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June Nature Notes

posted on 6/10/22

A phenology year – It’s almost Summer!

June 20 will officially be Summer. This month has brought us more of a ‘calm’ from the speed of spring. Numerous birds have gone through their nesting season and the young are going to be out and about with their parents learning the ropes of woodland, prairie, and wetland ecosystems. The young eagles will be branching soon and will be entering their next journey of learning flight, hunting experiences, and trying to figure out why their presence creates issues with songbirds. They may get a few bonks on the head and a major “chewing out’ from red-winged blackbirds and other birds that are raising a family in the area.

Mammals continue to rear their young. Young fawns and does were spotted the latter part of May.

Bass, crappie, and bluegill have spawned, and the little fish are gathering in pools feeding on small insects that thrive in the water. Pond lily leaves are unfolding, and blooms will be on their way to create a shaded haven for dragonflies, damsels, butterflies, Northern water snakes and frogs. The Boreal chorus frogs have been changing from their tadpole stage and gaining lungs and finding wetland homes within the vegetation.

Marion County Conservation staff monitors dragonflies and damselflies to document occurrences in our areas. The information and data is recorded to help the state’s conservation organizations of these indicator species of critical habitats. Dragons and damsels provide information about our water quality and issues of Iowa environmental concerns within our watersheds. The first part of June seems to a great time to begin noting the diversity of species.

National Pollinator Week will be June 20-26, 2022. Pollinator Week was initiated and is managed by Pollinator Partnership, and fourteen years ago the U.S. Senate’s unanimous approval and designation of a week in June. This marks a necessary step toward addressing the urgent issue of declining pollinator populations. As you know, many of us continue to promote pollinator health promoting our valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats, beetles, moths, wasps, and flies. Take a walk in the prairie, meadows, and woodland edges and see what you can find. If you are looking for family or public activity ideas, you can find it at www.pollinator.org

The first generation of monarchs have been flourishing and their vivid colors are seen more regularly. Butterflies that have been observed in our areas include summer azures, wood satyrs, hairstreaks, tiger swallowtails, numerous silver-spotted skippers, peck’s skippers, and least skippers, question marks, black swallowtails, and Viceroy. The Melissa blue butterfly is a great find, but encounters are not real common.

Be sure to check out the Poweshiek Skipper Project and their monthly butterfly forecast for central Iowa.  http://www.poweshiekskipper.org/forecast/forecastshome.html

The prairies and cliff areas around the lake are home to many wildflowers. These flowers have been located around Cordova Park; alumroot, spiderwort, blue-flag iris, beardtongue, daisy fleabane, yarrow, yellow pimpernel, four o’clocks, Venus looking glass, and the Iowa State flower the wild rose. This month should be a great month for foraging wild raspberries, with blackberries following.

Non-native plants that are currently blooming are Queen Anne’s lace, and the wild parsnip. The wild parsnip impacts our environment, but the largest concern is the ability to inflict burns to skin of people if they happen to encounter the sap from the plant. The sap causes your skin to be extra sensitive to ultraviolet light, called phytophotodermatitis. If you are out in the pastures, roadsides, or any disturbed areas, wear gloves, long sleeves, and long pants. This plant was brought to North America by European settlers and grown as a root vegetable.

Happy earth walking!