Ben Leffew, Preserve Manager Laura Baird, Assistant Preserve Manager
Bats are an integral, but often overlooked and always misunderstood, part of our ecosystem. These small flying mammals eat their body weight in insects every night, making them great at controlling pests and reducing the spread of pathogens like West Nile and Zika. The big brown bat, the largest species caught in The Preserve, eats up to 4,000 mosquitoes each night!
In early July, a private contractor surveyed The Preserve’s bat population by setting up 30 foot tall nets across various parts of our trails and creeks. We set up three nets every night, checking each of them every ten minutes between sunset and 2:00 a.m. In five days of netting we caught over 50 individuals representing five different species:
Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus) – one of the largest and most common species in Kentucky, associated with man-made structures.
Red bat (Lasiurus borealis) – a common, forest-dwelling species, roosting in trees instead of caves.
Gray bat (Myotis grisescens) – listed as a threatened species in Kentucky and an endangered species federally, this cave-dwelling species migrates between breeding caves in the summer and hibernation caves in the winter.
Small-footed bat (Myotis leibii) – a tiny, state threatened species, associated with cliffs.
Evening bat (Nycticeius humeralis) – listed as a species of ‘special concern’ in Kentucky, primarily roosting in trees.
Interestingly, our most endangered species was the most commonly caught – over 40% of our caught bats were gray bats!
Up next for the Preserve Team is migration songbird banding. This helps us determine which bird species utilize our habitat as a refueling station for their trip south of the border for winter. To ensure the health of the birds, this event is not open to the public. Don’t worry, we take lots of pictures to share!
Just like every department, The Preserve team has unique ways in measuring successes for Shaker Village. Since we started converting cool season pastures to native warm season grasses and wildflowers in 2009, we have dramatically changed the vegetative composition of the landscape. The majority of the changes we’ve made to the landscape were done to enhance the habitat of grassland obligate songbirds, such as the Northern Bobwhite Quail. Essentially, if you build and maintain good habitat for quail, then you raise the level of habitat for all songbirds. So, how can we tell whether this project has been a success?
Bird Banding is a metric we use to determine if we have been successful with our habitat enhancement that involves capturing birds using the protocols set forth by the Institute for Bird Populations’ Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship (MAPS) program. We set up mesh nets and check them at regular time intervals. The birds are removed from the nets and placed in protective bags, then checked for fat stores, breeding condition, feather wear and age by trained wildlife biologists. After that, the birds are released back into the wild.
This project was set up to obtain four years of baseline data in an abandoned cool season pasture, then convert the pasture to native warm season grasses and wildflowers, while continuing to collect data for a total of 10 years. This gives us an idea of how the property was used before the conversion, as well as what impact our conversion has had on bird health and overall numbers. What we’ve found after nine years of MAPS efforts is that birds LOVE what we’ve done with the place. Number of captures have been slightly up during the breeding season (May-July), but way up during the migration season (September-November). On Sept. 7 of this year, we captured our 100th species at the Shaker Village banding station! This milestone is significant in that not only are our capture numbers high, our diversity is high as well. High population numbers, along with high levels of diversity, equate to a high-five from the bird community!
We do what we can to keep our birds (and other wildlife) happy. Check out the bird blind area or take a hike on one of our trails to see The Preserve for yourself.
The Preserve and trails will be closed Mondays – Fridays from Nov. 1 – Dec. 29 for private hunts, habitat and wildlife management and trail restoration work. Learn more.
Ben Leffewis the preserve manager. A Kentucky Proud product straight out of…
If you were driving through Central Kentucky last week, you may have noticed some smoke coming from our way. Don’t worry… we meant to do that. No, really, we did. On Friday, the preserve team burned about 450 acres… on purpose!
Prescribed fire can be defined as a fire applied in a skillful manner to wildland fuels, in a predetermined place, under exacting weather conditions, to achieve specific management objectives.
Prescribed burns are part of the annual management plan of The Preserve to promote high quality brood rearing habitat for northern bobwhite quail and grassland songbirds. Adjacent unburned fields act as refuges and will be used as nesting habitat. Joining the Shaker Village preserve team on Friday were partners from Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife, United States Fish and Wildlife,Kentucky Division of Forestry andCopperhead Consulting as well as regional volunteers and the local fire department. While we can’t provide this experience to daily guests due to safety reasons, we’d like to share it with you here: