Most 99wetlands posts are intended to teach a little lesson about science, or relate some fun and inspiring story of natural history, or share my research. But sometimes, I just like to admire something for its beauty. And make no mistake, despite mud and stinky smell and occasional unfortunate mistreatment, wetlands are often quite pretty. In this post, I provide photographic evidence. Of course, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” and you should feel free to leave a comment on your personal aesthetic.
I visited Noddleman (also spelled Nottleman ??) Island Wildlife Management Area in Mills County, along the Mighty Missouri River, southwest Iowa. Spring was not yet here, although it was unseasonably warm, and the animals had clearly been out-and-about. I found a quartet of animal activity traces: Snail shells, colorful feces (droppings, scat, whatever you like to call it), animal tracks in the mud, and even an owl burp (pellet). Strange that I found a beautiful specimen without even trying, when I couldn’t find one at a spot with ideal habitat, despite diligent searching. Such is the life of a naturalist! It’s a delightful discovery: the compacted, hardened remnants of owl’s meals: undigested fur, bones, and other parts of the prey the owl ate.
So, we have animals wandering around this wetland. Old aerial photos suggest the site is a former hayfield, sculpted to have an artistic (and wildlife-friendly) contour. Small rises and curving channels are littered with tree stumps, on the little islands or along waters edge. Such “habitat heterogeneity” offers a variety of opportunities for animals and plants amid the changing hydrology. It’s an ecosystem…and it’s art!
It’s all nestled adjacent to a major river, within sight of a major geological formation: the Loess Hills. Composed of extremely fine silt (like milled flour), these hills overlook the flat expanse of the floodplain, and contrast against a blue clear sky. I hope you agree: Iowa really does have a subtle beauty, if you know where to look. So…go out and explore! Thanks for stopping by.