Adapt to Mother Nature at her pace

There was no mistaking the effects of too much rain last week. The IOWA RIVER is high, fast and dangerous. The crest happened at 3 a.m. on Wednesday at 22.25 feet, a new all time high water level at Marshalltown. Recreation on the river this weekend is not recommended … except for those candidates who want to be posthumously nominated for the Darwin Award. So a word of advice regarding boating, canoeing, kayaking, water skiing or other such water sports, maybe this weekend is the time to do alternate outdoor activities.

High water has closed many county parks if they were on or near the river. Every park or access area is under water, its roadways and parking areas inundated, and no safe way to take that leisurely canoe float one had hoped to do. State Park areas have the same problems if located next to any Iowa river. Among the closed State Parks are Dolliver in Webster County, George Wyth in Black Hawk County, and most of Wapsipinicon in Jones County. Jasper County’s Rock Creek State Park has lots of extra water at lakefront camp sites thus they are unavailable. Ledges State Park near Boone is on the closed list too. The list goes on and on. Best to call first. This will be a difficult weekend for recreation outdoors.

Note this scribe did not say impossible. Recreation can still take place at upland sites of county or state parks. Not all trails, lodges or scenic view offerings are at waters edge. Head for the skyline. Look for wild critter forced out of the too wet bottom lands. Look for raspberries almost ready to pick and eat. The birds are eating them so why not us. One word of caution … the mosquitoes have arrived. Be prepared to deal with them. It can be done.

DUCKS are doing very well in their Canadian pothole prairie wetlands. Based on surveys conducted in May and June by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the trend for 2014 is showing an increase of 8 percent for a total population estimate of 49.2 million breeding ducks of all species. The 2013 estimate was 45.6 million. If one looks at the long term average since 1955, ducks have increased 43 percent. Exceptional good water conditions in all the wetland complexes is the major reason.

Mallard breeding birds were counted at 10,900,000, up 5 percent from last year. Gadwall are pegged at 3,811,000 or an increase of 14 percent. Also on the list are American widgeon up 18 percent, Green-winged Teal up 13 percent, Blue-winged Teal up 10 percent, Northern Shoveler up 11 percent, Northern pintail down 3 percent, Redheads up 6 percent, Canvasbacks down 13 percent, and Scaup up 11 percent.

By the time the fall migrations begin, new data will be on the record confirming most of the survey data as noted above. For the avid duck hunter, knowing the chances are good or better than average is welcome news. Of course the summer and early fall are not here yet. And anyone who guesses that we will have lots of water locally for migrating ducks could be very wrong. Last year there was virtually no rain during the summer after a very wet spring. Local ponds were low or dry. It could happen again. The odds are it won’t. Human foresight is not our best virtue regarding long term weather forecasts.

Waterfowl have been through it all before … wet times and not so wet to very dry habitats along their migration pathways. Most will adapt to what is available for water and food along their journeys. Local wetlands such as the Colo Bogs area west of State Center and Hendrickson Marsh are just two of the stopping points for central flyway waterfowl. It appears that Otter Creek Marsh will have abundant water in its pools. Last year the river was so low that pumping water into Otter Creek Marsh was impossible. This year will be different indeed.

EAGLE CAMERAS watching every move by the adult pair as they nurture young eaglets is a popular thing for viewers across the USA via various websites. The Iowa eagles at Decorah have raised three. One nest in Marshall County has two. It can be safely assumed that the other 4 or 5 known nests in Marshall County have two eaglets per nest. Statewide there are at least 200 active bald eagle nests. If each nest has two eaglets then we have 400 new eagles just in Iowa. Many will still be alive at the end of one year. Others not so lucky. They make mistakes that cost them their lives. Those mistakes are usually out of sight of human eyes.

Nature give and take is pretty cool. What is not cool are some human reactions to the grittier side of nature. It is called life and death, both are natural happenings. We like life, and somehow think that intervention into some wildlife scenarios is a good thing. Most of the time it is not. One of the early lessons of wildlife investigations, studies and observations for wildlife biology classes at ISU stressed the need to observe, but not intervene. Our presence was not to have any influence upon the behavior of the critters we were documenting.

So it is with nest cameras set up for us to learn from. But be careful to not let human emotions enter the picture if Fluffy the kitty ends up as one of the meals the eagles bring to the nest. To the eagle is was just another critter on the menu that will give life to its eaglets. Likewise, thinking that human action is warranted on wildlife’s behalf may not be in the long term best interest of the species. Wildlife are not pets. Empathy is understandable but is misguided. For almost all of the newly hatched birds or young mammals born this Spring, many will survive. Those are the ones we may see. What we do not see, which is probably a good thing, are the natural causes of mortality of every critter big or small, furry or feathered, that dies for a host of reasons. Their bodies enter the food chain in numerous ways that we may never understand. Survival of the fittest applies here. And that process has been going on for millions of years.

The IZAAK WALTON LEAGUE is hosting their American Birthday theme at 6 pm on July 9 at the Ikes grounds located two miles south of Iowa Avenue on Smith Avenue. All Ikes members are urged to attend. We may need help eating ice cream. Come early and tour the grounds. No formal program is being offered, just good time to visit with fellow conservationists about things wild and free.

CAMPERS who want to learn more about the planned camping design plans for Green Castle should note this time and date. An informational meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at the Conservation Center on Wednesday, July 9. One of the discussion topics will be fund raising strategies that can be undertaken by the group. Background information of the park and the proposed campground will be reviewed. If this interests you, get involved to help make a difference, make it happen, and make it a success. Refreshments will be served.

“The world does not care how many times you fall down, as long as it’s one fewer than the number of times you get up.” – Aaron Sorkin, American screenwriter.

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.