While I was in Iowa last week, I took advantage of some free time just before sunset to return to one of the restored (reconstructed) prairies we’d visited earlier in the day at the Kellerton Wildlife Management Area. As I walked into the prairie, I could hear a few straggler (desperate?) prairie chickens booming on their lek and I flushed a pair of northern bobwhites from the fenceline. Bobolinks, dickcissels, eastern meadowlarks and grasshopper sparrows were noisily announcing themselves across the prairie, and upland sandpipers were whistling and chattering above. The insects were less noisy but were abundant, once I started looking closely for them.
As the sun lowered itself toward the horizon, I reflected upon the various ways the success of this particular prairie restoration effort could be measured. It was certainly aesthetically pleasing, plant diversity was high, wildlife and insects certainly seemed to be responding well to it, and by replacing cropland with prairie, the Iowa DNR had – at least incrementally – defragmented the grassland landscape. Seems like success to me! …I decided to focus on the aesthetics for a while, and took advantage of the golden evening light until the sun disappeared completely.