- Hit the Trails
- Honey Fest
- Nature Center
- Nature's Noel
- Plant Sale
- Summer Camp
- Syrup Fest
Naturalist Jennifer Rupp loves, loves, LOVES astronomy! There’s a big event coming up. Let her tell you about it….(and be sure to watch the awesome video she’s linked to)
I had the best mentor in Astronomy a kid could ask for growing up. His methods, patience and ideas influence the way I think and plan for teaching others about astronomy to this day. I used to ask him questions incessantly. One of my favorite topics was aliens. “Have you ever seen a UFO?” I would ask. “The folks who aren’t familiar with the sky are usually the ones who see ‘space ships’. They don’t realize that they may be seeing something that’s supposed to be there!” he would reply.
Well everyone, be prepared. Near the end of this month, and the first part of June, there will be something happening in the Northwest for all to see! And no, they aren’t UFO’s! They’re three of our solar system’s planets in the sky together. Mercury (the planet so close to the sun that it never appears in the sky very high), Venus, and Jupiter will appear near each other, and over time move closer before going their separate ways. Keep in mind, this is all three dimensional, so they only APPEAR near to each other. Some days, there will be an astronomical conjunction. That means that they appear on the same lines either in Right ascension or Declination (basically the latitude and longitudinal coordinates of the sky). It will be an impressive sight. If you’d like more information, you can find a video depicting the phenomenon, as well as much more information about exciting sky happenings here:
Keep an eye on the Indian Creek Nature Center’s calendar for family friendly astronomy programs.
Consider joining an astronomy club in your area! It will open your mind, and help you realize that the sky is more than two dimensions! For all of you here in Cedar Rapids, the local astronomy club can be found at: http://www.cedar-astronomers.org/ .
Jan waxes poetic about the beautiful wildflowers springing up around our grounds…
The fairyland quality of the vernal woods draws many wildflower lovers. Oak-hickory woodland floors are sprinkled with subtle hues of ephemeral wildflowers dancing with the wind. Ephemeral means “here today, gone tomorrow” – the perfect description of these hardy, mostly perennial wildflowers who rush through their entire growing season in the brief window of spring when sunlight can reach the forest floor just prior to tree leaf-out. Once the tree canopy fills with leaves, these gentle little beauties have completed their bloom cycle and disappear, returning to dormancy to wait for next spring.
No time to wander the woods? You can enjoy many of these amazing little flowers along the trails near the barn. Here are a few of my favorites and their interesting stories.
As you approach the barn, enjoy the welcoming bluebells along both sides of the walkway. Around the rocks at the side of the front door fuzzy, heart-shaped leaves have poked through the ground cover. Wild ginger is preparing to bloom but don’t expect a dazzling show. Its maroon colored cup-shaped bloom will hide under the fuzzy leaves and embrace the ground where it invites a pollinator inside to dine. Beetles and slugs are the invited pollinator guests.
From the vantage point of Prairie Gate Bridge behind the Sugar House you will see a dense patch of lancelet-shaped, speckled, dusky green leaves poking through the oak leaf litter. This is trout lily or dogtooth violet. Look closely for the delicate white star-shaped blooms. Some years there are none but this year trout lily has sent up its flowers. A plant has to be seven years old before it flowers. Trout lily has two strategies for ensuring future generations. One is by flowering and producing seed but the other strategy occurs underground and is asexual. The patch continues to spread when the deeply buried bulb sends out long shoots to produce new plants. Hundreds of plants may grow in the dense patch.
On the sides and banks of this ravine you will find many other species: spring beauties, nodding trillium, bloodroot, anemone, windflowers and bellwort. By mid-May the umbrella-leafed mayapples will be sporting their waxy-white blossoms. Red columbine will nod in the breeze inviting arriving hummingbirds to feast on nectar tucked deep within the tubular flower. Often bumble bees raid this sweet treat. Too large to fit inside the flower and unable to reach the nectar, bumble bees bite into the base of the flower and steal nectar without returning the gift of pollination to the plant.
Enjoy your walk and visit often. As the seasons unfold, there is always something new to behold.
Dana wants you to know about our big Plant Sale! It goes on … rain, snow or shine!
This three-hour event is hosted by members of the Nature Center Guild and offers a variety of annuals and perennials. Whether shopping for Mother’s Day or for your own backyard, you will enjoy browsing the available wildflowers, prairie grasses, geraniums, and hostas. In addition, vendors will be selling herbs, small bushes, and garden art. A Master Gardener will be available to answer your questions and offer advice.
Proceeds from the Plant Sale help the Nature Center provide educational programming to thousands of children and to care for more than 210 acres of land. The event will be held rain or shine. No charge cards accepted. For more information, call (319) 362-0664.
Vendors include: Skyline Farm, Electric Cat Art in Steel, Kroul Farm Garden & Greenhouses, Plant Me A Garden, Recyclewomen, Kramer’s Flower Farm, Nancy McWherter, Sharon Wright & Myrna Myers, Fleming Nursery, Synergy Metalworks, and Chalupsky Nursery.
Rich often walks along the creek during lunch and here’s what he’s seen recently…..
Warm spring weather brings enormous change to aquatic life in Indian Creek. Much fishery research has been conducted on Iowa’s tributary streams, especially those that drain into the Mississippi River.
Indian Creek follows a typical pattern. When fall weather cools the creek’s water, most fish species head downstream. Walleyes, catfish, smallmouth bass, quillbacks, and other species essentially evacuate the creek and winter in deep sluggish pools in the main river. Some fish may go miles downstream. Most everyone is familiar with the epic journey of Pacific salmon who enter estuaries and ascend rushing streams to spawn in the same place where they began life years before. Something remotely similar happens in Indian Creek.
With spring’s warmth, smallmouth bass and walleyes swim up Indian Creek. Some spawning may take place but for these species, it’s more like moving from winter quarters to their summer homes. Indian Creek’s riffles produce an abundance of insect food, and its pools provide enough water depth for fish to thrive.
Usually the most visible fish in the spring and summer creek is the Quillback Carpsucker. Don’t let a homely name fool you. This is a beautiful fish with skin as bright as polished silver. It gets its name “quillback” for a long slender dorsal fin that some think looks like a catfish’s spine. However, it is a soft, not spiny, fin. Quillbacks move up and down Indian Creek in large schools. They feed on tiny bits of organic matter on the bottom and are rarely caught by anglers. They are an important part of the aquatic food chain and are eaten by bald eagles, ospreys, otters, and mink. Young fish of all species are gobbled down by larger predator fish.
Unfortunately, Indian Creek’s health has declined over the years, due almost entirely to the way people have changed its watershed. Thousands of culverts now spew rainwater into the creek immediately following storms, turning the creek into a raging torrent. When the water subsides, silt often covers gravel.
Despite its problems, Indian Creek is a delightful stream. It is a treasure not as well appreciated as it might be. It’s an outstanding place to bring children to explore during low water, and it remains a good fishing stream when conditions are right.
Jean was out inspecting the trails following our big rains last week and offered these observations…
The recent rains, while much-needed, have brought down some trees across the trails. The sunshine and lack of wind today finally provided a big enough break in the weather to make taking care of them straightforward. As long as I was out, I stopped to check on one of the trail cams.
I had moved the Covert trail camera along a game trail near Bena Brook. Without the lure of the deer carcass, animals have been putting in less frequent appearances-and deer are definitely the most frequent users of the trail. If you haven’t hiked Bena Brook in a while, this would be a fun time to explore it.
The trillium are up, and a small of flock of ruby-crowned kinglets quit eating bugs long enough to check me out-they came within about five feet of me. I also saw white-throated sparrows and a black-and-white warbler. None of which flew in front of the trail cam, unfortunately. Or if they did, they were moving faster than the motion detector. I obviously need to figure out how to set the date on the trail cam.