The rites of spring

I’ve checked plenty of things off my “to do” list recently. Some don’t go exactly like I wanted them to, but overall I was content with them. But the important ones ones like the rites of spring I don’t mess with them. Know what I like about them? It’s not just the arrival of spring and another season; it’s not just the leafing out of trees and green grass; it’s not just the spring bird and waterfowl migration, it’s much, much more than that.

For me, the bottom line is all those “firsts.” The first robin, the first tulip, the first house wren, the first bluebird, the first nightcrawler, the first ice-out, or the first fisherman to stand on the shore of Briggs Woods Lake and try his or her luck at fishing even though they know down deep I their heart that the water is too cold to catch anything but a cold.

The other afternoon, John Squire left a note on my front door to tell me he’d seen the first Myrtle warbler up at Big Wall Lake or Dave Craig telling me he’ been seeing some killdeer around his place. And usually I get a phone call from Bob Jewell down at Homer telling me he’s seen the first bluebird or house wren. He hasn’t called me yet this spring. I like those firsts.

And I usually get a phone call from Dewey Nichols reporting the first muskrat seen in a farm pond out by Cass Cemetery. Some sage once said that “wilderness is the raw material out of which man has hammered the artifact called civilization.” This is probably true. But many of the diverse wildernesses out of which we have hammered America are already gone. No living man will ever again see the long-grass prairie stretched from horizon to horizon where a sea of prairie flowers lapped at the stirrups of the pioneer. We’ll do well to find a 40-acre plot here and there, but mostly the prairie is gone. That’s why I like those firsts. They’re never going to be gone. Never. I hope I’ll always be getting those phone calls from people who have seen the “first” this or the “first” that. That means spring is here. On the other hand, spring is like a Christmas toy it comes with some assembly required and no instructions. And we’ve all been down that road.

Trout stocking begins

The DNR’s annual program of stocking catchable-size trout in selected cold water streams in nine countries in northeast Iowa returns the first week of April, and as I write this, the stocking is still an on-going process. Times and locations when trout will be added to streams are available on the DNR’s website. Stockings will be 75 percent rainbow trout with the remainder being brook trout. Most stocked trout will be 10 to 12 inches long, but a few lunker brood trout from the hatcheries are often included in stockings to keep things interesting for anglers.

Turkey hunting starts now

It’s turkey time in Iowa. Iowa’s spring turkey hunting seasons began early this month and will continue on through mid-May. This year’s spring turkey-hunting seasons are: Youth season, April 6 to 14; first season, April 15 to 18; second season, April 19 to 23; third season, April 24 to 30; fourth season, May 1 to May 19. Our archery-only spring turkey-hunting season runs from April 15 to May 19. Licenses for spring turkey-hunting seasons are on sale now at most hunting and sporting goods stores, and will be available through the end of each season.

Flatworms could put arch-rival birds in contact

It’s not carved in stone, but some birds just don’t get along with each other. Food fights between big birds may well be in the offing near the Cedar River in eastern Iowa. DNR officials are erecting two nesting platforms for ospreys along the river. The nesting platforms are part of a larger effort to restore ospreys to the state. It’ll be interesting. The new platforms are going up in the area also frequented by bald eagles, another large bird that preys on fish. The eagles are known to rob ospreys and even other eagles of their fish. Biologists say ospreys and bald eagles can occupy the same area and have been doing well together at such places as Don Williams Lake in Boone County, where the fish supply apparently is plentiful. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

At Lake Ahquabi south of Indianola, it didn’t work. The eagles won. On the other hand, it’s working quite well at Lake Red Rock, where both the eagles and the ospreys are competing against the gulls for fish. And Lake Red Rock has thousands upon thousands of gulls constantly feeding on minnows and small fish.

And now have a good weekend.