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- Honey Fest
- Nature Center
- Nature's Noel
- Plant Sale
- Summer Camp
- Syrup Fest
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.
Chris was the first to hear the chorus frogs singing this week, causing great excitement around here. Today, he caught some the show just off Wood Duck Way.
The chorus has begun! Last Monday, I heard a distinctive and familiar noise from the wetlands across the creek. It was an animal making a high pitched trill that sounded like “prrreeep!”—and there were lots of these “prrreeps!” I was excited to know that this was the call of the chorus frogs!
Chorus frogs are some of the first frogs you’ll hear in spring, along with spring peepers (who make a “peep” sound just like their name) and leopard frogs (who make a rough, bumpy croak). Chorus frogs and other frogs call by passing air through their throats to vocal sacs, which puff up and make their sounds much louder to be heard over long distances. Male frogs make their calls when they are ready to begin breeding so that they can use it to attract female mates who hear them.
Although they are very loud, chorus frogs are often difficult to spot. They like to be in still, shallow water, just like the wetlands at the Nature Center, hiding among tall grasses, reeds and sticks around the water’s edge. They’re also very wary of any animals and people or cars that may be nearby, and will stop their call if they feel they are in danger. But if you wait patiently near the water, they will again start calling and you may even see a frog or two appear in the water.
As the weather continues to warm in the next couple of months, listen for other frog calls around your house, at the Nature Center and in parks or nearby ponds—some frogs can even be found in ditches along roadsides and retention ponds near parking lots after heavy rains. See if you can match the calls of other frogs soon to be calling like cricket frogs, bullfrogs, leopard frogs and gray tree frogs—you can use the website below to look for frogs that are found (and heard) in Iowa. And if you hear a chorus of “prrreeeps” one day, you’ll already know whose call it is!
Learn about frogs in Iowa at http://www.herpnet.net/Iowa-Herpetology/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=84&Itemid=48
Jan was out with a preschool group tapping maple trees this morning and noticed the telltale sign of otters at play!
The otters have been playing in the snow along Indian Creek! People often ask if we see them, but a sighting of an actual otter is rare. They are primarily nocturnal but winter snow tells the tale of their nighttime antics.
Otters often bound over the snow, flop down on their bellies and slide across the snow like a kid down water slide. You can see slides and tail drags in the photos. Otters have wandered in and out of the creek to bound and slide across the sand bars as they moved upstream.
We witness the “circle of life” every day at the Nature Center. Land Steward Jean Wiedenheft gives us a look at how it works. The full album of photos can be found on our Facebook page. (Note: Some of the photos may be a little graphic for some).
One of the leading causes of death for white tail deer is automobile collisions. The trail camera provides us with a rarely seen perspective of what happens next. We’d be overwhelmed if it was not for scavengers, ranging from the bald eagle to the carrion beetle. The carcass provides a valuable food source for all sorts of animals. Raccoons, coyotes, and crows are all opportunistic scavengers. The fresh supply of protein and nutrients is important this time of year, as they begin to prepare to raise the next generation of young. The speed at which scavengers can reduce a carcass to bone is impressive. These pictures are from the first five days.