Winter keeps hanging on. Yuck. Spring is getting closer. Hurray! Us Iowans have endured another cold season as the inevitable transition to spring may give us great weather one day and a blizzard the next. At least winter and any snow should be short lived from now on.
Signs of spring are everywhere, even though some are quite subtle for the time being. Bald eagles are on their nest at Decorah. It is interesting to watch as live video cameras keeps tabs on the eggs being warmed by the parents. A nest next to a state fish hatchery is a good thing for the eagles.
Owls are also on eggs that will soon hatch. Timing is everything as a new generation of birds pop out of their shells just in time for exposed snow free fields where mice and other rodents may soon wake up.Adult hawks and owls can hunt larger landscapes and spot potential prey more easily. Feeding their young is top priority each spring.
T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
Snow covered silhouettes of an elk and moose helped create an interesting illusion this past week. While spring weather is getting closer, winter still has an icy grip as attested to by these large lawn ornament creations.Plate steel life-sized outlines of the animals were welded together and special antlers of steel formed to create these works of art. Snow adds to the photo qualities in this composition.These critters are for sale at a small business located in Janesville, along old highway 218.
Maple trees, if tapped for collection of syrup, are waking up too. Days with above freezing temperatures and below freezing at night are just right for sap to flow. For some folks, tapping the trees and then boiling off the water to leave the sugary syrup is a tasty delight worth the effort. It will not be long before sap flowing up the tree will swell buds for the flowers and leaves to follow.
Birds of all kinds will soon start to reappear at feeders or area wetlands, lakes or rivers. Sand Lake on the east side of Marshalltown is a quick and easy place to check on returning waterfowl and eagles. Look for Canada geese, white-fronted geese, Snows and Blues, or Ross's geese. Ducks may include Common Goldeneye, Bufflehead, Mallards, Pintails, Scaup, Gadwall and Widgeon. There will be more species to fill the spring ledger and notebook. Just keep looking and enjoy the great outdoors in the process.
Deer sometimes get their antlers stuck together in such a manner as to not be able to get them apart. This usually happens during the rutting season each fall. Every year instances of two deer entangled, and if unable to become separated, die. Now comes a story of three buck whitetails getting caught. It may have started with two deer, however the fight got the attention of a third. He entered the battle and got his own antlers caught. Now there are three deer in a deadly predicament.
This happened in Ohio last fall. An 11 pointer, a 10 and an 7 point buck had indeed locked antlers. All had died by drowning in a nearby creek where the land battle had begun. The landowner, Ohio DNR officers and foresters salvaged the three sets of entangled antlers. The battle between deer illustrates how intense the rut can become. Other deer may be drawn to the sights and sounds of the battle. In this case, the third buck couldn't resist.
The Marshall County Conservation Board has a set of two locked antlers on display at the Conservation Center. They were found in the Iowa River several years ago with the bodies of the dead and bloated deer mostly submerged and encrusted with ice. Now cleaned and displayed, visitors can see how deer locking antlers may ultimately lead toward their demise. Such is nature. It happens infrequently but when it does, deadly results follow.
Next Saturday is DUCKS UNLIMITED's Iowa River Valley Chapter membership banquet. The event will be held at the Regency Inn at Marshalltown. Doors open at 5 p.m. Check out the great line-up of prizes and items to be given away in raffles or sold at auction. Among the prizes will be 13 long guns, great sporting arms for the hunter. Tickets at the door cost $45. They were $40 if purchased by the deadline which is now past. All sportsmen and women are encouraged to attend. Your financial support is urgently needed. Consider it an obligation to help. I'll see you there.
Just remember that DU is a great organization that since 1939 has done a lot of good internationally, nationally and locally for wetland conservation. Game and non-game wildlife benefit from cattail marshes, wetland complexes and associated grasslands adjacent to these special places. Wetlands also serve as filters for water running into them, cleaning nutrients out for use by submergent and emergent aquatic plant growth. Water leaving a wetland is much cleaner.
One local wetland area to investigate and watch wildlife is Hendrickson Marsh. This site of over 700 acres of both shallow water and uplands was acquired by the DNR in the 1960s. It makes use of the land formations in the area that resulted from glacial age ice marging melting. For modern day man, a short dam and water control gate were constructed to impound water and have the additional benefit of manipulating water depth for aquatic plant growth. Those plants and other invertebrates are food sources for migrating birds of all kinds.
A second wetland complex is the Colo Bogs site west of State Center. Look for the wetland depressions in the land along each side of old highway 30. This is always a great place to check out for spring migrating birds.
Lastly, Otter Creek Marsh east of Tama is a 3,000 plus acre wetland complex. A series of dikes impound water from Otter Creek in a series of steps as the floodplain slopes to the east. During drought years, water can be drawn from the Iowa River. Otter Creek is home to lots of wildlife, eagles and Sandhill Cranes. If you like watching birds here, thank a hunter.
I like redneck jokes. Here is just one to ponder. You know you are in a redneck church if ... instead of a bell ringing in the loft, a chorus of hunters uses their duck calls to say "you-all come."
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.