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Time flies when you’re having fun

It’s said that time flies when you’re having fun. I must be having fun, because this summer is zipping past at what seems to be breathtaking speed. Wasn’t it just a couple of columns ago that I mentioned that I was looking forward to mowing and actually enjoyed it? It seems all my yard birds just started nesting, but with the exception of the house wrens (probably their third brood) and the barn swallows (their second brood), they’re all pretty much done. The sun isn’t up yet as this week’s column is being written. It’s been a time I often enjoy listening to the bird chorus, but only a single distant cardinal was giving a half-hearted effort at any song when I went out to feed the birds.

Other signs abound that summer is fleeting by. I noticed goldenrods in full bloom during a recent trip to Minnesota. I struggled to identify a couple of warblers there before I realized that they were already molting into their less striking fall plumage. There’s a large marsh just south of Clear Lake on the west side of I-35. A small gathering of white pelicans was there and quite a few small ducks that were almost certainly blue-winged teal. They’re the first ducks to gather in flocks for the fall migration. Even the red-winged blackbirds that seemed to decorate every other fence post along our highways were fewer and farther between as they, too, begin gathering in flocks prior to migration.

As if to emphasize that fall things are beginning to occupy people’s thoughts, I got a call last night asking about when the next hunter safety classes were going to occur. The Ames Izaak Walton League is offering a traditional ten-hour course later this month. It’s a well-taught program at a very nice facility. The crew of instructors there have many years of experience. Enrollment is limited, though, and people interested in that course need to get signed up right away. Each student must “open an account” with the Iowa DNR through their online registration service before they can enroll in a class. Students must be at least eleven-years-old to register, and can complete the class. Certification will not be issued until the student reaches their twelfth birthday, though.

Hunter education certification can be obtained though one of four class types. The traditional course (like that taught at Ames Ikes) includes a minimum of ten hours of instruction, including the testing phase. A student can take an online course, and then has a year to attend a field day where hands-on training takes place. There’s an entirely online course that doesn’t require attendance at a field day, but that’s limited to persons at least 18 years of age. There’s also a test-out option available, but it requires passing a much longer and more challenging written test. All regular courses and field days being offered in Iowa are listed on the DNR’s web site. Some courses aren’t listed until a few weeks before the program, though, so it may be necessary to check several times to find a course that fits your schedule. Again, it’s important to get signed up well before the course dates, because many courses fill up rapidly.

There are still a lot of things I hope to accomplish before summer is over. There are still several kinds of garden produce to harvest and some home-improvement projects still need doing. The little fishing boat hasn’t been on the water near enough, yet, either. That said, I, too, am beginning to think about fall and all it will bring. How boring life would be without our seasons!

(Steve Lekwa is retired Story County Conservation director. He lives in Nevada.)

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