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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.

Oct 15

Unanswered Questions Not a Bad Thing

Posted on October 15, 2018 at 9:34 AM by Erica Place

Rachel Carson became famous and, unfortunately, controversial when she published Silent Spring in 1962. She warned in the book that there would come a time when no birds sang, a silent spring, if humans continued to poison the earth with pesticides like DDT. Birds of prey, including our American symbol, the bald eagle, were particularly hard hit. Many feared that eagles and peregrine falcons were headed for extinction. DDT use was eventually banned and hasn't been used in the United States for many years. Yet, we continue to be exposed to an incredible range of man-made chemicals in almost all aspects of our lives whether we like it or not. The silent spring Carson predicted, thankfully, hasn't happened yet, but many species of birds here in North America and world-wide have suffered steep declines in their populations since that time. Eagles and peregrines are successfully breeding again thanks to the DDT ban, but some spring songs once commonly heard are seldom heard today and the spring choir continues to grow smaller.

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Oct 08

Nuts! A Nice Surprise

Posted on October 8, 2018 at 9:31 AM by Erica Place

I have enjoyed wandering through Story County's wilder areas for well more than 60 years. I love to wander in places like McFarland Park, the Skunk River Greenbelt, and Robison Park. Even though I'm sometimes lulled into thinking I've seen pretty much everything those areas have to offer, there's still a good chance that I'm going to stumble onto something new and interesting. Nature isn't static. Things change over time. Sometimes it's human management practices that bring change about. Sometimes it's the slow and steady change of living, growing things. At other times the changes can be profound and as quick as a violent storm passing through.

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Oct 01

We're Still Learning

Posted on October 1, 2018 at 9:28 AM by Erica Place

I walked through a stand of prairie grasses and flowers out at Hickory Grove Park yesterday.  Ripening seed heads of native grasses and flowers surrounded me as I recalled the day that stand was planted about 35 years ago. The site was a corn field before it became part of the park in the late 1960s, and no native plants were present. I remembered mowing that area like turf grass the first summer I worked for the board back in 1973. The site was prepared for conversion to prairie around 1980 early in the spring by first burning off the old growth and then spraying the regrowth of alien grasses and weeds with Roundup. The conservation board was still buying commercially produced native grass seed back then, but seed for the flowering plants (forbs) had been hand-harvested from local remnant prairie areas the previous fall by a corps of volunteers. Around 20 kinds of precious flower seeds were added to the hopper of the Truax native seed drill. Several pounds of seed from common flowers like yellow coneflower and sawtooth sunflower were available, but less common plants like leadplant, compass plant, and butterfly milkweed were represented by only a few ounces.

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