Soaring eagles garner our attention

CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - Bald Eagles in Marshall County are fully into the routine of finding food for their eaglets. At the nest site where this image was made, the adult bird had just launched itself from a branch near the nest, headed most likely to the Iowa River to find another fish. Bringing food to the nest, the fish or other small mammal, will be picked apart by the adults so that tidbits of flesh can be held out for the eaglets to grasp. There are about ten active bald eagle nests in Marshall County. The best thing the public can do is observe from a long distance with binoculars, spotting scopes or long lens cameras. Today's guest photographer who made an excellent image is Ron Brestel of Marshalltown. Thanks for sharing.

BIG and BOLD is one way to define bald eagles. When you see them, either in flight or perched on a tree branch, or even picking apart a road killed deer, our eyes are drawn to the display of predator/prey, a very necessary part of the survival story every species must strive to conduct if it is to live another day. In today’s camera-oriented world, where it seems everything and everybody is being recorded, wildlife photographers strive to obtain new and improved images of anything within their realm of interest. For those who concentrate on birds of prey such as eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures and owls, the list can get pretty long. So one has to chose which opportunity is presenting itself and make the most of it.

There is a right way and wrong way to capture wildlife images. The right way is to conduct photography work using methods and equipment that does not impair or interfere with normal behavior of the animal. This scribe uses many methods to capture new images including sitting inside a camo clad blind and waiting for passing critters to come within range. These opportunities allow me to make images as they arise, sometimes with no intended subject animal. If I’m waiting for an eagle to alight on a deer carcass, and a big old opossum walks in, well … it is now opossum picture taking time. The unknown offers variety to my day and new images to my imagery stockpile. In other words, be flexible and go with the flow.

For most folks, your vehicle is a good photo base to work from. If traffic allows, and usually the back roads I travel do allow, I slowly bring my truck to a stop, turn off the engine to remove engine vibration, open the window and use the door frame as a brace point to steady my camera and its long lens. Using my truck as ‘photo blind’ has worked repeatedly if I’m careful. There are too many times it hasn’t worked also. So to be prepared for each scenario, I’ll have the camera ready and its settings adjusted beforehand. That way when I point the lens out the window, I can immediately begin taking pictures. My vehicle has been a prime platform for images made at many National Wildlife Refuges, or local natural areas of wetland, prairie, or woodland.

Better yet, when arriving at a place where photo opportunities are likely, I prefer to use a tried and true method. It is called the shoe-leather express. I hike into the area to look and see what strikes my fancy at the moment. Over my shoulder will be a sturdy tripod, the camera and lens, a backpack containing additional lenses, flash attachments and spare batteries all fully charged.

Backyard bird feeding stations offer great picture making opportunities. A trick that is easy to implement is to place the feeders far enough away but not too close from house windows that good light strikes the subjects. The distances I use are perfect for my zoom telephoto lens. I also try to find pleasing backgrounds that will not distract from images I make of any of those common species of birds inclined to eat at suet, thistle or sunflower offerings. Water provided yearround is always an excellent thing to do. You do have to provide an electric warming element to maintain open water during winter time.

And another trick I’ve used is a window insert of insulation board cut precisely to fit inside the window frame. I open the window and then plug the space with the insulation board. A round cutout and removable plug allows the camera lens to be pointed outside from inside my home. That way I’m not shooting through window glass. I’ll admit that shooting through window glass has worked … if I’m diligent to clean the outside and inside surfaces first. Whatever works for you is what you want.

Photography is just one way to explore the wide wonderful world of nature. I hope you catch the bug to make photography a hobby to enjoy. Mother nature offers plenty of options all the time. As a photographer, you will learn to see and visualize a finished image even before you press the shutter button. If this hobby get you outdoors more often, that is even better.

HUNTER SAFETY CLASSES have been scheduled all across Iowa for 2019. Pick a location near you and fit it into your calendar. Iowa DNR class offerings have several options to chose from. A typical course is about 12 to 15 hours of classroom and field proficiency activities, held over two or three sessions. To get certification, a student must attend all sessions and pass the final exam.

Marshall County’s next hunter safety class will be from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on May 16. The final eight hours of classroom and firing range activities will be the following 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. on May 18. Lunch is provided free of charge. The place is the Izaak Walton League located two miles south of Iowa Avenue on Smith Avenue. This class is formatted for anyone age 12 or more, or anyone who has never taken the class. If a person is born after January 1, 1972, taking and passing the class is required before they can purchase an Iowa hunting license. Passing a hunter safety class in Iowa is a good thing for anyone who may in the future want to hunt in another state. Every state honors the safety class of another state.

Options for taking a hunter education class have four choices. First, as just described, is the Classroom Course. Volunteer instructors use a combination of video, lecture, visual aids and hands-on activities to cover course content. Students who are soon to be age 12 through age 17 attend these classes. Adults my enroll if they so chose. Some parents have done just that with a son or daughter.

A second option in via your computer. It is called the Online Hunter Educaton/Field Day Course. By going through the online step by step series of instruction and testing, a course completion Field Day admission voucher can be printed. Bring that voucher to a Field Day wherever it may be offered in Iowa. It is good for one year. Students are highly encouraged to locate a field day and register for the course prior to taking the online course. Register online at https://www.hunter-ed.com/iowa/.

Option three: Adult-only online course combines elements of option one and two but is different. It requires state specific information to be covered along with a final exam. A 75 percent score or better is needed to pass. This course is designed for adults that have had prior hunting and/or firearms handling experience. If not, then option one is the way to go.

Option four has a dual approach. It is called the Hunter Education and Handgun Safety Online Course. This is for Iowa residents age 21 or older. It is a combination of the same general content of classroom-based instruction plus field day and adds state specific information and additional handgun safety curriculum. To pass, a score on the final exam of 75 percent or higher is needed. Completing the course allows for a course certificate to be printed. And this course meets the educational requirements necessary to qualify for the Iowa Permit to Carry. Iowa recognizes one online course vendor which can be accessed at https://www.concealedcarry-ed.com/iowa.

During the year July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2018, Iowa hunter safety classes held numbered 291. Total students certified was 10,347. Instructor volunteer hours came in at 11,314. Iowa will be on track to repeat those statistics by June 30.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world.”

— Albert Einstein, theoretical physicist.

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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.