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February Nature Notes

posted on 2/3/23

Naturalist’s Nature Notes

February Frolicking

Wow! Have you been noticing all of the amazing eagles around Lake Red Rock? It has been quite a site, pleasantly rewarding, and possibly creating a little wonderment. It may seem too early for all of these “nature happenings” but, yet it really isn’t. Some of the opportunities that nature gives way to points us in the direction that spring is soon to come. With the amount of eagles being observed, it appears that we have a huge population living in Marion County. Migration brings numerous eagles to all of Iowa reservoirs and river corridors in late October and November. Late January, February, and early March is the beginning of their northern return, depending how far south they travelled. They may spend some time here to feed and conserve energy, but these early migrators are heading back north to get to their nesting territories. Eagles are often seen sitting on the ice near cracks/crevices in the ice, and openings to feast upon the fish that have been winter killed. This month, our resident eagles will be attempting to lay eggs in the humble abode that they have been working on preparing a safe, soft, and spacious place for their young to grow. The Iowa DNR collects data on many of our resident wildlife and bird species.

*The data noted from the IDNR for Marion County Eagles are: 34 total nests, 23 of those nests are with a status of active, 6 inactive, 5 with unknown status. Of course, these are nests that have been reported or that they are aware of.

February’s full moon will be the Snow Moon arriving February 5, 2023. It should appear full for about 3 days, according to NASA. February is known as the month with the heaviest snowfall in the Northern Hemisphere.

Groundhog Day was February 2. Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow – six more weeks of winter. (sigh).

Morning songs from winter’s backyard birds may begin vocalizing their spring courtship songs, especially the cardinals, blue-jays, and chickadees.

With the longer days, many of Iowa’s breeding birds have started their journey north to reach Iowa and beyond in March, April, and May. Canada geese, mallards, goldeneyes, American white pelicans will still be active around open areas of water and below the Red Rock dam.  Can’t wait for next month when March Madness and migration begins to appear here!

The coyote, red fox, gray fox, beaver, muskrat, and raccoon mating season begins in February. The Virginia opossum may have their first litter in late February. Remember, the opossum is our only marsupial (pouched mammal). Now is a great time to see many different tracks while these animals are more active.

Antlers have already been shed by some of our white-tailed deer, but many of them are still being seen with one or both. Shedding those antlers increase mobility to deer. Other animals locate sheds during their foraging, and they provide much needed nutrients, such as bone, calcium, phosphorus, and protein.

A few Long-eared owls have been appearing in the area! Keep your eyes around the pines and firs for them. Long-eared owls are listed as a threatened species in Iowa. You never know what feathered and fur visitors may start to show up.

Happy Earth Walking…