seeking avian life forms

20190216_083800.jpgThis weekend is the 22nd Annual Great Backyard Bird Count, four days when, world-wide, people peer through binoculars and add apps to their phones (speaking from personal habit) to help them identify what birds are at their feeders or watering troughs from February 16-18, 2019. I can hear European starlings above our bathroom ceiling, so we started the count right off with that species. We really need to fix the cover on that vent.

20190216_093355Saturday morning, two Debs, one Maya, one Terry and one Mandy joined in The Quarry Farm count. At 8:08 a.m. we headed across the footbridge to listen and look for what birds would venture out with us into the cold. Not many, as it turned out. Red-bellied woodpeckers hammered in the north along Riley Creek. Horned larks chimed in the field. White-breasted nuthatches scolded. We saw or heard a downy woodpecker, two goldfinches, robins, a male cardinal, bluejays and two Canada geese.20190216_093733

The air was heavy with impending snow. We kept out toes moving and warm by exploring for nonfeathered treasures. There were tracks frozen in the floodplain, reminders of floodwaters that covered it earlier in the week. Fungi bracketed trees and downed limbs. Puddles were flash-frozen in rings as waters receded. Mandy spotted a cocoon of some kind that we have yet to identify but is probably this. And Laura was thrilled to see that the Indian hemp, also commonly called dogbane, has spread in the back 10.20190216_100117.jpg

The promised snow falls in icy pellets. A crow flew over this morning, calling as he scouted, his caws echoing in the cold sky. There isn’t much movement otherwise. I sit at the sewing machine, securing goat coat straps in place. S’more ditched his yesterday during an hour or two of warm sun. Now he is piled under straw in Sophie’s barn. From my perch at the sewing machine, I can watch for birds. The winter is frighteningly in need of visitors.

We’ll listen for owls tonight. Until then, the hot chocolate and tea are warm and plentiful for watching whomever flies.20190216_093228

Giving thanks trailside

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A mossy find

Qarie Marshall offered a sunny weather radio forecast for Thursday—“Turkey Day.” I’m counting on Aunt Paula’s cheesecake and Mom’s mashed red potatoes, with the ruby skins liberally integrated.

Every day is Turkey Day here. Max the Bronze is the current guardian of the farm animal sanctuary flock. Visitors have frequently lost the contents of their pockets to bronze Buttercup. Their wild relatives sway in summer night breeze, perched high in tree tops like giant fruit. They chortle and murmur in the daytime, hidden from predatory eyes in the thickest thickets. A stray feather occasionally makes its way into the Putnam County Master Gardeners’ pollinator patch.

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Cool hat…missing boots

Saturday, we stretched our legs in thanks for a late morning hike. Elisha broke in a new pair of Trespass boots shipped from the UK. His mom Esther shared her lovely Irish accent and details about the clothing line, including the fact that Trespass makes water-resistant onesies.

Type ‘Ohio’ into the company website’s ‘Find a Store’ widget and you get Galway (eh…only 3,426.94 miles away.) Still, the “No Child Left Inside” movement would benefit from a line of puddle-jumping ware.

So, apparently, would my child. Home on holiday, she took off her rubber knee boots (“They’ll get wet, Mom”) to wade in the chilly quarry wetland with a seine in hand. She caught a sample of snails, a beetle and a fingernail clam for us to see. The clam was the size of the second smallest hiker’s pinkie finger. 20181117_112005

The smallest hiker of all slept through the walk, swaddled in his mother’s walking fleece.20181117_105059

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Fungi suspended over autumn leaves

The sun brought out the color in what leaves still hung on the trees. We used honeysuckle walking sticks to traverse downed leaf matter. We gathered a few Osage oranges before the ghosts of mammoths could lay claim to them. I thought I saw a shrike in the back 10 acres. Maybe we’ll see his/her larder—voles impaled on hawthorn spikes—during the 2019 Great Backyard Bird Count.

We saw tracks. They crossed our path in wallows and licks and fur clinging to branches. There were hoof marks, short and long bird toe prints and thin drag lines. The turkeys left the latter two for us to find, surely watching us from a distance that would keep them whole beyond Thursday’s feast.

Never met a fake runner

Mosaic

Mosaic

Llamas can reach speeds up to 35 mph. No humans kept that pace during The Quarry Farm 3rd Annual 5K on October 6. Chablis and Mosaic, llama dams who arrived at the farm animal sanctuary the night before the run/walk, didn’t run that fast either. Instead, the matronly camelids watched people trot past on the south leg of the course (more to come about the llamas in The Quarry Farm 2018-2019 Newsletter.)

I woke before dawn on Saturday to the sound of a torrential downpour, lightning and thunder. My alarm went off a few minutes later. I pulled the covers up and over, sure that we would be cancelling the 5K. The clouds lifted briefly so I set off for my own run at 7 a.m. and got drenched for my efforts. By 8:30, blue sky peeked through gray clouds, cleared by a breeze from the west. Remembering that Gran always said to look out for wind from the east (attributed to “When the wind is in the east, ’tis neither good for man nor beast”) we set up parking signs, registration, coffee and cookies.

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Upstream view from Mallaham Bridge, October 6, 2018, 10:15 a.m.

The west wind remained true. By 11 a.m., 21 participants had passed the first tree in the Road 7L catalpa corridor, crossed over the historic Mallaham Bridge (and smiled for my camera), turned around at Bridenbaugh Schoolhouse and crossed the finish line in front of Red Fox Cabin.

By noon, we had coffee dregs, three lemon cookies and plenty of photos to help us remember. We had our four first finishers: Jeremy Haselman, Christine Meeker, Martha Erchenbrecher (5K Birthday Award) and (under 12) Asher Haselman. We also had three lessons for the 4th Annual 5K:

  • Keep the color run option, but don’t use the little gel paint balls. They don’t break unless you really bean your target (not a good idea.)
  • Ask Steve to make more French macaron with blueberry, lemon and raspberry curd.
  • Get the word out early (mark Saturday, October 5, 10 a.m. start on your calendar—spread the word.)

Thank you to everyone who turned out and to anyone who crosses their own finish line to raise funds in support of what we do here and in educational settings in Northwest Ohio.

 

Thanks, TS Gordon: The Jam is rescheduled for Sept. 22

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: The Quarry Farm reschedules 5th Annual Jam for Sept. 22
PANDORA (September 8, 2018)—The 5th Annual Quarry Farm Jam has been postponed until Saturday, September 22, from 6 to 9 p.m. due to inclement weather on the originally-scheduled date of Saturday, September 8. The Quarry Farm Nature Preserve & Conservation Farm, Pandora, hosts the organization’s annual Jam for musicians and music enthusiasts.

Whether you play an instrument like a virtuoso or just like to pretend, sing along or listen, people of all ages are invited to this family-friendly event. Bring a lawn chair and spend a sweet late summer evening with music under the outdoor pavilion’s big red roof, alongside the calls from the nature preserve.

Light refreshments, including homemade cookies, will be available. The event is free and open to the public, but donations are welcome as they support The Quarry Farm’s educational programming.

The Quarry Farm Nature Preserve & Conservation Farm is located 1/8 mile north of 14321 Road 7L. For more information, visit www.thequarryfarm.org, The Quarry Farm on Facebook and Instagram or call 419-384-7195.

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The race is on

35796760_2207605782613427_3068332942729150464_nSaturday, October 6 at 10 AM – 12 PM

Check-in: 8:45 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. at the Seitz Pavilion; please present ID to receive participation packet

Parking and run/walk start: The Quarry Farm, 14321 Rd 7L, Pandora, OH 45877

Registration is open! The Quarry Farm 5K 2018 race will consist of two events: The Virtual 5K and an Onsite 5K. The Virtual 5k is to be done at your own location and pace. The Onsite Quarry Farm 5K is an easy (just two sloping hills!) out-and-back rural course that takes participants past a historic bridge, two scenic creeks to a rest halfway and back to the finish line at Red Fox Cabin.

Participants of both events will receive a custom race t-shirt.

NEW FOR 2018: Onsite 5K participants will have the option of receiving a white t-shirt with The Quarry Farm logo on the chest. Runners/walkers wearing the white shirt will be ‘painted’ at various stations along the route. We will use liquid, non-toxic paints that will cool you down as you enjoy this colorful experience.

Registration is $25.00 and may be completed day of event or online at https://www.active.com/pandora-oh/running/distance-running-virtual-events/the-quarry-farm-5k-2018

All 5K proceeds further the goal and mission of The Quarry Farm Nature Preserve & Conservation Farm to provide the opportunity for people of all ages to increase their understanding of the natural environment of Northwest Ohio and to interact with their fellow inhabitants in a sustainable manner.

26535-blanchard-river-watershed-partnership-annual-meeting-nov.8Thanks to Blanchard River Watershed Partnership for coordination support and to Ted’s Market for supplying water and snacks!

 

Click HERE to download a printable 5K form

Winter bird watch and listen

The 2018 Great Backyard Bird Count ended Monday. Tuesday evening we heard our first American Woodcock hurtle across the lowland. Both occurrences are memorable, but maybe not for the same reasons they were in recent years.

Twelve springs ago, I sat on the front steps in shorts and a long-sleeved t-shirt. Not an hour before we discovered the death of a cherished family member–a creative, young, outdoor, salt-of-the-earth. I sat there in the quiet after sunset and heard the first woodcock wings whistle overhead. The date was April 6.

Things are definitely changing. Call it what you like, but the fact is that we are a few weeks away from official spring and Red-Winged Blackbirds are already trilling in the trees above the Blanchard River. The wild mood swings of the 21st Century’s seasons leave us shivering one day and in short sleeves the next. We’ll keep the feeders full for the feathered ones who are flying in to face plunging temperatures.

20180217_075509_002The Boy Scouts that hiked the trails from 8 to 10 a.m. on February 17 used their ears and eyes to see a variety of woodpeckers. Audio recordings helped us identify other birds back at the shelter house. Overall, the birds we documented this year were different than those listed on past walks. We did see some of the same species but not in the quantities of years past.

It was a joy to hear a crow caw above the oxbow. The only corvids we’ve heard in recent years are Blue Jays. West Nile took its toll on crows in the ‘90s and Noughts. However, the likely reason for the missing crows is that someone used them for target practice. Crows have long memories. Saturday was quiet, so the scout we heard may share an ‘all-clear’ with the rest of the flock.

Take a look at what we did see and hear this year, as well as what other people documented: https://ebird.org/gbbc/hotspot/L2709897?yr=cur&m=&rank=mrec

Under the brim

20180107_142631Thrill-seekers here in the Midwest are riding a roller coaster of weather this year. We keep a varied wardrobe at the ready. Some days require five layers across the body to keep fresh water available for chickens, geese, turkeys, pigs, goats and donkeys. Those days require a third arm to cart chopped potatoes, apples, peanuts, and oranges to the wee beasties along with water-filled buckets.

Five days after the quarry froze over and (pictured above) we added our tracks to those of deer, turkeys, rabbits, and squirrels, we wore rain coats and boots as 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit thawed everything to bog-worthy mud. There’s a sock buried in the pasture now, one that fell off my foot while I tried to extricate my boots. That sock can stay there until spring. I’ll need the boots, though.

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Capture of footbridge approach by Katie (courtesy of Hometown Stations)

It got cold enough to snow again, enough to make for a gorgeous Hat Day Hike on January 14. It was maybe a little colder than necessary, truth be told. But the wind was low; even lower in the shelter of the trees on the preserve. Hometown Stations’ Katie Honigford joined us for the first leg from the Seitz Family Pavilion, down the hill to the footbridge.

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The quarry was no longer hard frozen. During the thaw earlier in the week, the thick surface ice cracked. High water lifted one sheet, overlapping another, leaving the layers to freeze into a sort of uneven fault line. Wildlife tracks padded from one plate to another on their way to open water at Cranberry Run.

20180107_143301Up the hill, Wendy spotted a small herd of whitetailed deer, wondering what they ate. She asked if we feed honeylocust pods to the pigs (the jury is still out.) The pods aren’t a first choice for wildlife, either, and quite a few still hang from trees and litter the ground alongside osage oranges. Unlike last winter, 2017 yielded a bumper crop of black walnuts and acorns–the preferred food of deer and other herbivores.

20180114_141813Naturalist Natalie shared her track ID expertise. She led us in a scat spot challenge, too, up the hill in the back field. The wind reached us there in the open grasslands. We looped back down the hill, around the quarry, and back to hot cocoa, chocolate-cherry and sugar cookies.

The crowning moment was the award ceremony for Most Colorful Hat and Most Unusual Hat. With a dinosaur, a sunflower, snuggly ear flaps and a fluffy snowball in the running, I couldn’t pick just one. Keep in mind that the judge is a softy when you select your headgear for Hat Day Hike 2019.