Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Sunday, May 24, 2020

Lake Louise

So on a walk to see the early Woodland wildflowers were two females and myself. We were on a trail in Lake Louise state Park located in southeastern Minnesota. On the trail I had is Lily Barb and my rescue dog. Following behind is myself and an unnamed former teaching colleague of mine who also happens to be a long time widow. It's my first date and more than 50 some years since........... needless to say I'm a little out of practice and probably maybe especially on dating protocol. Spotting a small patch of wild Phlox I say"can I take your picture in front of those beautiful flowers?"
"NO!!!!!" is the answer.     Oooops.  I goofed. Handing her my point-and-shoot camera she had no problem taking my picture among beautiful flowers 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

The Bank

Today, in a slightly odd juxtaposition, I recieved my Prairie Moon wildflower catalogue and the worst blizzard to hit Minnesota in at least five years arrived. Thus, instead of looking outside my living room window at a total whiteout, I chose to think spring and the next steps in my woodland wildflower restorations. This "project" has evolved slowly. First, there was a new house in the woods, next to our home of thirty plus years. Then walls and pathways were built around and thru the prickly ash and gooseberries in the south woodlot. It took three years for it to look like this.
The next step was to figure out what to do with the east facing bank, next to the road. It was the only semi-sunny spot on the property. Morning sun till noon, then shade and more shade. I consulted the wildflower specialists at Prairie Moon Nursery. They had just the right native wild flower mix for a semi-shady area. . I hacked everything back in the fall and burned the rest. Then the seeds were mixed with sand and scattered and tamped down by foot and hand. Would they stay put or would the melting snow in the spring wash everything down into the ditch? Only time would tell.
I know that one mans weed patch might be another mans treasure but in 2006 I thought this bank lacked quite a bit in the way of color. Neighbors had commented on how much they liked my flower gardens, so I thought they deserved a little better to look at while driving to work.
The spring of 2007 saw the bulbs emerge, planted the fall before, after the burning of the bank.
By midsummer the weeds were as tall and robust and ever. The precious wildflower seedlings? I didn’t have a clue if I had any at all. By midsummer the next step was to weed wack everything back to about four to six inches. This gave the seedlings (if there were any) a fighting chance for survival.

By midsummer 2008 things were looking a little better
The summer of 2008 saw the purple coneflowers appear along with dozens of other varieties.

In 2009 the next step was to begin the restoration of the even larger north wooded area. But that's a story for another post.
And now in the year of our Lord in the year of our Lord May 16th 2020 the Woodland wild  flower garden to the north, the Prairie bank facing the road to the east, the circular purple Prairie cone plot next to the Northwoods in the grassy area and a large mixed flower garden along the property line to the south adjacent to our old house now owned by our neighbors, I am pretty much at rest. With little or no weeding to do on my part the wildflowers beat back their competitors also known as Weeds. This leaves the occasional oak tree seedling to be removed as the Woodland garden has all the shade. This project now complete means that I have about 75% less lawn to mow life is good here on Oak Hill.

Monday, May 11, 2020

The year was 1948

The year was 1948. We're at the intersection of Hudson Road and Earl Street on the East Side of St. Paul, Minnesota. One block behind the photographer, who is facing south, is the apartment where my parents and I lived during World War II. In 1946 we had moved upstairs into my grandparents house,  which lay about 7 blocks straight
 south on the bluff high above the Mississippi River. The Hudson Road proceeded east less than a quarter mile where it reached the edge of the city, then  turning into U.S. Highway #12 as it went on to, naturally, Hudson, Wisc.  To the right in the photo was a Rexall Drugstore and Johnson Bros. grocery. In the mid fifties that grocery store was rebuilt a little further east as a "supermarket" and provided me my first job when I was in high school.  
I'm not sure what this building was on the southeast corner of the intersection.  I do remember though riding the streetcar line into downtown St. Paul.  After several years living with my grandparents we moved to a brand new house on Point Douglas Road about 5 blocks east of this intersection.  At a rather young age I was allowed to take the streetcar downtown to the big public library. You can see it coming down the track heading onto the turn west on Hudson  At the downtown library  I would meet my Aunt Pearl who worked at the First National Bank and  always took me to Bridgemans for a malt before we headed headed home to the Daytons Bluff on the streetcar. I forgot to mention that around the corner from the drugstore lay two of my favorite places, Bastas bakery where I became addicted to Bismarks mygrandpa brought meand the Mound theater where Saturday matinees for a dime were a big attraction.
And then it all changed. Everything.  Hudson Road became a four lane divided highway U.S. #12 cutting through the east side.  Eventually it became part of the Eisenhower Interstate highway system.  Half of the cozy little neighborhood  commecial area was demolished.  It's on the left with the movie theater in the foreground as you face east towards Chicago and points beyond. Our new house was over that first dip in the distance.
Here is a much more recent view of the same intersection.  I hardly recognize the city and neighborhood I grew up in anymore.  The road, now freeway,  still heads east from this point thru mile after mile of suburbs and over 3 million plus people who now live in the metropolitan Twin City area.  We've lived for almost 50 years one hundred miles to the south in rural Minnesota where Mrs T and I taught school and raised a family. We both grew up in St. Paul and have fond memories of those days long ago before the freeways made suburbia possible and changed everything.....

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Limestone Cliffs

Mrs T. and I had taken our GSD Lily for a hike along a small trout stream and below one of the many limestone cliffs here in Bluff Country.

The spot was very familiar to me as I had often accompanied my friend Mr. Sciences 8th grade Earth Science classes on field trips to this area.  Perhaps you can picture two orange busloads of kids piling out, notebooks in hand and then being  told to
estimate the height of the cliff, the rate of the water flow and to look for fossils.  Although as the American History and Geography teacher this geology stuff wasn't my area of expertise I'd been along on these outings enough with Mr. Science to know the answer to some of the questions. Such as "you people don't imagine this little  dinky creek carved out this huge cliff do you?"  I had to make sure I wasn't nodding my head and thereby giving away the answer.

The same question was often posed as we stood  on the bluffs more than three hundred feet above the Mississippi River and gazed across the great valley towards Wisconsin several miles to the east.   "You think that little river way down there carved out this huge valley" Mr. Science asked again.   Of course NOT common sense would say.   But after hearing him explain the melting of the great ice sheets to the north at the end of the last ice age and the mighty flood that followed it seemed very possible indeed. 
On Barn Bluff near Red Wing, Minnesota

Far below is Lake Pepin  a widening of the Mississippi River.  Photo taken from Frontenac State Park with Wisconsin in the distance.

Gary (Mr. Science) studying rocks......

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Sam Billings campground

It's been more than two decades since I've been there. Still, I have many fond memories of this particular campground. It's definitely one of the Top Ten on my list of favorites campgrounds. The Sam Billings Memorial Campground, is up the West Fork Rd., from Darby, Montana. It was part of a family camping fly fishing trip consisting of my brother Greg his wife Bootsy myself and Mrs. T. The campground can be found about a quarter of a mile off the blacktop next to Boulder Creek. That creek feeds the West Fork of the Bitterroot River. Photography was mainly by Barb The campground is surrounded by huge Ponderous Pines. The only thing comparable, in my experience, would be the Norway Pines at the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Itasca State Park in northern Minnesota.

The small town of Darby sits in the beautiful Bitterroot Valley, south of Missoula and Hamilton, Montana. Its main attraction to Mrs. T is a world class ice-cream shop!Her most serious addiction.

What's so special about this place that I like so much? Let me count the ways.
1. The short road into the campground is narrow and winding. This tends to discourage the riff-raff with their huge rigs. Pop-ups and small campers do just fine.
2. Potable water is not available, so you have to bring your own. Of course, a bracing dip in the creek will wash the sweat off, if you dont mind its 32&1/2 degree temperature (just kidding... sort of). And the wives naturally made the best use of it
3. Three-foot diameter Ponderosa pines are scattered in the campground. It's also worth a hike 4.5 miles up Boulder Creek trail to the falls. On that particular hike wives having heard unfounded rumors of large grizzly bears roaming the area along the trail chose to wear on their jackets a bunch of jingle bells. Naturally the husbands told them the truth that Risley actually not found in that area. However my brother and I had to add the fact that the area had the largest concentration of mountain lions in the lower 48 states to which we added the fact that the one thing that took the lions off the most was, of course, jingle bells!
The trail gently ascends through big pines, fir and spruce with streamside understory of western yew, Oregon grape and kinnikinnick. Moose are common. Watch for pikas and marmots in talus slopes.

My first trip up to the falls, was with my brother, fly rod in hand on a several years before. It wasn't the 4 plus miles that did me in. It was the several thousand feet gain in elevation. Also, being totally out of shape didn't help either, as the above picture reveals...ugh.
On that occasion "It just around the bend," my brother kept looking back and yelling. Finally convinced, as Redd Fox used to say on Sandford and Son, "it's the Big One," well I did have some feeling chest pain, so I sat down on the trail, composed myself for the inevitable, and decided to enjoy the mountain view. Five minutes later, having taken some deep breaths, I determined instead the problem was oxygen deprivation. And more imporantly, I could hear the roar of the falls just around the next bend.
4. The trail head to the falls accomodates horse campers and backpackers for access to the Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness. It was on this trail, that I saw my first and only Great Gray Owl, sitting right above me.
5. Solitude. On most occasions, when I've been there, the campground was sparsely populated.

6. Wildlife. Yes, the wilderness area has the highest concentration of mountain lions in the lower forty-eight. And grizzly bears have been re-introduced. Drumming of pileated woodpeckers and scents of vanilla waft from big pines, where brown creepers nest under peeling ponderosa pine bark. Moose tracks etch the mud by the spruce-lined creek. Butterflies - blues, swallowtails, and admirals - crowd sunny openings near Boulder Creek. At night, a saw-whet owl hoots from a high limb above the campground. It doesn't get any better than all this.
7. Trout. Cuthroats and cutbows abound in the creek. Not big ones. Pan sized. Mmmm Mmmmm Good!
For bigger challenges, and catch and release, the West Fork and the Bitteroot itself , do just fine.

In the summer of 2000, there were a series of really bad forest fires throughout the West. One of the worst was in the Bitteroot National Forest, adjacent to and on both sides of the Bitterroot Valley. Darby, Montana became the control center for the firefighters taking on this terrible blaze.
This awesome picture was taken in the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana on August 6, 2000 by a fire behavior analyst from Fairbanks, Alaska by the name of John McColgan with a Digital camera. Since he was working while he took the picture, he cannot sell or profit from it so he should at least be recognized as the photographer of this once in a lifetime shot. .
Now all of that is passed though perhaps someday I will just return to Montana as a tourist. My vertigo and tendency to fall even on our little placid trout streams in southeastern Minnesota, has led me to give up the sport. Still the memories are there of Sam Billings one of my favorite
places in The Great American West.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Turks Cap Lily - Not!

Lilium Superbum - The Turks Cap Lily

There are lessons to be learned in just about all phases of life. History, or in this case botany, can teach that. Keeping an open mind might be one such lesson. Take the case of the elusive Turks Cap Lily. Wildflowers like birds can have "local" names. Thats why both are scientifically identified by latin names. Some time back I posted some wildflower pictures and identified one of them, found in a native prairie preserve, as a "Turks Cap Lily." Every one around here called these wildflowers Turks Caps, so I was absolutely certainly positive that's what they were. Thats why when several commenters gently informed that they were Michigan Lilies I replied that they were seriously mistaken. The ideological rigidity of todays politics come to mind doesn't it?

Michigan Lily

Lilium michiganense is an attractive plant that adapts well to flower gardens. The Michigan Lily can be distinguished from Lilium superbum (Turk's Cap Lily) as follows: 1) the former species has a more northern distribution in Illinois, 2) the anthers of the former are ½" or less, while the anthers of the latter species are ½" or longer, 3) the former has yellow bulbs, while the latter has white bulbs, 4) the tips of the tepals of the former curve backward toward the base of the flower, while in the latter species they curve backward considerably beyond the base of the flower, and 5) specimens of the latter species may have a conspicuous 6-pointed green star at the base of the flower, although it is not always present. Somehow I'd been unaware of the difference. Oops!

Today, I wish I could remember the names of the people I'd self righteously "corrected" by email. I'd send them a belated apology. Or maybe the title of this post might catch their eye... but I doubt it. In any case, let's all try to keep more of an open mind..... I'm working on it..... :)

Sunday, April 12, 2020

The Day Of The Eagles

I had decided to rev up my  birding hobby a few  years ago by persuading my friend Mr Science to join me at the National Eagle Center in Wabasha for the annual Golden Eagle Count. To my surprise Golden Eagles are found wintering here in the Mississippi Valley. Unfortunately, he couldn't make it on the appointed Saturday, so we decided to branch out on our own the following Friday. We stopped by the Eagle Center to get some ideas on routes to take where we might see the Golden's. There we learned that over one hundred Golden's had been spotted in Minn. Iowa, and Wisc. the previous weekend. It was on to Wisconsin!! We made a way stop near Reeds landing on the Big River, where we spotted six Balds and a host of the usual waterfowl.
     Then it was across the Wabasha Bridge headed into the coulee country east of Alma Wisconsin. We spotted perhaps another half of a dozen Bald Eagles in the next couple of hours before we started thinking about lunch. "Where can we find a place to eat," I asked somewhat naively. "Hey every town in Wisconsin has at least one church and two bars bar,"  I was informed. So there ahead in the distance appeared to be a small crossroads town.
As we approached the town's outskirts I noticed some buildings and a fence line stretching toward the east. "Huge flock of crows in the trees on that fence line up ahead," I noted. As we approached the "crows" seemed to be growing in size. Stopping, we got out and scanned with out binocs. They were definitely Bald Eagles and my partner began counting till he reached over fifty. It was then that I noticed what appeared to be a hog confinement building along the road ahead of us. Also there were more eagles on the ground in the alfalfa field behind the buildings and adjacent to the fence.
We decided to approach closer pulling the car ahead a couple hundred yards. Now we could see clearly behind the buildings. Dozens of Balds were on the ground, some in a literal pile, where they were swarming and jumping in the air. This reminded me of one of those African documentaries where you see vultures clambering on the dead carcass of an antelope.We also spotted two birds on the ground somewhat separated from the others that we thought might be Golden's. In the half hour we watched this amazing sight, they never took flight, so we were unable to confirm their identity.
Finally, we drove into town to find (sure enough) a bar and grill. We had lunch with a view, including watching eagles flying back and forth across the highway and roosting on a Catholic church adjacent to the bar. Upon asking our waitress if seeing so many eagles was a common sight, she informed us that they were "here all winter due to the chicken farm." She said they flew in each day "by the hundreds from the Mississippi River," which was about ten miles to the west as the crow or should I say in this case the eagle flies. What an amazing day!!!! Apparently dead chickens were thrown out into the fields for the Eagles

Monday, April 6, 2020

Love Lights A Tree (Late Fall 213)

Even though my little point and shoot camera wasn’t up to the job, the recent Love Lights A Tree ceremony in Spring Valley was very impressive. As a crowd of friends and supporters watched, our friend Steve did the job of honorary tree lighter on the giant tree next to the tourist information center.  A large number of named luminaries surrounded the tree and were labeled with the names of people lost, survivors and currently battling cancer.
As a two time cancer survivor (cervical and breast) Mrs. T had a candle in her honor and as well as many for Steve who is currently taking on pancreatic. Here is Steve and wife Jewel along with the Troutbirders Ray and Barb having a sidewalk lunch a few years ago in the port city of St. Malo, Brittany France. Those were the days my friends….