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The three little falcons that hatched from the nest atop the MidAmerican Energy building in downtown Davenport this spring are definitely "getting their wings."

Today we're sharing photos taken by Sean O'Neal, a Davenport man who works downtown and has occasion to see these incredible birds.

In fact, O'Neal was downtown on a recent Sunday when he saw one of the falcons in the middle of 4th Street, hopping around.

"It was still learning to fly and needed some time to rest before making another attempt," O'Neal said in an email.

"I got it out of the street and under the shade of a tree to let it recover a little.  We hung out together for about 20 minutes resting.  After a while it started stretching its wings, flapping and jumping up and down.  Then it took flight and was last seen flying south toward the nesting site."

What a wonderful encounter with nature. Thanks to O'Neal for the pictures and for the reminder that everyone has these opportunities if they but look.

LONG LIVE THE REST STOPS: You may have read elsewhere in the Times that the Iowa Department of Transportation is considering closing some of its rest stops on Interstate 80.

No, no no!

Not only do rest stops serve a basic human need, but they create a friendly, positive, welcoming image for Iowa.

I've driven lots of interstates through the years, and I would venture to say that the frequency (about every 30 miles) and cleanliness of our rest stops is superior to all other states. All others. (Europe is even worse. Not only are they mostly nonexistent, but if you find one you have to pay with exact change to use it.)

Second, most of them are beautiful!

Most are set in groves of trees, largely oak and hickory in the eastern part of the state. Getting out of the car and walking in the shade, maybe with a bit of breeze, is rejuvenating.

When we took summer vacations with our children years ago, rest stops were where we unpacked our cooler and ate lunch. These spots were ever so much more restful than going into a restaurant.

And in later years, Iowa rest stops have, one by one, been remodeled into beautiful buildings decorated with colorful mosaics and words on the walls that tell the story of Iowa, of its sweeping prairies and of its place on the Underground Railroad. The doors to these building open automatically into a vestibule and have benches inside for a little rest.

With the calming effect of the trees and the uplifting nature of the art on the wall, I would venture to say that these stops improve the spirits of many of the people who stop at them.

We need as many improved spirits as we can get, and I support Iowa doing its part.The whole country travels through Iowa. We have a great opportunity to do something for the common good.

BICKELHAUPT ON STAGE: The Bickelhaupt Arboretum in Clinton, known for its outstanding conifer collection, has been chosen as the host for the 2020 national convention of the National Conifer Society, a three-day event expected to draw 200 to 250 people from around the country.

That's quite an honor. Program director Margo Hansen is excited to show off the arb's 450-ish dwarf and unusual conifers.

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