Nature’s paint brushes of color

T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG - Two sparring Baltimore Orioles face off over whose turn it will be to eat grape jelly. The outstretched wings of the bird closest to the jelly seem to have worked this time. In the long run, all the orioles were able to make time to grab a mouthful of jelly. They just want to eat one bird at a time. Orioles prefer dark and ripe-colored fruits, if available, but will also eat insects. Nests are a hanging basket arrangement woven into leafy branches of tall trees.

The BALTIMORE ORIOLE (Icterus galbula) is strikingly colorful creature of the bird world. It’s bright orange and black feather pattern makes it distinctly easy to see. And during spring time arrival during May, any grape jelly filled containers and orange slices hung from tree branches will garner their attention. The average return date for Baltimore Orioles to central Iowa is May 1. They were right on time this year after a long journey from Central and South American wintering areas.

Why the name Baltimore? Well, it turns out that history tells us they were named after Old World unrelated birds of similar coloring. Old World bird family is Oriolidae, however New World (American) orioles are in the same family as blackbirds and meadowlarks. The bold contrasting colors of orange and black are the same as on the family crest of England’s Baltimore family. And they also gave their name to Maryland’s largest city. For a time two species of orioles were thought to be just one species since hybridization happens often where the Baltimore and Bullock’s ranges overlap. The name Northern Oriole was accepted for use by ornithologists for a long time. However, genetic studies revealed that indeed Baltimore and Bullock’s orioles, though slightly different and largely the same are different. The correct name now accepted by ornithologists is Baltimore Oriole.

Use a good quality bird identification book to see how unique differences between the Baltimore exist with other orioles like the Bullock’s or Orchard oriole. Check out range maps to determine differences of where they like to live. No matter where you see them, bright contrasting feather patterns of orange and black will catch your eye. Enjoy orioles whenever and wherever you see them. They are a certain sign of spring.

How do people get news about outdoor recreation related topics? There are lots of ways of course from just word-of-mouth conversations between people, news releases, radio and TV ads, magazines, social media outlets, conservation organizations that specialize in fishing and hunting that tell of their meetings and their news posts. The variety is large and each option has appeal to citizens that differ hour to hour and day to day. I thought you might like to know a bit about national statistics related to outdoor news. So here is a summary for you to ponder.

Traditional print media like magazines and newspapers take 22.5 percent. Online sources tally 10.1 percent. E-newsletters and email make up 10.6, social media 1.9 percent. The taker category is a bit of all the above with 53.7 percent. There is no one category but a blend of options. For hunters and fishermen/ladies, subscriptions to print magazines is about 70 percent for gathering news of outdoor activities. Online subscriptions for news is 78 percent NO and 22 percent YES. Nationally, newspapers that still have an outdoor column at least weekly is 38.2 percent do and 61.7 percent to not. There are lots of reasons, some misdirected and based on political correctness nonsense, for not covering outdoor and conservation subjects. The larger new organization the more this applies. When one gets down to a more local level for medium and small town newspapers, outdoor recreation topics definitely rank higher and more often.

One new addition set in place by the Iowa Legislature allows for persons purchasing hunting, fishing or fur harvester licenses to chose if they want to be ORGAN DONORS. Many folks may have this option already indicted on a driver’s license. Now the option will be asked by vendors selling you any of the above if you want to be an organ or tissue donor. A statement to that effect, or a symbol, will be included on the printed license. Names after “Logan’s Law”, it helps authorities if and when incidents happen where organ or tissue donations may become an option. Hunter education classes in the future will make note of this option. A person who has successfully passed an approved hunter education class is eligible to request they become an organ or tissue donor. This new addition to Iowa law was signed by Gov. Kim Reynolds on May 6.

BOATING SAFETY is a big issue as it should be with warmer weather and increased water craft usage. In 2018, there were 32 reported incidents in Iowa waters. Seventeen situations resulted in personal injury, seven were property damage and eight were fatalities. Iowa has over 231,000 registered watercraft. Safe activities on the water are just common sense … if people will use good judgement to apply safe operations at all times.

Here are several safe boating tips: Wear your life jacket because it floats and you don’t. Consuming alcoholic beverages dramatically increases risks to you or others in the group. Sun, wind and heat enhance the effects of alcohol, and lead to decreased operator judgment. So check and beware of hazards in or about the water body where a boat will be launched before launching. Make sure any required boat lights work, or boat trailer lights and signals. If required by the size of the boat, a fire extinguisher and a horn or whistle, a USCG approved flotation devices are onboard. Let friends and relatives know in advance where you are going and when you plan to return. Do take a boater education class. And remember these facts from past DNR officer investigations and patrols: the two most common violations are having inadequate life jackets and operating too fast and/or too close to other vessels. Words to the wise are pay attention to boating safety all the time. Your life and the lives of other depend on it. For central Iowa folks, do feel free to contact Susan Stocker, Boating Law Administrator and Education Coordinator for the Iowa DNR. Her phone number is 515-313-6439.

PHEASANTS are being noticed a lot by people who travel back roads. That is one nice thing about the less traveled roadway system. Wildlife is often easier to spot. Crop fields are recently planted and growth is still small. Grasses in road ditches are still somewhat small but getting taller each day. An early morning travel route is likely to find pheasants trying to get rid of and dry off from the evening dew their feathers accumulated. What is encouraging is that where pheasants are being seen is widespread, not just near good habitat areas. Soon hen pheasants will be finding a place to nest. Dry weather will be most appreciated by people and wildlife.

WILD TURKEY numbers are in for the recent spring hunting season. In Iowa, the tally shows 11,377 bearded turkeys taken by archers and shotgun hunters for 2019. In 2018, the number was close with 11,700. Marshall County hunters registered 58 birds during 2019. Wild turkey hens are on nests now incubating a new generation of poults. Hen turkeys will lay one egg per day for ten to twelve days. Once she sits to warm the eggs uniformly, it will take 28 days to hatch.

Our SUN has cycles of its magnetic fields. They vary over three strong distinct cycles of approximately 1,000, 460 and 190 year periods. German researchers examined two types of cosmic isotopes found in tree rings and ice cores that confirm these cycles. Then the researchers compared the data to proxy temperature data and temperature measurements from 1850 forward. Shifts in solar activity correspond to significant climate changes on the same 1,000, 460 and 190 year timelines. This in part explains how the Roman, medieval and present optimums coincide as well with cycles of more minimal temperatures recorded during the “Little Ice Age.” In other words, if you want to be true to science, and seek the truth, then one must always be willing to be a realist and a skeptic when others try to convince you that carbon dioxide is the driver of climate change. It is not. Just look to the sun to be willing to learn what warms or cools planet earth.

Truth can be sneaky. It has a habit of gumming up every idea ranging from hair-brained to not quite brilliant. And when truth proves those ideas false, you get to start over. Science requires a constant evaluation of ideas and testing of data. In contrast, propaganda and lies being repeated often enough to an unsuspecting public can pass for the truth when it is not. So keep your ‘truth detector antennae’ on full alert always to identify indoctrination attempts. Truth does matter.


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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