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Nature: What a gift

August 13, 2011
By GARRY BRANDENBURG , Times-Republican

I was taking a walk-about the other day, a frequent happening for this scribe, through natural areas close to home. My main purpose was to be outside now because recent hot weather episodes had passed. Cooler air was everywhere. It was a treasure and delight just to be outside without oppressive heat and humidity.

And then it happened. Before me on the trail, a red-headed woodpecker flew past and landed on a hackberry tree. That's nice, but how am I going to get closer to enable my 300 mm lens to do its job? A few cautious advances at a time, all without sudden movements, did close the distance. I was now as close as I dare get. I made some images as best I could and hoped for the best. Sometimes one gets lucky.

To make outdoor adventures exciting, the absolute best way is to make them happen. A hike through a prairie, forest or wetland site allows opportunities to happen. It has also been my experience that prior planning helps if one is trying to seek out a particular species. Even then my best attempts are far from a guarantee. If I had wanted to specifically make photos of a red-headed woodpecker, I more than likely would have been very disappointed. In fact, there is a very good chance I would never have seen this species. My methodology is to allow nature to be nature, so that whatever does happen in front of me, or within my camera lens distances, is spontaneous and unplanned. What a gift!

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It is hard to not identify this bird correctly, the Red-headed Woodpecker.  Although not as common as in the past, this medium size bird likes deciduous woodlands of river bottoms, open woods, or groves where there are dead or dying trees. This is one of four woodpecker species that is known to cover stored food with wood or tree bark. It likes to hide insects and seeds in cracks in wood, fence posts or under wood shingles. Melanerpes erthyrochephalus is the scientific name for this red, black and white bird of the forest. 

Nature is like that. Go with the flow. Enjoy it as it is. Let nature surround you with all its sights, sounds, smells and magic. Absorb that magic as a gift and treasure of things that cannot be purchased.

Later this fall while I perch my body in a tree stand over nearby deer trails, it isn't the deer hunting alone that keeps drawing me to the forest. A huge factor in the equation is being outside on crisp cool morning before sunrise and observing nature as a new day breaks at dawn. Bird sounds begin to pierce the still air, especially the warblers who will grace the forest for a few short weeks before they head south. Wind rustles the leaves of mighty oaks, walnut, maple and cottonwood. Squirrels chatter as they go about the business of finding food. Migrating geese honk overhead as they work their way south. And deer appear silently along the trail, testing the wind and nibbling on buds and twigs.

When I get home and my wife asks if I had a good time while sitting high in a tree, the answer is always a resounding YES! Maybe I saw deer and maybe I didn't. But one thing for sure, I let nature surround me. She set the stage for whatever she wanted to grant me that day. Nature: What a gift.


The big straight line wind storm of July 11 did a lot of damage to big trees. Some forests segments look like war zones with broken limbs and toppled trees. One tree that took a direct hit and could not overcome the power of the wind had a bald eagle nest in it. The nest material now lies on the ground. This site is north of Le Grand near the Iowa River.

I'd observed the nest this spring from at least one-quarter mile distance with the aid of a spotting scope. All was fine at that time, and then came summer and the wind storm. A good thing is that the young eaglets from this nest where likely already flying and learning to hunt. So for the most part, the nest had done its duty for the year. And there is a very good possibility that the adult eagles will find a new tree in the vicinity to set up house keeping next January or February when the urge to reproduce awakens.


Young pheasants and wild turkey poults are out and about. Count yourself lucky if and when you see them. DNR biologists and game wardens are conducting annual roadside counts this month for game animals, especially pheasants. The data is not compiled yet.The results will be posted on the DNR website in the near future.


DUCKS UNLIMITED will hold its annual trap shoot and summer fundraiser event on Aug. 28. The Iowa River Chapter of DU utilizes the Marshall Gun Club located west of the Marshalltown airport. The cost is $30 per shooter which includes three rounds of trap, a lunch and chances to win door prizes.

Gather a team of shooter or just show up and get paired with others for this fun day. Novice or sharp shooter makes no difference. A practice round begins at 11 am. Money raised from this event will be used toward the purchase of future auction items at the February 2012 DU banquet.


DEER LICENSES go on sale Aug. 15. Marshall County will have the same antlerless quota number for this year as it did for 2010. Archery season statewide begins Oct. 1. Shotgun season one starts Dec. 3. Season two begins Dec. 10. Early muzzleloader kick off is Oct. 15. The late muzzleloader opener is Dec. 19.


Flooding along the MISSOURI RIVER this spring and summer will linger into the fall. Water filled depressions and other sites may have fish in them trapped as surrounding waters drained. The Iowa DNR will allow promiscuous fishing along the Missouri beginning Aug. 15. The water bodies this rule applies to need to be completely isolated from the river, unlikely to be connected to the river during normal flows, did not exist before the flood, and are less than five feet deep, if on public land. Anglers desiring to fish on private land need to obtain permission in advance. This temporary regulation will be in effect until Nov. 30.

A valid fishing license is needed. Any number of poles can be used. Jugs or nets will be allowed. Anglers must remain within sight of their rigs at all times. Normal trot line regulations are in place.

Check with local game wardens assigned to western Iowa counties for details pertaining to access. Many rural roads may have sustained damage from high water flows, and even at this date, may not be repaired.


The final Marshall County hunter safety course for this year at the Izaak Walton League Grounds is coming up on Aug. 18 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Aug. 20 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Completion of a hunter safety course is required for anyone who wishes to buy a hunting license born after Jan. 1, 1972. Must be 12 or older. Register for this free 10-hour class at


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.



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