Letter From Home: “Boy From Iceland Brings Needed Smile” 5/25/22

James and I had just pulled into our drive. Returning from an unexpected visit to a local hospital so to visit for the final time with a friend of 20 years was emotionally heavy. The lilacs near our home seemed to feel the mood of the day as the rain made them droop and sag. They are loaded this year with blooms, and being so densely packed makes them hang even lower today.

With the weight of headlines waking us this morning with photos of the 19 boys and girls shot to death in a Texas school my mood was already somber. Then a call alerting us to the placement of our friend on hospice forced our day into higher gear for what we knew needed to be done this afternoon. A visit to a hospital.

The lady we visited loved Elvis’ singing. I joked with her that if the music was not soon located and turned on in the room I could sing, but someone would need to move the chairs back as it takes room to swivel the hips. She smiled weakly, and I considered that a victory.

So as we arrived back home I felt sluggish, having only operated on one cup of coffee all day. As I turned up the sidewalk to our front door, I saw a blond-haired boy on a scooter, that seems to be the latest rage for boys about age 10.

A woman was with him and they were looking up into the tree and so I asked “What are you looking at?”

“Just wondering what bird is making those sounds,” the woman said.

“Cardinals”, I replied. “Hear the call and response?”, I added.

She remarked on the many birds to be sighted, and I told her of the catbirds and orioles that are also nesting in the area. But it was not until I spoke of eagles that fly low near the shore of Lake Monona that the boy looked more intently in my direction and then pushing one foot on his scooter made his way across the street, his mom at his side.

“They have huge wings,” he said and smiled at the idea. He had been reading lately about those birds of prey. We talked back and forth about their nests being up to the size of a mattress. It was agreed that sharing such a mattress was not a great idea.

His mom said they were visiting from Iceland, and the lad was homeschooled. His attentive eyes and kind smile made for an odd juxtaposition with the faces on the news from Texas I had looked at hours prior. In a convoluted fashion, so to address the issue without using any language that would be alarming for the boy, I asked her about how news coverage there would deal with the headlines of our country.

“Matter of factly, not sensationalized, but also with the question as to how this is allowed to continue,” she said.

She had grown up in Wisconsin but said very plainly that she would not allow her child to attend an American school at this time. “Just look at the statistics from the past 20 years”, she stated.

Had that kid not been looking up into the tree I would not have lobbed an inquiry across the street. Had he not found an interest in eagles from his reading he might not have pushed himself over to say hello on his scooter.

His mom said such conversations with strangers are not common on streets in Iceland, first often due to the weather, but the stoic nature of the residents makes for such interactions to be few and far between. I told her on snowy days with bitter winds while shoveling I still chat it up with anyone who comes along our way.

“I offer to let them shovel, but they all seem to have read Tom Sawyer”, I quipped.

She smiled, but Mark Twain had not yet left an impression on the boy.

As the rain picked up and we started to head in opposite directions I wished them well and pointed at the boy and said, “Thanks for being you.”

His youthful glee over the birds of the area, his smile, and his willingness to engage with the world was the mood lifter this day needed.

This type of interaction, off-the-cuff, so effortless, and free, is one of the themes of my latest book which is scheduled to be published by August. The tonic for the soul is often these very types of human connections. The book has been my focus since November, with the editing phase now underway.

Canada Goose Lays Eggs In Decorah Eagle Nest, Young Ones Soon To Jump 70 Feet To Ground

UPDATE: Five eggs hatched, and all the little ones, encouraged today by parents honking far below, wandered about on the nest and then jumped over, or slipped as they sought a way down.

Decorah, Iowa eagle watchers had a most eventful and unusual spring season. The long-time eagle couple, which changed last season from using the usual nest of many years to a newly built one where they raised two young ones, did not sit to incubate this year. It left many Decorah watchers perplexed, some even sad.

Another pair of Decorah eagles–the ‘North family’–are super busy with two ever-growing chicks that eat 24/7 and are getting serious feather growth.

But it is the oddity this year of the nest vacated by the long-term couple last year that has everyone talking.

A Canada goose couple landed and stayed for long periods in the nest, and soon speculation abounded about the possibility they were scoping it out for their season’s nest.

The female laid her first egg on March 24, and then five more. Two days ago the yellow-downed chirpers made an appearance. Between those events the female incubated the eggs for about a month, leaving only for very short durations for food. She meticulously covered the eggs on each departure so nothing was visible.

The male is nearby for protection but never sits on the eggs. He gives a bad connotation for males worldwide!

The video below is stunning and remarkable and so worthy of a few minutes of your time. EVERY time the female left her nest this process repeated itself.

The next major event will be (perhaps today) when the goslings will have to jump from the 70-foot high nest, hurling themselves to the ground below. This reads far more dramatically than what happens since they are so very light in weight they will just softly plop on the ground and then follow the parents to the nearby river.

Yes, having a goose in an eagle’s once-used nest is not an every-year occurrence. And to have eagles flying about as the goose laid eggs and incubated does seem dicey. Yet, Mother Nature moved the process along and soon the Decoran fish hatchery area will have some cuties splashing about.

And so it goes.

Canada Geese Dance-Like Moves On Lake Monona

A sizable flock of Canada Geese has been sighted over the past several days flying back and forth over the Madison isthmus.  During the holidays a group of honkers landed on a freshly iced part of Lake Monona, not far from the shore at B. B. Clarke Beach.  While pouring another cup of hot coffee I noticed folks were congregating so took my camera and dashed over to the lake.

I post a few photos of the dance-like magic on the ice.  With all the hardships due to the continuing pandemic, these are the type of moments that we can embrace and find uplifting. 

Donald Trump’s Attack On Birds–Yes, You Read That Correctly

It will not surprise my readers the Donald Trump Administration has now even become determined to undermine regulations that were designed to support birds.  Before we get into the weeds on this issue, or should I say nests, let me give a brief backstory.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), passed in 1918, outlawed the “taking, possessing, importing, exporting, transporting, selling, purchasing or bartering” any migratory bird, as well as parts, eggs and nests of such protected birds unless granted a federal permit.  For the sake of this post let me also add that the MBTA also issued oversight and accountability for companies whose operations may harm or endanger protected bird species.

But now the Trump administration wants to roll back some of the protections that have for many decades been considered sacrosanct.   Under one of the proposed rule changes comes the phrasing that even with a first fast reading causes concern.  The rules protecting migratory birds now will  “only extend to conduct intentionally injuring birds”.

Companies that injure or kill formerly protected birds unintentionally would now not be liable for any penalty. This includes such activities as energy production and generation, from waste pits to towers to oil spills and wind turbines.

Today in my mail came the following Lexington column from the latest edition of The Economist.  Because this article is protected behind a paywall, but I want my readers to be much more aware of this topic, I have scanned it and post it below.

The issue regarding birds is one that I just find galling.  Call something a fetus and the entire judiciary can be turned inside out by the executive and legislative branches to protect it.  But another living creature without such a handle can be hosed off of road bridges and the culprit can claim it was not intentional.

The lack of regard for biodiversity and the lusty way this Administration has worked 24/7 to upend regulations and reverse the science behind those regs is maddening.  Not so long ago a man in my local community was reaching out for others to assist with the annual bird count, with the data being used to help track avian populations as the climate crisis worsens—oh–now I ticked off those rubes who can not grasp the science generated data to support that claim.

But such counts matter as it can be proved that since the 1970s America has suffered a loss in the bird population by about 1 million.  Such a sobering statistic can also be used to underscore the destructive and pathetic manner in which this White House undertakes its role in the nation regarding a policy that impacts our feathered friends.

Read the great writing and bitter truth in this weeks’s Lexington, and be prepared to be pissed-off.



Our Realtors Helping Those Struggling With Life Issues–With The Aid Of Icelandic Horses

Long before Robin and Will Guernsey became our realtors they were our friends.  They lived a block away when we first met them.  But it was during the first seven months of this year they melded professionalism with friendship and assisted in making sure James and I were able to finalize the purchase of the upper two stories of our Victorian home on the Madison isthmus.  We will be forever grateful.

The couple now has a large picture-perfect country area for Icelandic horses which I have had the joy in romping alongside while feeding countless carrots.  The horses are gorgeous creatures.  This week we were delighted to watch the local news coverage of Guernsey’s efforts to make people worldwide feel a bit better about life with the aid of these animals.

This summer, on the one year anniversary of her father’s death, she brought Facebook and Instagram social media pages called IamGlytja to life.

She hopes others will benefit on-line from the calming presence of her Icelandic horse herd, which helped her through the loss of her father. Guernsey said, “Instead of being sad about it, I thought is there a way for Glytja to help other people who might be struggling as well?”

The pages already have nearly 3,000 followers. She’s hoping followers will find IamGlytja to be a bright spot if they’re having a rough day. On the pages she shares what Glytja and the herd have been up to that day and posts entertaining pictures.

Below your blogger with one of these cuties.


Green Bay Packers Proved Lack Of Concern About Animals

I know it is early in the year to write a blog post about the Green Bay Packers, since I do not follow football.  Or care about the wins, or losses, of the team.  But there was a photo from Thursday night’s pre-season game which caused me to make sure it was not an older image from years ago.  I made the effort as I could not believe anyone in the Packer organization, in 2019, could be so obtuse regarding releasing balloons filled with helium, given the damage they do to animals.

But the photo was indeed from this week.  It was stunning to see!


Birds, turtles and other animals commonly mistake balloons for food, which can harm or even kill them.  When the pieces of latex are mistaken for food and ingested, they can get lodged in the digestive tract, inhibiting animal’s ability to eat and causing a slow and painful death by starvation.

There is also the fact that helium is a finite resource, and to waste it on a football game seems most irresponsible.  It would be nice if football organizations cared as much for the animals in our woods and fish in our lakes as they do about their profits.  It would be nice if Packer fans alerted the ones in the sky box seats that the balloons made Green Bay look backwards.

And so it goes.

Great News For Grizzly Bears And Ethically-Minded People

With all the news that blew up last week over the Supreme Court nominee it allowed for less time to take note of items which truly need to applauded.

Such as this one.

A Montana federal judge returned Yellowstone-area grizzly bears to Endangered Species Act protection Monday, permanently blocking hunting seasons in two states.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen ruled to reverse a United States Fish and Wildlife Service decision to remove the protections and canceled the first grizzly bear hunt in the continental United States since 1991.

That is simply the best news possible about this whole sad episode.

I read and heard that there was such outrage over the proposed hunt that grizzly enthusiasts applied for the tags in places like Wyoming to help protect the bears.  One of the tags was obtained by a wildlife photographer who stated the only thing he was going to shoot of the bear would come from the lens of his camera.

Grizzly bear numbers in and around Yellowstone have improved since the animals were protected in 1975. But they are still threatened by isolation from other grizzly populations, loss of key food sources, and human-caused moralities.

It would have been monstrous if the proposed trophy hunting would have been allowed to proceed.  Overall grizzly bears occupy less than 4 percent of their historic range in the lower 48 states.

Hunters never care about such facts.  They only like to shed blood of innocent animals.

Well, not this time Bubba.



What I Did Sunday

So my little friends came across the street today–the baby robins fledged. One came right up to our front door and landed on the railings–no doubt having heard that James cooks like a chef.  But worm stew was not on the menu! In the elm tree sat a second little guy, also chirping and wondering how in the world he would ever see food again. Parents were in yard and knew the family whereabouts.  (And yes, I do love my new camera lens.)