Sunday, June 21, 2009

5:30 a.m. this morning...

Looking east...

...then looking west

This past weekend I drove up to NE Iowa for the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation's 4th BioBlitz and its 30th anniversary celebration. The blitz was an intensive, 24-hour rapid biological assessment of Heritage Valley, a 1200-acre site located in Allamakee County. This is INHF's newest acquisition.

The specialists, along with generalists and novices in all areas of biota, explored the river, the goat prairies, and the forests, looking for and counting, as many living things as possible. There were several discoveries made over the weekend of rare, or endangered, species on this property.

Yesterday, our first group went out to explore the bird populations in a forest and on a high prairie. We did this mid-afternoon, and gad, was it hot! But how could one complain? The scenery atop the bluffs overlooking the Upper Iowa River was incredible. Bruce, a DNR Wildlife Specialist with a long, gray braid down his back, identified bird calls, one after another, while the rest of us were scrambling to hear even one. Redstarts, warblers, vireos, Indigo Buntings, bluebirds, sparrows...the list goes on and on. We worked our way across an open ag field, down thru the forest, out onto a prairie, then down to the river, where we spotted 2 bald eagles with a young bald eagle, all fishing the river.

The second group went out after dinner to explore a high goat prairie, which is a dry, upland native prairie on a slope "so steep only goats could climb it." Call me a goat because I, and a dozen others, climbed these bluffs. We found grasses, sedges, prairies plants, and shrubs/trees that thrilled not only the specialists in these areas, but also the novices (that me!).

After dark last night, we went out with Josh from the DNR, who had a contraption called an anabat, coupled with a PDA, which produced a 'sonogram' of sorts of bat radar. We identified 4 species of bats, based on the frequency of their radar. That was really cool.

Six a.m. this morning, an early group set out on a special adventure. We wanted to find a rare bird that some at base camp claim to have heard yesterday, but could not spot. This morning was so cool-we actually spotted the nest of a pair of Cerulean Warblers. These birds are very rare, and not only did we find them, but Veronica photographed the mother sitting on the nest, with the father close by. It wasn't until Bruce downloaded her fotos that several birders confirmed our sighting. Despite the rain and the early morning wake-up call after a long day yesterday, it was worth rolling out of bed to find these beautiful birds making their home in NE Iowa. Check out your Golden Press Field Guide to Birds of North America.

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