Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Nov 18, 2017


By Steve Wilson | Dec 22, 2012
Photo by: Don Poggensee ENDANGERED IOWA BARN OWL ***              KEEPING WATCH ***

Court House —  CLICK ON Additional Posts (3 - 24) TO SEE PREVIOUS POSTS

I just finished reading the book, "The Tyranny of the Majority" by Lani Guinier. Her primary concern is to encourage better participation by minorities in government at all levels. While she is concerned primarily with blacks in America I found her insights to have application to the perennial "Male Republicans Only" board of supervisors in Henry County. She explores various strategies to get minorities elected like adding supervisors or districting but then ends up confessing adding one black on the city council may not have the desired effect on the black community. So too adding one Democrat to the board of supervisors is most likely only going to have the effect of tarnishing the Democratic character of that Democrat.

Over the last few years I have come to appreciate that the best way to have the interests of Democrats and all minorities and all citizens, (We the People, as individuals, are each of us a micro minority) represented while at the same time promoting transparency in government is to have Ron Osborne sitting in the back row with his camera. He is a bargain and he is not to be bought. People of with his integrity, independence and dedication cannot be elected. His honesty and his courage are not to be found in any politician.

What we need is the man of character, and most likely he will be a character, off the street to take a critical interest in government and Ron does that.  I look forward to taking my place again in the corner to support him as Joy whips her cancer.



To be edited and spell checked, I am on my way to Iowa City again.



1/4/13 ALRIGHT!

This morning when I got up I looked out onto the pond and in the moonlight I observed ghostly gray and white forms moving amoung the mounds of ice. I started counting and after several tries I hit on nine and quickly decided this was news worth waking Joy up to share with her. I tickled her ear and she woke with a start followed quickly with a smile of friendly recognition.

"They are back! The Family is back."

I then went to the door to count again... and they had all disappeared.

"Ok, they're gone again. Maybe I was hallucinating or dreaming or.... I will go out and feed to see for sure."

So now it is official. Once again there is a family of six swans on the pond, 2 adults and 4 cygnets along with Buddy, the Old Man and his Lady.



The family of Trumpeters, Mom and Dad and their four Cygnets just left this morning. I wish them well. May the Spirit of Christmas that brought them safely to our house on the day before Christmas protect them now as they travel on. The opportunity to offer them a safe place and an extended Christmas feast was an awesome 10 day Christmas present. As I watched them fly off into the new year I wished them the best in navigating the hazards and sent with them an open invitation to stop back anytime. In a couple of years maybe one of the cygnets will come and steal Buddy (our bachelor) away.


I just got a call from Dave Fredricks. He and his wife were out birding south east of Ottumwa in the Des Moines River valley when they came upon a flock of 40 Trumpeter Swans sitting in a corn field. 40 - WOW.

The family of Trumpeters that came into the home pond Christmas Eve are still with us. So too is that Ringnecked Duck that thinks he is a mallard.



The fence around the pond reduces predator traffic but it comes with its own hazards.

Joy noticed a Coot walking the fence late yesterday afternoon trying to get to the pond. The bird looked a little weak but it was able to get about OK. We decided to try to spot him down with our LED headgear after dark if he was still working the fence and We could locate him.

As it turned out he took cover in a brush pile along the fence. We placed a large loop of wire around him and then I entered the fenced enclosure and stalked him while Joy stood ready to scoop him up in a landing net should the opportunity arise. He "froze" as I closed in on hands and knees and I was able to scoop him up in my bear hands. He immediately clamped on but fortunately to my cuff and not to my hide. They have a sharply pointed and powerful white bill.

We put him in a cage in the house with water for the night and then released him on the pond in the predawn darkness of this morning. He quickly headed out onto the pond  running across the water in typical Coot fashion. Coot like some other diving "ducks" need a good runway to become airborne. In fact we thought his walking the fence in the weeds might well have been the result of not being able to become airborne in the tall grass, weeds and snow along the fence.

We did not see him as the crowd cleared out tonight so we wish him well on his journey south.

12/26/2012 The "fam" stayed on for Christmas dinner and they are still with us this morning. There is Dad the cob, Mom the pen and four cygnets dressed in their blotched gray and white plumage.

I forget, did I mention that while I was hauling duckweed from the hilltop wetlands in the pre-dawn darkness every morning in the fall to feed visiting Wood Ducks, Canada Geese and the resident home pond swan Buddy, that Buddy would meet me at the fence and make quite a display of keeping me on my side of the fence?

As I would toss duckweed over the fence and out onto the pond (making no attempt to miss Buddy)  Buddy would either ignore any hits or use them for further justification to continue his aggressive displays. I never imagined that any good would come out of this.

Yesterday morning as I approached the pond to feed corn, wearing the same headlamp I always wore in the fall, I was fearful that the family of swans and the geese that spent the night might all take flight as I tossed scoops corn out into shallow water making quite a splash. I wanted to feed in the water to be sure the swans would find it while enjoying the security of remaining on the water and too so that their Christmas Breakfast would be dust free.  

I need not have worried, as Buddy kept moving so closely along the shore with me that it was difficult to toss the corn out into the shallow water with out pelting him. At first the geese did raise their voices in alarm and the swans added a some nervous trumpeting to the darkness all making sure everyone was wide awake, paying attention, and ready to take flight should the need arise.  However, Buddy, brightly illuminated in the light of my headlamp and obviously not the least bit worried, accompanied me as I delivered all three wheel barrows of corn making it possible for me to feed and not flush a single bird.

The Christmas feast went beyond supplemental feeding and there was even some left over but it was after all, Christmas.




A family of Trumpeter Swan just now came in on the home pond. Two adults and four juveniles. *****MERRY CHRISTMAS*****!!!

What with Buddy and the Old Man and his Lady we have 7 plus 2 swans a swimming on the pond.

Then Joy comes home and shares a story about some stranger picking up the tab for some bird seed at Walmart. Joy went to buy two containers of bird seed but when she got to the truck in the parking lot she found she only had one.  She locked her purse in the truck and went back to get the one she apparently left behind. When she found the checker they discovered that she had not charged Joy for the second one. It was getting late and Joy's knees are not the best so Joy said forget it, she would come back tomorrow. As Joy got toward the door, a young man that she did not recognize approached her, handed her the bird seed and wished her Merry Christmas.

It is the little miracles that make the difference and what with the "welcome" the geese recieved when they arrived below the park at Oakland yesterday it was nice to have some precious moments to get us ready for Santa's arrival tonight at granddaughter Gabby's house. I wonder if he will deliver her Christmas wish? (yes!)

Merry Christmas to all, it is certainly shaping up to be one at our house this year.

God bless,

Steve and Joy Wilson

12/22/2012 Update

Joy came home late this afternoon and reported that the ducks and geese have left Joy Lake and it is frozen completely over.

The home pond remains open and it sounds like quite a bunch of Canadas is spending the night.

That is unusual as most often they begin roosting at Oakland when Joy Lake freezes. I wonder what effect the low river level will have on river ice below the dam?


When the deep freeze comes it is time for the winter swan rodeo. We have a pair of Trumpeters that have free range over the hilltop wetlands through the summer but there is no open water up there for them once the temperature drops into the single didgits. That is no problem for the cob since he is a very capable flyer. But the pen was crippled in an accident years ago and she cannot fly.

So for the last several years the Old Man lets us know when it is time to rescue his Lady by either flying down into the fields in the river bottom or landing on the home pond where a bubbler keeps open water all winter long.

Yesterday as I was at the computer I thought I heard the voice of a second swan. (The first would be Buddy who is a young cob that spends all year on the home pond.) I went outside and began searching and listening for the Old Man. As I did so I made my way to the wetland cell where last I saw them. Sure enough, she was there but he was gone.

So I started carefully making my way across the ice to see if it was going to be possible to give chase so as to catch and move Lady. Every now and then the ice would crack but the singular cracks ran long and no "flowers" formed under my feet indicating I was close to a plunge into the icy water. Still there was an area most recently frozen that cracked even as the swam walked across it on her great webbed feet.  On narrow cells I can put on skis and with the aid of the ski poles run the swan off shallow ice and into tall weeds or cattails and then quickly shed the skis and make chase on foot. But on this large open circular cell she was having no problem running circles around this old man as I tried  to run softly on the ice. Ice skates work once the ice gets just a bit thicker but not when it is already cracking under the wide soles of rubber boots.

There is an island in this wetland cell and along the edges of it the ice was thin due to muskrat dens and runs. It ended up serving her much better than me. So after a few laps I stopped to rest and consider my options. As I was gathering my thoughts and catching my breath once again I heard the voice of the Old Man and caught a glimpse of him through the trees. Then again he disappeared.

I decided to try something akin to what the USFWS did out in the Yellowstone Park area to catch swans during the flightless period of their molt. They chased down swans with boats and then captured them using bright lights and long handled nets. Joy recently bought me a LED headlamp that is very bright but poorly focused. The widely spreading bright white light does an excellent job of creating a shield. All you can see is the light and not the person, dressed in dark clothes, walking behind it.

The darker the night and the thicker the ice the better so I went home and waited for the moon to go down behind the trees. By 3:00 am I was heading back to the wetland making my way through the deep snow caught by and suspended in the tall grass. I took advantage of my prior passage but still the going was uphill and tough and by the time I got to the wetland I was exhausted. It goes with getting older I think.

Anyway, I made my way out onto the ice and located the swan. I was relievied that no predator had taken advantage of her situation. So then the chase was on and it took several rounds around the island before I learned the technique. I had to start running very quietly toward her from a distance and judge just how much forward motion she would be able to muster after the sound on my closing approach startled her. She could not judge how close I was by sight, only by sound.

At last I got the formula down and was able to take her down onto the ice. She can't fly but she can deliver a good beating with her wings and she quickly caught one of her heavy claws in my pant leg as well. And so we wrestled for a bit until I was able to fold her wings under one arm and wrap her legs under the other. At that point I picked her up and headed for the pond with her long neck stretched out into the darkness before me.

The trip across the field and through the forest went well. I lifted her over the fence and gently dropped her onto the ice. The Old Man was there to welcome her and they shared breakfast later in the morning.

With that accomplished it was time to take some corn to Joy Lake. The moon was down now and therefore I would be able to spread corn without flushing the birds. The problem again was the snow with crust that was just hard enough to walk on until... and then I would be knee deep in snow with a five gallon bucket full of corn in either hand.

By time I was back home I was ready to go back to bed.



Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.