Bringing wildness back to Clear Lake

Pre-settlement, the Clear Lake area was a wildlife haven. Now in one of the most popular tourism spots in the state, INHF is helping to restore a measure of wildness.

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Restoration on the Pedelty property, a former golf course, will see restored wetland, prairie and savanna and will benefit the area’s many bird and non-game species. Photo by Ross Baxter, INHF

Early accounts of Clear Lake, a spring-fed lake with origins in the last glacial period, tell of its use as a favorite summer camping ground of the Sioux and Winnebago peoples. By the mid-1800s, tales of the beautiful lake with plentiful fish and wildlife had captured the attention and imagination of Euro-American settlers. In short order, what had been a wild and vast wetland-pocked prairie ecosystem, replete with a dizzying array of native plants and animals, was being domesticated. Continue reading

5 things you didn’t know about the “Easter Bunny”

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Photo by Michelle Tribe via Flickr Creative Commons

Here comes Peter Cottontail — and he’s right in your backyard! The cottontail rabbit is one of Iowa’s most popular native species and can be found across the state. These cute critters are common, but still hold a few surprises. Here are five unusual facts about the species:

  • Female cottontails are slightly larger than the males, but the average rabbit weighs around two pounds and is 14 to 20 inches long.
  • In states with high agriculture production, like Iowa, cottontails seek out waste grains — including corn, soybeans and wheat — to eat in the fall and winter.
  • Cottontails have eyes on the sides of their heads, which makes it easy for them to spot danger without moving.
  • Most cottontails spend their whole life within a five-acre radius.
  • Ideal rabbit habitat in Iowa includes a mix of cropland, grassland, brushy woodland, briar patches and hedgerows.

Want to learn more about the cottontail rabbit? Check out additional information from our friends at the Iowa DNR under “Mammals,” here.

Happy Easter!

Where the Wild Things Are: Greater Prairie Chickens

Welcome to “Where the Wild Things Are,” a monthly series where we feature a unique native species — and the best spots to glimpse these creatures. This month we’re featuring the eccentric Prairie Chicken.

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Large, feathered, and noisy, the prairie chicken isn’t all that different from a typical fowl. However, a few distinct qualities set the birds apart. Male prairie chickens feature orange feathers above their eyes and a pair of inflatable neck sacs. These sacs are also bright orange and puff up during the bird’s notable mating practice. Continue reading

Pieces of the Puzzle: Waterman Prairie Addition

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The process of completing a land protection project closely resembles putting a puzzle together, and sometimes the pieces are challenging to locate or difficult to put into place.

A 227-acre addition to Waterman Prairie Wildlife Management Area in O’Brien County is part of a “puzzle” that connects two protected natural areas and adds a large tract to the 1500-acre Waterman complex, about 3.5 miles southeast of Sutherland. The addition is host to many distinctive features that make up the northwest Iowa landscape. It boasts soft-edged rolling hills with remnant prairie, a wooded, winding creek, oak savanna and a large oak woodland. The Iowa DNR approached INHF to help acquire this connecting piece in fall 2014. Continue reading

The Ultimate Guide to Winter Birdwatching in Iowa

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Beat the winter blues by checking out some colorful creatures — it’s time to bird watch! Even though some species have headed south for the winter, there are still many opportunities to glimpse our feathered friends in Iowa. Check out the tips and tricks below to make the most of your experience.

Know what species to look for
Nature Worldwide has compiled a list of all the different bird species in Iowa. Each listing states the bird’s scientific name, common name and “UIA.” The UIA codes include each species abundance in the state and status of permanence. Take the red-bellied woodpecker for example. This bird has a UIA of “CN” which means that they are common birds to sight and they nest in Iowa, but are absent for part of the year. These codes can help bird watchers identify which species are around from season to season.

Where to Go:

State parks/forests
Look for areas with coniferous covering or brushy areas. Many species will feed off of remaining berries, nuts etc. Find an area near you.

Water sources
Any open water source will attract a variety of species, as many rely on aquatic animals or plants as food sources. Look for ducks, geese and other shorebirds. Be aware that many species migrate, so your sightings may vary from month to month. Continue reading

Where to see bald eagles this winter

Calling all eagle lovers: This winter, never miss a chance to see a bald eagle soaring overhead.

Our friends at Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area have compiled a map of active eagle nests and viewing areas along the Mississippi River. Locations are mapped by GPS coordinates or well-known landmarks.

View the map here:

Where do you eagle watch in Iowa?

9 great conservation projects happening right now

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From trail connections to wetland restoration to important wildlife habitat, INHF
is working on some great projects. With your help, we can protect, restore and connect these places that are so important to Iowa’s natural beauty.

Burr Wildlife Area Addition — This addition of 411 acres to the Burr Wildlife area has many people encouraged. Besides the beauty of the rolling hills, prairie and oak trees, this addition means 600 acres of public land along this corridor will be protected, allowing for increased habitat and water protection.
Support this project

 

BruceMorrison-Oxbow-OtterCreekOtter Creek Wildlife Area Addition — 67-acre property is adjacent to the 275 protected acres of the Otter Creek Wildlife Area in Sioux County Conservation Board ownership and will expand the size of the habitat available to area wildlife. The land will feature restored prairie and wetland areas, prime for wildlife viewing and hunting. Reestablishing native grasses will provide nesting and winter cover for birds.
Support this project Continue reading

INHF in action: New addition to Stephens State Forest

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Soap Creek runs through the 227-acre addition to Stephen’s State Forest in Davis County.

INHF recently assisted the Iowa DNR in acquiring a 227-acre addition to Stephens State Forest and Soap Creek WMA. The property is located approximately 4 miles northeast of Unionville in Davis county. INHF purchased the property in 2013 and held it until recently when the DNR was able to purchase it and open it to public use.

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The Indiana bat

The area is a mix of habitats with over 100 acres of oak-hickory woodland. Part of the property borders Soap Creek, where restored riverine wetlands protect water quality.
Soap Creek is one of four Iowa Flood Center priority watersheds identified in a project with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Flooding on Soap Creek has been a problem for decades, and the protection of this property with support the goals of the Iowa Flood Center/HUD project, which include:

  • Maximize soil water holding capacity from precipitation
  • Miniminze severe soil erosion and sand deposition during floods
  • Manage water runoff in uplands under saturated soil moisture conditions
  • Reduce and mitigate structural and nonstructural flood damage

Continue reading

All I Want for Christmas is $180 million

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As we head toward the start of the 2016 legislative session, (Monday, Jan. 11) our thoughts turn away from the whirlwind of shopping, wrapping, cooking and family gatherings consuming our attention toward what could be the most important gift we could give ourselves, the funding of the Natural Resources and Outdoor Recreation Trust Fund.

This is a gift that would give year after year, protecting our water, preventing the loss of precious topsoil and providing habitat for our diverse wildlife. This gift would support quality of life initiatives like trails and parks, which contribute to making Iowa, its economy and its people, thrive.

This is a gift we owe ourselves, our children and our grandchildren, and we need to do it NOW. Continue reading