Nature & Environment

Youíre the bee's knees

On a whim, my husband and I bought a mason bee house that was on sale at a big box store. I am so glad we did! The more I read up on mason bees, the more fascinated I become. They’re some of the world’s best pollinators. 

There are over 200 mason bee species globally and 140 species throughout North America. Mason bees are related to honeybees, but do not produce honey or live in colonies. Mason bees acquired their name from their habit of building their nests out of mud that looks like bricks. They are solitary bees, which means that they don’t have workers or queens either. These ladies are small but mighty and completely independent! Female mason bees are responsible for building their own nests, scouting and foraging for their own food and defending themselves.

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Volume 14, Issue 10, Posted 9:49 AM, 05.17.2022

The Biggest Week in American Birding

Spring has finally sprung. And it brings not only warmer weather and flowering trees but migrating songbirds.

In fact, The Biggest Week in American Birding is coming up May 6-15. It's a birding festival held every year during peak songbird migration at Magee Marsh, a 2,202-acre marshland managed by the Ohio Division of Wildlife about 90 miles west on the shore of Lake Erie. The festival features guided birding fieldtrips, talks on birding and bird identification, and fun activities like the birder’s marketplace, bird tattoo contest and birder prom. Visit biggestweekinamericanbirding.com to learn more.

But the big draw is the birds! Spring migrations bring thousands of brightly colored, gregarious songbirds to the terminal woodlands along the shore of Lake Erie, where they rest and feed up before making the long flight across the lake. The big spring songbird prize is warblers, and Magee Marsh is known as the warbler capital of the world. It has a 1.2-mile-long handicap accessible boardwalk to which birders from all over the world come during the biggest week. It can be crowded and sound a bit like the United Nations during the biggest week. But there are other excellent birding sites nearby, such as the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, Metzger Marsh and Howard Marsh Metropark, if you want to avoid the crowds.

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Volume 14, Issue 9, Posted 10:45 AM, 05.03.2022

Your springtime guide to baby wildlife

As the weather warms and people spend more time outdoors, you may notice young animals that seem to be alone or in distress.

Lake Erie Nature & Science Center is the only wildlife rehabilitation facility in Cuyahoga County and offers free wildlife education and rehabilitation services seven days a week. Especially in spring, the Center receives several calls each day from concerned community members about birds, rabbits, squirrels, fawns and other wild babies.

“Sadly, well-meaning individuals sometimes assume wild babies are abandoned and, as a result, take them from their parents,” says wildlife rehabilitation specialist Tim Jasinski. “We encourage the community to call us before intervening, as baby wildlife is rarely abandoned in nature.”

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Volume 14, Issue 6, Posted 10:38 AM, 03.15.2022

BAYarts sculpture has a story

This is the story of how an abandoned tree trunk turned into the awe-inspiring sculpture installed on the BAYarts campus.

Once upon a time, Bay High art instructor Tom Schemrich, who would pass through the campus with his students to draw, noted that a particular campus garden was in need of a sculpture. The garden in question sits in front of the iconic red caboose in a circular lavender bed sponsored by Bay residents Ralph and Ginny Cascarilla. Now, anyone who knows "Mr. Schemrich" knows he took this as a serious creative challenge, a challenge his students would have an integral part in: conceiving, creating, installing and maintaining the work.

Under his direction, the students submitted several ideas to BAYarts in the form of small clay models. After selecting the design of winding hands reaching upward, the students got to work.

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Volume 14, Issue 5, Posted 10:30 AM, 03.01.2022

Great Backyard Bird Count

Looking for something to do during the February doldrums? Consider joining in the 25th annual Great Backyard Bird Count, coming up on Friday, Feb. 18, through Sunday, Feb. 21.

What is the Great Backyard Bird Count? It’s citizen science. A few days when ordinary people around the world come together to watch and count birds and report their observations to the greater birding community. The bird counts made by these citizen scientists are entered into eBird, one of the world’s largest nature databases. And used by the Audubon Society, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and Birds Canada to learn about bird populations and determine how best to protect birds and their habitats, like the beaches and woodlands along the shore of Lake Erie here in Northeast Ohio.

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Volume 14, Issue 4, Posted 9:57 AM, 02.15.2022

Nature thrives at Concord Reserve

A sprawling tomato plant lives in the Concord Reserve greenhouse. Its spread dominates one entire wall. Imagine Audrey from “Little Shop of Horrors” – only this plant doesn’t eat people, it feeds them.  Here’s the backstory for the extraordinary plant that Concord Reserve resident Bob Thompson decided to name Cecile.

When Bob and his wife, Della, moved to Concord Reserve Independent Living back in 2020, it didn’t take Bob long to spot the greenhouse. With a little attention and some new shelves, the greenhouse was opened for residents to house and protect their delicate plants over the winter.

Working on this success, Bob, along with the help of Events & Programs Coordinator Karen, came up with another plan for the greenhouse. A committee was formed to attempt fundraising for the Concord Reserve Foundation by raising and selling seedlings from scratch.

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Volume 14, Issue 2, Posted 10:14 AM, 01.18.2022

Greyhound of the air

The Northern Pintail Duck is an elegant traveler that visits Ohio between its breeding grounds in Canada and the upper plains states and its wintering grounds in our southern states. It is a fast and swift flyer that well deserves the nickname "greyhound of the air."

The male "drake" is easily recognizable by its white breast, long neck and distinctive long pintail. Pintail ducks can sometimes be found mixed in with other ducks on local ponds and lakes such as this one spotted at the Clague Park duck pond in Westlake on Jan. 10.

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Volume 14, Issue 2, Posted 10:13 AM, 01.18.2022

Protect Lake Erie this winter!

Just beyond our backyards lies one of the world's greatest resources, Lake Erie! With such an abundance of fresh water in Northeast Ohio we sometimes take our rivers and Great Lake for granted. But don’t forget, everything we do on the land affects our waterways. This winter here are some tips to protect your local streams and our Great Lake!

  1. Don’t dump leaves and yard debris near the lake, a stream, natural area, or storm drain.
  2. Leaves and yard debris should be composted or mulched into smaller pieces to decompose over the winter. This adds organic material to your lawn and gardens.
  3. If you use salt on your driveway/sidewalks, salt sensibly! One coffee cup of salt is enough for 10 sidewalk squares.
  4. Purchase deicer products that are lower in ammonia. Check the ingredients!

Take the Sensible Salting pledge to learn more here: www.bit.ly/SaltPledge. Remember: Only rain down the drain!

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Volume 14, Issue 2, Posted 10:14 AM, 01.18.2022

Donít need snow to see 'snowies'

"Snowies" – snowy owls, that is – are snow white owls like Hedwig of Harry Potter fame. Their stark white color is good camouflage in the region north of the Arctic Circle they call home. But that, along with their large size (up to 27 inches tall with a 49- to 51-inch wingspan), makes them easy to see here in Northeast Ohio, especially if there is no snow on the ground.

Snowy owls move south from their arctic breeding grounds in winter. But they rarely venture as far south as the United States and then only into the most northern reaches along the U.S.-Canada border, including Northeast Ohio. This year is one of those years, called an irruption, when snowy owls are moving south and have been seen in our area.

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Volume 13, Issue 24, Posted 9:49 AM, 12.21.2021

What to look for in the night sky this winter

As we near the shortest day of the year, many of us reminisce about the long summer days with plenty of time to enjoy the outdoors after school or work.

But despite chillier temperatures, there are several ways to enjoy nature during the winter months. And that includes nighttime sky viewing. Below are a few favorite objects to look up for this season.

Orion
One of the biggest and brightest constellations in the night sky is Orion the Hunter. First, look southeast for three equally bright stars in a straight line that form “Orion’s belt.” Serving as his right shoulder is the supergiant star Betelgeuse, which shines brightly with a reddish tint.

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Volume 13, Issue 24, Posted 9:49 AM, 12.21.2021

Frogs & Polliwogs registration begins Nov. 9

Lake Erie Nature & Science Center will offer online registration for spring sessions of its parent and toddler program, Frogs & Polliwogs, on Tuesday, Nov. 9, at 9:00 a.m.

Frogs & Polliwogs introduces children to the wonders of nature through hands-on activities, crafts, music, games, stories, live animal encounters and planetarium shows. The program is recommended for toddlers ages 18-36 months accompanied by a parent or grandparent. 

The cost is $330/child for weekly classes beginning Jan, 25, 2022 through May 13, 2022. Masks will be worn by Center staff and are required for adults and children ages 2 and above.

Learn more at www.lensc.org/preschool-programs.

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Volume 13, Issue 21, Posted 10:24 AM, 11.02.2021

Dangers of improperly discarded fishing line

Discarded fishing line poses a danger to humans, machinery, pets and wildlife.

Results can be deadly if your dog or cat happens to eat an animal that is tangled in fishing line or has ingested it, particularly if a hook is still attached. Humans can step on hooks, requiring surgical removal. Weed-wackers can require unnecessary maintenance if the line tangles the rotor and boats can suffer damage if old fishing line is caught between the propellers.

Wildlife, however, bears the brunt of fishing line that has been irresponsibly discarded. According to Coastal Breeze News, fishing line filaments, with or without hooks, that have been discarded along our beaches and waterways are the leading cause of wildlife entanglement. Furthermore, Audubon estimates that one million shorebirds die every year as a result of marine debris with over 300,000 of those deaths attributed to discarded fishing lines and hooks.

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Volume 13, Issue 20, Posted 10:21 AM, 10.19.2021

New exhibit features tree-dwelling master of camouflage

Lake Erie Nature & Science Center has a new species of animal on exhibit. A nimble, lime-green predator with beady eyes that likes to slink about in trees and bushes. Yet, despite the exotic sounding description, this is not a creature of the tropical jungle, but a native Ohio reptile known as the Rough Green Snake (Opheodrys aestivus). 

Tim Jasinski, Wildlife Rehabilitation Coordinator at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center, explains that this snake species is normally found in southern Ohio while the related and visually similar Smooth Green Snake (Opheodrys vernalis) is more often found in northern Ohio. However, Rough Green Snakes were chosen for this exhibit because of their active climbing habit which is perfect for the tall exhibit space.

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Volume 13, Issue 20, Posted 10:13 AM, 10.19.2021

Autumn in a nutshell

The crackle beneath your feet, a sudden thump on the ground nearby. These familiar autumn sounds of forest and backyard indicate that summer has come to a close and many species of trees have begun to disperse their large crop of seeds and nuts. Great quantities of these are gobbled up by native wildlife as a seasonal, nutrient-rich food source that is especially useful to animals preparing for energy consuming survival strategies like migration and hibernation.

Squirrels famously store large collections of nuts in hidden caches for the winter to come. This is useful for the trees as well since not every buried seed is recovered before it sprouts into a young tree. It might be a long time before an acorn produces a large harvest of its own though – it can take 50 years or more for some oak tree species to produce an abundant harvest!

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Volume 13, Issue 19, Posted 10:00 AM, 10.05.2021

Fruit lovers and wine drinkers beware!

On Sept. 21, 2021, a population of the invasive spotted lanternfly (SLF) was discovered in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, on the east side of Cuyahoga County. This is a deceptively beautiful "hopper" that likely hitched a ride on railroad cars to arrive here from Pennsylvania where the economic impact could total in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and hundreds of thousands of jobs, for those in the grapes, apple, hops, and hardwood industries.

From there, the SLF has traveled to a few other states, and now has three locations in Ohio, having arrived via river boat to Cincinnati, and presumed train to our home. No, they cannot drive, but they also do not fly; they hop from one area to the next, and lay their eggs on any flat hard surface where the eggs become traveling larvae and eventually adults, feeding on fruit and sap of many types of trees and plants.

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Volume 13, Issue 18, Posted 10:12 AM, 09.21.2021

Celebrating the fall harvest

The days are getting shorter as daylight continues to wane for another two months until winter equinox, the shortest day of the year.

The little garden patch in the northwest corner of the Knickerbocker Apartments is still producing tomatoes and herbs and peppers and lovely flowers. Cucumbers on vines rooted in pots climb the fence and reach out to Clematis. Some leaves are turning yellow and let go as the gentle autumn wind takes them for a journey. The trees from a neighboring lot give welcome shade in the summer but in fall and winter the more sun the better.

Mint has been harvested and used in Tzatziki, a cold cucumber and yogurt dish. While other herbs are harvested, squirrels gather acorns and Canada Geese fly in formation to their winter homes.

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Volume 13, Issue 18, Posted 10:21 AM, 09.21.2021

Fall migrations are underway

From birds to butterflies, wildlife is on the move. Ohio’s geography of forests, grasslands and coasts, along with two large water sources – Lake Erie and the Ohio River – attracts a wide array of wildlife during fall migration. Here are Lake Erie Nature & Science Center’s top migrations to observe this season.

Monarch Butterflies

One of the most fascinating creatures in North America is the monarch butterfly. Each fall, millions of monarchs leave their summer breeding grounds in the northeastern United States and Canada to travel upwards of 3,000 miles to reach their overwintering grounds in southwestern Mexico.

To spot these winged migrants, look in lakefront woodlots or areas with plants still in flower such as asters or goldenrod.

Bats

Depending on the species, some Ohio bats such as the eastern red bat, hoary Bat and silver-haired bat migrate south in the cooler months when food sources become scarce. The best time to see them is around sunset or sunrise when it is warm and dry. While some bats fly relatively high, others are found closer to the ground and tree line.

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Volume 13, Issue 18, Posted 10:13 AM, 09.21.2021

Gardening at the Knickerbocker

As August came to a close I went to our little community garden at the Knickerbocker Apartments to take morning pictures when the sun highlights the loveliness of our meager efforts. One gardener, however, has spent many hours tending the garden and has given advice and watered when needed. Robert is from Lebanon and brings old world wisdom, even his mother's advice not to waste a thing, and shares it along with recipes for tabbouleh and his hot peppers, which he grows in abundance.

The Knickerbocker has kindly provided eight raised beds that are waist high, built on stilts so older people don't have to kneel to garden which would prevent many like myself from gardening at all. They also provided potting soil to fill the boxes, sometimes mixing in the clay-like native dirt that is not fit for growing anything. I am surprised any grass grows at all.

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Volume 13, Issue 17, Posted 10:44 AM, 09.08.2021

Observe the Perseid Meteor Shower at its peak, Aug. 11-13

Look up! The Perseid Meteor Shower, one of the most spectacular meteor showers of the year, will peak Aug. 11 through Aug. 13. In preparation for this cosmic event, Planetarium Specialist Bill Reed of Lake Erie Nature & Science Center explains what a meteor shower is and provides tips for seeing “shooting stars” this month.

What is a meteor shower?

Comets are large, icy solar system bodies. As a comet passes closer to the sun, its ice warms and begins to release particles of dust and rock into the atmosphere, which can result in a glowing trail of vapor.

Meteor showers occur when meteoroids -- the rocks and debris left behind by a comet -- enter the Earth's atmosphere. Meteoroids are almost always small enough to quickly burn up in our atmosphere, so there is little chance they will strike Earth's surface.

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Volume 13, Issue 15, Posted 9:58 AM, 08.03.2021

Local high school student is aspiring wildlife photographer

At the beginning of the pandemic with most of the country locked down indoors, Westside Christian Academy junior Nathaniel Shackelford took to the great outdoors. There he discovered a fascinating world of nature, quite literally in his own backyard. With his father’s camera a Canon EOS 70D, Nathaniel photographed an aerial battle between a red-tailed hawk and a crow. Sharing the picture from this encounter with his high school classmates elicited favorable comments and encouraged him to continue photographing birds.

Realizing that he needed a technological upgrade, Nathaniel used all his available cash to purchase the Sigma 150-600mm lens. With this new equipment, he has photographed over 100 species of birds, most in his Bay Village backyard. Other locations where he’s taken photos include the Rocky River Reservation, Sandy Ridge Reservation in North Ridgeville and Magee Marsh along Lake Erie near Oak Harbor.

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Volume 13, Issue 15, Posted 9:59 AM, 08.03.2021

6 ways to enjoy nature with your preschooler

It’s officially summer! The sun is shining, the weather is warm, animals are out and about, and families are exploring the outdoors.

Below are Lake Erie Nature & Science Center’s activity ideas for you to enjoy nature with your preschooler this season.

Embark on a nature scavenger hunt
Summer is the perfect time to hike with preschoolers. Bring along a nature scavenger hunt for your child to discover new things in the forest – or even in your own back yard (printable scavenger hunts are available at lensc.org/visit/virtual-learning).

For the littlest of hikers, we recommend gathering a box of crayons or paint samples so that they can match them with colorful things in nature.

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Volume 13, Issue 13, Posted 10:31 AM, 07.06.2021

Westlake Garden Club gets busy gardening

The Westlake Garden Club has gotten a great start on the gardening season for 2021.

The morning of May 22 found several members at the club’s Hilliard Boulevard flower box getting the plants in the ground. Cathy Garlitz and Marsha McEntee selected and transported the plants and planted them, along with Lavinia Cozmin, Marge Emblom and Anne Engel. Later that day, a group of members met on member Carolyn Steigman’s patio for the annual plant exchange where they brought divisions and whole plants from their own gardens to exchange for something different. There were also some house plants finding new homes.

The garden club again provided a wreath for the Memorial Day Ceremony at Clague Park. Carolyn Steigman put together the beautiful wreath this year.

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Volume 13, Issue 12, Posted 9:59 AM, 06.15.2021

Beautiful blooms

Judy Brody of Bay Village captured the simple beauty of roses in bloom at the Cahoon Memorial Park Rose Garden on Memorial Day.

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Volume 13, Issue 12, Posted 10:00 AM, 06.15.2021

Metroparks unveils enhanced Huntington Reservation

Visitors to the Huntington Reservation in Bay Village have long appreciated the sandy beach, cliffside walking path and unique water tower landmark. But there were a few things missing, namely: pleasant restrooms, walleye sandwiches and craft beer.

Last year, the Cleveland Metroparks began an enhancement project to bring more amenities to the lakefront park. With $1.6 million from individual and family donors and the Emerald Necklace Endowment Fund, the Metroparks was able to build brand new restrooms and a picnic area, expand the concession area and restore the historic Huntington water tower.

Metroparks officials unveiled the newly updated Huntington Reservation with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on May 27.

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Volume 13, Issue 11, Posted 11:50 AM, 06.02.2021

What to look for in the sky this May

As the weather gets warmer and days grow longer, springtime continues to bring change in the Northern Hemisphere. Planetarium Specialist Katy Downing of the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center shares the visible planets and constellations to observe in May.

Jupiter and Saturn

Before sunrise, look for Jupiter and Saturn shining brightly in the east. Jupiter will be toward the eastern sky and appear brighter than Saturn. Though not as bright, Saturn – the most distant planet in our solar system to be seen with the naked eye – will be brighter than the surrounding stars in the southeastern sky.

Tip: By May 31, the sun is rising at 5:55 a.m. Wake up early to gaze at these two planets before they disappear in the morning light.

Mars

This month, look west during sunset to observe Mars. The Red Planet will be due west, high above the horizon. As its nickname suggests, Mars will be red in color and stand out among the surrounding stars.

After you spot Mars, remind yourself of Perseverance, the new robotic mission that landed in February to look for signs of past microbial life, cache rock and soil samples, and prepare for future human exploration.

Tip: Stars twinkle; planets usually don’t.

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Volume 13, Issue 10, Posted 10:13 AM, 05.18.2021

Westlake Garden Club awarded grant for pollinator garden

A couple of local gardeners are spearheading a vision of pollinator gardens throughout our city. The Westlake Garden Club is sponsoring this initiative. This vision was enhanced on April 27 by the recent award of the Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District’s (SWCD) Conservation Action Grant & Scholarship Fund.

Susan Baker and Deb Dougherty, both Westlake residents, started planning the project in late 2019 and early 2020. They decided to approach the City of Westlake to test the level of support.

Susan Baker’s affiliation with the City of Westlake began with her involvement with the annual Westlake in Bloom event. Her contacts with the City’s Planning and Economic Development and Public Service Departments helped introduce the concept on the City level. Susan commented that the City of Westlake and particularly Jim Bedell and Chris Stuhm are amazing advocates for improving our community.

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Volume 13, Issue 9, Posted 10:01 AM, 05.04.2021

Answering your springtime wildlife questions

Spring is a time when everything is growing and bursting into life. Birds are singing, flowers are blooming, bees are buzzing and baby animals are starting to be seen.

As the weather warms and people spend more time outdoors, Lake Erie Nature & Science Center is here to answer your wildlife questions and concerns. Below, the Center’s wildlife experts answer some of the most common wildlife questions they receive from the public each spring.

I noticed a fawn alone in the grass. Is it abandoned?

Baby wildlife is rarely abandoned in nature. Mothers will often leave their young unattended for hours for a variety of reasons.

For instance, a fawn lying quietly by itself is perfectly normal. Deer do this to protect their young, as the presence of an adult would attract the attention of predators. If a fawn is walking around and making noise, it may be abandoned and in need of assistance.

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Volume 13, Issue 7, Posted 10:32 AM, 04.06.2021

V is for Vulture

The Ides of March – March 15 – is best known as the day Julius Caesar was assassinated in the Roman Senate. But it is also the day the swallows famously come back to Capistrano and, less famously, the buzzards return to Northeast Ohio. The buzzards – or rather turkey vultures – have been gone since last fall. Did you miss them? They are migratory, leaving NE Ohio in the fall for warmer climes and returning in early spring for breeding.

For years the Cleveland Metroparks Hinckley Reservation celebrated the turkey vultures' return to Whipp’s Ledges in mid-March. There won’t be a Buzzard Day celebration there this year due to Covid-19. But you can celebrate Buzzard Day on your own by going out and spotting for them. And you don’t have to wait for the Ides. Start looking now, you might spot a few early arrivals.

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Volume 13, Issue 5, Posted 9:47 AM, 03.02.2021

Tri-Cís Westshore Campus earns second LEED certification for green building

Cuyahoga Community College earned a LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for the new Liberal Arts and Technology building at Westshore Campus. 

LEED certification is a nationally recognized benchmark for the design, construction and operation of high-performance green buildings. This is the College’s seventh building with a LEED designation. 

Westshore’s Health Careers and Sciences building previously earned a LEED Gold designation after opening a decade ago. Development of the campus along Clemens Road in Westlake coincided with the College’s creation of a sustainability plan.

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Volume 13, Issue 4, Posted 11:09 AM, 02.16.2021

Lake Erie: Love It, Don't Trash It

This February help the Cuyahoga Soil & Water Conservation District "Love Lake Erie" by picking up litter with us! If we each pick up a few pieces we will easily surpass our challenge goal to remove at least 500 pieces of litter from the county watersheds.

American Rivers sponsors all of our cleanups and they have introduced us to an App called Litterati. If you have a smartphone and you hate litter, we would love for you to join our Litterati challenge to pick up and track litter.

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Volume 13, Issue 3, Posted 10:14 AM, 02.02.2021

Cuyahoga SWCD offers conservation grants and scholarships

Cuyahoga SWCD has long promoted the installation of conservation projects such as tree planting, rain gardens, rain barrels, native plant gardens, cover crops and more to improve the health of Cuyahoga County's soil & water resources. In addition to educating the public about these practices, we have striven to reduce the barriers that may exist that prevent residents and other landowners from adopting these practices: through rain barrel workshops where we supply all the materials necessary to construct and install a barrel, to our native plant kit sale, and our soil test kit distributions.

We are now taking this commitment to reducing barriers to the adoption of conservation practices one step further with the introduction of our Conservation Action Grant & Scholarship Fund.

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Volume 13, Issue 2, Posted 10:01 AM, 01.19.2021

The Westlake Garden Club survives 2020

This year has been one of challenges and frustrations for the Westlake Garden Club. Our club year begins in March so, as a group, we have not met at all this year. The board met in March before the shut-down, had an in-person socially distanced meeting in the president’s driveway, and had a Zoom meeting. 

We have tried to stay connected with members through a monthly newsletter and phone calls, and the new board has been elected for 2021. Sharing the presidency are Cathy Garlitz and Jean Smith; treasurer, Marie McCarthy; recording secretary, Anne Engel and Marsha McEntee; and program chair, Deb Dougherty.

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Volume 12, Issue 24, Posted 9:51 AM, 12.15.2020

December Landscaping: Plant for the birds!

Native berry-bearing and evergreen plant species provide important habitat and food for overwintering bird species. Additionally, many animal species depend on winter cover to protect their young. These plants can also provide a pop of color to brighten up winters’ dreariest days! 

Some native species that provide winter cover and food include American holly (Ilex opaca), Winterberry (Ilex verticillata), Inkberry (Ilex glabra), Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia), Red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), and White pine (Pinus strobus).

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Volume 12, Issue 24, Posted 9:57 AM, 12.15.2020

6 ways for children and families to enjoy nature this winter

Winter is on the horizon, but your outdoor fun doesn’t need to come to an end. There is a beautiful winter world awaiting for those who seek refreshment and energy from the outdoors. Below are six ways you and your family can enjoy nature this winter, despite the chilly temperatures.

Go stargazing

Winter skies can be the clearest of the year and the richest in stars. In addition to winter constellations such as Orion, Canis Major and the bright star Sirius, Canis Minor and Gemini the Twins, this season you can observe The Great Conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter.

Go outside and look toward the south/southwest, where you will see two objects shining brighter than any surrounding stars. The brighter one is Jupiter and the dimmer one is Saturn.

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Volume 12, Issue 23, Posted 10:02 AM, 12.01.2020

Help birds while you drink coffee

Birds connect us to people in distant lands. The migratory birds that arrive every spring in the United States are the same birds that you would see in South America during our winter. We could talk to a farmer in Nicaragua about the rose-breasted grosbeak and he would see in his mind's-eye what we see. The sorrow we feel as the bird populations dwindle here is the same sorrow felt by birders in South America as losses of forests in Central and South America mirror the habitat loss in the U.S.

It's easy to feel helpless but here is something that you can do to help – and it's as simple as pouring yourself a cup-a-joe and kicking back to watch the birds.

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Volume 12, Issue 20, Posted 10:24 AM, 10.20.2020

General admission resumes at Lake Erie Nature & Science Center

To continue serving children and families in the community, Lake Erie Nature & Science Center is pleased to be offering free general admission for the first time since March.

General admission, at no charge, allows visitors to enjoy live animal exhibits indoors and outdoors, and displays about natural history and space science. Registration for general admission is required at www.lensc.org or 440-871-2900. Preregistered visits will help the Center to ensure capacity and distancing protocols are in place and allow time for cleaning of the facility.

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Volume 12, Issue 17, Posted 9:33 AM, 09.01.2020

Sea Scouts take first place in STEM contest

A team of Sea Scouts from Bay Village has won first place in the STEM Lesson Plan Contest sponsored by Dominion Energy’s Project Plant It! program to teach youth about the benefits of trees to the environment. The three ninth-grade girls – Maeve Kilroy, Maeve Galla and Amy Burgy – with supervision by their skipper, Richard Gash, created a science lesson plan based on a project to plant redbud tree seedlings on the slope of Cahoon Creek in order to prevent soil erosion and runoff into the creek.

The idea for a STEM lesson plan about how trees can help prevent soil erosion germinated from their Sea Scout activities. The girls often put their sailboats in the water in the area of Cahoon Creek that had been cleared to build the new Lake Road bridge, leaving the area vulnerable for runoff of pollutants into the creek. In the course of their research on how to protect the creek, the girls learned about the free redbud tree seedlings offered by Project Plant It!, and they registered to get the seedlings to plant along the slope in April. The COVID-19 crisis has delayed planting until the fall. In the meantime, the team received a $200 Walmart gift card from Dominion Energy to purchase supplies for scout projects.

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Volume 12, Issue 13, Posted 10:05 AM, 07.07.2020

How old is your tree?

Denise Pattyn of Bay Village used the formula printed in the June 16 issue to determine that a pin oak tree in her Wolf Road yard is 106 years old.

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Volume 12, Issue 13, Posted 10:02 AM, 07.07.2020

What bird is this?

We printed this photo of a “mystery bird” at Bay Village feeder in the June 16 issue of the Observer and asked for readers’ help in identifying it. The myriad responses that came in only heightened the mystery – it’s an immature rose-breasted grosbeak! It’s a purple finch! It’s a juvenile red-winged blackbird! It’s a female grosbeak! We turned to our local gem, the Lake Erie Nature & Science Center, for a definitive answer.

“This is an adult female red-winged blackbird,” wrote Tim Jasinski, wildlife rehabilitation specialist at the Center. “Sometimes older females will show deeper colors than normal or more male-like colors resulting from increased testosterone later in life. It could also sometimes just be the photograph, the lighting or other factors but this is definitely a red-winged blackbird!”

Out of the many responses from our amateur bird-watching readers, only one – Chuck Collings – matched the expert in correctly identifying the bird.

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Volume 12, Issue 13, Posted 10:38 AM, 07.07.2020

The blue stripe on the Bay Boat Club dock

We came together in the fall of 2019 as strangers from four different schools. We formed Team Zebra, and are now the sixth-grade Ohio State Champion and a Regional Finalist for the eCyberMission STEM competition. Our project involved finding a solution to the zebra mussel and algae growth problem on the dock at Bay Boat Club.

In the summer with the high Lake Erie water levels, the boat dock is underwater and covered with algae and zebra mussels, making it slippery and dangerous. One interesting fact that we learned while researching for this project is that zebra mussels are contributing to the growth of algae in Lake Erie by filtering the water. They are improving water clarity, which then allows the sun to penetrate deeper and support algae growth.

The algae on the dock are a breeding ground for zebra mussels; one female zebra mussel can produce over one million free-floating eggs in a year. Algae act as an incubator for the eggs, which, when hatched, are known as veligers until they grow into adults.

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Volume 12, Issue 12, Posted 9:49 AM, 06.16.2020