Tuesday, January 14, 2014

2013 in a Nutshell!

Post contributed by Anna Hersh, Seasonal Natural Resources Technician:

It has been a busy year for the Saint Paul Parks and Recreation Environmental Services Team! We wanted to share with you some of our accomplishments from 2013. None of this would be possible without our hardworking staff, volunteers, and grant partners.

Because of the dedication of wonderful nature-loving volunteers, we logged 3,580 volunteer hours (1,500 volunteers). That is the equivalent to 1.72 full-time employees!

Volunteers hard at work planting native grasses and 
forbs at Bruce Venture Nature Sanctuary during our 
National Public Land’s Day volunteer event.

In coordination with partnering organizations, we used approximately $650,000 in grants and donations, including $80,000 of in-kind professional labor, to maintain natural areas in Saint Paul.

Part of the restoration work that we did at the ponds of Phalen Golfcourse 
with grant money from Ramsey Conservation District.
We employed and educated 22 Youth Job Corps members in the Eco-Ranger program curriculum and directed another 48 youth in the Youth Outdoors program, in partnership with the Conservation Corps of Minnesota.
One of the EcoRanger Academy crews tuning their bikes 
as they head to the park they are working in for the day.

We also planted approximately 7,600 trees and shrubs, 20,000 native grasses and flowers and 68,000 floodplain tree seeds.
Just a fraction of the thousands of native seeds and plants that we spread throughout Saint Paul's natural areas in 2013.

Finally, we burned a total of 13 acres at 7 sites.  In partnership with Public Works, we were able to successfully burn 4,250 lineal feet of native grass median along Phalen Boulevard.

A prescribed burn at the Phalen Park Wetland.

We have had a very productive year and look forward to many more to come! Thank you all for your dedication and support, but mostly, thank you for using and appreciating the parks in Saint Paul.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

What Do Animals Do in the Winter? Not All Fly South

Post contributed by David from Conservation Corps Youth Outdoor Crew 2:

For our last post in this series, we will see what birds do to handle the Minnesota cold. Some species don't handle it at all, and prefer to move south for warmer weather. This migration can be witnessed in spectacular display in the fall. Many birds fly south using the Mississippi Flyway, a migration path that follows the Mississippi River down the country. Our very own Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary is located on the Flyway, and is a wonderful place to catch glimpses of birds as they make their way to warmer climates.

Geese migrating south.
Waxwings in winter.
Most species migrate due to lack of available food sources, but some have found ways to survive and thrive in Minnesota year round. There are 44 species of birds that live in Minnesota year round, with robins, waxwings, cardinals, chickadees, and woodpeckers being a few examples. These birds stay busy all winter, constantly searching out berries, seeds, and hidden insects, while seeking shelter among trees. One easy way to help these brave winter birds is to keep the seed heads on your dead flowers. Many gardeners advocate "dead heading," or cutting the old flowers and stems off the plant; however, the seeds from those flowers provide great winter food for the birds in your neighborhood!

A Cardinal toughing out the winter cold.
The past four blog posts just give a taste of the amazing variety of adaptations animals have to help them survive the winter. Which animals do you share similarities with? If you are fascinated by this topic and want to learn more, check out the book Winter World by Bernd Heinrich for a more in depth look.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

What Do Animals Do in the Winter? The Answer is "Ribbit-"ing.

Post contributed by David from Conservation Corps Youth Outdoor Crew 2:

For this week's "What do animals do in the winter" blog post, we are moving away from mammals and into the world of amphibians. Have you ever wondered what a cold-blooded animal, who's body temperature depends on the temperature outside, might do when it is freezing and snowy here in Minnesota? They don't grow thicker fur, but do they still pack on the pounds or hibernate? The answer might surprise you.

Frogs offer an interesting variation on hibernation. As winter approaches, land dwelling frogs seek shelter in tree crevices or under sticks and leaves. Their metabolism drops and they enter a hibernation state. But unlike the bear they do not maintain a high body temperature; rather their temperature closely reflects the temperature outside. So what happens when it freezes? Well, frogs are able to produce a natural antifreeze in their blood which prevents their blood from freezing. This cool adaptation helps them avoid tissue damage that would otherwise kill them. How neat is that!?

Be sure to check back next week for our final blog post in this series!