Swaner EcoCenter and Preserve welcomes spring with conservation projects | ParkRecord.com

Swaner EcoCenter and Preserve welcomes spring with conservation projects

Birdhouses give more than 100 migratory birds, including the mountain bluebird above, places to nest on the Swaner Preserve. Every spring volunteers head out to clean up and do some on-site repairs of the boxes that can still be used. (Courtesy of the Swaner EcoCenter)

Spring is a special season for the Swaner EcoCenter and Preserve, said the nonprofit’s conservation coordinator Brittany Ingalls.

"It’s always exciting because everyone gets spring fever and we can get folks outside," Ingalls told The Park Record. "It’s just a great time of year."

In addition to Mike Kautz’s "Are There Wolverines in Utah?" presentation on Thursday, March 10, (see accompanying story titled "Scientist asks ‘Are there wolverines in Utah?’"), the EcoCenter has filled its calendar with an array of conservation-minded activities to help guests and volunteers welcome the warmer weather, Ingalls said.

Saturday, March 12, is bird-box volunteer day. A group of volunteers will head out to the preserve from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. to check on all of the boxes migratory birds use as nests.

"The impetus for this came from a local boy scout who proposed a series of projects because he was working on his Eagle [Scout project]," Ingalls said. "He was interested in conservation and I presented a couple of ideas to him and we landed on this bird box maintenance."

One of the jobs was to map out all of the birdhouses that currently exist on the Swaner Preserve, even the ones that have fallen into disrepair and have become unusable.

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"Our plan is to go out and clean out the boxes that are still usable and in good shape and get them ready for the spring migrators who fly in," Ingalls said. "We get more than 100 migratory birds that nest on the preserve. They include mountain bluebird, chickadee and kestrels."

The group will also do some minor on-site repairs.

"Then we’ll pull down the boxes that can’t be used and dispose of those that can’t be fixed," she said.

Whole Foods will provide lunch for the volunteers and volunteers are required to register for the event by calling 435-797-8952 or emailing brittany.ingalls@usu.edu .

The next project, the annual willow harvest, will run from Thursday, March 24, to Saturday, March 26.

Volunteers will work Thursday and Friday from 1 p.m. until 4 p.m. and on Saturday from 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., Ingalls said.

"This project will benefit a section of East Canyon Creek that runs through the north side of the preserve by Canyon Creek Condominiums," she said. "The creek is designated as an ‘impaired water body.’ We’re supposed to be able to see lots of native fish species such as the Bonneville cutthroat trout in the stream, but we’re not seeing populations like we have in the past."

Each year, volunteers harvest between 1,000 to 1,500 willows from different parts of the preserve and plant between 1,000 and 1,200 willows along the creek band to help decrease erosion, shade the stream and aids the overall health of the stream as well as help us move towards a healthier ecosystem, according to Ingalls.

"We keep the leftover willows for other restoration projects along the creek," she said. "Willows are native here, and they are also very hearty and tend to do well when they are replanted."

Snacks will be provided and, like they have to for the bird box activity, volunteers need to register with Ingalls for the willow harvesting.

Two days after the willow harvest, the Swaner EcoCenter will host "Meet the Producers" on March 28, from 5:30 p.m. until 7:30 p.m.

During this event, local food producers from around northern Utah will gather at the Swaner EcoCenter and people can learn who they are.

"They can also learn about the places the food comes from, and most importantly — taste the local difference," Ingalls said.

"Meet the Producers" is an open house and requires no registration.

"Depending on the vendors, some will have samples," Ingalls said. "In addition, local chefs will cook some dishes made from the locally grown food."

The last event of March is titled "What’s the Scoop on the Sage Grouse?" It is a two-part event on Thursday, March 31, from 6:30 p.m. until 8 p.m., and Friday, April 1, beginning at 5 a.m.

Thursday evening will be a classic adult-education presentation by Terry Messmer from the Utah State University’s Quinney College of Natural Resources and graduate student Brandon Flack that will be open to the public, according to Ingalls.

"They will talk about the greater sage grouse and what makes them unique and special in light of the recent legislation that kept the bird off the endangered species list," she said. "They will discuss the pros and cons and why that decision was made."

Friday’s event will be open only to Swaner EcoCenter members.

"The main reason is because we have a limited number of slots," Ingalls said. "We’ll head out to the greater sage grouse lek in Henefer to watch the males do their mating dance. This is such a cool thing to see and Terry and Brandon will point out all the special and quirky attributes of these birds."

Thursday’s event costs $5 for nonmembers and is free for members. Since Friday’s event is only open to Swaner EcoCenter members it is free for them.

Registration is required. To do so, call 435-797-8952 or email brittany.ingalls@usu.edu .

Ingalls, who is in charge of organizing all of these events, said there is more to come.

"As I said, we love spring, and we hope people will check out our calendar to see what we have to offer," she said.

For more information, visit http://www.swanerecocenter.org.

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