Articles

December 21, 2017

Despite what can feel like Arctic weather sweeping into Iowa during the winter, the state still finds itself a long way from the Arctic tundra. So it would be surprising to find Arctic tundra wildlife soaring over Iowa’s picked corn fields or perching on the state’s telephone poles. But this winter seems to be an exception to that rule, because since early November reports of an iconic tundra-dwelling bird, the snowy owl, have been pouring in from all corners of the state....

November 15, 2017

One my favorite quotes from Iowa native and conservation icon Aldo Leopold goes like this: “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds.” I think about that quote often this time of year because every fall, after the grand finale of summer recedes to the grays and browns of our dormant winter landscapes, those of us with an ecological education are stuck with a constant reminder of one of our deepest wounds...

September 05, 2017

It’s easy to forget they’re mammals just like us. They give live birth, they nurse their young, they feed and sleep and do otherwise mundane things to stay alive and stay healthy. They’re also remarkably easy to forget, going about their lives in caves and forests and only sharing daylight with us in the waning hours of summer evenings. But, let there be no mistaking it, bats are important. And, in light of a long history of changes to forest habitats, new emerging pressures associated with energy development and an exotic disease-causing fungus that’s been wreaking unprecedented havoc on eastern populations in the last decade, many of Iowa’s bats are in trouble...

August 16, 2017

Conservation is ensuring the greatest good for the greatest number of people. This idea is credited to American forester Gifford Pinchot, but many have arrived at the same conclusion. Conservation is thus, a resource allocation challenge and among our many resources, land is the most finite....

August 10, 2017

The title to this article is the answer to a question I get often. I suspect the curiosity is spawned from a combination of state law, which mandates roadsides be spared the mower until at least July 15th, and our deeply-rooted Midwestern sense of obligation to keep “a clean farm.” However, the simple argument that “a clean farm” is a closely manicured one, from the barn yard to the ditches, arguably falls short. Stands of wildflowers and grasses in roadsides, idle areas, and barn lots provide aesthetic beauty, habitat for everything from butterflies to deer, and play an important role in keeping our air and water clean. Roadsides – and all the other wildflowers – matter!...

July 14, 2017

Most wildlife biologists and hunters, like me, admittedly have less of a mainstream attitude toward weeds. Those of us who spend fall mornings behind bird dogs or summer days glassing butterflies look upon field edges and odd areas in a different light...

May 04, 2017

We can learn about our land in a variety of ways. Local history books report on the native cultures that hunted, gathered, farmed and traded there. General Land Office surveys from the 19th century record the locations of natural features and early settlements. Historical aerial photographs provide high-resolution snapshots through time dating back to the Hoover Administration. Stories of past hunts and or family memories in old fields and forests are passed down through generations. All reflecting a transfer of information through shared stories or archival records....

March 13, 2017

Spring is just around the corner and that means it’s time to get the planter ready and to start watching the fields for the right conditions to return after a long winter. But for many Iowa landowners, spring time means more than just planting season, it’s prescribed fire season....

March 08, 2017

As USDA’s flagship voluntary conservation program, the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) provides incentives to producers who utilize conservation practices on environmentally- sensitive lands. For example, farmers are monetarily compensated for establishing long-term perennial cover, such as grasses and wildflowers or trees (known as “covers”) to control soil erosion, improve water quality, and enhance wildlife habitat....

January 05, 2017

We had just turned the corner around a nice oak woodlot outside my hometown in northern Indiana, home on a visit for Christmas, when I saw a familiar sight; the prints of a covey of northern bobwhites in the snow. My heart nearly skipped a beat when, as soon as we stopped to investigate the prints, the covey which had temporarily retreated to some nearby shrubby cover, suddenly flushed. Our presence had finally become too much for the birds to bear in their shrubby refuge...

November 07, 2016

Brightly-colored leafs, harvest and the busy labors of squirrels burying nuts for the long winter ahead are iconic images of fall in Iowa. This year, however, Iowans may notice fewer scurrying squirrels in their yards, thanks to a late spring frost that negatively impacted hard mast production in many areas throughout the state...

September 02, 2016

For those living in rural Iowa, the sight of a brood of young gamebirds, like Hungarian partridge, bobwhite quail or ring-necked pheasant, is probably a common and welcome sight on morning drives down dusty roads. Sometime during August there was a different sight on those roadways — wildlife biologists from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources slowly surveying the roadside. That’s because the Iowa DNR logged 6,000 miles counting birds and rabbits in their annual August Roadside Survey. The results released on Aug. 30 showed little change from last year; a promising result for gamebird populations that have shown population declines in most years of the survey’s 55-year history.....

July 17, 2016

Perhaps no wild birds captivate the imagination of rural Midwesterners as much as the bobwhite quail and ring-necked pheasant. Both species wield an iconic call – the “bob-WHITE” whistle of male bobwhites and the conspicuous crowing of the rooster pheasant. Both species are often visible on a country drive thanks to their affinity for feeding and dusting on crop-field and roadside edges. Both species flock during winter and offer beautiful reprieves from otherwise life-less winter landscapes. Unfortunately though, both species share one more commonality – there are fewer of them in Iowa today than there was throughout most of the 20th century....

May 25, 2016

On these cool spring days, it’s easy to forget the approaching hot, humid days in store for Iowans this summer. The Iowa State University Extension and Outreach wildlife program offers the following recommendations for the impending hot summer days: avoid the heat by spending less time on the mower....

May 18, 2016

Warm spring temperatures bring to life many plants and animals that have been in hiding or far away from Iowa during the cold winter months. These warm temperatures raise the body temperature of Iowa’s 28 species of cold-blooded snakes, allowing for an often conspicuous departure from their winter hibernations....

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