Bird Watching

Big or small, I love them all | News, Sports, Jobs

PHOTOS BY GARRY BRANDENBURG — Wildlife comes in all shapes and sizes. One of the biggest animals we commonly see is the white-tailed deer, and on a smaller scale, a red-breasted nuthatch also deserves our attention. In the past week, both species have captured this author’s attention, enough that making photographic images of them has become an inescapable task. The white-tailed buck had sneaked out of the willow canopy by the river to make his way across a sandbar for a drink. As for the flighty little bird that never stays still for very long, the Red-breasted Nuthatch, it was difficult to capture images. I appreciate them all, big or small.

Deer hunting season is in full swing for archers. I am just one of thousands of avid archers living in Iowa who enjoy time spent observing all kinds of natural events, listening to the sounds of nature from the perches of tall trees, and seeing the usual happenings. and sometimes unique as wild species of all sizes and shapes. go about their daily business.

Yes, there can be long stretches where not much is happening, and then when I least expect it, a new moment of excitement occurs. I have to be alert at all times, although I must admit that it takes concentration not to become too complacent.

It’s far too easy for an event to unfold where I wasn’t looking and realize too late that I may have paid the price for not keeping my eyes and head and a slow pivot. Hunting can be all of the above. It’s fun to be outside watching and waiting, practicing my skills against the alert senses of wild creatures.

So far this deer season I have about 45 hours of tree stand or ground blind settings recorded in my log. The deer are given maximum attention even though many of them are too far away or traveling on a trail unlikely to bring them closer to my location.

However, a few pass very close, allowing for very good viewing time. When this happens, I stay still, only moving my eyes and slowly turning my head. A good set of camouflage clothing helps to stay undetected.

Wind direction is key, and for those who aren’t hunters, which is fine, having a deer nearby in no way means I’ll try to bring a full-power arrow on it. I am very selective in my choices of deer to try to take.

A perfect example is a recent episode where a button buck, a male fawn born this year, walked directly under my tree while I was watching from above. It was a no-shot scenario for me. However, the adult doe behind me was still standing or moving through thick brush in which it never presented a situation where I could draw my bow.

She didn’t know I was watching. Still, she was wise to use the available cover to her advantage at all times. She finally walked away calmly, never suspecting a hunter was watching.

The list of wild creatures I’ve seen in close quarters this season is long. It includes many birds of all sizes, from bald eagles to wrens. A flock of robins recently filtered through the trees as they migrated south.

Hen and rooster pheasants flew low over the grassy fields. The wild turkeys play by following the leader before flying off into the tall trees for their nocturnal roosts. The owls call out to me and sometimes even fly very close inspecting me, flying away at the last second when they realize I’m not prey for their talons. I’ve seen all kinds of warblers, those very small active insect hunters that bounce from branch to branch probing under the bark of trees for a bite to eat.

Maybe this weekend, while I’m applying another warm layer of heavy insulated jackets and suits, I might get a chance to watch a few snowflakes filter from the sky. Some of my past hunting episodes found the ground dry and brown when I entered the forest.

However, when I left my pit a few hours later for a long walk, my boots left tracks in the snow. Nature has offered a complete transformation of its landscape. A hunter must be prepared for the game he is looking for and the weather Mother Nature will send, which reminds me of the saying “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing”.


The birds of the red-breasted nuthatch are tiny, fast, and brave as they continue their intense game of foraging for food sources. This fall and winter they will be active trying to find insect larvae, caterpillars or ants.

They will eat from feeders set up by people. They will take sunflower seeds, suet or peanuts. A food item that is too big will get stuck in a tree crevice, then using its tiny but powerful beak, it will pound the food item until it is cracked open.

By observing their feeding behavior, red-breasted nuthatches can go upside down, up or down, and use a long, backward-pointing toe on their foot to help maintain their grip. Gravity does not seem to be an obstacle for this bird.

A distinctive identifying difference of red-breasted nuthatches from white-breasted nuthatches is the dark eye line on the sides of the head and a rusty reddish color to the feathers of the chest and underside of the body. Take the time to note these differences by consulting a good bird identification book. Better yet, enjoy this bird when and if you see it.


Deer hunting records of animals killed by hunters are tabulated and are called the Deer and Turkey Harvest Report. A mid-week online review of the data shows that statewide about 18,900 deer have been removed from the population. By January 10 next year, that number will exceed 100,000.

So far, Marshall County deer hunters have captured 96 animals. Grundy County has a 28 tab. Tama has 223. Story is on board with 145, Poweshiek at 105, Jasper at 157 and Hardin at 172.

Statewide, at this point, 54% of deer are bucks and 46% are doe. Here are some interesting deer myths. 1. Deer always move at dawn and dusk. Well, yes and no. Tracking camera footage proves they are on the move at all hours of the day or night. Being an animal with crepuscular habits, which means a preference for dusk or dawn, this is not always true.

Especially now, in the first two weeks of November, the rutting or mating season becomes a full-time activity for both does and bucks. Plenty of deer can be seen or hunted at any time of the day if one is willing to sit all day in a blind or tree.

2. Another myth is titled overhunting a stand. Somehow the myth was formed by the theory of leaving too much human scent in the place. The truth is that a stand can be used repeatedly if due diligence is used with showering in fragrance-free soap, fragrance-free clothing, and using quiet entry and exit methods.

3. If another person passes by your public tree or blindly, the day is toast. Not so. Sit down and stay where you are. With deer, anything can happen, so stay alert.

4. Another myth is to stay out of the best spots until all wind and weather conditions are right. It’s not a bad idea, but sometimes you just have to go where you want. Just do it.

5. Large areas versus small plots. The myth seems to offer a big antler/bigger deer option. Every year a small patch somewhere produces big antler deer.

6. If you miss a dollar, the game is over. Well, again, it’s a yes and no situation. This author hit a lot of money in 2005 after the first missed arrow. When the buck returned, the second arrow did not miss. This buck scored 161 5/8 and is now in the Pope and Young Club archery record book. Finally, hunting during the full moon periods of the month has its detractors. Fact: Deer can see as well at night as we can during the day, moon or no moon, cloudy or clear sky. Go deer hunting when your schedule allows.


Christmas trees will go on sale at the Izaak Walton League grounds beginning Nov. 25, 26, and 27 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. are the other dates.

These are cut from your own tree and pay $50 per tree, any size. Bring a truck or trailer to put the tree in and tie it down securely before traveling on the road. The Ikes members will have handsaws to borrow, and the Ikes have a tree shaker to try and dislodge old needles. Enjoy the Christmas season with a freshly grown and freshly cut conifer.


Garry Brandenburg is the retired director of the Marshall County Conservation Board. He graduated from Iowa State University with a BS in Fish and Wildlife Biology.

Contact him at:

Box 96

Albion, IA 50005

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