Wildlife are adapted to winter | News, Sports, Jobs

Wildlife are adapted to winter | News, Sports, Jobs


PHOTOS BY GARRY BRANDENBURG — Winter-like weather has given people and wildlife a big dose of reality this past week. Snowy conditions were a sure sign that the chaotic weather machine of Planet Earth is alive and well. What we have to do is adapt. Wildlife is already prepared for this natural cycle of shorter days, colder air, and harder times to find food. In today’s images, snow accumulated on fallen tree limbs in the Iowa River are reflected in mirror smooth water, an interesting combination. While making this image, falling snowflakes can be observed filling the air. And in a harvested farm field, 24 wild turkeys and at least two deerwere searching for any ears of corn or just dropped corn kernels to eat. Wildlife with a good accumulation of body fat will be able to survive a long winter.

Winter weather is with us, even if the season of fall says otherwise. This week’s weather was kind of a surprise but not unexpected.

November is a big transition month for weather events, and Mother Nature just made sure we recognized who is in charge. A quick check of the weather history books tells us of everything from mild and above normal air temperatures, to rain, or snow, and of course in Iowa we must not forget wind.

Those arctic blasts from the northwest can sometimes penetrate even the best of winter clothing to send chills into our bodies. Our friends in Florida, Texas or Arizona like to give us a call with open invitations to come visit for the next three months.

My response is “No thanks. I’m an Iowan and here is where I live.” Home is where the heart is, and although this author likes to visit other places, it is always good to be home.

Even in retirement, now in its 18th year, I have obligations to meet. So does my wife in her volunteer endeavors. Our schedules are flexible for the most part on our terms, not those of an employer.

A footnote in this author’s history book is worth noting. Last week’s edition of Outdoors Today was number 1,600. Today, that number increased by one.

From October 1991, when I started offering outdoor adventure highlights, wildlife and nature photography to share, writing stories and sharing observations in the natural world has become a passion. I can educate readers of this column with natural history happenings, good images and fact based information as together we continue to learn more about the fantastic natural world we live in.

My stories and observations from nature began long ago. I did not realize it at the time, but my curiosity about wildlife and wild places began as a young farm kid growing up on a farm in Bremer County, Iowa.

Hard work was ingrained in me by examples set by my parents, other family members and friends. After the hard work was done, time was found periodically to explore.

Ring-necked pheasants beckoned me to pursue them after a school bus dropped me off. A quick journey along weedy fence rows could be accomplished before the cows needed to be milked.

My intent was to bring home a rooster. Our farm dog named Sport, knew that an excursion to go hunting was a good thing. A pheasant supper a few days later was food we did not have to purchase.

An intriguing thing about those pheasant hunts was a small parcel of unbroken prairie in the middle of the section. This place was fantastic. It had “exotic” plants of all kinds and a unique earthy smell.

I learned much later that big bluestem, prairie cordgrass, switchgrass, and a host of other native grasses and forbs were holdout examples of native vegetation once predominant across Iowa. But at the time I was young and interested in pheasants. That little parcel of land was usually good for a rooster excitedly bursting from behind a clump of grass as its wings clamored for more air and more speed.

Sometimes they escaped, and sometimes I made a good shot. If the bird fell, the dog thought he was the reason for my success. We proudly brought the colorful rooster home.

My farm days ended after high school graduation in 1963. I had enlisted in the Air Force. Soon I was to be whisked away to new places stateside and overseas, observing strange habitats, and no pheasants.

Four years later, with my military time satisfied, Iowa State University said “come on over, glad to have you.” At age 23 and a freshman at ISU, I was enrolled in the Fish and Wildlife Biology course of studies. It was interesting to see my own fascination with nature and natural systems blossom into a career path that ultimately landed me a job with the Marshall County Conservation Board.

I began the Marshall County adventure in 1972 and retired in 2004. I found a niche in writing for work. As an outgrowth of that, writing for the Times-Republican filled an opening when the late John Garwood’s outdoor adventures titled Sighting Upstream closed.

His appreciation for the natural world was evident. Some people, like Garwood and many others, share a bond with nature cultivated in part by participating in hunting and fishing, hiking or canoeing, camping or just relaxing streamside watching clouds drift past.

My aim in writing Outdoors Today columns is simple. I want to share any natural history subject from A to Z. I love science and I love facts.

I do not like or approve of political correctness and the misuse of science, as some will do, to misrepresent the world according to their politicized version of “facts.” I like critical thinking and honest discovery of the truth, even if it is not what we may want to hear.

So I say thank you to loyal readers of this column for your continued interest in the outdoors, our earth’s natural environments, and long-term conservation work needed to sustain a healthy world. That is my proclamation as we all enjoy Thanksgiving time this week. Enjoy.

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I have a walnut tree in my yard. It was planted by me nearly 50 years ago. That tree has grown well and produced many walnuts over the years. This year was that tree’s big time production cycle for walnuts.

If I had not diligently picked up those walnuts, walking on the soil under the tree would have been problematic. My collection technique was to try to keep up with collecting as the walnuts fell to the ground.

I started in late September with a daily routine of picking up what fell the night before. I finished in late October when wind and time had allowed all the once heavily laden branches to release the fruits. Baskets, totes and later a trailer filled to the brim attested to the fact that 2022 was an abundant time for this tree.

When it came time to sell the walnuts to the Hammon Products Company of Stockton, Mo., I contacted the local walnut buyer near State Center. First I took my trailer load of walnuts over a scale. After the sale, those same scales showed I had a bulk weight of 1,640 pounds.

That was the walnuts with their outer shells/hulls. At the buying station, a shelling machine took the hulls off and dutifully deposited the nuts into awaiting sacks. When all was finished with the weigh in of de-hulled walnuts, I had 746 pounds to sell.

The Hammon Company has buying stations in many localities in 16 Midwest states. Annually, they take in over 30 million pounds of walnuts. The factory process takes the nuts to the next step of separating the core from the nut meat inside.

Nut meats go one way, and the broken shell fragments go another way. While the nut meats make their way into lots of food products, the shells become fodder for grinding into smaller and smaller pieces.

Sand blasting operations for specialty manufacturing use those byproducts. It is an interesting process.

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Here is a quote to ponder:

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

— Henry David Thoreau, American writer and naturalist.

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Garry Brandenburg is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. He is a graduate of Iowa State University with a BS degree in Fish & Wildlife Biology.

Contact him at:

P.O. Box 96

Albion, IA 50005


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