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Naturally Speaking with Steve Lekwa

An insightful and informed view on wildlife and the environment from former Story County Conservation Director Steve Lekwa.

Jun 01

Interior Decorating

Posted on June 1, 2020 at 9:04 AM by Erica Place

I’ll never cease to be amazed by bird nests. I can’t see how birds are able to assemble a nest using only their bills. A few, like eagles, can move things around with their feet. Other’s, like robins, use their bodies to mold the mud and grass they use into a nice bowl shape. I’m pretty sure that no human could make a suitably sturdy nest from natural materials if they were limited to tweezers or needle nosed pliers for a bill in spite of our highly touted dexterous fingers, hands, and large intelligent brains. I mention suitably sturdy because many bird nests are exposed to the elements of wind and rain. They still have to hold together long enough for the bird to lay eggs, incubate them, and rear young. Many nests are so sturdy that it’s not unusual to find them still intact a year after they were used. Others, like dove nests, look like they should fall apart at the first gust of wind. But no. The loose assemblage of twigs with two white eggs sitting precariously on top usually hangs together for several weeks; long enough for two fat baby doves to fledge.

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May 26

Happy 100th Birthday to Iowa’s State Parks

Posted on May 26, 2020 at 9:00 AM by Erica Place

I’m guilty of thinking too often about what Iowa is not. It’s no secret that I prefer open, wild, and natural places to developed, working land. Iowa is and, for the most part, always will be working land, though. It took our ancestors only 50 years to convert most of Iowa’s native landscape into private working land once it was opened for settlement in the mid 1800s. Iowa became the most environmentally altered state in the nation, a distinction it still holds. Some forward thinking national and state leaders became concerned about the rapid loss of natural and scenic areas and the wildlife habitat they represented in the late 1800s. They proposed to do something about it. Thankfully, their proposals found increasing support here in Iowa and across the nation. National, state, and county parks began to appear and people flocked to them. They’re doing so today in ever-increasing numbers.

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May 18

Monitoring A Bluebird Trail

Posted on May 18, 2020 at 12:51 PM by Erica Place

Perhaps it’s the bluebird’s wonderful color, or maybe it’s the soft music of their call. Whatever the reason, bluebirds are one of my favorites. There weren’t many bluebirds around when I first became interested in birds around 1960. I had seen pictures of them and even built and painted a plastic model of one before I ever saw a real one. I don’t recall exactly when that first sighting was, but it could have been after we put a bluebird house up in our pasture. Bluebirds finally moved into that house, but not before it became clear why bluebirds weren’t very common. English sparrows are aggressive nest competitors and often take over nest cavities before bluebirds can become established. House wrens also take over potential nesting sites with great vigor and fill every available nest cavity in their territory with twigs that deny use by other birds. Wrens and sparrows are both notorious destroyers of bluebird eggs, and sparrows will actually kill incubating bluebirds to take over a nest site.

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