On my final visit to the Southern 8ths Farm we started the day by going back to Thompson Creek for the last time to observe the water. There was a huge difference in the scenery from our first visit to our last. While making our way to our woodland transect, we observed a young Eastern Box Turtle that was hiding in the leaves on land. We also observed another Yellow-bellied Slider in the pond area next to the transect. On our way to Fireworks Prairie, we stopped by an old barn and found evidence of a possible Barn Owl nesting site from the recent owl pellets and droppings that were present in the area. While at Fireworks, the group observed an indicator of the arrival of spring with the sight of Tree Swallows that are back from South and Central America. After observing our transects the group went to a new area named The Bluff. The soil in this area of the farm was very acidic and had some plants there that didn’t grow anywhere else on the farm. The Bluff also had an amazing view of the property that showed the multicolored canopy of the forest. While walking through The Bluff, Brianna found a deer skull that still had most of its teeth intact. I really enjoyed the Southern 8ths internship and I learned a lot from everyone that I was able to interact with.
On today’s visit to the Southern 8ths Farm we started by having a short Saint Patrick’s Day-related discourse about the difference between a clover and a shamrock. We also talked about an ornithologist named Drew Lanham whose story about becoming a black biologist in the South really inspired me a lot. After hearing about his story in a short video we then made our way to Thompson Creek where we saw a Great Blue Heron flying away from us in the woods. I also learned that the word palmate has two different meanings in science, one of them pertaining to the webbed feet of birds, while the other describing the leaf shape of certain plants, including the Bird’s Foot Violet. While at Thompson Creek we observed that the water level was the lowest it has been since we started the internship and the water was extremely clear as well. We then made our way to Fireworks Prairie to observe our transect, only to find out that it had been mowed down to help with manage the biotic diversity of the prairie. While heading to the second transect in the woodland area I noticed that the famous half-decomposed deer hoof was finally gone. After doing our woodland transect observations, we set off to a new area called Muddy Branch. While walking to the area we saw a Wild Turkey. It was my first time ever observing one in the wild before. I really enjoyed my time at the Southern 8ths Farm this week and I am looking forward to coming back next week!
February 10, 2023
On my third day of coming to the Southern 8ths Farm, I started the day off by carpooling 3 of the other interns. When we arrived, we spoke a little about our previous discussion then went outside to see the first prescribed burn of Steele Prairie. The burn area had a very distinct smell that I actually enjoyed and it made the many ant hills that were there extremely visible. There were a lot of birds there as well, possibly feeding on the more visible insects that still were around the area. I think the prescribed burns will be very good for managing the prairie because it will help them not be susceptible to wildfires in the future and allows them to regrow a lot better and stronger. We also saw a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks nearby. Afterwards we went back to Thompson Creek to observe the water. The water levels were lower than they were the week before and the creek was a lot clearer. The feeder stream that was clear last week was a lot darker because of built-up sediment that collected there. While at the creek we heard some Mourning Doves and Spring Peepers. On our way to our next stop we observed a half decomposed deer hoof. When we arrived at our woodland study area there was a pond that we originally thought had an algae bloom there when in reality it was just covered in Common Duckweed. While doing our woodland transects, we made sure to have an area that had some American Holly as well as some other trees that were currently dormant. We made this decision because evergreens are not very good for observing phenology due to the fact that their leaves do not change color or drop in fall. After we completed our work laying out the transects, I found a Northern Red-bellied Snake on the path home. The snake was smaller than I expected so I assumed that it was a baby but, when I got confirmation about the type of snake that it was I found out that it was a fully grown adult and that it was just small by nature. It also had a very distinct red color on its belly hence its name. I am very grateful to have this opportunity and I am looking forward to next week.
January 27, 2023
January 27th was the first day that I had the opportunity to come to the Southern 8ths Farm. We had an orientation where I met the owner of the farm Mr. Brad, the Program Coordinator Mr. David, and the Prairie Keeper / former classmate Brianna. After talking to Mr. Brad and Brianna about the farm in totality, as well as learning some lifelong skills, the rest of the interns and I went into some carts to view some of the major areas of the farm. There was an extremely diverse amount of scenery in just the areas that we saw. I saw multiple prairies that had many different types of plants including native and invasive species. There was a prairie called “Firework Prairie” that gave shelter to a species of bird which would scatter at great numbers when disturbed (hence the name firework prairie). I also saw a pond that I was told was home to a large population of turtles. Some otters were also seen there recently on one of the wildlife cameras. I believe that the ponds are a lot more diverse with animal life than the prairies are but, the prairies are more diverse with plant life than the ponds are. We were also shown “Inspiration Rock” which was the rock that Mr. Brad and his life partner, Pati, gained the inspiration from to preserve and continue to buy land that will be a part of the Southern 8ths Farm. I found it extremely impressive that the farm had many different types of environments from ponds to prairies to marsh-like wetlands. I think that a multitude of frogs, insects and other invertebrates would live in this type of area. I believe that the small puddles and other places can be home to vectors like mosquitoes. The part that I enjoyed the most was talking to Mr. Brad because I have never seen another former athlete enjoy nature as much as I do. I believe he can guide me to be the best possible version of myself and help me become a better scientist by his philosophy of asking many questions. I cannot wait to come back next Friday, and I am very grateful for the opportunity.