Stewardship Rangers keeping busy

Submitted by OSR

Greetings from the OSR crew!
We started off our week (Aug. 2-5) by heading west of Fort Frances with outdoor enthusiast Henry Miller to check out the local bluebird lines.
Henry has been monitoring bluebird houses across the district for 20 years. Luckily, we were invited to join him.
What is involved in inspecting bluebird lines, you ask? The monitoring program Henry established, along with the Fort Frances Sportsmen’s Club, had us opening up the bird houses, cleaning out abandoned nests, and repairing any broken dwellings.
We carefully kept track of which bird species were using each house, the number eggs (if present), and whether offspring had survived and fledged.
We were fortunate to encounter bluebirds, wrens, and tree swallows that day. We even found some baby bluebirds not yet fully fledged.
(The term fledged means that the young birds are fully feathered and ready to fly).
In order to do this, Henry taught us how to identify the different nesting signs for each bird species we might encounter, such as the nesting materials used or the cleanliness of the nest itself.
We learned that tree swallows and bluebirds have very similar nests. Both are made out of grass, although tree swallows tend to be very messy with lots of feathers throughout the nest.
Bluebirds, on the other hand, are very tidy and would appear to have not even lived in the dwelling except for the nest being packed down.
In contrast, wrens fill the bird houses with twigs—almost to the point that you cannot see their young when you open the bird house door.
Then last Wednesday, we headed east of Fort Frances to Turtle River Road with Jeff Johnston to complete a hare survey, which is carried out by counting the number of rabbit pellets within a one-metre radius of a specific point.
The points are marked by a post in the ground, which we also marked with a GPS point for future reference.
This type of study is significant because it helps us monitor the hare population from year to year. We checked 16 different plots, which varied in the number of pellets present.
On Thursday, we had an office day and took part of the day to work on our “green” video, which we plan to submit to the Fort Frances Film Festival this fall.
Over the past couple of weeks, we have taken videos in different parts of the district and even have begun to create a “green” song.
We continued to work on our video on Friday, in addition to continuing our search for milkweed and purple loosestrife. Milkweed is an important food source for the monarch butterfly, which is a species at risk in our area.
Purple loosestrife, however, is an invasive plant species that is very similar in appearance to a native plant species in our area, commonly known as fireweed.
To learn more about our projects and to see photos of us in the field, visit the Rainy River District Stewardship’s website.

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