Friday, March 26, 2010
Had a learning experience at Creek Bend Farm, just south of Lindsey, Ohio on SR 590 in Sandusky County. We discussed the famous naturalist Aldo Leopold and his classic environmental work, “A Sand County Almanac Study: The Geese Return.” Sandusky Co. Naturalist Debbie Haubert led the group while we took turns reading from Leopold’s work, then she took us outside along the Muddy Creek to enhance our observation skills. Published in 1949, “A Sand County Almanac” is an established environmental classic and provided many observations about the arrival of spring. (Photo left)
Debbie Haubert made sure that Leopold’s famous sayings were hung around the walls in the long-standing Creek Bend farmhouse, demonstrating his philosophy of the land ethic. This included plants, wildlife, people, soil and waters. Yes, people were part of nature’s web. Naturalist Debbie Haubert gave excellent anecdotes of how we all can make our yards more wildlife-friendly. For example, she doesn’t use herbicides on her lawn or garden, and allows clover to grow in her yard. The cottontail rabbits love clover, thus they stay away from the vegetable garden, which is in an open, vulnerable space. Instead, they stay on the lawn, eating clover, taking advantage of cover close by if they need a quick escape.
It was an appropriate place to honor Aldo Leopold. The home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was the home of Fran & Bob Roush (former Sandusky Co. Commissioner). In 2002, Robert & Frances Roush and family gave a bighearted donation along with the Ohio Public Works Commission’s Clean Ohio conservation Fund. The monies preserved the historic home and 310 acres for wildlife and public enlightenment about the natural world. A barn and various secondary buildings are being preserved and renovated (Above photo- shed). Leopold’s philosophy embraces such land stewardship which the Roush family apparently has.
Aldo Leopold’s philosophy
After reading the chapter “The Geese Return”, the group gathered along the banks of the Muddy Creek. Unfortunately, no Canada Geese were present. So, we closed our eyes and pretended we were geese, using our hearing, vision, tactile, and olfactory senses to interpret the area. It was fun! We noticed the wind, a telephone line and nearby highway which could be perilous when landing. However, an open field hugging the Muddy Creek’s bank would provide much grazing opportunities. We deducted which would be the best place to land in the river…from the goose’s point of view (below photo).
Sandusky Co. Park District Naturalist Debbie Haubert discusses the Creek Bend Farm to attendees.
Lastly, we discussed the habits of the Canada Goose, including:
- They migrate at night.
- Females have higher pitched honks than males, even though they look the same.
- During migration, Canada Geese often fly in clusters of six (6).
- They lay on average 12-15 eggs per nest.
- You may see roughly 6 adults and 12 young grouping for fall migration; possibly it’s 3 adult pairs and their young grouping together.
- Although Canada Geese are large enough to fend off raccoons, the coyote steals their eggs quite often.
- Snapping turtles are also a significant predator of goslings.
- You may see 3 geese group together in the Spring, but possibly one is less than age 2 and too young to breed and nest. It just “hangs around”, but three eyes are better than two.
The day was balmy with sun and a gentle wind. The fir trees that lined the creek were mostly void of birds, save a few blackbirds and robins. A small waterfall could be heard spilling over a small dam below us. “A noise that attracts wildlife”, naturalist Debbie Haubert pointed out.
Aldo Leopold used terms such as “riparian highway”, “meander” and “oxbow” in his writings about streams and rivers. They mean a trail following the bank of a river, a bend in the river, and a calm pool in in the U-shaped section of a river, respectively.
Fish research is conducted on the Muddy Creek at Creek Bend Farm.
Aldo Leopold‘s Land Ethic:
"Conservation is a state of harmony between men and land. The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively: the land."
"This sounds simple: do we not already sing our love for and obligation to the land of the free and the home of the brave? Yes, but just what and whom do we love? Certainly not the soil, which we are sending helter-skelter down river. Certainly not the waters, which we assume have no function except to turn turbines, float barges, and carry off sewage. Certainly not the plants, of which we exterminate whole communities without batting an eye. Certainly not the animals, of which we have already extirpated many of the largest and most beautiful species. A land ethic of course cannot prevent the alteration, management, and use of these ‘resources,’ but it does affirm their right to continued existence, and, at least in spots, their continued existence in a natural state. In short, a land ethic changes the role of Homo sapiens from conqueror of the land-community to plain member and citizen of it. It implies respect for his fellow-members, and also respect for the community as such."
Killing the Wolf:
[....] We were eating lunch on a high rimrock, at the foot of which a turbulent river elbowed its way. We saw what we thought was a doe fording the torrent, her breast awash in white water. When she climbed the bank toward us and shook out her tail, we realized our error: it was a wolf. A half-dozen others, evidently grown pups, sprang from the willows and all joined in a welcoming melee of wagging tails and playful maulings. What was literally a pile of wolves writhed and tumbled in the center of an open flat at the foot of our rimrock.
In those days we had never heard of passing up a chance to kill a wolf. In a second we were pumping lead into the pack, but with more excitement than accuracy; how to aim a steep downhill shot is always confusing. When our rifles were empty, the old wolf was down, and a pup was dragging a leg into impassable side-rocks.
We reached the old wolf in time to watch a fierce green fire dying in her eyes. I realized then, and have known ever since, that there was something new to me in those eyes—something known only to her and to the mountain. I was young then, and full of trigger-itch; I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunters' paradise. But after seeing the green fire die, I sensed that neither the wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view.
Since then I have lived to see state after state extirpate its wolves. I have watched the face of many a newly wolfless mountain, and seen the south-facing slopes wrinkle with a maze of new deer trails. I have seen every edible bush and seedling browsed, first to anaemic desuetude, and then to death. I have seen every edible tree defoliated to the height of a saddlehorn. Such a mountain looks as if someone had given God a new pruning shears, and forbidden Him all other exercise. In the end the starved bones of the hoped-for deer herd, dead of its own too-much, bleach with the bones of the dead sage, or molder under the high-lined junipers" - Aldo Leopold.
The Muddy Creek offers a nice riparian highway for local wildlife, full of "meanders" and "oxbows"
In essence, Aldo Leopold's philosophy about land usage and the human relationship with nature is what this CREATE A WILDLIFE-FRIENDLY YARD site is all about. There are 25,000,000 residential yards in the U.S. This doesn't include commercial lawns, which would significantly increase the number. If yard owners transformed even small sections of their sterile, grass lawns into wildlife-friendly spaces, it would benefit not only wildlife, but humans as well.