Spring — are you ready to enjoy it?
DAYLENGTH is increasing by about three minutes per day in April. That sure sign of spring is evidence that our winter is over (we hope). Goodbye snow. Hello green grass, budding trees, warmer temperatures, wild turkeys and wildflowers. And a big hello will soon be in order for a great number of returning song birds as they make their migration northward. On their journey any brief stopover is welcome to any nature enthusiast. At least 30 returning species of birds will make their re-appearance during April. May will add another 23 species.
Bird watching is popular, especially world wide for the famous fair of BALD EAGLES at their nest near Decorah. This scribe checks the progress of the eagles and their three eaglets at least once per day. I found the following statistics interesting. To date, over 299 000,000 views to the nest camera web site have been recorded. Early morning daily viewers may only be five or six thousand. However the daily count goes up dramatically during the daylight hours in the United States to about 12,000 and sometimes more. More than 95 percent of the viewers to the remote camera eagle perspective come from people in the Untied States. But the world wide country list of eagle cam observers numbers 176. A map showing sites where people are watching the Iowa eagles is all over the globe. Hurray for the popularity of the Bald Eagle. And congratulations to the Raptor Research Center for all their work to make the remote camera record the life of a bald eagle family. Cool stuff.
Statewide, approximately 40,000 wild turkey hunters will use the 2014 spring gobbler seasons to attempt their own style of bird watching. And they will employ all kinds of turkey calls, turkey decoys, special camo clothing and early morning well before sunrise tactics to try to be in the right place at the right time. As of midweek, Marshall County tom turkey hunters had registered seven harvested toms. The statewide total mid-week was 1,940 birds. Most of the higher count counties are in southern Iowa or along the rough country of eastern Iowa that borders the Mississippi River.
Here is another fact about hunters and wild turkeys. Nationally, wild turkeys contribute $2 billion to our economy each spring. Add the multiplying effect of those expenditures into gas, groceries, travel and lodging and one soon can see that millions of jobs hinge on fish and wildlife interests.
Some people think of the state fish and wildlife agencies as consisting only of game wardens who enforce hunting and fishing regulations. This is not the case. State fish and wildlife departments are responsible for protecting and aiding all wildlife not just those few species that may be lawfully hunted. Hundreds of non-game species, such as songbirds and small animals that enrich the outdoors for all of us, are also under their care. Practically all of the state conservation agencies came into being after the turn of the last century and, with little exception, were organized with the strong support and endorsement of hunters and fishermen.
The American Game Policy, introduced by Aldo Leopold in 1930, pinpointed the quality and quantity of habitat as the key factors regulating game populations. He called for highly trained professionals to manage those wildlife species. State game and fish departments are staffed by biologists and wildlife/fisheries managers and specialists who work to improve habitat. This is done through food plots and cover, creating wetlands and managing woodland tracts for wildlife. Each of these actions benefit and are essential to a huge number of non-game animals. The result is healthy and sustained populations of wildlife throughout the nation.
The American Game Policy called for policy making bodies, i.e. commissions, that had some degree of independence. The members would be appointed by the governor, serve without pay, and have staggered terms to avoid sudden reversals of policy. The commission would have the authority to set all hunting and fishing regulations and would hire the department’s director. The director would hire all internal personnel. The keystone of the American Game Policy, as noted by Leopold, was to be able to operate free from political meddling. The history of all the states since the 1930s has had its ups and downs in this regard. Diligence by all outdoor enthusiasts is required to keep professional wildlife management foremost, and politician’s attempts at micro-managing at bay. It is a never ending scenario even in this century.
EARTH DAY is next week on Tuesday and will be celebrated next weekend, April 26. A wide variety of activities will be hosted at the Conservation Center at the Grimes Farm that day from 1 until 4:30 p.m. Arbor Day appreciation is also an added component to the day will apple tree planting at 4 p.m. But earlier in the day, at 1 p.m., “Hector Detector- Insect Inspector” will be presented by veteran storyteller and puppeteer Carol Taylor. She has been doing this for more than 40 years. It is an entertaining and delightful story telling time. Her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Drake in theatre/speech/education serves as the basis for her talents. She also has a master’s degree from Drake focused on creative arts therapy and education.
At 2 p.m., families can enjoy a bug hunt. At 2:30 to 4 p.m., an informative program on the latest happenings with the Emerald Ash Borer insect will be presented by Mark Shour from Iowa State University Extension. Assisting him will be Mike Kintner from the Iowa Department of Ag and Land Stewardship. Guests will learn what to look for, how to prepare for the invasion of this pest insect, treatments of existing ash trees and fire wood regulations. Also on the docket will be learning what alternative tree species are best as replacements for ash trees. At 4 p.m. is the final day activity of planting trees.
There is no pre-registration required for any of the Earth Day activities. Just show up, have fun and learn. It would be helpful however for those that do want to help plant trees to let the MCCB office know in advance by calling 752-5490. The Grimes Farm and Conservation Center is located at 2359 233rd Street, Marshalltown. It is about one-half mile west of Highland Acres Road on 233rd street.
Yes I did. This scribe got up early to watch the red moon. It was a neat sight to see, even if my 2 a.m. sleep time had to take a back seat to another one of nature’s special treats. I used binoculars to assist with the moon watch. Binoculars are great tools to have available because of the compression of perceived distances. Things appear closer. The moon in the view of the binos was larger. I could see lots of detail. Another truism of binoculars, or telescopes, they are time machines. As for the stars in the sky, you are looking at small points of light that may be thousands, or more, years old. It takes that long for their light to reach earth and our eyes. Us earthlings are pretty small potatoes in a very, very large Universe.
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.