Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

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.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ribbon Cutting



Several hundred people were gathered along a new overlook in Minnesota, near the Iowa border, south of Brownsville. Across the river, clouded in mist, lay Wisconsin.

A yellow ribbon lay across a corner of the turnout, behind which stood a number of dignitaries. They represented numerous conservation groups, government agencies and private corporations. All had been involved, one way or another, in the building of the overlook.. State Senator Sharon Ropes speaks of the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge and what it means for all of us.
As Mrs T, Loretta and I parked along the highway, under the direction of state troopers, we heard a rather loud and strange sound emanating from the river. I think it was some sort of excited yet friendly conversation among some visitors from the far north.
Here, we were to witness a world class event in the world of natures wonders. Coming from the arctic north, in their thousands, tundra swans had stopped to refuel and rest, before continuing their journey to Chesapeake Bay, far to the southeast.
With the construction of the lock and dam system on the river in the 1930's, many of the natural aspects of the river have changed. One of these is the wave action of the increased open spaces. Many islands have disappeared. Because of this, many of the plants and tubers the swans fed on also disappeared. Now man is undoing the damage and helping the birds, by using dredge material from the main channel to rebuild these islands. Here you can see one of the many artificial islands providing a resting place and shelter from the wind and renewed food supplies.

The new overlook provides a safe place for people to turn out to see and photograph the swans.

Mrs. T (a.k.a. Queen B) now successfully cruising around with a cane and camera.
Loretta spots some opportunistic eagles resting comfortably far out in the river on an artificial island.

Previously people would park along the shoulder endangering themselves and passing vehicles.
Way to go DNR and Army Corps of Engineers. We make an annual trip along the river to see this amazing sight. It never grows old.
Thanks Mother Nature!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pheasant Hunting

I went pheasant hunting today with my longtime hunting partner Rick. Well, to tell the truth, he had his shotgun and I was carrying my camera. It had been a long time since we tramped the fields together in search of the elusive ringneck Let’s go back to the beginning.

I grew up in the city and hunting was not part of my youthful experience. My father had hunted a little back in thirties and then lost interest. When I got my first teaching job and moved to rural small town Minnesota, he gave me his double barreled sixteen gauge shotgun. Mrs T and I decided on getting a dog. Kids would come later. The dog was Max. He was half golden retriever and half German shorthaired pointer. If the book Marley hadn’t already been written, I could have done it myself, based on Max’s exploits. He looked just like a big golden lab. And later proved, among other things. to be an amazing hunter.

Max The Wonder Dog


I tried upland game hunting a few times but had indifferent success at best. Then Rick joined the staff as our American History teacher. He was a pro when it came to hunting and I learned a lot. Thirty some years of successful pheasant and grouse hunting followed.

Back from grouse hunting.

Later, when my old football knee became so bad that I couldn’t walk safely anymore on uneven ground, I had to give it up. I then took up duck and goose hunting from a blind for a while and enjoyed that as well. Seeing a flock of honkers turn and come in to the decoys, as you called for them, was always fun.


The best memories though and the stories that go with them usually involve, somehow, my hunting dogs. Max The Wonder Dog, then Chessie and Muffy, the Chesapeake Bay retrievers.


Chessie von Milville

Pheasant hunting with gun or camera Nov. 9, 2009

Eighty acres of public hunting, restored wildlife habitat provided by the organization Pheasants Forever and the Minnesota DNR





As the sun set and it was time to call it a day, I reflected on the fact that a few years ago, after my knee replacement, I had decided to go in a different direction. A friend introduced me to birding, I got a digital camera, some binoculars and a non hunting GSD - Baron. You can find me afield year around now. Tramping the trails and woods, the parks and prairies, still hunting birds or whatever of Mother Natures bounty catches my fancy. Today, I went pheasant hunting with Rick again. A hike through the nostalgia of great memories and my younger years. But I am just as fond today of the new memories being created each time I grab my camera and round up my big puppy saying "hey Baron, let’s go for a walk."

Friday, November 6, 2009

No Fishing

I didn't get out flyfishing as much this year as I have in the past. There were lots of reasons for this but possibly the main ones were my dog and my birding. Baron is now 2 1/2. He needs lots of exercise. I also took up birding two years ago. It all fit together. We hike a lot. I bring my camera and binocs. And following a path along trout streams winding thru the woods is a great place to hike. Perfect! It's quiet... really quiet except for the birds having there spring fling. Warblers everywhere. And others almost beyond counting. What a setting. Take a look.



I don't think having a large dog romping around thru the woods in front of you is standard birding technique. Still, years of upland game hunting for pheasants and ruffed grouse make it seem quite normal to me. Baron flushes the tiny birds and they often fly in my direction as not. Now I know where to look for them with my binocs as they land in nearby trees.


I watch carefully when he starts sniffing the ground too carefully. Chasing deer is not acceptable. Then, as he and I learned later in the fall, investigating skunks isn't so great an idea either.
These crystal clear, cold streams, orginate from springs. This limestone (karst) region is full of disappearing rivers, caves, sinkholes and bubbling springs. Here is one in a nearby state park. Water cress is often an indicator of such a spring.
I come to a spot where two streams join. The water is too deep for my waders. Baron swims across and looks back expecting me to follow. Fortunately their is an old abandoned bridge, which carried some long forgotten road. Now it allows me to easily reach the other side.
I did see some nice brown trout along the way. I marked the spots in my mind, planning on coming back for them another day. In the meantime, Baron and I headed back to the camper. Mrs. T. mentioned something about steak for dinner. Come on pup. Time to go.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Acorns







The neighborhood surrounding our little abode is known as Oak Hill. Naturally, with the exception of a few white pines I planted, it's mainly large mature oak trees. The oaks consist of white, burr and a few reds. They shade and shelter us. On occasion they draw lightening bolts. Overall I love their strength and beauty. Except....



Except for one little thing. Acorns. It was a great year for acorns. Last year a friend asked for a few acorns in the fall. Zip. I couldn't find a one



By Brigid SchulteWashington Post Staff Writer Sunday, November 30, 2008
The idea seemed too crazy to Rod Simmons, a measured, careful field botanist. Naturalists in Arlington County couldn't find any acorns. None. No hickory nuts, either. Then he went out to look for himself. He came up with nothing. Nothing crunched underfoot. Nothing hit him on the head.

Then calls started coming in about crazy squirrels. Starving, skinny squirrels eating garbage, inhaling bird feed, greedily demolishing pumpkins. Squirrels boldly scampering into the road. And a lot more calls about squirrel roadkill.

But Simmons really got spooked when he was teaching a class on identifying oak and hickory trees late last month. For 2 1/2 miles, Simmons and other naturalists hiked through Northern Virginia oak and hickory forests. They sifted through leaves on the ground, dug in the dirt and peered into the tree canopies. Nothing.
"I'm used to seeing so many acorns around and out in the field, it's something I just didn't believe," he said. "But this is not just not a good year for oaks. It's a zero year. There's zero production. I've never seen anything like this before."
The absence of acorns could have something to do with the weather, Simmons thought. But he hoped it wasn't a climatic event. "Let's hope it's not something ghastly going on with the natural world."
To find out, Simmons and Arlington naturalists began calling around. A naturalist in Maryland found no acorns on an Audubon nature walk there. Ditto for Fairfax, Falls Church, Charles County, even as far away as Pennsylvania. There are no acorns falling from the majestic oaks in Arlington National Cemetery.
"Once I started paying attention, I couldn't find any acorns anywhere. Not from white oaks, red oaks or black oaks, and this was supposed to be their big year," said Greg Zell, a naturalist at Long Branch Nature Center in Arlington. "We're talking zero. Not a single acorn. It's really bizarre."
Zell began to do some research. He found Internet discussion groups, including one on Topix called "No acorns this year," reporting the same thing from as far away as the Midwest up through New England and Nova Scotia. "We live in Glenwood Landing, N.Y., and don't have any acorns this year. Really weird," wrote one. "None in Kansas either! Curiouser and curiouser."
Jennifer Klepper of Annapolis even blogged about it. "Last year our trees shot down so many acorns that you were taking your life into your own hands if you went outside without a crash helmet on," she wrote this month. "But this year? Forget it."


Garris started calling nurseries. "I was worried they'd think I was crazy. But they said I wasn't the only one calling who was concerned about it," she said. "This is the first time I can remember in my lifetime not seeing any acorns drop in the fall and I'm 53. You have to wonder, is it global warming? Is it environmental? It makes you wonder what's going on."
Simmons has a theory about the wet and dry cycles. But many skeptics say oaks in other regions are producing plenty of acorns, and the acorn bust here is nothing more than the extreme of a natural boom-and-bust cycle. But the bottom line is that no one really knows. "It's sort of a mystery," Zell said."

This year.... well take a look at my deck. Every day for weeks it looked liked this.



And every day I swept it clean. No walking in the back yard with bare feet. Ouch! Was I happy about this situation? No way. Was anybody happy about this situation? I guess so!



Tuesday, October 27, 2009

We Got Skunked

We got skunked....literally that is. It all started innocently enough last week. The Baron & I decided to do a serious hike. We had been cooped up by cold and rainy weather for far to long. The sun had peeked through that morning and off we went.



These say that dogs often reflect their masters. Well Baron and I both like to explore. He follows me through the woods and pastures. Sometimes I follow him because he has the nose and finds interesting things. That proved to be a bad plan on this day.
Of course, he loves romping in the water. That usually is pretty safe, except when he runs up to me and does that shaking thing.
Heading into the woods might turn up some deer or turkeys. Chasing turkeys or squirrels is ok but running after deer is a no no.


We were heading across a grassy field where Baron got his nose down and began tracking seriously. Then the "pronking" started. For those unfamiliar with the term, African antelopes are most famous for the technique. All my hunting dogs did this in the field, especially when they were trying to spot a pheasant in the tall grass. Apparently Baron, the GSD, also had a use for it. I figured he was on the trail of a mouse or something akin. Wrong!!!

It was ugly. I never saw the stripped pussy cat in the tall grass, but when Baron came rushing back to me and then rolled over and over on the ground, I knew what he had found. Phew!!!

We trudged back to the truck and loaded him up. A minor plus was, that for the first time, I wasn't totally sorry that a few years back a virus had taken away some of my sense of smell. Later, Mrs T pointed out that besides the dog, the truck, the garage, the kennel, me and my clothes all reeked. I barely escaped being banished from the house. What to do? Actually I already knew from a previous experience with Max (my first lab hunting dog) that the tomato juice remedy was highly ineffective. Calling ahead on my cell phone and warning my spouse of our immenent arrival, she did an internet search for a cure. Here it is -

1 Qt 3% hydrogen peroxide 1/4 cup baking soda 1 tsp. liquid soap

All you need to do is wet down the dog with a hose, mix the ingredients together in a container, and then slowly pour the mixture over the dog while rubbing it into the fur.

After the dog has been bathed in this solution rinse it down with the hose and the dog will be odor free.

My dog weighed 100 lbs so I doubled the amounts shown above, but if you have a small to medium size animal, the recipe listed should do just fine.

Although the ingredients are not dangerous, care should obviously be taken to keep the solution out of your dog's eyes, ears and mouth. Credit for this remedy goes to chemist, Paul Krebaum, of Molex Inc. in Lisle, Illinois. The above listed ingredients were published in the August 1995 issue of Popluar Science.

It worked great. Here's hoping you don't have to try it!