Full-time job: Keep the eggs warm

PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG A Bald Eagle goes about its duty of keeping its eagle eggs warm in this nest adjacent to the Iowa River. This nest is an addition to other known, active and inactive, eagle nests in Marshall County. It is thought that at least eight, maybe a few more, active eagle nests can be verified locally. The success of Bald Eagles is an amazing comeback from critical conditions only three decades ago. It does take time for any species to recover. It helps that this bird can and does adapt given favorable opportunity.

BALD EAGLES are now quite common even in central Iowa. Marshall County has its share of active nests. The outlook is good for more site, some unknown at this time, to be added to a confirmed list and map of where other eagle pairs decided to make a home during 2018. State DNR non-game biologists have a rough estimate of over 250 eagle nests in our state. The key word here is ‘rough estimate’ but this number is based on county-by-county observations by active and skilled birders, conservation personnel and landowner reports.

A mid-winter Bald Eagle count in Iowa is held each year. The number seems to hover around 5,000. Wintering birds from the far north of Canada and northern states may congregate along open water, especially getting into fishing action along the Mississippi River. Now that spring is here, many of those non-resident eagles have returned to the territories they desire to call home. That leaves resident eagles that have claimed their own territories locally. It is those eagles will will see all spring and summer and early fall during 2018. Enjoy them whenever you are so fortunate to see them soaring overhead, perched in an tall cottonwood tree or feeding on the remains of carcass in a farm field. Enjoy them at a distance with binoculars or spotting scope. Have fun.

To watch eagles on the nest, I’ve mentioned before the camera live feed you can watch of the Decorah Eagles. From the comfort of your home computer go to this address: https://www.raptorresource.org/birdcams/decorah-eagles/. What you will see first hand is being duplicated all over the state at every eagle nest. Only these nests do not have cameras watching every detail of their daily life. With just one camera at Decorah, the entire world is able to witness our Iowa Decorah Bald Eagles. This is very good publicity for the species not to mention an increase of tourism for Northeast Iowa hotels, places to eat, and great scenery to observe. At Decorah, the eagle nest with its camera is located just south of the city and very close to the DNR trout fish hatchery.

The Raptor Resource Project specializes in the preservation of falcons, eagles, ospreys, hawks and owls. They create, improve and directly maintain over 50 nest sites, provide training in nest site creation and management, and develop innovations in nest site management and viewing that bring people closer to the natural world. Their mission is to strengthen raptor populations, expand participation in raptor conservation, and build support and financial help for this work. If you care to make a contribution and gift to this cause, you can write to them in care of P.O. Box 16, Decorah, Iowa 52101.

The Bald Eagle has been our nation’s symbol since 1872. It represents freedom, power and majesty. It is very good to know we have a good representation population locally. May they prosper and do well.

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Another species of big bird that is doing very well are WILD TURKEYS. Our mild winter helped this bird make it through the hard times of winter cold and snow. Numerous reports and sightings of large groups of turkeys have been made to this author. AND during my forays into the forests lands of Marshall County, both public and private, I’ve seen the birds or evidence of their feeding activities and droppings. Tom turkeys are well aware of lengthening daylight hours as they strut with tail fans spread out and wing tips dragging the ground. For now the hen turkeys may seem unimpressed but they too will soon take seriously the need to nest.

Iowa’s spring turkey season for youth begins April h and goes through the 15th. Regular seasons for hunters using shotguns will begin April 16-19. Second season dates are the 20th- 24th, third season the 25th through May 1, and fourth season May 2-20. Resident archery season for turkeys encompasses all the dates of April 16 through May 20. One bearded bird per license is the limit.

Waiting in a portable ground blind for passing turkeys is just one of the fun times this scribe will undertake this spring. My bow and arrows will be ready. So too will my long lens camera to capture images of these large forest land game birds. Success is not dependent upon a well placed arrow. Being outside just for the opportunity is number one on my enjoyment list. Listening to the sounds of spring is another valid reason to be outside. And when and if a tom turkey decides to attack my decoy spread, he may become table fare for family and friends.

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Just in time HUNTER SAFETY and EDUCATION courses are available now on-line. This method of obtaining a hunter safety education certificate is growing rapidly in our fast paced world. Signing up for the on-line computer course is via this address: www.iowadnr.gov/huntered. Then after the course completion certificate is printed, check for the required field day at any location offering this service. This is a mandatory item before a valid hunter safety certificate can be issued. Hunter Safety courses are required for anyone born after Jan. 1, 1972 who wish to purchase a hunting license. A hunter safety certificate becomes valid after age 12.

Later this year at the Izaak Walton League grounds at Marshalltown, traditional hunter education classes will be conducted on May 17 and 19 and again in August on the 16th and 18th. The Thursday evening session is from 6-9 p.m. The following Saturday times are from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. Register on-line for these classes.

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NATIVE GRASSLAND management requires periodic fire. Trained personnel who conduct a burn wait for the correct day, burn conditions of light winds from the right direction for a site, optimal humidity levels and a game plan backed up by experience and proper equipment. One public prairie burn event is set for the week of April 9th, exact date to be determined on short notice, at the Grimes Farm. If you wish to watch a prairie burn first hand, do listen to KFJB or KDAO radio or watch the Marshall County Conservation Board Facebook page for updates. Of course you can also call the MCCB at 752-5490. They will at your request put you on an e-mail alert list for the grassland burn schedule. Contact them at mccb@marshallcountyia.gov. Native prairie grasses and forbs respond well to fire’s removal of last years dry overburden. Dark surfaces on the land after a fire help warm the soil, in some cases help open seed pods, and assist in killing woody vegetation invading a grassland. If you attend, do bring a camera so that at a safe distance you can capture red flames devouring dry brown grasses so that new green sprouts can emerge later on.

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Advice from and Eagle: Let your spirit soar, See the big picture, Cherish freedom, Honor the earth and sky, Keep your goals in sight, Bald is beautiful, Fly high.

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Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.