of seeds. They are especially helpful in controlling crop pests; some bats eat 600 mosquito sized insects in an hour.

But 40 percent of American bat species are in severe decline because of habitat loss. Reasons include loss of roosting habitat because of cave and mine closings, intentional habitat destruction, development and deforestation, and loss of trees, snags and hedgerows from farmlands. Here are the basic bat habitat needs.

Food preferences. Insect-eating bats feed primarily on night-flying insects such as moths, beetles, fruit flies, mosquitoes, and mayflies. They can consume half their body weight each night in insects-- some species eat grasshoppers and cicadas. Fruit-eating bats eat fruit, pollen or nectar from plants and flowers as they pollinate such plants as bananas, mangoes, dates, figs, peaches, cashews and avocados.

Roosting cover. Being nocturnal, bats roost during the day in tree branches and leaves, under tree bark, in caves and mines, under bridges, in cliff crevices and natural tree cavities, and in attics and roofs of barns. Roosts may be for nursery colonies of females and their young; lower temperature bachelor roosts; and migratory stopover roosts.

Foraging needs. Most common foraging habitat is woodlot canopies and understory, over streams and other open water, open fields and croplands, and in lighted residential areas with large insect populations.
Bats skim water to drink from the surface while in flight.

Hibernation. Caves and abandoned mines are the largest hibernating habitat. That’s why totally sealed mine closings can hurt bat populations. Some bats hibernate in tree cavities, tree bark crevices, and buildings.

All the habitat components-- roosting, food, water, foraging and hibernation habitat, are needed in relative proximity to each other. For some bat species, humans can help with roosting facilities. Brown bats will use bat boxes constructed for them, but they need to be constructed and sited properly.

Attach the bat box at least ten feet high to a building or pole. Orient box to southeast to catch the morning sun if possible. If not possible, orient between the southeast and southwest to get at least seven hours of direct sun. When evicting bats from a building, place box near existing entrances, preferably a year prior to eviction. Do not evict bats between May and end of July when flightless young may be trapped inside. If more capacity is needed, additional boxes can be placed side by side.

If wasps become a problem, use a long thin stick to scrape old nests out in the winter. New nests can be knocked out in May or early June, during cold mornings or evenings, when wasps are less aggressive. If bats are present, don't disturb. Bats and wasps can coexist in boxes. Bats provide travel lanes for wasps to reach their nests. Wasps, in turn, provide some protection against box disturbance.

Here are plans from the WI DNR,  or the district also has attractive, properly designed boxes made from long-lasting cedar available for purchase.