An inventive Clinton man has found a way to bring eagles into focus for dozens of area photographers.
Ken Kester built a giant slingshot to hurl dead fish into the open waters below Lock and Dam 14 in LeClaire, attracting eagles that swoop in and snatch them out of the water.
The “fish launcher,” as Kester calls it, came about because the current in the river near the parking lot and public area at Lock and Dam 14 changed this year. Photographers used to be able to throw fish in, and the current would swirl around and carry the fish out far enough to where the eagles would come down and pick them out of the water.
The fish launcher slings the fish farther into the channel.
“You have to get the fish out there a couple hundred feet,” Kester said, “into that comfort zone for the eagles.”
Conservation officer Jeff Harrison of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources said that as long as the fish come from the local pool of water, there is nothing wrong with the photographers throwing the fish out to draw in the eagles.
Harrison said the department would be more concerned if someone were bringing a cooler full of fish from other areas that could be carrying a virus called viral hemorrhagic septicemia, which is a pathogen affecting fish of all sizes and ages.
Kester said the fish launcher is popular with the ever-growing number of photographers who gather daily near Lock and Dam 14. The large number of eagles along the river this year seems to have drawn out the photo enthusiasts who can number from 10 to more than 150 in recent weekends, Kester said.
“It brings the birds in and allows more opportunities to get a dramatic shot,” Kester said of his invention.
Harrison said, “On a nice day, the photographers will be elbow to elbow there at Lock and Dam 14 trying to capture eagle pictures. It’s a popular place.”
“On a personal side," he said, “I don’t know if I agree with it. Some of these photographs show up in some pretty big magazines, and they are more or less staged.”
For his part, Kester, who works in the railroad industry, said photography became a serious hobby in 2000. For the past three years since he became involved with the Quad-Cities Photography Club, eagles have become serious business.
Earlier this week, he kept the eagles and photographers busy, but after about two hours, the eagles stopped dropping in to grab the fish.
“I think they got full,” he said.
It's inherently Midwestern: Neighbors become friends, casual pleasantries are exchanged between businessmen early on a Sunday morning and a friendship becomes reality, seeds are sown, summer passes and then the harvest arrives.
A voice calls out from underneath the wooden paddles of a 1950s-era John Deere 30 combine, “I got it.”
Slowly, Les Shollenberger crawls from beneath the aging machine, displaying the pieces of metal that had been wedged in the cutter bar.
“Yep, that would do it,” Tony Knobbe says, glancing at the items as he climbs back on his 1962 John Deere 3010 that's pulling the combine. And with the rhythmic pup-pup-pup-pup of the engine, he continues harvesting the two-acre field of barley just south of the Davenport Municipal Airport one day last week.
After watching Knobbe make two passes around the field, Shollenberger climbs onto his 1952 John Deere B tractor with a wagon attached and pulls it alongside Knobbe’s equipment to unload the new crop.
The golden grain sizzles as it begins to fill the empty grain cart.
The pair met in 1998 after Knobbe, the vice president of business banking at Wells Fargo, moved onto the acreage next to Shollenberger, a retired Deere & Co. employee, near Mount Joy.
Both having grown up on farms in Iowa, Knobbe near Carroll and Shollenberger near Delmar, the duo has a natural love of farming and the machines they used while growing up.
It took all of five minutes after Knobbe started his 1956 John Deere 60 tractor before Shollenberger came running over to see what was going on.
“I had to find out who it was that had a two-cylinder John Deere in the neighborhood,” Shollenberger said.
“We met and became friends that day,” Knobbe said as the pair laughed.
Continually expanding the parameters of their hobby, the pair are members of the Deere Valley Collectors, an antique tractor collectors club, and they are involved
with several tractor shows and area parades during
The pair have a dozen tractors and numerous attachments in their collections, but in hopes of going beyond collecting all things John Deere, they eventually approached another neighbor with an empty two-acre piece of land and inquired about planting the ground. That resulted in crops and harvests of oats, straw and hay, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy their yearning.
Then Knobbe had a conversation one Sunday morning at church last year with Ryan Burchett, co-owner of the Mississippi River Distilling Co. in LeClaire.
“I’d love to grow something for you,” Knobbe told Burchett.
“We figured out we didn’t know how to grow winter barley, so we stuck with spring barley,” Knobbe said. “And that’s how we got into this business.”
Burchett said the grain will be used in the production of bourbon and a limited-season whiskey made from 100 percent barley.
With a pair of two-acre sites, Shollenberger said they expect to harvest about 200 bushels of barley this year.
“We are pleased as punch with that,” he said.
You would have guessed that after 27 years, Margie C. Hopper, vice president of the Quad-City Air Show, might have been on a flight or two.
Well, you guessed wrong.
A chance encounter in the air show office Thursday with Precision Power Aerobatics pilot John Klatt resulted in Hopper getting strapped into an Extra 300L aerobatic aircraft. Fifteen minutes later, she was flying across the blue skies over the Quad-Cities for an adventure, she admitted, she will never forget.
Still shaking after the flight, somewhere between tears and laughter, Hopper said, “It was amazing, I had no idea the perspective you get.
“The feeling, it's like a Disney ride times about hundred, I think.”
She continues: “I was upside down. I could tell we were pulling lots of G’s going up and down. At one point, John Klatt was upside down beside us for a long time and I thought, 'That’s nice.'"
Until 2010, the air show office was located in Eldridge, never allowing Hopper to be close to the air show's activities. But now the office is located in the former Carver-Aero building at the Davenport Airport, where the 27th Quad-City Air Show begins at noon Saturday, with gates opening at 8 a.m. The theme this year is "An Aerial Salute to The Greatest Generation" featuring World War II aircraft.
“I know we don’t have the jet teams this summer,” Hopper said, but she thinks the civilian teams are performing at such a high level and are also entertaining, it has brought many of them into the limelight.
Sponsored by the Air National Guard, Klatt said, “I love flying these airplanes, I love taking people up flying. You get to see cities from a thousand feet up; it’s a really unique opportunity for me.”
Klatt flies an MXS all carbon-fiber aircraft, and at speeds of more than 250 mph, he rolls, tumbles and dives through his highly choreographed performance.
With the rank of lieutenant colonel, Klatt flew the F-16 “Fighting Falcon” for the Guard and was deployed to Iraq in 2005, 2007 and 2009.
“Being a part of that family is a big part of who I am. So for me to come out and tell people about that is an easy thing to do," Klatt said. “We’re really looking forward to spreading the word about the Air National Guard."
They come from all over — Illinois, Alabama, Wisconsin, Iowa and even a few from overseas — to the Jackson County Fairgrounds in Maquoketa, Iowa.
A small group huddles around an unassuming man seated at a table under two lamps. They are men, women, young and old. All eyes watch every move of the gifted hands. One feverishly takes notes; all are silent.
All have one goal: to become better at what they love — carving.
As if by magic, professional woodcarver Josh Guge guides a shaping tool over a smooth piece of wood.
“Whenever you do a split, it allows you to see the feather underneath it and that gives it a more transparent look,” Guge says on the third day of his five-day Realistic Bird Carving/Painting Seminar.
He shows the delicate feathers that have now appeared in the material. "Less is more,” he continues. “If you can’t do it lightly, don’t do it.”
This is the fourth year at the International Woodcarvers Congress for Harman Sporleder of Manitowoc, Wis.
“This is about a whole week's work so far,” he says, showing a clearly formed small bird carving. Sporleder returns his focus to putting feather detail on his wren. “I carve a little bit of everything — some birds, some fish. I do some wood turning. I just like wood.”
Almost 30 seminars of varying lengths are conducted before the general public is invited in, and those hands-on seminars are taught by some of the world’s best during the 47th annual event.
For seminar instructor Guge, the tradition of carving is in the family.
“I’ve been coming to the show since I was a little kid," he said. "My dad’s a carver." The Guge Institute of Wildlife Art was founded by Josh and his father, Bob, in Gilberts, Ill. The men have gained national recognition for winning numerous Best of Show and World Championship awards at prestigious carving competitions around the country.
Bob Guge had been scheduled to teach a seminar this year, but the progression of brain cancer forced him to cancel.
After a number of years in the Quad-Cities, the event relocated to Maquoketa in 2010. The one big difference in Maquoketa is the camaraderie, according to Guge. Signs are up throughout the community welcoming the carvers and those interested in the event. “We get discounts every place we go,” Guge said.
Carol Leavy, publicity chairperson of the Affiliated Wood Carvers, said some "very amazing" pieces have been submitted this year for the International Woodcarvers Congress.
“When the judges look at a piece, like an animal or fish, it has to be true to the habitat.” Leavy said. “They are very particular.” She explained, “The judges had some debate about that during judging because they had some very high quality pieces to evaluate.”
Carving enthusiasts will find Intarsia has been added as a category in this year's show.
“Intarsia is an art form that uses the natural color and the grain of the wood to create an image (picture) with depth and texture.”