Geese mate for life.
“Loose as a goose” is an apt expression. Many people dislike Canada Geese for their habit of depositing droppings on trails and lawns. Despite their mess geese are intriguing birds, especially if they are carefully observed. We enjoy watching them all year and love the goose music they treat us to as they wing over our home at Winding Pathways.
Young Canada Geese form pair bonds early in their lives and have high fidelity to their mate for what can be a long life together. Urban geese enjoy an enviable lifestyle. They eat lawn grass and insects common in town and also snack on grain dropped from railroad cars and an occasional dying gizzard shad. Food is plentiful, and few predators pester adult geese. They have plenty of time for loitering and often socialize and rest with the flock in the shade on hot summer days or in the sunshine when the temperature is cool.
“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
Don’t Miss March’s Launch of Spring
“If we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy
it will in the end not produce food either,” Joseph Wood Krutch.
Too many people miss March’s majesty by staying indoors. After all it’s usually too warm to enjoy cross country skiing or ice fishing and it’s too early to plant the garden, go fishing, or play golf. March is the month of mud, fog, slowly melting grit-encrusted snowbanks, and clammy cold.
At Winding Pathways, we defy normal behavior and spend March days outdoors. It’s the month of great change and nature’s cavalcade is there for any observant person to enjoy.
Just consider the earth and how it’s turning toward our sun. Days lengthen the most around the March 21st Vernal Equinox. This means there is more sunlight each day allowing our yard to soak up more solar energy and spark spring’s revival of life.
March is the month to pull on mud boots and venture outdoors with eyes and ears attuned to the great seasonal change upon us. Here are some things to absorb with great joy:
“Possum come aknockin’ at the door.”
Look Up and see skeins of geese winging across the sky
Ice is a miraculous substance. Actually, it is water that is so amazing. Ice is just one of its three phases.
Water is essential for life and one of its unusual characteristics is how it behaves when its temperature drops. Like most substances water contracts as it gets colder, but unlike other substances, it reaches maximum density at 39 degrees Fahrenheit and then expands as it gets colder. Finally, when it freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit it expands.
That’s huge! If Ice were denser than water, it would sink to the bottom of a lake or pond. The surface would continue to freeze and sink until by mid-winter the lake would be all ice. Few creatures could live there.
Instead, when water freezes it expands and gets lighter. It floats on the colder water beneath and insulates the water, so it doesn’t freeze all the way to the bottom. Ice is merely a veneer floating on water, enabling life in the liquid below it.
It might be 20 below zero in the air above the ice but down in the water a fish basks in the relative warmth of water in the 30s.
When lake ice gradually cools as fall’s temperature drops a beautiful result happens in some years. On one cold, clear, calm night the lake will form a layer of crystal clear ice several inches thick. It’s hard and usually safe to walk on.
The walk reveals amazing patterns of cracks and fractures. Clear ice gives a lake walker the sensation of striding on air with a clear view to the bottom beneath the feet. For an idea of the beauty of ice, enjoy these photos taken at Cedar Lake, Denville, New Jersey, in January 2018.
Bald Hill Ice
Fascinating patterns in the ice.
Ice expands as its temperature drops, so it floats!
Photo by Bob Fehsinger
Learn to enjoy lake ice safely.
Winter is the season of cold and darkness but there’s no reason to stay inside. It’s an outstanding time to enjoy the yard, a wetland, or a nearby woods, and these places are even more fascinating after dark than they are by day. Just use your night vision.
Winding Pathways encourages everyone to bundle up and go outside, especially after January or February’s darkness descends. Perhaps coyote songs or the haunting call of a barred owl will greet an intrepid nighttime listener.
There are some ways to best enjoy the darkness. Forget the flashlight. Well, maybe tuck it into a pocket but mostly keep it off. The best way to degrade night vision is using artificial light. Better to learn how to see in the dark.
Color Deficiency Can Help with Night Vision
Rich Patterson, a co-owner of Winding Pathways is lucky, sort of. He is unable to see the color red well. He’s not color blind as he can see blue, yellow, green, and some red shades, but he doesn’t see red as people with normal color vision so. For some reason, folks with color deficiency vision often have an outstanding ability to see after dark, and Rich enjoys his night vision, is often outside after dark, and hardly ever uses a flashlight.
There’s more to seeing after dark than having a color deficiency and better than average night vision. Everyone can use these techniques to negotiate the night and their homes at night without a flashlight.
Relax the eyes. Forget peering for detail, like the texture of a tree’s bark. Rather look out of the edges of the eyes for patterns that indicate a tree, rock, lawn, or some other object. Once the eyes are trained to work well at night it’s amazing how easy it is to walk a forest path, without a flashlight on a dark night. Or navigate your home in the dark and when the electricity goes off.
Foot Gear for Outdoor Walking
When outside, wear soft-soled shoes or in warm months, go barefoot. Thick hard-soled shoes, like hiking boots, make it impossible to feel the ground’s texture. Softer, pliable soles help a walker feel the trail. Native Americans knew this well and felt their way through dark forests through the soles of their moccasins.
It helps to mute electric lights in the house before venturing outdoors after dark. It takes a few minutes in darkness for eyes to adjust and allow more light to strike the retina.
Full Moon Walk New Year’s Night
There is a surprising amount of light on a dark night especially in winter with snow on the ground. Even in the dark of the moon, stars cast enough light on a clear night for an adept human to walk without a flashlight. With a waxing or even waning full moon, plenty of light is cast on the ground for us to see. The moon’s reflection even casts shadows: Moon shadows!
Pre-Dawn Labyrinth Walking
Since late December 2017, Marion has walked the Phoenix Harmony Labyrinth every day and mostly in the early morning. In cold, wind, full-moon and dark of the moon, fog, and snow, she has quietly trod through the snow, watched the stars, noted animal tracks and generally enjoyed this interlude in the dark.
Cave Dark is Real Dark
An interesting experience is taking a cave tour. Visit Carlsbad Caverns, Mammoth Cave, or nearly any other cave and invariably the guide will gather everyone and turn off the lights. Down in a cave there is no light at all. When there’s no light it’s impossible to see, but fortunately, a backyard or woods at night is much lighter than the depths of a cavern, so seeing is possible.
Go outside after dark and have fun.
Carole Teator: Thank you for inviting my story. And thank you for the column on the catalpa tree. I do enjoy them, particularly when they are in bloom.
This is a story of losing a tree. Carole shares that it “… helped me realize how deeply one can mourn the loss of a non-sentient being.”
“I recently came across the attached photo of a cottonwood tree that I once knew and this old friend has been on my mind since. It grew along Austin Road, north of Marion, and I came to know it when visiting friends who live nearby. When I could, I would walk to visit the tree and eventually photographed it in every season. It was huge—perhaps 20 feet in circumference?—and it stood alone, between a field and the road. Nearby is a small woodland, the proximity of which may have made the cottonwood seem even more solitary at the side of the road.
“One day, one of my friends who lived near the tree dropped me off at the Cedar Rapids Airport. A terrible storm blew in, delaying my flight and making me very concerned about my friend and her young son, who I knew would be driving on Highway 13 at the height of the storm. When I was able, I called to check on them. She said they were fine, but that the old cottonwood had blown over in the storm. Shock and sadness washed over me, and I was as surprised by this visceral reaction as much as I was by the news. I mean, it was a tree I only saw every few weeks and I only had known it a few years of its life. But it seemed a connection to the past and a sentinel of beauty and solitude that was now gone. I had connected to this tree more than I had understood, or even understand now. I continue to mourn its passing, but I am so grateful for the photos I took of it that remind me of its beauty and grace.”
Bev Hannon: “Your Sunday article on catalpa trees brought back lots of memories. We had two trees between the sidewalk and street at the house I grew up in, in Manchester, IA. I loved those trees and founds all kinds of way to use the blossoms and beans as a child. I think I even used to climb the trees, ‘though not successfully. I held “tea parties” in the shade under them, serving the early beans in my little tea dishes and of course, decorating my table with the blossoms.
“Unfortunately, the trees are long gone, as well as the house I grew up in. It burned down, and someone set up a double wide trailer facing the other street (corner lot), not West Marion St., so even my old address is gone. 🙁 But the memories live on.
“Thanks for your good words for Catalpas.”
The Ramsey Table
Marion Patterson: While clearing out the attic, recently, I came across “The Ramsey Table”. This was a roughly fashioned coffee-type table my folks made shortly after we were married and brought to us in Iowa. Dad had found an 18″ wide plank from the home we lived in Goffstown, NH. Purportedly, (one of) the oldest in town. The home did pre-date the Revolution and was for sure haunted! One family that lived there was “The Ramseys.” Much to my folks’ bemusement, a friend and I concocted all sorts of adventures surrounding this unknown family. Thus the name of the table.
Mom placed a variety of sentimental objects in the little shadow box cubbies that Dad had made. Many of these I later replaced as their meaning dissolved. Glued-down pennies of significant dates like when we were born, graduated high school and college, got married remained. And, a little memento of “Baby Magaret” a long-lost relative from 1878 Chambersburg, PA, who died in infancy.
Square Nail Holes
It was time to dismantle The Ramsey Table as we have never had a good place to display and use it. I did so reflectively. A further look at the plank revealed some interesting features. It was a decades-old pine tree with three knots across the middle. As a young tree, it grew fairly fast in New England soil in years when sufficient moisture helped it along. Later the rings grew closer together until they were indistinguishable. Revealing less moisture and more competition perhaps as it grew.
Most interesting to us were the widely spaced square nail holes! Their presence and configuration confirmed that this was an old piece of lumber. So, we have kept the plank and are thinking about the best way to honor it and Mom and Dad’s gift of The Ramsey Table.
When I was eight or ten years old Dad helped a friend and me construct a treehouse in a multibranched gray birch tree that grew behind our house in New Jersey. It was mostly platform four or five feet above the ground.
Growing nearby was a tall maple on high ground overlooking Cedar Lake. It was easy to climb trees with horizontal branches perfectly spaced apart. My friend and I carried boards way up in the tree, perhaps 40 feet above the ground, and we made a platform there. We even made a flagpole and hoisted it above the tree’s top.
Grandma Zieger lived close by and saw us high in the tree and alerted Mom and Dad, as a fall from that height would be serious. They were unworried, as they thought we were in the low tree. Only later did they discover the lofty perch and discouraged its use.
In the late 1960s, I found myself in the army as a neophyte infantryman. For a while, I was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington on the south end of Puget Sound in the rainforest, a land of giant trees.
One evening my company was told to gear up and, squad by squad, we climbed aboard helicopters. Soon we took off in the darkness and not long later landed. A lieutenant told us to jump out and make a defensive perimeter. We could expect an attack at dawn. It was a big war game, the blue army vs. the green one.
So, we formed sort of a circle as best we could in the darkness and took turns on guard duty all night. Two of us would be awake for an hour while the rest slept. At the end of an hour, the guard duty guys would wake up the next shift, and so on.
I ended up with the dawn shift and got poked awake around 4:30 in the morning. With a partner, we peer outward searching for danger, but we could see nothing. It’s true that the darkest hour is just before dawn, but as the earth turned toward the sun the land lightened and gradually I could make out the trunks of huge Douglas fir and cedars. Beneath them was a tree so unusual it riveted my eyes. Small and twisted, it had large deciduous type leaves and looked like it belonged in the tropics. I’d never been in the rainforest before and was so fascinated I stood up to get a better look.
Instantly an M-16 spit out a clip’s worth of blanks. In those days blanks had bullets made of compressed paper. Several splattered on my chest and hurt but did no damage. Within seconds and army “referee” approached, put a colorful tag on me and pronounced me dead. I was told to walk back to the LZ (helicopter landing zone).
It was the Pacific Madrone that helped me realize that curiosity about nature can be dangerous.
R and M Patterson: Folks who have visited Indian Creek Nature Center over the decades remember fondly “Old Henry”.
This large silver Maple along Indian Creek just off the Sac and Fox Trail, grew up when the Center was a farm, was flooded regularly, thrived in the dense moist soil and was home to many animals. Its girth beckoned visitors to wrap multiple arms around its massive trunks and cool off in its shade. Kids and adults alike loved Old Henry. Cedar Rapidians returning for the Holidays often made pilgrimages to see Old Henry and reminisce about their adventures there.
So, many mourned when its branches started to fall off, when winds toppled large sections of its trunk and when it finally, keeled over from age. Its limbs lay scattered about and kids still climbed all over them until these rotted away. But, Old Henry’s passing opened up space for new Henrys to grow. Some are good sized. Birds and mammals have returned to nest and rest. Insects and worms still ply the soils.
Perhaps one of the most touching tributes over the years was that each late fall, some kindly soul would leave a garland around Old Henry with a few tidbits for the animals. Even as Old Henry became littler and littler, this anonymous person would trek out to Old Henry and leave love offerings. So, Rich was moved when this week he walked past Old Henry, now a tiny stump, and saw a garland wrapped around the remains and a few tidbits for the animals. A fitting tribute to an old friend. Thank you.