Spring migrations shifting to high gear

MIGRATION is well underway. One doesn’t have to even look to the sky. Just listen to the voices of birds. With a bit of care, and one can pick out various species of geese, ducks and maybe even sandhill cranes as they talk to each other in large milling masses. It is fun to see. It is fun to listen. And it is fun to make accurate identifications of nature’s spring showcase. All of these animals are making the ages old quest northward to summer breeding grounds. It is a pattern of mandatory response that they must adhere to … go north, eat, survive and reproduce while the northern hemisphere comes out of its deep freeze of the past winter.

As for Trumpeter Swans, these majestic birds easily draw our eye to their large white body. With seven foot wingspans, it takes a lot of muscle power to lift a 22 to 27 pound bird into the air. And when they fly, they talk … producing a sound similar to a French horn, a vociferous call that easily draws attention to its presence. Wintering grounds may be in wetland complexes in Arkansas, and Texas for the Midwest. The bulk of swan populations call the Gulf of Alaska and southeast Alaska, British Columbia, western Washington and Oregon winter hangouts. Others are found in Montana, eastern Idaho, northwest Wyoming over winter. The Midwest is gaining with its own populations. Iowa is just one state to have successful flocks of Trumpeter Swans now. Enjoy watching and listening to “swan songs” this spring. It is likely to be the call of a Trumpeter Swan.

DUCKS UNLIMITED just held its annual local membership appreciation banquet last Saturday evening. It was one of more than 4,000 similar events held across the USA and North America. In 2013, DU events on average saw an 8 percent increase in attendance. Volunteers worked tirelessly to help with DU’s mission of wetland conservation. One outstanding example of what can be done in the right market, the Houston, Texas chapter shattered the DU single-event fundraising record by raising more than $1.57 million! Our local chapter is much more modest but it is still an important cog in the wheel.

DU volunteers nationwide are more than 48,000 people. Their work during 2013 accounted for more than $88 million for conservation. In addition, there were $68 million in future commitments through major sponsor pledges and planned giving. The work of DU allowed for the conservation of 142, 595 acres in 2013, bringing the total land conservation effort of DU since its beginning in 1937 to 13.1 million acres. The work of DU and its other private and public partners is a force to be acknowledged and saluted. Job well done. It is never easy. While other market forces take away wetlands, preserving and conserving wetlands is an ongoing task.

Ducks Unlimited has its national headquarters at One Waterfowl Way, Memphis, Tenn. 38120. Information about any DU program, membership or wetland assistance can be obtained by calling 1-800-45 DUCKS or via the web site www.ducks.org.

SPRING FUN NIGHT for the Tama County Conservation Board will take place March 29 at the Nature Center at Otter Creek Lake Park. Call 641-484-2231 for tickets. The traditional fun night includes great catered foods prepared by “My Mother’s Place.” The evening progresses with an auction and short program. Linda Nebbe will talk about wildlife rehabilitation, its joys and challenges. After the program, a short sneak preview of the professionally prepared diorama of a Riparian woodland habitat. The exhibit uses creating lighting to duplicate a 24 hour day. You’ll experience evening dark sky turn to morning’s dawn and finish with a great sunset. During the entire light cycle, nature sounds come and go. All one has to do is listen and watch the scenes of woodland wildlife transform before your eyes and ears. An evening spent at the Nature Center will be a great treat for the entire family.

TROUT stocking at Sand Lake was supposed to take place today at 11 a.m. Due to late ice-out conditions in many trout locations, the date has been postponed until April 11 at 11 a.m. Yes, the ice is getting very weak, but it is still there. Getting trout into the water via cutting holes in the ice is not going to work. So DNR staffers know the best answer is to wait for Mother Nature to melt the ice according to her own time-line. April 11 should be a safe bet.

TAXIDERMISTS in Iowa and a few other midwest states will bring their works to Marshalltown next weekend, March 28-30. The site is the Regency Inn at Iowa Avenue and Highway 14. Public hours for viewing the creative works of local and other taxidermists is March 29 from noon until 5 p.m. This annual meeting allows the members of the Iowa Taxidermist Association to showcase their talents, allow fellow members to critique the animals and to show how to improve future mounts. If you go, you’ll have a chance to pick your top choice and place your vote in the box.

SPRING season began Thursday. It was a great day with light winds, blue sky and warm temperatures. We all know that the end of winter weather is never over. However, the odds are in our favor for northern hemisphere inhabitants to enjoy the slipping away of winter and we look forward to spring. Wildlife tells us the spring is near. Budding trees will soon echo the change. Day length is about equal to night time. And this is due to the earth’s present position in its orbit around the sun. The amount of sunlight striking the northern hemisphere is increasing daily, warming us and the soil. Warm soil will soon allow plants to grow and green up the landscape. Hurray!

Here are some astronomical facts for you: The earth is CLOSEST to the sun on Jan. 3 each year. That distance is 91,532,220 miles. On July 4, the earth is the FARTHEST from the sun at 94,515,940 miles. It is a more direct angle of sunlight striking the northern hemisphere that gives us Spring and later Summer. As the earth travels along its orbital path this fall, sunlight will begin to favor the southern hemisphere.

If you ever find yourself in close contact with the very rich or famous, and get a bit nervous at the thought, remember this bit of advice from grandmother: “When they’re sitting on the toilet, they are no different than you or me.”

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.