Iowa City Airport | 100 Years of History

by Jim and Melanie

The Tin Goose

We visited our local airport in Iowa City on 9 June 2018 as it celebrated 100 years of service to the community and the country. One of the highlights of the visit was the Ford Tri-Motor, which offered rides for $75. What a beautiful and graceful machine. We watched it fly over our neighborhood several times before we went to the airport. It deserved a closer look. The corrugated metal structure gives meaning to the nickname of “Tin Goose.”

It first flew on 1 December 1928. It was sold to Transcontinental Air Transport in January 1929 and was named City of Wichita. The TAT logo is on the fuselage. It and sister ship City of Columbus inaugurated transcontinental commercial air service in 1929.

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Catbirds

Jim has been watching the phoebes for weeks. A few days ago he noticed the nest was empty, and it seemed the family was gone. Just this morning he spotted them again. Though the fledglings are out, the phoebes are still in our yard.

The nest, a “permanent” structure, sits on a beam under our deck. With the babies gone, Jim drilled a small hole between floor boards to get a better view. The hole is only about a quarter inch across, but the camera lens on the phone is smaller than that. He was able to get this photo looking down into the nest.

Phoebe nest 2018. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Of course the photo makes it look as large as an eagle’s nest, but in truth, the cup of the nest is less than 3″ across.

The wrens also seem to have sent their first brood out into the world, as it’s become less noisy out our back door. Often they have a second brood, so we’ll look forward to their chatter returning before the summer is out.

We still have the catbirds. Early this year we were treated to several of the plain, grey birds in our yard. Usually we’re only aware of one or two.

Catbird. 2018. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

Catbirds on suet feeder. 2018. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

What birds are hanging around your yard these days?

Cute Speckled Fawns

We love watching the visitors to our yard. Jim’s been sharing photos of the phoebes that took up residence under our deck, and a few days ago he showed you a video of a groundhog, twenty feet up in a tree eating mulberry leaves. Deer often come around, too.

Recently we watched a doe with one tiny speckled fawn as they approached the house. The doe caught sight of us in the window and stopped next to a tree. While she stood, fawn nearby, a mama raccoon came down the tree next to her with two babies! It was like a scene from a Disney movie, choreographed so the animals are in the same shot.

This morning a different doe appeared with two fawns. They are so sweet and spindly, with the pale freckles making lines along the ridge of their backs.

Jim caught some video of the three of them.

Do you have visitors in your yard or neighborhood?

PhoebeCam | Three PhoebeBabies

PhoebeCam – a long stick, small digital camera, macro mode, 10 sec timer, and flash.

It was a success. But, I was scolded harshly by the parents. They did not like my intrusion on the nest territory. Back inside the house, I watched through a nearby window. One of the parents scouted the space under the deck very carefully. It looked over the long stick. It was very vigilant. I will leave them alone now.

Eastern Phoebe | Time-Lapse Exposure

We have enjoyed watching our new neighbors, a pair of Eastern Phoebes who took up residence under our deck. Previous posts about the nest location, tail wags, and 3 eggs are here and here.

We are happy to say the eggs have hatched. Mom and Dad are busy gathering insects to feed the babies. They fly to a perch not far above ground. There they scan the grass and bushes nearby for movement of insects. They must have excellent vision.

Upon spotting something, they quickly fly to it,  grab it with their beak, and fly back to the perch. After a few quick tail wags, they thrash the insect left and right on the perch a few times and fly to the nest to put it into a wide mouth.

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Spider Web | Cast a Net

The sun was low in the east as I returned from a morning walk. Dried weed stalks from last year stood 3-4 ft tall between me and the sun. Near the top of many of them were small spider webs about 3-5 inches across. Each was covered with dew drops reflecting the sunlight. They deserved a closer look.

As I peered down for a better look, I wondered if the spider architect was sitting anywhere nearby? I couldn’t see any spider on this one.

Moving to another plant, I got down on one knee and noticed the lower angle of the sunlight caused it to reflect better showing the structure more clearly. It was a tangle of strands. Still no spider was visible.

I bent farther down to look under the web and found the spider hanging upside-down. Very clever of you.

Eggs in the Phoebe Nest

Update: Under the blue divider is the original post about our new Phoebe neighbors. They built a nest under our deck as pictured at the end of the original post. I noticed one of the birds sitting on the nest a few days ago and wondered if there was a way to see the eggs. Seen from above on the deck, the nest is under the X. I quietly bent down and was able to barely see through the 1/4″ crack to the nest.

I placed my phone over the crack and turned on the camera. The lens is tiny and was able to peer through to the nest. What a pleasant surprise.

Original: We enjoy the usual avian visitors to the woods behind our house. There are cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers, flickers, etc. who are year-round residents. Others are passing through during migration in fall and spring. This year, we have the nest of an Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe under our deck for the first time. We hope it proves to be a good location for them so we can monitor the progress of their young.

See the thread or cobweb across the side of the head.

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Iris | Rainbow of Color

Two examples of Iris stopped me while out for a walk. The hundreds of hybrids provide color to the gardens of spring. Perhaps named after the Goddess Iris. Whatever the origin, the sun was high and dark bushes set a proper background of contrast. It invited photographs.

My route brought me by a small retention pond in the neighborhood. At water’s edge were patches of these yellow Iris pseudacorus. They are native to Europe, northern Africa, and temperate Asia.

Backyard Birds | Cooper’s Hawk

When Jim and I looked for a different home more than a decade ago, one thing Jim insisted he wanted was a view to the west. Having grown up on a midwestern farm, he learned to love the broad horizon, with its window on the setting sun and on incoming storms. What we actually got, though, is quite different from that. Instead, we have trees nearly touching our house on the west side. With summer’s leaves unfurled, the view beyond our property is completely obscured.

My view to the west, late spring, early evening.

We can’t see oncoming storms, but we do have yard birds. If you read the descriptions in bird books or at one of our favorite sites, All About Birds, you would see that most of our birds like the margins between woods and grasslands. They find familiar territory here.

Some of our birds are seasonal, migrating to or through the area, while others are around all year. Recently Jim posted about a pair of Eastern Phoebes that are nesting under our deck. The phoebes are new to us, though this is within their summer region.

As I worked in the kitchen a few days ago, I hollered at him to get his camera. A Cooper’s Hawk was perched on the tree out back. Usually when we see them, they are too far away too see clearly, or they are swooping through, intent on catching a meal. But this one was still, and at my eye level. It also was directly above one of our bird feeders. No, it doesn’t find its meal in the feeder; it finds it at the feeder. Coopers eat smaller birds and rodents. Once we watched one land on, firmly grasp, and fly off with a struggling squirrel. Surprisingly, they’re not terribly big birds, only about the size of a crow. Click any photo to embiggen.

Besides the great photos, Jim also was able to get this short video.

We don’t have the setting sun, but we have an ever-interesting assembly of birds out our window.