Global Big Day 2020

Orchard oriole

May 9 is the biggest day in birding this year. As it’s just 9:30 p.m., it still “is” even though the wind tonight is wild and wooly and no self-respecting owl is going to land in the bowed cottonwood outside the window before midnight.

Female cardinal

I don’t know birds. Rather, I have met a few and we got along well. I could pick them out in a crowd. But I don’t recognize many wild birds by call or even by sight unless they are posing neatly at eye level. For the blessed luck and good of all, Deb Weston is a frequent Quarry Farm flyer who helps us see beyond the cardinals, chickadees and house finches at the bird feeders and into the high canopy for warblers, kinglets and other birds who are presently passing through these parts.

Black-throated blue warbler

Not that there is anything less than splendid about the birds we are most familiar with. Deb shared a stunning shot of a fluorescent-beaked female cardinal gathering nesting material from a clutch of honey locust thorns. On the same day, however, she photographed a black-throated blue warbler perched on a rope of grapevine. Along the way, she digitized an orchard oriole singing it’s heart out and a mourning cloak butterfly. Because butterflies are seemingly as confused by climate change as humans are, they are arriving here or emerging from their winter quarters with no food in sight. When Deb shared the butterfly photo, it was a sight for sore eyes.

Mourning cloak butterfly

Just as nature around the world is reveling in the cleaner air and water that’s a result of human lockdown, wild things are going about their business unimpeded here in the Back 40. On Friday night a small group of Girl Scouts spread out along the trails to earn their trailblazing badges. As they climbed out of the Riley Creek floodplain toward the grass prairie, two large fluffy feathered great horned owl fledglings bobbed in a black walnut at eye level. Their parent murmured a short distance away, waiting for us to move along our earthbound way.

Check out eBird for a complete list of bird species identified here on The Quarry Farm.

Duck Duck Group!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Donkey from Pandora sanctuary now taking virtual meetings (also pigs, peacocks and more)

PANDORA—Does your virtual office need a captivating key-note squeaker? The Quarry Farm Nature Preserve & Conservation Farm, Pandora, is inviting business, organizations, schools and senior living facilities to pull out a virtual chair at their video conference meetings and events for one or more of our farm animal sanctuary residents. We call this fun experience “Duck Duck Group” even though our peaceable kingdom is also home to donkeys, pigs, goats, turkeys, ducks and chickens. None of them wear pants, so the will fit right in at your next webinar.

Are your whiskers twitching? Call 419-384-7195 or email thequarryfarm@gmail.com to schedule the time and date of your “Duck Duck Group” experience. We can use any virtual meeting software you prefer. You will be asked to send us a link during the scheduling process. We will join your call and do a quick introduction of The Quarry Farm. You can ask us questions about particular animals or experience a virtual gallop through the whole herd.

The cost is $50 for a 10-minute “Duck Duck Group”. All “Duck Duck Group” proceeds support the work of The Quarry Farm by:

· Making it possible for the sanctuary animals, many of whom began their lives in fear and neglect, to reside here in peace with proper shelter.

· Providing species-specific food and bedding for sanctuary farm animals and fostered wildlife.

· Maintaining the nature preserve trails and control invasive plant species on the preserve and in the Red Fox Cabin gardens.

· Helping to provide quality educational programming in science, the arts, Ohio history and critical thinking.

· Contributing to the development and installation of interpretive signage.

The Quarry Farm Nature Preserve & Conservation Farm is a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization. For more information, visit www.thequarryfarm.org and The Quarry Farm on Facebook and Instagram.

Bridging quarantine

“Stay Home” on these 50 acres doesn’t mean channel surfing. Well, maybe there’s a bit of that after sunsets or during thunderstorms like the one we are having right now. Since the first day of #stayathome, several more hands have joined Dave’s wage of war against bush honeysuckle and tree-downing grapevine on the nature preserve. He and his daughter Aili were back at it on sunny Monday, chainsawing and moving mountainous boulders to bridge the southern ford across Cranberry Run.
Dave’s April 6, 2020 message:
“Was a pretty fun day at the QF with Aili, with a bit of work done, too. Her first time to see the quarry full of water. For Aili, having the geese, the turtles, the muskrat, frogs, crawdads, and snakes all come out was a treat.  I’m still amazed!  We also got the stepping stones put in place at the ford, and a couple hours of honeysuckle clearing in the far south end, by the oxbow ponds.”
Spring/Summer intern Emma has jumped right into the fray, lopping invasive shrub limbs and pulling seedlings. Deb and her nephew Kyle erected another blue bird box. There was one flash of blue yesterday, so someone is at home. Bloodroot is popping up and the first spring beauties dot the banks of the old quarry, beautifully framing the first painted turtles to sun themselves in plain sight this season.

‘Still representing my roots!’

It’s nice to get mail.

It’s especially good when it’s a shout-out from someone who shares a passion for what is near and dear to the recipient. Jonelle Meyer spent time here while she was a student at Ottawa-Glandorf High School. When she wasn’t in school or serving as a Toledo ZooTeen, she was grooming shaggy Buddy the donkey or helping with visiting groups. Jonelle graduated in 2014 then barely broke stride by receiving her BS in biology in 2017 from Lourdes Universty. She moved to California in May that year and never looks back—except when she does.

Yesterday she did just that. Up popped a message for us, with a photo of Jonelle wearing her Quarry Farm shirt backstage at Turtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding, CA. As an animal trainer there, she works with rehabilitated wildlife, performs in animal shows and participates in programming. Like so many high-trafficked places this Spring, Turtle Bay is closed to the public. But the behind-the-scenes show goes on, with animals relying on the love, attention and understanding of caretakers like Jonelle.

No pictures, please

As Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton so eloquently said regarding the present pandemic, we humans are waking up to life. While we blink sleep from our eyes, life goes on around us.

Here on The Quarry Farm, bush honeysuckle whacking is a means to social-distance ourselves during Ohio’s StayHome proclamation. At this pace we may see the forest for the invasive trees this year. As David Seitz works his way south from the old stone quarry, Paul Nusbaum is clearing A new walking trail to skirt the ancient homestead well, Riley Creek, and the Bottom’s rich vernal pools. That area is a quiet shelter for migrating songbirds. As I took out my own pandemic fear and frustration on bush honeysuckle and a [gasp/horror/curses] privet I found at the northern-most point of the nature preserve, a Black and White Warbler eyeballed me from the top of a small maple. My camera and phone sat safely at home on the kitchen counter so the only image I can share with you is a description of a dainty bird, striped black and white from beak to tail.

The aforementioned lack of camera is the lead in to the story that I saved for sharing on a rainy day. Thunder rolls outside today and heavy downpours turning clear Cranberry Run the creamy brown of the surrounding fields, so here goes. I present to you a tale filled with suspense, partial nudity and a happy ending.

It was a dark and cloudy Wednesday night. Somewhere in the darkness, a domestic fowl uttered a strangled cry. Fergus the Tree Walker Coonhound scrambled to his feet, baying all the way down the stairs. I stumbled along behind, forgetting my eyeglasses on the nightstand. Fergus blew out the front door and down the driveway. Quinn Fox wove through the hound’s floppy Muppet feet, emerging through the tangle with Gerald the Rooster in her jaws. I screeched at her to “drop it!” She did! Fearing the worst, I carried a limp Gerald into the house. He had a heartbeat, so I left him in the bathroom basin and ran back outside, trading Fergus for Cady the Pitbull because Cady is quieter at 2:00 a.m. than an excited hound dog. My Steven was now in the fray, tracking Quinn with the flashlight app on his cell.

I was in a shortie. Steve wore a t-shirt and boxers. Our shoes and my eyesight were in the house. It was maybe 40 degrees on March 25 in Northwest Ohio.

We took turns going back inside to grab shoes, jackets and cheddar cheese. After much fun and games on Quinn’s part, the little red streak took refuge under the front porch. Steve shown light under the deck while I crawled under, cheese in my cold little fist. Since Quinn likes cheese and there is no soft pillow under the porch, she was ripe for reclamation. Once she was back in the warm house with Fergus and Cady, Steve spotted a wet mound of gray fur at the point of the Fergus/Quinn collision. A young Virginia Opossum lay there. Its tongue lolled on the grass and its legs curled in little clawed fists. We stared at it in the beam of the cell light, surmising that the marsupial had probably climbed up in the roosting box shared by Gerald and Arthur and startled Gerald into mad flight. While we watched, the dead creature blinked. Steve carried him/her down the hill and into the woods.

As far as we know, the opossum is fine. Quinn, Fergus and Cady are fine. Gerald was standing in the basin by 2:10 and is fine. That bird has the nine lives of a cat. We figure that, between picking fights with Arthur, predator encounters and a past life as a cockfighting rooster, he’s depleted his store of vivacity by at least half. Steve and I, however, ran through any amount of dignity we ever had long ago.

‘Gotta Get Gund’

The headline of this post is a slogan from some years ago. The toymaker Gund used it to promote sales of their plush animals. It’s borrowed to encourage Easter bunnies to place toy rabbits, chicks and ducklings in baskets this Spring and to discourage everyone from giving live animals as gifts.

Brownie is our resident spotlight in the Spring 2020 Quarry Farm Newsletter which you may download by clicking on the cover to the right. Brownie rules a small flock of Rouen ducks in The Quarry Farm farm animal sanctuary. This expressive lady even took under her gentle (but firm) wing a young Canada Goose placed here for release by Nature’s Nursery. The gosling, creatively known here as “Baby Goose,” is so enamored of Brownie that she sleeps with her in the hen house at night, even though Baby Goose is now fully-feathered and can fly.

Brownie was surrendered to us by someone who acquired her as a duckling. Although Rouens look very much like large Mallards, Rouens are a heavyweight breed of domesticated duck that originated in France sometime before the 19th century. While Mallards are wild, lightweight flyers, Rouens weigh between 9 and 10 pounds and can only fly short distances. Brownie prefers to waddle-march around the sanctuary, sliding nimbly under the paddock gates to attend to whatever piques her considerable interest.

We spotlight Brownie here not only for her charming personality but as a reminder to refrain from purchasing live rabbits, chicks and ducklings as Easter gifts in April. Each year, Easter pets die cruelly from neglect or mistreatment or are surrendered to animal shelters that receive a surge of unwanteds. These animals are given up after owners lose interest or become unable to care for them. Others that are not taken to shelters are “set free” into the wild where they have no knowledge or experience at foraging or evading predators. Death is inevitable. Those that may survive become part of feral colonies of domestic and hybrid birds that cause problems for native wildlife.

Statistics indicate that within the first weeks after the holiday, 30 percent of all Easter pets die, and another 60 percent to 70 percent are abandoned or turned in to shelters. Instead of a Brownie, fill your Easter basket with a fuzzy toy and gelatin-free jelly beans.

Winged Perambulation

There are no two ways about it. Saturday’s Great Backyard Bird Count installment on The Quarry Farm was cold; 0 degrees F cold. Beautiful, with thick frost and snow and blue sky for the walk, but the cold filtered through Thinsulate, wool and whatever else each of us could layer over our pasty winter skins. To quote Jean Shepherd’s Randy, I couldn’t move my arms. But I could move my fingers well enough to record the different species of birds that chattered at us as we hiked the main nature preserve trails.

Our first sighting as a group was of a Downy Woodpecker in the great oak south of Red Fox Cabin. It’s feathers were so fluffed that I was sure it was a Hairy Woodpecker, a larger Downy look-alike that forages along trunks and main branches of large trees. Our frequent-flyer birders Deb Weston and Linda Houshower corrected me. Since I had made the first official recording of the morning–a group of European Starlings who shelter each February and March in the vent above our bathroom shower, I licked my frozen ego and left further identification to the experts. After all, that is one of the things we do here: invite people to share their own areas of expertise with everyone who wants to learn more about the natural world from different perspectives.

Down in the floodplain along Cranberry Run, Brown Creepers and White-breasted Nuthatches circled tree trunks and bobbed in and out of habitat piles created by David Seitz’s ongoing bush honeysuckle and grapevine removal. Bright, berry-red Cardinals chirped and sang. Wild Turkey foot and wing drags crossed the upland path. Woodpeckers left freshly-drilled holes in dead trees for us to find. A Red-bellied Woodpecker who flew above the canopy was one possible culprit. I thought I heard the Red-tailed Hawk that Steve had seen earlier that morning. Instead, it was a sassy Blue Jay mimicking that raptor and everything else his or her big bird brain has mastered.

Thursday birding with Deb and David

Our count from Saturday and another done on Monday is now part of the official GBBC 2020 observation list. Deb and her friend David blazed a birding trail of their own on Thursday. They added their findings to the eBird count. Deb and David will lead the Spring Migration Bird Hike here on April 25.

This morning was a balmy 18 degrees F. The exotic peahens who arrived here recently sat high in a hackberry as the slightly less exotic chickens, donkeys, pigs, goats, geese, ducks, and a llama murmured, snuffled and scuttled from food pellet to seed and hay. The two big birds stared down at me as I left food at the base of their tree, not so much waiting for a chance to eat, but for the frost to melt from the window that they preen in front of as the wilder creatures go about their march to spring.

 

The Project, Year 2

Join us Saturday February 8 from 8 to 9 p.m. for the “Full Moon Hike”. See firsthand what The Man/The Myth/The Legend David Seitz has been doing in and around the quarry. The salamanders are going to love it. All we can do is ply Engineer Dave with donuts and chocolate.
David Seitz rode the warm winter waves up US 23 on Monday to battle honeysuckle.
January 30, 2020
Around 1700 hrs, I spent most of the afternoon just cutting and clearing some big old honeysuckles from the area south of the quarry. Also cut up a few downed trunks, and big branches leaning on good trees. The south area is now much more visible, and maybe 95% of the honeysuckle in there is cut.  The small ones take one wack and a pull. The medium ones take 3 or 4 wacks and a bend over. The big old ones have to be “topped” with the chainsaw, and then 10 minutes of chopping out the roots.  Only 1 very big one was just cut off at ground level, because there were so many rocks in the roots I just couldn’t cut it with the mattock. Will look pretty good in that area, in the Spring! Easier to walk through there now.
On Sunday I went hiking at Highbanks Metro Park, up on US 23. Saw the way they were “buffering” stream banks to prevent rapid wash out. Decided to use the honeysuckle the same way, on the high bank south of the quarry. Put a bunch of branches there, on the sand bar below the east side bank.  Then some old logs on top to hold them down. Next trip I’ll add a couple more big logs, and maybe rope them to the huge rock there. Can only help.
Did add a couple new rocks to the new SW bank. The more the better. And also added 4 big buckets of wet gravel to the path, right in the middle, where the path stones are kind of thick. Dirt will wash off the path, but the gravel is much heavier, and shouldn’t wash off much. We’ll see how it works. Good part is that it isn’t so messy. Much better to walk on. There is a good supply of gravel 50 meters south of the quarry, but it is pretty heavy work. Will keep at it, and try to add 4 or 5 big buckets each visit.  Can only help.
The ice on the quarry is 2 – 3 inches thick, just a few feet from the bank, but melts where it touches the banks, all the way around. There was no flow through the culvert at all today.
Thanks for the donuts!
-Dave
February 3, 2020
There is a lot of honeysuckle along the south side path, for sure. Cut for 3 hours, but there is still so much there to do. There are some really large honeysuckle there, too. Have to cut with the chainsaw. And then cut up all the branches, so they can be moved and piled. Slow work, but I’m seeing the change. Will gradually move north and up the east side. Would like to cut some north of the quarry too. Didn’t do any today, but next trip I’ll put some more gravel on the SW bank. Much nicer than the mud, and will resist washing off also.
Really a lovely day today.  Got home just after dark, and it is still 50 degrees F out! Thanks for the chocolate!
-Dave

Winter Project Rain Dance

The scent of raindrops are in the air. Did you know you can watch the nature preserve bridge project from Google Earth? Engineer David does.

We do need rain/snow—maybe not all at once, but it is frighteningly pleasant for January in Northwest Ohio. The National Weather Service reports that we will have it as long as that green band of precipitation doesn’t rapidly shift southeast.

Board President Laura recalled the burnt toast odor that permeated the outdoors during the Summer of 1988. I remember that, as well as the smell of decay. As I ran the trails at Wildwood Metropark in Toledo, a doe walked out of the woodland of dried leaves and cracked soil. She didn’t run but feinted a few steps into the tree line and back out again. I have always regretted not following her. There was little I could do at the time to help, but I could have offered. I think of her every time I try to do so now.

How easily what is happening in Australia could happen to us. Our inland waterways could save us, as long as we save them.

Speaking of which, stellar Friend of The Quarry Farm Dave is forging ahead with his efforts to protect the old stone quarry wetland from sediment overload produced during flood events. The land bridge between Cranberry Run and the quarry provided a great nighttime path for the Girl Scouts last month, with the young explorers spotting fish and all manner of shadows through the thin film of ice over the stream. This spring, participants in water and plant quality studies to contrast the wetland and the Run will now have a flagstone deck. Here’s the latest from our favorite engineer:

“Nice day down by the quarry. Built up the bank a bit, at the north side of the culvert. Just wasn’t wide enough. Shoveled about 2 hours. Wide enough now.

Started putting flat stones on the path, so it was not so muddy. Is better, but needs more flat stones.  Also, they need to settle in, so they don’t wobble. Need to be walked on, I guess.
Last hour I dug up a few honeysuckle, just to the south of the quarry, along the east side of  the creek. One really big one, just for the experience. Mattock is better now that it is sharpened.”
Saturday’s rain will likely put a damper on our scheduled January 11 Full Moon Hike. Look for it to be rescheduled. How cool it will be to see the night sky reflected in riffles over one shoulder and in the still pool of a wetland surface over the other.

Girls’ night out

What’s more fun than a winter hike? A winter NIGHT hike, naturally.

On the eve of the Winter Solstice, 7 Girl Scouts, their leaders and sibs, earned their Hiking badge in the nature preserve. We set out at 6 p.m., flashlights in mittened and gloved hands. The sky was a little hazy, but we could see Cassiopia and the Big Dipper, with flashlights off, from our seats in the new Nature’s Classroom. Venus, the dazzling evening “star” of December, greeted us on the return hike up the hill south of Red Fox Cabin.

The hike was lively, with the questions and observations that are some of the best things about sharing the trails. We didn’t hear or see wildlife but they undoubtedly saw us. Turkeys had been there first, leaving trails with their wingtips in the snow. Squirrels had crossed the paths, leaving little prints at the top of one hill where its looked like they took a breather before moving on. We saw tiny hoof prints and larger padded paw marks left by a fox or Stitch, the large neighbor cat who stops by when children are onsite.

Thanks to the troop for bringing apples, carrots and potatoes for the residents of the farm animal sanctuary.

On Friday, as we walked the main trail, one of the scouts asked me if I best liked hiking during the day or at night. Come on over and decide for yourself on Saturday, January 11, from 8 to 9 p.m. We will hike under January’s Full Wolf Moon named after howling wolves who are, tragically, no longer here. But we can imagine and celebrate what is and what may be. Please bring a flashlight and dress for the weather. Call 419-384-7195 or email thequarryfarm@gmail.com by Friday, January 10, at 4 p.m. to tell us you are coming.