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A new year to enjoy nature

PHOTOS BY GARRY BRANDENBURG — A large flock of Canada Geese help frame this winter time sunset. While deep snows and cold weather are what we can expect during the season of winter, wildlife has adapted in many ways to overcome these hardships that enable survival. For some small mammals hibernation deep underground works. For other critters, flying south to Central or South American is what works for them. And then there are year round resident wildlife species that have adapted to staying on the landscape. They demonstrate a marvel of Mother Nature’s wide variety of methods and strategies to cope with winter.

2021 is here, ready of not. We have little choice as the clock and calendar just keep ticking off time every second, minute and hour, day and month. We don’t actually see time fly, but time marches on in its predictable fashion as it always has. So how we adapt and innovate and strive to enjoy the great outdoors remains a fantastic way to both endure and enjoy another winter season.

As I write this edition of Outdoors Today mid week, a big snow storm was predicted and looming heavily. Soon it will arrive and dump great quantities of snow. As you read this story on the weekend, that storm will be history, recorded in the diaries of weather gurus and meteorologists across the nation. We will be left to dig out, cleanup and wait for the next interlude of Nature’s atmospheric game of winter time northern hemisphere antics.

CONSERVATION PROGRAMS have not gone into hibernation. Staff at the Marshall County Conservation Board have adapted and audiences have learned to adapt, via zoom conferences, Facebook and live stream telecasts of information that allows everyone to help satisfy learning desires to learn more about nature.

One big event that many folks looked forward to in the winter was the annual PHOTO CONTEST. It will be held again, but this time without face-to-face meetings of people at the conservation center while eating a bowl of chili. Circumstances have changed due to COVID. Adaption is what people do at such times.

Contest rules are largely the same regarding topic themes for photo entries. These include Scenic, Native Wildlife, Native Plants, Open Nature and Outdoor Recreation. Photographers entering images made during 2020 should send those images electronically by Jan. 31 to mccb@marshallcountyia.gov. Do title submissions for the photo contest and make sure to add name, address, brief description of the image and a phone number. Sorry, no photos will be accepted in person. Images received will be judged during the week of Feb. 8. Winners in each category will get a $20 gift certificate. And when all the judging is completed, all entries will be posted on the MCCB Facebook page. Now the public at large may select the People’s Choice award. Whomever is declared the winner will get a $20 gift certificate. Certificates will be mailed to the winners.

BROWN BAG LUNCH programs have been popular for a long long time. During this winter, you can participate from home via a YouTube video. The January program will feature OWLS. Call 641-752-5490 to sign up, or register via email to mccb@marshallcountyia.gov. Then people can watch the video on owls at their convenience after the release date of Jan. 19.

Owls are beautiful birds. While pairs will be establishing or setting up new potential nest sites in late January and February, the activity of actual nesting during February. By watching the video Naturalist Emily Herring has made, people will learn about the adaptation owls use to survive in Iowa, both all year and during winter. They will also learn the different calls owl species use to talk to each other.

The Snowy Owl image included in today’s column was made several years ago. If and when this arctic species make a brief journey into Iowa remains to be seen. Be on the lookout for any owl species. And if people are lucky to see a Snowy Owl, that will be a big time bonus.

The annual HAWK WATCH at Grammer Grove takes place every year by local birding enthusiasts Mark Preoecholdt, Phil Tetzloff, Wendy VanDeWalle, Diane Peesek, Andy Spillman and others. They concentrate each fall at this county park located about 3 miles southwest of Liscomb. The purpose is to count and observe birds of prey during the fall migration. It is a citizen science program for the fun of it and to share with others on data@hawkcount.org.

During the fall of 2020, birds of prey following the Iowa River valley on the southward migration, were observed, identified as best as possible and tabulated. As a summary, these wildlife enthusiasts witnessed 4,536 birds from early September through December. A big day was Sept. 25 when 1,126 raptors were seen. Broad-winged hawks were the top count species for the entire four month count time frame with 2,002. Turkey Vultures were next with 700 followed by Bald Eagles numbering 661. Sharp-shinned Hawks were next with 541.

This short summary does not fill in all the blanks. However it does illustrate one great way to enjoy the outdoors every fall. This observation crew tallied a total of 15 species over 298 hours. They used 67 days to accomplish the count. Start date was Sept. 3 and end date was Dec. 21. The Grammer Grove Hawk Count has now completed 31 years. Congrats for a job well done.

Garry Brandenburg is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology.

Contact him at:

P.O. Box 96

Albion, IA 50005

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