Found an American Beaver grooming itself this morning. The beaver was on a small island, located in the southwest corner of the south lake, opposite the outflow from Pond N. After grooming for a couple of minutes, the beaver slipped into the water, only to reemerge a few seconds later. The grooming continued and then the beaver slipped into the water again.
The last time I observed a beaver was in March 2010, found in the same general area (but in the woods between the trail and Pond N).
View looking northeast across wetlands K, J, south lake, north lake and on to the northeast parking lot, 4/28/12 (Kevin Kane)
Shannon and I took a hike around the southwest wetland complex (ponds H,J,K,L) where the prairie burn had taken place about 15 days ago. There was a lot of new growth sprouting from the prairie and plenty of redwing blackbirds flying about on the inside peninsula. Not many walkers and riders out in the park at 4:30 pm but more fisherman spread around the south lake than I had seen in awhile.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012. 4-5 PM. Beautiful sunny day, no wind. Temperature: 80 degrees F.
I parked in the lot on Harrison Road. From the car, I quickly scanned the pond next to the lot with my binoculars and spotted a Pied-bill Grebe swimming close to shore. In the foreground of my view, I could see several dragonflies flitting about so I walked down the hill to get a closer look. I identified three species of Odonata (the name of the Insect Order to which dragonflies and damselflies belong): one male Common Green Darner, several pairs of Variegated Meadowhawks, and 20 or more Eastern Forktail damselflies. These three species have been around for about a month. The Darner and the Meadowhawk are migratory dragonflies that winter in states along the Gulf Coast.
The Eastern Forktail is around all summer and is active through October depending on temperatures. It may produce more than one generation each season. They are very small and inconspicuous to the naked eye but when viewed through an 8X binocular they are exquisitely beautiful. The male’s thorax is bright green with black stripes and the abdomen is black with a bright blue tip. This is one of the most abundant damselflies in the Park and can be found in low growing vegetation near the water’s edge of the lake and wetlands.
The Variegated Meadowhawks pairs that I observed today were in tandem and laying eggs. When in tandem, the male grasps the female behind the head with a pair of claspers located at the tip of his abdomen. Their wings beat in unison but the female seems to be in control. Several pairs were flying low over the water and every few seconds the female would tap her abdomen on the surface of the water to deposit her eggs. Three different times, a large sunfish leaped out of the water in an unsuccessful attempt to catch the dragonflies. Egg laying continued for the hour that I was at the pond.
Although I only saw a single male Common Green Darner, I have observed their egg laying behavior in previous years and it is quite different from the Meadowhawk. A pair in tandem will alight on a plant that is partially submerged in the water and the female will submerge most of her abdomen in the water. The pair may stay in one place for several minutes before moving on to another plant, presumably to spread the eggs around and not put them “all in one basket.”
A pair of Red-tailed Hawks are nesting at the Park. At times, the male will still bring a twig to the female to add to the nest. Yesterday, he flew in and took her place on the nest while she flew out over the north wetland complex.
Other birds of interest today (Friday) include: 2 Ospreys, 2 Common Loons, 1 Solitary Sandpiper, 1 Spotted Sandpiper, 1 Dunlin, 5 Greater Yellowlegs, 99+ Lesser Yellowlegs, and 30+ Pectoral Sandpipers.
The Big Bluestem Audubon Society meeting Thursday, 4/19/12
At 5:15 pm we will have an informal get together before the meeting at the Olde Main restaurant located at 316 Main St in Ames. Our speaker for the evening, Stephanie Sheperd will meet us there and we can enjoy some food and good company. Join us if you can.
At 7 pm we will start the main meeting at the Extension 4-H building.
(for directions, go to bigbluestemaudubon.org and click on meeting places, meeting locations). Be prepared to share a nature experience you have recently had if you so desire.
Stephanie Sheperd is a Wildlife Diversity Technician with the Iowa DNR and will present Frogs and Toads in Iowa. She leads research into Iowa’s frog and toad populations. You will have an introduction to the songs of Iowa’s most vocal wetland residents. Come learn why Iowa’s amphibians are of such conservation concern and how you can identify these critters by sight and by sound.
We will close with refreshments and more time to get to know each other better.
Jeff Kopaska is a fisheries
biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and a member of Friends
of AHHP and Ames Anglers. Here are his comments about the common carp in the
park. Thanks Jeff.
As the resident fisheries biologist, I would like to chime in on "The
common carp causes few or no problems in the main lake but when it invades the
shallow wetlands they stir up the bottom sediment and the reduced transparency
of the water inhibits plant growth." In the main lake, the common carp
cause the same issues in areas where the sediment is more silt or muck, such as
the south-west corner. In addition to stirring up the sediment, they also
dislodge rooted aquatic vegetation in their feeding efforts. These activities
are both detrimental, but are not as damaging as they are in the shallow
wetlands. Angler observations last year indicated a substantially smaller
amount of rooted vegetation along the perimeter of the lake. This cannot be
directly attributed to the carp, but they may have been a cause. If this
pattern continues, we may see a reduction in water clarity in the main lake in
Iowa's eutrophic lakes can generally support 600-700 pounds per acre of fish.
At times, carp can overwhelm these systems, comprising up to 600 pounds per
acre themselves. This is very detrimental to our native fish fauna,
particularly buffalo (largemouth and smallmouth), suckers and carpsuckers, but
also bluegills, catfish, bass and crappies. Ada Hayden is a marginally
eutrophic system, so its biomass is probably less than 600 pounds per acre.
Regardless of the total biomass the system can handle, it undoubtedly is
healthier with the majority of that in bluegills, bass, catfish, crappies, and
suckers instead of carp.
An additional comment from Erv: Anglers can help by not releasing carp that
they catch from the lake.
Eastern red cedar on prairie upland in western edge of the park, 2/17/12 (Kevin Kane)
Sunday, April 15, 2012, 1:30-2:30 pm. Sunny. Strong
southerly wind. Temperature: 75 degrees F. The Hayden Park watershed had a good
rain Saturday night. Water level in the penultimate pond of the middle wetland
was at normal full pool and a flow of water was spilling into the lake for the
first time since last summer. I saw a female Red-breasted Merganser on the
south lake and three Variegated Meadowhawks (dragonflies) patrolling the
shoreline. I also saw a small garter snake along the bike path.
Here is the information on “invasive species” that I promised in the last field
note. There are several definitions of invasive species (see Wikipedia). The
usual definition is: plants or animals that are introduced (non-native) and
adversely affect the habitat or bio-region they invade environmentally,
economically, and/or ecologically. You may have heard of the problems that
Burmese phythons are causing in the Florida everglades. Examples of invasive
animals in Iowa include zebra mussel and silver carp. The Ring-necked Pheasant
is a non-native species that was introduced early in the 20th Century but is
not considered invasive because there is no evidence that it causes adverse
effects in Iowa. Examples of invasive plants in Iowa include purple
loosestrife, European buckthorn, honeysuckle, smooth brome, birdsfoot trefoil,
Canada thistle, and many more.
Ada Hayden Heritage Park is not devoid of invasive species. The few invasive
animals we have seen are causing minimal adverse effects. The common carp
causes few or no problems in the main lake but when it invades the shallow
wetlands they stir up the bottom sediment and the reduced transparency of the
water inhibits plant growth. Wolf Oesterreich has observed a few red-eared
turtles, a species native to the southern United States whose normal
distribution barely gets into southeast Iowa. These turtles are often sold as
pets and then later discarded by their owners in places they don't belong.
Invasive plants in the park include Siberian elm, honeysuckle, smooth brome,
crown vetch, and yellow sweet clover. If we broaden the definition, we might
consider any woody plant that invades the reconstructed prairie to be invasive.
Native species such as willow, cottonwood, and Eastern red cedar fall into this
category. Most woody species that invade prairies can be controlled by fire.
The Eastern red cedar, Juniperus virginiana, has become a problem in the
grasslands of southern and western Iowa and in northern Missouri because the
use of fire has been suppressed for many decades. Land managers in these areas
refer to the cedar as the “green glacier” because of the way it slow creeps
across the landscape. Complete eradication of Eastern red cedar poses a dilemma
for managers because it is a beneficial species for wildlife.
Carl Moen has taken an interest in the reconstructed prairie next to his home
in Stonebrooke and has been using mechanical means to remove invading tree
saplings. Carl has prudently asked permission of parks staff before doing this.
Carl, Jon Hunstock, and I recently met with Kevin Shawgo, Parks Superintendent,
to discuss invasive species control. We offered our assistance in mapping the
distribution of the most troublesome invasive species and then eventually to
offer management advice on their control. I have obtained aerial photos of the
park and delineated 68 areas to be surveyed for invasive species. This survey
may take the better part of the summer to complete depending on how many
volunteers we can recruit to help with this effort. Anyone wishing to help with
this effort please contact me. If you are unsure of how to identify the species
of concern, I am willing to spend some time training you.
My early observations suggest that Siberian elm is rapidly spreading. Removal
of several large elm trees that are producing seed may need to be done. In the
meantime, young elms need to be removed before they begin producing seed.
Fire has been a natural component of prairie ecosystems for thousands of years.
Prairie plants and animals have evolved and adapted to fire and it is now
recognized that Native Americans often used fire to manage prairie vegetation
of a variety of benefits including the improvement of grazing for bison and
elk. Except for bur oak and a few other species, woody vegetation is intolerant
to fire. Prairie ecosystems are devoid of trees largely because of a
combination of relatively low rainfall, grazing by large herbivores, and fire.
So it is not surprising that managers of prairie remnants and reconstructed
prairies find that prescribed burning and grazing is an important tool for
managing prairies. For small parks and preserves such as Hayden Park grazing is
not an option.
An unplanned burn occurred earlier this year when a fire in a road ditch on the
west side of the park spread rapidly into the park. About 26 acres of prairie
and dry wetland burned before local fire departments were able to put it out.
Weather conditions often dictate when a burn is done and this year's early dry
spring has been ideal. As a result, park staff were able to burn most of the
park's grassy vegetation.
Several of you have expressed concern that the burning was too extensive and
did not leave enough unburned refuges for butterflies, toads and other critters
that can't find escape the fire. Prairie managers have often been criticized
for over aggressiveness in their burns and in recent years they have developed
strategies for burning less frequently and in small patches. I share your
concern and that is why Wolf Oesterreich's regular monitoring of birds,
mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and insects is so important. I encourage anyone
who would like to be involved with monitoring to contact either Wolf or myself.
Someone with expertise in identifying butterflies and moths, or other insects
is especially needed.
Another area of concern is the control of invasive species. What makes a plant
or animal invasive? That will be the topic of my next Field Note.
Planned prairie burn at southwest park entrance, 4/12/12 (Kevin Kane)
Much of the southwest section of the park was burned this morning giving rise to huge clouds of smoke that carried off to the northwest. Ames parks & recreation personnel were on the scene to light and control the fire as it slowly made its way across the hills and wetland areas in the southwest part of the park. Many areas of the park have not been burned for a few years and won't be burned again for a few more.
Aerial photo of Jensen Pond taken 3/28/12, oriented northwest at the top of the photo, and the Skunk River Overlook in the bottom right. The red bud tree featured in the April 2nd Photo of the Day is to the left of center in the photo. (Evan Koester and Michelle Fields)
Spring arrives at Jensen Pond, 4/1/12 (Kevin Kane)
Wolf keeping a careful eye on the wildlife in the park, on the trail south of Jensen Pond, 4/1/12 (Kevin Kane)
A total of 82 avian species was recorded this month.
Listed below, following the species’ names, are the date(s) of sighting(s), plus the occasional miscellaneous information regarding numbers, gender (♂=male, ♀=female), age (im=immature, ju=juvenile, abp=adult breeding plumage, ad=adult, anb=adult non-breeding), color phase (b=blue, w=white), and location (BY=back yard). The order follows the 52nd Supplement (2011) to the American Ornithologists’ Union Check-list of North American Birds and the 11th Supplement to the 7th Edition (1998).
Ant mound revealed after recent prescribed prairie burn north of Stonebrooke, 4/1/12 (Kevin Kane)
Saturday, March 31, 2012. 1:15-2:30 pm. Overcast. Temperature 58 degrees F. Moderate breeze from the south. A thunderstorm Thursday evening about dumped about an inch of rain on the park. The shallow pond in the middle wetland complex that has been nearly dry most of the winter now is about half full. However, the water level is not yet high enough to flow into the south lake. The south lake has risen about 6 inches since I was last here but no water is flowing through the outlet to the Skunk River.
Starting at the Ding Darling rock, I walked clockwise around the south lake. Waterfowl on the lake: 15 Canada Geese, 30 Gadwall, 7 Shovellers, 10 Mallards, and 5 Ruddy Ducks. Also, one Pied-bill Grebe. As I rounded the bend at the main outlet, I saw 10 Double-crested Cormorants fly in from the south and land in the lake just east of the bluff. About 15 minutes later, they all got up and flew due north.
Other birds seen: Red-winged Blackbird, Common Grackle, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Flicker, Red-tailed Hawk, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Brown-headed Cowbird, Robin, Cardinal, and a Fox Sparrow.
There were 16 Blue-winged Teal swimming in the half-filled pond on the middle wetland. Fourteen of these were paired and two were bachelor males. Blue-winged Teal are unusual among migratory waterfowl in that they travel all the way to South America for the winter. Most of our waterfowl go only as far as the Gulf Coast. Thus, Blue-wings can be thought of as neo-tropical migrants. Unlike geese, ducks to not mate for life, but form new pairs each spring. Blue-wings mate during their spring migration and will begin nesting as soon as they arrive on their chosen breeding grounds. A few pairs of Blue-winged Teal may nest in Story County but most continue on north to the Prairie Pothole Region. The most common duck species nesting in northern Iowa wetlands are Mallards and Blue-winged Teal.
The prairie next to Stonebrooke has been treated with a prescribed burn recently. The burn revealed several mounds constructed by mound-building ants, a common species in Iowa's native prairies (see photo above).