Editor: Earthshine's Resident Naturalist Steve O'Neil
Issue 6, Spring 2010
High-Tech-Geek-Note: This newsletter is long so it may load slowly on some computers. Please be patient because we believe that nature knowledge is worth the wait.
A Newsletter All About Nature From Earthshine Mountain Lodge
The Nature Notes and Turtle Tracks Newsletter is a way for you to connect with your favorite outdoor education and adventure vacation destination: Earthshine Mountain Lodge. Within the pages of this periodic email newsletter, you will receive updates on the Turtle Tracks Eastern Box Turtle Conservation program, current nature related events from Earthshine Lodge, and select wildlife related news from around the world. Within this newsletter you will also find photos from around Earthshine taken by the staff and you, the guests of Earthshine, as well as nature and outdoor education related trivia, games and puzzles. We will also keep you up-to-date on new things happening at Earthshine that we believe you may be interested in.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction to the issue
2. Turtle Tracks Project Update
3. Earthshine Nature Center Update
4. Turtle Tracks Fundraiser Update
5. A New Puzzle
6. New Wild Adventures
7. Book Review
8. Wild Focus
9. Nature Notes
11. Musical Moments
12. The Crikey Coin
13. News from the Office
14. Recipes from Steve's Kitchen
15. Nature Joke
16. Steve's Nature Links
17. Steve's WILD Disclaimer
Sunset over the Blue Ridge by Susan Davis
Introduction by Steve
We are so happy to see spring on the mountaintop! It has been a long cold winter with loads of snow, ice and rain but the days are warm, the flowers are blooming, the toads and frogs are gathering at the Earthshine pond for their annual breeding bash (see video below!), the Easter Bunny made an appearance and all of nature's critters are restlessly getting ready for springtime on the mountaintop so let's check out what has been happening over the last few months and what is in store for Earthshine Nature Programs in 2010!
If you still haven't made your summer plans and you are looking for an unforgettable place to spend your holiday, vacation or just a weekend getaway--make it Earthshine Mountain Lodge. Please give us a call today at (828) 862-4207.
2009 was a wonderful year at Earthshine Mountain Lodge! Check out our new
All of the resident turtles in the Earthshine R & R facility have awakened from their winter slumber. Rose was the first to appear to say hello to spring! Amazingly she came out on almost exactly the same day as last year--April 5th! Chewy, Tripod, Meredith and Rowdy soon followed; we have not yet seen Woody but we expect to soon.
All of the wild turtles that we are radio tracking have come out of their winter dens. Mr. Frodo was the last to emerge and it seems that Catherine has a younger "friend" who may be following her around. AJ's transmitter failed in the middle of winter so I was forced to move her with some of her soil to a holding pen until I could acquire a new transmitter for her. Check out the videos below for more information on all of the turtles.
The below video is of AJ's journey from her winter den site to the holding pen a few weeks ago.
Check out this next video for an update on all all of the other turtles we are currently radio tracking.
AJ came out of her "temporary" den on April 8th and I prepared to attach the last of my new transmitters to her shell and get her back out into the woods where she belongs. I turned on the new unit to test it and noticed that the receiver was emitting a howling sound instead of the intermittent tone that it was supposed to emit. I thought my reciever was at fault so I changed the batteries--still the howling. I tested the receiver further by locating the transmitter on another turtle and it worked normally--beep beep beep. So, yet another defective transmitter and this time it was a NEW unit that had never been used! As I did not have any more new transmitters I was forced to release AJ back into her habitat without a transmitter. It was the ethical thing to do because she needs to live free as a wild turtle so she will be able to fulfill her role in nature and the cycle of life. Hopefully we will encounter AJ again in our travels but if we do not at least we will know that she is living the good life in the forests and fields of Earthshine. Good bye Arizona Jones.
After all of the recent transmitter malfunctions and the loss of Jimmy and Mojo due to these transmitter malfunctions, I have decided that under the circumstances I must change transmitter providers. As you can imagine this decision will cost the Turtle Tracks project much more money, so for the time being I will be forced to reduce the number of turtles being tracked, apply for more grants, and come up with other fund-raising ideas in order to keep the project going ahead. If you are interested in helping the Turtle Tracks project continue tracking turtles at Earthshine please contact me.
As I have said before, wildlife conservation and research projects can be exhausting at times like this but it just goes to show you that animals and technology can be unpredictable and you just never know what will happen next but if our wildlife and wild places are going to survive, we MUST not stop and we MUST do everything in our power to 1. Educate the public, especially our children, about the value of nature 2. Learn all that we can about wildlife and their habitats so that we will be better able to help them survive. 3. Never, ever give up!
The young turtles in our Head Start Program woke up about a week before the adults and they all look great and are feeding as if they have never eaten before!
Willie was the first to wake up this spring and he has been very active, eating well and looks great!
Clay is also doing very well. He came out shortly after Willie and has been doing very well also.
Tiny has grown so fast and done so well that he now lives at Team Ecco in Hendersonville, NC where he not only educates folks on box turtles but also helps promote the Turtle Tracks project and wildlife and nature education and conservation from the mountains to the sea! Read more about Team Ecco here. Read Tiny's story here.
Lefty is doing great but he is still a bit too small to be released back into the wild so he will remain in our head start program for another year or two. When he is large enough he will be released back into the area where he was found so he can become an active and breeding member of the wild box turtle populations in the forests around Earthshine.
Ellie is also doing very well and absolutely just loves strawberries! Ellie has moved to the new Earthshine Nature Education center where she will live for a few years until she is large enough to be released into the wild. When she is released we plan to monitor her with radio telemetry to see how she does with a missing limb.
Bob is the newest turtle in the head start program. Bob was found in the early spring by a friend of Marney's (Marney is one of our chefs) while they were excavating a area of their property with a backhoe! Amazingly, tiny Bob was turned up by the tractor unharmed! Bob is a perfect candidate for the Earthshine Head Start program and the Turtle Tracks project for several reasons--1. He was found only a few miles from Earthshine, 2. The weather was still cool and Bob was in his winter den when he was disturbed, 3. A large part of Bob's habitat was destroyed, 4. Bob is a juvenile turtle so his chances of survival would be better with a short head start period after which he will be released at Earthshine with a transmitter on his shell so we will be able to study the homing abilities of a head-started juvenile box turtle.
Fluffy is an adult Female Eastern Box Turtle that is about 15 years old. She lives at Turtle Tracks most dedicated volunteer Meredith's house in Cedar Mountain, NC. Meredith acquired Fluffy from a man who had kept her as a pet in an apartment in New York city for many years. He had acquired her from a couple that had divorced and had given her to him. During the time that she lived in New York, Fluffy lived in a specially constructed indoor habitat, ate a well balanced diet and often had the run of the house and was very well taken care of. Her carer contacted Meredith when he sensed that Fluffy was no longer comfortable in her apartment habitat and she then moved to Meredith's home.
When Fluffy first came to Meredith's house during the late summer of 2009 she moved into a specially constructed large outdoor habitat where she spent a few months learning how to be a box turtle again. She had some trouble at first since she had been a city turtle most of her life. It seemed that she was not sure about what she should do with all of the leaves, plants and nature all around her. When Meredith offered her what was probably the first first big juicy snail she had ever seen she just looked at it like she was saying "what, you want me to eat THAT!" After she hibernated in Meredith's basement and moved back into the pen this spring it seemed like her instincts just took over and she is now beginning to act like a wild turtle most of the time. While she still has no fear of people and will often eat from your hand, she has also discovered that snails are a turtle delicacy and with several mighty crunches she gobbles them up shell and all!
Fluffy will live at Meredith's for the rest of her life because her origins are unknown and therefore she will never be able to be released into the wild. Fluffy is a success story because she was very well taken care of when she lived in New York. ..however, a box turtle's natural habitat is not a penthouse or an outdoor pen unless there is no other option as in Fluffy's case. Box turtles belong in wild nature and they should remain in wild nature when possible. If you find a box turtle crossing a road please, do not take it home as a "pet" just help it across the road to the side that it was heading for. It will thank you for the assistance in its own quite way and you can drive on knowing that you just helped a beautiful and ancient creature carry out the important business that it was conducting when your paths crossed.
The Earthshine Nature Center Update
Earthshine Nature Education Center UPDATE
BIG NEWS: We have decided to use the "Rabbit Hole" under the front porch of the lodge as the site for the new Earthshine Nature Education center! I have been moving all of the exhibits and animals into the center since late April and I hope to have it open and operating in time for Memorial Day! Our goal is to be fully set up by early summer to teach nature and wildlife conservation education to families and camp groups that visit Earthshine and also to local school and scout groups as well. This nature ed center will greatly benefit and inspire visitors to the lodge and their families as well as local kids from the Western North Carolina area. Hopefully after visiting the Earthshine nature center folks will be inspired to learn more about the wildlife back at home and abroad. My goal with the Earthshine Nature Center is simple: I want people to learn, grow and develop a passion and a love for the wild things--cuddly and furry and slimy and scaly--that we share this world with. Once a person understands and loves something they will naturally want to preserve and protect it. This is my goal so please; I invite you all to come join me on my quest for nature awareness for all.
However, like most folks in this area we are still suffering from the economic crisis and we do not have much in the way of supplies to outfit the center, so we are looking for donated supplies to make this happen. So far we have had many generous folks who have donated funds (thank you Billy and Alan and all those who donated anonymously). Other donations have included; aquarium stands and other assorted items (thank you Team ECCO), several assorted veterinary items (thank you Dr. Coleman), two microscopes (thank you Charlie and Dr. McCall), several aquariums (thank you Charlie, Lisa and Joe), and a sink (thank you Dr. Beverly), but we still have a long way to go. Any donated items would be greatly appreciated and we would be sure to make note of all nature center supporters on our website, in future newsletters and on a wood-burned plaque on the wall in the new nature center. We will gladly take almost any new and used supplies that anyone is willing to donate. This wonderful nature education center will happen but it will happen even BETTER with donations from folks like you. We teach the recycle and no waste ethics at Earthshine and we would like to hold true to those ethics as much as possible as we construct our new nature center by using recycled and reused items in the construction of the center. The items we are looking for are listed below. If you would care to donate any of these items (or any others) to the nature center please contact Steve at 828-606-8939.
Aquariums and terrariums of all sizes and shapes
Large jewelry-type display case for use as a reptile habitat.
Aquarium supplies such as air pumps, filters, lights, tops and hoods.
Reptile lights and heat strips, pads and rocks
Extension cords and light timers
Large dry erase whiteboard
Digital dissection scope/microscope with USB attachment or USB microscope attachment
Color printer and ink cartridges
This Nature Education Center is going to be a great thing for Earthshine and for the community as a whole. It will provide a great place for visitors and locals to come and learn about nature, wildlife and our role in the web of life. It will be the base of operations for the Turtle Tracks project as well as the R & R project, box turtle head start program, box turtle DNA collection project, amphibian Chytrid fungus monitoring project and the Calling Amphibian Survey Project that we are participating in. We will have informational stations, maps, posters and fliers as well as exhibits that will educate the visitor on the who, what, how and why of our projects to the wonderful world of nature and the opportunities for citizen science just outside their doors. We will also devote some space to the much larger issues that affect us all such as global warming, overfishing, alternative energy, space exploration and more!
Steve and "Gollum Longnecker" our newest turtle--he is a Common Snapping Turtle from just up the road in the Cashiers area. Gollum was donated by RJ Grady--naturalist and bagpipe player with the band Pipapelli. THANK YOU RJ!! NOTE: Gollum is named after J.R.R. Tolkens mutated, fish-eating underworld dwelling creation and a great naturlaist friend of mine Steve Longnecker. Gollum really does have a long neck he just chose to hide it when this photo was taken:-)
Turtle Tracks Fundraiser UPDATE
Many of you may have talked with me about box turtles and other reptiles and amphibians during your visit to Earthshine Lodge. Some of you may have even attended a turtle tracking expedition searching for one of the turtles that have tiny radio transmitters attached to their shells or an evening frog walk down to the pond. These hikes and programs are all part of Earthshine Nature Program's wildlife conservation-based educational programs which are donation-funded by folks just like you. Several times per year the Earthshine Nature Programs staff put together fundraisers to raise money to cover the operational costs of the Turtle Tracks program. Without your generous support and critter adoptions these wonderful wildlife conservation projects and the new nature education center would not be possible.
The current Turtle Tracks fundraiser is a new line of T-shirts and other unique items designed by me and sold on my Cafepress.com site. Check out my wife Marian wearing one of the new Turtle Tracks T-shirts.
Click the photo or click here to check out the Turtle Tracks Cafepress storefront where you can support the Turtle Tracks project by ordering yourself a T-shirt, tank top, hoodie, coffee mug, mousepad, beer stein or even boxer shorts! NOTE: There are several different designs available so if you are interested in an item but would like a different design on it just contact me with your desired item and the logo that you would like and I will be happy to change the logo then email you with the link when it is ready to order. Click here to visit the Turtle Tracks Cafepress storefront.
All proceeds from the sale of each of the Turtle Tracks items on the Turtle Tracks Cafepress storefront will be used to directly provide funds for
Earthshine Nature's Turtle Tracks Eastern Box Turtle conservation, rehabilitation and education program based at Earthshine Mountain Lodge in Lake Toxaway, North Carolina USA.
You may also help Earthshine's box turtles by adopting "sponsoring" a turtle or with a simple monetary donation or a donation of new or used supplies. If you would like to learn how you can become a part of the Turtle Tracks program please click the photo-link below.
Starting in May, I began a 100 mile float trip of the French Broad River. I am using kayak and canoe as my boats of choice and my plan is to follow the river from its headwaters a few miles from Earthshine. Journey through the fertile farmlands of Transylvania County, float through the Northwestern section of Henderson County, then continue on through the heart of Buncombe County and finish a few miles south of Hot Springs in Madison County. Along the way I will be searching for and documenting the wildlife and wild places of the river as well as mans impact on the ecosystem of the river. I will post videos of each segment of my river float on my youtube.com page and on my facebook site so check those sites often for updates.
The Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) is a tiny, sap-sucking, non-native insect that was brought to the USA in the 1950's on Christmas Trees. It has since spread south along the Appalachian Mountains killing every Hemlock tree in its way. It kills the trees by sucking out the trees sap. Countless Hemlock trees have already been killed with entire forests and groves of Hemlocks being decimated and left standing as dead giants--shadows of their former shelves. These Hemlock trees are an important part of the regions forest ecosystems but they are vanishing due to this tiny insect--a tiny insect that is not supposed to be here...a tiny insect that was brought here by man. It is up to man to stop the spread of this killer insect and that is just what some people are trying to do. I visited with Meredith Brooks--my Turtle Tracks volunteer--who is working with the Save our Selected Hemlocks (SOSH) program in the community where she lives. SOSH is releasing "sassi" beetles--a predator of the HWA--into the forests in her community in order to try to control the HWA. I was able to go along with Meredith when she released some Sassi beetles a few weeks ago so check out the video below for more of our adventure helping Hemlocks.
In the fall and again in the early spring I joined local salamander expert Alan Cameron on the hunt for Green and Spotted Salamanders in several local forests. We found a few Green Salamanders and not a single Spotted Salamander (although we did find some Spotted Salamander egg masses), but we did however find an even more unusual species--check out the videos below for the exciting details!
Green Salamander Hunting!
Green Salamanders are a rare species in North Carolina--follow us as we search high and low and finally find a couple of these beautiful creatures!
Spotted Salamander Quest
Although we did not find any Spotted Salamanders we did find some really amazing creatures and beautiful places--check it out in the video below!
The Toads and Snakes of Spring!
Over the Easter holiday some folks joined me on an evening excursion to sample amphibian skin secretions for the Earthshine Amphibian Chytrid Fungus monitoring project. During our adventure we had an amazing experience that we will all remember forever--especially since we have this video that we can view anytime we like--take a look at our adventure below!
Canada Goose Adventure on Lake Lure, NC!
Journey out on beautiful Lake Lure as I help a friend manage nuisance Canada Geese! NOTE: There are two parts to this video so be sure to check out part two linked from the end of part one.
Book Review: The Turtles Dream and Keys by Benrali
Recently I discovered a wonderful new book about box turtles. This book is called The Turtles Dream and Keys and it was written and illustrated by Benrali. As a naturalist and box turtle researcher I find this book to be outstanding! This book transcends all life on planet earth; it flows through time and space all within the long life of a box turtle. I was so impressed by the wonderful story and intricate and beautiful artwork in this incredible book that I plan to feature it in the Earthshine Nature Education Center for all to read when they visit Earthshine. I will also take this outstanding book to seminars and animal shows so I can share with more people the beautiful work of art that Benrali has created about the animal that inspired him, and me--the Eastern Box Turtle. Please take a look at Benrali's website to learn more about his book and how you can get one of your own--if you love turtles as much as I do then this book is a must have.
"If we want the next generation to be responsible for the world they are to inherit, then we have to show them what that world is all about. If they do not understand it, they will not respect or care about it."
Those are the words of Brenda J. "BJ" Ramer, founder and director of Team ECCO based in Hendersonville, NC about an hour from Earthshine. BJ goes on to say that "The philosophy behind TEAM ECCO is: experience is the best teacher, and a positive learning experience can change a life. This cornerstone guides us to lead by example, face fears, leave comfort zones, and do it all with a group of kids following faithfully. All of us wearing smiles."
The mission of Team ECCO is: to teach marine and maritime awareness focused on stewardship for water environments. This mission is designed to foster stewardship, develop leadership, and build friendship - all life skills critical to team work.
Learning is about the whole child. Each ed-venture takes the main theme of science, and then blends in math, history, sociology, language, and visual and/or dramatic art. Learning is a byproduct of our unique teaching - the kids have no idea until they put it into play at another situation in their life. Generalization of a concept. Perfect.
Life is learned through exposure, exploration and experience and BJ is very proud of her amazing programs and wonderful experiential learning opportunities. Team ECCO is a great team where everyone explores, everyone learns, and everyone succeeds.
BJ is so full of enthusiasm for teaching folks about natural world that it was only natural that we got along so well the first time I met her. Earthshine and Team ECCO have teamed up to work toward providing even more educational opportunities at both Team ECCO HQ in Hendersonville and at the Earthshine Nature Education Center in Lake Toxaway!
THANK YOU BJ and Team ECCO from all of us at Earthshine Nature Programs!
If you haven't already checked it out, Earthshine Nature Programs has a new website! Take a look at it here
Not only do I work as naturalist and outdoor educator at Earthshine, I am also a volunteer for the NC Wildlife Resources Commission's Non-game Endangered Wildlife program. I put in a great deal of time collecting data on reptiles and amphibians in order to help them survive the perils that they face due to living in a human-dominated world. Why do I do it? I do it because it needs to be done or these animals and their habitats will not survive. Although reptiles and amphibians are integral parts of a healthy ecosystem, they are widely misunderstood, irrationally feared and often killed on sight due to this fear and ignorance. In many areas of the world they are poached from the wild by the millions, shipped overseas and end up in markets where they are then sold and eaten. Many traditional beliefs say that eating the meat of these long-lived, sometimes venomous (poisonous) and unusual animals will help a person live longer or have some other positive health benefit--nothing could be further from the truth. Science has shown that it may actually be the opposite because many of these creatures like turtles for example, are reservoirs of heavy metals such as lead and mercury. Eating animals such as turtles my actually shorten your life rather than extend it--chew on that for awhile. Many of these creatures are also being negatively affected by climate change that is directly a result of human actions. Since I am human then I am also part of the problem, so I feel that I need to do all that I can to be part of the solution.
The next article is a great example of one of the problems that we wildlife conservationists and educators face daily.
20 May 2010
SENSATIONALISTIC JOURNALISM AND TALES OF SNAKEBITE: ARE RATTLESNAKES RAPIDLY
EVOLVING MORE TOXIC VENOM?
2010. Wilderness & Environmental Medicine 21: 35-45