BALD EAGLES are common wintertime visitors. They can be found almost anywhere in the countryside at places where one might least expect them. But there they are, big as life, and full of life, as they soar over the landscape or as they sit regally on a tree branch. This author was thankful that the pair of eagles seen in today's photograph was available and compliant enough to let my vehicle approach slowly. When I stopped, they just continued with the feast. In the meantime, my 300mm lens is popping off frame after frame to capture the moment.
Eagles like fish. And they are not above using carrion as an alternative snack. The eagle's eye is well equipped to spot potential food sources. It is 4 to 8 times sharper than the resolution capabilities of a human eye. Eagle eyes are fixed within the eye socket of its skull. To see an object clearly, the bird must turn its head in the direction of the object. The eyes work together for excellent depth perception to accurately identify and help compute the distance if an aerial attack is required.
Bald Eagle WATCH EVENTS are scheduled for many Iowa localities at this time of year. Those closest to Marshall County include Saylorville (north of Des Moines) on February 21st at the lake visitor center between 10 am and 4 pm. Call 515-276-4656 for more information.
T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
In the winter time, Bald Eagles are part of nature's cleanup crew in central Iowa. This pair of adult birds was interested in turning a road-killed raccoon into eagle energy. The duo was photographed along county road E-18 one mile west of Bangor earlier this week. The powerful beak of an eagle is well suited for its job of tearing off bite-sized bits and pieces of flesh. Look for eagles locally along the Iowa River in areas where open water is available.
Red Rock is another favorite spot to check on eagles. The open water below the spillway of Red Rock dam is a magnet for fish, fishermen and fishing eagles. The Eagle Watch at this site is March 5 - 6th. Outdoor programs are available at the Howell Station. Indoor eagle programs will be hosted at Pella Central College. Both offerings are from 10 am until 5 pm. Call 641-828-7522 for information.
What happened 77 years ago that has tied an existing world record? Answer: The All-Tackle record for a largemouth bass weighing in at 22 lbs 4 oz. According to the International Game Fish Association's (IGFA) World Record Game Fishes book, the latest entry for consideration was entered by Japan's Manabu Kurita. He caught the fish on July 9, 2009 in Japan's largest lake, Lake Biwa, an ancient reservoir northeast of Kyoto. The application and documentation was submitted on September 19, 2009 to IGFA.
The 77 year old record of long standing was held by a USA Georgia fisherman George Perry. He caught his fish in Montgomery Lake on June 23, 1932 near Jacksonville, Georgia. When a fish gets that big, every ounce is important. And it is important that the utmost scrutiny and high ethics be applied to such a taking to insure the integrity of the records system. IGFA's All-Tackle records are considered the premier listing of finny critters from lakes, streams or other water bodies.
Largemouth Bass will grow big if they are in a lake environment with plenty of food sources and enough long term warm water to allow feeding throughout the year. Thus, warmer climates of southern states are looked at as the places where truly big bass are lurking. For us Midwesterners, a long cold winter season means most fish must take-it-easy due to a much reduced metabolism rate and off-season natural food supplies. Once spring arrives, and warming waters, metabolism rates elevate along with the temperature. Iowa bass of nine to ten pounds would be considered very good.
Author Paul Quinnett says..."I'm a great admirer of spectator sports, especially on television; it keeps the riffraff off the trout streams." His bit of humor (and wisdom) means that he can enjoy the solitude of a fishing trip without people, a large part of why people go fishing in the first place. But being the social animals that we are, many folks enjoy the company of good friends or family while fishing. How close is too close is a personal choice.
If you are the lucky angler in 2010 to set a new largemouth bass record for Iowa, be ready to find all kinds of new 'friends' knocking at your door looking for hints, tips or just to drool over the life-like replica mount on the wall. I suggest you charge a hefty admission fee to all that want to look. One has to pay for new fishing tackle, boats, trailers and a never ending assortment of lures somehow.
Two new Iowa 'WILD' license plate options will be available this spring to motorists renewing car or truck registrations. One option features an Iowa native fish, the brook trout and the other option is a whitetail deer. Similar to existing choices of natural resource themes of the Iowa goldfinch, the eagle or pheasant, additional fees associated with these license plates help fund REAP, Resource Enhancement and Protection, conservation programs. The existing natural resource plates help pull in about $1million dollars and outsell all other specialty plates.
The fish and/or the deer plates were designed by Cedar Rapids artist Greg Bordignon. You can purchase the plate for $45 plus the annual renewal fee of $25 for numbered plates. The REAP program gets $35 of each sale and $10 for each renewal. I urge you to consider these choices for your vehicles in 2010. Conservation funding is always a difficult task. At least this one is on the pleasant side of the ledger.
Some great ways to beat winter cabin fever: 1. bring your lunch to the GrimesFarm & Conservation Center on Tuesday, January 19 from 11:30 a.m. 1:00 p.m., and join the Brown Bag Bunch group for a photographic journey through Utah's National Parks with Ed Siems.
2. On Thursday, January 21 at 7:00 p.m. you can join MCCB naturalist Diane Pixler for a presentation showing highlights of her trip to Mexico to see millions of over-wintering monarch butterflies.
3. Wednesday, January 20 from 10 11 a.m. is the Nature's Story Hour for preschoolers at the GrimesFarm & Conservation Center. The theme for this week's stories is "Whooo Knows?". Bring your little ones out for stories about owls.
While you are at the Conservation Center, take time to view the new display featuring nature photos by Carl Kurtz. These magnificent works of art will be on display through February.
Take this simple test to see if you qualify for solo camping: Shine a flashlight into one ear. If the beam shines out the other ear, do not go into the woods alone.
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.