Seeing red

PHOTOS BY GARRY BRANDENBURG — Seeing red is just one way to watch nature in action. Many birds have some red plumage characteristic somewhere on their feather coatings. In today's images, the Red-winged blackbird male was photographed in full wing puff up to advertise for potential mates. The rooster pheasant cooperated along a field edge thinking he was hidden. Rose-breasted grosbeak males visited my feeder station, a new arrival at the end of April. A Red-headed Woodpecker was interested in suet to feed upon, and Sandhill Cranes were observed at the Mann Wetland Complex south of Albion. Capturing their images is at least for me a fun thing to do. Sharing the images with you is the next best thing to do.

Seeing red is a good thing for nature enthusiasts. Obviously many birds may have some or a lot of red.

Cardinal males top the all red category. Most other birds that may have a smaller amount of red, sometimes easy to see, or just a tiny speck near its eye, wing tips, or top of head. Downy and Hairy woodpecker males have a red patch at the back of their heads.

Females do not have red. Red-bellied woodpecker males have a red patch on the head, more on the males and less on the females. The largest woodpecker locally is the Pileated.

A backyard encounter by a local resident east of Marshalltown captured an image by her cell phone as the male Pileated came to a feeder. Female Pileated do not have any red feathers.

There are many other birds and even several flowering prairie or garden plants with red flowers. As you carefully note any observations you make this spring, it may be the red color that catches your eye. Enjoy all the opportunities as they are presented.


Wild turkey toms have red waddles and other fleshy portions on their heads and necks. When excited, a tom turkey can indicate its mood to other toms or nearby hens by quickly changing his neck coloration.

Statewide tom turkeys have been perused by hunters as one of their outdoor passions. Midweek, the registered count was over 12,500 taken by shotgunners or archers.

Marshall County hunters have recorded 72 birds as of mid week. May 12 is the last day for Iowa’s tom turkey hunting season.

I will have some turkey images to share on the weekend of May 11-12. Stay tuned.


My quick check of the Iowa River indicates what everyone may have noticed. Sand bars have disappeared under an increase in water flows.

Recent rains did allow for some runoff. Recent rains did allow for thirsty soils to absorb most of the water. Hard rains did cause field waterways to accumulate surface water excess which did make small tributary creeks flush out.

All in all, the rains were welcome during April. April showers bring May flowers is an adage many have heard before. It is true.

My unofficial but very accurate rain gauge at my residence dutifully recorded any sky water that fell during April. I kept a tally on the dates and amounts. Total April rains in Albion made 4.75 inches.


May is a new month and its longer days are welcome. Warmer air temps are welcome. New rains are welcome.

New woodland creatures, both feathered types and furry mammal types will soon be making appearances. Nature is renewing itself with new generations of every critter type from the smallest of insects to the largest of mammals.

Deer fawns can be expected to come into view later this month and into early June. New green vegetation is perfect timing for pregnant doe deer to obtain vital nutrients for themselves and their unborn fawns.

May day length began on the first at 14 hours and 3 minutes for us who live at 42 degrees north latitude. On May 31, daylight will be 15 hours and 1 minute. Sunrise that was at 6:06 a.m. will be 5:37 on the 31st.

Sunset at the beginning of May was 8:09 p.m. and by month’s end will set at 8:38 p.m. If you have friends living in Fairbanks, Alaska, day length is a heap bit bigger due to their northern location. Fairbanks in early May has sunrise at 5:10 a.m. and sunset at 10:23 p.m.

May events of the natural world to look forward to include the reopening of many campgrounds in Iowa, both state, county or city facilities. May 4 is the opening of walleye fishing season in Iowa’s Great Lakes regions.

These lakes go by the names of Spirit Lake, and East and West Okoboji. Walleye fishing season will be open all year and close on Feb. 14, 2025. Protected slot lengths on walleyes require fish caught between 19 and 25 inches to be released. Only one 25 inch or longer walleye is allowed to be kept.

Bobolink birds will return on or about May 10. They had to fly all the way from Argentina in South America. That is a lot of frequent flyer miles for a bird that weighs only a few ounces. Many other wintering birds of all shapes and sizes are also making their way north to places like Alaska and even Siberia.

For May history buffs, snow fell on May 28, 1947 in the northwest portions of Iowa. A total of 10 inches fell at LeMars.


Spawning activities may be over. State fisheries staff have finished gathering the eggs from walleye, northerns and muskellunge.

Hatchery duties are still in full operation mode. DNR fisheries crews began netting work for spawning fish on April 4. They finished netting on April 10.

From those brood fish. Rathbun Lake walleye take resulted in 701 quarts of eggs. Spirit Lake hatchery take for walleye was 549 quarts. Storm Lake’s take was 448 quarts and Clear Lake added another 191 quarts.

When hatched, the young fish will number in excess of 155 million fry (newly hatched fish). Iowa is one of the top producers of walleye fry in the United States. Only Minnesota gets more walleye eggs and hatchery fish.


A reminder to shooting range users at the Izaak Walton League grounds, an important meeting is coming up on Wednesday, May 8, at 6 p.m. Range improvements and changes will be discussed.

Your input is essential to how the Ikes will proceed. New security fencing will be considered. Also to be discussed is how to increase safety and hold down or eliminate abuses at the range. The Ikes meet at their clubhouse on Smith Ave. Range user input is essential as the Ikes plan for the future.

On Sunday, May 5, the Ikes will host a 10 station clay bird shoot. It is open to anyone wanting to test their shotgun skills at fast flying clay targets. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m and closes at 1:30 p.m. I’ll see you there.


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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