The Marietta Sand Prairie
The recent geologic landscape of Iowa was covered with 85 percent tallgrass prairie which includes Marshall County. The recession of glaciers that began roughly 14,000 years ago and tallgrass prairie that grew, covered the landscape is the reason for the fertile soils of this state. Only one-tenth of 1 percent was spared alteration, one way or another. Certain areas have been restored to this complex ecosystem and a few are found right here in Marshall County. Areas like the Marietta Sand Prairie, which has soils with the lowest CSR rating in the county, have been restored to their natural vegetative state.
Some native prairie plants bloom early in spring, but most show their glory during the late summer months of August and September. Now is the time to visit these colorful pallets of Mother Nature. Photographers can spend days on this site capturing images in all hours of daylight and the countless species present. Among the common flowering plants here include Blazing Star, Bee Balm and Vervain. Less common are Fringed Gentian and Prairie Milkweed.
The Marietta Sand Prairie is open to the public for hiking, no trails are maintained in this wildlife management area and no motor vehicles are allowed. People often ask me what my favorite Marshall County Conservation Area is and I always keep coming back to the Marietta Sand Prairie because of the importance of the tallgrass prairie history in Iowa. This area has also turned into a hotspot of bird life and many unique species of birds can be found at the Marietta Sand Prairie throughout the year. There are several other locations locally where you can visit to see glimpses of the diversity of the tallgrass prairie. The Iowa River Wildlife Management Area on Sand Road as well as Hendrickson Marsh and Colo Boggs, both in Story County, are a few of the larger areas. Many landowners also have restored their properties to tallgrass prairie through the USFWS pollinator initiative which is targeted at helping struggling insect populations including the Monarch butterfly and honey bees. If you are traveling across the countryside and see a private field of restored prairie make sure you have permission from the landowner before entering.
With summer winding down, signs of fall migration have already started with arrival of several hundred White Pelicans at Saylorville Reservoir in Polk County. Last week around 60 pelicans were seen locally at Sand Lake just east of Marshalltown. Additional early migrants seen include common nighthawks and black terns slowly working their way south. As August progresses, birders will notice more and more neotropical species headed to South America including orioles, bobolinks and dickcissels. A myriad of species of song birds that migrate will begin their journey in August and continue through September and October. Many people associate migration with the scores of waterfowl that are seen when cold fronts turn temperatures to freezing in November, but certain ducks migrate as early as August too. Blue-winged teal are true warm weather birds and most migrate early in the fall and are the last to migrate in spring. Some of these birds will find their way as far south as South America. One blue-winged teal banded in Alberta was harvested just one month later in Venezuela.
DEER HUNTERS TAKE NOTE. This is some of the most important information relating to the potential future of Iowa’s white-tailed deer. Remember, not many years ago it was uncommon for people sighting deer would take a picture and was posted in the papers. Over time, the species has turned political in nature with population management. Now disease has potential to affect the species wide spread across the state. From 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Aug. 13, Terry Haindfield, wildlife biologist from the Iowa Department for Natural Resources, will be at the Grimes Farm and Conservation Center speaking about the Chronic Wasting Disease in Iowa deer. Chronic Wasting Disease is a neurological disease affecting deer in Iowa. CWD is always fatal to the infected deer. There have been 46 CWD positive wild deer since finding the first positive deer during the 2013 gun season. Counties affected thus far are Allamakee, Clayton, Wayne and Dubuque. Managing CWD hinges on early detection of the disease. Find out how you can help the DNR manage the public’s deer herd with CWD. There is no fee for this program; however participants must pre-register before 4 p.m. on Aug. 9 by calling 641-752-5490, email email@example.com or text 641-758-9777. This is information land managers and deer enthusiasts should all hear about.
Thinking of fall, if you plan on hunting this year and have not yet completed the Iowa Hunter Safety Program and were born after Jan. 1, 1972, you must do so to be able to purchase an Iowa hunting license. The next hunter safety course in Marshall County will be a two-part class from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Aug. 15 and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Aug. 17. You must register online on the Iowa DNR website to sign up.
Star gazing is scheduled for Aug. 9 at Green Castle recreation Area near Ferguson. For more information, call Jim Bronser at 641-751-8744 or visit www.iowaastronomy.com.
The Friends of Marshall County Conservation will be hosting a free Live and Local music event at the Leonard Grimes Memorial Amphitheater from 5:30 p.m to 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 8. The BlueTone Jazz Collective will perform their mix of musical and professional backgrounds to bring together a unique jazz experience. Attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and can bring their own snack and beverage or food truck will also be available. This mix of music and outdoors is a great way to enjoy time in a natural background setting of Iowa.
This week’s guest writer is Mike Stegmann, who has been with the Marshall County
Conservation Board for 24 years and
MCCB Director for 16 years.