Iowa weather promises the unexpected

Happy New Year! As a new year begins we look back over the past and into the new.

As I reflect on 2013 the first thoughts that come to mind are the extremes in weather patterns. After the drought conditions that prevailed in 2012, spring and early summer this past year set new records for flooding in many locations. We seemingly broke the back of the drought. Then as quickly as the water turned on it turned off again and into what is termed a flash drought. Who knows what lies ahead in 2014? It is no secret that weather in Iowa can be dangerous at times from severe cold and heat swings to high winds, hail, tornadoes and flooding. Volunteer weather spotters are trained every two years and anyone can participate. The NWS/NOAA Storm Spotter training schedules have been set.

Marshall County’s FREE storm spotter training, open to all ages and skill levels will be held at 6:30 p.m. on April 1 at Iowa Valley Continuing Education in Marshalltown. For more information please call Marshall County Emergency Management Coordinator Kim Elder at 641-754-6385.

When planning for your upcoming year’s activities there are a multitude of venues that offer choices. Winter is the time for sporting shows and events that showcase outdoor vacation ideas. Once in a lifetime fishing or hunting adventures to exotic places throughout North America can be planned through guided services at these venues. Put on your calendar events like the Iowa Deer Classic Feb. 28- March 02 at the Iowa Events Center in Des Moines. Other sporting and vacation shows are scheduled throughout Iowa this winter to help you with your planning. A quick Internet search will guide you to the closest venue.

A great activity to assist you with that New Year’s resolution of getting out and enjoying nature more is cross country skiing. Next Saturday, Jan. 11, cross country skiing will be available from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Grimes Farm and Conservation Center. Enjoy an afternoon on the trail in the winter wonderland on either skis or snow shoes. Participants can bring their own skis or use those provided by the MCCB. Afterward hot chocolate will be provided in the Conservation Center. A reminder – cross country skis and snow shoes can be rented from MCCB for $5 a day, the Conservation Center is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The deadline for the Marshall County Conservation Board’s 13th annual photo contest is noon on Jan. 31. Four categories are open to entries for amateur photographers. People and Nature, Scenic, Native Plants, Native Wildlife and a special open class for youth age 14 and younger. Photos must be taken in Marshall County at any time throughout the year. A full set of contest rules can be found at or by calling the MCCB office at 641-752-5490. Winners will be announced at a Bison Meat Chili supper at 6 p.m. on Feb. 13 at the Grimes Farm and Conservation Center. Tickets for the supper are available at the Conservation Center for adults $5 and Children 12 and under $3.

Ice conditions are good for ice fishing in area lakes and ponds but cautions should always be first and foremost on people’s minds when venturing onto ice. Tragic accidents occur every year that could possibly be prevented with proper planning. Always have another person with you and have safety ice picks at hand in case breakthrough occurs. Let someone know where you will be and when you expect to return. Cell phones are modern day conveniences that have been proven lifesavers.

While it is not uncommon to see some hardy species like Canada Geese able to withstand Iowa winters it is unusual sometimes to see a bird we normally associate with the return of spring. I had a call from a fellow hunter taking advantage of one of Iowa’s late deer hunting seasons. He indicated while sitting in his stand he noticed several bluebirds in the trees around him. He asked if they were lost. While most bluebirds do migrate to more temperate climates in the south, a very few do stay all winter if food, water and cover allow. This winter I have been watching a flock of 20 or so robins all winter along a creek in my neighborhood and in year past have seen numerous bluebirds waiting for spring. Some bird species actually migrate TO Iowa to spend the winter: juncos, long eared owls, snow buntings, and rough-legged hawks find Iowa winter to their liking compared to their arctic breeding grounds this time of year.

Hunting and fishing licenses expire on Jan. 10. If you intend to pursue fish and game yet in the 2013-14 seasons you’ll need to get new licenses. For more information on hunting and fishing licenses, where to purchase licenses, and combination hunting and fishing licenses


Mike Stegmann is the director Marshall County Conservation Board. Stegman is 1994 graduate of the University of Northern Iowa with a BA in Science.

Editor’s Note: Garry Brandenburg’s column will return next week.