BIRD BRAINED is an old term formerly used to describe less than dutiful actions of people. If you were comparing such actions to Chickadees, bird brained should be a great complement. So it is in nature, that human understanding of bird biology and behavior still has a long way to go.Humans keep trying to learn more ... and there is always more to learn. I like that concept a lot.
Chickadee bird talk is also high on the list of complexity and language-like. They can communicate information on the identity and recognition of other flocks, note predator alarms and use contact calls. The chickadee-dee-dee is typical, but the more 'dee's' added to the end of a call increases with the threat level from potential chickadee eating predators. Other species of birds will pick up on threat calls from chickadees and head for safe places.
During cold weather, a chickadee will seek out an individual tree cavity to escape cold winds, rain or snow. An old tree that is rotten may well be the condo complex for chickadees each night. Daytime foods now that winter is approaching are primarily sunflower seeds since insects are becoming scarce. Peanut butter, suet, peanuts and mealworms are also on the preferred diet list. Try these at your winter feeding stations this fall and winter. Enjoy.
T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
Upside down is normal behavior for Black-capped Chickadees.This bird likes to hide seeds and other food items to come back to at a later time. This species can remember thousands of hiding places where food is stored. Even more amazing is the fact that all that memory is erased each autumn so it can start over with new brain neurons for next year, an adaption that allows for changes in food sources, location, social flock actions and other changes in its environment.
PHEASANTS can come back. It will take awhile and it will take good weather and the right kind of habitats. DNR wildlife managers and biologists and other conservation groups are working together to improve existing habitat and to get new habitat on the ground so when Mother Nature does relent, pheasants will be in a good position to respond and recover.
Projects for pheasants include increasing habitat on private lands in Iowa. Since 98 percent of Iowa is private land and only 2 percent public, one can easily see that every acre counts when it must compete with grain production. To demonstrate the concept of habitat importance, a study began in 2002 in Clarke, Decatur, Lucas and Wayne counties added habitat on 2,500 acres of private land. The study ended in 2007 but still has positive ramifications today.
Results: There was an average of 6.4 rooster pheasants per unit on managed farms versus only 2 on unmanaged lands. "That may not be much of an increase, but it shows that habitat can and will attract birds," says Todd Bogenschutz, DNR upland wildlife biologist. Not all is lost on other private lands. Many landowners are doing something on there own where they can to attract birds. The private organization Pheasants Forever and its program called Reload Iowa is ramping up to add more permanent grasses, shrubs like dogwood and ninebark and buffer strips along creek channels.
DNR managers also have the new hunting access program to assist with new and/or enhanced habitat on private lands. Landowners enrolled to allow public access get habitat work accomplished on their property. Based on the response so far, the DNR is hopeful of increasing the enrollment in 2012.
For Iowa pheasant hunters, and estimated 58,000 during this fall and through Jan. 10 they will try their luck and skill to find ring necks. Central and northwest Iowa remain the best locations for pheasants this year. That does not mean the rest of the state is pheasant-less, far from it. Even though the season runs into January, 30 percent of this year's rooster harvest will happen within the first nine days of the season, the first two weekends essentially. Crops harvesting is nearing completion and that alone will help concentrate pheasants into remaining cover.
Iowa pheasant counts this past August found an average of seven birds for each 30 mile long survey route. This is down considerably of course, but Iowa is not alone. Numbers are down also in Minnesota (64 percent), Nebraska (20 percent) and South Dakota (46 percent). Long term factors that are huge for pheasants are milder winters, at least 3 years in a row, plus good habitat wherever it can be retained or established. This is what will allow hen pheasants to prosper, their spring nests to succeed which leads to more birds. For the rooster pheasant, the legally huntable bird, it can still be brought to the family dinner table and not affect the breeding population going into next spring.
The WOOD DUCK will be the featured creature on the 2012-13 Federal Migratory Bird and Conservation Stamp, also known as the federal duck stamp. The Minnesota artist to win the US Fish & Wildlife contest is Joseph Hautman of Plymouth, Minn. This is his fourth winning entry for the stamp. He painted a single wood duck male with all of its glorious feather patterns, one of 190 entries in the contest. A panel of judges took their time to make a final choice. It was not easy.
For more than 77 years, the federal duck stamp contest has drawn attention to the needs of waterfowl and wetland habitat. Stamp sales have helped conserve more than 5.3 million acres of wetlands. Since the cost of the stamp to collectors, birders and waterfowl hunters has not increased since 1991, the ability of stamp sale dollars to do the work required is very limited. This year hunters are urged to "double-up" and buy two stamps, not just one. Just one stamp costs $15 and that is not what is used to be in purchasing power in 2011. A federal campaign to raise the stamp cost from $15 to $25 would be needed and if passed by congress, would allow the program's revenues to keep pace with inflation.
To learn more about wood ducks, talk with one local expert, Mike Stegmann, director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. See his excellent waterfowl taxidermy art work and pay close attention to his wood duck mounts and his intense attention to detail for this species. Wood ducks are part of the diorama displays at the Conservation Center at the Grimes Farm, 2349 233rd St, Marshalltown.
This scribe urges everyone to go to the Marshalltown Post Office and buy two federal duck stamps this year. Thanks.
The Marshall County Conservation Board announces the opening of registration for the "Down on the Farm Tour" which will take place on Nov. 20 from noon to 5 p.m. near Woodward. Marshall County Conservation Board naturalist Diane Hall is organizing a carpool from the GrimesFarm Conservation Center to Woodward to participate in Sample Sunday. Pre-registration is required by Nov.15 by calling 641-752-5490. Participants will meet three small, family-owned businesses who supply natural, healthy, organic and environmentally friendly products to the people of central Iowa. The businesses will include: Picket Fence Creamery, Prairieland Herbs and Flowers by Donna Jean. The Special Sample Sunday will offer free food, beverage, goodie samples and often have family activities, guest venders, craft demonstrations or even music. For more information on the November 20th tour and to register, call Marshall County Conservation Board at 64-752-5490 by Nov.15.
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.