The Batmen (& Batwomen!) of South Fork

Article & Photos by Joyce & Bob Hartmann

A Pre-Glade and Woodland Restoration survey was conducted at the Nature Center by Tommy Inebnit who works for the USF and Wildlife. Following this two-day session, he will return in the spring to conduct a “post” survey to see how the restoration affected the population.

Melissa and Thomas used four-wheelers to speed up the scouting process and look at more sites. It hadn’t rained for weeks; there was even a burn ban for the whole county. Then suddenly it started to rain…and rain…a real downpour. Three soggy people decided to continue to scout, and just set out the poles in several sites and put the nets up the next day. Everyone sure got soaked!

Mitch and Melissa set up a triple net across the old logging road as a second site. The poles had been set up the night before. Untangling and keeping the net free of leaves took a while. They attached the net to the clips and then raised it up to the top of the poles; the nets were invisible, practically, but with the bat’s sensitive echolocation systems, some could detect it. They set it up late in the afternoon but then a little before dark they lowered the net all the way to the ground, to prevent catching land mammals that would be out in the daytime.

Joe recorded the data, Tom (in the tee-shirt) is using calipers to measure a wing bone length, and Mitch (in plaid shirt) is holding a bag on the portable scale to weight the 2nd bat they brought in. Tom is displaying the wing; its “fingers” are connected by a web that appeared transparent in the bright lights. The portable lab consists of a simple table, data sheet, scale, calipers, bags to transport the bats in (each one gets their own, which is used only once), insect repellent. The bugs weren’t bad at all, though – that might have been not good for the bats…we did hear crickets and katydids galore, though…such a beautiful evening, so enjoyed visiting with all those biologists!

Part 1: A Healthy Forest is a Managed Forest

(First of a Three-Part Series on SFNC Glade and Woodland Restoration Plan)

Gates/Rogers Foundation, owner of South Fork Nature Center, would like to introduce you to Clint Johnson, Private Lands Biologist, Central Region Private Lands Section, Wildlife Management Division, Arkansas Game and Fish Commission. Clint has been working hard on developing a Glade and Woodland Restoration Plan for South Fork Nature Center.

We are very excited about partnering with the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission (AGFC), US Fish & Wildlife (USFW), and The Nature Conservancy (TNC). We are so grateful for the knowledge and support offered to us by these partnerships. Gates Rogers Foundation has been awarded a grant from the AGFC through their “Acres for Wildlife” Program and a grant from USFW through their “Partners for Fish and Wildlife” Program. The Gates Rogers Foundation will pay for approximately 1/3 of the initial phase of the restoration project. Our members, donors and partners help to make this possible.

This introductory article will outline the overall goals and timeline for the initial phase of the Restoration Project. Historical forest composition of SFNC area was shortleaf pine, hickory, post oak, white oak and black oak. The first step we took was to meet with the land biologist to establish an overall restoration plan. After meeting with Clint Johnson we learned that our tree canopy was too dense due to overgrowth of mid-story, faster-growing, shade tolerant trees such as maple, elm, and cedars. This occurs often in Southeastern forests. The exclusion of forest management practices such as fire has allowed the existing trees to flourish, leading to an overstocked stand of trees. The native oaks and short leaf pines are being squeezed out by these shade tolerant species listed above. This is the tip of the iceberg. Under-story is being affected and the natural habitat of several species is in danger.

The summary of Clint’s Glade and Woodland Restoration Plan is as follows:

GOAL: To restore natural conditions for most of the plant communities at SFNC, with a top priority of connecting and expanding the existing glades.

Forest Management Tools:

  1. Prescribed burns (sometime after November 1st and before the end of the year) SFNC has previously partnered with TNC and has contracted to have their professional burn team carry out this part of the plan.
  2. Commercial thinning (this will occur after the prescribed burn. SFNC has hired professional Forester, Wade Hargrave, to supervise this and the Timber Stand improvement phase.
  3. Timber Stand improvement This process has already been started in our existing glades and woodlands by our Forester. Clint Johnson is carrying out the TSI on the Corp’s property.

Clint states in our restoration plan,

“From a wildlife standpoint, benefits of this work will include an open over-story, promoting nectar-producing plants to benefit pollinators (like monarch butterflies). Open woodlands benefit numerous species of songbirds that are experiencing population declines due to lack of suitable habitat, and even the standing dead trees from TSI treatment will create foraging and roosting habitats for bats and woodpeckers.”

Article number two, next month, will focus on these benefits and the role of our partner, Joseph Krystofik (Partners for Fish and Wildlife State Coordinator). Read about the expected benefits for the federally listed species, the Northern long-eared bat, and at risk species including the Monarch butterfly and the Texas Frosted Elfin. Also we’ll discuss other species of greatest conservation need identified in the Arkansas Wildlife Action Plan that will be helped by our restoration plan.

Stay Tuned. We’ve got a lot going on at South Fork Nature Center.