The Recovery of the Wild Turkey Population in Minnesota

Wild Turkey - MN DNR

Did you know that wild turkey had gone from a native population of millions of birds to being almost extirpated by 1900 in the United States?

The restoration of the American wild turkey is one of the greatest wildlife conservation success stories.

That success story began in 1973 in Minnesota. The MN DNR traded a flock of its homegrown ruffed grouse for 29 turkeys from Missouri. The Missouri-born birds were released in Houston County in southeastern Minnesota and the population grew rapidly. Many partnering turkey advocates aided in their return, including members of the National Wild Turkey Federation who helped transport the flocks to new habitats. The restoration of the wild turkey over the past 25 years is one of Minnesota's greatest conservation success stories. Once rare, today wild turkeys are becoming a common sight throughout southern and western and even central Minnesota.

Wild Turkeys live year-round in open forests with interspersed clearings. They nest on the ground in dead leaves at the bases of trees, under brush piles or thick shrubbery, or occasionally in open fields. Wild turkeys are omnivorous, and their diet changes by the season: in spring and summer, they eat insects, seeds, and leafy vegetation; in fall and winter, they eat tree nuts, seeds, and berries. They will also eat small amphibians and reptiles. Poults, young turkeys, feed heavily on insects.

The Anoka Conservation District with funds from the Outdoor Heritage Foundation and National Wild Turkey Foundation is enhancing turkey habitat at the Robert and Marilyn Burman WMA and Gordie Mikkelson WMA. Tree thinning and buckthorn removal will open the forest and promote oak regeneration. Acorns are a favorite fall food. Increased native plant diversity in the woodlands, savanna, and prairies will attract a diversity of insects, providing a high protein food source.

Give thanks to the many conservationists who worked to restore wild turkey populations and their habitat. 

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Top Ten Winter Bird Feeding Tips

White-Breasted Nuthatch

10. Make sure seed is accessible and dry. Hopper or tube feeders are good at protecting seed from wet weather. Sweep snow off of platform feeders, or clear a place on the ground where you can scatter seed for ground-feeding species such as sparrows, towhees, juncos, and doves.

9. Make a windbreak. Make a windbreak using your old Christmas tree or the remains of a brush pile. Consider planting shrubs next to your feeders where the birds can rest out of the wind and escape from predators. Consider clearing a small area of snow off the ground to scatter seed if it's too soft to support their weight.

8. Keep extra feeders for use in bad weather. We keep an extra-large-capacity tube feeder in the garage for use when nasty weather comes. It not only gives the birds another place to eat, which means more birds can eat at one time, but it also cuts down on our trips outside for refilling the feeders. Other extras to consider having: peanut feeder, suet feeder, satellite feeder (for the small birds to use), and a hopper feeder.

7. Scatter seed in sheltered places. Not all birds will venture to your feeder. Some species prefer to skulk in the thickets, brambles, and other secure places. For these species, consider scattering some seed (black-oil sunflower, sunflower bits, peanut bits, mixed seed) under your deck, in your hedges and bushes, or even along the edge of a wooded area. Dark-eyed juncos especially prefer to feed on food scattered on the ground along with tree sparrows and white-throated sparrows.

6. Put out high-energy foods such as suet, meat scraps, and peanut butter. Fat gives the biggest energy boost to winter birds and without enough energy to keep them going, many songbirds would not survive a cold winter night. Suet (the fat removed from processed beef), meat scraps, and peanut butter all provide fat to birds that eat them. If you don't have a suet feeder, use a mesh onion bag. Suspend it from a tree branch or iron feeder hook. To feed peanut butter, drill one-inch holes in a foot-long section of a small log. Insert a screw eye into one end of the log. Smear peanut butter into the holes and suspend the feeder from the screw eye. And, no, peanut butter will not stick to the roof of a bird's bill and choke it to death.

5. Use a birdbath heater wisely. A water heater can keep your birdbath open in the coldest of weather, which is good but place several large rocks in your bath so there is not enough room for a bird to bathe, but still plenty of places for a thirsty bird to get a drink. When the weather warms up you can remove the rocks and let your birds get on with their hygiene.

4. Offer mealworms in a heavy dish or small crock. Use a heavy dish so the wind can't blow the worms and dish away. This is a high protein snack that many birds enjoy and can be found in most feed stores. They are relatively expensive so use them sparingly on the coldest days or in the spring when an unexpected cold snap can leave migrants without much to eat.

3. Furnish your bird houses. Imagine you're a bird roosting in a nest box on a cold winter's night. Wouldn't it be nice to snuggle down into some dried grass or dry wood shavings in the bottom of the house? Layer three to four inches of clean dry meadow grass in the bottom of bluebird boxes after the last nesting of the summer. Wood shavings work well, too. Don't use sawdust, however; it can retain moisture once wet, which does not help the birds keep warm.

2. Plug the air vent holes in your bird houses with removable weather stripping. We use the claylike weather stripping that comes in a roll (Moretite is one brand) to plug the air vent holes in our bird houses. Good ventilation is necessary on a scorching summer day, but it's a real liability for birds seeking winter shelter. Think how cozy the birds will be in a well-sealed house.

1. Be ready for big changes in weather. If you keep abreast of the weather developments you'll know when bad weather is coming, and you'll be able to stock up on seed, suet, and other goodies. You can also be ready to take on some of the activities listed above. Conversely, when the weather breaks, take advantage by cleaning and disinfecting your feeders (one part bleach to nine parts hot water). Whatever you do, don't let yourself be caught totally unprepared for harsh winter weather. 

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Thank You Water Monitoring Volunteers!

The Anoka Conservation District would like to thank our hardworking water monitoring volunteers for all the work they did throughout the 2020 monitoring season. Local volunteers install monitoring equipment near where they live and then take readings throughout the year. Water levels on a large number of lakes are recorded as well as tracking daily rain totals. This type of data is used in analysis and when making other natural resource management decisions. Data networks like these are not possible without the help of local residents. All of the data is available to the public through online databases operated by State of Minnesota.

Thank you Volunteers!


https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/climate/climate_monitor/precipcharts.html

https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind/index.html

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Water Quality Improvements Constructed for Coon and Martin Lakes

One rain garden and two stormwater pond renovations were completed in November to treat stormwater before it reaches Martin and Coon Lakes. The projects will collectively treat 39 acres of residential development that previously were draining to the lakes with little or no treatment. They will keep 2,100 pounds of sediment and 5 pounds of phosphorus from reaching the lakes each year.

These waterbodies were priorities because both lakes are surrounded by homes and heavily used for recreation. Martin Lake is nearing the criteria for being removed from the State's list of impaired waters. Coon Lake has good water quality but is under pressure.

The rain garden was constructed in cooperation with a residential landowner along Hupp Street. Their property is a key location where drainage from 8 acres converged and entered a catch basin that piped stormwater to Coon Lake. Curb cuts on each side of the catch basin now intercept that water, allowing it to soak into the ground within the rain garden. Pollutant removal is estimated to increase by 52% compared to the pre-project condition. Mulching and planting of the gardens will be delayed until spring 2021 due to cold temperatures early in fall 2020. The property owners will maintain the garden.

The stormwater pond projects are redesigns and renovations of older ponds. Both ponds are on Martin Lakeshore within township-owned property. Both basins had filled with sediment over time and were providing little water quality treatment. Now, the basins are even larger than originally constructed to maximize pollutant removal. Pollutant removal is estimated to increase by 84% and 104%, respectively, at the two ponds. Linwood Township will own and maintain the basins.

These projects are part of a State Clean Water, Land and Legacy grant to the Sunrise River Watershed Management Organization. The Anoka Conservation District is managing the projects. Additional funds remain and will be used for similar projects in 2021.

Collaborators on these projects included the ACD, SRWMO, Martin Lakers Association, Linwood Township, and the City of East Bethel.

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ACD Partnering with City of Anoka for Mississippi Riverbank Stabilization

Approximately 1,500 linear feet of eroding riverbank within Mississippi River Community Park in Anoka will be stabilized in 2021. The project is currently in the early stages of design and focuses on a stretch of severely eroding riverbank that was documented in an erosion inventory completed by ACD.

Eroding river banks contribute to the Mississippi River's sediment and turbidity impairments through direct loading of sediment and nutrients that degrade overall water quality as well as aquatic and nearshore habitat. Stabilization of actively eroding riverbanks is one of the most cost-effective practices to improve water quality because 100% of the sediment reaches the waterway.

Stabilization techniques will include bioengineering with native vegetation and a rock armored bottom of slope to stabilize the riverbank. The project will reduce pollutants by 529 tons of sediment and 847 pounds of phosphorus annually. Other benefits include aquatic life diversity and abundance, and improved drinking water quality because the project site is immediately upstream of drinking water intakes for the Twin Cities.

This project will also showcase river stewardship and enhance public recreation. Mississippi River Community Park and adjacent Anoka-owned King's Island include 1.7 miles of Mississippi River trail, 0.78 miles of riverfront, 0.91 miles of oxbow channel, pedestrian access to the island, sporting fields, public duck and deer hunting, and a fishing dock. This project will make over ¼ mile of unsafe riverbank more accessible, stable, and fishable for users. By naturalizing the riparian zone, this project complements the Mississippi River Corridor Critical Area rules.

The project is funded by a Clean Water Fund grant, a Watershed Based Funding grant, and match from the City of Anoka. Watch for more updates from ACD and the City of Anoka as the project progresses.

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Teaching Students about Natural Resources during a Pandemic

One activity that ACD does every year is take local high school students to streams near their schools to collect macroinvertebrates. Many of these organisms are the larval forms of many of our common insects. Think mosquitoes, mayflies, black flies, and dragon flies. Assessing the community of invertebrates living in a stream over time can give us a good indication of how healthy that stream is (i.e. how good the water quality is). This is because the different types of these invertebrates have varying levels of tolerance to polluted water. Some can only live in very clean water, while others can survive in very polluted water.

This exciting lesson combines a field trip to a stream and the opportunity to play in the water, with a lesson about the natural world and how we can use the biotic organisms living in those streams to monitor their health over time. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to think outside of the box to make this fun and important lesson happen in 2020. In the spring of 2020, we were not able to do this lesson with any schools, because all of them were full time distance learning, and we had never prepared a distance learning lesson before. This fall however, we got a little more creative.

I made a virtual lesson via Go Pro video with a teacher from the Forest Lake Area Learning Center and his sons. With Totino Grace and St. Francis High School students, we worked in small groups in the field with masks on, disinfecting all equipment between classes. We also had classes attend virtually while a teacher held the live feed camera up and talked to the students that were attending online. Overall, whether by recording, live video stream, or in person at the river respecting social distancing and mask wearing, just about 200 kids still got to take part in this activity from the three schools mentioned. It took a little more time and effort than usual, but in the end we made sure a large number of local students still got the opportunity to take part. 

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Join the Growing Community of Storm Drain Adopters in Anoka County!

Anoka County residents have prevented nearly 350 pounds of algae from growing in our lakes and streams by doing this one simple thing: Adopting a Storm Drain!

Trash and decaying organic debris like fallen leaves are harmful to lakes, rivers, and streams. As leaves decompose, the resulting nutrients fuel algae growth. The unsightly algae blooms can cover the surface of polluted lakes, sucking oxygen out of the water and choking fish and native plants. Keeping leaves and other pollution out of our storm drains helps keep our lakes and rivers clean and clear.

Since the start of the Adopt a Drain program, over 7,400 people have adopted drains throughout Minnesota and collectively prevented 250,000 pounds of pollution from getting into our waters. This is the largest community engagement program of its type in the entire United States!

Getting involved is simple and only takes a few minutes. Just follow these steps:

   1. Adopt an available storm drain near you at www.Adopt-a-Drain.org

   2. Gather the tools you'll need. These might include: gloves, rake, trash grabber, dust pan, safety vest, bins for separating waste, yard and/or trash bag

   3. Collect and separate trash and recycling from the area around your adopted drain

   4. Rake or sweep up leaves, sediment, and sticks and place in compost or yard waste bag

   5. Report the debris you collect on www.Adopt-a-Drain.org


To learn more and sign up, visit www.Adopt-a-Drain.org 

Photo credit: CleanWater MN

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Anoka County is 100% Compliant with the MN Buffer Law

The Anoka Conservation District is proud to announce that Anoka County is now 100% compliant with the state's buffer law! The law was passed back in 2015 with the goal of improving water quality throughout the state by reducing pollutants entering public ditches and public waters. This milestone was achieved through strong partnerships between Anoka County, Anoka Conservation District, local landowners, and the Board of Water and Soil Resources. This achievement doesn't mean that the hard work is over but it does represent what is possible for the state of Minnesota when strong environmental policy is handled on the local level. It will be exciting to see the benefits to the state's water systems come to fruition after years of work.

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Cedar Tree Revetment at Rum River Central Regional Park

ACD installed approximately 650 linear feet of cedar tree revetment at Rum River Central Regional Park this past month. This type of project prevents erosion of shorter river banks using cut eastern red cedar trees anchored along the toe of the bank in a shingled fashion. The thick branches of the eastern red cedars dissipate the erosive energy of the water as it washes along the streambank on the outside bend of a river. In this particular area at the park, a walking trail was at risk of washing out soon if the erosive scour continued unchecked. In addition to protecting the walking trail, this project will keep about 30 tons of sediment out of the river every year!

In order to accomplish this feat, we relied on numerous partnerships. Anoka County Parks helped us by purchasing the cable and earth anchors, as well as providing tree hauling services. Sherburne County donated 130 eastern red cedar trees from county-owned property. And finally, a large portion of the labor involved was done by a Conservation Corps. MN & IA crew that worked on this project for 12 ten-hour days. Thank you to all of these partners! 

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Mississippi Riverbank Stabilization Project Complete

The previously highlighted riverbank stabilization project on the Mississippi River in Ramsey has been completed. The residential property has 100 linear feet of riverbank that was nearly vertical and approximately 25' tall. Severe erosion was causing large portions of the bank to collapse and enter the river every year. The soil associated with those bank failures introduced significant volumes of sediment and nutrients into the river that contributed to water quality degradation. Stabilization of this severely eroding riverbank reduces annual sediment loading to the river by an estimated 224,000 lbs and total phosphorus loading by an estimated 112 lbs.

Project elements included clearing and grubbing of the few trees remaining on the steep slope, grading, riprap at the bottom of the slope, a reinforced soil slope (RSS) above the riprap to the top of the bank, native seed and plants, and erosion control blankets. The RSS consists of a honeycomb-like grid that is anchored to the slope and enables the finished slope to be steeper (e.g. 1.5 horizontal : 1 vertical), which maximizes the preservation of existing trees at the top of the slope.

Project funding is provided by a Clean Water Fund grant and landowner match.

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Three New Rain Gardens in Anoka Help Rum River Water Quality

ACD partnered with the City of Anoka to design three rain gardens that were installed as part of a City street reconstruction project in the 38th Lane neighborhood. Construction wrapped up this month in the yards of three homeowners who volunteered to take on the ownership and maintenance of these great water quality features. These three new rain gardens join two others that were installed in 2017 to clean up stormwater from this neighborhood that otherwise would wash directly to the Rum River via the storm sewer system. In total the three new rain gardens will treat about five acres of drainage area and remove about 1,164 lbs of total suspended solids (TSS) and 3.6 lbs of phosphorus annually from the stormwater runoff originating from those five acres. This results in about a 75% reduction in pollution washing to the river from this area!

Once the new plants have a chance to grow and bloom in these gardens in the coming years, not only will these rain gardens continue to provide an important water quality benefit to the Rum River, they will also host numerous pollinator species throughout the year with their abundant native flowering plants! ACD would like to extend a big thank you to the five landowners in this neighborhood, and dozens elsewhere in the county, that are willing to sacrifice portions of their yard to improve water quality in important waterways like the Rum River. These partnerships with willing private landowners are vital to ensuring clean and clear water for all to enjoy. 

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Mississippi Riverbank Stabilization Construction Underway

Stabilization of a riverbank on the Mississippi River in Ramsey has begun. The residential property has 100 linear feet of riverbank that is nearly vertical and approximately 25' tall. Severe erosion was causing large portions of the bank to collapse and enter the river every year. The soil associated with those bank failures introduced significant volumes of sediment and nutrients into the river that contribute to water quality degradation. Stabilization of this severely eroding riverbank will reduce annual sediment loading to the river by an estimated 224,000 lbs and total phosphorus loading by an estimated 112 lbs.

Project elements include clearing and grubbing of the few trees remaining on the steep slope, grading, riprap at the bottom of the slope, a reinforced soil slope (RSS) above the riprap to the top of the bank, native seed and plants, and erosion control blankets. The RSS consists of a honeycomb-like grid that is anchored to the slope and enables the finished slope to be steeper (e.g. 1.5 horizontal : 1 vertical), which maximizes the preservation of existing trees at the top of the slope.

The project is on schedule to be completed by early October. Project funding is provided by a Clean Water Fund grant and landowner match.
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ACD Hard at Work Removing Carp from Martin Lake

The Anoka Conservation District has been hard at work this September removing invasive carp from Martin Lake, located in northeastern Anoka County. Martin Lake has had a large carp population over the years, which can be extremely detrimental to lake water quality if left unmanaged. This type of work isn't possible without strong partnerships between natural resource professionals and residents of the community. This project and the dedicated volunteers on Martin Lake are a shining example of the level of civic engagement that is achievable when these relationships are nurtured. Thank you volunteers!

Updates are also periodically posted here: Carp Harvests

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ACD Secures Septic System Fix Up Grants

ACD has received news that for the fourth consecutive year we will be receiving Septic System Fix Up grant funds from the MN Pollution Control Agency. The grant funds are directly used to fix non-compliant septic systems where homeowners meet low income thresholds. Enough grant funds are available each year to fix two or three septic systems. For those who don't qualify, several loan programs are available through Anoka County.

For more information about these grants, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit this page: Septic Systems

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Linwood Township Adopts Septic System Point of Sale Ordinance

With funding assistance from the Anoka Conservation District, Linwood Township is taking new steps to ensure local lakes, streams and groundwater are protected. The township is beginning implementation of an ordinance requiring septic system inspections before property ownership transfer. The goal is to ensure septic systems are functioning properly because a failing septic can be both a human health and an environmental threat.

All homes and businesses in Linwood Township, except for a trailer park, have their own septic system. The costs for maintenance and repair fall entirely on the owner. Replacing the system can be costly, at over $10,000. Many homeowners would struggle with this kind of cost. Property sale is one of the few times that funds may be available to address a failing septic system. The ordinance also helps protect buyers from a large liability.

In addition to this new ordinance, Linwood also tracks septic system pumping and reminds homeowners when it is due. In this way, the township is able to remind homeowners of this important maintenance that helps avoid more costly problems. Many other communities in Anoka County also take similar measures.

Photo: Septic System Maintenance Pumping

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