Fall is baton-passing time

There are four runners in this ageless ‘track event’ account of geologic time. There are four runners to the ebb and flow of earth’s orbit of the sun. We human observers of life on earth have dubbed the inevitable, cyclic, and natural changes of the seasons as Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer. Those are the four named participants in this race. Each participant is getting ready to do their part, and pass the baton once they have completed their lap of the track. Summer is nearing the last leg of its loop of the infield, and Fall is at the starting line ready to receive the pass of the baton.

Hummingbirds are just one illustration of color changes to come. It is delightful to note the unfailing schedule that seasonal changes will bring. To make the most of these cycles, nature responds in many ways to shortening day lengths and cooler temperatures. Birds of all species are making adjustments to their day-to-day living requirements. Many are in the process of migration right now, others will soon be and year round resident species will fill up on now abundant fruits and berries.

Wildlife babies born or hatched this last Spring are adult size now. Mentally they should almost be self sufficient having learned how to find food for themselves. Deer fawns are mostly spotless at this time, having traded 300 while speckled body markings for a uniform gray-brown hair coat. Young pheasants are fully feathered so that hen or rooster determinations can be made. Turkey poults have grown fast due to a rich diet of insects, leaf matter, fruits they can reach and other tidbits of what constitutes turkey food. Young bald eagles hatched from the eight know Marshall County nest sites have been free flying for several months.

Now as this end of summer, beginning of fall time frame, young wildlife are learning how the adults of their species pass the baton. Migrating adult birds make tremendously long journeys with their young in tow. The young are being imprinted mentally for the tasks they will have to do on their own next year. Deer fawns may still be following mother but are spending less and less time together. Independence is the name of the game. The stories are endless of how one generation of species passes on the knowledge of how to survive. They are passing the baton.

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NATURALIST DIANE HALL will retire at the end of this month. A big thank you is in order for this lady with an ever-ready battery of energy. Her retirement party will be held on Sept. 28 from 3-6 p.m. at the Conservation Center at the Grimes Farm. The public is welcome to say good-bye and thank you for 30 years of service to the citizens of Marshall County. What a great gift she has been to all of us.

Naturalists teach. Students young and old learn about nature and natural cycles. People learn the practical things we can do for long term conservation of water, air, soil and wildlife. Diane has been instrumental in this process of learning. Her job at the Marshall County Conservation Board is one that complements all the other tasks of field staff and administration duties. Her classrooms were and are prairie grasslands, forests, marshes and wetlands, streams and rivers. Using these natural settings, she was been very good at instructing young people, awakening in them a sense of awe for the natural world.

She has been on the job long enough to see the baton passed from one generation to the next. She has seen the young faces of boys and girls come through her program offerings. Now grown up, some of those young kids are bringing back their own children to pass the baton of learning to a new generation. As Diane completes a long and successful working career in conservation education, she will soon hand over the baton to an incoming naturalist. The lessons of conservation will continue. Thank you Diane for your dedication to a cause. Happy retirement!

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I am a hunter and proud of it. I have what some might call hereditary hunting fever. I conduct my pursuits in fair chase, legally and above all else ethically. I owe it the animal, and I owe it to society to conduct my hunting interests to the highest possible standards. I understand long-term conservation needs of all wildlife, big or small, those on the list of allowed seasonal takes by well thought out regulation, and the numerous non-game species that share all habitats. I understand how hunters have paid the bills for all of the above via the licenses they purchase. I understand how the support of numerous private wildlife organizations adds to the financial integrity of state conservation departments through leveraged funding systems. I understand the tremendous value of wild grown protein nature provides when I and my family and friends share fine meals of meat from geese, ducks, deer, elk, or bear.

Wildlife is part of our social fabric and needs to be expressed for the positive influences it creates. Yes we can justify the careful management of big game species in terms of meat brought home by a hunter. But there are more factors that blend into the equation like the interest in science, education, personal pleasure, art, education, or public health. Wildlife is a social asset. How much is this asset worth?

Well, that depends on how we compare or contrast our perceived return. Tickets to attend a big name concert can set you back a lot of money. And the entertainment value from top-of-the-line artists tells them we appreciate their talents. It is perceived as a good purchase. However my personal choices may tell me to forego the people concert, and attend one of nature’s presentations where goose music is played as a flock of Canadas with set wings settles into a glide over a water filled wetland full of decoys. Another free ‘concert’ are the before dawn chirps of forest loving small birds awakening to a new day as sunlight filters through the fog. Deciduous tree leaves this fall will ‘chatter’ as wind dislodges them from their stems and they now drift toward earth in a blazing color light show. Even snow flakes falling gently upon my well insulated and water proof camo clothing makes delightful sounds, faint as they may be. When I wait for a deer to pass by a tree stand, its hooves gently contact the ground so softly that it seems without sound, but there is sound if I carefully listen.

The value I get from nature’s free concerts is worth more than I can ever hope to tabulate. So I don’t try. I just know I’m just one person who cannot live without wild things to see, to listen to, and to participate in if I so choose. I’m very appreciative of those many conservationist forefathers and visionaries that saw the big picture for long term conservation of all natural resources. Because of them I can attend any outdoor concert that I desire. It is my cure for hereditary hunting fever.

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 P.O. Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.