During the past few months, Friends of Nachusa Grasslands bloggers have shared a variety of restoration experiences and insights. The Nachusa Grasslands Bloghad posts written by four authors: Jessica Fliginger, Dee Hudson, Angie Burke, and Mary Meier. Our blog coordinator is Dee Hudson, and our editor is James Higby.
What's been happening at Nachusa? See excerpts from each blog post or click the titles to read the complete articles.
Typically, fritillaries have one brood and one flight period from June to August. Females lay their eggs near violets (Viola spp.), the caterpillar’s main food plant, in shady areas on the underside of dead vegetation. Soon after, the larvae hatch, crawl into nearby leaf litter, and sleep through the winter without feeding. During late winter to spring, the caterpillars begin munching on newly-sprouted violets and mature rapidly. Once fully grown, they pupate for several weeks until an adult fritillary butterfly emerges.
Clearly, without violets there would be no fritillaries! Luckily for fritillaries, Nachusa has 7 species of violets throughout the preserve, as well as plenty of nectar sources to choose from.
By Jessica Fliginger
Nachusa Grasslands Researcher
We are all familiar with the saying “It’s the little things that matter”, and it’s the management of the tallgrass prairies at Nachusa Grasslands that has made a big difference for the littlest of things— mammals. Our paper “Early Small Mammal Responses to Bison Reintroduction and Prescribed Fire in Restored Tallgrass Prairies,” coauthored with Dr. Holly Jones and Dr. Nick Barber, sheds light on how the varying management of prescribed fire, coupled with the reintroduction of grazing bison, has created a habitat haven for the small mammals in a mix of agriculture and rural development.
Overall we found that bison reintroduction had fairly weak impacts to small mammal communities in the first few years. Bison, when reintroduced at a relatively low stocking rate, are not likely to cause significant shifts to this community or, by extension, to the seed predation and dispersal functions they serve in prairies
by Angie Burke
Nature Conservancy in Ohio Conservation and Volunteer Coordinator
Each May, Nachusa Grasslands’ staff and stewards usually dread the appearance of one of our major weed adversaries, reed canary grass (Phalaris arundinacea — RCG). This year, however, we may welcome the opportunity to attack the invaders, if and when we are released from our “stay at home” restrictions. The prospect of heading out into the field laden with herbicide backpacks is very appealing right now.
RCG forms large monocultures, crowding out native species and building up a tremendous seed bank that germinates year after year. The thick thatch that forms from rhizomes and collapsed stems is especially problematic, as it prevents more desirable seeds from germinating. RCG, therefore, reduces native plant and insect diversity, while providing little shelter or food for wildlife.
By Mary Meier
Nachusa Grasslands Volunteer
COVID-19 Pandemic Nachusa Grasslands Updates:
Autumn on the Prairie Cancelled
Nachusa Grasslands regretfully announces that its annual Autumn on the Prairie festival scheduled for September 19, 2020, has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 global pandemic.
Until a vaccine or highly effective treatment becomes widely available or no new cases occur over a sustained period, large gatherings will not be permitted in northern Illinois. These developments seem very unlikely by mid-September. This event involves several months of advance preparation, so cancelling now is the wisest option for conserving our human and financial resources.
Bison Unit Public Tours Cancelled
Because of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the Nachusa Grasslands Bison Unit Public Tours scheduled for June to September 2020 will not take place. Social distancing on truck and trailer tours is not practical, and we want to keep our visitors safe during this challenging time.
Enhanced Visitor Resources
As Governor Pritzker's "Stay at Home" Executive Order lists hiking as a permitted Essential Activity, Nachusa Grasslands is open, and the public can hike in the non-fenced areas. Social distancing six feet apart is required. The Visitor Center bathrooms and Headquarters Barn are locked, so plan accordingly. See Hiking Destinations for recommendations.
Nachusa’s staff and volunteers will provide additional interpretive resources for people to enjoy while visiting and hiking at the preserve, so watch for details in the coming months.
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