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The House Wren: A feisty creature

August 5, 2011
By GARRY BRANDENBURG , Times-Republican

HOUSE WRENS are feisty critters, very territorial and dedicated to protecting their nest and the associated habitats where they eat insects and spiders, including beetles, caterpillars, earwigs, flies, leafhoppers and springtails. They can have two clutches of young each year. Eggs can number from three to ten and are colored off-white to pink-white or even grayish with speckled blotches of reddish-brown. Each egg is about one-half inch long. Incubation takes nine to 16 days.

Another interesting tidbit of fact: Air temperature inside a nest over 106 F or under 65 F can cause doom for the eggs. Relatively open yet shady nest sites in backyards or woodland edges usually provides ideal.

The common House Wren we see has several cousins, all of which might be seen in Iowa depending upon the season and migration peaks. These other wrens include the Winter Wren, Carolina Wren, Sedge Wren and Marsh Wren. The size of the bird, eyeline stripes, tail length, wing bars are all part of the identifying items to pay attention to. Enjoy the wrens.

Article Photos

The House Wren, (Troglodytes aedon), is the featured creature for this week. These spunky little plain brown birds are common backyard visitors.  They nest in tree cavities and also take well to nest boxes provided by people. They are common over the entire western hemisphere. House Wrens weigh in at about the total of two quarters.


This scribe could not help but pay attention to the fiasco of developments in Washington DC this past week in regard to programs likely to get the "axe treatment." When the dust settles, the devil will be in the details, the fine print, as all programs big and small take a hit. Whether good or bad all depends upon one's perspective. Even conservation programs for habitat and wildlife issues are on the chopping block. My fear is that the chopping block mentality will cut deep into some very cost effective programs while other endeavors not so popular or effective remain in place. Difficult times await all of us in this regard.

As to wetland related issues, The Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), Wetland Conservation Program and Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) have had a good history of contributing to a slowing of wetland losses. One way of looking at wetlands and associated wetland habitats is to think of it as a pail of water with holes in the bottom. In past decades, there have been many holes and lots of leaks representing a quickening overall loss of wetlands.Recognizing that wetlands are so important to waterfowl and many other species of wildlife, the above noted programs have had some success in plugging some holes in the bucket. But the leaks just slowed. They were not plugged.

Of the 20 million acres of wetlands that once existed in the Prairie Pothole Region, also known as the Duck Factory located in the north central states, approximately 7.3 million acres remain today. Of these, only 1.5 million acres are under some form of long term protection via fee title or long term easements. The US Fish & Wildlife Service estimates that about 40 percent of all breeding ducks in the prairie pothole region depend on small and ephemeral wetlands embedded in croplands.

Ducks Unlimited is just one conservation entity working hard to identify and illustrate common points of discussion and thereby educate legislators at the national level. The overall goal is to work together with other land user groups, find common ground, and cooperate toward ends that all can live with. In other words, plugging the leaking bucket will remain an important task in the 2012 Farm Bill.


For many fishing advocates in Iowa, wet means water and water means fishing time. Iowa DNR has a program to allow big fish recognition through the Master Angler Awards system. Catch a big fish and record the data for submission and recognition. To date, over 130 qualifying First Fish Awards have been submitted since January 1st, 2011by novice anglers. They receive a personalized certificate and decals suitable for application to a boat or car. There are 41 species of fish eligible. Look for Mater Angler program details in the Iowa fishing regulations booklet pages 38 and 39.

Even in the heat of August, fishing can be productive. White Bass and Wipers like hotter weather however anglers need to do their homework and be on the water at first light when the fish are most likely to be feeding. White bass are aggressive fighters that really tug on the line for those who go after them. Big lakes such as Saylorville, Red Rock or Rathbun are worth the effort here.


Recent HOT WEATHER has impacted everyone and everything in some way or another. Our options: Adapt, adapt or adapt. For recreationists using bicycles, the recent Ragbrai Event proved challenging in the heat. Locally, the bike trail paralleling highway 330 couldn't adapt. It expanded in at least eight different locations. The concrete trail broke and heaved upwards big segments of the bike route paving, similar to what happens periodically on highway. The Marshall County Conservation Board took action to close the trail temporarily until repairs can be arranged. Be aware of potential unexpected bumps in the trail.


This weekend is the annual IOWA BOWHUNTERS Fall Festival at the Pine Lake Archery Club. This is a statewide shoot where archers young and old take to two different courses to shoot 3-D targets. Each course features life-like animal targets set in realistic hunting situations. It isn't easy but it is fun. In addition, there will be novelty shoots for fun, evening entertainment, archery merchandise for sale and good food.


The final Marshall County hunter safety course for this year at the Izaak Walton League Grounds is coming up on Aug. 18 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Aug. 20 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Completion of a hunter safety course is required for anyone who wishes to buy a hunting license born after Jan. 1, 1972. Must be 12 or older. Register for this free 10-hour class at


For your funny bone: Take this simple test to see if you qualify for solo camping. Shine a flashlight into one ear. If the light 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.



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