Today is the KIDS FISHING DERBY at Lake Woodmere, the pond at Riverside Cemetery. It is not too late to make the journey to waters edge. The derby is primarily fun ... for the kids ... and parents or grandparents watching and offering advice and cheerleading services. Derby time begins at 8 a.m. and runs until noon. Come anytime. Youngsters ages 12 or under are invited. Fishing equipment and bait are the responsibility of the parents to provide. For a largely bullhead population of fish in the pond, worms are the bait of choice. One can expect a few other species of fish as well. Who knows the mysteries of this popular attraction? Area businesses and the Izaak Walton League are sponsoring agencies for this year's Kids Fishing Derby. Prizes will be awarded for special catches. This scribe urges all kids up to and including age 12 to come prepared for a fun morning of fishing. Dress for the weather. Drinks will be available for purchase. Hint to parents: Bring a good camera to record the first fish for your youngster.
THE IZAAK WALTON LEAGUE of AMERICA is celebrating its 90th birthday this year. It was on January 14, 1922, in Chicago, Ill., that 54 sportsmen gathered to discuss what they could do to combat the degradation of water quality and other natural resources across the country. The local chapter of the IKES is active, has regular meetings and has a gun and archery range for its members and guests. A clubhouse is available for rent during warm times of the year. Several conservation education activity camps are held there in conjunction with, and in cooperation from, the Marshall County Conservation Board and Naturalist Diane Hall. Membership information is available from Bob Backes at firstname.lastname@example.org.
T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
A kid with his/her first fish is a special treat. The excitement of the rod tip tugging away as the line straightens out into the water is a thrill. The power of a little fish is transmitted to the pole. Will the muscle power of the kid prevail, or will the fish throw the hook and escape? In this case, the big bluegill made the day for this scribe’s grandson Cole. Cole’s parents are Jeff and Kelly Brandenburg of Harrisburg, Pa.
DUCKS UNLIMITED is working on its fall schedule as well. For it, and any interested DU prospective member, the annual trap shoot at the range located west side of the airport will be held Sunday August 26. Proceeds assist DU in Iowa and nationally for ongoing waterfowl- related habitat projects. More details can be secured from any DU member. Start with Mike Stegmann, director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. Call him at 752-5490.
DUCK LEG BANDS have been used for a long time to help track these migrating, avian critters. John Audubon was the first person to mark songbirds by using lengths of silver thread way back in 1803. Today, more than 200 years later, biologists place aluminum bands on more than 200,000 ducks, swans and geese every year just on the waterfowl side of the equation.
Duck leg bands are one way to determine distribution of birds, mortality rates (or survival rates) and estimates of waterfowl harvests. Mallards, for example, are the most numerous banded duck with over 7 million from the beginning through 2007. Canadian geese are second on the list with 2.8 million. Third place goes to blue-winged teal at 1.4 million bandings.
Sometimes it is the story behind the band that intrigues hunters and biologists. A pintail duck banded on September 2, 1940 eluded all hazards until January 1954. The bird was banded in northern Alberta Canada and was shot 14 years later near Naucuspana, Tabasco, Mexico. If this pintail made the 3,000 mile two-way journey each year while alive, it put over 80,000 miles under its feathers. Quite a feat.
A canadian goose taken in the fall of 1962 at Alturas, Calif. was found to have a band on its leg. Okay, that's nice. The hunter found out the goose was banded in 1959. In December of 1962, he took another goose. It too had a band. But then the surprise. This band number was one digit off of the previous band from his October hunt. He had shot consecutively numbered geese, the first was 518-31661 and the second was 518-31662.
Any bird with a band that is found or taken should be reported to the U.S. Geological Survey Bird Banding Laboratory. It has an easy-to-use website, www.reportband.gov where you can enter the information about the band, or you can call 1-800-327-BAND (2263). You will receive a report on where the bird was banded and its age. For waterfowl, you get to keep the band as a souvenir.
WATERFOWL banding began 100 years after John Audubon's thread technique. It was in 1902 that Dr. Paul Bartsch placed tiny aluminum bands on ducks. The process has been so successful that it is still a major activity of the wildlife service and state game departments. And this year in North Dakota, a state blessed with good rains that have kept marshes and lakes full of water, nesting success is also way up. Banding efforts in North Dakota use a clover leaf-shaped, baited pen with one-way entrances. Ducks will swim into and feed there at night. The next morning, wildlife crews sort through the birds and attach new leg bands on any and all waterfowl without bands. Many of the captures are blue-winged teal. BWT travel long distances to wintering grounds in Venezuela and Columbia. In 2009, one crew alone banded 3,939 of the total 14,342 ducks banded by DU in North Dakota.
FEATHERS are the lifeline for birds. Waterfowl molt or lose feathers mostly on a gradual basis. Lost flight feathers force some, not all, birds to stay on the ground or on the water for a time until new ones grow back. Feathers provide insulation, floatation and camouflage. Drake ducks have colorful feathers to help attract mates. Whistling-ducks, geese and swans undergo a single annual molt, replacing all body, wing and tail feathers shortly after the nesting season. Most ducks have two molt times. The first is after nesting, and the second is in the fall to early winter. This second molt involves only body feathers, not wing feathers. Mother Nature had provided quite well for waterfowl of all types to survive times of impaired flight or flightless conditions. When all the new feathers are in place, migration to distant places is possible.
Waterfowl hunters are a big portion of all hunting activities each year in the United States. In 1901, there were a lot fewer ducks due to severe habitat changes and overhunting in unregulated conditions. That has all changed. On average, there are now 44 million ducks in the U.S. and Canada. When all hunting for all game animals is added up, it's a business that provides over 600,000 jobs, contributes nearly $8 million per day for a total of $2.9 billion every year for conservation. In addition, hunters and target shooters have paid $6.8 billion in excise taxes since the inception of the Pittman-Robertson Act in 1937. For more than 80 years, sportsmen have paid more than $13.7 billion for on-the-ground projects in every state. These totals speak for themselves. Hunters put their money where their mouths are through license purchases and supplemental support of many fine, private, not-for-profit conservation organizations. A big salute to hunters is warranted. Hunting is a primary conservation tool.
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.