Wonders of Wildlife

PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG Look closely and see if you can find the silhouettes of 50 flying Canada Geese in this image. For this author it was one of those magic moments of a beautiful sunset reflecting off the bases of cloud layers. Having a large flock of geese pass through the image made it a Wonder of Wildlife. Nature never disappoints.

WONDERS OF WILDLIFE happen all the time. Sometimes it transpires in front of you without too much effort on your part. Other times a lot of hard work results in making things happen to capture mental memories or better yet, capture images with a camera so those instances of time can be shared with others. The year that is about to end next week had its full share of wide opportunities seized upon and shared with the readers of this column. My wide array of topics hopefully entertained and educated you about some tidbit of natural history. When Mother Nature opens her library each morning, all we have to do is admire it, cope with it and enjoy it for what it is. We have to take it just as it is.

Exploring natural landscapes is always exciting. Our local native and restored prairie grasslands offer unique sights and sounds at any time of the year. But the fall is when tall golden grasses dominate as they wave in the wind, bending softly against the forces of moving air. Low to the ground in a prairie, the wind is hardly noticeable for those small critters that live out their entire lives in ground burrows and at the soil’s surface.

Forest lands and tall timber is our human equivalent where we are the small critters on the ground looking up at huge living plants (trees). It is just a matter of scale. If you have ever visited the very tall conifers of the redwood forests of the Oregon coastal range, big trees there make our biggest trees here look like toys.

Our tiny Iowa River (when it is not in flood mode) is a mere trickle compared to the accumulated waters of the Mississippi or Missouri border rivers. Each must be viewed with the context of its role on the landscape to help move surface waters. Within those waters live lots of fish. And where one finds a lot of fish, there will be predators in the water and in the air above trying to pick off a bite or two to earn their survival.

Outdoors men and women who continually explore the outside world in every small and large way possible are enriched by the experience. These folks are at ease, relaxed, and confident while participating in the wonderful world of wildlife. Every sunrise, sunset, birds calling from the trees tops and insects buzzing near the ground tell of a web of life that we can only hope to comprehend. No matter how much we learn, true science always lets us dig deeper for more answers to help satisfy our curiosity. And we have fun in the process.

Fisherman, and ladies, plus kids of all ages, enjoy our streams, ponds, lakes and rivers. Water based recreation is always a top drawing card each spring summer and fall. Summer camping trips, hikes in a park, canoeing the river and picnics under the shade trees have a wonderful way of using up our summer free time. Come fall, duck hunters, dove hunters, patient squirrel hunters and deer hunters get to experience their own level of interaction with what Mother Nature offers. Winter time cold weather and snow offer new activity choices such as fishing through a hole in the ice, sledding down a hill, or enjoying backyard birds at the feeder. Pretty soon after winter breaks, spring re-emerges and morel mushroom hunters seek out delicate fungi to gather and eat. And before you know it, summer has returned.

Nature is neat. Exploring fields and streams is fun. Hiking deep into natural landscapes reveals new things all the time if we will take the time to stop, look, listen and learn. I’m well aware that these types of nature excursions are not necessarily the best ‘cup of tea’ for everyone. That is okay. However, having a science background and curiosity to learn can help everyone develop new skills we may never have known we had. This is just one reward we humans gain from our understanding of the wonders of wildlife.

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There is a museum that has recently opened in Springfield, Mo. It is located in conjunction with Bass Pro’s headquarters and flagship outlet store. Right next door is an amazing attraction. It is called the WONDERS OF WILDLIFE MUSEUM and AQUARIUM. The drive to Springfield will take a day. But lodging is abundant in the area. Allocate lots of time, preferably an entire day, to immerse yourself in the museum. You will be amazed. This museum is superb and fun. The creative geniuses that made this decade old dream come true are to be congratulated for a job well done.

The aquarium has an all new 1.5 million gallon showcase for 35,000 fish. The wildlife portion of its exhibits has just about every North American mammal, bird, or reptile you can think of. You will be eye-to-eye with the greatest collection of record-setting game animals ever assembled. And it is all under one roof enclosing 350,000 square feet of space. At every turn you will be amazed and think this cannot be improved upon. Then you turn a corner into another segment of the museum to be amazed again and again. I urge all of the readers of Outdoors Today to make a 2018 New Year resolution to take the time to add the Wonders of Wildlife Museum and Aquarium to to your ‘must do’ list. You will not be sorry.

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Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.


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.