April Awakening?

It’s been dull as tombs around here for most of March, I apologize!  Harmon was SICK.  I was SICK.  I missed posting about Harmon’s favorite things at 15 months as a result.  My goal is to post about Month 16 this week.  Fingers crossed the sickness train has departed for good now.  I’m still waiting on a call from my P.A. as to whether or not I truly broke/fractured a rib due to my incessant coughing over the course of three+ weeks.  I cannot believe I may have broke a rib as a result of coughing…the pain is so horrid, however, I absolutely believe it!  

Yesterday we visited the nearby Dudegon Wildlife Management Area to bird and hike.  Collectively we saw 19 species of birds including three Golden-crowned Kinglets, many Green-winged Teal, two Eastern Meadowlarks singing their hearts out, & a Yellow-rumped Warbler (photo below).  Iowa has been stuck in a literal cloud bank for over a week now…if we don’t get some sun soon I’m afraid the seedlings Coralee started for our garden this summer will get too leggy and die.  Pray for sun!  We all need an April Awakening!

Harmon’s cap is about the only knitting I’ve completed in weeks–another Garter Ear Flap Cap using Quince & Co’s newest le Blue Heathers collection.  I hope you’ll stay in touch with the blog this month despite my almost complete absence last month…lots to announce & some big changes in the Bodeker household taking place this summer!  Happy April!


February Heatwave

To say it’s been warm in Iowa the last few days is an understatement.  This is a heatwave!  I feel like it’s the end of April and I need to be out in the garden.  Iowa weather is very tricky.  It will probably snow next week.  Harmon is sure enjoying his first steps–literally–outside the past two days.  He was wary at first, but quickly took off & wandered aimlessly (or maybe not?) all over the yard.  He is still unsteady on his feet & fell over as much as he remained upright.  We discovered he is afraid of the dogs up close, would like to catch one of the cats, & doesn’t really care about the chickens up close, either.  

He’s telling me all about the rooster crowing in this photo.This is Louisa.  One of our favorite chickens at the moment.

On Saturday we headed east to the Mississippi River in Davenport for an Iowa Young Birders trip on Credit Island.  Lots of Ring-billed Gulls & Bald Eagles.June found many gull feathers + she was wearing her new spring jacket resplendent with flying gulls so she wanted her photo taken in front of a large flock of gulls hanging out on the ice.I’m posing, Mama, snap the photo!

Harmon’s first time on a swing!

Later we swung by the University of Iowa to pick up Harmon’s godmother (& cousin) Miss Bailey for lunch at our favorite place Sutliff Bridge & Tavern.  I’ve blogged about Sutliff several times over the years.Quizzing June on her bird knowledge.Harmon is generally very very wary of people other than his mama & Coralee, but he took to Bailey straight off!  So sweet! ❤Happy Weekend Warmth!

Artwork Auction for Conservation: The American Kestrel


“Vanishing in Plain Sight” by Coralee Bodeker

This is a “guest” blog post from my eldest, Coralee.  She writes a semi-monthly essay/column titled “A Prairie Girl’s Notebook” for both our local county conservation newsletter & for her email list of readers.  She’s been writing/illustrating the column since the fall of 2013 (when she began her homeschooling).  This particular essay is about a North American bird species–the American Kestrel, one of her [& my] favorites.  If you’d like to own a high-quality canvas print of the above drawing of an American Kestrel [with his second foot tucked up into his feathers–she gets asked about his “one foot” a lot], be sure to read to the very end of the post today!  Thank you!

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

A Prairie Girl’s Notebook, Issue 23

January 5, 2017

Kestrels, An Iowa Legacy

A few years ago, a short drive down my gravel road would yield at least one, if not two, American Kestrels perched on a power line or hovering mid-air above the grassy ditch. These vibrantly colored, miniature falcons peppered the roadsides, diving into ditches whenever a car passed. Today, Iowa still hosts a breeding and wintering population of American Kestrels, but I have begun to count myself lucky to drive past a mere one kestrel per week rather than the daily sightings. This same scarcity has been occurring across the state; anecdotally, many birders are noticing fewer and fewer American Kestrels in their local areas, while hard data from formal Hawkwatch sites illustrates a steady decline. Scientists and raptor counters at Hitchcock Nature Center in Pottawattamie County (Iowa’s only full-time Hawkwatch site) have recorded an overall downward trend in migrating American Kestrel populations for the past decade.  In our neighboring state, the Illinois Beach State Park Hawkwatch has recorded similar data trends. To put this in perspective, despite a considerable rise in contributing datasets, Bird Studies Canada also shows a downward drift in American Kestrel numbers since the 1950s and a recent nosedive spanning the past decade—Bird Studies Canada draws these numbers from a bank of over 7.6 million North American bird surveys including Hawkwatch counts, annual Christmas Bird Counts, FeederWatch reports, eBird surveys, and breeding bird surveys, to name a few. The decline in the American Kestrel population has been slowly looming, but it wasn’t until last fall that I truly noticed the scarcity in my own area. No breeding pairs nested near my neighbor’s prairie last summer for the first time in at least eight years.

Possibly the biggest hazard for American Kestrels to overcome today is the loss of their precious habitat. The once large expanses of pastures and prairies sufficient to sustain hunting American Kestrels have been crammed into roadside ditches as more and more land in Iowa is converted to farming.  More importantly, however, their nesting sites are being diminished. American Kestrels normally nest in dead trees on the edges of open grassland, but these trees are being removed (for a variety of reasons) and local American Kestrels are scattering to the wind. This species has more recently tried moving into towns and out of the rural areas in an effort to overcome habitat loss, but in towns American Kestrels face the threat of larger birds of prey, specifically the Cooper’s Hawk which will eat a kestrel.

A further danger facing American Kestrels is a decline in flying insect populations, which kestrels depend on to feed their young. A few years ago, when Iowans filled their cars up with gas they routinely wiped down their windshields to clean off the copious amounts of smashed bugs, but today many Iowans are finding the need for a Casey’s squeegee quite unnecessary.  I hadn’t given this conundrum much thought until rather recently when I obtained my learner’s permit to drive.  A disturbing example of how an often-overlooked animal can disappear literally before our eyes.

With fewer Kestrels around my home, I wonder what has happened to their daring aerial displays, their hunting chases and jaw-dropping turns and dives I’m so used to watching? What has happened to the American Kestrels that once lined the roads and swooped out over the fields as cars passed? Did these birds simply disappear over the horizon to some distant state? Will the same thing happen to the American Kestrel that has already happened to so many other North American raptors, suddenly plummeting off the population charts like the Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, and Osprey did so many years ago (albeit for other reasons)? Or will insightful, smart, compassionate people step in to save the American Kestrel before that last-hour collapse?  My hope is we can help the American Kestrel in time.  Iowa needs American Kestrels like we need the prairies and clean water.  This is Iowa.  This is our legacy.

 ‘A Prairie Girl’s Notebook’ is inspired by ‘A Naturalist’s Notebook’ penned by John Schmitt & found in the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Living Bird journal.

If you would like to own a high-quality 12-inchX16-inch canvas print of the American Kestrel I drew for this essay and support American Kestrel conservation and research at the same time, PLEASE consider participating in my eBay auction (an eBay account is required in order to bid).  All proceeds from the auction will be split evenly between the Pottawattamie Conservation Foundation (funds earmarked for the Hitchcock Hawkwatch) and also The Peregrine Fund’s American Kestrel Partnership which works to advance conservation of the American Kestrel.  The auction runs for seven days and can be found using this web address: https://tinyurl.com/jfkf42c


Canvas up for auction.


Entry on the American Kestrel from Coralee’s Field Notebook.


Chi, Dora.  “Tracking Kestrels One Feather at a Time.”  Audubon.  National Audubon Society, 18 Aug. 2016, http://www.audubon.org/news/tracking-kestrels-one-feather-time.  5 Jan. 2017.

Davis, Kate.  American Kestrel: Pint-Sized Predator.  Mountain Press Publishing Company, 2014.

HawkCount.  Hawk Migration Association of North America, www.hawkcount.org.  Accessed 5 Jan 2017.

NatureCounts.  Bird Studies Canada, http://www.bsc-eoc.org/birdmon/default/main.jsp3. Accessed 5 Jan. 2017.

Toll, Jerry.  Iowa Young Birders Trip to Hitchcock Hawk Watch/Hitchcock Nature Area, 24 Sept. 2016, Hitchcock Nature Center, IA.  Address.

Field of Broken Dreams

All winter long and well into the spring of this year, we’ve been lucky enough to observe a large group of turkeys around our property–two adult females & their offspring, roughly eleven birds in total. They’ve been in our front yard, in the alfalfa field to our north, gobbling in the woods to our south & east, out on the driveway & down on the main road. Such a treat! We even witnessed an impressive courtship display play out just beyond our front windows on the lawn by three tom turkeys for an audience of extremely uninterested hens.

This past Wednesday, after walking with the girls & Harmon to pick up Merritt from the bus, we all headed back into the recently-cut alfalfa field for a hike. We saw a crazy amount of birds including Barn Swallows, Dickcissels, Red-winged Blackbirds, Crows, Kildeer, Vultures, even a Cooper’s Hawk overhead. As the kids were taking off across the field after a Kildeer, they stumbled upon a turkey nest decimated by both the tractor that had cut the alfalfa & area scavengers who took care of most of the hen’s body (all that was left were her feet) & probably the contents of the broken eggs. So many feelings bubbled up, ranging from thankfulness for the farmer who leases the land that he chose to plant alfalfa & not the typical corn (which provides ZERO habitat for much of anything in the Midwest) to pure anger that this hen was only trying to raise her brood in what appeared to be a hospitable habitat among the acres & acres & ACRES of corn around here, only to have her efforts (& her life) pulverized in an instant.

IMG_4462[1]Merritt made a spear with thorns from a tree.
IMG_4547[1]Stumbling upon the nest site.IMG_4541[1]


IMG_4540[1]Coralee counted at least seven eggs in various fractured stages.

IMG_4543[1]So many beautiful feathers doth a seemingly plain turkey harbor.
IMG_4542[1]June was quite sad about the whole situation as she has loved spotting the turkeys from our windows.IMG_4545[1]We left the feathers, by the way; it is illegal under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to collect feathers.  On Friday the farmer baled the alfalfa–the feathers, feet, & nest contents were bound up into future cattle feed.  Makes me wonder what else ends up in those bales…

IMG_4538[1]We are in Iowa so I think it’s fitting to title this photo Field of Dreams.IMG_4546[1]Harmon snoozed through the entire hike.IMG_4548[1]It was a great hike, broken dreams & all.

Never a dull moment…{warning: dead bird photos ahead}

I never got around to posting a Yarn Along post yesterday, sadly 😦  I blame the fact that I’ve really knit nothing worth posting about (five garter stitch ridges, woo hoo!), but also because it is always just plain old nuts around the Bodeker homestead & only seems to be getting more so with each passing day.  Seriously, never a dull moment.  Can you relate?  I’ve included some snapshots of my immediate surroundings…

Hambone broth bubbling in the kitchen all morning.

Hambone broth bubbling in the kitchen all morning.  Because I need to grocery shop!  This was an Easter ham…

Knitting waiting to be knit...now smells like hambone broth!

Knitting waiting to be knit, I’m sure this knitting wants to break up with me & find a better knitting owner…and now it smells like hambone broth!

Fossil soaking on my counter; chicken scrap bucket needs emptying yesterday.

Random fossil soaking on my counter (kids!); chicken scrap bucket needed emptying yesterday.

Dishwasher's been broke for almost a year...dishes never seem to be done...it's like I own a bottomless sink...no, wait, I figured it out, I have four kids.

Dishwasher’s been broke for almost a year…dishes never seem to be done…it’s like I own a bottomless sink…no, wait, I figured it out, I have four kids.

My kitchen counter. Piles and more piles. I need to do something about this. I also spy iced coffee I probably finished 12 hours after making it & Hydrogen Peroxide for the cat's leg wound...maybe I should use it to cover some of these grey hairs sprouting all over my head.

My kitchen counter. Piles and more piles. I need to do something about this. I also spy the remnants of iced coffee I probably finished 12 hours after making it & Hydrogen peroxide for the cat’s leg wound…maybe I should use it to cover some of these grey hairs sprouting all over my head.

Diaper laundry. The laundry is never done. How do people with more than four kids ever have clean clothes???? I feel like we are just barely making it on the clean clothes front.

Diaper laundry. The laundry is never done. How do people with more than four kids ever have clean clothes???? I feel like we are just barely making it on the clean clothes front.

Now I’ll explain the dead bird.  I have a knack for spotting dead stuff on the road…no kidding!  For example, I found a dead coyote a few months ago near our home on a random backroad (I was driving around aimlessly during naptime) & so so SO wanted Brian to pick it up for me (it was a coyote!).  I love coyotes, I don’t care that they eat our chickens, which they do…we’ve obliterated/exterminated/pushed-out practically every other large predator in the Midwest, coyotes remain despite our needless war & “best” efforts…more power to these amazing creatures!  Anyway, Brian said no.  I also found a smashed (sad!) White-breasted Nuthatch three days ago…I tried to get Coralee to bring it back to our house, she refused…it was really bloody, I agree.

So, yesterday, I spotted an American Coot on our road, dead.  WEIRD!  We are at least a mile and a half from the nearest water source for waterfowl.  There is a continuing flock of American Coots in said nearest water source, but why this coot wound up dead on our road is anyone’s guess.  It has no obvious injuries, no blood, nothing.  We took it to our local County Conservation office yesterday afternoon for them to taxidermy.  Their Nature Center doesn’t have an American Coot yet in the displays so they were quite thrilled to receive our find.  I hate seeing wildlife dead on the road, makes me sad, but it’s also a reliable source of food for vultures & other carrion-eating animals/birds.  We filthy the Earth, they clean it up, unpaid, unappreciated, often run over themselves.  Thank you, wildlife!  American Coots are magnificent–really!  I never realized this until seeing one up close.  I honestly thought they were ugly & not worth my birding time…I feel poorly writing that now.  Photos below prove my newly-found respect for the American Coot & I hope you agree. 🙂

American Coot, deceased.

American Coot in a shoe box, deceased.

You are absolutely looking at a future wildlife biologist in this photo...possibly a professional ornithologist...she's so cool! I can't believe she's my kid, how did I get so lucky????

You are absolutely looking at a future wildlife biologist in this photo…possibly a professional ornithologist…she’s so cool! I can’t believe she’s my kid, how did I get so lucky????  I am not this cool.

American Coot; these feet are insane! It's like a dinosaur!

American Coot; these feet are insane! It’s like a dinosaur!

American Coot; I never realized how beautiful these tiny, scrappy waterfowl were until now.

American Coot; I never realized how beautiful these tiny-noggin-ed, scrappy waterfowl were until now.

I’m telling ya, never a dull moment.  In a good way!

Lately…{photo heavy}

This is basically a post where I throw everything-but-the-kitchen-sink in because I cannot find the time to blog (or shower) lately without Harmon wailing at me.  He learned to really holler last week Monday–I mean holler at me (us) with purpose, but also coo at us with purpose & babble loudly at us.  It is actually quite awesome, but as he is still not napping much, either, blogging time is nonexistent.  This large dump of photos is about the equivalent of four or five posts I planned to write–so here’s your second “photo-heavy” warning! IMG_3239[1]
Our dogs found a rabbit nest near our compost pile (which is roughly 20-30 yards from their kennels) & obliterated it.  They, along with our cat Socks, killed several of the bunnies.  Coincidentally, we also found a dead adult rabbit in one of our gutter drainage hoses this week (drowned, apparently, in the deluge we received), so perhaps that was the mother.  In any case, this bunny was in Sock’s mouth.  It is in good shape now & Coralee plans to release it today or tomorrow, down the drive from our homestead (away from our dogs/cats).  It may seem really small, but it is the right size to be able to survive on its own, hoping it does.

I have no time to cook/bake lately…again, Harmon is so cute, isn’t he?  Ha!  I am trying to make really easy dinners.  Last night was leftover ham, Irish Soda Bread, hardboiled eggs, cheese, fruit, etc.  I ate way too much.Our new cat Prairie (born July 2015–adopted in late summer after I accidentally ran over our female cat, Pepper) was injured by something this week.  Big puncture wound in the back of his back right leg.  This photo is from before the injury.  Racked up a huge vet bill having him treated for it.  He is improving, thankfully.IMG_3252[1]Ferdie, our goose, is molting again.








IMG_3261[1]Girls being goofy.


IMG_3262[1]Birding at the bus stop.

Harmon tagged along a few weeks ago while Coralee monitored one of our Bald Eagle nests.Hard to discern in this photo, but there is an eagle on the nest!
How Harmon birds when it’s freezing & the wind is blowing like a freight train.  Seems to happen a lot in Iowa.IMG_3267Bird blind at Ham Marsh in Buchanan County.  We saw two Sandhill Cranes on the edge of the prairie pond here–they were bugling very loudly, we could hear them as we came down the trail.  Impressive!
Harmon nursing in a bird blind for the first time. #milestone

ⒸCoralee Bodeker

ⒸCoralee Bodeker: Brown Creeper

Lately we’ve done a lot of neat things, I must admit, but it sure takes a lot more planning with Harmon in tow.

Lately is good.  Hope your lately is good, too!

Yarn Along {our days, the fourth trimester}

Our fourth trimester days don’t include much knitting (as is to be expected), but I did manage to finish an Aviatrix cap for Harmon this past weekend & somehow sewed the pearly antique buttons on it yesterday…in-between fits of crying & epic nursing sessions & five-minute baby naps.

I knit a tiny pair of fingerless gloves eons ago for my etsy shop that went unsold–a tiny treasure knit in Madelinetosh that fits Harmon perfectly (& basically acts as a pair of mittens at this point…which is good as he has the tendency to scratch his face).

I also change a lot of diapers.  A LOT.  I thought it quite poetic that his cloth diapers (Sustainablebabyish Snapless Minis) match the yarns I’ve been working with these days.

This blue-green Belize skein of Quince & Co Chickadee has been following me around inside various bags for months…it’s time it became a soft, squishy hat for Harmon.  Or maybe June.  Not sure yet…I’ll probably carry it around for another string of months…

Harmon has broke out in a horrible red, raw, peeling, weeping rash all over his face (this is in addition to his baby acne).  His pediatrician thinks it’s a combination eczema/cradle cap rash (yes, on his face).  It flared up something awful overnight Monday night.  Woke up Tuesday to a swollen-shut left eye & a close second right.  He was basically a pile of misery all day Tuesday.  Cried most of the day…or nursed…or poo’d…or tried to nap, but kept waking himself up with gas.

 I’ve been drinking gallons of tea & living in the rocking chair in our room & armchair birding.  The birding scope is set up in the master bedroom now so it’s quite easy to watch the feeders.  Most times my tea gets reheated in the microwave like eight billion times before I finally manage the time to finish it.

A new feeder bird appeared on Tuesday–a Song Sparrow.  Coralee was rather pleased to add this species to our Feederwatch data this season.  A second showed up later in the day.

Coralee.  Data driven.  She went outside several times & played owl calls in the vicinity of the feeders, hoping to attract a perturbed Brown Creeper–no luck, yet.

My days are filled with diapers.  But at least when you use cloth/wool they’re cute to look at…& fold.  

Harmon is fitting better in our Tula this week & THANK GOD as he’s not really happy at all & I have four kids to take care of & only two hands.

This is the little sprite I’m worried about…she told me recently, “Harmon took all my ‘tention [attention].”  But she also said he needs lots of ‘tention so it’s ok.  She’s just too young to hang with the big kids all the time & waiting for Harmon to grow up & be her best friend [her words] is hard.

A Lady-in-Waiting.

Our days are just packed, as Calvin would say [Calvin & Hobbes], but it seems nothing gets done.  Fourth trimester problems.  I am trying very hard to drink it all in…

Joining in with Ginny.