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The American Kestrel

Written by Alyssa Cahoon

The American Kestrel, or Falco sparverius, is a famous falcon in the Red River Valley. They are often seen perched on telephone poles or high posts along roadsides and open country areas, making the prairie a favorite ecosystem by the species. You may spot one around the Red River in the Fargo and Moorhead area, but you’re much more likely to hear them first. American Kestrels have a signature call which can often be easily heard, making a “kleklekle” noise.  Linked below is the American Kestrels’ signature call:  https://www.audubon.org/sites/default/files/AMEKES_1.klee-klee-kleealarmcall_KYle.mp3?uuid=5e33863e5d6d3


If you do get a glimpse of an American Kestrel near the Red River, there are a few things to know to help you identify them. American Kestrels are one of the smallest species of falcon known today. They typically reach a length of approximately 12 inches with a wingspan of 24 inches. Male and female kestrels have different colored feathers and patterns. The females have more rust and brown colored feathers, mimicking their nests or areas they may perch for camouflage. Male kestrels have blue and grey feathers on their heads and tails. American Kestrels are also known for feathers making a black stripe pattern under their eyes. Local birders have shared with us it is common to see them arrive in March and leave in October.

Species such as American Kestrels are important to our Red River Valley area because they can help keep a balance of animals within our ecosystem and benefit us all. American Kestrels are identified as a raptor due to how they use their talons to capture their prey. They will fly above their prey and dive quickly downward, swooping to catch it. Their prey consists of large insects, small mammals, and small birds. Large grasshoppers, beetles, mice, and even quail can be prey to an American Kestrel.

American Kestrels are not currently listed as a concern on endangered animal identification lists and their populations appears stable in most areas of North America. However, in certain areas populations are beginning to decline due to habitat loss, competition from invasive species, pollution, and other unknown factors. We can help by creating nesting areas, bird boxes, and other sought-after resources in our backyards, open fields, and along the Red River Valley Area.

References:
https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/american-kestrel

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/American_Kestrel/id

https://peregrinefund.org/explore-raptors-species/falcons/american-kestrel

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Volunteer Organization Trees Award

River Keepers accepted the 2019 Volunteer Organization Trees Award from the North Dakota Forest Service on behalf of the Reforest the Red Project. Project partners include The City of Fargo – GovernmentFargo Park District, and Cass County Soil Conservation District. The award was in recognition of the efforts to coordinate over 550 volunteers to plant thousands of trees and shrubs along the Red River to create an improved riparian buffer which provides bank stability, habitat for wildlife, shade, increased recreation opportunities and improved water quality. Thank you to all of the volunteers who took the time and energy to help! #SustaintheRed #RKThanks

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RiverArts Fishing Clinic

Written by Sarah Ambuehl, volunteer

Around 75 kids and their families came together on July 23rd for the River Arts Fishing Clinic at Memorial Park in Moorhead. The event’s success was due to the

various project partners; Moorhead Parks and Recreation, and the FM Walleyes. We were also fortunate for the 15 dedicated volunteers who led activities, a first aid station, and helped kids fish.

Over the duration of the event kids visited eight different stations, each providing them with a fun hands on experience and knowledge. The stations included information ranging from what river pollution looks like (pictured) to learning how to cast, to knot tie, to identify fish, to water safety. Through these stations these kids, who often had never fished before, have a better idea of all that has to do with fishing near the Red River. After the kids visited all eight stations, they went to River Keepers staff and told them what they learned to receive a mini tackle box as a prize before heading to the highlight of the evening, actually fishing in the river. It was a rewarding moment when some of the kids could not choose just one thing that they learned.

With the help of the FM Walleyes the ambitious learners headed to the river to put their skills to the test. One lucky fisherman caught on to a 14-pound, 28-inch catfish! That one was a little tough to reel in.

If you want to join in on next year’s fun, sign up for our e-news on the homepage of our website to stay up to date on future fishing clinics and other upcoming events.

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Moorhead Reforest the Red Recap

Written by David Bunzow

They came on both 21 and single speed bicycles, in trucks and carpooling automobiles, on foot, and in a wheelchair – more than 110 willing volunteers aged 7-73 – with the singular purpose of assisting nature by improving a historic park section of The Red River of the North in Moorhead, MN. Volunteers from several local businesses including Anheuser-Busch, D-S Beverages Inc, American Crystal Sugar, Bell Bank, FedEx, Gate City Bank, HDR, Microsoft, Trinity Lutheran Preschool, US Bank, and Wex Health, were evident during the day; several volunteers from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints were also hard at work with their planting duties and then watering of the young trees.It takes a lot of planning, patience, manual labor and dedicated people with vision and desire to help create a tree-rich legacy that can benefit the North for decades and even centuries to come. This event takes many weeks of planning to organize and would not have been possible without the strong financial support and stewardship guidance from our event sponsors, many of whom have continued their support from previous Reforest the Red events. Tools for digging, healthy mulch materials to surround the root systems of roughly 800 saplings, boxes of light blue sapling protector tubes, multiple rolls of duct tape and water to ensure an intimate contact between mulch and roots systems were all needed, helping to ensure the young trees their very best chance of survival for these one-day river giants that future generations of local residents and visitors can enjoy and admire. The Red River itself will also hopefully benefit from the enhancement of shade and soil enrichment provided by the trees in the coming years.

River Oaks Park was the site of this years’ tree plantings, and at the end of 3+ hours of hard but rewarding work on the hottest day of 2019 thus far (97 F.!), it was indeed a beautiful sight for all to behold a sea of turquoise tree supports along the watery banks and nearby fields of the Red. “Have a long and happy life, trees – one and all!”

There are many people to thank for their efforts today. Financial assistance came from the Anheuser-Busch Foundation through a grant from River Network and Muscatell Automotive.  Our project partners include City of Moorhead, MN, and the Clay County Soil and Water Conservation District.

I leave you today with this thought, formed after a tiring but fulfilling day of planting trees:

Water is the most critical resource issue of our lifetime and our children’s lifetime. The health of our waters is the principal measure of how we live on the land. — (Luna Leopold, Hydrologist)

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More Trees Please

By Amy Barouth, volunteer

 

Every year, we ask volunteers to plant trees along the Red River and that is because trees play a large role in the health of a river system and a community. There are many reasons why that is the case.

Rivers are dynamic. They meander and sometimes cut new pathways altogether. Cut banks are the outer banks of an s-curve in the river where the water flows faster. On the more protected inner part of the river’s s-curve the water slows down, and sediments drop from the water creating a point bar. In open plains, this process is what allows rivers to move their banks. That is where tree roots come in to hold the bank together.

Riverside trees serve an especially important bank stabilizing role in the Red River Valley since it is made up of soft clay soils left behind by a giant glacial lake.  These clays are structurally weak and when saturated, are prone to slumping into the river. Weight such as that of buildings, septic systems or roadways or having shallow-rooted turf grass on the riverbank further magnifies the situation. Enter trees, and all the other riparian plants with a full variety of root depths, but especially trees with their thick and expansive roots. The root systems of trees not only stabilize river banks structurally, they also take in large quantities of water, lessening the saturation of the clay soils.

There are many more benefits that riparian (the area next to the river) trees provide. Banks stabilized by tree roots are protecting water quality since eroded soil itself can become a river pollutant. Forested river banks filter much of the water that runs off our urban and agricultural landscapes, slowing polluted overland flows by allowing the water to soak into the soil. Tree-provided shade keeps river water temperatures cooler (Fun fact: Oxygen dissolves better in cooler water, and that is important for fish species). The trees, along with other plant varieties, also form habitat for wildlife. Even the fallen trees, called snags, serve to create habitat and slow water flows.

If you’d like to plant a few trees along the Red River, volunteer for one of the Reforest the Red events, we have thousands of trees and shrubs to plant in 2019! This is a great chance to gather your family, friends or associates to make a positive difference together. Or, come on your own and meet some fellow tree-loving friends of the river. Go to https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe1kKS1DuWuofM8uAKjUJ0IYxWyxcjJT_DgNuaICDXDVEcK5w/viewform?vc=0&c=0&w=1 to sign up, or call Kim Morris at (701) 356-8915. We ask that at least one adult is present for every five kids (K thru 8th grade).

  • On June 7th, from 1 – 4:30 p.m. we partner with the City of Moorhead and the Clay County Soil and Water Conservation District at River Oaks Park. Short training sessions will be held throughout the event.  Subs and water served while supplies last.
  • On September 11th, from 12 – 7 p.m. we partner with the City of Fargo, Fargo Park District and Cass County Soil Conservation District at Trollwood Park. Short trainings will be held throughout the event. Hot dogs will be served from 1-3pm and 5-7pm while supplies last. Water served all day while supplies last.

Photo Credit: Jack Anderson