Photography courtesy of Lowell Washburn, all rights reserved.
It’s the 23rd of April. For today at least, it appears as if spring has finally arrived in Northern Iowa. With sunny skies and temperatures soaring into the lower 60s, we’ve melted a foot of snow during the last day and a half. About all that’s left now are a few scattered patches along the marsh edge and some rapidly disappearing mounds in rural road ditches.
Sequestered beneath a grass matt while sitting at the edge of the wetland, there is no lack of subjects to aim my camera at. When a flock of green-winged teal landed nearby, I lost no time in cautiously maneuvering my lens into position. Nervous and high strung, green-wings make challenging targets. But the grass quilt was doing its job and unaware of my presence, the ducks continued feeding down the shoreline toward my position. Before long, the beautiful little ducks had approached to within a few yards.
There were also a number of song sparrows energetically feeding along the water’s edge. As I was still observing the teal, some the sparrows approached to within inches of where I sat. I was amazed to observe that in addition to feeding along the shoreline, some of the sparrows were actually wading into the water to capture their dinner – some of the birds were actually plunging their entire heads beneath the surface to capture their prizes. Although the birds didn’t give me much of chance to view their captures, the tiny insects appeared to be some species of midge. It’s the only time I’ve seen – or heard of – song sparrows gathering food from beneath the water’s surface. Never fails. Spend a day in the outdoors, and you’re bound to see something new.
Another movement suddenly caught my eye. It was a huge, shed antlered white-tailed buck that had come in from behind and was now standing just yards away. I had the wind in my favor and the buck, just like the teal and sparrows, remained completely unaware of my presence. Big boned and massive in stature, the buck must have been a sight to behold during the peak of last November’s rut. Although last year’s antlers have now been discarded, I’m sure they were magnificent.
It was an incredible sight. As they methodically moved down the shoreline, the feeding green-wings were bursting with energy and color. By contrast, the old buck’s coat seemed dull and listless; his appearance gaunt and weary. Having endured double digit below zero temperatures before Christmas and a never-ending series of heavy snows late; it had been a long tough winter for the ancient warrior. But spring is the time of renewal; which is the exact tonic this old buck needs.