The Northwest Illinois chapter works in the Driftless Area of Illinois. The area contains hill prairie, oak woodland, sand prairie, oak savanna, sedge meadow, oak barren, and tallgrass (black soil) prairie. We work to protect, restore and manage these fire-dependent habitats.
NIPE projects are primarily located within Jo Daviess, Carroll, and Stephenson Counties in Illinois. We invite you to join us!
NIPE Land Manager Ed Strenski reports on the challenges the winter weather has posed for consistent stewardship work: Early winter provided good working conditions. The warmer temperatures and marginal snowfall allowed the NIPE Ninjas to trim up a woodland fire break at Hanley Savanna in preparation for a burn this spring. The Ninjas also removed weedy shade tolerant trees at Hanley Savanna’s Black Oak Barrens and Woodcock Savanna. (You can see the gang with their chainsaws at Hanley in mid-December.) Ideal snow cover allowed the crew to burn brush piles at Gramercy Park in East Dubuque, too. In late January, however, the NIPE crew developed cabin fever, forced to take a break because of heavy snow and plunging temperatures. The continuing waves of winter weather in February added to the unpredictability of work days.
Despite the weather challenges, the savanna restoration of the Richardson Property addition to Horseshoe Mound is underway. NIPE is partnering with landowner Jo Daviess Conservation Foundation and the Galena Area Land Enthusiasts to help restore the oak savanna. If you drive east on Route 20 from the City of Galena, the property is on the right side of the highway just past Powder House Hill Road and directly across the highway from Gateway Park. You can see where non-savanna trees are being removed from the high mound.
Grant Update: In January 2019, NIPE submitted a second payment request to the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation for volunteer communications work pertaining to Hanley Savanna. In late February, we completed an interim report containing all of the 2018 grant data. Before this Community Stewardship challenge grant expires in October, we have the opportunity to make a final payment request for volunteer stewardship hours at Hanley. As of now, volunteers have put in over half of the total 400 hours needed to fulfill the stewardship hours requirement. Since the bulk of our volunteer work at Hanley takes place between spring and early autumn, we hope to receive that final payment in its entirety.
Phenomenal Phenology: “Phenology” refers to the study of cyclic and seasonal natural phenomena, and we want to understand better the cycles of major plant blooms and insect and animal life at Hanley Savanna. As a start, we hope to do a bi-weekly walk-around during this spring, summer, and fall to document the presence of dragonflies and butterflies and other critters (insects and mammals), noting the locations of major populations. We also hope to capture major bloom times for optimal viewing of prairie species.
We plan to put in a trail camera, and the first walk or so will focus on suitable locations for setup. We also hope to complete a bat survey this year. Please contact Laura Dufford at email@example.com if you are interested in participating in any of these endeavors.
2018 Bird Survey: NIPE volunteer bird surveyor Barb Bernard continued her work during the summer of 2018 in an area of Hanley Savanna informally referred to as “The Pines” for its former use as a white pine plantation. Her bird survey work the previous summer had indicated an abundance of bird species, including a nesting population of yellow-breasted chats. The 2018 bird survey confirmed that the area supports a rich diversity of birdlife. Of the 50 species found, 31 likely used the area for breeding. Four species were possibly breeding, and the rest were visiting. Breeding birds of conservation interest include the yellow-breasted chat, grasshopper sparrow, Bell’s vireo, field sparrow, dickcissel, and eastern meadowlark. The yellow-billed cuckoo might have been breeding as well.
The 2018 survey results will help us better develop a management plan that incorporates habitat for breeding and visiting birds. Regarding the habitat that attracts the chat, Barb notes that the “Pines” area has trees of varying heights, which the male chats use as singing perches and as launch sites for aerial displays. The area also has dense bramble understory, a known habitat preference for nesting.
Other Research Projects
Ongoing Mycorrhizal Fungi Research: College junior Noah Haskins provides an update on his research regarding site history effect on relative rates of mycorrhizal fungi interactions in prairie restorations: Last summer and September, he created his database by collecting plant roots with mycorrhizal fungi from six sites with differing soil characteristics and restoration histories. Since then, he has been working to format the dataset for statistical computer analysis. Noah has also been reviewing relevant studies involving either prairie restoration or the fungi. He hopes to write and publish a peer-reviewed scientific paper that will offer conclusions and spur other researchers to look further into effects of prairie restorations on soil fungi.
New Butterfly Survey Plans: In the January 2019 Seed Shed Doings blog, NIPE’s Rickie Rachuy wrote about Becky Janopoulos’ lifelong interest raising Monarch butterflies (click here to see the blog post). Becky plans to take her interest in butterflies to NIPE’s Hanley Savanna this coming summer, where she will create a comprehensive list of the various species of butterflies found there.
Karner blue butterflies are of particular interest. Becky notes that “We do have the host plant for the Karner blue at Hanley, Lupinus perennis (wild lupine). So there is always a small chance that we could find a Karner blue there. I did not see any last summer. I am working on getting several populations of lupine established in different locations within Hanley to support a population of Karner blues in the future.” (Wild lupine photo by Joel Trick, USFWS)