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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.

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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May 11

The Old Boss Robin

Posted on May 11, 2020 at 8:23 AM by Erica Place

Spring is a time of looking forward to the beauty and pleasure that nature will afford us as it unfolds. That’s the case even in these strained and strange times for those of us who can get outside to enjoy it. I had been watching for hepatica since the first warm days of late winter, and the first  blooms along a woodland path finally lifted our spirits several weeks ago. I have been watching for the first columbine flowers for weeks. They indicate when it’s time to put out the hummingbird and oriole feeders. The first red columbine flowers are opening as I write this morning, but I had to put my feeders out a couple of weeks ago when the first orioles and humming birds showed up before my columbines. No orioles or hummers came to visit right away even though they’d been seen in the neighborhood. The first oriole visit to our grape jelly feeder was nearly on time just a couple of days ago. It’s a small thing, but nature doesn’t always run according to my schedule or wishes.

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