Funded by REAP

Resource Enhancement and Protection

What's New!
 Director's Desk | Nature Talk 

Our Quarterly Newsletter now On-line

Naturally Speaking is now available in PDF. Click here for Autumn 2014 Edition.

Other issues also available. Click here for Spring 2014 Edition. Click here for Winter 2014 Edition.

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Also, if you want to look at this summer's Dutch Oven Cook Off, the 2014 Dutch Oven Cook Off newsletter is also available. Click here - may take a while to load.

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Upcoming Programs


Fall Trail Drive Through. Wednesday, October 29th: 10: 30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

We will have our annual Fall Trail Drive Through on Wednesday, October 29th from 10: 30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. We are mixing things up a bit this year by having the event during a weekday. Two options will be available and those interested can finish up one route and then return to do the other. Traffic is one-way only. Route 1: Enter Cedar View Trail off 32nd street and exit at 223rd street one and a half miles later. It will take you over Cedar Creek on one of the largest trail bridges in the county. Route 2: Enter Cedar View Trail off 32nd street and then drive down onto the Loop Trail heading north to Whitham Woods and then exiting on old Hwy 34. We hope people come out over their lunch hour to enjoy this once-a-year opportunity to drive a section of our trail system.




Need more info? Call Therese at 472-4421, or e-mail to



From the Director's Dennis Lewiston

Fish Kill. In case you have not heard, the large pond in the picnic area at Jefferson County Park experienced a total fish kill this past winter. The DNR tested the pond for dissolved oxygen in February and found that is was devoid of oxygen. Sure enough, come ice out, hundreds of nice big bluegills, crappies, bass and catfish were floating dead in the water! Many ponds in the area experienced the same dilemma. The problem was that there was lots of snow on the ponds for an extended period of time. This heavy snow did not let any sunlight through the ice which aquatic plants need for photosynthesis which produces oxygen as a by-product. Any oxygen that is in the water is then depleted by the dead decaying aquatic plants. To make sure this situation doesn't happen in the future, the JCCB will be installing aerators this summer which will keep small areas of water open in the winter. This has proven to be very effective in preventing winter kills in many ponds and lakes in the Midwest. Money to cover the cost of the aeration system will be provided by the Conservation Foundation of Jefferson County, Iowa.



Nature Talk... by Therese Cummiskey

The Importance of "Messy Spaces"

I appreciate a well-kept yard as much as the next person. I like the look of a manicured front lawn, the smell of just-mowed grass, and the sight of a well-mulched flower bed. It makes the house look welcoming and classes up the neighborhood!

But as a naturalist, I prefer things a bit messier! When I head to the back roads for a morning of birding, I search out gravel roads with "messy spaces." I want to find an old fence row covered with grape vine and brambles; ditches weedy and growing with volunteer cedar and elm; a deserted farmstead overgrown with vegetation. Although the "messy" look may not be appealing to some people, it is along these areas where I enjoy some of the best birding.

Fencerows in particular are great places for birds and other wildlife. William Giuliano, Wildlife Ecologist and Professor at the University of Florida, has studied fencerows. His research shows that the messy fencerows that I'm so fond of as a birder, "are one of the most important wildlife habitat components in agricultural lands. If properly vegetated, they provide food and cover for a variety of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians in areas that are often lacking such habitat. They also provide protected travel corridors for these same species as they move throughout a farm or ranch."


At the end of April I was on one of my favorite back roads and was thrilled when one short section of messy fencerow yielded eight different species of sparrows! These weren't the ne'er-do-well pesky European house sparrows that most people are familiar with. No, these were some of our often overlooked native species, such as the lark sparrow, with its bold facial pattern, the finely streaked Lincoln's sparrow, and the stunning white-crowned sparrow (right). It was an exciting find for a birder and it attested to the value of fence rows.

Unfortunately, some people no longer see a need for a fencerow if it doesn't delineate a field or confine livestock. And because of that, fence rows have been disappearing from the landscape for over five decades now, much to the detriment of wildlife. bobwhite Several days ago I returned to my "sparrow hot spot" only to find that the fencerow had been removed and the ditch "cleaned up." Though the loss of sparrow habitat might not move you to action perhaps Giuliano's research will. He gave a noteworthy example: "Population declines in bobwhite quail throughout much of its range since the 1950's has been directly linked to similar declines in fencerows." No doubt there's many hunters who would love to experience the kind of bobwhite numbers they had back in the 50's.

So I encourage you, as Giuliano would, that if you want to benefit wildlife species on your property, improve your fence rows. "If you have properly vegetated fencerows, leave them in place. If your fences are "clean," reestablish the fence-rows....often simply allowing natural plant succession to occur will create a fencerow." He goes on to say that "the best fencerows consist of a combination of trees, shrubs, and herbaceous plants..This provides the greatest diversity of wildlife food and cover..Ideally, fencerows would be 40-50 feet wide, but any vegetation along a fence is helpful."

From king snakes and pheasants to screech owls and cottontail rabbits, efforts to re-establish fencerows would benefit upwards of 90 species. And if fencerows became the norm again perhaps we'd have an opportunity to experience remarkable numbers of quail that our parents and grandparents did.

And of course, I'd have more messy spaces for my sparrows.

Good Birding.

Bobwhite by Diane Porter. White-crowned by Therese Cummiskey.



Need more info? Call Therese at 472-4421, or e-mail to

See some articles from our newsletter, Naturally Speaking.


Need more info? Call Therese at 472-4421, or e-mail to