What’s New in Nature: Meadow Vole

Meadow Vole, (Microtus pennsylvanicus)

The meadow vole, or meadow/field mouse, is a common species of small mammal on Nantucket and across the northern United States and Canada. As the name implies, this species prefers open grassy habitats, but it can also be found in shrublands and forests. This little mammal is active during the day and night year-round. They primarily eat plants, but will occasionally make a snack of insects, fungi and snails.

Meadow vole, photo credit: Leo Papandreou via CreativeCommons

Meadow vole, photo credit: Leo Papandreou via CreativeCommons

Meadow voles differ physically from mice having smaller ears and eyes, a rounder, more stout body and a shorter tail with fur. They are capable of high rates of reproduction and bear multiple litters year-round. Their population numbers are known to widely fluctuate on a 2-5 year cycle, with extreme peaks and lows.

These little guys are an important food item for many predators, particularly birds of prey like the northern harrier hawk on Nantucket. In fact, it has been demonstrated that northern harriers will lay more eggs during years with large meadow vole populations! When populations are large, there is a higher chance that birds of prey will be able to catch enough voles to feed and raise more chicks!

Prepared by: Karen C. Beattie, NCF Science and Stewardship Staff

The Nantucket Conservation Foundation is a private, non-profit land trust that depends on contributions from our members to support our science projects, conservation property acquisitions, and land management efforts. If you are not already a member, please join us! www.nantucketconservation.org

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What’s New in Nature: Queen Anne’s Lace

Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota)

Flowering July-August

photo credit: K.A. Omand

photo credit: K.A. Omand

A colonist from Europe, Queen Anne’s Lace is a familiar sight in old fields and along roadsides and can be found throughout Nantucket.  Another name for this plant is “wild carrot”, because our garden carrots were bred from this species, which has tough white roots.

The large flat flower heads, called umbels, actually contain tons of small individual flowers. Often, one of the flowers near the center is a dark red or almost black color, said to be a speck of blood dropped from Queen Anne’s finger while she was using a needle to make the lacy flowers.

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In the fall, and long into the winter, you can find the curled flower heads of Queen Anne’s lace acting as baskets that gradually release the seeds over time.

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This summer, the Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative is helping fund research on island to document where Queen Anne’s Lace occurs on island and examine how this plant might be influencing pollination of a native species it closely resembles – the Toothed White-top Aster. You can learn more about this research by graduate student Adam Ramsey in November at the NBI Biennial Biodiversity Research Conference on island.

Prepared by: K.A. Omand, NCF Science & Stewardship Staff

 

The Nantucket Conservation Foundation is a private, non-profit land trust that depends on contributions from our members to support our science projects, conservation property acquisitions, and land management efforts. If you are not already a member, please join us! www.nantucketconservation.org

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What’s New In Nature: Turk’s Cap Lily (Lilium superbum)

Turk’s Cap Lily (Lilium superbum)

Flowering July-August

Photo Credit: Kelly Omand

Photo Credit: Kelly Omand

Turk’s cap lily is a rare but spectacular sight in the Polpis area of Nantucket, where it grows in shrubby edge habitat. The ornate flowers are bright orange or red, tinged with yellow and spotted with dark speckles near the center, rising above the surrounding vegetation, which affords it some protection from hungry deer.

Unlike the more common wood lily, Turk’s cap lily often reaches 5-6 feet tall! The plant’s nodding flowers grow in a branched cluster, like a candelabra.

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Although it’s a perennial plant, you won’t find it at the same address every year. We’ve noticed that it pops up in similar places, but not usually in exactly the same spot. Windswept Bog and Squam Farm are two places you might catch a glimpse of this showy flower.

If you happen to be there at just the right time, consider yourself lucky!

Prepared by: Kelly A. Omand, NCF Science & Stewardship Staff

The Nantucket Conservation Foundation is a private, non-profit land trust that depends on contributions from our members to support our science projects, conservation property acquisitions, and land management efforts. If you are not already a member, please join us! www.nantucketconservation.org

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What’s New in Nature: Grey Catbird

Grey Catbird (Dumetella caroliniensis)

photo credit: Vern Laux

photo credit: Vern Laux

To be seen and not heard, is certainly not part of the upbringing of these feisty chatterboxes.  As soon as you near, they are sure to alert you of their presence – perhaps by launching into a melodious cascade of sounds to rival a nightingale – or going on in a rush of inflections as if to fill you in on the gossip and stories of the neighborhood – or will let you know it’s annoyed with a scolding whine reminiscent of a demanding cat.

Like the Thrashers and Mockingbirds, the Catbird is a mimic, with exceptional ability to reproduce the calls of other birds and sounds from their surroundings. Their special voice box can even make two sounds at the same time!  Males sing their most impressive songs in the spring, lasting up to ten minutes, but can continue to surprise us with unexpected sounds and mimicry at any time of the year.

photo credit: Vern Laux

photo credit: Vern Laux

They love scrubby brush, filled with arthropods and fruit, making Nantucket a perfect place for them to raise their families. They usually arrive in May to set up house, laying eggs are as colorful as their personalities — a vivid turquoise.  While some will stay all here all winter, many will leave in the fall, heading southward from the Gulf Coast to as far as Panama and the West Indies!

Appearing solid gray at first glance, a closer look reveals the rakish black cap and rusty patch below the tail, more suited to their flamboyant personality.

Prepared by: Iris Clearwater, NCF Science Staff

 The Nantucket Conservation Foundation is a private, non-profit land trust that depends on contributions from our members to support our science projects, conservation property acquisitions, and land management efforts. If you are not already a member, please join us! www.nantucketconservation.org

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What’s New In Nature: Orange Milkweed

Flowering now!

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly milkweed) in flower. Photo credit: G. Kozlowski

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterfly milkweed) in flower. Photo credit: G. Kozlowski

Orange Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa), also known as  “Butterfly Weed,” attracts a wide variety of butterfly species with its showy flowers and abundant nectar. This gorgeous and unique plant is fairly rare on Nantucket but is a very important component of Nantucket’s sandplain grasslands.

 

Orange Milkweed has great wildlife value; the leaves are a food source for monarch butterfly larvae, while the flowers provide nectar for hummingbirds, bees, and other insects. Native Americans even used this species to treat lung ailments, giving it another common name, “Pleurisy Root.”

Enjoy this wildflower, but please don’t pick it or dig it up!

Today the Orange Milkweed is increasingly rare due to habitat loss and over-collection for use in gardens. This is plant is the most commonly stolen plant from our properties so please enjoy it in place. Nantucket plant nurseries and garden centers do carry the orange milkweed to plant out in your gardens to attract native pollinators and enjoy the beautiful bright burst of color!

Prepared by: J.P. Krapek, NCF Science & Stewardship

 The Nantucket Conservation Foundation is a private, non-profit land trust that depends on contributions from our members to support our science projects, conservation property acquisitions, and land management efforts. If you are not already a member, please join us! www.nantucketconservation.org

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Report Nantucket Bat Sightings!

GOT BATS? We want to hear of your sightings!

Zara Dowling, a graduate student at UMass-Amherst, received a research grant from the Nantucket Biodiversity Initiative this spring to study and document the bat species on Nantucket. Zara has been working with the Nantucket Conservation Foundation’s Science and Stewardship Staff to record the calls of bats throughout the summer. You may have already noticed these bat detectors on some of our properties, including Squam Farm and Stump Pond.

IMG_0930These detectors are charged by solar panels and are set to record from dusk to dawn whenever high frequency sounds are detected. So far, Zara has confirmed the presence of red and hoary bats on island.

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Hoary bat (L) and Eastern red bat (R) Photos courtesy of Bat Conservation International

We also need help from Nantucketers! Zara is  interested in collecting observations of bats from local residents. We currently know very little about bat populations on the island, but Nantucket could be providing important habitat to these species. Migratory tree bats, which fly thousands of miles between their summer and winter habitat, often use coastal areas during their fall migration southward, and there are records of these species on the island. Nantucket’s isolation from the mainland might also allow it to serve as a refuge for hibernating bat populations, which have seen declines of 90-99% in much of the Northeast, associated with the spread of the fungal disease known as White Nose Syndrome. The Northern Long-Eared Bat, now Endangered in Massachusetts and federally listed as Threatened, continues to persist on neighboring Martha’s Vineyard, perhaps because of reduced exposure to the disease. Whether Nantucket, with its more open, less forested habitat, could also provide space for these rare bats remains to be seen. Let us know what’s happening in your yard!

DO YOU HAVE BATS CURRENTLY ROOSTING IN YOUR HOUSE OR BARN? Zara will be coming out for a few days later this summer, and can assist in identifying what bats you may have living there.

HAVE YOU SEEN BATS FORAGING OR ROOSTING IN YOUR AREA THIS YEAR OR IN PREVIOUS YEARS? Please send details, including 1) how many (1, 2-9, 10-25, over 25), 2) location (latitude and longitude or street address), 3) date or date range, 4) duration (one time or frequently, multiple years?), 5) roost habitat (in a tree, barn, house, umbrella, and any details about location, such as under eaves, tree species, etc), 6) foraging habitat (over water, in forest, along forest edge, over open field, etc.), and 7) any identifying features, or a photo if possible.

HAVE YOU FOUND A DEAD BAT? Please send a picture of the whole bat, with a quarter for scale, and a close-up photo of the face/ears. Don’t touch the bat with bare hands – bats are unlikely to, but do occasionally, carry rabies.

WANT MORE INFORMATION? Contact Zara at zdowling@eco.umass.edu, or (413) 588-1618.

Any information you could provide regarding bat populations on Nantucket would be hugely appreciated! Please contact Zara to report your observations!

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Welcome to NCF’s 2015 Seasonal Botany Field Assistants

Each summer, the Nantucket Conservation Foundation hires two seasonal botany field assistants to help us collect data on a variety of projects throughout the field season. This year, we are very lucky to have Natalie Pawlikowski and Kaitlyn Evans joining our team! These two ladies will be helping us to locate populations of rare plants on island, remove invasive species, document the effects of deer browse on rare species, map forest composition, collect and propagate seed from native plants, and monitor changes to salt marsh vegetation at Medouie Creek, to name just a few tasks! Natalie and Kaitlyn introduce themselves below:

Natalie

Natalie Pawlikowski

I grew up in and around Chicago and graduated from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign with a double major in Integrative Biology and English. I am passionate about ecology and conservation and have been fortunate to have a diversity of different research and field experiences. As an undergraduate, the majority of my research was focused on understanding the expanding distribution of the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) and spread of Lyme Disease in the midwestern United States. However, I also have been involved in research projects examining social perceptions of white-tailed deer, ocelot behaviors, the ecology of sylvatic plague in prairie dog colonies, and the urban ecology of West Nile virus. Outside of research projects, I have also had a couple of memorable field seasons working on conservation and restoration projects. During my first internship, I worked for a non-profit dedicated to conserving native prairies and grasslands of Illinois. Last summer, I was an intern with the Chicago Botanical Gardens and the Bureau of Land Management. I worked in northeastern California, primarily monitoring rare plant populations and collecting native seed for fire rehabilitation projects.

However, this is my first time working in the Northeast and my first time visiting Nantucket. I am excited at the opportunity to explore the diversity of habitats and organisms on the island. From the beginning, everyone at NCF has been extremely kind and welcoming and I have already had the chance to explore some of NCF’s properties (Squam Farm and Swamp, Sanford Farm, Tupancy House, etc) and work on a variety of restoration and research projects. I think it will be an exciting field season and am happy to be spending the next five months on Nantucket!

Kaitlyn

Kaitlyn Evans

I am from Worcester, VT and went to school at St. Lawrence University in New York. I graduated with a degree in biology and French. After I graduated, I worked for the Student Conservation Association (SCA) on a trail crew in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. I then took an internship on Catalina Island, off the coast of southern California, as an invasive species removal technician. After that, I had an internship in Moab, UT with the National Park Service as a botany technician where I assisted them on their long-term vegetation monitoring project. That internship led to a job with the Inventory and Monitoring division of the NPS for which I worked seasonally for a few years. Most recently I was working in Durango, CO as a baker for Serious Delights, a small family owned bakery. I made bread and all sorts of pastries and desserts. After working in the bakery for about two years, I was ready to get back into the conservation field and was also looking to move closer to home. I saw this job and thought it would be the perfect opportunity to do both. In my first two weeks, I have already had the opportunity to learn and experience many new things including new plants, animals, ecosystems, and getting stuck in quicksand in a salt marsh! It has been a very eventful first two weeks and I am really looking forward to the rest of the summer.

Kaitlyn and Natalie examining bird's foot violets at Tupancy Links

Kaitlyn and Natalie examining bird’s foot violets at Tupancy Links

Please join us in welcoming Kaitlyn and Natalie to the NCF crew and if you see them out and about on our properties, feel free to say hello and ask questions about nature on Nantucket!

 The Nantucket Conservation Foundation is a private, non-profit land trust that depends on contributions from our members to support our science projects, conservation property acquisitions, and land management efforts. If you are not already a member, please join us! www.nantucketconservation.org

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