“Something Going On in that Tree”
Guest Blog by Wahneta Dimmer
Todd and I sat at the breakfast table – coffee for me and a coca cola for him – looking out the sliding glass doors at the backyard and out into the park beyond. As he half read the newspaper Todd said, “Hey, look in the tree, there is a big bird sitting on that lower branch.” It took me a minute to find the object he was focusing on but sure enough, there in the early morning light, sat a large bird shadowed by snow-covered branches. We are accustomed to having many small birds visit our feeders throughout the winter but to see a predatory bird is rare. And so low and close to the house, seemingly eyeing the park for prey, is exceptional! We watched for a while before going on about our morning.
Both the kids were spending their third day home from school, recovering from a winter virus, not too sick to stay in bed but just miserable enough to lay low. Kael was standing at the same sliding glass doors when he excitedly exclaimed, “There is a fight or something going on in that tree, Mom.” I told him about the large bird his dad and I had seen earlier in the morning. As we watched, snow was flying out of the upper branches and cascading downward. Kael imagined the bird duking it out with a squirrel! Suddenly, the bird dropped from the tree and flopped into the snow. I said to Kael that it looked like a red-tailed hawk. He wasn’t sure he agreed but we thought we should investigate.
Reconnaissance, Research and Rescue
We both hastily bundled up and headed out across the backyard. As we approached the landing zone, the bird jumped away dragging a wing with him. Kael and I agreed on two things: positively a red-tailed hawk and clearly, injured. Knowing any attempt to get closer would exhaust its remaining reserves, we retreated to the house and called for backup. Kael researched online what to do with an injured raptor and settled on the RARE program. According to their website, the program focuses on rescue, triage and long term medical treatment of injured, sick and distressed raptors. Todd and the kids asked for advice on how to gently capture the bird and safely transfer it to the Iowa City facility. They settled on a wool blanket and dog carrier and as the best options.
True to February in Iowa, it was sunny and brisk with temperatures in the mid 30s and a breeze that made you think is was much cooler. Todd, Kael and Ava headed out into the park just after lunch to relocate the missing, injured raptor. The guys went to the right toward the ball diamond while Ava intuitively chose to head out the gate to the left. Within minutes, Ava located the injured hawk resting at the base of a crab apple tree. She called the guys over, and taking the advice of the RARE associate, they got just close enough to toss the wool blanket gently over the hawk and then Todd scooped him up! The poor bird was so cold and tired, he didn’t even fuss when they put him in the dog carrier, covered him up again and closed the door. As they drove to Iowa City, they wondered aloud what had happened to it and whether it would recover.
When they arrived at RARE, rehabilitator, Nikki Herbst, greeted them, assessed the newest arrival, determining it probably was a male hawk, and told them about what the rehab center does. She even introduced them to some of the permanent residents, those too injured to be released into the wild. “Miss Nikki” wasn’t too optimistic as she assessed the hawk. It seemed too weak to stand on its own, much less eat.
Ava Rare Champion Hawk Award
She was kind enough to award the kids with a RARE Wildlife Champion Award and thanked them for their service. Her parting words were, “No news is good news,” meaning she would only call us if he died. If he were to be released, it would be done with discretion at the same place that the bird was found.
Five weeks later, much to our surprise, we received a joyous call from “Miss Nikki.” She was eager to share the news that our hawk rescue was successful, and he was ready to be released. She wondered if we would like to participate?! She went on to say that he was back to his feisty self and flying around the indoor enclosure as high to the ceiling as he could. He was completely recovered from his injury, a broken femur! We agreed on a time with the place predetermined, the park – just outside our backyard.
Dimmer family with Nikki and hawk
After a few family pictures and with the hawk in a box, “Miss Nikki” coaxed the Red-Tailed Hawk from his cardboard carrier and invited him to see again the park and his home. With a count of one, two and three, she encouraged him into the air and off he flew. He paused for a moment at the top of an oak tree before taking off across the park.
Three cheers for the Red-Tailed Hawk, for lessons learned and for good deeds done!
We have a RARE chance to help out: The Raptor Advocacy Rehabilitation & Education (RARE) is based out of Iowa City and is a 501c3 organization. For more information please visit their website at www.theraregroup.org
Photo Journey of Release
Ava by carrier.
The Dimmer family watches as Nikki brings hawk out of the carrier.
Hawk out of box
Woman hold hawk
Ava, Todd, Kael, “Miss Nikki” and hawk.
Hawk in tree
This blog from Community Playthings caught the eye of Winding Pathways. Indeed, today’s society is too concerned with correctness, cleanliness, and convention. A Buddhist saying goes something like this: spend twenty minutes outside everyday. If you think you are busy, spend an hour. At Winding Pathways we find this to be true. No matter the weather we try to get outside to see the sun or stars or clouds; to experience the wind or cold or heat; to feel the rain or snow on us. We keep our bearings, feel the roughness and gentleness of the environment and learn. Observe the changes of the seasons, find your Cardinal Points using the sun and structures, listen for the birds, watch the sky. Be. Above all, let kids be kids to slop around, spin, jump, tumble, get filthy dirty and then enjoy a warm bath and fresh clothes with a cup of hot chocolate and conversation. Go Outside and Play!
Almost all substances contract as they get colder. There’s one notable exception and it enables life.
Ice expands and floats
As water cools, it gets denser. As the temperature continues to drop, cold surface water sinks to the bottom. When the lake’s surface water reaches 39 degrees Fahrenheit something amazing happens. As weather continues to get colder it expands. When it turns to ice it expands even more! That’s why ice floats. If it didn’t, ponds and lakes would completely freeze and nothing could live in a solid block of ice.
Ice floating on a lake moderates the temperature of the water beneath it. Although the air temperature may be below zero above the ice the water beneath it is never below freezing. That’s why fish, frogs, and other aquatic organisms can not only live but also bask in the relative warmth of the water while terrestrial animals are forced to survive in arctic cold.
This phenomenon makes ice fishing possible. The following blog was written by a friend who took her children fishing one cold morning.
Ice Fishing With Kids
Story and photos of people
by: Kelly Carr
“They weren’t budging. Even with the overhead light flipped on, gentle shoulder shakes, and promises of the fun they would have, my kids feigned sleep. It was 7:00 a.m. on New Year’s Eve, and it had been about a year since our last ice fishing attempt. This particular day was the sixth of a seven day stretch of the new shared-custody arrangement I had with my daughter and son’s father. As if putting them through a divorce wasn’t guilt-inducing enough, now I was trying to drag them out of the security of their warm beds. My mind drifted back to the present – if I could just get them going, I knew they would have a great time. So, I played the “Let’s Get Donuts On The Way” card. Sleeping forms shifted, eyelids sprung open. We were out the door in fifteen minutes, teeth unbrushed, bedhead tucked under stocking caps, and feet snuggled into a double layer of socks.”
Donut Bribery works!
“I’ve tried to raise kids who feel comfortable in nature. Driving to the park for the ice fishing clinic, the car filled with the smell of maple frosting. I mused silently upon some of our past outdoor adventures. We have been geocaching newbies, tramping at a roadside park, looking for a “small bison container”, which, as it turned out, was NOT a buffalo figurine after all! We’ve packed picnics into cemeteries, and talked oaks and stones and stories while we ate.
“A voice from behind jostled me back to the present. I passed a cappuccino to waiting hands in the backseat and then pointed up to a hillside, “Look – a cemetery!” My daughter protested, “Not today, Mom! Ugh!” You win some, you lose some.
The Outdoor Thing
“We wound through the park to the shore. After a quick presentation by a naturalist and distribution of fishing guides, bait and poles, we were set. My kids chose spots not too far away from their last year’s spots, got settled in on mats and sipped from their gas station cups while waiting for spring-bobbers to bob. The sun made things sparkle, and as I looked at them handling things and sitting in peace, I knew I had nothing to feel guilty about. Tummies full, bundled in warm layers, taking a chance on adventure, we were doing this “outdoors thing”. And we were finding our new “normal” while doing it. They each pulled two fish out of the water that morning before asking to go back to the car to listen to music. I consider that as success.
A warm bed is no match for the coolness of catching a panfish in winter.
“I had a few moments to myself out on the ice, to take it all in. Even when life changes, there are constants we can count on. The fish may not always bite, but while the sky is above and the earth (or ice) is below, I am a mother who loves her kids.”
Here is a great link to Community Playthings an organization that encourages families, grandparents and kids to do cool activities outside all year! Read their blog “Bundle Up and Get Outside.”
Winding Pathways will soon a feature a guest blogger’s adventures with her kids outside ice fishing.
Soft and fragrant underfoot, clovers naturally fix nitrogen in our lawns.
A man whom Rich hadn’t seen for years recently approached him in a parking lot. “You once wrote a newspaper column suggesting that people not spray their yards for insects or weeds. We took your advice and magic happened,” he said.
He explained that a couple of years after he stopped spraying, white clover appeared in the yard and fireflies graced the evening darkness. “We’re enjoying both,” he added.
A major problem with poison sprays is that they aren’t usually selective. Often people spray to rid their lawn of grubs without realizing they also are killing fireflies, pollinators, and a host of other interesting and beneficial insects and the animals that dine on them. If you poison dandelions, you also kill clover that fixes nitrogen naturally and a wide range of other flowering plants that add diversity to the lawn and buffer it from unusual growing conditions.
What child has not delighted in chasing fireflies on a warm summer evening and, perhaps, catching a few to watch light up the inside of a glass jar? In fact, an adult friend who grew up on the eastern plains of Colorado was enchanted with them when she visited Iowa one summer. Fireflies, or lightning bugs, are common across much of the Eastern United States. Some blink yellow while others green, but whichever color they blink it is probably an effort to seek a mate. Some firefly species live in the West, they just don’t glow! The larvae, sometimes called glow worms often live in rotting wood where they seek insect prey.
To enjoy an evening firefly display leave edges and corners of your yards unmowed. Perhaps position some wood there to gradually rot and provide homes for their larvae. Certainly avoid insecticide spray!
Many species of clover are common across much of North America but the one most often found in unsprayed yards is the White Clover. It can be planted but usually just avoiding herbicides for a few years will encourage it to move in on its own. Clover blooms provide wonderful pollinator food while sprinkling a lawn with attractive white flowers. The plant is a legume, meaning that it is able to fix nitrogen and improve soil health – naturally! Why anyone would want to kill such a valuable and beautiful plant is beyond us.
Sometimes the very best lawn and yard management is simply leaving it alone. Stop spraying and the result is likely…….beauty.
Children learn by exploring.
Walking to and from school in the 1950s and ‘60s yielded exercise, adventure, learning and fond memories.
Rich walked or bicycled about a mile to and from school down one road, along a woodsy path, across the Rockaway River, and around a wetland to school. Along the way were frogs to catch, stones to toss in the river, and little melted snow streams to dam with rocks and watch the water flow. The trek to school may have been as educational as the classroom topics and lots more fun.
On her way to a friend’s house in Florida, Marion balanced along logs and stopped to talk with the friendly horse in a pasture. In New Hampshire she and friend, Pete Martell, opted for the hypotenuse route to school. They had just learned that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line! Instead of following the road through the village and down School Street, they crossed the Piscataquog River on a large pipe above the dam and jagged rocks connecting two factories. Half way across the pipe, the consequences of a fall dawned on her. This one-time “adventure” became a lifelong lesson in thinking through actions.
At a recent conference Blue Zones Director of Innovation and Inspiration, Dan Burden, told us the odds of a child being abducted by strangers has been dropping for years and is lower today than in the 50’s. Ironically, modern parents fear abduction and drive their kids to school, robbing them of exercise, fun, and learning.
Cedar Rapids Community School administrator, Steve Graham, told us that most school districts built schools in residential neighborhoods so children could walk. Nearby streets were never designed for the heavy traffic that now occurs each morning and afternoon when parents drop off or pick up kids, even when they live just a block or two away.
We were free range kids. Mom and Dad expected us to get to and from destinations and to exercise good judgment. We made mistakes, got skinned knees and mosquito bites, but we learned. In those delicious walks after school and on weekend rambles we invented games played in vacant lots with other kids, chased butterflies, stomped in the snow, climbed trees and experienced the world first hand. We learned.
We’re thankful our parents raised us as free range kids. Mom and Dad set some limits, but we were free to explore our world. We raised our two children the same way and were delighted when they returned from the woods tired and dirty but full of tales of their afternoon adventure shared around the dinner table.
We’re concerned that few of today’s kids have the freedom to explore that we had. Too many of today’s yards are boring, sprayed monocultures that don’t inspire kids to go outside and play. Keep visiting our Winding Pathways Website and we’ll share tips on how to make your yard a magical place for kids…..and their parents…….to play.