Tag Archives: cardinal

Finding the Beauty of a Gray Winter

Winter in Iowa—low midday sun, icy mornings, limited time outside—despite the fact that we have not really had any heavy snowfalls, the cumulative impact of many smaller storms and consistent morning ice is a bit grating.

Yet, I want to treasure the beauty that can be found in winter in Iowa. To cheer myself up, and hopefully to brighten your day in case you too are experiencing this Midwestern winter, here is a slideshow of what I consider my best beauty of nature images from December and January:

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Iowa Winter Weather: Warm, Snowy, Cloudy, Sunny

Bird in lilac bush outside my office window.

Bird in lilac bush outside my office window.

In the past 24 hours, the weather in Iowa has shown its impetuous side.

Yesterday was so warm and sunny that we spent more than an hour in the afternoon at a park playing with grandchildren.

First photo of Jay. Not the last.

First photo of Jay. Not the last.

This morning started on the warm side, for Iowa winter, with a sort of sleety snow falling. As the morning wore on, the temperature dropped a bit, and so did the snow. In the end, we maybe got an inch or so, and now (about 2 p.m.) the sky is trying to clear and a thin layer of clouds seems like a lampshade.


Say hey to the Jay.

While it has turned colder, the weather is not really cold. It’s 33 degrees outside at 2 in the afternoon, and as soon as I’m done writing this post, I’ll scrape the snow so that it can finish melting off the walks.

I thought that when the snow fell, it would end my biking for this week, but now I’m not so sure. If we get a sunny afternoon, the streets may be in better shape tomorrow than I would have expected. We’ll see.


Cardinal keeps and eye on feeder action. I think he is sitting in Magnolia bush.

Anyway, on the way home from our morning exercise in the gym, my wife and I stopped at Hy-Vee Drugstore to buy some white bread for French toast, and also some birdseed. When I filled the birdfeeders, there was almost a frenzy, with birds mobbing the feeders. I saw several male and female cardinals, a pair of blue jays, many other smaller birds and some squirrels.

Nice looking bird on feeder hung in Tulip Tree.

Nice looking bird on feeder hung in Tulip Tree.

Despite the changes in the weather, it’s not too cold. It has been a nice winter and this particular snow is not too obnoxious. We’ll take it.


I like how you can see snow is falling in his photo. Another bird in lilac bush.

My wife got a bit tired today of my constant “bird updates.” But, what do you think? I enjoyed watching and photographing my many visitors today. Now? Time to go shovel some snow.

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Lunch At the Pear Tree Café

Hey, Pinky, who are you calling a tree rat? And where are my bagels?

Hey, Pinky, who are you calling a tree rat? And where are my bagels?

In the movie “Up,” the dog Dug gets distracted easily by tree rodents.

I must not be too different. Around noon today, while talking via Skype with my son in Paraguay, I was also watching the lunch crowd at the nearby Pear Tree Café.

Pears! Nom-nom-nom-nom.

Pears! Nom-nom-nom-nom.

The small pears on these trees must be delicious, considering the lengths our heavy neighborhood squirrel goes to. The squirrel is heavy, by the way, partly due to ill-advised offerings sometimes cast onto our deck by wayward family members. This week, my youngest son found some bagels that were too old for human consumption, and pitched them out the back door. There they sat, partly covered by snow, until the snow started to melt. Moldy old bread, apparently, is best served chilled and slightly soggy—or that’s the way this pear-devouring tree rat prefers them anyway.


Some birds, including this cardinal, also were in the lunch crowd. Smaller birds were too flighty to be photographed, but the cardinal was almost as indifferent as the squirrel.

Anyway, I have way too much to do today. But I loved the photos, so I posted a set on Flickr. The squirrel was joined by a pair of cardinals, but Mrs. Cardinal was too shy to be photographed. Garish Mr. Cardinal was another story. Anyway, there were a few other birds, too, but they were too quick for the distracted, Skyping paparazzi to photograph.


Pears and leaves at noon. Maybe the pear trees keep their leaves because they want to encourage lunch customers and the leaf cover makes birds and squirrels more likely to eat the fruit? It’s a theory. Pear trees seem to retain leaves much longer than other trees.


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Backyard birds


Flight of the sparrows. First they drove off the cardidnal then ate the seeds.



Cardinal near deck


Squirrel at backyard feeder

Some random animal photos from this morning, when the sun was shining before the snow moved in. I saw squirrels, cardinal and sparrows, for some reason the bigger bird, the cardinal, is quicker and harder to photograph than the sparrows. The squirrels in particular were entertaining to watch as they attempted to reach the seed, one by hanging upside down on pole holding feeder.  More photos on flickr.

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Bugs, Birds, Poop and Other Signs of a Winter Thaw


Cardinal on the deck

The thaw cleared away all the snow on our deck, and a cardinal enjoyed an afternoon snack of the revealed spilled seeds under a bird feeder. Yes, the dog is on the deck. No, the cardinal, which is very wary of us, does not care. Shows some intelligence on the part of the cardinal.

I think it ‘s a thaw, and not an early spring. We’ve had a run of warm days lately, and it’s misting outside—wet stuff, not white stuff, is falling from the sky.

But, average temperatures and lows are pretty low, still. The National Weather Service web site lists 34 as today’s normal high and 17 as the normal low. The calendar says “February,” and it’s useful to remember that snow is not unusual in early May at this northern latitude.

Still, even if it’s a thaw, a mere foreshadowing of weather to come, it’s a nice foreshadowing. Spring-like things can be seen outside on these odd, warm February days. Signs of the next season that is a few short weeks away? Here are a few:

  • In the sunshine Monday, I noticed some insect activity outside Warde Hall at Mount Mercy University—some flies and box elder bugs.  I can understand the flies–all of the accumulated dog poop of winter walks is also revealing itself, luckily that is more in the woods behind my house and not at MMU.
  • A few flower bulbs in my back garden, right by the house, are just starting to poke tentative green points above the decaying, wet leaf cover. Well, the flowers in that garden, where the snow melts first and bricks warm the soil, are always the first to appear, and some of them, tulips in particular, may rue the day.
  • I rode my bike Tuesday. Didn’t today—foggy and icy this morning—and it’s looking too wet tomorrow. In fact, slightly colder weather, which usually feature dry air that would bring bare pavement, would be better for biking right now.
  • Audrey and I want for a late afternoon walk today. A foreshadow of a time not long off when such walks will be our regular daily routine.
  • I picked up some sticks on my lawn and set out the “yardy cart” for pickup tomorrow. It’s been some time.

Spring! You’re on your way, aren’t you? March, at least early March, is part of the winter season in this part of Iowa, but I think we can enjoy a mid-February thaw.

Just don’t poke up too far yet, little flowers. Your time will come.

Basile Hall stairs.

RANDOM PHOTO TWO: Why? Why not? Random abstract image while I was waiting to ride home with Audrey, at least you can see the sunshine more clearly.


Stairs in Basile Hall

RANDOM PHOTO ONE--What? Abstract view of Basile Hall stairway, for no particular reason. Sun shines a bit in the background.

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A Few Signs of Fall Approaching

First morning glory

First morning glory of late summer, 2010. It and the cool weather are signs that fall isn't that far away from Iowa.

Today, I did some silly guerrilla gardening—I “rescued” three tress, two cotton woods and one native willow.

The willow was growing in a crack at the size of a tennis court where Ben and I played a very wet final game, since he is off to Iowa State tomorrow. The cottonwoods were sprouting in some gravel at the construction area where a new Walgreen’s store went up in our neighborhood.

Given their previous locations, none of the trees was wanted. Given that I planted them late in the season in the woods behind our fence, it’s unlikely any will survive—if they don’t get eaten by deer, they probably don’t have adequate roots to snap out of transplant shock, anyway. And even if they did, it’s late August. Transplants won’t have much time to gather strength before the big winter sleep comes.

Oh well. Given its vigorous growth, I think there is a good chance by baby catalpa tree in my yard will make it through the winter, but we’ll see.

Roses again in bloom

Front garden rose, had been severely eaten earlier, but Japanese beetles are gone now.

Anyway, here are a few random garden pictures. First, the signs of approaching fall—the first morning glory bloomed this morning, and there are lots of buds which promise many more future trumpet-shaped flowers. I also planted moon flowers on these trellises, we’ll see if any of them show.

A “lantern” has turned orange, putting on its early fall plumage.

And the creeping rose in the front garden is suddenly bursting with pretty pink flowers—celebrating, I think, that it’s no longer being eaten away by Japanese beetles, whose season has passed.

These photos, by the way, are with my older 3.2 megapixel Fuji camera, not the new 10 megapixel Kodak that I usually use. The Fuji doesn’t’ have either the storage or the zoom of the Kodak, so I’m pretty excited that the photos are OK. The Nashville plant photos later in this post are Kodak camera creations.

Lantern plant in front garden with seed pod already turning orange.

It was cool today in Cedar Rapids, Iowa—upper 50s this morning, afternoon high in the 70s. I almost needed a sweater. It was quite a contrast with the weather I experienced in Nashville, which I returned from Sunday. Below are a few plants from near the conference site in Nashville, with a few comment on each.

Not sure what this tree is--common in Nashville and I noticed specimen all they way into southern Illinois. Very brown seed pods on large trees with snaggle-edged leaves, fruit looks like large black ball bearings.

What appears to be a rhododendron, 100 times too big. Note it's twice as tall as an old two-story building. Southern blog friends, is this really a rhododendron tree? Buds in next images to help id.

Buds on the large tree--look like over-sized rhododendron buds, but too close to blooming--this would be a rhododendron bud in Iowa in May ...

Closer look at bud. It looks better at a distance.

Nashville cats may play clean as country water (given the May floods and what floodwater is like, those nonsenical lyrics make less sense than usual), but they probably wouldn't catch this cardinal. No, not mine, this is a boy, anyway--females have brown and pink plumage, much more muted.


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