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It can get rough out there

June 29, 2014
Kevin Williams - Grundy County Conservation Director , Reinbeck Courier

This week's column is not one with one theme but rather a couple of topics.

The first is an update on the one a few weeks ago about buffalo gnats and my doves. I am happy to report that I did not lose any more doves after those that died in the initial onslaught that weekend. I heard from other pigeon folks that they had real issues with the buffalo gnats (aka black flies), as well. In the cases I heard about, young birds in the nest were lost. This created discussion among us about how wild birds in the nests would fair. It makes sense that wild birds could more easily evade the constant feeding of the insects compared to caged birds, but young ones in the nest would be captive just like the young domestic birds.

Then I read a report of loons in Minnesota and Wisconsin abandoning nests as a result of black flies. The researchers in Wisconsin found 70-80% of the nests they were monitoring to be abandoned. I found black fly reports as far south as Arkansas, west to Colorado, and east to New Hampshire.

In most cases, the huge numbers were being blamed on an unusually cool, wet spring followed by a quick rise in average temperatures.

Now, let's touch on the recent rains. As I write this, the Black Hawk Creek has receded into the banks again leaving behind many, many acres of silt-covered beans and corn. Grundy Center received over 4 inches of rain last Thursday morning alone.

As a result, phone calls rolled in from folks reporting skunks under decks and raccoons in backyards, garages, etc. Understandable. Countless species of wildlife are relocated during these kinds of events. Urban wildlife like raccoons living in storm sewers have to flee that usually great home when they fill with runoff.

And their country cousins have similar problems for a time as ground dens, road culverts, and hollow trees fill temporarily with flood waters. Time will tell what effect these events will have but I fear not good.

Just our own staff have reported seeing more deer fawn this spring. Those too small to be following momma around are lost in fast rising floodwaters. But the species that I am concerned about the most is the pheasant population. The winter wasn't the best but there were a larger number of roosters out on the landscape this spring that the past several. If the hen population was up, as well, then a relatively dry spring would translate into good nesting success and better brood survival.

I suspect that we'll be seeing the roosters out on their territories again as hens that lost nests attempt a second effort. Unfortunately, if the brood had already hatched, a second attempt does not happen. The hen is through for the season.

If your basement has taken on water during this past couple of weeks, you're wishing for this rainy season to end. If your crop fields are water-logged you're hoping for sunshine and dry weather, as well. So it goes for many of our wildlife residents, too. For them it can be usually is rough out there.



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