PHEASANTS are far from going away. These hardy birds can take a lot of abuse from man or adverse weather. They do have limits however, in the form of prolonged cold wet rainy spring weather, a late winter ice storm (versus just plain snow), and a lack of upland grasses for nesting. Several of the upland areas managed by the Marshall County Conservation Board have a mix of native vegetation for permanent wildlife cover. Such sites tend to work very well for long term habitat for lots of critters including pheasants. Guidelines for planting native grasses that will stay standing throughout a winter include at least 20 percent (or more) of the mix to be switchgrass. The stems of this plant hold up well to winter's varied assaults. Beneath the leafy cover closer to the ground, wind proof hiding areas are created that are perfect for pheasants. Pheasants can easily retain body heat if they can find spots to rest that are out of the way of severe cold winds.
For Pheasant enthusiasts so inclined to travel this weekend, this years NATIONAL PHEASANT FEST is taking place in Minneapolis at its convention center. Pheasant related habitat displays and exhibits will be offered. Bird dogs will be featured also. A youth village and family activities are offered as well as seminar speakers to learn more about any topic related to pheasants. For more information, log onto the web site www.PheasantFest.org.
T-R PHOTO BY GARRY BRANDENBURG
Ringneck pheasants are still with us. To this scribe’s observations, late winter snows have made these popular feathered critters much more visible. Scattered open patches of ground in crop fields are serving as feeding areas now as pheasants eek out a few morsels of grains or other seeds to sustain themselves. In just a few short weeks, most of the snow should be melted, warmer weather will progress toward spring and pheasants that survived the rigors of winter will find living a whole lot easier. Today’s photo was made several years ago from a concealed position inside a photo blind. A long lens allowed this head and shoulders shot of a rooster pheasant.
Iowa had about 17 inches of snow last year and a mild warm spring. This year we are well above 30 inches of snow. It has seemed like one endless snow after another and the end is not in sight yet. Planning ahead to plant shrubs and conifers is one long range solution to help wildlife make it through winters. Gray dogwood, wild plum and ninebark are excellent shrub choices available for order now at the DNR State Forest Nursery. They also have white spruce, just one conifer species, to add to a cover plot design. A well thought out cover plot helps as winter cover and food later in the year for other wildlife during warmer times. To learn more about what to plant for best results, contact the DNR State Forest Nursery at www.IowaTreePlanting.com.
Another sure sign of SPRING is boat license renewal time. Most Iowa watercraft are on a three year registration cycle. If this is your year, do note the current registration expires on April 30. A new system is now in place to assist with boat titles for the over 235,000 vessels Iowans own or use. The new registration system includes title and decals in one document. A boat owner must bring the current registration to the county recorder's office between now and April 30. The new format requires additional information much of which is currently on file if your boat has been previously been documented. Go to the county courthouse where you reside to take care of this bit of business. A new three year title will be issued. Boat registration fees are used for navigation enforcement, water trails, aquatic invasive species education and control and boater safety programs.
Last fall, TROUT were brought to SAND LAKE by DNR fisheries staff from northeast Iowa. They will be back on March 29 to Sand Lake with another batch of catchable sized trout. Since this is 2013, if you require a fishing license, make that purchase as soon as possible in addition to the trout fee to be legal for catching and possession of trout. This time, the stocking will not be accompanied by any fanfare. Just be there when the water tank truck arrives and you can observe the release of the fish. Call the conservation center at 752-5490 when the date gets closer to find out the approximate arrival time for the trout truck. This stocking will include 200 brook trout and 1,800 rainbows. Enjoy.
The IOWA TAXIDERMIST ASSOCIATION will be meeting this weekend at the Regency Inn at Marshalltown. Members from across the state, and even a few adjoining states, will be present with their contest entries, vendor supplies and ready to listen to constructive criticism on how to do a better job of preparing an animal trophy for long lasting display. As for you and me, the general public, open hours for viewing what Iowa taxidermists have created will be today, Saturday, from noon until 5 p.m. Sunday hours are 9 a.m. until noon. Come see what these artists can produce with the fine art of their specialty.
Speaking of fine art, many great looking taxidermists mounts were offered for viewing at the recently held Iowa Deer Classic. What struck this scribe was the range of quality. Most were excellently done and a great compliment to the trophy owner. A very few were just awful. In one case, the mounts were on the display board side by side. It was obvious to all that one was top quality blue ribbon material, the other would rate an F minus. So here is this scribe's bit of advice: Check references and the quality of work any taxidermists studio is offering. If they are good, it shows. If they are not so good, then their choices are to either get better or get out of the business. For those very excellent taxidermists whose reputation and living depend upon repeat customers, they cannot afford to so sloppy work. They have learned the techniques required to turn out beautiful work time after time without shortcuts.
BALD EAGLE watching is fun. If you want to learn more about Bald Eagle nest monitoring, an informational program will be held next Saturday, March 23, at the Conservation Center at the Grimes Farm. The intent if for interested persons to learn how to be an active volunteer for any bird of prey nesting site. The program begins at 10 a.m. and lasts until 4:30 p.m.. There is a cost for this program of $10. Details can be obtained from Kay Patterson at 515-432-2823, extension 102 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next Wednesday, March 20, is the first day of SPRING. Another name for it is vernal equinox. We may also note it as 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. On March 21, this is the anniversary date of the 1961 Iowa Legislature chooses the Iowa Oak Tree as Iowa's official tree. It is also the time of year when tom turkeys might start gobbling. Spring returning is fine with me. Oak trees are fine with me. Turkey gobbling is for this scribe something to get really excited about. I like this type of bird watching even more than at my backyard feeder station. I wonder why?
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.