Sunday, March 22, 2009

Iowa Wetlands

Yesterday was beautiful so we played golf. Today wasn’t nearly as nice as it was dreary and a howling wind was from the North, but I decided to get outdoors anyway to visit the 4000 acre Big Marsh WMA ~ 30 minutes away. Two eagles and ~ 12 ring-neck ducks were found along with hundreds of Canada Geese, which are now paired off as they head into the breeding season. No snow geese, which was a bummer since I've been seeing some good sized flocks on the move lately. But I did hear that Sandhill Cranes are thick in western Nebraska along the Platte River near Carnie, NE so I’d like to head to NM via W then S if the weather allows. At one point while birding, something caught Aubrey’s eye on the side of the road and she gestured ahead. I decided to run up and see what I could encounter. I thought perhaps it was a turtle, since we had previously seen a couple of snapping turtles basking, the first I’ve seen this year (in Iowa). The weather has been nice for a couple of days so some of the ectotherms are beginning to stir. Instead, it was a young muskrat foraging for grubs along the side of the road and I decided to grab him for no real reason. He wasn’t happy and would have loved to bite me but I have a couple of seasons of small mammal trapping experience so I knew better and managed to avoid his tenacious bite. After a few seconds I released him, but I can now say I’ve caught a muskrat by hand (along with armadillos and deer), and if ever given the opportunity again I would gently poke him from behind and see how high he jumps. On the way home, we got a great look at a beautiful mink as it crossed the road and also flushed 4 female pheasants.