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Weather Or Not, 2nd High Trestle Hawk Watch a Success!

The weather threatened to thwart the Second Annual High Trestle Hawk Watch (HTHW), but it ended up being a non-issue for the raptors. Those humans who ventured out to the High Trestle Trail between Madrid and Woodward were treated to exhibits, live raptor programs, presentations about Iowa's raptor rehabilitation and restoration efforts AND the chance to view and learn about the hawk, falcons and eagle species that soared over the bridge.

Our expert interpreters counted and identified 169 raptors of 8 species, a respectable day and nearly equal to last year's count. Dozens of other bird species that were buzzing around the bridge were identified by our expert birders, including White-throated Sparrow, Harris's Sparrow, Belted Kingfisher and Great Blue Heron. If people showed up without their own spotting scope or binoculars, there were plenty provided by the HTHW partners. A total of 55 species were observed, which beat last year's total count by 11 species (although the 800 American White Pelicans put last year's total number of birds of all species over the top!). This year, the Red-tailed Hawk out-numbered other species by far, but that didn't stop the Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper's Hawk, Northern Harrier, Bald Eagle and Peregrine Falcon from stretching their wings over the trail.

This year's event was funded in part by a grant from the Iowa Ornithologist's Union. Iowa Wildlife Center's event partners were Boone County Conservation Board, City of Woodward, Des Moines Y-Camp, Iowa Audubon Society, Iowa Department of Natural Resources and Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Dallas County Conservation Board assisted this year, and we hope they'll return next year! To our delight, off-duty naturalists from both Polk and Carroll County Conservation Boards added keen observational skills to the event and trail ambassadors from Madrid were a great help to our interpreters (we hope they'll all return next year, too!). Mark the 2nd Saturday in October 2013 on your calendars right now for the 3rd Annual High Trestle Hawk Watch! 

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BioBlitz Project Complete, Thanks to Many!!

We don't have a complete list of species identified at each of the three BioBlitzes (our scientists will get their lists to us as soon as they find time!), but the Taxon Teams have identified at least 222 species at BioBlitz 1, 311 species at BioBlitz 2 and over 300 species at BioBlitz 3. It's pretty amazing what a dedicated group of people can find over a few weekends, isn't it? At BioBlitz 3, Scientists and their curious assistants found and identified over 200 plant species (including a few uncommon ones), over 100 bird species (an olive-sided flycatcher and peregrine falcon harassing an eagle were the bird team's  highlights during the last BioBlitz!), dozens of fungi, a couple of dozen dragonflies and damselflies (including a few county records), cool lichens, several mammals, hundreds of insects (many gathered by enthusiastic children), frogs (tiny cricket and chorus frogs were captured by the dozens by children, and leopard frogs and bull frogs were tackled by the adults), toads and snakes, oh my!

If you don't know what a BioBlitz is, here is a quick explanation: a BioBlitz is a 24-hour race to find as many species as possible that live in a certain area. In this case, the area is WildWay, Iowa Wildlife Center's 75 acres just south of Ledges State Park. We wanted to understand what we have before going much further in land stewardship activities. We're restoring the savanna and will be restoring/expanding the wetland and reconstructing prairie. What do we do first? How do we do it? The species present on the site now may lead us to the answers to these questions. To be sure, the people who participated learned how a "fun fungi guy" or "turtle girl" or "wasp woman" or "sedge dude" finds and identifies their chosen lifeforms. Everyone came away a winner during these "races", although the Plant Taxon Team may come out to be the winner with the largest total number of species found in any group!

Again, we'll have a full report on this project soon, along with a list of key people who made the events so successful. For now, IWC would like to thank Dr. Thomas Rosburg, Drake University Biodiversity Center, for his outstanding collaboration during the planning stages of this event series, as well as his expertise on-site as leader of the Plant Taxon Team during the events! We also thank Bruce Ehresman, biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Diversity Program (and husband of IWC executive director, Marlene Ehresman) for his help in bringing along several survey tools, setting up and tearing down our base camp and for his expertise on-site leading the Bird Taxon Team during each of the blitzes. Randall Scheiner also stepped up for each of the three bioblitzes to lead the Fungus Taxon Team. Without the dedication of these three people, and others, the events would not have been so successful.

We told you that the Iowa Prairie Network's Central Region (IPN-CR) chose IWC's BioBlitz project as the recipient of $3100 from the proceeds of their annual silent auction held in January. We also were awarded a grant of $500 from the Iowa Native Plant Society. Both Boone County Conservation Board and Iowa Natural History Association awarded IWC $300 to defray expenses, Wheatsfield Cooperative of Ames gave us a $100 gift card for food and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Diversity Program supplied a set of identification guides for each participant of all the BioBlitzes and supplied many of the survey tools (insect nets, small mammal live traps, turtle live traps, etc). For BioBlitz 2 and 3, Drake University's Biodiversity Center supplied the microscopes. PowerFilm, Inc. supplied a portable photo-voltaic solar generator to power our microscopes and laptops and charge our phones during BioBlitz 2. Boone Rental supplied tables, chairs, coffee pot and cooler at only the cost of delivery for both BioBlitz 2 and 3.

Events of this scope don't happen because of one person or one organization. We thank everyone for all the support given for Iowa Wildlife Center's Trio of BioBlitzes project. Don't forget to check back for an updated report. We'll keep you updated on decisions about land management, too.

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