Preserving local wildlife habitat
Last spring, the Marlboro Mill hired its first ever Environmental Conservation Co-op. Tannor Mulford, a recent graduate of Clemson University, was tasked with designing a two-year habitat management plan for the facility’s property of some 1,800 acres (728 hectares).
The main goal of Tannor’s plan, the first of its kind for the facility, was to increase the health of the Marlboro Mill ecosystem. This includes, but is not limited to, prescribed forest thinning, soft mast tree plantings, supplemental feeding sites, installing nest boxes, disking and other sustainable management practices.
These new management goals will provide more food sources, nesting cover and escape cover, which is needed by native wildlife to prosper for years to come. Tannor said, ‘’Wildlife management is like making lemonade. Without any, you are left with just lemons, but with a little work and some key ingredients you get lemonade.”
Some of the early sustainability initiatives Tannor completed in collaboration with others included fifteen bluebird boxes, constructed by local Eagle Scout Blake Avery and Life Scout Lane Stromburg, ten wood duck nesting boxes, and two bat boxes.
By the beginning of the 20th century wood ducks had virtually disappeared from much of their former range due to severe habitat loss and market hunting both for meat and plumage for the European ladies’ hat market.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act was established in 1916 and in the 1930s the development of artificial nesting boxes gave an additional boost to the population of this duck species. These ducks have adapted to the artificial boxes, where they are safe and less exposed to nest predators such as snakes, raccoons and opossums.
To jumpstart Marlboro’s wood duck conservation efforts, Tannor placed 10 artificial nest boxes with cone shaped predator guards in 30 acres (12 hectares) of flooded timber. He said, “There are many signs of wood ducks in this area and I suspect a majority of these nest boxes will be occupied next spring.”
Over the years bats have developed a nasty reputation. There are misconceptions that they all feed on blood, carry rabies and other diseases, and target people with long hair. In fact, bats are highly valued seed dispersers. Many agricultural plants rely on them for pollination, their guano is rich in nitrogen and a highly desired fertilizer for lawns and gardens, and they consume a wide array of insects, especially mosquitoes, which helps to control viruses.
The Marlboro Mill has installed two chambered bat boxes to welcome the night creatures to the area.
And bluebirds, oh my!
By the 1970s, some estimated that bluebird numbers had declined by some 70% due to unsuccessful competition with house sparrows and starlings. By installing 15 bluebird houses, Tannor is hoping to enhance their population on the Marlboro Mill lands.
During nesting season the boxes will be checked regularly for any signs of house sparrows or starlings, which will be removed to foster higher nesting success rates of the desired bluebirds.
There are many other environmentally sustainable projects underway at Marlboro Mill focusing on restoring health to the native plant and animal species of the Southeast. So stay tuned!Share