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Frost decorates the landscape

PHOTOS BY GARRY BRANDENBURG — Frost on the morning of January 3rd revealed a transformed appearance to everything on the landscape. With warmer air flowing over cold snow covered ground, atmospheric conditions were just right with temperature/dew points close together allowing freezing fog to form. It would be safe to say that lots of photographs were made of this Mother Nature inspired event across the entire Midwest. So here are my offerings: the Iowa River upstream from Indian Bridge, and a tree with the Moon in the sky. Can you see it?

FROST COVERED everything last weekend. It was an opportunity to get outside to record the event with my camera. It did not take long to appreciate how complete transformation of tthe landscape was. Every blade of tall grass, every branch of every bush and shrub, and every branch, twig and retained leaf on every tree was fluffed up with white decorations of frost. Those frost crystals grew well overnight to exponentially make everything it clung to appear larger than life. The result was beautiful and temporary.

Can you see the Bald Eagle? in my image of the Iowa River, and ice and snow covered river is bordered by trees turned white with frost. Those fuzzy additions to limbs and twigs enlarged the appearance of each tree. It was after I made this image that I noticed a dark spot high in the tree, upper left. A closer examination revealed that spot to be a mature Bald Eagle. Not too far away from that eagle are two nest sites from former years. At least one of those sites was successful in raising eaglets last year.

It was also reported to me this past week of another existing eagle nest near Marietta. A mature eagle was seen bringing a branch into the nest, a excellent observation indicating that a resident pair will defend their territory and begin the process of re-arranging the furniture at this nest. Eagles do add material to existing nests each year. That action builds the nest structure into a larger and heavier block. A heavy nest is okay if the large tree branches supporting it are strong and healthy. During the new nesting season, the nest will survive most weather events; rain, snow, and wind…..most winds that is. A nest on private property last year northwest of Marshalltown was damaged by wind and fell to the ground. The landowner later observed the eagle pair building a new nest nearby. Those eagle adapted and overcame a temporary setback.

CHRISTMAS GIFTS that keep on giving was one item under our Christmas Tree. It was book. I like books, particularly about and related to any subject of natural history. This book is titled Iowa State Parks, A Century of Stewardship 1920-2020. I have read the entire book and made notes to myself of places I have not personally visited. While I have been to many of them, the list is long for potential future visits. All offer great places to see the landscape and its natural attributes. All offer great places to hike trails to find inspiring vistas for my eyes and my camera.

One of the readers of Outdoors Today sent a card relating their experiences during 2020 to go to twenty locations around the state. They are members of a hiking club who challenged their members to participate in outdoor activities by hiking. For the Bresler’s, they went from east to west and north to south in Iowa to find scenic places to enjoy what Iowa’s varied landscapes have to offer. It was an excellent proactive and healthy thing to do. They may go for 21 new hikes in 2021, and 22 in 2022. The door never closes on Mother Nature’s gifts. All we have to do is step through the door.

The book of Iowa State Parks is a photo essay with brief narratives for each special area across Iowa. It is dedicated to conservationists, past and present, who envisioned a statewide array of outdoor sites worthy of long term stewardship. Today each state park or preserve is supported by a combination of Department of Natural Resources protection and Friends groups who continue to advocate for the care and conservation of these special jewels of nature.

Marshall County happens to not have a state park within its boundaries, however close by state parks include Union Grove, Pine Lake, Rock Creek and Big Creek. Iowans also benefit from a vast array of county owned areas managed by local County Conservation Boards. This overlap forms a cooperative network in Iowa of outdoor recreation areas, scenic locations, river access points and wildlife dedicated lands.

One unique area with significant statewide importance is the Marietta Sand Prairie Preserve. This site was dedicated in 1984 into the State Preserves System (retaining county owned status). A State Preserve designation is only offered to sites with very unique attributes. In this case the Sand Prairie is a botanical treasure house containing well over 250 professionally identified botanical plants in its prairie, wetlands, sedge meadows and fen. Many native prairie lands reflect the black loam soil heritage of the land between the Mississippi and Missouri River. Rarer on the scale are sandy soil prairies. The Marietta Sand Prairie fill that gap quite well.

Natural lands are a Christmas time gift all year long, in every season. This author urges you to seek them out… go hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, canoeing/kayaking. Breath fresh air. Get exercise. Get connected to the land we call Iowa.

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

— William Shakespeare

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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