Saturday, March 21, 2015

The opening round of spring at Pin Oak Marsh

Spring arrived officially late yesterday afternoon (at 5:45 p.m. if you're a detail person), just as I was walking down the main trail at Pin Oak Marsh, toward water.

No green to be seen quite yet, but there were ducks on the west pond, pairs of Canada geese exploring coves on the east pond, red-wing blackbirds singing and soaring --- and the accompaniment of a chorus of spring peepers in the distance.

I do a lot of walking --- and picture-taking --- at the marsh, but not so much time is spent inside the Lodge. This week was an exception as my classmate Steve Pierce and I made arrangements with Skylar for our Russell High School class of 1964 to gather there on the afternoon of Saturday, July 11, to visit and enjoy the surroundings. We plan to join our friends from the Class of 1965 in Chariton that evening for supper and more socializing at the Freight House.

For those who may have forgotten details, the lodge was built during 2000 and 2001 to serve as an education and nature center as well as headquarters for the Lucas County Conservation Board staff. Conservation Director Skylar Hobbs and Naturalist Jodi Ogden have their offices here.

Funding came from the community --- support from Lucas County-based foundations, groups and individuals --- as well as other grant sources.

It really is a class act, one of the finest nature centers you'll find in Iowa --- especially notable in a rather small (population-wise) rural county.

Resources come in all shapes and sizes at Pin Oak and include the Jack Coffey Memorial Library through the door in the distance, just off the Lodge foyer. Jack was a long-time Lucas County naturalist and neighbor in my old neighborhood not far from the Chariton River south of Russell.

To the left is the main room with its amazing wildlife displays. Nature programming is held here, or starts here before heading outdoors, and non-profits also are welcome to use it for meetings and other small to moderate-sized functions (our Lucas County Historical Society annual meeting is held here every April).

The mounts in the main room are amazing --- some of them prize-winners.

I like the room where live displays are maintained --- and spent some time Wednesday communing with turtles.

If you'd like to visit, volunteers are on hand many weekday mornings to show guests around and the conservation staff, which is very small and because of the volume of work to be done not always in the building, will welcome you at other times, too. But the best bet is to call ahead.

The marsh itself, of course, is always "open." So go take a walk and enjoy the sights and sounds of an early Iowa spring.

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