Local Ducks Unlimited marks 40 years

FORTY YEARS of active participation in DUCKS UNLIMITED is a great milestone. A big thank you is in order to the folks who helped organize the Iowa River Chapter of DU a long time ago. And a big thank you is also due to the present committee members who are working hard to carry on the tradition of waterfowl appreciation, wetland conservation and hunting. Hunters licenses, duck stamps fees, gear of all sorts, travel to favorite hunting spots all adds up as a huge factor in economic equations. Private organization dollars from DU members have a huge impact in the ability of Iowa DNR wildlife biologists to carry out their duties and to facilitate matching grants from other sources to secure and manage wetland habitat.

Tonight’s DU membership banquet will be held at the Impala Ballroom, 1005 W. Lincoln Way, Marshalltown. Doors open at 5 p.m. The all you can eat buffet meal will begin at 7 pm. Youth tickets are available also for “Greenwings,” kids under age 15, who may be attending with parents or grandparents. Spouse discount tickets can be acquired if they wish to attend. I hope to see you at the DU banquet.

PINTAIL DUCKS will soon be part of the mix of other ducks and geese during the spring migration. The time is ripe for the coming together of snow melt, lowland flooding, refilling of wetland depressions with water and the northward push of birds from southern wintering grounds. Locally one can expect to see a push of all waterfowl species later this month and into early April. Hendrickson Marsh, Otter Creek Marsh, the Colo Bogs complex will be prime areas to watch as the birds return. Even the flooded areas along the Iowa River north of Marshalltown will be good bird watching sites soon. Take the time to watch and enjoy these feathered wildlife travelers.

Pintails like to overwinter in places like Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and other states where rice crops are grown. Rice that these birds can eat during the winter helps them stay in good shape for the long trip north. Flooded rice fields provide just one vital winter staging areas. Think of each winter habitat area as a stepping stone. All along the northward migration routes are other “stepping stones” of wetlands, each serving as a place to rest and feed during the warming of the northern hemisphere with spring’s return. It is these stepping stones of wetland habitat that are very important to waterfowl and numerous other non-game species. That is why DU is a national and internationally focused organization. The birds follow ancient imprints for migration without regard to human state lines or international borders. Money raised at any DU banquet world wide is vital to the overall mission. Some of the money raised in Iowa also stays in Iowa to help with any number of wetland management and conservation efforts.

Hunting season for light geese, primarily SNOW geese and ROSS’S geese run through April 15. This is an attempt to curtail overpopulations of white geese who are severely negatively impacting their arctic nesting grounds. These birds have benefited from southern rice fields also. Under a well thought out special conservation order, hunting for these white geese in the spring is allowed. Taking them is easier said than done as the wise older geese know how to avoid decoy set ups. But skilled hunters can still make it happen and they do.

So far this late winter in the Marshalltown area, the IOWA RIVER is behaving modestly. Snow melt and water runoff has not come all at one time. The result is that feeder streams have peaked and the river water levels have responded with modest adjustments. The river did rise nearly six feet with the first wave of thawing weather last week. For the most part ice out has happened downstream from Marshalltown. Ice out north of town is still in progress. Bank full river flows are now the norm. And the lowest of floodplain lands are getting a refreshing but temporary spill over. It will not be long before there will be another unseen migration … fish. Overwintering fish in the Coralville Reservoir near Iowa City will swim upstream to repopulate many segments of the entire river length.

TROUT are returning to Marshall County’s Sand Lake next weekend, March 22 at approximately 11 a.m. There will be no fishing derby this year. However, do contact the Marshall County Conservation Board offices at the Conservation Center (Grimes Farm) to claim a prize if you catch one of the specially tagged trout. Two thousand rainbow trout will be released by DNR fisheries staff via a special tanker truck out of Manchester. Trout fishermen/women must have a 2014 license and a 2014 trout fee to legally posses trout. It pays to be legal from the get-go so wardens do not have to write tickets to the uninformed. That is my hint of the day. The ice may not be entirely out of Sand Lake next week. Do not walk on that ice anymore. It is too dangerous.

The average ice out date for CLEAR LAKE in northern Iowa is April 1. The latest ice out was April 28, 1952. The earliest was March 5, 1932.

BLUEBIRDS have been seen in southern Iowa. That means spring cannot be far behind. Hurray.

Thought for the day: The greatest challenge in life is discovering who you are. The second greatest is being happy with what you find.

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.