Things we do for birds, other wildlife
When I woke up this morning, it was ten degrees below zero and we had several inches of new snow on the ground. My morning routine is to drink coffee and stare blankly out of the window for a half hour or so before I do the chores and get ready for work.
As the gray skies gradually became more light, birds started appearing from somewhere in the distance to partake of the free food at the bird feeders. Within a few minutes, there was a feeding frenzy as dozens of cardinals, blue jays, purple and gold finches, juncos and doves worked feverishly to empty the feeders.
I was wondering what their hurry was when I glanced back at the weather forecast on the television. They were telling of another major winter storm moving into our area. The birds knew about the approaching storm before the weather guy told me.
With very little help from me, my wife takes care of the song birds in our yard. I do most of the work caring for the animals and birds at the farm. I make food plots and cover areas for the deer and turkeys, to make their life a bit easier. A person might ask, how did wildlife survive before people started taking care of them? The simple answer is that they survived but did not thrive as they do now.
We currently have many more birds and animals in the wild than we did just a few years ago. When I was young, a person never saw a deer in northern Iowa. My grandsons think it was a long time ago when I was young and ask me about dinosaurs, as though I have had personal experience with them. In reality, to go from no deer to the numbers we have now in a less than a lifetime is remarkable.
Forty years ago, we had no wild turkeys in southern Iowa. Hunting license fees and taxes on outdoors equipment were used to restock them. Hunters and farmers joined in helping them survive. We currently have more than enough turkeys to hunt and enjoy watching.
For several years, a neighbor of mine has put out bluebird houses. I am not sure how many houses he has, but I see more each year. I also see more bluebirds each year. There is one road that will routinely have dozens of bluebirds flitting about from one side to the other in the spring and summer as a person drives by. One person, singlehandedly, has increased the bluebird population in our area by hundreds.
Animals such as the bald eagle and trumpeter swans have returned from the verge of extinction with the help of people providing habitat or making sure they had food during very bad winters. It has never been proven that DDT, the chemical used to protect people from the mosquito that carries malaria, had anything to do with endangering birds. It has been proven that providing protected habitat for them will ensure successful hatches and increase populations.
We can all do our part to make it a little easier for wildlife. If a person has land, seed is available from Pheasants Forever to make a food plot that will provide food and cover for game birds as well as song birds, deer and all kinds of other mammals. A brush pile left after cleaning up branches from a storm will provide a wind break for wildlife if left at the back corner of a person's yard. Feeding birds in the back yard gives a much-needed energy boost to the pretty little birds that do nothing but brighten our day on a cold winter morning.
Some people do a lot for conservation, such as restoring wetlands and some do just a little, like feeding the songbirds in their backyards. If we all do something, we will continue to increase the wildlife we enjoy, whether it is hunting or just staring blankly over a morning's cup of coffee.
Walter Scott is an outdoors enthusiast and freelance writer from Bloomfield, Iowa.