Wildlife comes in all shapes and sizes

PHOTOS BY GARRY BRANDENBURG — Spring wildlife numbers continue to wake up and show up as the ground warms, as day lengths get longer, and as rains fall from the sky. All the ingredients for another spring season have come into play. For the curious nature enthusiasts among us, any walk/hike/or exploratory foray into local wetlands, prairie lands, or forests are sure to turn up something interesting. For today's images, the colorful American Goldfinch is all dressed up in its tuxedo of bright yellow and black/white wing bars. The frog is a Northern Leopard Frog. And at Hendrickson Marsh this small sampling of Blue-winged Teal was found in the relatively quiet waters away from strong winds. There are many wild things to see and enjoy watching.

Wildlife does come in all sizes and shapes. Some of the smallest are insects and few butterfly species have made their appearance. It is good to see their bright colors again.

Amphibians and reptiles have crawled out of winter cover or hibernation chambers. The leopard frog I spied was just off a pathway in a native grassland setting.

If it had been just a bit further off the trail, I likely would not have seen it. Since I did see it, my camera was brought to bear to record the smooth skinned amphibian. Welcome to spring.

Ground squirrels have been noticed running across county roadways just in time to escape into a burrow. American Kestrels, a small falcon type bird of prey, are frequently seen perched on power line wires, or fluttering in one position above the grasses of adjacent road ditches.

Those thirteen-lined ground squirrels had best be careful of exposure since the sharp eyesight of Kestrels, and Red-tailed hawks are open for any opportunity to do their predatory tasks.

Ring-necked pheasants were spotted by this scribe near the Marietta Sand Prairie this past week. I was on an early morning drive and “survey” looking for photography options. Sometimes with regard to pheasants, they may hold fast in light cover while I position my camera with its long lens. Notice that I said sometimes.

The reality is that wildlife rarely poses in just the right light and just the right habitat for just enough time to allow me to fire off a series of camera shutter bursts. However, when all the conditions do line up, I call it a lucky day, a lucky just right time moment, and then I try to capture images of very good quality.

Larger wildlife critters are coyotes and foxes, groundhogs and badgers, and of course the ever present white-tailed deer. The newest deer fawns will begin birthing in about one month from now, at the end of their seven month gestation time frame.

Little spindly legged deer fawns are about seven pounds at birth. Single births to first time doe deer are normal. Twin fawns are typical for any doe deer ages two or older.

About 10 percent of experienced adult doe deer may have triplet fawns. An interesting note from biologists is that the twins or triplets may, or may not, be fathered by the same buck deer.

Big birds of prey, specifically Bald Eagles, are in nests, have hatched their eggs, and are busy feeding fast growing eaglets. The Decorah eagles continue to get world wide attention on the Raptor Resource Center website with its 24/7 camera spying on the activities in the nest bowl. A new generation of eagles are making nature’s wildlife viewing opportunities more engaging.

A large bird, the common Canada geese, are sitting on nests.

In a wetland marsh setting recently, a pair were displaying a behavior of trying to hide in open water. The goose and the gander both held a low profile with their bodies at the water’s surface. Their bodies were extra low, and their long necks and heads were also held almost below the water line with just their eyes and bill tips above surface level.

It was somewhat comical in that these geese were not well hidden at all. They just must have thought they were hidden. I did not venture into nearby cattail vegetation to look for the nest. That action by me would have left a scent trail for raccoons, mink or skunks to follow resulting in a destroyed nest. It is best for humans to keep a long distance from wildlife young.

At the east end of Indian Bridge, along the Marshall County gravel roadway also known as 148th St. (E-23), one can look north about a quarter mile toward a tall cottonwood tree. Easily spotted in the crotch of its limbs is a large nest, a former bald eagle nest.

The nest was built by eagles several years ago. For whatever reasons the eagles did not reuse it this year. A Canada goose took the opportunity and availability of this vacant nest to call it home, lay their own eggs, and have a high view of all the surrounding landscape. When those goose eggs hatch, the young will have to follow the urging calls of the female goose waiting for them on the ground.

The goslings have no idea what ‘flying’ is all about when they finally get the courage to jump off the nest rim. It will be a 35 foot long fall to the ground while their tiny useless wings instinctively flap as if trying to fly. Being lightweight, the goslings will bounce off the leaf litter and will waddle off unhurt to follow the parent birds to water in the nearby Iowa River.

You can make your own observations of wildlife this spring. They come in all sizes and shapes. Enjoy.


Wild turkey season statewide take of tom turkeys is just a tad under 10,000 at this time. Gobblers can be seen occasionally strutting about in open fields or grasslands.

Hen turkeys are on or soon will be selecting ground nest sites in good brush or tall grass cover. Avoiding predators for a hen turkey is all about stealth and camouflage since she must nest on the ground. Keeping her nest a secret from any predator is risky business, but every year, they do make progress in raising new wild turkeys.

Hunters may take only bearded turkeys in the spring. Marshall County hunters have registered 60 toms as of mid week. Nearby Hardin County has 65, and Story has 26. Tama County has more forest land habitat and it shows with a tally of 137. Jasper County has 114 in its registry. Grundy County has just six.


A traditional hunter education and safety class is being offered next month, specifically May 16 (6 to 9 p.m.), and the following Saturday, May 18 (8 a.m. until 4 p.m.) at the Izaak Walton League grounds located southeast of Marshalltown. DNR registration is open for this traditional class room with its field day setting. Register online only at www.hunter-ed.com/iowa.

There will be outdoor activities on Saturday with live fire shotgun use at clay birds and .22 rifle use at the range. Lunch will be provided on Saturday.

Those enrolled must attend both sessions on Thursday and Saturday. So if your schedule is free, or you can make free time, do sign up. You will learn a lot of good safety related information.

This course is intended for anyone age 12 or older. Just for an additional benefit, a parent may also enroll if not already hunter safety qualified, and take the course at the same time as their sons or daughters.

Once a hunter safety course is taken and the test passed, the certificate of completion is honored by all other states and Canadian provinces. Eventually, a young person will want to be able to purchase their own hunting licenses, a thing to do before one turns 16. A requirement by state law says that a hunter safety course must be recorded and on file with the state DNR.

There are these additional options for hunter safety, all focused on time availability and needs. One option is to take the course online, at your own pace, and once completed, a voucher can be printed to attend an upcoming field day activity. That field day voucher is valid for one year. To find a field day, go to www.ilearntohunt.com.

Another option is geared for adults. It is an online course designed for people who have prior hunting or firearm handling experience. This course registration and online work is available at

www.concealedcarry-ed.com/iowa. There may be a fee to enroll and take the course.

The last option is a dual hunter ed and handgun safety online course for residents age 21 or older. It does require state specific information to be taught plus handgun safety.

There is a fee to enroll in this option. A test score of 75 % or more is required to pass the exam. If passed, it is the responsibility of the enrollee to follow up with the county sheriff’s office to fulfill any remaining requirements.

Enrollment in this course is online at www.concealedcarry-ed.com/iowa. During the time frame of July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023, hunter education classes totaled 280 with 11,240 students certified.


An invitation has been made by the Izaak Walton League (Marshall County chapter) to have as many range users attend a very important discussion time about the future use of handguns and rifles at the range. The next meeting of the Ikes will be May 8, 2024 at 6 p.m. at the Ikes Clubhouse. One agenda item will be in regard to proper use, and sometimes misuse, at the firearms range.

Many firearms users and hobbyists want and need a safe range to bring handguns or rifles for practice shooting. The Ikes range offers those who join to have a key for access to the locked gate. While at the range, all safety aspects of firearm use are expected to be observed.

A serious problem seems to be ongoing whereby some, not all, of the shooters disregard safety. Repairs to range target areas are a constant need.

The Ikes board of directors will want to listen to those most affected and hear potential solutions they may be willing to commit toward implementation. The Ikes has been looking into several range improvement plans, but before proceeding, needs to hear from the prime users of the range to determine if the cost is worth the time and investment.

Thanks for your attention to this notice.


“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If not, you’ll find an excuse.” — Anonymous


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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