Welcome to the Ohio Wildlife Education Update. This blog is developed and maintained by the Ohio Division of Wildlife Outdoor Education Section for formal and non-formal educators alike who have an interest in teaching and learning about Ohio's wildlife.
Here is another entry from Jamey (Graham) Emmert, our resident bird nerd and Wildlife District Three's Wildlife Communication Specialist.
“Fee-bee!” I walked out the front door of my office in Akron
on March 26 to hear the sweet sound of an Eastern
phoebe calling his heart out. Spring has finally arrived! My much-needed and more frequent jaunts
outdoors to enjoy what the vernal equinox has to offer brought with them many
gifts. I served as witness to nesting red-shouldered hawks, an influx of
yellow-bellied sapsuckers, and a chubby little winter wren bouncing about the
brush, all in just one week!
As you may have noticed, I’m a birder or as my friends
warmly refer to me, a bird nerd. There is seldom an excursion, whether it’s hiking
or shopping, when I don’t have my binoculars within reach. It’s an incurable,
contagious, and wonderful state of mind with which you must associate yourself
if you haven’t already and now is the time. Males are currently dressing into
breeding colors making them readily identifiable with the proper guidebook or
guide-person, the weather is gorgeous even on a rainy day, and many of the
birds here now will likely stay throughout the summer and into early fall at
least. This gives you plenty of time to get to know these feathered gems.
For a good look, grab a good pair of binoculars (graduate to
the next level of birder by calling them “bins”) and by good, something along
the lines of 8x40 will do well. Read more about choosing binoculars on page 22 of the Wild
Ohio magazine Spring Issue.
Start watching around your house or local park or better
yet, if you’re a teacher, your school grounds. If watching bird feeders near a
house, nature center, or school building (which you should), you’ll likely encounter
cardinals, blue jays, house and song sparrows, house and gold finches, black-capped
chickadees, tufted titmice, red-bellied and downy woodpeckers, and
white-breasted nuthatches. (side note: the Ohio Division of Wildlife
administers the WILD Schools Sites program which encourages school communities
to attract and learn about wildlife; funding is available. Read more at ohioprojectwild.org).
A simple field guide to watching Ohio’s backyard birds is
something to have in your pocket to get started with field identification and
to make notes so you can journal your experience. Once your comfort level with
feeder visitors peaks, head out to different habitat like a woodlot or marsh to
gain some new species.
A mix of wet and forested habitat is always a good birding spot.
Have fun, enjoy the fresh air, and be amazed at how many
wonderful creatures are flitting about that you might have otherwise missed!
You’re sure to see other wildlife like deer, coyotes, snakes, and frogs which
keeps things very entertaining.
While flying solo (pun intended) can be great for the mind,
so too can sharing the joy of birding with friends, family members, and
students in your life, so please pass it forward when you can.
To read more about birding
in Ohio, visit wildohio.com and click on ‘Experience Wildlife.’
This is the fourth article in a series on WILD School Sites,
or outdoor classrooms. WILD School Sites are locations that can be used by
students, teachers, and the school community as places to learn about wildlife
and the environment. The first thing to do when developing a site is to
formulate a plan. You can contact your district Wildlife Communication Specialist, who can walk you through the process to help
type of project should you do?
Remember, no two sites are the same, so each site will
consist of different projects. Available resources, such as time, money, space,
and labor, will also play a role in what projects are chosen. Last month’s
article focused on brush piles, perching wires, and viewing blinds as an
inexpensive and quick way to get your site up and running. This month we will
look at a few more projects which can be completed as well as some important
thoughts for those who already have sites.
Stepping stones help provide a visual and
functional walking path through your site. This can be especially important in
the early stages of a project when young plants are still frail. Stepping
stones can also help with established sites by leading participants from one
project to the next.
There are numerous kits available, or you can
build your own with old plastic planter saucers or cake pans. Directions can be
found on various sites online. After the mold is filled, wait for 30-60 minutes
before proceeding. Once the cement has started to set, the students can proceed
with decorating the stepping stones. Virtually anything can be used to decorate
the steps. Leaves, animal tracks, insect replicas, or any other outdoor
learning device can be incorporated into the stepping stones.
Many species of animals are wary of humans and can
be quite elusive. Creating an animal track plot is an inexpensive and fun way
to learn what types of animals pass through your site. Students and educators
are often amazed at the species that live around them. Begin by clearing an area at least 3ft. by 3ft. of
all grass and vegetation. A raised bed can also be constructed using landscape
timbers. The area should then be filled with clay soil 2-3 inches deep. Be sure
to rake the soil smooth and moisten the soil so it is soft enough for animals
to leave impressions. To increase the number and types of animals that
visit your plot, try using various types of bait to lure wildlife in. For
additional learning opportunities, keep records of what animals visit the site.
Students can also create molds of the animal tracks using plaster of Paris.
Whether you are just starting out, or a seasoned
veteran, WILD School Sites need to be maintained or they will become an
overgrown patch of weeds. Maintenance really depends on what projects have been
included in the site. This time of year, many species of bushes, including
butterfly bushes, can be trimmed. Consult a garden book or website for other
species. Warm season grasses can also be trimmed. Now is also a great time to
start placing orders for perennials. Stick with native species if possible.
Native plants will benefit more wildlife than non-native plants. Also, some
non-native plants can become invasive. Native plants are also better adapted to
local weather and pests so they require less water and chemicals.
If your site
has nest boxes for birds, now is an excellent time to clean those boxes and
remove any old nesting material, insect nests, and repair any damage that may
have occurred over the winter. Nesting birds such as bluebirds, chickadees,
titmice, house wrens, and tree swallows are beginning to look for nesting
sites. So be sure to be ready for them.
Although most WILD School Sites contain multiple projects
that can take years to develop from start to finish, stepping stones and animal
track plots offer an opportunity to start educating youth about Ohio’s wildlife
at any time of the year. They are relatively inexpensive, easily constructed,
and can be used at virtually any site. As the weather begins to warm, don’t
forget to take students outside and perform some general maintenance on your
site. For more information about these projects or other WILD School Site
projects, contact your district’sWildlife Communications Specialist.