Next weekend in Marshalltown, the IOWA TAXIDERMY ASSOCIATION will hold their state wide meeting at the Regency Inn. Public hours to look at the best offerings of animal art works is from noon until 5 pm, Saturday, March 27th. There are always new exhibits and mini-diorama habitats to complement the winged or furry critter being displayed.
Nature and all it offers is a wonderful treat for people. Avid sportsmen and women and other outdoors minded folks who hike, fish, hunt, photograph or just observe the timeless happenings of nature's cycles are quite aware of the tremendous variety life all around us. Special places to observe wildlife include area forests, wetlands or prairie grasslands. Take the time, make the time, to get outside and into natural areas to watch and listen.
No matter how one is inclined to take your 'trophy', close up views of wildlife species allow for another avenue of study and appreciation that culminates and rounds out a host of other wildlife experiences. Taxidermists have long been sought after to fill the need of people to help preserve an artifact of the outdoor experience.
Mike Stegmann, Director of the Marshall County Conservation Board, and amateur taxidermist, works on preparations for a wood duck he will ultimately pose for a life-like display of this unique waterfowl species. This morning, a free informational program is being held at the Conservation Center at the GrimesFarm from 9 until 11. Anyone interested in how great looking taxidermy mounts are made is encouraged to attend. The Center has many waterfowl species on display that represent some of the best waterfowl taxidermy anywhere. Stegmann brings wildlife art to a very high level.
Some of the best of the best from novice to advanced categories will be judged by members of the ITA. Last year approximately 200 exhibits were offered including many typical items such as deer, geese, ducks, otter, fox, raccoon, catfish, walleye, bass, bluegill or crappie. Special treats included a Bengal Tiger! What will the ITA members bring this year? Come see for yourself.
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SPRING is officially here. But be sneaky about talking about Spring. Mom Nature may be listening. She already has the Iowa River fully primed with high water so that any new rain, (or snow), may translate into more water flowing down the valley. In other words, putting away the snow shovel may be just a tad premature. I don't like the idea of shoveling snow, again, but the possibility is very real.
Water levels of the Iowa River flirted with road closings last week. In fact, water was very close to major roadway shoulders. It will not take much new water from rain or new snow to push water to even higher levels. It is just one of the things we must expect and be prepared for each Spring in Iowa.
Last week this author observed four deer on a big ice flow of an oxbow of the Iowa River. Rising water had stranded them. Their escape from the ice meant that an icy cold swim toward higher ground was inevitable. Once the biggest and wisest deer made the decision to jump in, the rest would follow, reluctantly. They had no choice. Survival instincts are well ingrained in wildlife and most make it through the stresses of winter to spring transitions.
Since the mid April storm of 1973 is deeply etched into this author's memory, I must hope that spring will get here gradually and without Mom Nature playing her trick trump card. April 1973 was one of those occasions when she did play the card, a big trump card, that brought a three day blizzard, strong unrelenting winds, lots of snow and almost a complete shut down of travel in the Midwest due to snow blocked roadways. Yuck.
Last weekend was a welcome and sure sign of spring getting closer and a real bonanza of waterfowl in the Iowa River valley. The migration is on. Many thousands of Canada geese, white-fronts and snow geese were on the move. Foggy weather created a brief situation where the birds landed in flooded fields to rest and feed. For a few days, wildlife observers had it really good. However, once the fog lifted, the migration urge renewed itself and the birds were off again, out of sight, moving north as far as the retreating snow line would allow.
Not all waterfowl northerly movements are over. There are lots of ducks to follow in addition to many other smaller feathered critters. The urge to migrate is ages old and cannot be restrained. The biological clocks of things wild and free is ticking onward, guaranteeing the renewal of the species when spring does settle in to stay. Use these opportunities to get outside and enjoy the re-awakening of our land from its winter slumber. Keep binoculars available at all times to check out the latest arrivals.
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A great program is offered up for your attention. The local Ornithologists 'Bird Club' will host Larry Stone of Elkader, IA on Thursday, March 25th. The 7 pm program will feature a slide show and story about the late Gladys Black: the Legacy of Iowa's Bird Lady. The location is the Fisher Community Center in Marshalltown. The public is invited to learn from Stone how Gladys Black influenced so many lives.
Stone will illustrate and tell the story of Gladys Black, her love of all wildlife, her crusade to educate kids about outdoor life and about good land stewardship. She championed many causes; particularly if it involved birds. She bought a hunting license every year because she knew it helped the cause of conservation. And she was not shy to express opinions to anyone who would listen. Agree or disagree, Gladys became an icon in Iowa's legacy of conservation leaders.
Larry Stone traces his passion for the outdoors to the creeks and woods of his southern Iowa farm where he grew up. He has explored Iowa from corner to corner for over 40 years as an outdoor writer/photographer for the Des Moines Register and as a freelance writer. He has five books to his credit. His wife Margaret shares his love of the land. A son and a daughter also share outdoor passions. And the love of land is continuing with four grandchildren who love to play in the dirt.
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With the coming of spring comes the urge to start planning and then planting garden or flower beds. Then there is the need to plan for pest control. On Friday, March 26 from 11:30 a.m. 1:00 p.m., MCCB naturalist Diane Pixler will hold a 'Brown Bag Program' on Natural Pest Control at the GrimesFarm & Conservation Center. Bring your lunch and come out to the center and learn about Natural Pest Control methods.
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On the lighter side consider this: Happiness is like a butterfly. If you chase it, it will elude you. But if you turn your attention to other things, it comes softly and sits on your shoulder.
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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.