A typical quarry site is busy, loud and teeming with workers and vehicles—not exactly ideal for wildlife habitat. But quarries (both active and inactive), with their large parcels of land that can include grasslands and wetlands, can in fact provide a safe and beneficial home to a variety of wildlife.
The Gold Hill Quarry, located on 400 acres in the small community of Gold Hill, North Carolina, might not seem like the typical home for birds, but species like osprey, wood ducks and eastern bluebirds have been flourishing there for decades. The quarry, which is owned and operated by Vulcan Materials, supplies and distributes aggregates like gravel, sand and crushed stone for use in construction. The management of the quarry’s conservation projects is performed by a small but dedicated team of employee volunteers led by Jordan Littauer, District Operations Manager at Vulcan Materials. The Gold Hill Quarry team is primarily focused on supporting avian species that use the site’s ponds and other habitats.
One of those other habitats is a somewhat unlikely one – the top of the stacker conveyer support structure in the processing plant, where a pair of osprey have nested for years.
Although the conveyer moves throughout the day, Littauer chuckled as he explained how the movement is slow enough that the birds “don’t seem bothered by it and just ride it back and forth all day.” Nevertheless, employees make sure to minimize vehicle and noise disturbance in the vicinity when osprey are on-site. Their nesting activity, such as when they arrive at the nest each year and the nestlings’ behavior, is monitored regularly. Littauer described how much he enjoys watching the birds gathering nesting materials each spring: “They fly around rim of the pit, grab a branch, and keep flying. It’s really neat to watch.” Last year, a second nest was built on top of another nearby support structure; although no young have been observed in the nest, it’s a good sign that a second pair of osprey might begin nesting on-site in the coming year.
While the osprey enjoy their unusual nesting spot, other bird species prefer a more traditional dwelling in the form of nest boxes. Through a partnership with Delta Waterfowl, an organization focused on waterfowl conservation and management, the Vulcan employees gain expertise to assist with maintaining and monitoring the 8 wood duck nest boxes installed around the ponds. There are also 21 boxes for eastern bluebirds dispersed throughout the quarry property, with neighboring agricultural fields supporting the insects bluebirds feed upon in the spring and summer. Several of the facility’s quality control technicians assist with monitoring the boxes, which are too numerous and spread out for the small employee team to monitor on its own.
The program at the Gold Hill Quarry has maintained its WHC certification for an impressive 27 years. Littauer attributes this long-term success to good planning. Each year, the team meticulously schedules the monitoring and maintenance activities for its projects, such as when to clean out and repair nest boxes, when to start monitoring them in the spring, and the best timing for determining how many young hatch and then fledge from the nest boxes.
The employees that manage these habitats are all very passionate about wildlife and environmental conservation and are continually encouraged by a company-wide dedication to biodiversity and the pursuit of WHC Conservation Certification®.
Littauer says that he and his teammates receive the most satisfaction in the value they’re providing to local species, “What we like to see is the results. It gives me the most pride that we’re making a difference.”
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