As we make our way through yet another cold and windy winter day, we are all longing for summer days and time spent on the water. Our conservation area in northeastern New Hanover County offers so many beautiful spots, so we wanted to share a few pictures of the marsh, beach and waterway from last year. The pictures are all great reminders to preserve and protect the great natural resources that we enjoy!
Four osprey platforms, originally built more than a decade ago, were replaced this year in the North Marsh Conservation Area. The platforms, located behind the north end of Figure Eight Island, were in disrepair and no longer suitable for Osprey nesting. This replacement project, implemented by ANDY WOOD & ASSOCIATES, LLC, with construction logistics provided by GULFSTREAM BUILDERS, INC., required and received approval from State and Federal wildlife agencies before work began in early March 2014.
Ospreys are migratory fish-eating birds that overwinter in southern regions of North America, and Central and South America. Ospreys migrate northward in early spring to reach breeding grounds throughout much of North America. Pictured above is restored Platform 2, with a defensive parent in attendance. The platform was selected by a male Osprey in late April. Soon after, he and his mate completed a stick nest that fledged at least one young bird this summer. Summer surveys revealed platform 3 had two sticks, but platforms 1 and 4 remained clean. Maybe 2015 will see higher occupancy, but in the meantime, all the platforms are popular with many fish-eating birds, including colorful Belted Kingfishers that use the high perches to spy fishy prey in the surrounding marsh.
The Conservancy owned .151 acres around the Landfall administration and maintenance office. The maintenance department is in need of more space so we negotiated a land trade. This trade takes the small piece we own around the building and gives it to Landfall. In trade, a 39.91 acre tract is given to us!
This piece (blue highlight) connects with another NENHC easement area and this addition will create a compelling greenway for hiking and nature viewing. The easement area is currently owned by Landfall and it includes a network of nature trails that are in need of some maintenance, mostly involving debris removal following last winter’s ice storms.
The property contains a variety of distinct habitats including patches of mixed pine and hardwood forest blended with an intact patch of swamp dominated by water tupelo. In spite of abundant rain in 2014, the ponds and swamp area are not flooded at this time. The site’s sinkhole-like pocket ponds are a rare feature in this region, and while most are dry during much of the year, they are likely important habitats for frogs, spotted turtles and songbirds.
Though most of the forest trees are in the 80-120 year age-range, many examples of older-growth trees provide evidence of this site’s past history as a rich and diverse wetland environment.
Building awareness about the Conservancy’s easement areas is an objective to meet our goal of protecting the areas we steward. Last spring the Conservancy and Landfall jointly sponsored a guided trek around the Landfall Lake Conservation Area.
More than two dozen Landfall residents and guests joined the tour, led by Andy Wood, with birding help from wildlife biologists Carson Wood and James Abbott. Steve Hughes, Landfall Operations Manager, also joined the hike and provided valuable background information about Landfall Lake, including its function-driven design to become a naturalized waterbody. Wading birds, several ducks, and numerous pond turtles provided fun highlights during the visit, which was intended to develop greater understanding about the lake’s habitats and the diverse plants and wildlife they support; while also providing stormwater filtration before discharging into the Intracoastal Waterway. More programs like this are being planned for 2015, including guided treks into other fascinating Conservancy properties.