Wood carved wildlife hobby a big deal

WOODCARVING is an art form. One takes a block of wood, cuts it and sands it into contours to make a desired shape, adds a desired finish and admires what they have created. If others admire the work of art enough, one may even sell these crafts to aspiring collectors. What this scribe observed last weekend in Waterloo was truly amazing. Many species of wildlife were represented, something I’m naturally drawn to anyway, in addition to a wide range of other wood carving subjects.

The bird carvings were excellent. The largest were a ruffed grouse and a mallard hen duck. Both looked amazingly real from a distance. As one got closer, they still looked as it they could suddenly spring to life and fly away. Intricately cut feather detail added even more life to the creation. Accurate colors of paint were so skillfully blended as to beg to be compared with real feathers. The skills of these wood carvers was that good.

The Iowa State Woodcarvers Show is an annual event held in April at the Waterloo Center for the Arts. The public may attend and there is no charge. Members bring their works for judging with over 40 categories of entry. Approximately 70 carvers from all over Iowa and the Midwest attended and have about 400 entries for the show. Members have specialties of their own that include decoys, caricatures, chip and relief carving and many other styles. The club promotes all various styles of woodcarving. They do very good work. Check out if this is something that may interest you. Go to www.NEIAWoodcarvers.com.

KINGFISHER BIRDS, as their name implies, eat primarily fish. But it is the shape of this bird with its big feather headcrest and blue color that first attracts an observers attention. This species is very common along any stream, river, pond or lake. Be especially on the lookout for steep earth-side embankments where a tunneled burrow nest site is likely to be located. The bird likes to perch on a tree branch over water where they can observe fishes below. When a fish is targeted, the bird plunges into the water beak first to grab the fish in its beak, returning to the branch to kill the fish and turn it headfirst for its last dive into the gullet of the bird. Kingfishers are territorial for an average range of about one-half mile. Worldwide kingfisher family members can be recognized by similar body shapes, even if the coloration of its plumage is different. Fossil evidence shows kingfishers from the Pleistocene time frame ( up to 600,000 years ago ) from sites in Florida, Virginia, Tennessee and Texas. The oldest fossil kingfisher genus has been dated at 2 million years old from its quarry site in Alachua County, Fla.

Kingfishers have already returned from their southern winter hangouts. Late March is when they normally arrive. Look for them this year when you are fishing along the Iowa River, or at Sand Lake, or any area pond or lake. Take time to look carefully at one of nature’s awesome creations, a little bird with a big attitude, and an appetite for fish.

The late part of April is the normal arrival time for the return of several species of birds. Look for these during your hikes and forays into wetlands, forests or prairie grasslands: Virginia Rails, Sandpipers, Whip-poor wills, Cliff swallows, house wrens, grasshopper sparrows and white-throated sparrows. Add at least one new bird to your list every day if you try hard enough.

WILDLIFE viewing is just one of this scribe’s full time avocations. Hendrickson Marsh is one favorite place to check out wildlife of all kinds as the long awaited spring weather finally takes hold after a long cold winter. Recent rains have added lots of water to this glacial aged wetland depression in the landscape located in southwest Marshall and southeast Story County. This 700 plus acre state wildlife area is a critical stopover site for migrating birds each spring and fall. During spring stops, waterfowl can rest and feed on aquatic invertebrates, fueling up for the long trip ahead of them toward Canadian wetland nesting sites. Just about every waterfowl species can be viewed at Hendrickson if one carefully used binoculars and/or spotting scope to critically evaluate all the nicks and crannies of the shoreline.

Hendrickson Marsh also has the one BALD EAGLE nest that is most easily seen. The boat ramp parking lot is the place to be. Look west-southwest into the tall cottonwood trees several hundred yards away. Do not approach the nest on foot. Your automobile window is sufficient for this viewing. And a tip for eagle watchers is this: Go now before the leaves of the trees complete their emergence from the bud. Later as heavy leaf cover is complete, nest viewing will be very limited. Enjoy.

WILDLIFE VIEWING of another type is in full ahead mode at this time. Spring tom turkey season is open. As of mid week, at least 23 tom turkeys have been registered as taken from Marshall County. Statewide almost 5,000 toms have been taken by hunters. Wild turkeys are a wildlife management success story, a major comeback from a century ago. During the 40 years of work by the National Wild Turkey Federation, the population has grown from 1.5 million birds nationally to over 7 million today. But the vital work must continue. In the face of 6,000 acres of habitat loss each day in the United States, the NWTF has set a lofty goal for the future. It is part of their Save the Habitat, Save the Hunt campaign. They have committed to raise $1.2 billion to conserve and enhance 4 million acres of essential wildlife habitat, create at least 1.5 million new hunters and open access to 500,000 new additional acres for hunting, shooting and outdoor enjoyment. The NWTF knows how to put money on the land where it counts. As one of many fine conservation organizations, they know that hunting is conservation.

HUNTER EDUCATION COURSE options will open for adults on July 1. Adults, ages 18 or more, who have prior hunting or firearms handling experience and are looking to satisfy their hunter education requirement to purchase hunting licenses will have a new option. It is an online hunter education course. It will use the same materials as their classroom counterparts. Students will be tested the same way. The online course takes about 7 to 8 hours of interactive study, followed by a test quiz at the end of each chapter and a final exam. Traditional classroom instruction is also an option for anyone age 11 or older in the same manner as statewide hunter safety classes have always been conducted.

But now the online course (after July 1) is an effort to reduce barriers to attract new hunters into the field by allowing them to satisfy the hunter education requirement on their schedule and at their own pace.

MARSHALL COUNTY’s next hunter safety class is are set for May 16 from 6 to 9 p.m. and the following Saturday, the 18th, from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. The location is the Izaak Walton League at Marshalltown. To register for this class, go online to the web site www.iowadnr.gov/training.

Theodore Roosevelt said in 1893 these words; “…there is no objection to a reasonable amount of hunting … the encouragement of a proper hunting spirit, a proper love of the sport, instead of being incompatible with the love of nature and wild things, offers the best guaranty for the preservation of wild things.”

Garry Brandenburg is a graduate of Iowa State University with BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology. He is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Contact him at PO Box 96, Albion, IA 50005.