Spring Strolls…sometimes in a snowsuit

We were taking many spring strolls up until about a week ago…when the spring weather suddenly took a turn backwards & has been trying to reenter winter.  No snow, thank goodness, but it’s been too cold, much too WINDY, too rainy, too too yucky.  Uploading these photos this morning is making me miss spring…in May.

Weird Iowa/Midwest/Middle Lands weather is all I can say.

Harmon found a stick on this pre-Earth Day hike that he & I took one afternoon during the week before second naptime.  I found this picture-perfect patch of purple violets growing down by our creek under a still-dormant walnut tree.  Spirits were instantly lifted.  Made me very much appreciate my muddy slice of Iowa heaven…I reminded myself not every part of our property is covered in mud or chicken poo. 😉

The perfect capture!

Baby-bombed!

Hobbit hiking.

June, Harmon, & I took a separate hike one day after school while everyone else was at Coralee’s soccer game.

Mom, enough photos!

It was absolutely NOT cold enough for a snowsuit during this hike!  Harmon, however, is in love with his snowsuit & thinks if we put him in it he will automatically be allowed outside.  Snowsuit=outside time.  Smart one, that hobbit!

I hope we’re strolling into a stretch of better spring weather this week…no snowsuits required.

How’s the spring weather on your patch of earth?

Walking (with June), Walking (in an ice storm), Walking (with Harmon!)


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June has been feeling very lost/left behind the last few months & it only seems to be worsening…our house is definitely a very, very busy place & Harmon takes up a lot of my time, while the older two seem to take up a lot of Brian’s time when he’s not working [read: unpaid Uber drver!].  We’ve both been making an effort to spend some solitary time with June.  Iowa (& most of the Central U.S.) was hit with an ice storm over the weekend/Monday.  Iowa got a lot of rain, too, & June loves walking in the rain/puddles.  I took just her outside yesterday [MLK Day, a no school day] for a hike & she loved it as predicted.  I don’t think she wanted to go back inside despite her wet feet.

img_81731Coralee & Merritt spent much of the day playing with Legos.

img_81751It was pretty bad out there…

img_81471…but June & I persevered!

img_81171First we followed our silly goose Ferdie making her way back to the coop over the extremely icy ground…

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img_81231Ooops!  Goose down!

img_81241She made it back inside the warm coop safely, I promise!

img_81271Our ridiculous cat-food-eating, sneaking-into-the-garage-constantly Speckled Sussex ‘May’ got herself trapped downhill from the coop & would not be caught (June tried!), so we just chased her under Brian’s parked, non-operational truck & she stayed dry under there for most of the afternoon.  By the way, if anyone is in need of a free Speckled Sussex hen (she doesn’t lay eggs anymore, however, she’s too old), I can hook you up anytime!  Please.

img_81321June wanted her picture taken by her “outside Christmas tree”–a juniper [aka Eastern redcedar] volunteer in the yard.

img_81291Lots of ice on this tree.

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img_81351Our Prairie Creek tributary was running loudly for mid-January in Iowa.

img_81371This is our yard.

img_81361Flash creek that runs off the bordering field, across our front yard & into Prairie Creek along our southern boundary.  June loveslovesloves it when the flash creek shows up.  Her outerwear was soaking wet from icy rain by this point.

img_81381Um, we’re not going anywhere.

img_81421We found a yellow wooly bear caterpillar crawling on the glacial erratic that sits near our northern boundary.  June is a caterpillar/butterfly fanatic & was quite surprised to see this caterpillar crawling up the side of the rock in an ice storm, in Iowa, in January.

img_81391S/he was moving at a pretty good pace up this rock.

img_81431We pulled the dry grass back from the underside of the rock & tucked her/him underneath.  Hopefully s/he goes back to hibernating.  One life cycle of this species [a Virginia tiger moth as an adult] spends the winter hibernating.

img_81601Our culvert was clogged with ice, but flowing just the same.

img_81591I thought the reflections rather lovely.

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img_81481Back inside Harmon has been spending the last several days WALKING, too!  He mostly walks now!

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Over the weekend he started carrying things around with him as he walked.  He’s getting more confident!

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Mostly he walks around in half circles before falling over…his navigational skills are not developed yet. 😉

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I’ve noticed in the past week when I set him down he no longer collapses his legs to immediately assume crawling, his legs are stiff now & he’s ready to walk.  He keeps his arms mostly tucked up near his armpits like he’s a T-rex with tiny non-operational arms, it makes us all chuckle.  His legs are very bowed as he walks.

My baby is making the transition to toddler…

ekjp82101He’s quite proud of his walking!

We’ve been walking a lot here in Iowa despite the ice, just much more nimbly.  Buses were on hard-surface routes only today so Merritt & June are missing school.  Fingers crossed for lots of ice melting to take place ASAP as I can’t seem to exit my house without slipping/falling.  Yesterday I landed in a big pile of Ferdie poo & bruised myself in several places…I sat there looking at the faux glacier growing/flowing around me & wondered where the winters of my youth have gone?  I’d like to take a quiet walk in a fresh snowfall one of these days.

~How’s winter by you?~

Birds, Butterflies, & Treehouses :: A Saturday Well-Spent

(This post is a trifle late to print.)

A couple weekends ago–on July 11th–we had planned to spend the day in central Iowa on an Iowa Young Birders trip, but the trip was cancelled due to stormy weather. We were already packed up, in the car, & on the road when we got the cancellation call & since we’d already blocked the whole day out for the trip, we figured we’d head west anyway.

First stop–a birding spot in the southern part of our county (Benton) that Coralee & I have been meaning to visit for several months. Officially it’s called the Iowa River Corridor Central Wildlife Management Area-Hwy 21 Access. It’s a large hodge-podge swath of various public lands cobbled together along the river, surrounded by agricultural fields.  We picked up a fantastic county bird–Dickcissel.  It looks a lot like an Eastern Meadowlark, but smaller and more sparrow-like.  We counted 5 separate individuals & all were singing loudly & beautifully near the road.  Photos below were digiscoped by Coralee through binoculars, so a bit blurry.
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We had planned to eat lunch in Ames, Iowa (home of Iowa State University) at the Great Plains Sauce & Dough Co.–one of the first places Brian & I went on a date together in the spring of 2000.  The kids do not particularly like the pizza nor the atmosphere & always roll their eyes when we dine there (about once a year), but, hey, we were young & fun once, too!  We arrived in Ames a bit early for lunch, so went over to ISU’s Reiman Gardens.  The butterfly house was the highlight of the stop without a doubt.  June LOVES butterflies & could have lived in the building, I’m sure.
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We then toured the outside gardens for about an hour.  The kids loved the current exhibit–InTREEguing TREEhouses.  According to the website, visitors can “[e]xperience the beauty of the natural world from a new perspective with this interactive outdoor display featuring treehouses scattered throughout Reiman Gardens. Each playhouse showcases the talents of local architects and artists, and are inspired by a unique cultural or social event.”IMG_5079[1]

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World’s Largest CONCRETE Gnome!

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Our favorite treehouse–The Aviary.  It featured several pieces of artwork designed to resemble the real nests of various bird species.
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Before we departed the Gardens, we checked out the butterfly/moth incubator.  June was entranced.IMG_5158[1]

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Our last stop was the site of the planned Iowa Young Birders trip.  We didn’t get much chance to bird here due to the insane heat & humidty by mid-afternoon & also the proximity to June’s naptime.  It appears to be an excellent birding hotspot, we’ll have to visit again with more time (& less heat!).IMG_5160[1]

I think we made the most of a day interrupted! 🙂

Spring Birding & a Second Benton County ESO Red Morph

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©Coralee Bodeker

Coralee & I (sometimes June) have been parked on the side of this road multiple times this past week in both the early mornings and just before dusk, observing migrating waterfowl as they stop-over in the ditch slough. We’ve seen a lot of interesting ducks–Hooded Mergansers, American Wigeons, Wood Ducks, one male Canvasback, a bunch of Canada Geese, & our first-of-the-year Red-winged Blackbird (ok, not a duck). The best part? This slough is literally less than three miles from our house. Coralee calls it her “secret birding spot,” but a lot of people have probably seen our car parked on the side of the road & wondered what on earth we were doing (a shoulder is practically non-existent)…we’re not very good at keeping secrets.

Bald Eagle, Benton County

Bald Eagle, Benton County

We’ve seen several Bald Eagles in the vicinity of our house. There has to be an eagle nest somewhere nearby. The Cedar River is less than five miles away.

Bald Eagle on-nest; Black Hawk County

Coralee & I became certified DNR Volunteer Wildlife Monitors this past Saturday & visited one of our two Bald Eagle nests this morning. See the yellow beak peaking out of the nest above? This nest is on Wolf Creek in an adjacent county.  Our county, Benton County, is one of less than a handful of counties in Iowa that has ZERO confirmed Eagle nests…Iowa has 99 counties total. Coralee is determined to find at least one nest in Benton County before the summer is out.  We see Bald Eagles on a daily basis here, so it’s inconceivable that none of these adult birds are nesting nearby.

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Today in our own yard, along a small creek that feeds into the larger Prairie Creek, Coralee & Merritt literally stumbled upon an Eastern Screech-owl in a dead tree cavity.  And I do mean stumble.  They were looking for fossils at “Fossil Cross” (the best place to find fossils, I’m told, in our creek run) and happened to look above their heads and spotted a stunning red morph Eastern Screech-owl.  I previously posted on another rare sighting of this bird here.  Different individual.  Our ESO is quite a bit smaller, so we’re thinking it’s a male.  The one at the Benton County Nature Center has been deemed a female by the naturalists.

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There’s an Eastern Screech-owl somewhere in this photo…click on the photo to enlarge.

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Now do you see me?

 Left side of the photograph, in the focus circle.  Tufts!

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©Coralee Bodeker

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I see you!

 Incredible.  I still can’t believe we’ve now seen TWO of this color variation in our own county in about a month’s time.

Eastern Screech-owl (red morph); Benton County

Eastern Screech-owl (red morph); Benton County. Look at those talons! Such a small bird, but he’s tough.

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Eastern Screech-owl silhouette.

 We attempted to remain calm & quiet, but after hauling the scope into the creek* (through brush, under an old barbed wire fence, over slipperly creek rocks, across mud–always mud at our house), obviously he was onto us.  He allowed us at least a 10 minute view & then flew to a nearby tree.  Coralee has instructed us all that we are NOT to enter the creek anymore looking for him.  She wants him to stay in our yard.  If we want to check the tree cavity we must do so from the yard itself with binoculars.

I think we’re raising ourselves a birder here.

*I had sweet potato tots cooking in the oven & Brian had polish on the grill when Coralee came vaulting into the house yelling at me, breathlessly, “there’s a red morph Eastern Screech-owl in the creek, come on!!!!”  For a split second I thought maybe she was kidding…but she ran back out the door.  I rushed into the garage, threw on slop boots, searched the car for the scope, & sprinted down the front hill after her.  Food be damned!  There’s an owl in the creek! 😉

Wash Away Winter, wash away

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Always carry a big stick.

Always carry a big stick.

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“There’s lots of creeks in our yard,” June told me Sunday afternoon as we took a hike.

Snowmelt is filling Prairie Creek & rushing fast across the western slope out front.

June’s ski trail has given up, only weak prints whisper in the slushy snow now.

An icy tide pool has appeared along the southern field edge.  Perfect for exploring & getting your mittens sopping.

Winter is washing away & I can feel spring hovering nearby.

Sometimes it’s fun to put on a pair of galoshes & explore the puddles & pools as a child would…especially if you take a child along on your trek & let it be.  Let it be, Ruby.  I think I need to be told that more.

The melt water is cold, so cold, shocking when you dip your fingers in it.

I waded too deep & some got in my boots.  June said it was ok.

I totally believed her.

*

Has winter begun to wash away where you are?

Ramble at Dusk

“Man always kills the thing he loves, and so we the pioneers have killed our wilderness. Some say we had to. Be that as it may, I am glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in…

Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?”

–Aldo Leopold, 1949

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Amen, Aldo.
Thanks for always keeping Leopold’s words alive for me, Dad.

~=~=~

Rambling at dusk in the marshy prairie in Dudgeon Lake State Wildlife Management Area (Iowa).
I hope my American friends found time to ramble post-Thanksgiving, too. xx