Nature is open for enjoyment

PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG A male House Finch ( Haemorhous mexicanus) waits its turn at a bird feeding station. It’s reddish top tail and red chest and head markings make this an ideal colorful bird to observe. The call of the house finch is a long twittering song. You can listen to this species’ song online....or go to the backyard or forest or grassland and listen carefully. This species was originally a bird of the western U.S. and Mexico. In 1940, a small number were captured and turned loose on Long Island, NY. They escaped captivity attempts and the rest is history. They expanded their range over all of the USA. Observing nature is an activity that is always open, never closed and offers great times to spend outdoors.

HOUSE FINCHES are quite common. They add a nice flurry of color and variety to bird observation stations like the one this scribe keeps near his dining room window. As this species, and lots of other year round resident birds, plus new arrivals from now and into May, bird observation is an everyday happening. To add to these observations, long hikes at the Marietta Sand Praire, Timmons Grove, Grammer Grove, Green Castle or the Grimes Farm are all places where any wildlife sightings are welcome additions to your daily activities.

With constant news items focusing on current health issues and ways to contain the disease spread, keep in mind that all the local county and state parks are open for outdoor recreation. This form of recreation is safe since you most likely can do this as a solo adventure. So, go hiking, fishing, do photography, go bird watching or wildlife watching including eagles on nests. Do not lock yourself indoors. Mother Nature has positive things to partake in at county parks. Listening for finches or any other bird, is free, it is safe and worth your time.

House Finches were also introduced into the Hawaiian Island of Oahu prior to 1870. They spread to all the other islands by 1901.

Red pigment of the house finch’s feathers come from food sources containing the necessary minerals to make the bio-chemical changes to make red feathers. Sunflower seeds are a prime source of food that house finches like. The redder the better for males since females prefer mates that are colored with rich red markings. Good mates assist with food gathering for the female while she is on her nest. Plant foods are the primary diet items. Seeds, buds and fruits are eaten. The list contains wild mustard seeds, knotweed, thistle, mulberry, poison oak, cactus, cherries, apricots, peaches, pears, plums, strawberries, blackberries and figs. Feeder food is best served as black oil sunflower seeds.

Depending upon the season and weather, a house finch couple may have one nest or up to six nests per year. Incubation takes 13 to 14 days. At 12 to 19 days after hatching, the young fledge. Overall, this species does not have a population problem wherever it has settled to call home. Partners in Flight bird survey data ranks the breeding population at more than 40 million.

WILD TURKEY time is fast approaching. If you want to observe that is fine. If you have been bitten by the hunting bug for wild turkeys, seasons will open soon for youth on April 10-12. After that, season one is April 13-16, season two from April 17-21, season three April 22-28 and season four from April 29 through May 17. Gun hunters may choose one tag from the first three seasons and an additional license must be for season four. Archers can buy two tags that are valid from April 13 through May 17.

My turkey experiences with bow and arrow have always been pleasurable. A few times I have connected my arrow to a big bird. More often my turkey times become observations only as the vocal toms announce themselves from a tall tree’s overnight roost. Then they fly down and seem to disappear easily. If one gives up on locating birds, then go to option 2 or 3 or 4. Never give up. Keep trying.

Large flocks of wild turkeys may be common now. However, soon the birds will split into hen groups and gobbler groups. Hens will instinctively seek out secluded nest sites. Toms will strut and try to look pretty for the hens. The overall population of wild turkeys appears to be stable. They have found any and all habitats that will work for them. They can show up anywhere including some big city urban areas where they may actually become pests to people walking on sidewalks.

But for the most part, wild turkeys are very alert, wild and not willing to be taken in by hunters not using good camouflage or making movements that are not natural. Turkey eyesight is superb. Their hearing is superb. Hunters wise to wild turkey behavior must use every trick in the book to convince a tom turkey to come close to decoy spreads or come to subtle calls from the hunter. Only one in five licenses sold by the Department of Natural Resources to wild turkey hunters will use their tag and attach it to the bird’s leg. And 50,000 hunters in Iowa will buy licenses for wild turkey hunting. Archers and gun hunters like to use pop-up blinds that conceal movements inside the camo mini tent. Blinds are large enough for two people and are a great way for a mentor and a kid to go turkey hunting together. Whispered advice to the young boy or girl can be made without spooking the bird.

SPRING arrived last Thursday at 10:50 p.m. One could look at and endure the weather and think Spring was somewhere else. Cold winds and possible snow made more time for us to think positive. Wood ducks have arrived and they know the calendar and longer day lengths are happening right on time. Colorful male woody’s can be found in shallow flooded woodland backwaters. A great place to look for them will have you journey to the Iowa River Wildlife Area or Timmons Grove or the Arney Bend Wildlife Area. Hike slowly into the forest and seek out old river channels with water. Be careful since sneaking up on wood ducks is not easy. Still you can try. Trying gets you out of the house. Hiking is good exercise and outside air is free to breathe. Nature is always open to enjoy.

Quote from Benjamin Franklin: “What signifies knowing the names, if you know not the nature of things?”


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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