Marvels of nature
By GARRY BRANDENBURG
EASTER is a very important day in the religious life of Christians across the globe. Here is hoping you and yours find a unique way to celebrate in spite of the current and temporary circumstances imposed by social distancing. People may not be gathered together physically but they are certainly gathered together in the understanding of what God has given us. For that people should all be most thankful.
ASTRONOMICAL TIMING is one way the world determines the date for Easter. So lets start at the beginning, the first day of spring (vernal equinox) that took place this year on March 19 at 10:49 CDT. Equinox essentially means equal day and nights, an astronomical observation of earth’s position on that day within its orbit around the sun. The date of March 19 in itself is one or two days early since during most years it will be March 20 or 21. The last time the first day of spring was on the 19th was 124 years ago in 1896. Easter is timed to coincide with the first Sunday that follow the first full moon after the vernal equinox. If you were outside last Tuesday evening after sundown you would have seen the full moon rising. Or you could have seen the moon in the early morning hours before sunrise last Wednesday. It was a great sight for this scribe both times.
You might ask why the date changes. Good question. People get answers from long term observations of the planet, its orbit and the timing the moon’s orbital nuances. For starters, the year is not an even number of days….closer to 365.24 days. And the seasons are also not an even number of days. Another reason is that the earth’s elliptical orbit changes ever so slightly in its orientation that causes the earth’s axis to constantly point in a different directions. Astronomers call this cyclic phenomenon precession.
If one could look down onto the plane of the orbit of earth around the sun, at each 90 degree point would be a seasonal change….spring, summer, fall, winter. Those slight but predictable differences of timing account for differences in season lengths in the Northern Hemisphere. The pull of gravity from all the other planets also has an effect on earth’s orbit. So, at this current time, seasonal day lengths are as follows: Summer, 93.641 days; Autumn, 89.834 days; Winter, 88.994 days and Spring 92.771 days.
MARVELS OF NATURE at springtime are surrounding us with signs of renewal. Life goes on in a myriad of ways. As outdoors enthusiasts, many people have no trouble finding ways to stay occupied, to learn, to enjoy nature and be thankful for the opportunities they create for themselves. Wildflowers are beginning to pop. Chorus frogs are singing melodies to all who will listen. Tree buds are swelling. Grass is getting very green, especially on controlled burned areas of native prairies and lawns. Warmer air is becoming the norm. Soil temperatures are warming so new seeds can soon sprout. And new bird species continue migratory arrivals this month to add color and new songs to life over grasslands, wetlands and forests. Look for King rails, Virginia rails, Upland Plovers, Eastern Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs, Chimney Swifts, Swallows, Brown Thrashers, warblers, Yellow-headed Blackbirds, Pine Siskins or White-throated Sparrows.
One marvel of Nature people might not expect is this: In a former Bald Eagle nest south of Albion, at least one half mile distant from any roadway, but certainly within observational distance of this writer’s spotting scope, a Canada goose has made its nest. The nest is about 40 feet above the ground. It is pretty safe from most ground predators, except raccoons. But a raccoon had better be prepared for a fight from the nesting goose who will fight back vigorously.
Anytime now, the first of many Canada goose nests will begin to hatch. Ground nests are what people expect for good reason. That is where the bulk of nests are built. The young goslings have only to follow the parent birds a day after hatching to begin to learn the lessons of how to find food.
For those goslings in a former eagle nest, the first “flight” will be a very big jump off the edge as they fall 40 feet to the leaf litter on the forest floor. The cushion of leaves and the gosling’s light weight and fluffy downy feathers will help make for a safe transition. As a photographer of wildlife, I’d certainly like to be there when those goslings jump. However, I’ll be satisfied to know that Mother Nature has provided the methods and means for a new generation of Canada geese, whether from high in an eagle nest or at ground level.
Wood ducks are cavity nesting waterfowl. There nests in hollow tree sites or in artificial nest boxes, is beginning. Next month these offspring will hatch. The young will climb up to the entrance hole, look about for a bit and then jump. Gravity pulls them to the ground. They bounce and then scramble to fall in line behind the mother wood duck.
Another marvel of nature are wild turkeys. Hunters will try their best to take one with gun or bow when the youth season opened April 10. Regular seasons begin March 13. Success is never a guarantee since this bird is so attuned to its surroundings. The thrill of trying remains worth the effort. Only about 25 percent of spring turkey hunters put tags on a turkey leg.
Quote: “In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” — Robert Frost
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.