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Hummingbirds ready to leave the nest

photo BY GARRY BRANDENBURG Ready to leave the nest, these young hummingbirds were almost ready to fly away on their new journey through life. In fact, later in the day of Saturday, August 21st, after I had collected new images, these birds took to the air for the first time. This is the second successful nesting of an adult pair in at this nest location this year. The nest happened to be located on a porch ornament where it was easy to find and relatively easy to make photographic images. Sometimes a photographer gets lucky. And in this case, the homeowner was very helpful to keep this scribe appraised of nest activity.

HUMMINGBIRDS, RUBY-THROATED are our only common hummingbird east of the Rocky Mountains which we are likely to see. There may be other species of hummingbirds observed in Iowa on very rare occasions, but one can bet that those odds are poor. Ruby-throated hummingbirds are common. These little “helicopters” of the bird world have amazing abilities of precision flight that allow them to hover over and into flowers when seeking nectar. Wing beats of 53 times per second, a blur to our eyes. To obtain an inflight photo of a hummingbird near a feeder, I have found that my camera shutter speed needs to be set at 1/2000th of a second or higher to freeze the wing beat. For the tiniest of birds, its skeletal framework and muscle systems, respiration rates and body temperature control all peg out as fantastic examples of miniature motion machines.

The hummer nest is not much bigger than a large thimble. It is built on top of a branch rather than in a limb fork. Spider webbing, bits of tree bark, thistle down and pine resin are part of the ingredients used to build the nest. The female stamps on the base to stiffen it and then shapes the rim by pressing herself against the walls as the structure assumes final shape. Into this tiny bowl one, two or maybe three eggs are laid. Two eggs are typical. Each egg is about 1/2 inch long and only 1/3 of an inch wide. A hummer egg tips an accurate scale at 1/2 gram, or about 1/50 of an ounce.

The young hatch after a 14-day incubation period. Then growth takes place as the parent birds feed those super tiny young. In 18 to 22 days, those young will fledge, fly away, to begin a life of their own, tiny birds in a very big world. Foods include the nectar from red or orange tubular flowers such as trumpet creeper, cardinal flower, honeysuckle, jewelweed, bee-balm, tree sap and even small insects like mosquitoes, gnats, fruit flies, small bees and small spiders, plus aphids.

By the end of September, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds are or will have departed Iowa for places further south. Many will also tank up on energy foods while at the Gulf coast of the USA in preparation for a non-stop flight across the Gulf of Mexico. This is why hummingbirds are miniature motion machines.

YOUNG PHEASANTS have been reported, and I also have seen my fair share of pheasant broods while driving back roadways. It is good to see a healthy rebound in the population. Based on DNR standardized roadside preliminary count data, with official data summaries to be released next month, the trend seems to indicate a slow increase in ring-necked pheasant populations compared to a decade ago. Stay tuned for updates on pheasant numbers when new data is released.

Iowa’s youth pheasant season will open for the weekend of Oct. 23-24. The regular season for all hunters opens at 8 a.m., Oct. 30. The season end date is Jan. 10, 2022. Daily hunting hours are 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. with a daily limit of three roosters and a possession limit of 12.

YOUNG TURKEY POULTS are also showing promise of a good reproduction year. Stable population of this largest game bird is good news for Iowa resident hunters this fall, if the hunter chooses to purchase a fall turkey license. And it spells good news also for next spring when resident Iowans and some non-residents will be hopeful of luring a big tom turkey into position for their shotgun or bow. Young of the year turkey poults are dutifully following the hen turkey as she leads them into and through forest setting, hay fields or other grassland habitats in the search of insects to eat.

The turkey species we have locally is the eastern wild turkey. However in different parts of the country, one may find the Rio Grande, Ocellated, Merriam’s, Osceola or Gould’s. Check out fun turkey facts about each species by going to the National Wild Turkey Federation website. Habitat requirements are different for each whereby they are adapted to local conditions. There are more than 7 million wild turkeys in North America from a low in 1900 of an estimated 30,000. That is a great comeback from the edge of potential extinction. Hunter dollars made the difference. Good conservation policy based on solid scientific research made the difference.

CONSERVATION DOLLARS for state wildlife agencies are primarily derived from hunter license fees. It is a user-pay system in which sportsmen and women buying sporting arms and ammunition, licenses, plus other fees, that combined contribute the largest share of the financial burden for conservation, wildlife research, and game warden law enforcement. Recruitment, retention and reactivation (R3) is an on-going program to help grow and keep sufficient numbers of hunter sportsmen/women active in outdoor recreation and hunting.

For Iowans, you need to know that buying a hunting, fishing or fur harvest license and habitat fees is money well spent. Those funds go into the constitutionally protected Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund. That fund ultimately pays for the majority of fish and wildlife management activities conducted by the DNR. Iowa DNR has always used funds they derive carefully. To insure those funds could not be diverted (politically) to other uses or causes, in 1996 the people of Iowa voted in favor, by 88 percent, to add the Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund amendment to the Iowa constitution. Those dedicated funds support activities of restoring habitats, planting food plots, managing wetlands, shallow lake restorations, public and private land access, wildlife or fisheries management, improved access and fish and game law enforcement.

Here is a quote from Aldo Leopold, a founding father of Wildlife Conservation Sciences and educator.

“A peculiar virtue in wildlife ethics is that the hunter ordinarily has no gallery to applaud or disapprove of his conduct. Whatever his acts, they are dictated by his own conscience, rather than that of onlookers. It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of this fact.”

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