Working together to create a more wildlife-friendly landscape in Southeastern Iowa


By Shane Weinberg, QF Farm Bill Biologist III

On a crisp, frost-covered November morning, the soft, orange-gold glimmer of light on the eastern’ horizon was met with whistling wings of ducks overhead and crowing pheasants in the uplands as they began their morning rituals. The day’s intent was to monitor the population of upland birds, specifically quail, on Mike Roberts’ property in Appanoose County. The crowing and cackling of pheasants was as symbolic as the playing of the national anthem at the Olympics medal ceremony. The golden glow of the sun on the horizon encompassing the property embodied all the hard work and dedication Mike has put into his farm; as if the sun was a metaphorical gold medal being placed on the shoulders of the farm. Although we recorded no quail on this morning, they are there; the habitat components are perfect for the prince of gamebirds. It’s possible the thunderous crowing and cackling of rooster pheasants masked the koi-lee of quail in the distance.

Mike is a passionate waterfowler and quail enthusiast. Every project on the farm is geared towards restoring more wetlands or creating quail habitat by installing buffers of native prairie and planting hedgerows of wild plum. Working closely on several projects over the last five years with Mike, I’ve seen the farm gradually take shape into the habitat mecca it is today. The latest projects include creating a 20-acre wetland on a consistently wet area within a crop field and, in an effort to further increase the wildlife value, pairing that with a quail buffer around the rest of the 50-acre field. Adjacent to these fields, roughly 40 acres of fescue and other cool-season grass pasture will be converted into diverse native prairie with shrub plantings interspersed throughout the field. Once these projects are established, quality quail habitat will always be within a football toss.

It’s a privilege and an honor to work with landowners who truly understand the importance of habitat on private lands and the role it plays in sustaining healthy populations of wildlife across the landscape. Mike Roberts is one of those landowners and I’m already excited to revisit his property next November to listen for the distinctive calls of bobwhite quail that call his property home.

This story originally appeared in the 2022 Winter Issue of the Quail Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to be the first to read more great upland content like this, become a Quail Forever member today!