Autumn colors fill the landscape News, Sports, Business

PHOTOS BY GARY BRANDENBURG – Fall colors are everywhere, from river waters reflecting blue skies and shade trees to migrating birds heading south. Each deserves time to carefully observe the animals. This scribe recently spotted two smallhorn deer wading in the shallow Iowa River above the Stanley Mill Bridge. The trees along the coast are changing from green to yellow leaves. Closer to home, at my bird feeding station, a migrating Yellow-crested Warbler stopped by to collect seeds for food. This mighty little nightingale calls its summer home anywhere from Alaska, Canada, and the western mountain states. Every autumn they migrate from the south to any southern state, then to Mexico and Central America. This otter has pale yellow sides, and if you can see it from behind, a yellow patch of feathers is distinctive. Deer, tree leaves, sky, water and small birds color the landscape.

Fall is always a favorite time for many people. Cold air is refreshing. The resulting colorful tree leaves provide pleasant visual experiences and there are always wildlife sightings of one kind or another to enjoy.

Farmers and gardeners are busy harvesting. Orange pumpkins are now available everywhere. Mother Nature provides these opportunities for free. Just make an effort to get outside to participate in some kind of fall season.

A nice addition to my wildlife observations happened this week when Yellow-winged Birds visited my bird feeder. I was able to get a few pictures and will continue to get more and better pictures of them as this month progresses.

Meanwhile, while this little passerine is here, it’s time to enjoy her interactions with the antics and other resident birds. Because of this, it keeps itself very well and does not easily go away from finding a new seed to eat.

A survey of breeding birds estimates the number of yellow-throated warblers in North America at 170 million. Each bird species studied is assigned a Continental Concern score to help assess any special needs of the biology and/or habitats that species may use. This score gets a six out of a possible 20, making it a low concern category.

During the month of October, large numbers of yellow voles can pass through the Midwest through prime habitats of Canada’s summer boreal forests. They can only go as far south as Missouri. However, this species is likely to be found almost anywhere in our states south of Florida

To Southern California, Mexico or even Central America.

In any of these locations, the winter food supply can be changed to include the waxes found in bayberries and wax myrtle. The digestive system of yellow mushrooms is uniquely capable of digesting waxes. Their versatility goes even further by covering insects caught in flight or berries of all kinds.

Caterpillars and other insect larvae, beetles, ants, aphids, grasshoppers, crane flies and spiders will do well to fill their guts. When it comes to fruits, juniper berries are just one of them

to consume Add to these poison ivy, herbs, grapes, Virginia creeper and dogwood berries and grass seeds, goldenrod, sunflower, raisins, peanut butter and suet.

For a small bird that is so versatile in its food sources, this helps explain why they are so successful. I hope you can find this song on your outdoor adventures this fall.


During October, these bird species may have left or are preparing to leave Iowa if they use our state as their summer home. The list is long, so here are just a few. A big push for all waterfowl continues and more is expected.

Freezing conditions in Canada or the Dakotas and Minnesota can have a major impact on duck and goose migration. Local weather events are likely to cause problems for waterfowl.

Large raptors, raptors, continue to fly south using the Iowa River Valley corridor as a landscape feature, as do every river system in Iowa. Keep your eyes on the sky to watch these high flyers.

The list of sparrows gets longer this time of year. The common house sparrow is always here, but keep an eye out for other similar sparrow species that will gradually flock in October.

Eastern chipmunk sparrows should also be looked out for, as well as Clay-colored sparrows, field sparrows, Harris’s sparrows, and white-crowned sparrows. The Eastern Fox Sparrow is also listed along with Song Sparrows.


Birds that don’t leave Iowa include Bald Eagles. In fact, many northern eagles will come, many here to winter among some of our resident eagles. On any given day, if I look closely, I can see eagles moving along airways or perched on a tree branch by a river or stream.

Sometimes they offer photo opportunities, sometimes they don’t. But they always suggest binoculars as I study the terrain beneath them and quiet surveys.

Locally, Ringneck Pheasants are seen and heard in many places. New grassland habitats on both public and many private lands where warm-season grass mixtures have been planted offer plenty of cover for this tough upland game bird.

Many times I have encountered both roosters and pheasants flying out of a nearby country road ditch and across the road in front of me. Another treat was a new game bird flying by the side of the road – only this time it was a gray partridge.

They are hardy birds and very hard to see because of their grayish plumage, but when they fly, their cinnamon-colored belly patch stands out. A partridge is larger than a quail and smaller than a pheasant.


Leaf color was at its maximum last week for central Iowa. It was hard to miss the multitude of leaf colors everywhere, whether in the city or the county. Grammer Grove Wildlife Area, Arney Bend, Timmons Grove, Grimes Farm, Sand Lake and Three Bridges Park all have spectacular tree and leaf colors.

The best way to see these colors is to immerse yourself in the middle of these color palettes by walking the trails in these parks. Every step you take will be in crunchy leaves. Each view you take upwards of the trees will provide visual kaleidoscopes for fun or photography.

The reasons to get out now is to enjoy the colors while they last. It is a short-term event. Soon these leaves will fall to the forest floor, creating a colorful carpet that you can walk across with every step.

Now is the time to make the effort to get outside, with warm weather adding to our “Indian Summer” space this weekend.


Speaking of eye-pleasing colors, I’m reminded of the paintings offered by wildlife artist Terry Redland, who often uses the warm background light of a rising or setting sun to turn the sky from yellow to orange. red.

Within these settings, he places people and wildlife in unusual positions to emphasize the wildlife he depicts. His artwork is always featured at wildlife fundraisers.

This is what happened when I was deer hunting this week. I was looking west over the Iowa River. The sky was clear, but since the sun had just set, the colors of the sky were orange and yellow.

Into this eye-pleasing context came a flock of about ten Canada geese from the west. As they flew lower and lower, the alarm calls kept them away. Finally, they turned just in time, their wings now set to land on the nearby sandbar of the river, framed by the land, its trees, and that beautiful warm colored sky in the background.

The bodies of the geese were just black silhouettes against the sky. That new memory is etched in my brain, not captured by my camera. It was an amazing and inspiring moment. Hunters often get these bonus opportunities because they are immersed in Mother Nature’s colorful scenery during quiet sunrises or sunsets. How awesome is that?


“Listen to life. See it for its unmistakable mystery.” – Frederick Buechner, author, poet, and theologian.


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

Contact him: PO Box 96

Albion, IA 50005

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