Outdoors Today

T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
Mallards, one of the hardiest of waterfowl, will wait until optimum weather fronts form, including a surge of very cold air from Canada, to begin one of the most prized spectacles of nature, a huge influx of waterfowl into Midwestern states. Flyways along major rives such as the Mississippi and Missouri are obvious corridor of travel. Wildlife refuges and other public wetland sites along these routes will see accumulating ducks and geese in significant numbers. They will use habitat sites to rest and exploring local feeding areas. Mallards, such as this  preening pair, illustrate wild birds using resting time to get ready for more travel time to come.

Waterfowl wait for cold winds

WATERFOWL migrations can be a bit fickle. Where are they now? When will they make a big migration push to show up at any local marshes, ponds, lakes or rivers? Avid waterfowlers want to know. So in this day in age, computer tracking and posts from other waterfowl watchers keeps a fairly good ...

Be informed on new gun deer regulations

GUN DEER SEASONS beginning on Dec. 2-6 and Dec. 9-17 will allow what had been exclusively a shotgun only weapons regulation. That changes for 2017 with the allowance of straight wall ammunition choices. The regulations booklet page 31 lists what is allowed. The regulations are the result of ...

T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
Natural history moments present themselves to us all the time. Example: An adult Bald Eagle lifts off from its cornfield perch only one mile west of Marshalltown. Resident Bald Eagles, and those that are drifting south from more northern summer ranges, will soon increase the numbers of eagles we may see. As winter approaches, colder air and snow up north will make it imperative for many raptors to go south in search of food. While eagles specialize in fish, they will also take just about any small mammal or even feed on carrion. Road-killed deer is one source of protein eagles.

Natural history moments energizing

It is the season when the weather is really unpredictable. Colder air blasting down from the northwest, rain with snow flurries, then followed by a bright sunny day that seems so peaceful. We humans sometimes wonder if Mother Nature is having a hard time making up her mind. I think she likes ...

T-R PHOTOS BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
Highly variable fall weather adds to the challenge of hunting the elusive and hardy game bird, the rooster pheasant.  A bit of snow for our first touch of winter weather certainly adds to a hunter's need to dress warmly while pursuing ring-necked pheasants.  State public hunting areas in central Iowa that will see good numbers of hunters include the Iowa River Corridor east of Chelsea, portions of Otter Creek Marsh, Hendrickson Marsh's uplands, the Colo Bogs site east of State Center. County Conservation public lands with at least a few birds hunters should not overlook are the Arney Bend Wildlife, Marietta Sand Prairie, and the Iowa River Wildlife Area grasslands and re-constructed prairie uplands.  The pheasant and quail season in Iowa opened yesterday. Three rooster pheasants per hunter per day is the legal limit.

Pheasant trials and tribulations

RING-NECKED PHEASANTS are highly sought after by hunters young and old. For new young hunters, accompanying a dad, mom, big brother or sister, uncle or aunt, it is a special time to be allowed to participate in a long standing tradition of pursuing wild game. The sights of large grassy fields, ...

T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
Wetland habitat is critical for waterfowl and lots of other game and non-game species, especially as fall migrations of ducks and geese get under way. Otter Creek Marsh, located east of Tama and east of Chelsea in Tama County, has good supplies of water within its four impoundment areas north of Otter Creek and three to the south. Otter Creek is a 3,360-acre wetland complex owned and operated the Iowa DNR. The wildlife personnel that oversee day-to-day operations have a huge job of water level management throughout the year. Towards fall, water levels are increased slowly in each pool to give birds a place to rest, feed and get ready for the next leg of their southward journeys. White-fronted geese are just one species that observers and hunters may encounter at Otter Creek.

Wild and wonderful wetlands

OTTER CREEK MARSH owes its history to many geological events that shaped the flat floodplain land of the Iowa River valley east of the City of Tama. Over thousands of years of time, water leaving the land surface cut the river channel in a series of long meandering twists and turns. As some of ...

T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
Deer are just reason that outdoor enthusiasts like the fall season. Seeing deer interact with each other is always interesting as people strive to learn more about make makes them tick. Hunters can and will dream about a potential trophy animal in the right place and the right time. But other fall features strike our fancy during October including tree leaves turning into a wide array of beautiful colors, prairie grasses reflecting golden tones at sunrises or sunsets, and cooler water at area lakes urging fish to go on feeding surges. Cooler air temperatures of an "Indian Summer" are nice while they last so people need to make the most of every fall opportunity to enjoy being outside.

Fall is fantastic

FALL is fantastic, fun and an exciting time to be outside. Dress warmly for the conditions of the day and let nature be your instructor, mentor and guide. Some activities are easy to do from the window of your home. Leaf color watching will work. Fall bird migration at the backyard feeder will ...

Same river, two tales

The IOWA RIVER can be tame and docile. Or it can be a rampaging flood of historic proportions. Anyone that has lived long enough in this county knows full well the extremes of water flow in the river. And we all know how quickly the river is capable of responding to heavy rainfall events ...

Praying Mantis

Mantids: Methodical predators

This week's featured creature in a very large, very long-bodied and long-legged predator from the insect world. It is called the Chinese Mantis (Tenodera aridifolia sinensis). Only two species, both introduced to North America, known to Iowa. They are the Chinese Mantis and the Carolina ...

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO
Marshall County Conservation Naturalist Emily Herring works with Extended Learning Program students.

Pathways to environmental education

At the beginning of October, I will have worked for Marshall County Conservation for one year. As I continue to get settled into my role as naturalist, the project list continues to grow. Leading the list of the many programs and projects I would like to accomplish at Marshall County ...

T-R PHOTO BY ADAM SODDERS
Dove hunting is fairly accessible: the gear requirements are minimal compared to other types of hunting.

A different side of the outdoors

While I've considered myself a fisherman ever since my dad showed me how put worm on a hook, there is another popular outdoor activity that, until recently, had been a mystery to me: hunting. It's one of those activities that is much easier to get into when you have a friend with the ...

Links in the food chain

Small critters are everywhere...if we take the time to look for them. We need to observe carefully, and hopefully learn how they fit into nature's life cycles. What follows is just a minute amount of information about arachnids (spiders). And of course you should know that spiders are not ...

T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
The coyote (Canis latrans) is a true survivor. Outdoors enthusiasts seldom see this very common wild canine predator, but we all can attest to its presence when its yelps, barks and its eerie howls pierce the airwaves of early evening just before sunset. It seems the call of this wild dog perks up the ears of every neighborhood dog as a primordial trait kicks in to make domestic dogs howl back. This “coyote talk” is one way this four-legged predator communicates with others of its kind. Coyote ancestors have been around for millions of years. They are above all else very adaptable. And that is how this critter of the Great Plains originally has spread eastward into and colonized every eastern state, all of our northeastern states, southern Canada and even distributed itself across sea ice in the mid-1980s onto Newfoundland Island. Today's image is of a mounted specimen made at the Iowa Taxidermist Association meeting at Marshalltown in 2015. For this author and wildlife photographer, capturing quality images of a wild coyote remains a bucket list item.

Coyotes adapt and improvise

COYOTES are smart, cunning, adaptable and almost everywhere. Even our cities and towns have this animal cruising at its leisure during night time hours while us humans are asleep. But in the morning, if our pet's food dish left outside is empty, it could just be that a wild canine helped ...

Monarch

Mighty migrators on beautiful wings

MIGRATION is not something just for birds. As today's image suggests, a Monarch butterfly could be compared to "Flowers of the Wind." Monarchs are easy to see and a delight to watch. Since the last generation of Monarchs is nearly completing its chysalis stage, it will be programmed with all ...

T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
The Iowa River courses through Marshall County for about 29 miles from the Hardin County line south and southeastward past Three Bridges County Park before crossing into Tama County.  iewed today is only one small portion of the river between Timmons Grove and the highway 330 bridge (top) and the future bike trail bridge (bottom). Low river flow levels all summer have allowed many sand bars to become exposed, some long enough for green vegetation to grow on them.Canoeists and kayakers should find the river at this time as a fun place to paddle from put-in point to a designated take-out destination.

Lazy summer, lazy river

The IOWA RIVER just keeps poking along, steadily and silently giving an outlet to surface water runoff and ground water table seepage. Granted, this summers lack of significant rain has not added appreciable amounts of runoff water. From its headwaters at Crystal Lake in Hancock County to the ...

Fish & Game

FISH & GAME numbers and trend lines of population dynamics is full time work for Iowa DNR wildlife biologists. At research stations, data is collected and the numbers are crunched to help provide an overview of how any wildlife population is doing. Iowa's winter weather has a lot to do ...

T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) hunt for insects, small frogs, worms or small rodents in a harvested grain field in central Wisconsin. This is a family unit of the parents and their one surviving chick. A bald red crown and bustlelike rear feathers help define this species. Crane calls can best be described as a rolling bugled garoo-a-a-a that is repeated numerous times. The adult cranes stand three to four feet tall and have wingspans of six to seven feet. When flying, the neck is extended and its legs are normally held straight back. Formation flying is common for this big bird, a master at long range flying.

Birds are preparing for migration

SANDHILL CRANES are cool. Maybe a series of other terms would be more appropriate such as majestic, regal, powerful, graceful in flight and smooth sailors of the airwaves. Whenever I see them, or just hear them, a mental image of this big bird comes instantly to mind. A smile from my face is ...

T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
Another good year of learning respect for firearms while also possibly earning an athletic letter from school is a great combination. On July 21, kids of the Central Iowa Straight Shooters met for their final fun event and awards banquet at the trap range near Marshalltown's airport. After a year of more practice, helpful coaching and matches with other schools participating in the Scholastic Clay Target Program, the students grew in knowledge, safety, team work and discipline. The group photo has representatives from Marshalltown, East Marshall, West Marshall, BCLUW and Grundy Center.

Straight shooters earn awards

STRAIGHT SHOOTERS are what they call themselves. They are students from all area high schools that have chosen to take up a shooting sport as part of their education. They learn lots of things and primary on this list is respect for firearms, not fear of them. They learn safety essentials ...

Green Castle celebrates 40 years

GREEN CASTLE as a public park will soon be 40 years old. To help celebrate, you all are welcome to join in activities, good food, visit with friends, go hiking, fishing, paddle around the 16 acre lake in a canoe or kayak, play volleyball at a newly installed deep sand court, and listen to ...

Explore the magic of a tall-grass prairie

SPRING HILL is the name Carl and Linda Kurtz gave to an 80-acre parcel of land they purchased long ago. Kurtz being a native prairie enthusiast, saw the potential of bringing back the native grassland vegetation of the area. They have been successful in achieving that goal. The grasses and ...

Keeping what matters in mind

Leaving behind a beloved space is always difficult, whether it’s an apartment, a childhood home or, in my case, a house with a view of the Olympic Mountains. Those who graciously read my outdoor column about a year ago know that, throughout my childhood, I’ve made trips to western ...