Whoa hold it, hold it, hold it. Stop the train, I want to get off. What's going on here? The clocks are off; the calendar's off; Mother Nature is off.
I've long said that Beemer's Pond is the bellwether for waterfowl but bellwether for what? First, a sand hill crane shows up - some 400 miles east of its migration route and 1,600 miles from its wintering grounds not even in it's correct habitat. That critter was standing on some seven inches of ice - unique - unlike the wet, sandy bottom land of Nebraska, to paraphrase the description of Nebraska's Platte River - "too wet to plow and too dry to fish." Then on Thursday, a flock of ring-necked ducks showed up. On Friday, a flock of ruddy ducks showed up. On Saturday, a large number of redhead ducks appeared on the scene. Then on Sunday, some pin-tail ducks came out of nowhere and settled in on the pond. Coincidence? Coincidence? Coincidence?
You see, all winter long, month after month, week after week, day in and day out, only three species were out there Canada geese, Mallard ducks and Tundra swans. Now, all of a sudden everything's moving in. Are these critters arriving early or just now getting here from the north?
There's more. The geese are moving up into the grass. That's a sign of the start of their nesting season. Call it what you will, opine if you must, think what you want, but something is going on. I don't have the answer for it, and I don't think anybody else does either. Something is out of whack. My question is: Are these birds really this late in migrating out of the north to their southern wintering grounds? Or maybe, they've already been down south and they are abnormally early in their northward migration? Whatever the heck is going on, they're doing it in the dead of winter. Maybe they know something we don't. That's the scary part (or "C" - all of the above, or "D" - none of the above). Think about it. Senate subcommittee has discussed the using of lead shot ammunition in hunting the birds. I thought that was all settled. I thought wrong. The state's Natural Resources Commission last year unanimously voted to ban the practice, but a legislative committee put the ban on hold. Sen. Dick Dearden, D-Des Moines, said the commission had overstepped its bounds in banning lead shot. A resolution he backs to overturn that ban has now advanced out of the meeting. Environmental advocates told committee members that lead shot is toxic and can harm animals when eaten. However, hunting advocates said the harm is minor, and to date, no good alternative to lead shot exists. The measure now goes to the full Senate Natural Resources committee.
Would you believe?
On top of everything else that Mother Nature has thrown at us these past several months, here's another oddity that's surfaced. I was at an Izaak Walton meeting the other night and a member of the Iowa Coon Hunters Association informed us that they've been picking wood ticks off of themselves and their dogs all winter long. Every time they hold an event or field trial, they've come back with ticks on both themselves and their dogs even during those times when the temperature was down close to zero and with snow on the ground.
Wait a minute you haven't heard anything yet. Get this: The same gentleman informed us (and I've heard similar stores from others) they've been wrapping sheets of Bounce softener strips around their ankles and wrists which helps to keep the wood ticks off. Supposedly, it also helps to keep the mosquitoes away. Turkey hunters and mushroom hunters, take note of this. Your season is coming up - it's just around the corner.
And from south of Webster City comes a phone call from Larry Graves. While most of us have been going down to the Boone River to try to see the eagles (most of which aren't there anymore). Larry has been seeing an eagle flying around his hayfield. He also told me of another bald eagle that was seen flying out of the top of an evergreen tree belonging to Keith Brock. When the rivers and ponds froze over, the bald eagles moved out into open country in search of small mammals and rodents.
The groundhog out in Pennsylvania saw his shadow, and so did the woodchuck over in the Fort Dodge zoo. That means - if you want to believe those fat little varmints - six more weeks of winter.
And now have a good weekend.