, ,


Ranger Updates May 3, 2018   by Will Sauer

      Will Sauer 

Phil and the Curious Case of the Unannounced Visitor

I’m not sure about you but I was beginning to wonder if old Punxsutawney Phil was ever going to come back out of his hole.  On Friday, February 2nd Phil saw his shadow, retreated into his burrow, and pundits everywhere said there would be six more weeks of winter.  Six weeks came and went, and not only did it seem like March never showed a sign of spring but the snow was still flying into April!  I was left wondering what Phil was doing in his hole that was taking so long.  Was he trying to calculate how much ground a groundhog hogs?  Or was he all warm and cozy dreaming about how much wood a woodchuck chucks?  Whatever the reason, spring finally sprung and the landscape has slowly started to transition from various shades of brown to a wide spectrum of greens.

Activity has picked up significantly at each one of our natural areas as people just as excited as me to welcome back spring venture out to see spring wildflowers, search for morel mushrooms, or try to spot wildlife as they also resurface in the wild.  Yes, even that winter loving, storytelling Punxsutawney Phil decided enough was enough.  I’m still a little bitter.  Anyway, as I meet and greet more people, a common question that I get asked is what I did all winter.  The answer to that question is truly a matter of perspective.  Some ask if I just drive around.  Those people are partially correct.  I do drive around…to each one of our areas.  I tried to get to each one of the areas (there’s about fifteen) at least once a week.  I liked to think of the time spent at and the travel to and from places like Ciha Fen, Cedar River Crossing, Frytown Conservation Area, Williams Prairie, and all the others as community oriented policing.  Each area is a little different and requires a different amount of attention.  There was always something to do, whether it was picking up trash and recyclables, cleaning restrooms, checking boundaries, scooping snow, and the list goes on and on.  Sometimes a passing glance was all it took and other times a walk through the woods was warranted.  Nonetheless, I established a baseline for what was going on at each one of our outdoor classrooms, interacted with visitors, and got ideas for what place or places needed more attention the following week.

A few weeks ago, at the Hills Access campground while conducting my weekly check of the area I came across something that I had never seen before but had always wanted to.  It caught me off guard because it was cold and snowing and there wasn’t any other living thing brave enough to be out in the weather.  But right there at site #7, just a few feet away from me was a tiny, beautiful bird with a ruby crown.  A Ruby-crowned Kinglet, the royalty of songbirds if you will.  The little bird, full of gumption, showed no sign of despair even though deep down I’m sure the creature was as caught off guard as I was with the lingering cold weather.  Most years as the kinglet travels north from the southern states the wilds of Iowa would be a little more welcoming.  It just goes to show that even when man or beast think they’ve got a pretty good idea about what’s going on around them, mother nature can and will throw curveballs.

So, as the weather gets nicer and the days get longer I want you to think about a bird, an animal, a plant, a place, or whatever it may be that you’ve always wanted to see and do what it takes to try to see it in the wild.  If you’re thinking you really want to see a groundhog, come see me.  We need to talk!

Share This