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Enjoy the Outdoors this Fall!

By Brianna Sholly
Conservation Education Intern
Cerro Gordo County Conservation Board

With summer in the rear-view mirror and winter fast approaching, many people take fall as a time to slow down and enjoy the little things indoors – like pumpkin spice lattes and homemade apple pie. But, there is still plenty to do outside! Let’s explore some options at Cerro Gordo County parks!

Hunting and Fishing

Cerro Gordo Conservation Board manages 19 public areas that allow hunting. Each offers a variety of game, so check them all out! Whether it’s ring-necked pheasant, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, waterfowl, or squirrel and rabbits you’re after, we’re sure to have an area perfect for your hunt! Reminder: non-toxic shot is required!

If it’s fish you’re after, check out one of the six county fishing ponds, ranging from the 0.65 acre Blair Meadows Preserve to the 40 acre Bluebill Wildlife Area. In these areas you can find species such as bluegill, largemouth bass, channel catfish, crappie, and yellow perch. Fall is a great time to try to catch some dinner!

Prairie Hike

While many people attribute the colors of fall to trees changing color, prairies are equally beautiful at this time. The stem of bluestem grass turns red, the goldenrod and sunflowers create a sea of yellow, asters and false boneset bring in pops of white, and blazingstar offers shades of purple. If you’ve never experienced an autumn prairie, check out Blazingstar Prairie, Haugen Wildlife Area, Limestone Prairie Preserve, Walch wildlife Area, Wilkinson Pioneer Park, or the trails at Lime Creek Conservation Area today!

Wildlife Viewing

Herps – Reptiles and amphibians hibernate in the winter, so fall is your last time to spot them before spring, which can seem like forever away! Try searching under rocks and logs, around ponds and streams, and on the edges of woodlands. Just keep in mind that if you are lucky enough to find some, most of Iowa’s herps are protected and it’s illegal to capture or kill them. Feel free to take pictures though!

Birds – Spring migration is one of the better times to go birding, since many species are decked out in colorful plumage and migration tends to be less spread out, but fall can be an excellent time to birdwatch as well! Be sure to bring binoculars and a field guide and wear earth-toned clothing. Try to learn “field marks” before going out, like bird shapes, sizes, types of bills, and markings (around eyes, wings, breasts, tail, and crown, for example) or join experienced bird watchers for help in discerning important features and calls. Don’t be discouraged if it takes time to learn! Stop by Lime Creek Nature Center to pick up a checklist of Cerro Gordo County birds today!

Insects – There are more species of insects in the world than any other type of animal, so they definitely sport a challenge for those wishing to identify them! Many collectors keep an observation notebook, including information like the collection date, location, habitat, and the collector’s name. All you need to get started is a tweezers (to pick them up), containers to hold small insects, a jar with alcohol and a paper towel (if you plan to collect them), and a net!

Mammals – Most mammals are nocturnal and secretive, so it might be a bit of a challenge to spot them, but that makes it all the more fun! To increase your odds, try to learn to identify tracks and scat so you know what to look for in the area. You don’t need any special equipment, but camouflaged clothing, a field guide, and binoculars might help you out. Early morning and late afternoon are the best times to search, so go ahead- put it on your schedule!
Virtual Geocaching

Cerro Gordo County Conservation Board provides a “virtual geocaching” program. Rather than looking for a cache, you search for a specific landmark, feature, park sign, etc. on a county area. GPS coordinates and clues are available for landmarks. Successful location of landmarks can be verified at Lime Creek Nature Center during business hours, or by mail, or email. Find landmarks online at → departments → conservation → conservation menu → virtual geocaching. Good luck!

There are still quite a few activities to enjoy on our county areas this fall, so pack some hot chocolate, grab a jacket, and let’s get exploring!

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