Washington Evening Journal

Fairfield Ledger   Mt. Pleasant News
Neighbors Growing Together | Aug 21, 2018

Tracks and Tales: Spring Awakenings

By Steve Anderson

Most Washington County residents would likely testify that spring arrived here during the weekend of March 7.  This would be based upon the fact that it was more than 60 degrees warmer than the week prior, which means it was 60 degrees!  Magnificently, that same trend continued resulting in the ice that was 12 inches thick being totally gone from our ponds in less than one week.  None of us are going to love the next cold front!
Spring for wildlife, however, is highly variable as to when it has or will arrive.  As an example, many of the predatory raptor species are already incubating their eggs while it will be numerous weeks before the hummingbirds arrive.  This leads each of us to be able to decide which of the many signs of spring we consider “the one” for us.  
For me, my bird of spring is the oriole, based upon the fact that I have never seen an oriole in the snow.  My plant indicator is the oak leaves, for when they get to be the size of a squirrel’s ear I will be picking morels.  I love all the fish, but am mostly addicted to the crappies- which go on a spawning rampage as the water approaches 60 degrees.  
As you can likely tell, spring for me will be a while yet.  Fortunately, I truly love all of the seasons in Iowa- including this one no matter which one “this one” is.  Changing location to change climates is for the birds!
Calls and visits to our office and our parks are increasing rapidly.  Our citizens, patrons, and friends are now finalizing plans for the many and varied services that we offer.  We are excited to tell our camping customers that the water will be turned on as soon as the weather permits (estimate April 15), and that we have made some needed improvements in the shower facility.  Shelter-house-use patrons are calling to complete the booking for their family reunions, graduations, wedding, or other event.
Fishermen are already trekking to the Mississippi River to pursue the colder water species of fish that pile up below the dams this time of year.  Others are visiting ponds all over Washington County, catching bass on slow-moving baits as they feed in a frenzy after the ice goes off.  The WCCB manages a number of good bets, and I suggest Crawford Pond, Thomas Marr Lake, Schmitter, and Foster ponds to get you started.
Our Clemons Creek Shooting Range is also experiencing increased usage, and for this one we need your help.  If you are one of our certified users, please assist us in catching and prosecuting some vandals out there.  These people are leaving huge amounts of litter and shooting off the support posts for the pallets donated to us to serve as target holders.  We highly doubt they are certified, a requirement to even be in there, and they are making a mess of your facility on a regular basis.
Our management staff has completed preparation, and will now begin conducting prescribed burns (Marr Park Public Night Burn April 10) as well as a host of other spring improvement and management items.  We are hiring our seasonal positions (job information in our office) and preparing for even more public activity.
We hope that this season finds you healthy, happy, and in the mood to visit us soon and often!