Larry Stone's Iowa Listening to the Land

October 30, 2012

Almost winter . . .?

Filed under: Uncategorized — lstone @ 9:34 pm

Tundra swans over the Mississippi

It’s official!

When the tundra swans show up along the Upper Mississippi, you know that winter is on its way.

We delighted in the sights and sounds of a hundred or so swans north of Harpers Ferry on October 27. A few birds loafed in the backwaters along Red Oak Road, while others restlessly circled over the river valley.

The majestic swans ignored the flotillas of coots that shared the shallows with them, and tolerated small flocks of Canada geese, mallards, and widgeons. We also spotted wood ducks, canvasbacks, green-winged teal, and a passing flock of white pelicans.

Swans, geese, ducks - Red Oak Road

But the big push of waterfowl apparently hasn’t begun yet. It may take a stronger cold snap to bring down the big rafts of scaup, redheads, and canvasbacks.

Bald eagles already were staging along Red Oak Road in anticipation, however. One immature eagle feasted greedily on what appeared to be a pied-billed grebe. Other eagles soared on the thermals or sat patiently on logs protruding from the water.

Grebe for lunch

Pileated woodpeckers, cardinals, juncos, and elusive sparrows flitted through the trees and along the roadside where we stopped to watch the waterfowl and raptor spectacle. The first purple finches also have migrated from the north to feast on our sunflower seeds.

purple finch devouring sunflower seeds

Earlier on the brisk morning, a handsome buck deer had treated us to an uncharacteristically good view as he paused in a neighbor’s hayfield. The doe he was chasing probably made him throw caution to the winds! Yes, the rut is yet another sign of the changing seasons.

Handsome buck

Oh, we’ll enjoy to these last fall days, admiring a dandelion blossom in the yard, and savoring fresh garden lettuce from the patch that we cover with tarps each frosty night. We’ll cling to these memories as we prepare for the Iowa winter.

October 20, 2012

Work Begins on Motor Mill Bridge!

Filed under: Uncategorized — lstone @ 2:53 pm

Action on a new bridge for Motor Mill!

The long-awaited project to replace the bridge over the Turkey River at Motor Mill has begun! Crews from Minnowa Construction, of Harmony, Minn., started work at the site on October 11.

The first phase is to build a temporary cofferdam to protect the century-old center pier during repairs. The historic pier will be used for the new bridge. Contractors also are repairing abutments on each side of the river. Concrete caps – formed to look like the original limestone structures – will raise the new bridge from two to four feet above the level of the old bridge, which was built in 1895.

When the piers and abutments have been stabilized, workers will assemble the steel spans of the bridge on land, then lift the spans with cranes and set them atop the bases. The final steps are to install the bridge deck, and to grade the approaches to the bridge. Work is scheduled to be done in early December.

The bridge will be open to traffic, with some weight and length restrictions. The Motor Mill Foundation and the Clayton County Board of Supervisors are discussing measures to assure the safety of pedestrians around the Mill site.

The south span of the old bridge washed out in the flood of 1991, while the north span was destroyed by the 2008 flood. Following the 2008 disaster, the Clayton County Conservation Board, which owns the Motor Mill historic site, worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to get partial funding to replace the bridge. Tim Engelhardt, director of the Conservation Board, also secured several other grants to help with the $900,000 project. The Motor Mill Foundation is in the midst of a capital fund drive for the bridge construction and continuing renovation work at Motor.

The Foundation is holding a raffle for the privilege of being the first person to cross the new Motor Mill bridge during its official opening. Tickets cost $50. For details, call 563-245-1516, or visit

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