May Wildflower Photography Walk
At Wickiup Hill Outdoor Area
Sunday May 4th, 4:30 to 7:00pm
Join the Linn Area Photo Club in May as veteran wildflower photographer Bob Lancaster, leads a trek through the Wickiup woodlands, wetlands, prairie and savannah on the afternoon of Sunday May 4th. Meet at the front door to Wickiup and wear your comfortable hiking shoes for an approximately two mile hike. After the hike, you are welcome to stay until sunset (appx 8pm) when the gates close.
Suggested equipment to bring:
Bug spray – keep in mind DEET is great for avoiding ticks and mosquitoes but bad for camera bodies.
Empty garbage bag or similar to lie down onto the grass without getting dirty.
The shoot date will stay as planned unless it is pouring down rain at the start time. This wildflower shoot will still take place even if there is a light mist as the mist would help create beautiful images. This shoot is free to attend for photographers of all skill levels. Links to images can be sent to the firstname.lastname@example.org email and will be forwarded to Wickiup. Remember to include an ‘Image Rights’ note in your email for your photo donation. If you’d like to check out Bob Lancaster’s wildflower webpage, click the following link: http://www.wildflowersphotography.com/
The naturalists at Wickiup Hill Learning Center are excited to offer eight summer camps in 2014 and six archery day camps. Learn how to be a naturalist, survive in the wild, build a fairy house or carve a walking stick! Check out our brochure for this year’s outdoor adventures - Wickiup’s Summer Camps 2014
The latest Oak Hickory Newsletter has been sent to the printers and should arrive in mailboxes the last week of March. But because we are so excited about the new programs, camps and upcoming events we are including it here - 2014 Summer Oak Hickory Newsletter. There is something for everyone. Learn about spring fungus on a hike led by the Prairie State Mushroom Club in May, build a long bow with expert Gene Winter in June, or go on a virtual expedition for dinosaur fossils in the Canadian Rockies.Check out the spread of summer camps – from fairy house building to woodcarving to outdoor survival – your kids are sure to make great memories outdoors. Cheers to warmer weather!
Plan to join fellow Iowans at the statehouse in support of clean water, wildlife habitat, and conservation progress, March 18, 2014!
Where: Iowa State Capitol rotunda
When: Tuesday, March 18, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Who: Open to all Iowans with a passion for protecting our state’s natural resources!
You can tell us you plan to attend at http://envirolobbyday.eventbrite.com
Plan to wear blue to show your support for clean water! A training for citizen advocates will be held at 8:30 (location TBA); and a press conference on the importance of conservation action will be held during the event.
Last year, 30 organizations and more than 100 Iowans came together in a snowstorm to let legislators know Iowans value the quality of life and economic benefits that come from protecting our natural resources and supporting outdoor recreation. Now, with a historic opportunity to fund Iowa’s Resource Enhancement and Protection Program at a $25 million level for its 25th anniversary year, members of the Iowa REAP Alliance and Iowa Environmental Council are working together for an even bigger turnout in 2014. Together, we can help “close the deal” for conservation this legislative session! After an uplifting REAP Congress meeting earlier in January brought delegates together from all over the state to support funding for REAP and Iowa’s Water and Land Legacy, March 18 provides a key opportunity to maintain conservation momentum later in the session.
You are encouraged to “Commit to Attend” the lobby day by registering online at envirolobbyday.eventbrite.com. When you do, you will receive parking information, talking points, and other updates about the event directly in your inbox.
Sign up now at http://envirolobbyday.eventbrite.com
Linn County Conservation is gearing up for its 25th Operation Releaf event with Alliant Energy. If you are a Linn County resident and an Alliant Energy customer, you are eligible to purchase landscape trees at discount prices. Tree pick-up will be at Squaw Creek Park on April 26th from 7:30am to 9:00am. The ORDER FORM has interactive links for each tree species to help you select the best tree for your space.
By Naturalist Chuck Ungs
As we move towards the return of warm weather once again, I am reminded of the fact that baby animal and injured animal calls are about to ramp up. As a conservation agency we field lots of calls about what to do with a wild creature that is in distress.
The first and foremost question is whether the critter is in danger. If the creature is simply sitting in your backyard and appears to be just alone at the time it may be best to simply leave it there and not interact with it. In countless cases mom or perhaps dad will be out of sight – but that doesn’t mean much, these creatures are exceptionally good at hiding in plain sight. When the time is right the parent will cruise in and feed the little one or escort them to a different location.
If the neighbor’s cat or dog are sniffing around and making contact with injured or young beast then what can or should be done with it? The quick and easy answer is to attempt to restrain the domestic beasts to allow the wild one to survive. Of course, there are times when that simply isn’t possible. In such events it may be best to attempt to place the wild one in a tree to prevent injury from the pet. Understand that the idea is to minimize the stress put on such individuals by reacting quickly and not having an extended chase to capture them.
Of course with an obvious injury the wildlife could use some assistance. In that case it would be best first and foremost to contact a trained wildlife rehabilitator. Locally, you can call the Wapsi River Wildlife Rehabilitation Project members that include:
Michelle at 319-480-6828
Gayla at 319-480-5048
Beth at 319-480-2776
Christy at 319-721-0566
or you may reach them at email@example.com
If you are closer to Black Hawk County then you can reach the Black Hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation Project at 319-277-6511.
With each of these numbers you may need to leave a message and wait for a reply.
The best thing for the animal is to observe them briefly and then call the numbers. You are asked to avoid feeding or watering the animal, however you should keep the animal in a warm, quiet place and do not handle it any more than needed to contain it in a cardboard box or similar container. Most rehabbers cover the fees involved out of their own pockets so donations are most appreciated and help to ensure the future care of such creatures. The donations go directly to the care of the animals.
If you have an interest in learning more about what wildlife rehabilitation is all about, you may wish to join us for an upcoming class at Wickiup Hill on Saturday, March 1, from noon to 2 pm. Attendees will learn what you can do, how to help and not hurt, and what it means to be a wildlife rehabilitator. Linda Nebbe has been a rehabber and educator for over 40 years. She and her “co-presenters” will take you behind the scenes. When you leave you will know what to do when you find that distressed animal as well as how you can get more involved with wildlife rehabilitation. Please call 319-892-6485 to register by Thursday February 27th. This program is free.
The latest Oak Hickory is packed with great winter programs! Check out the opportunities in January, February and March for both indoor and outdoor fun. Oak Hickory Newsletter November 2013
Linn County Conservation & Buchanan County Conservation are partnering in 2014 to offer a unique birding opportunity. Have you wanted to go see sandhill cranes or prairie chickens, but aren’t sure where or how to coordinate a trip?
Join birding experts for a complete package bus trip to Nebraska this March 27th – 30th. Leave the driving, scheduling and guide
coordination to us! To view the trip brochure click HERE
To see the approved August Linn County Conservation Board Meeting Minutes please click October Board Meeting Minutes.
Prescribed fire is an important tool when it comes to managing Iowa’s prairie and woodland ecosystems. Having evolved under the influence of wild fire for thousands of years, native plant communities not only respond favorably to fire, but in many ways require it to thrive. Today, with so little native prairie left in Iowa (less than one tenth of one percent), wild fire has been removed from the equation. But the fragmented parcels of natural ecosystem still need fire to remain healthy – this is why we “prescribe” fire.
Fire removes excess leaf litter and duff (decaying organic matter) allowing more plants to flower, produce seed, and grow taller. It also increases available nutrients through indirect stimulation of microbial activity in the soil and releasing nutrients from the ash. Burning exposes the darkened soil and allows sunlight to warm the soil quicker and extend the growing season for warm season native plants. Fire favors native plants and helps control invasives. It suppresses many weeds (that would normally grow faster and outcompete the natives) and helps to control cool season invasive grasses like brome and reeds canary grass. It can also damage or kill woody invasive plants like bush honey suckle and autumn olive – both species that would otherwise quickly dominate a prairie system.
Conditions are most favorable for prescribed fire in the early spring (before ground nesting birds lay their eggs) and in the late fall. Linn County Conservation is watching weather conditions and planning for fall burns right now.
Fall burning has some benefits that spring does not. Fall burning is usually conducted after a hard frost when the plants have gone dormant. Burning when plants are dormant eliminates the possibility of damage to early forbs (wildflowers). Burning in the fall also allows for the seeds from forbs to contact the cold moist ground, by eliminating the thick layer of duff build up. Many forbs need a period of cold moist stratification to germinate and grow. Thus, fall burning increases the propagation of new forbs. Fall burning can also be better when trying to suppress certain invasives that may remain active and green later than native species. While fall favors the forbs, spring favors the tall grasses. For this reason, we alternate. We want the prairie to be as diverse as possible.
Whether we are using prescribed fire as a tool in the spring or the fall, we are careful to divide areas into approximately 1/3 sections. Rotating areas ensures habitat cover for wildlife and is not as stressful on insect populations.
The idea of using prescribed fire in woodland ecosystems is less familiar to most people, but like the prairie, the woodland native species derive many benefits. Most of Iowa’s woodlands historically were much more open than they are today, trees were more widely scattered with rich, diverse herbaceous plants growing underneath. The term “savannah” or “oak savannah” is often used to describe this native system. In the past 100 years the suppression of fire has changed the composition of our woodlands. They are more likely to be overgrown with invasive species and less desirable trees such as box elder, silver maple and elm. Many species of oak are built to survive fires of medium intensity. Their thick bark protects them. Less desirable trees and invasive species like garlic mustard are not conditioned to withstand fire and are removed. By removing undesirable plants in the understory of the woodland with fire, competition against native species is reduced and sunlight can penetrate to the forest floor. This aids in the growth of native herbaceous plants, wildflowers and the regeneration of oak trees. Linn County Conservation hopes to complete several woodland burns yet this year.
Dana A. Kellogg
Natural Resource Specialist
The approved minutes from the September Linn County Conservation Board Meeting are available. Click Here to Read
A Watershed Approach to Community Growth Workshop
A watershed workshop will be offered in Marion, Iowa on November 18th. Participants can expect to learn:
- An overview of watershed issues and their effect on the “triple bottom line”
- Proven plans, policies and practices that enhance watershed planning
- Mapping tools and resources
- The key to building partnerships and leveraging resources
- Cooperation opportunities between communities and agricultural neighbors
- Financial resources dedicated to water resource projects and planning
To learn more: Watershed Workshop 2013
Linn County Conservation Board Slated to Receive LOST Funding
On November 5, 2014, the metropolitan area including residents of the communities of Cedar Rapids, Hiawatha, and Marion will vote on extending the local option sales tax (LOST) put in place in 2009. The metropolitan area will vote as a block with a majority vote required within the metropolitan area in order for the measure to pass. Each community decides on how funds that are raised as a result of extending the tax will be spent. Cedar Rapids has indicated that its share of funding will be used for street repair. Other communities have designated how funds allocated to them will be spent. Check the ballot language for how funds raised in your community will be used.
The LOST vote on the ballot in 2012 passed in the unincorporated areas of Linn County extending the tax for 10 more years in rural Linn County. Voters from the metropolitan block did not pass the LOST extension in 2012. Funding from the county’s share of the tax extension funding was allocated 75% to county roads and 25% to conservation projects. There is a state formula that determines how funds raised through a local option sales tax will be divided between jurisdictions.
Annual funding allocated to the Linn County Conservation Board from the local option is projected to raise $200,000 annually if the vote does not pass in the metropolitan voting block on November 5. This annual allocation is projected to be approximately $1.2 million should the local option sales tax be put in place in the metro area.
Funding from the local option sales tax will be used by the Conservation Board for a variety of projects including park improvements such as trails, watershed management and land acquisition. Whether you are in favor of extending the local option sales tax or not, it is important that you exercise your right to vote on November 5.
On October 9th, at the National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials (NACPRO) conference Linn County Conservation accepted two national awards.
The Wickiup Hill Learning Center Building Expansion won for Class 1 Park and Recreation Facility. The expansion was recognized for its use of recycled construction materials, geothermal heating and state of the art mechanical systems as well as its innovative hands-on exhibits. It was also held up as an example of wide-reaching support – financial support came from 22 governmental organizations, 4 federal and state grants, 14 community organizations, 12 corporate partners and over 100 private supporters!
The Cedar River Watershed Education Project won for a Class 1 Park and Recreation Program. This program, lead by Linn County’s Deputy Director Dennis Goemaat, was a partnership between 23 county conservation boards.
Watershed education efforts included TV and radio spots, monthly articles, watershed signage and an education program.
On October 3rd residents from Linn, Johnson, Benton, Washington, Jones and Iowa counties can meet to show support for the REAP program and share ideas for the future. This regional REAP assembly will take place from 6-8pm at the North Ridge Pavilion 2250 Holiday Road in Coralville, Iowa.
In 1989, with very strong bipartisan support, the state of Iowa passed legislation for the creation of a Resource Enhancement and Protection program. It was, and still is, recognized as one of the nation’s most responsive and progressive environmental programs . Its formal name is Resource Enhancement And Protection, but most people simply call it REAP. The program is authorized to receive $20 million per year until 2021, but each year the state legislature decides how much to allocate to REAP - which means that every year the public’s voice matters.
In Linn County, REAP funds have a big impact on natural resource protection and environmental education. The Wickiup Hill Learning Center and wildlife refuge are possible in large part because of REAP. Hundreds of acres have been acquired for public use – creating more opportunities for hiking,
bird observation, nature study, and hunting while also preserving valuable natural ecosystems – some very rare. Funds from REAP help Linn County maintain safe and beautiful campgrounds and trails. They help Linn CCB do prairie plantings and natural resource management. The funds make a difference to the quality of life for residents, but also help protect a diversity of plants and animals. They are, absolutely, an investment. And like it’s name suggests, investments like these mean that when we reap what we sow it will be healthier, more beautiful and with an attention to diversity.
REAP was designed to have continued input by the public. To accomplish this there are 18 regional assemblies that take place every two years. Those in attendance hear a review of past accomplishments in their local area and have a chance to suggest possible future projects for funding.
At each REAP Assembly an election takes place to select 5 delegates (there are 18 regions, for a total of 90 elected delegates) to meet at the Capitol Building in Des Moines for the 2013 REAP Congress.
To learn more about REAP:
Location of REAP Assemblies
Projects Funded by REAP (organized by county)
To see the approved August Linn County Conservation Board Meeting Minutes please click August Board Mtg Minutes
Did you know Wickiup Hill has aquariums with live education animals? When you come visit you may notice that one of the tanks appears to be empty. You will need to look very closely to find this critter! Search for what looks like a chocolate chip pancake buried in the gravel. If you are really good at eye spy you may even see a long snorkel-like nose sticking out of the rocks. That pancake with the snorkel is Chip, Wickiup’s new Spiny Softshell Turtle.
In the wild, Spiny Softshell Turtles live in rivers, creeks, and even some lakes. They like any body of water with sandy or silty bottoms. Their shells are very flat which allows them to quickly dig into the sand and hide when predators approach. They long snorkel-like nose allows Softshell Turtles to stay buried in the sand for a long time. They will sit in the sand with only a small part of their head showing, waiting for a fish or other tasty food to swim by. If the water is too deep for their snorkel to reach the surface, they will extend their long necks to break the surface of the water, take a deep breath, and then retract their neck back down into the sand and continue waiting for food.
Around Linn County, turtles just like Chip might be found hanging out on sand bars in the river. Chip has a row of small spines on the very front of his shell, just behind his head. His cousins, the Smooth Softshell Turtles, lack those spines and instead have a smooth edge on the front of their shells. Both types of Softshell Turtles lay eggs in the sand or loose soil. Eggs hatch in 8 to 12 weeks and little quarter-sized babies dig out from the nest and make their way to water. If the weather is too cold, the babies might stay in the nest for the winter, and dig out in the spring instead.
Come meet Chip!
- Don Becker, Local Herp expert
Rain Garden to Take Root
Saturday, September 7th from 8 am to 11 am
Volunteers from Shive-Hattery and Linn County Conservation will be planting over 400 plants this Saturday at Morgan Creek Park’s new rain garden. More volunteers are welcome! This event is open to the public.
On August 19th fourteen volunteers from Rockwell Collins installed short limestone walls, a check dam and lawn edging. With these structures in place, the rain garden is ready for plants. Over a dozen native species were selected for their function and their beauty. Species include: Swamp Milkweed, Black-eyed Susan, Blue Flag Iris, Spiderwort and Pale Purple Coneflower. Located at the southeast corner of the Arboretum’s parking lot, this rain garden is a creative solution to a common problem – managing rain events and storm water. Linn County Conservation hopes that it will serve as an example for residents and business owners.
Interested volunteers should arrive with garden gloves, a trowel, water to drink and a smile. Large shovels will be provided by Linn County Conservation. This event is a great opportunity to learn about rain gardens – both the structure and the plants – and to talk with other passionate gardeners. Morgan Creek Park is located at 7517 Worchester Road, Palo, Iowa 52324. Volunteers will be working adjacent to the parking lot for the Arboretum and will be easy to spot.
Assistant Resource Manager for Linn County Conservation Shaun Reilly says he “never considers a garden totally done” – a sentiment that is sure to resonate with other avid gardeners – but this planting day will certainly give this particular garden a giant leap forward.
Can’t make the planting day? No worries! Come and visit the Arboretum at a later date. With over a mile of walking trail, 250 different species, a butterfly garden and now a rain garden, there is plenty to see.
This exciting project is made possible through partnership. Shive-Hattery donated its services to design the rain garden. Rockwell Collins provided financial support through the Rockwell Collins Green Communities Program. Plants from Cedar River Garden Center in Palo were purchased at a discounted rate.
By Chuck Ungs
Heat is a curious thing. During this week of being reminded that mom nature likes to let us know when school is back in session, we should take a glance at how heat really operates. You may have to drop back to high school physics to recall all this, but heat moves in only one direction. It flows from an item with a greater amount of heat energy to an item with less. How can you utilize this information when one wishes to be cooler, one might ask? Simple – by moving the heat present in your body to an item with a lower amount of heat energy. Or by stopping the flow of addition heat into your body – read on for more information.
Often heat transfers are accomplished by our bodies without even thinking about it. The old saying is that horses sweat, men perspire and women glisten. In fact, this reaction to being overly warm is a very effective method of cooling a body off. It works by transferring the heat of your body into the air via evaporation of your sweat. This is accomplished much more effectively with a breeze speeding up the lifting away of heat – weather that is sent by nature or by a fan depends on your situation at the time. The sweat is able to facilitate the carrying away of heat into the air. When humidity rises then the capacity of the air to lift the sweat from your skin is diminished – there is already lots of moisture in the air so it doesn’t evaporate as easily, this is why we feel fine with a dry heat but uncomfortable in humid conditions.
Another method to remove heat is to avoid direct contact with light that increases warmth – in other words stay in the shade. The infrared radiation present in the daylight adds to the heat we are carrying rather than removing it. So staying in the shade like cattle around the one tree in a pasture on a hot day is a cooler place for us as well as the cows.
The final suggestion would be to reduce your heat energy by contact with cool or cold items or liquids. I recommend a nice tall glass of water or iced tea to help transfer some of that heat away from your body, in a rather effective way to stay cool and hydrated at the same time.