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Wildlife Habitat Improvements through the Natural Resource Conservation Program

Wildlife Habitat Improvements through the Natural Resource Conservation Program, Post and Photos by Sabra Noyes

Although living most of her life in Washington, Sabra had no idea about prairies in Washington until she retired and bought a farm, Rosefield, not too far from Glacial Heritage Preserve. She never ceases to be amazed by the complexity and interdependence of life on the prairie.

Last week the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) posted about their program. As I have held four contracts with this organization, I would like to share how they helped me restore the native habitats on my farm.

When I moved to my farm in Oakville in 2010, there were just a few oaks left, the property having been logged a hundred years or so ago. The Douglas firs that grew in after had also been logged in 1998. As I looked across the landscape, I was confronted with acres of stumps, holes big enough to swallow my tractor. and the most luxurious fields of Canadian thistle, six feet tall, dense, and persistent.

Wanting to improve the picture I contacted the Grays Harbor Conservation District. They brought in NRCS and as a team with a biologist, forester, program manager, and technician we walked the property and they offered suggestions of what could be done. Acting on their recommendations, over the next couple of years, I contracted with NRCS to make significant improvements to the habitats on the property.

The first project was to restore eight acres back to an oak savannah. Cost sharing was available for many practices. The huge holes had to be filled in, blue rye grass seed planted and mulched. Fencing was installed to protect the area.

Oregon oak saplings were purchased, planted, and caged.

A simple to build and inexpensive cage, yet very effective.  None of the 20 oaks planted were lost to browsing.  Photo by Sabra Noyes

A simple to build and inexpensive cage, yet very effective. None of the 20 oaks planted were lost to browsing.  Photo by Sabra Noyes

An old maple and a large fir were girdled to create snags for nesting birds.

A "slow kill" of a maple and a fir tree.  Bark was removed emulating wildlife destruction.  Photo by Sabra Noyes

A “slow kill” of a maple and a fir tree.  Bark was removed emulating wildlife destruction.  Photo by Sabra Noyes

A brush pile was created – a wonderful habitat for birds, bugs, rodents, and reptiles.

Brush piles and snags have a life cycle with stages supporting different organisms.  As  snags and piles mature, new ones are created.  Photo by Sabra Noyes

Brush piles and snags have a life cycle with stages supporting different organisms.  As  snags and piles mature, new ones are created.  Photo by Sabra Noyes

Bird nesting boxes went up. A wildlife corridor connecting wooded patches was created using Oregon ash and native crabapples to provide cover and food.

A portion of the fence cost shared with NRCS protecting plantings in the wildlife corridor.  Photo by Sabra Noyes

A portion of the fence cost shared with NRCS protecting plantings in the wildlife corridor.  Photo by Sabra Noyes

A second contract was signed for improving a small remnant stand of Garry oaks. The understory of vine maples, cherry, and cascara was cut away from the oaks. This allowed lower branches to form (making for a healthier tree) [707]as well as providing an environment where sprouting acorns could become established. Additional oak saplings were planted such that, over time, there will be a three acre oak forest.

"Lion tailed" Garry oaks created by years of over shading.  Cutting back competing trees, these oaks are now starting to branch out.  Photo by Sabra Noyes

“Lion tailed” Garry oaks created by years of over shading. Cutting back competing trees, these oaks are now starting to branch out.  Photo by Sabra Noyes

Finally, there were two contracts for establishing a prairie. This prairie is described in an earlier blog post. NRCS provided cost sharing on two years of weed killing in preparation for establishing prairie plants, sowing of native Roemers fescue, planting camas bulbs, and wildflower seeding.

As it has been a couple of years since my last contract with NRCS, most certainly their programs and practices have changed. But if you have any inkling of wanting to improve a habitat, please check out their programs. They are a dedicated group with a wealth of knowledge and experience to share.

I am very grateful for NRCS. The environment on this farm has changed dramatically, which could only have been done with help. Every year my count of native birds (76 species) and plants increases, pollinators are everywhere and two years ago the Douglas squirrels showed up. The farm is becoming an island in the archipelago of prairies being restored throughout southwestern Washington.

Working for NRCS and with Landowners: The Wonders Never Cease to Amaze Me

Working for NRCS and with Landowners: The Wonders Never Cease to Amaze Me, Post by Susan Hoey Lees

I have been involved with agriculture in one form or another all my life. I have owned and operated a stable. Horses are still a passion, so I diligently manage our pastures for them and the pleasure of the wildlife that come to graze nearly nightly.

We manage our own forest lands, and I am also passionate for all types of gardens whether they be for edibles, flower/prairie viewing, cut-flowers or purely sharing my heritage fruit trees’ bounties with the wildlife and horses. Watching wildlife on our properties has always been a delight for me; but watching land and wildlife return and thrive on a customer’s property is especially delightful to me.

I am currently working as a Resource Conservationist with NRCS in the Chehalis Service Center, serving ranchers, farmers, private forest landowners and managers.

Working for NRCS and with Landowners: The Wonders Never Cease to Amaze Me

It has been 10 years since I made a rather radical career change to follow my heart and try to marry my passions for healing/restoring the land, the environment, agriculture and technical and design skills all in one. I did not know if I would be able to find my dream job.

I can now fondly recall one of the questions that my potential supervisor asked me in my first phone interview for an engineering technician position for the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). The question was; why do you want to work for NRCS?

I had innocently answered that I was seeking a position that would allow me to marry my passions and to help people help the land; and I could hear the interviewer starting to softly chuckle. I was horrified and inquired if I said something wrong, to which he inquired if I knew what the agency’s (NRCS) mission statement was. My heart raced and I was abashed and began to feel that my interview was going in a direction that was not boding well for me as he continued to chuckle deeply into the phone. I was mortified and shyly stated; no, I did not know the agency’s mission statement. My interviewer’s chuckle got even deeper, yet it contained a tickle of a hint of delight; finally, he stated that he felt I would fit in quite well with the agency as the NRCS mission statement was “Helping People Help the Land”. He offered me the position as a Civil Engineering Technician. I had in fact found, and was offered, my dream job!

Over the last 10 years I have held a few different positions with NRCS, in a few different locations, and have had the privilege of working with a wide variety of private landowners and land managers addressing a wide variety of resource issues. Often these landowners would seek financial assistance through one of NRCS’s financial programs to implement/install some of the recommendations. The result is almost always “helping people to help the land” through addressing resource concerns, protecting natural resources, and/or restoring degraded ecosystems.

The beginnings of NRCS are rather humble, the agency was formed as a result of the urgings of one man, Huge Hammond Bennett, to Congress to address the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s by conserving the nations precious resources. Conserving resources throughout the nation, not just in Dust Bowl territory, so there would be healthy soils to grow food, clean water to drink and grow crops, clean air to breathe, healthy plants for food, fiber & ecosystems, and healthy animals.

The urgings were so compelling that Congress established a federal agency called the Soil Conservation Service (SCS), and the legacy of using science-based technologies to address resource concerns affecting soils, water, air, plants and animals was developed.

The agency’s vision was and continues to be a simple one; use a partnership approach to work with landowners, community groups, local governments, Tribes, States and other Federal agencies on a voluntary basis. Thus, the agency began and continues to be a non-regulatory Federal agency working with landowners and land managers, offering technical and science-based knowledge for free, through site visits by NRCS staff with a landowner or manager.

The agency’s name was changed from SCS in the 1980’s to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, with that name change also came the Farm Bill programs that began offering financial incentives/assistance to landowners and managers to implement the recommendations shared with them on how to address the resource concerns identified.

Here is a link to explore more about NRCS; who we are, the partnership approach, and a little about our Conservation Assistance. https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/wa/about/

The list of NRCS practices (a term used to describe both management and physically installed components) is extensive. Recommended practices are dependent on the objectives of the landowner and the land use and resource concerns being treated, see examples below for common types of practices.

General practices used for many land uses: fencing, irrigation practices, livestock practices

Cropland practices often include: cover cropping, no-till, soil health, pest management, irrigation practices

Prairie restoration practices often include: invasive weed control, brush management, native species reseeding, upland wildlife habitat management

Ecosystem restoration practices often include: early successional habitat development/management, wetland enhancements or restorations, tree/shrub site prep & plantings, wetland wildlife habitat management, wildlife habitat planting (pollinator hedgerow)

Fish passage practices often include: barrier removals or aquatic organism passage elements, channel bed stabilization, critical area plantings, riparian buffers

Forestry practices often include: invasive weed control, tree/shrub site prep & plantings, pre- commercial thinning, riparian forest buffers, upland wildlife habitat management

The 2018 Farm Bill is the newest Congressional authorization that allows NRCS to have funding to incentivize landowners to implement practices to protect or restore natural resources. There are a few programs under this authorization, but the most popular is the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP). Here is a link that covers all the current programs: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/main/wa/programs/farmbill/

NRCS is taking EQIP applications now, the deadline for all documents to be in is November 20th, 2020. It is a good idea to begin talking with an NRCS staff person to discuss your resource concerns, your objectives and then decide if you want only the advice and information from the agency, or if you want to seek financial assistance through one of the programs to install/implement some of the practices that may be recommended during an on-site visit. Here is a link that will guide you through the basic steps of applying for the EQIP program: https://www.nrcs.usda.gov/wps/portal/nrcs/detail/national/programs/financial/eqip/?cid=nrcseprd1342638

There are NRCS offices throughout WA. I am working out of the Chehalis Office, in Lewis County, but have worked out of other counties. The attached link can be used to find the nearest local office to you. https://offices.sc.egov.usda.gov/locator/app?service=page/CountyMap&state=WA&stateName=Washington&stateCode=53

The wonders never cease to amaze me when technical and environmental knowledge is shared with people who want to be good stewards of the land. Couple that knowledge with some form of financial assistance for the recommendations to be installed, and voila! the land & wildlife begins to recover, it becomes rejuvenated through the restoration process or management efforts. Follow-up visits are typically filled with delights as the landowner’s own passions and awe of the land’s healing process become re-ignited as they embrace a stewardship role for their lands!

 Five-Steps-Assistance-FACTSHEET

In Memory of Don Guyot

In Memory of Don Guyot, post by Dennis Plank

Don Guyot, Intrepid South Sound Plant Rescuer at work.  Photo by Andy Hopwood

Don Guyot, Intrepid South Sound Plant Rescuer at work. Photo by Andy Hopwood

 

Don Guyot resized

 

Don's original work upon which the background above was derived.

Don’s original work upon which the background above was derived.

 

The following image and text was found on the Guild of Bookworkers website.  Don was a past Vice-President at Large in that organization.  The description of the image is from Don and I suspect most of the short bio was  also as it has the feel of his writing.

Anatomy of Gray, Don Guyot

Anatomy of Gray, Don Guyot Western marbled paper executed using Colophon Water Color Marbling Inks on carragheenan medium and transferred onto Rives Lightweight gray paper; number one in an edition of six, meant to be exhibited side by side to show consistency of imaging. The degree of consistency exhibited on one’s marbled paper is the degree of mastery of the craft the marbler may claim. Since the viewer of this piece will not have the advantage of seeing the remaining five, they will be left wondering whether this particular marbler achieved the mastery sought. Having the full advantage of seeing all six sheets of the edition, the marbler can truly say that he shares in their wondering. 70 x 48 centimeters. Created 1994.

Don A. Guyot was born in 1944. Following college, Don Guyot completed a master’s degree in librarianship and began working at the Seattle Public Library. Intending to become a rare book librarian he completed a second master’s degree in ancient Greek history at the University of Washington. After becoming interested in and diverted by hand bookbinding, he left librarianship and opened a repair bindery in Seattle. He learned to marble paper largely on his own because he could not find the papers he wanted to use in his business, and began teaching workshops throughout the country. In addition to Western-style marbled papers, he also excelled in the art of suminagashi, an ancient Japanese technique of decorating paper by floating inks on water.

You are welcome to leave memories of Don as comments to this post.  Comments are not intuitive.  There’s a place at the top of the screen where it will either say “no comments on this post”  or will list the number.  Click on it to get to the comments screen.

 

Working with Partners for Fish and Wildlife-A First Impression

Working with Partners for Fish and Wildlife-A First Impression, Post and photos by Sabra Noyes

Although living most of her life in Washington, Sabra had no idea about prairies in Washington until she retired and bought a farm, Rosefield, not too far from Glacial Heritage Preserve. She never ceases to be amazed by the complexity and interdependence of life on the prairie.

Working with Partners for Fish and Wildlife-A first Impression

After reading a previous post, “Partners for Fish and Wildlife: Voluntary Habitat Restoration on Private Lands” by Nick George, US Fish and Wildlife Service, I decided to investigate further. Habitat restoration on my farm could use some help.

Starting in 2011, with help from Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM), returning the land to what it once might have been prior to 1850 became my vision and never-ending labor of love. The woodlands, riparian, and savannah areas are progressing nicely and don’t require much tending. But the prairie – YIKES!

In some places, it does look a bit like a prairie:

An area starting to look like a prairie, photo by Sabra Noyes.

An area starting to look like a prairie, photo by Sabra Noyes.

But overall, there is a range of non-native vegetative nightmares. Where it is wetter, reed canary grass

Reed Canary Grass, photo by Sabra Noyes.

Reed Canary Grass, photo by Sabra Noyes.

 and where it is a bit drier, rat tailed fescue:

Rat-tailed Fescue, photo by Sabra Noyes.

Rat-tailed Fescue, photo by Sabra Noyes.

This is a non native invasive annual whose dead leaves smother everything. Then there are all the usual suspects of tansy, broom, thistles, and broad leaf grasses. Perhaps a bit unusual is that in some areas, the native Roemer’s fescue is just too happy

Roemer's Fescue that's gotten a bit carried away, Photo by Sabra Noyes.

Roemer’s Fescue that’s gotten a bit carried away, Photo by Sabra Noyes.

 It grows so lushly it chokes out all the forbs. Could FWS come to the rescue and help this wannabe prairie?

I contacted Nick and scheduled a site visit. He was here for three hours, most of which was spent walking the land. He wanted to know what my objectives (restoring the prairie) were and then we discussed what actions could be taken. Some actions are relatively simple, such as stopping the growth of non-prairie trees; this maple

A Maple on the Prairie, photo by Sabra Noyes.

A Maple on the Prairie, photo by Sabra Noyes.

 should look like this one:

Dead Maple on the prairie, photo by Sabra Noyes.

Dead Maple on the prairie, photo by Sabra Noyes.

 A standing snag that provides nesting cavities and insects preferred by prairie birds

A much more complex action, and a bit daunting to me, is to do a controlled burn across the area.

We then sat down and discussed the Partners Program and how it works:

is my objective a program fit for FWS, or are there other agencies such as NRCS or the Conservation District that can better help? 

can my objective be met with technical assistance from FWS, or will I also request financial help?

if I request financial help, am I prepared to do a 50/50 cost match? Nick explained that the landowner can do an “in-kind, or sweat-equity” contribution to help reach that 50% match.

and if I do enter into a contract with FWS, am I prepared to hold the contract for 10 years and allow annual monitoring for the first three years?

At the end of the visit, I let Nick know that I was interested in obtaining FWS Partners Program assistance for a burn of the prairie. He agreed to investigate it further. He will gather more information on whether a burn is the best solution and how it could be accomplished. Then there is the matter of how much funding his agency receives for the program, and where my project ranks with respect to other proposed projects.  Should I make the cutoff, it will then be a matter of signing a contract that clearly states the requirements and obligations of each of the parties involved.

Even if the “Partnership” goes no further than the initial site visit, it was time very well spent. Nick is highly knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and a good communicator. I know I can call on him in the future for guidance and tossing around restoration ideas. I’ll keep this blog informed as to the progress of my request for Partners Program assistance.

Spring Fling

Spring Fling, Post and photos by Ivy Clark

Lauren ‘Ivy’ Clark studied the hybridization of Castilleja levisecta and C. hispida in restoration sites for their Masters thesis at the University of Washington before becoming a restoration technician for the Center for Natural Lands Management.

Spring Fling

Summer is full on these days, toasty and dry. Bet you didn’t think back in mid-winter you would be missing the rainy cloud-cover, as you have to regularly water the yard and dodge mosquitoes? As the natural landscape dries out and you battle to keep the horticulture green and spry, how about a look back to the fresh spring and lush blooms we had that are now going into seed? What we see senescing now was a mere baby bud a few months ago. They grow so fast don’t they?

Chocolate Lily just getting started, photo by Ivy Clark

Chocolate Lily just getting started, photo by Ivy Clark

Recognize this little distinct gem? The single flower starts plain and green but that trio whorl of leaves is a dead give-away for a young chocolate lily (Fritillaria affinis). The green tepals (not quite petals not quite sepals) would develop into the checkered chocolaty brown, almost purple, for which it is named. They later turn into interesting multi-ribbed seed pods, turning upright from the nodding flower.

Chocolate Lily in full bloom, photo by Ivy Clark.

The nodding chocolaty flowers of Fritillaria affinis in midbloom on Glacial Heritage. Photo by Ivy Clark.

 

Sickle-keeled Lupine, photo by Ivy Clark

Sickle-keeled Lupine, photo by Ivy Clark

The brand new stubby bright green stems of sickle-keeled lupine (Lupinus albicaulis), emerging among last year’s woody stems. It is a mere hint of the Fabaceae grandeur that it will grow to be.

Like so many youths, the columbine (Aquilegia formosa) looks a little awkward as a bud,

Columbine in bud, photo by Ivy Clark

Columbine in bud, photo by Ivy Clark

but quickly develops into the complex drooping star structure best viewed from below and backlit by a crystal blue sky.

Columbine in full bloom, photo by Ivy Clark

Columbine in full bloom, photo by Ivy Clark

For those familiar with Little Shop of Horrors, don’t fear the little cutleaf Microseris (Microserus laciniata). It is a bit Audrey II yes (“Feed me!”), or perhaps like a Paleolithic dandelion, but it is a stellar pollinator-feeding, mid-season bloomer and prairie staple. Look for fluffy globes more dense than the common dandelion seed heads out there now. And feel free to make a wish for more natives as you blow them off the stem.

Cut-leaf Microseris, photo by Ivy Clark

Cut-leaf Microseris, photo by Ivy Clark

 

Pacific Lupine and Golden Paintbrush, photo by Ivy Clark

Pacific Lupine and Golden Paintbrush, photo by Ivy Clark

This is just what we botanists call a sexy plant picture. Purple of the Pacific lupine (Lupinus lepidus) in a tiered spire before the endangered golden paintbrush (Castilleja levisecta) burning yellow columns. They have complementary colors (remember your color wheel?) and very different leaves but are both delights on the prairie. Sometimes they grow and line up just right for you where you have to drop whatever you were doing and take a picture!

After seed dispersal, the Lupinus lepidus is still green but with curly-cue brown seed pods that have flung the brown hard lentil-like seeds outward. The mechanical dispersal is simple and fun to try to catch. You can hear the little popping sounds as the pods slowly dry tighter and tighter until they snap apart and twist under the sudden release.

Lupinus lepidus, photo by Ivy Clark

Lupinus lepidus, photo by Ivy Clark

 

Young Yarrow plant, photo by ivy Clark

Young Yarrow plant, photo by ivy Clark

Awe, look how cute and little those flower buds are! Like a fuzzy little puppy, yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is just starting to produce the “million” tiny leaves and nearly as many flowers, for which it is named- “thousand leaves”. Well, maybe not really a thousand, or million, but you know how taxonomists can exaggerate. And you may have heard of its healing properties, hence the genus named for Achilles of Greek myth whose soldiers used the plant to tend their battle wounds.

Yarrow starting to bloom, photo by Ivy Clark.

Yarrow starting to bloom, photo by Ivy Clark.

Recently yarrows have been going to seed, crispy brown frilly cups of tiny seeds ready to grow new clumps of healing gray fluff.

Yarrow in seed, photo by Ivy Clark

Yarrow in seed, photo by Ivy Clark

One of the first wildflowers spotted on Glacial Heritage preserve this year was the shooting star (Dodatheon hendersonii). A well named genus, meaning “of the twelve gods”, these plants and close relatives are just gorgeous and interesting. The flowers start out upside down to utilize dangling bee pollinators.

Shooting Star in bloom with unpollinated flowers. Photo by Ivy Clark.

and then they turn upright to the blue skies after pollination. So if you see small brown cups with little ridges on the rim, upright instead of downward like falling stars, that’s actually their mature fruits. Who says plants don’t move? They can even reposition their fruits. See the mid-spring photo showing the fading flowers pointing skyward and the recently pollinated ones starting to turn. And don’t forget to note the cute lush succulent round leaves anchoring the long flower stalks. I always want to pet their smooth sleekness.

Shooting star showing pollinated flowers pointing up, photo by Ivy Clark.

Shooting star showing pollinated flowers pointing up, photo by Ivy Clark.

 

Solidago simplex in bud, photo by Ivy Clark

Solidago simplex in bud, photo by Ivy Clark

 

Goldenrod in bloom, photo by Ivy Clark.

Goldenrod in bloom, photo by Ivy Clark.

And so the beautiful season seems over and the prairies may look dried and dead and unappealing. But like the “amber wave of grain” we know so well, if you look a little closer, or perhaps a little broader at the full landscape of clear blue sky and hints of mountains aloft, then you can see the beauty still in the senescence season of the prairie. It’s sprinkled with color here and there too and not devoid of birds or other creatures. Take a moment to enjoy the shades of brown, like a sepia photograph, and shake a few native seed pods to give the plant dispersal a hand.

 

 

Bats on the South Sound Prairies

Bats on the South Sound Prairies, Post by Greg Falxa, photos as attributed.

Greg is a member of Cascadia Research Collective and has partnered with
CNLM on bat projects since 2006. He coordinates the bat station for
Prairie Appreciation Day.

Bats on the South Sound Prairies

Most of the nine species of bats in western Washington are nightly visitors to our south Puget Sound prairies. The inventory of bat species on the prairies are essentially the same as in nearby forest, riparian and urban habitats, although their preferred habitat may vary throughout the annual cycle. For mammals of their size they are extremely mobile, with most species traveling from a few to many miles each evening to their favored foraging locations. Being so mobile allows bats to day roost in one habitat – like agricultural buildings, or hollow snags – and “commute” in the evening to a completely different habitat to forage.

A Big brown bat nursery colony in a barn on Littlerock Road (Photo: G. Falxa)

A Big brown bat nursery colony in a barn on Littlerock Road (Photo: G. Falxa)

This mobility works out well for bats feeding on insects over the prairies, because most of our prairies are a bit short on suitable roosting structures. For daytime roosting, bats generally need dark, secluded locations that are safe from predators and meet certain temperature conditions, like structures that don’t get too hot on our nice sunny days. Species that form small colonies like California bats (Myotis californicus) might find this in old decadent trees or snags, while species that form colonies of hundreds of bats, like Little brown (Myotis lucifugus) or Big brown (Eptesicus fuscus) bats will typically find the conditions they need in barns, bridges, or attics of buildings. During the June and July pupping season, the nursery colonies need additional amenities for the 4 to 6 weeks that the pups cannot fly. A warm roost with extra safety from humans and predators like cats and raccoons can be hard to come by for a large group of pregnant bats, so when a suitable location is found it tends to be used every year by the colony. The juxtaposition of the South Sound prairies with agricultural and forest lands, and JBLM, creates a good environment to support bats that can roost near the prairies and include the prairies in their foraging options.

A Silver-haired bat netted (then released) at JBLM (Photo: G. Falxa)

A Silver-haired bat netted (then released) at JBLM (Photo: G. Falxa)

Depending on the insect hatch on a given day, an individual bat may forage along a tree-lined creek or at the forested edge of a prairie, or both habitats in a single night. Some species, like the Yuma bat (Myotis yumanensis) will focus nearly all of their foraging low over open water, usually a lake like Capitol Lake or Black Lake, but during the mid-summer months many can be seen flying low over the Black River, which is almost lake-like along various stretches, including adjacent to Glacial Heritage Preserve. Most species of bats avoid foraging in the open prairie, probably because it is more exposed to being hunted by owls and raptors than forest edges. However, our 3 largest species – the Hoary bat (Lasiurus cinereus), Silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans), and Big brown bat – can be regularly heard or seen in the prairie sky. Using ultrasonic bat detectors placed at the prairies over the past 12 years we have documented nearly all of the 9 bat species in this region, and the only species not yet recorded at the prairies – Fringed myotis (Myotis thysanodes) – has been recorded less than 2 miles from Mima Prairie in the Capitol Forest.

A roosting Townsend’s big-eared bat (Photo: R. Davies)

A roosting Townsend’s big-eared bat (Photo: R. Davies)

Shortly after the Mima Creek Preserve was acquired, the discovery of a lone female Townsend’s big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii) in an out building led to a 2-month investigation to locate its nursery colony. This species is relatively rare, and no colonies were known in the Black River watershed. By radio-tagging and tracking several individuals in sequence (each radio tag lasted 3 weeks) we finally located a colony of approximately 100 Townsend’s in the attic of a little used building near the Chehalis River. They were foraging and occasionally roosting all along the Black River drainage, feeding in the canopy of trees along forest – prairie boundaries.

Nursery box installed at Wolf Haven (Photo: G. Falxa)

Nursery box installed at Wolf Haven (Photo: G. Falxa)

Little brown bats (Myotis lucifugus) have occupied the bat box structures that have been constructed and erected at glacial Heritage, Wolf Haven, and various JBLM sites. For the past 10 years CNLM’s Sanders Freed has worked with me to develop bat house designs that are effective in this region. With support from US Fish & Wildlife, JBLM, and CNLM, we’ve experimented with designs to be used as a “nursery box” for the female bats to have a safe place to have their pups and get them to their volant stage, at about 6 weeks of age. The “evolved” design was installed at Wolf Haven in 2012 and has had over 400 adult bats in it the past few years. The bat house sits on the edge of the prairie forest interface, which is likely one of the reasons it is has been a success.

It is important to remember that each species has different habitat and roosting needs, and that a bat box built for one species may be wholly unsuitable for another. The photo below helps illustrate this – Sanders Freed is shown constructing a bat roost structure designed for Townsend’s big-eared bats, located near Muck Creek at the edge of the JBLM Artillery Impact Area. Townsend’s never use the crevice-type of bat boxes, favoring abandoned cabins, roomy attics and similar spaces.

Construction of the “Bat Temple” at JBLM (Photo: G. Falxa)

Construction of the “Bat Temple” at JBLM (Photo: G. Falxa)

In addition to habitat loss (both foraging and roosting) a concern for our bat populations has been the arrival of white-nose syndrome from the eastern U.S. In 2016 we discovered bats infected with the fungus that causes the disease which kills bats, primarily in the winter during hibernation. So far it appears to be affecting bats in the Cascade mountains and foothills, and has not yet been detected in Thurston County.

Links:

Some bat videos at local points of interest:

https://www.youtube.com/user/batsalot/videos

Washington Dept. of Fish and Wildlife:

https://www.wdfw.wa.gov/bats

Western Bat Working Group:

http://www.wbwg.org

Virtual Puget Sound Birdfest

Virtual Puget Sound Birdfest-Post by Dennis Plank

Following up on Adrian’s recent post here, check out the program for the Virtual Puget Sound Birdfest on September 12th and 13th on the Black Hills Audubon Website.

 

Breeding Birds Winding Down

Breeding Birds Winding Down, Post and photos by Adrian Wolf

Adrian Wolf has been working on habitat restoration projects for endangered birds for over 25 years. He attributes the inspiration to pursue this profession to his undergraduate professor at the University of California, Irvine. For his Master’s Degree at the Evergreen State College, he climbed up into the forest canopy of old growth Pacific Northwest trees to study the importance of epiphytic resources for birds. Currently, he is a Conservation Biologist with the Center for Natural Lands Management charged with restoring and recovering the imperiled avifauna of prairie oak habitats.

Breeding Birds Winding Down

The 2020 bird breeding season is slowing down, and it has certainly been an unusual one indeed. Since mid-April, the CNLM Avian Conservation Program team has spent countless hours monitoring the birds of our prairie and oak landscapes. Some of the activities have included recording color-band combinations of streaked horned larks, Oregon vesper sparrows and western bluebirds; searching for and monitoring nests; color-banding nestlings; and operating the MAPS bird banding program. This season’s activities were very different from previous years. In years past, the team gathered together on a biweekly basis, commuted together to study sites, and shared office space together for data entry; at the MAPS station, we invited volunteers and encouraged visitors.

However, this has not been possible because of the necessary precautions required under COVID-19. Sure, our lark and sparrow team maintained communications, and still paired up (social-distancing, of course) for field surveys, but it was not quite the same camaraderie typical of previous fieldwork. Despite the socially-different way of doing things, we were steadfast and achieved our deliverables for the year. This speaks to the dedication of our field crew, because each individual often worked alone. Preliminary results suggest that our conservation strategies and actions are working. For example, we estimated that at least 50 breeding pairs of larks were present at JBLM’s McChord Airfield this season – this is more than five times the estimated number when we started monitoring the site intensively in 2013. Similarly, the number of lark pairs present this season at a native prairie training area on JBLM were triple that of the estimated population in 2011. We believe that the conservation action of finding lark nests, and conveying these locations to JBLM site managers, has been a major explanation for the increase in numbers at the three sites over the years. The population of JBLM Oregon vesper sparrows at one prairie site also increased, relative to 2019. We believe that habitat restoration activities at JBLM native prairies has increased and improved the amount of suitable breeding habitat for both species. We thank JBLM Fish and Wildlife and the site managers for adopting pro-active conservation measures to protect these rare grassland birds – clearly, we are seeing the fruits of these efforts.

Streaked Horned Lark nestlings. Photo by Adrian Wolf

Streaked Horned Lark nestlings. Photo by Adrian Wolf

 

Treaked Horned Lark nestlings can be identified by the three black dots on their tongues. They young are about 4-5 days after hatching.

Streaked Horned Lark nestlings can be identified by the three black dots on their tongues. They young are about 4-5 days after hatching.

 

Two of more than 290 lark fledglings confirmed from known nests on JBLM this season, photos by Adrian Wolf.

Two of more than 290 lark fledglings confirmed from known nests on JBLM this season, photos by Adrian Wolf.

 

COVID-19 banding ops 2020 – Alicia Beverage measures the tarsus of a lark nestling.  Photo by Adrian Wolf.

COVID-19 banding ops 2020 – Alicia Beverage measures the tarsus of a lark nestling. Photo by Adrian Wolf.

 

A lark nestling waits patiently to receive its new colors.  Photo by Adrian Wolf.

A lark nestling waits patiently to receive its new colors. Photo by Adrian Wolf.

 

Over 150 color-banded adults were recorded in the South Puget Sound this season.  Photo by Adrian Wolf.

Over 150 color-banded adults were recorded in the South Puget Sound this season. Photo by Adrian Wolf.

 

One of more than 60 color-marked lark nestlings this season.  Photo by Adrian Wolf.

One of more than 60 color-marked lark nestlings this season. Photo by Adrian Wolf.

We operated the MAPS station at Glacial Heritage Preserve for the eighth year with a skeleton-crew of four people. We truncated the season and mist-netted birds in the oak riparian bird community on five days (instead of seven), which is still considered a complete season. The capture rates were lower, relative to previous seasons, but included wonderful feathered denizens such as Swainson’s thrush, song sparrow, MacGillivray’s warbler, a hybrid red-breasted/red-naped sapsucker, and cedar waxwings. Hopefully, next year we can once again invite visitors and volunteers to participate in this program that contributes valuable information to a nationwide program of over 400 banding stations.

The MAPS station at Glacial Heritage Preserve is located in an Oregon oak riparian woodland along the Black River.  Photo by Adrian Wolf.

The MAPS station at Glacial Heritage Preserve is located in an Oregon oak riparian woodland along the Black River. Photo by Adrian Wolf.

 

A juvenile MacGillvray’s warbler captured at the MAPS station indicates that this species is likely breeding on the preserve.  Photo by Adrian Wolf.

A juvenile MacGillvray’s warbler captured at the MAPS station indicates that this species is likely breeding on the preserve. Photo by Adrian Wolf.

 

Hybrid red-naped x red-breasted sapsucker captured at the Glacial Heritage Preserve MAPS station.  Photo by Adrian Wolf.

Hybrid red-naped x red-breasted sapsucker captured at the Glacial Heritage Preserve MAPS station. Photo by Adrian Wolf.

 

A cedar waxwing captured and banded at the MAPS station is identified as an adult male by the number of waxy red tips on its secondary feathers, and the length of the yellow edging on its tail feathers.  Photo by Adrian Wolf.

A cedar waxwing captured and banded at the MAPS station is identified as an adult male by the number of waxy red tips on its secondary feathers, and the length of the yellow edging on its tail feathers. Photo by Adrian Wolf.

 

Seed Cleaning

Seed Cleaning, Post and photos by Forrest Edelman

I am Forrest Edelman, I work for the Center for Natural Lands Management within the Nursery Department and perform the functions of a seed processor.

Seed Cleaning

After flowers have finished and seed pods have ripened, the plant material is harvested and laid out to dry in a drying shed. When the material is good and dry it is binned up and goes to the seed processing shop for the separation of seed from the rest of the material. The species being processing here is Primula pulchellum or the Few Flowered Shooting Star.

Raw Material, photo by Forrest Edelman.

Raw Material, photo by Forrest Edelman.

 

Most of the seed falls out of the open cup style pod during the drying processing, for those that are caught in the pods and between the material, they will be sent through a hammer mill to dislodge the remaining seed.

Hammer Mill, photo by Forrest Edelman.

Hammer Mill, photo by Forrest Edelman.

 

The hammer mill is a threshing type machine which uses a motor to spin and swing nylon rectangles which abrade the material in a closed metal compartment, thereby mechanically dislodging seed from inert material.

Feeding the Mill, photo by Forrest Edelman.

Feeding the Mill, photo by Forrest Edelman.

 

The material is fed down a metal chute through a metal gate into the threshing compartment. All of the seeds and plant material will be threshed and dropped in a single steam, to be screened down next. In short; when the machine is spinning, material is fed into the machine and it lightly chews it up and spits the mess into a bin to be moved on to the next step.

Output from the mill, photo by Forrest Edelman.

Output from the mill, photo by Forrest Edelman.

 

Removing most of the large chaff with a brass sieve is the next step. It consists of dropping handfuls of material into the sieve and shaking the smaller pieces of plant material and seeds through then removing empty pods, sticks, and other large chaff.

After the screening process, photo by Forrest Edelman.

After the screening process, photo by Forrest Edelman.

 

Afterward the material should be more even in size and drastically reduced in bulk, which makes it easier to load into the next machine, an office clipper.

An office clipper is an air screener separator machine, it allows seeds to drop through a larger top screen and get rid of more chaff.

Clipper and Bins, photo by Forrest Edelman.

Clipper and Bins, photo by Forrest Edelman.

 

Back view of Clipper, photo by Forrest Edelman.

Back view of Clipper, photo by Forrest Edelman.

 

The lower screen allows for fine chaff and dust to fall through but seeds and material of similar size roll off the lower screen.

Clipper Screens, photo by Forrest Edelman.

Clipper Screens, photo by Forrest Edelman.

 

Loading the Clipper, photo by Forrest Edelman.

Loading the Clipper, photo by Forrest Edelman.

 

This in between size material falls into a compartment which has air blowing up through it. Seeds are generally heavier than dried plant material fragments of the same size, so the air stream will winnow away the remaining chaff and drop good seed into a bin. After a couple of runs though this machine the final product is seeds.

Close up of the final product-nearly pure Primula pulchellum seeds, photo by Forrest Edelman.

Close-up of the final product-nearly pure Primula pulchellum seeds, photo by Forrest Edelman.

 

This is just one method for one species.  There are many ways to reach a final product for each of the 80 or so plant species processed every year.

Tansy Season

Tansy Season, Post by Dennis Plank, photos as noted.

Dennis has been getting his knees muddy and his back sore pulling Scot’s Broom on the South Sound Prairies since 1998. In 2004, when the volunteers started managing Prairie Appreciation Day, he made the mistake of sending an email asking for “lessons learned” and got elected president of Friends of Puget Prairies-a title he appropriately renamed as “Chief Cat Herder”. He has now turned that over to Gail Trotter. Along the way, he has worked with a large number of very knowledgeable people and picked up a few things about the prairie ecosystem. He loves to photograph birds and flowers.

Tansy Season

A personal perspective

My wife, Michelle, eyeing a patch of Tansy earlier this year. Photo by Dennis Plank

My wife, Michelle, eyeing a patch of Tansy earlier this year. Photo by Dennis Plank

July and August have become a very special time of year for me because of this plant. On the 6th of July my computer reminds me that “Tansy season is approaching”, a message that was quite unnecessary this year as I had already seen plants blooming on the access road to Thurston County’s Glacial Heritage Nature Preserve (hereafter Glacial) and had the pleasure of removing them.

About 14 years ago, one of our stalwart volunteers mentioned to my wife (an avid horseman) that he’d seen a lot of Tansy Ragwort on Glacial and shouldn’t she, as a horse person, do something about such a pernicious stock poison? The guilt trip worked, and she started single-handedly working on it. The first couple of years she collected the entire plants, bagged them and took them to the transfer station. If memory serves me correctly (it does so less and less as I get older), she had in excess of 40 garbage bags that first year and a similar amount the next. At the time, I was still working in Seattle and just down here on the weekends, so I think it was the third year when I started helping her on weekends and it wasn’t until I retired in 2012 that I started working it in earnest. For several years, it occupied three or four days a week in July and August. About the time we were burning out, the Center for Natural Lands Management assigned Angela winter as permanent volunteer coordinator, and she was more than willing to work at controlling Tansy on Glacial heritage and other preserves that they manage. The last three summers, we were surprised by a significant decline in the amount of this plant, which we attributed to the extremely dry conditions. Unfortunately, this year it returned with a vengeance.

Somewhere in there we realized that we really didn’t need to be taking the whole plant to the transfer station, just the flower heads. The native animals weren’t going to eat the bodies of the plants with so much else available. That reduced the number of bags to a small fraction of what they had been and was a great relief when working the interior parts of the preserve where it was a long way back to the road.

A morning's haul of tansy blooms. Photo by Dennis Plank

A morning’s haul of tansy blooms. Photo by Dennis Plank

For me this two month period has become a time of hard work, a little frustration, a little satisfaction and a whole lot of joy. The hard work part is obvious. The frustration comes because at times (like this year when we’re having a bad year for weeds in general and Tansy in particular) it seems like we’ll never get anywhere. The satisfaction comes because I can look back at what it was like when I first started helping and see that there really has been an improvement. The joy comes because I have a wonderful excuse to be out on the prairie early in the morning, alone with the flowers, birds and bugs, doing something that I consider very worthwhile.

A very healthy specimen. Photo by Dennis Plank

A very healthy specimen. Photo by Dennis Plank

 

So what’s with Tansy Ragwort?

Tansy Ragwort, Senecio jacobaea, is a plant in the sunflower family native to Europe, western Asia and northern Africa and since spread by us to nearly every corner of the world. Like many composites, it is extremely successful. A single plant can produce 150,000 seeds and they can either sprout the following year or lie dormant for at least 10 years if conditions aren’t right. Additionally, the roots, which penetrate up to one foot in the ground have many adventitious buds that can sprout new plants if the parent is uprooted. The plant is listed as a biennial, but a large percentage of plants act as if they were perennials, particularly if they are cut or otherwise disturbed. In good years for the plant (bad years for us) it can form very large, nearly mono-cultural patches in disturbed soils. This year’s outbreak is also in Oregon. The image below was taken in Clackamas county.

A Tansy field in Clackamas County Oregon earlier this year. Photo by Samuel Leininger WeedWise Manager Clackamas Soil & Water Conservation District

A Tansy field in Clackamas County Oregon earlier this year. Photo by Samuel Leininger WeedWise Manager Clackamas Soil & Water Conservation District

 

If it were just a prolific weed, we might treat it like we do Oxeye Daisy or Hairy Cat’s Ear and pretty much live with it. However, all parts of this plant contain Pyrrolizidine alkaloids that accumulate in the liver and are poisonous to deer, horses, cattle and goats, but apparently not to sheep which are used in New Zealand as a control for the plant. Most animals will not eat the plant if there is anything else. I’ve seen people’s horse pastures in this county completely devoid of all vegetation except clumps of this plant four or five feet tall that are completely undisturbed. However, if it’s in a field that is mowed for hay, the plant will still contain the toxins after drying and animals will inadvertently ingest it. At various times, there have been outbreaks of sickness and death in cattle and or horses in various parts of the world that achieved their own disease names (Stomach Staggers in Wales, Pictou disease in Nova Scotia, in South Africa Molteno disease for horses and Dunziekte for horses, and in Norway Sirasyke) before someone figured out that they were just Tansy poisoning from tainted hay. And it’s not something that’s over. I see people with small hay fields and Tansy growing in them that are being mowed and baled in this county. Unless someone is going out the morning they mow and pulling the Tansy, it’s getting in the hay. Since the toxins are in the flowers and pollen as well, they also taint honey from bees that use the plant in any quantity and can actually make the honey carcinogenic.

It seems as if people have a fascination with toxic plants and they become a part of folklore and folk medicine. Tansy Ragwort is no exception to this. In Britain and other areas it was used extensively in folk medicine where an ointment was made by boiling it in hog grease and applied to arms legs and hips for joint pain. One source I ran across quotes: “A poultice made of the fresh leaves and applied externally two or three times in succession ‘will cure, if ever so violent, the old ache in the hucklebone known as sciatica’.” It was also used as a mouthwash for canker sores and ulcers of the throat. The wide use and knowledge of the herb led to lots of interesting colloquial names such as: St. James his wort, stagger-wort, staner-wort, ragwort, ragweed, curly doddies, stinking nanny (have I mentioned that it smells), dog standard, cankerwort, stavewort, kettle dock, felonweed, fairies horse, stinking willy, mares fart, cushag, fleawort, seggrum, jacoby, and yellow top. In places, it also became associated with witchcraft and references are made to witches riding stems of it instead of brooms.

The good side of Tansy Ragwort

On the South Puget Sound Prairies, most of the more prolifically flowering plants have gone to seed by the middle to end of July and nectar sources for late season butterflies and other pollinators are in short supply. People doing butterfly surveys say that this time of year the best place to find butterflies is the patches of Tansy. For this reason, some of the state agencies have decided to control it when it might affect neighbors, but leave it to the bio-controls when it’s on the interior of their properties.

Zerene fritillaries nectaring on Tansy Ragwort at Mima Mounds Natural Area, Photo by Brad Gill.

Zerene fritillaries nectaring on Tansy Ragwort at Mima Mounds Natural Area, Photo by Brad Gill.

Tansy is also heavily used by Crab Spiders. These little beauties lie in wait on the flower heads where their color blends in very well and ambush pollinators that come in to nectar on the blossoms.

Crab Spider with Prey, photo by Dennis Plank

Crab Spider with Prey, photo by Dennis Plank

This crab spider didn't get the dress code message, photo by Dennis Plank

This crab spider didn’t get the dress code message, photo by Dennis Plank

Many other insects also use Tansy on occasion, such as this Great Golden Digger Wasp.

Great Golden Digger Wasp, photo by Dennis Plank

Great Golden Digger Wasp, photo by Dennis Plank

Identification and Control of Tansy Ragwort

Like most plants, once you get the image in your head, it’s pretty easy to separate this plant from just about anything else. The closest look-alike is Common Tansy, which is easily mistaken driving 50 mph and seeing it in the ditches. On closer inspection, the single stems with flat clusters 3-4 inches in diameter and the absence of ray flowers on the composite blooms makes the Common Tansy easy to distinguish.

Common Tansy on a roadside in south Thurston County, Washington, photo by Dennis Plank.

Common Tansy on a roadside in south Thurston County, Washington, photo by Dennis Plank.

St John’s Wort would never be mistaken for Tansy Ragwort when seen close up, but when we’re on the prairie trying to find tansy, we are often looking several hundred yards away and the colors of the blooms are quite similar. The key is the shape of the bloom head. Tansy looks almost flat at a distance, while St John’s Wort tends to be more rounded and less dense. I‘ve traipsed quite a ways only to realize I was after the wrong weed. We had one St. John’s wort that fooled us for most of the season a few years ago. I finally got frustrated and pulled it. It may seem odd to take binoculars to pull weeds, but they save a lot of walking. Even a yellowing fern leaf turned the right way can look like a Tansy bloom head when it’s a couple of hundred yards away.

St. John's Wort, photo courtesy of Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board

St. John’s Wort, photo courtesy of Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board

Common Groundsel is another plant that somewhat resembles Tansy Ragwort in the leaf structure, but when it blooms the flowers are very small and never open very far. It is an annual and seems to have great seed life as it is common to have a flush of it the first year or two after a fire. The Center for Natural Lands Management used to use Americorps volunteers as their volunteer coordinators and we had one, who shall remain nameless, who insisted we rip out a huge patch of Groundel on a rainy, ugly day under the mistaken impression that it was Tansy Ragwort. I’m not sure I’ve forgiven her yet.

Common Groundsel, photo courtesy of Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board

Common Groundsel, photo courtesy of Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board

The final look-alike is only a problem when the plants are very small. That’s the Oxeye Daisy. The young rosettes of the species do bear a superficial resemblance, but it doesn’t take very much practice to start distinguishing the two.

Tansy and Oxeye Daisy rosettes side by side. Note the purple stems on the Tansy. Photo by Dennis Plank

Tansy and Oxeye Daisy rosettes side by side. Note the purple stems on the Tansy. Photo by Dennis Plank

Three bio-controls have been introduced in the Western US since 1959 to combat infestations of Tansy Ragwort. The first of these is the Cinnabar Moth first introduced in California in 1959. It is well established in Washington and Oregon. The moth lays its eggs on the underside of rosette leaves and the larvae eat all above ground parts of the plant, sometimes causing sufficient damage to kill it, though more often just setting it back for the season. The larvae seem particularly fond of the blossoms. Unfortunately, like most bio-controls, the population of the moths depends on the population of the Tansy, so it is most effective when there are huge infestations of the weed. When the infestation is patchy, we see relatively few plants with Cinnabar larvae (often called Tansy Tigers for their coloration) on them. Also, unless the numbers of larvae are extremely large, our experience has been that the denuded stems left by the Tigers will releaf and rebud later in the season and often produce late season flowers and seeds just when we’re very tired of looking for the plant and have let down our guard.

One of the down sides of the Cinnabar moth is that it will use a couple of native plants for as hosts for the larvae including Packera Macounii, commonly known as Siskiyou Mountain Ragwort, Macoun’s Groundsel, or Puget Groundsel.

Cinnabar Moth Larva (aka Tansy tiger) hard at work, photo by Dennis Plank.

Cinnabar Moth Larva (aka Tansy tiger) hard at work, photo by Dennis Plank.

The second of the bio-controls is the Ragwort Seed Fly (Botanophila seneciella) introduced in California in 1966 and present throughout the Pacific Northwest. This fly lays its eggs on the flower buds and the larvae dig into the bud and set up housekeeping near the base of the bud where they happily eat the entire flower. I just noticed these this year, though I’m sure they’ve been around before. They are detectable by a brown spot in the middle of the disc flowers often with some bubbles on it. The spot increases in size until the entire disc is brown and the ray flowers disappear. Unfortunately, studies have shown that only 10-40% of the flowers are predated by the bud fly larvae.

Tansy Seed Fly Larva. Microscope photo taken by teasing away the outer parts of the seed head. Photo by Dennis Plank.

Tansy Seed Fly Larva. Microscope photo taken by teasing away the outer parts of the seed head. Photo by Dennis Plank.

Flower head predated by Seed Fly Larvae, photo by Dennis Plank.

Flower head predated by Seed Fly Larvae, photo by Dennis Plank.

The third bio-control is the Ragwort Flea Beetle, Longitarsus jacobaeae. This species is primarily effective at the rosette stage where the larva attack the roots and the adults eat the leaves producing an effect called “shot holing” where the leaves are heavily perforated with BB size holes. Some people consider this the most effective of the bio-controls since the larvae attack the root crown over the winter and early spring and a late spring dry stretch can actually kill the weakened plants. I’m sure we have this beetle, but I’ve yet to identify it on a plant.

Mowing and cutting are not effective means of control as they essentially move the life cycle of the tansy into the perennial mode. One local land manager, has a practice of just breaking over the bloom stem, leaving it attached. Our experience with this technique is that unless it is done perfectly, it doesn’t kill the flowers and they still go to seed. Also the plant can continue to put out new flower heads after the first is broken.

Tansy plant that had the heads broken over and left attached earlier in the season. Note the mature seed head in the yellow circle. Photo by Dennis Plank.

Tansy plant that had the heads broken over and left attached earlier in the season. Note the mature seed head in the yellow circle. Photo by Dennis Plank.

There are herbicides that are considered effective, though they need to be used with care. Apparently they make the plant more palatable, so for the first few weeks after application it’s necessary to keep the grazers away from those plants as the poisons don’t go away.

As mentioned above, New Zealand has had good success using sheep to graze infected areas in the early season, so that could be a viable approach.

An accidental discovery happened at the CNLM Mima Creek preserve a few miles south of Glacial Heritage. This is an old farm with low lying pastures pretty much in the Black River flood plain. Several years ago, it had a very bad Tansy Ragwort infestation and volunteers and staff from CNLM put an enormous number of hours into just topping the plants as an emergency measure to keep seed from getting into neighboring hay fields. Then the beaver moved in and raised the water table a bit and suddenly there was no more Tansy. Hopefully, they’ll keep up the good work. Since it is being managed for the Oregon Spotted Frog (which has found its way there), the raised water table is a good thing.

The last control method, and the one we’ve been using with some success (though this year feels like a major setback), is simply digging the plant out with as much of the root as we can get, bagging the flower heads, and leaving the stem and leaf on the prairie. It’s crude, but eventually seems to do the trick, though there are patches with deep roots that do keep coming back.

Dead Tansy in the Middle of the Road (heads were removed and bagged after taking this photo). Photo by Dennis Plank

Dead Tansy in the Middle of the Road (heads were removed and bagged after taking this photo). Photo by Dennis Plank

Happy Tansy Hunting.

References

USDA NRCS Plant Guide on Tansy Ragwort

World of Weeds: Tansy Ragwort

Washington State Noxious Weed Control Board Brochure

Uses of Tansy Ragwort in Magic

Art Cornwall: Tansy in Witchcraft

Botanical.com (A modern herbal) on Tansy Ragwort

The Herbal Supplement Resource on Tansy Ragwort

Article on Tansy Contamination of Honey