Editor: Earthshine's Resident Naturalist Steve O'Neil
Issue 7, Fall 2010
A Newsletter All About Nature From Earthshine Mountain Lodge
Deer by Susan Davis. Special Thanks to Susan for allowing us the use of her wonderful wildlife and nature photos in the newsletter!
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.
The Earthshine Nature Notes and Turtle Tracks Newsletter is now the
Earthshine Nature Programs (ENP) Newsletter.
The ENP Newsletter is a way for you to connect with your favorite nature, 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 ENP, and wildlife and nature 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.
Deer by Susan Davis.
Table of Contents
1. Introduction to the Issue
2. Earthshine Nature Programs Update
3. Turtle Tracks Project Update
4. Turtle Tracks Fundraiser Update
5. New Wild Adventures
6. Wild Focus
7. Nature Notes
9. Musical Moments
10. The Crikey Coin
11. News from the Office
12. A New Puzzle
13. Nature Joke
14. Steve's Nature Links
15. Steve's WILD Disclaimer
Introduction by Steve
It has been a wonderful summer at the lodge and we have been happy to see many familiar faces this year as well as many new ones.
The beautiful colors of autumn are painting the ridges and valleys in a rainbow of colors, the nights are cool and the days are still warm--perfect for a nice hike on our trails or relaxing around the fire with friends and family. If 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.
Summer 2010 at Earthshine Lodge was full of fun-filled family adventure and discovery. I have added many of the photos taken over the summer to our photo album page through the link below so be sure to check it out (it will open in a new window so you won't loose your place.)
Earthshine Nature Programs and Nature Education Center UPDATE
Friend of Frogs by Steve Atkins.
Earthshine Nature Programs is now officially a 501c3 Non Profit! Any and all donations that you now you make will not only go 100% to support the daily operational costs of ENP and our education and conservation programs but they are also tax deductible. After the receipt of your donation I will send you a tax receipt for you records.
Red-sided Garter by Steve Atkins.
The Earthshine Nature Center is mostly complete! After a very generous donation from a guest of the lodge in the early summer, I have been able to make several much needed improvements to the Nature Center such as the construction of a large ratsnake habitat that now houses three snakes. I have been able to purchase much needed life support equipment for the habitats in the nature center as well as new transmitters for all of the turtles we are tracking in the field. We still have a few things planned for the future such as a large stream tank with Hellbender, a solar and hydro power demonstration station and more. Our ancient desktop computer where we keep all of our records (and edit this newsletter) is still functioning...but just barely...so we are in great need of another new or newer computer to replace the old unit.
Wild Turkeys on Rattlesnake Point by Steve O'Neil.
The mission of Earthshine nature Programs is to teach nature and wildlife conservation education to families and camp groups that visit Earthshine and also to provide outreach to local school and other groups as well. This nature ed center will greatly benefit and inspire visitors to the lodge and their families as well as local folks from the Western North Carolina area. Hopefully after visiting the Earthshine Nature Center or a visit from us folks will be inspired to learn more about the wildlife back at home and abroad. My personal 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. 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. We have had many generous folks who have donated funds (thank you Billy, Alan, Meredith and Mary Beth, Jeff and John and all those who donated anonymously) and many folks who have adopted (sponsored) our turtles--thank you! Other donations have included; aquarium stands and other assorted items (thank you Team ECCO), several assorted veterinary and medical items (thank you Dr. Coleman and Dr. Roeder), 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 need many supplies. 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(coming soon.) We will gladly take almost any new and used supplies that anyone is willing to donate. This wonderful nature education center is happening because of folks just like you--THANK YOU!
We teach the recycle and zero waste ethics at Earthshine and we would like to hold true to those ethics as much as possible as we construct operate our new nature center by using recycled and reused items in the construction and operation 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. All items and monetary donations are now tax deductible. Just ask for a tax receipt and I will be happy to provide you with one for your records.
1 100-125 gallon aquarium.
Aquarium supplies such as air pumps, filters, lights, tops and hoods.
Reptile lights and heat strips, pads and rocks.
Heavy Duty extension cords and light timers.
Large dry erase whiteboard.
Digital dissection scope/microscope with USB attachment or USB microscope attachment.
Desktop Computer (PC or MAC).
Color printer and ink cartridges.
The Earthshine Nature Education Center is a great thing for Earthshine and for the community as a whole. It is great place for visitors and locals to come and learn about nature, wildlife and our role in the web of life. The Center is the base of operations for the Turtle Tracks project, the R & R program, the box turtle head start program, the box turtle DNA collection project, the amphibian Chytrid fungus monitoring project, the Calling Amphibian Survey Project (CASP), and the Nature of the Didgeridoo. We 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, amphibian decline, alternative energy, space exploration and more!
We have three new snakes in the nature center: Noodles, Xavier and Samwise. Noodles is a young captive-raised ratsnake who was donated to us from The Health Adventure in Asheville, NC. Xavier is an albino ratsnake of about 3.5 feet long who was donated to us by our good friends Joe and Kelli Duckett and Samwise is a Cornsnake that comes to us by way of a breeder in Asheville. Check out photos of Xavier in the photo albums on the Earthshine Nature website. I will have photos of Sam and Noodles soon.
Many of you met Kirby the ratsnake this summer. Kirby was a wild caught snake so Karen and I released him in early September about 10 feet from where some guests of the lodge found him in the spring. It is best for Kirby to remain wild so that he will be able to naturally keep the rodent populations in check around the lodge. Good luck Kirby and hopefully we will see you again.
Let's go turtle tracking!
TURTLE TRACKS PROJECT UPDATE
All of the resident turtles in the Earthshine R & R facility have had a good summer although Rose and Tripod have visited the Veterinarian for mild skin infections they have recovered nicely and are preparing for their long winters nap. Lucky is a new turtle that was brought to us in the spring of 2010. She was hit by a car and had serious injuries to her left real leg. Dr. Coleman treated her and ordered "bed rest" until the injury healed. I kept her in my home for two months giving her warm soaks and plenty of snails, slugs, worms and other turtle delicacies until the wound closed and then released her into the R and R pen at Earthshine. She is now in her winter sleep and in the spring she will be returned to her home in the forest near Lake Toxaway.
Catherine followed the same patterns that we have seen her follow for the last three years--wake up, find a mate, hike over the ridge to the small field to nest, hike back to the woods near the barn, and then return to the area around the old Maple tree where she beds down for the winter. It is so amazing to me that she can navigate so precisely in such a large forest with a brain that is about the size of a large pea.
BIG NEWS!! Jimmy Irwin has returned! Shortly after the Spring Newsletter went out I was tracking Catherine and I picked up Jimmy's signal near the garden. At first I thought he had returned from his walkabout but later discovered that his transmitter was functioning intermittently so I was forced to place him in the holding pen until I could acquire a new transmitter. He is now back in the wild and his new Holohil transmitter is working perfectly and he is getting ready to retire for the winter.
Mr and Mrs Bones had a great summer. Mrs Bones received her new transmitter from Holohil Systems and Sadly, Mr. Bones' one year old transmitter failed in the late summer and we have lost track of him. I plan to have John Rucker and his turtledogs pay us a visit and search for Mr. Bones but it may have to wait until spring when the weather warms up.
I decided to retire Mr. Frodo because I moved to Pisgah Forest and he is now located over an hour's drive from the Lodge and it is logistically not feasible to continue tracking him. In mid-summer I removed his transmitter and set him free near the old cabin in the woods. Check out the videos below for more information on the turtles.
Jimmy has returned!
The Odyssey of Mrs. Bones.
If you went on a turtle tracking expedition with me over the summer and you have not seen your video yet, you can search for your video in each turtles tracking day index found on their individual pages linked from the main Turtle Tracks home page here.
After all of the transmitter problems that I had over the last couple of years I am now using transmitters manufactured by Holohil Systems. Holohil's transmitters are of the highest quality and I hope that they give me the many years of service that other wildlife researchers have received from them. This decision will cost the Turtle Tracks project much more money so for the time being I have reduced the number of turtles being tracked to four. I have also been applying for more grants and working on developing more fund-raising ideas to keep the project going ahead. The latest news is that as of October 2010 Earthshine nature Programs is now a 501c3 nonprofit organization so if you are interested in helping ENP and the Turtle Tracks project continue teaching nature and tracking turtles at Earthshine it is now tax deductible!
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!
All of the young turtles in our Head Start Program put on some weight over the summer and are slowing down in preparation for their winter sleep.
Willy is very active but still looks small.
Clay is really putting on weight and looking more like an adult turtle every day.
Tiny still 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 has grown noticeably this year and he will be released into the outdoor pen next spring where he will spend another year or so before being released back on the mountain so he can become an active and breeding member of the wild box turtle populations in the forests around Earthshine. When he is released we plan to monitor him with radio telemetry to see how he does with a missing limb.
Ellie will join Lefty in the outdoor pen next spring where she will live for another year or so before we release her on the mountain.
Bob will stay in the head start enclosure for another year at least before we release him in the outdoor pen. He is just a bit too small so he will have to gain some more weight before moving outside.
Fluffy, the box turtle who spent 15 years in a New York city apartment, is doing very well and has had a wonderful summer learning to be an outdoor turtle. She has been feeding on many slugs , snails and other turtle favorites and she has lost most of the pinkish color that she had when she first came to Meredith's and she has even learned how to bury herself in the leaf liter like a wild turtle should!
Turtle Tracks/ENP Fundraiser
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/ENP fundraiser is a new line of T-shirts and other unique items designed by me and sold on the Turtle Tracks/ENP Cafepress.com site.
Below is a photo of 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, calendar (updated soon for 2011) 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/ENP items on the Turtle Tracks Cafepress storefront will be used to directly provide funds for
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. ENP is now 501c3 nonprofit so all donations are tax deductible. Upon your donation I will send you a receipt for your tax records. If you would like to learn how you can adopt a critter and become a part of the Turtle Tracks program please click the photo-link below.
Earthshine Nature Programs is now a member of GoodSearch.com! You can support us if you need to look up something on the internet. Just visit GoodSearch.com! put Earthshine Nature Programs in the "Who do you GoodSearch For?" box and GoodSearch will make a donation to ENP for each of your seraches! You can even add a Goodsearch toolbar to your computers browser and search directly from your browser!!
Photo by Michael Arrowood. Photo taken at the mouth of a small creek that empties into the French Broad River where we had stopped for lunch. I am holding a can of Coconut water.
French Broad River Float continued...
Starting last May, I began a 100 mile float trip of the French Broad River. I have completed about 65 miles of my float and plan to finish my float in 2011. Until that time check out my progress in the videos below.
View the playlist below to follow my progress on the river.
Back in the Spring Team ECCO came to Earthshine to track Catherine--check it out below!
A mother box turtle laid her nest in a dangerous area so I had to re-locate the nest to a safe place.
While checking to see if the nests have hatched I discover something amazing...loads of baby turtles!
My PSA--with help from my friend Saya: How you can help box turtles survive.
Timber Rattlesnake Rescue!
Carnivorous Plants of the Green Swamp!
Tropical Pitcher Plants!
I have many more educational nature videos on my Youtube site so check it out HERE.
You may remember me talking or writing about John Rucker and his wonderful "turtledogs" who have come to Earthshine on many occasions to locate turtles for the Turtle Tracks project. John and his turtle locating Boykin Spaniels will be on the Animal Planet series Dogs 101 on October 30th at 8pm and again on October 31 at 1 and 3 am. They will be showing off their turtle hunting abilities to the world so be sure to watch.
Here is a wonderful video of John and his turtledogs in action on a box turtle research project in Tennessee--these dogs are amazing!
John and his dogs have now gone public with a new website where anyone can view information, photos and videos about John and his dogs as well as contact John if you are in need of his expertise in locating turtles.
Please check out John Rucker's new website linked below to learn more about the turtledogs!
I was driving home one day and I noticed something unbelievably cute in a field near an old barn.
I love all animals and when I saw these cute little kittens I just had to get a photo or two. They were probably feral because upon my approach they all hissed and spit then just after I took this photo they scrambled down the post and ran off into a thicket of thorns and wild roses. I never did see their mother but I would bet that she was deep in the bushes watching me the entire time. Kittens are cute but they grow up to be cats--one of nature's most effective killing machines. If we do not keep our cats indoors and well fed they will become wild or feral. Feral cats cause immesurable damage to our native wildlife populations. Song birds, rodents, bats, lizards, snakes, frogs, toads, salamanders, baby turtles and even insects and fish are attacked, killed and often eaten by feral cats. If you have cats please spay and neuter them and keep them indoors at night to lessen their destructive nature.
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.
Ratsnake climbing pine bark by Steve Atkins.
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.
Quote of the Issue
And this, our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything. --William Shakespeare
Musical Moments with Steve
I am adding a new program to the ENP list of offered programs: The Nature of the Didgeridoo. The didgeridoo is an ancient and magical instrument with a deep connection to the natural world and the Dreamtime. In this program I will bring my didgeridoos to you in your classroom, forest, field, mountaintop or beach. I will tell a story about the creation of the instrument--a story that is based in fact as well as myth. I will play one or more didgeridoos while explaining how to play and the different sounds that the didgeridoo makes. I will talk about how the didgeridoo is a sacred instrument to the Aboriginal people of Australia and how it must be treated as such. I will instruct the class in the construction and decoration of their very own plastic didgeridoo that they will learn to play and then take home. If you are interested in learning more about this program just contact me for more details at 828-606-8939.
You may have noticed that on some of my videos that I am using more didgeridoo as background music. This is some of my own music as well as sometimes I join up with my friend John Vorus who is a master of the didgeridoo. I can only aspire to play didge as well as John one day. For more of John's didgeridoo music