The MARIETTA SAND PRAIRIE was the spot to be last Tuesday afternoon if one wanted to learn, identify and understand relationships within the prairie lands vegetative cover. To help one understand what nature had lain out before them, 44 enthusiastic participants from the Midwest Prairie Conference at UNI took a field trip to central Iowa prairie sites. Carl and Linda Kurtz of St. Anthony led the tour group for the day.
An earlier stop in the morning was at the Doolittle Prairie in Story County. Then it was off to St. Anthony to the Kurtz farm to see prairie plants grown for harvest and retail sale. The afternoon session of the field trip was to the Marietta Sand Prairie. Marty Malloy, Marshall County Conservation Board maintenance supervisor, welcomed the guests. Field trip participants came from Texas to Canada and every Midwest state.
Every two years, the Midwest Prairie Conference is hosted in a different region. For 2010 in was Iowa's turn. Any person may attend, especially if they have any interest at all in the native prairie grasslands. Scientific papers and research projects related to native grassland habitats and management are presented. Field trips are planned for conference participants in every direction. It is a great way to learn about the land, what makes Iowa prairies special, and to converse with others who value these botanical gems of native vegetation. The conference attendees gain many insights into prairie land success stories that may have application to prairie sites back home.
T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
Prairie land enthusiasts, educators and native seed growers walk through the grasses, sedges and ferns at the Marietta Sand Prairie’s fen earlier this week on Tuesday. This field trip group of 44 was a small segment of the 500+ registered participants at the Midwest Prairie Conference being hosted at the University of Northern Iowa. Tall grass prairies in Iowa are only one-tenth of one percent of what once was a vast expanse of grasses and forbs covering about 85 percent of Iowa.
While black loam soil prairies are the most common, sandy soil prairies are rare. The Marietta Sand Prairie is one of the latter. The first segment of the Marietta Prairie was purchased in June 1983. On September 6, 1984, after nomination into Iowa's State Preserve system, the original 17 acre site was dedicated as such by Governor Branstad during a public ceremony. Management of the prairie is the responsibility of the staff of the Marshall County Conservation Board.
In 2005, an additional 212 acres of sandy soil land was purchased with the help of habitat grant funds, Resource and Enhancement and Protection (REAP) dollars, and many large, medium and small individual gifts. Since 2005, using locally harvested seeds from the original 17 acre site and other locally grown central Iowa prairies, a system of plantings was begun that is now complete. Management fires conducted on a rotational basis help native plants establish themselves.
The FEN at the prairie is an even more special place. Fens are the rarest type of wetland. Usually very small and located on a hillside, they support a large variety of rare plants and animals. Fens are fed by a focused zone of slow upwelling groundwater. Unlike the pooled water of typical wetlands, fens may have a peat type soil base; exist in alkaline conditions with crusty yellowish-brown carbonate deposits. To the casual observer, walking in a fen is similar to walking on a waterbed. Fens may quake or tremble as pressure from above disturbs the sponge-like surface.
The list of known native plants growing at the Marietta Sand Prairie contains at least 275 species. Knowledgeable botanists have visited the site often to observe and document native flora on the sand. A good guide book for the Sand Prairie would be Wildflowers and other plants of Iowa Wetlands by Sylvan T. Runkel and Dean M. Roosa. Late summer and early fall are great times to visit the Sand Prairie. It is located on Knapp Avenue approximately 1.3 miles north of the Hartland Friends Church on E-29.
The last HUNTER SAFETY class for the year in Marshall County will be offered on August 19 from 6 to 9 p.m. and the following Aug. 21 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sign up is done on line by going to www.iowadnr.gov/training. Classes are held at the Izaak Walton League clubhouse located 2 miles south of Iowa Ave on Smith Ave.
There is also a growing and popular method to take a regular hunter safety course. For those with time schedules that are tight, and access to a home computer, one can register on-line at www.iowadnr.gov/training and take the course when it is convenient. A voucher is printed off at the end of this course that is required for admission to a field day.Field day offerings may be at any location in the state. Locally, a field day class will be Sept. 9 from 5 to 9 pm, at the Conservation Center at the GrimesFarm, 2359 233rd St, Marshalltown.
Potential CITY BOWHUNTERS that have not taken the International Bowhunter Education Foundation course should be getting this item on their agenda. This class must be taken on-line first and the cost is $20. Once passed, the voucher from the course is the admission ticket to a bowhunter field day. The date for the local bowhunter field day is Sept. 11, from 9 a.m. until noon at the Izaak Walton League at Marshalltown.
And a reminder to all city bowhunters that were qualified last year, you are almost set to go. However, all archers for city hunts must retake the proficiency test each year. This test consists of 10 arrows at 20 yards and 10 arrows at 15 yards at a uniform target with an 80 percent or better score. To arrange for this test with a certified instructor, contact Roger Kaput, Jerry Hopkins or this author Garry Brandenburg. We will try to get as many proficiency tests as possible accomplished on Sept. 11 starting at noon, immediately after the IBEF field day. The location is the Ikes grounds.
FISHING at Sand Lake will be the focus of a FISHING DERBY sponsored by the Evening Optimists and ISU Extension. The fishing derby will be Aug. 16 from 5 to 8:30 pm. Anyone wishing to register should do so by contacting the web site email@example.com. Leroy Morford is an Optimist Club member that may also be contacted for fishing derby information. Pre-registration is highly advised and should be done on or before Aug. 13.
Sand Lake is located one mile east of Marshalltown on East Main Street Road. It is a 95 acre site which is mostly water from past sand excavation work of the quarry. The land and water was purchased in 1999. Fishing jetties, docks and lots of shoreline access allow fishermen and women to try their hand at catching bluegill, crappie, walleye, bass or catfish. Adults age 16 or older need a state fishing license. Youth age 15 or less do not need a license. Pets must be on a leash at all times. Boaters must use electric power only on their boats.
PHEASANTS need habitat. While lots of acreage that was in Conservation Reserve Programs has expired, there is another CRP signup taking place now through Aug. 27. Landowners with land that may qualify should consult with their local USDA office for details. The general sign up is open now. To assist with the signup, this web site will help. It is http://www.iowadnr.gov/crp.html. CRP allows a rental payment to the landowner who idles their land. CRP practices reduce soil erosion loss from water runoff. Points are assigned to project applications for specific conservation practices including tree plantings, native grass seeding or other options.
August is the time for annual ROADSIDE SURVEYS of wildlife. By slowly driving standard routes in the early morning, DNR biologists and officers will count pheasants, quail, rabbits, or other wild critters. These counts are the best indicators of what hunters may find when fall seasons open. "Roadside count data parallels small game harvest figures" said Todd Bogenschutz, DNR Upland Wildlife Research Biologist. Stay tuned for details after the surveys are completed.
The Iowa Bowhunter Association Fall Festival is taking place this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, at the Pine Lake Wildlife Club north of Pine Lake State Park near Eldora. A 40 target 3-D shoot, vendors, and Saturday night program are highlights of the weekend.
The Amateur Astronomers of Central Iowa invite the public for a telescopic view of the Perseid Meteors on Aug. 13 at 8:30 p.m. at the Dean Memorial Observatory at Green Castle Recreation Area. For information contact Jim Bonser at 641-751-8744.
Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.