Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Forestville Creek

Mr Science (Gary) and I had planned a birding outing for that day. It didn't work out that way as the day proved to be very windy. The birds would be hunkered down and surely not visible. Plan B was a hike down into the valley of Forestville Creek below his house. My idea was to let the two GSD's Baron and Daisy have a good romp and perhaps catch some early spring wildflowers with my wife's camera. No, I haven't found my missing camera yet!

This is "Bluff Country" at it's best. The region is unglaciated meaning the glaciers did not scour this region thousands of years ago as they did the rest of Minnesota. That means no lakes here or much standing water. The creeks and rivers have had a long time to carve our beautiful valleys. It is also a karst region, meaning the limestone underneath is fractured, leaving sinkholes, disappearing and reappearing rivers. Very susceptible to water pollution which can reappear anywhere.
The major rivers here, the Zumbro, the Whitewater, the Root and the Upper Iowa flow east to meet the mighty Mississippi on its way to the Gulf. The origin of Forestville Creek is a cave which lies below a bluff near Gary's home. It's a first class trout stream exclusively carrying wild trout.

A view of the bluff and cave from the valley.

A disappearing river five miles away leads eventually to this cave. The water is ice cold.

Several other springs at the base of this hill contribute to the flow of the stream.

Baron and Daisy explore ahead of us. Oh, this is fun!!!

Daisy in the foreground. Baron trying to figure out what she is up to.

We run across some fishermen.

False rue anemone.


Dutchman's Breetches


It was a great morning!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Big Birding Mystery Solved

Let's do a little birding mystery today on Monday, April 20, 2009. I will set the stage, detail the qualifications of the investigators, provide the evidence, and then reveal the conclusion. But no peeking ahead unless you're in a really big hurry.
The scene is my backyard. Troutbirder lives in Bluff country i.e. the karst region of southeastern Minnesota.
We had our first rain of the spring last night. The morning was foggy, damp, windy and 40 degrees. Naturally, I had figured conditions were perfect for my first trout fishing outing, as the season had opened on Saturday. After breakfast I gathered my stuff together and was explaining my destinations to Mrs. T. It was right then, that looking out the living room window, I noticed a bright yellow mustardy bird in the oak tree. Not having a clue what it was, I ran and got my binocs. By the time I returned the bird had alighted on one of my platform feeders.

I did pick out a somewhat russet red tail. It's some kind of a thrush, I thought. It wasn't in the Peterson nor my Golden Field Guides. Actually, I couldn't find anything that remotely looked right! I looked at it some more. Maybe a indistinct eye ring? An elevated crest towards the back of the head? You can see I don't know all the technical jargon. It was time to call my birding mentor Mr. Science (Gary).
"It's robin size sort of fluffed up. Maybe an eye ring and a crest. Definitely mostly mustard yellow with a reddish tail. A strong looking beak "
"Did you check the flycatchers &/or phoebes?" he asked.
"I went thru my field guides twice," I noted.
"I'll be right over."
I grabbed my wife's camera and took a few shots before the bird took off. They were mostly blurred as apparently taking pictures through a screen is not a good technique. I was sure that by the time Gary arrived it would be too late and my pictures were basically yellow globs. Then the bird returned. "I've never seen this bird before," said the retired teacher who has been birding since high school.
"Me either," I nodded profoundly. Then he announced he had to go pick up his granddaughter but would "call John."
In the meantime, Mrs T (a non birder) had been perusing a book I had recently purchased on special at Sam's Club for $30. It was a table book, titled: The American Museum of Natural History Birds of North America. She had been observing this whole operation all morning. Casually handing me the heavy open book she sweetly asked while pointing, "Is this it?"
"Yup exactly!!!!" Ta Da!

John Hockema is one of Minnesotas top birders. He is in the top listing group for Minnesota at 377 sightings. Here in Fillmore County he tops the list with 236/272. Pretty impressive. He arrived about two o'clock with his brother. I showed them the basement window for now the bird was on the ground. "Wow. Unbelievable. It's way too early anyway. This might be a first. I will call a friend of mine. He has written the book on southeastern Minnesota birding and keeps records of everything," said John.

The call was made. It turns out that the bird had been identified in Forestville State Park in 1986. This apparently was the first sighting since.

Ladies and gentlemen may I present to you a female summer tanager. I hope you had an easier time figuring this all out than I did..... but it sure was fun.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Special Days

We did a neat day trip yesterday down to the Amana Colonies in central Iowa. I was the designated driver for Betty Boop and Mrs. T. The museums, shops and other remnants of this communal way of life are definitely interesting but for me the opportunity to chomp down on some authentic German cooking can't be beat.

Once again the advantages of retirement visits to tourist meccas were obvious. Spring and fall avoids the big crowds. It was all very leisurely. There were seven villages but Amana was the main one. Plenty of time and space to gawk and pick out those special items.

The Amana Colonies are a group of settlements of German Pietists. Calling themselves the Ebenezer Society or the Community of True Inspiration, they first settled in New York state near Buffalo in what is now the Town of West Seneca. However, in order to live out their beliefs in more isolated surroundings they moved west to the rich soil of east-central Iowa (near present-day Iowa City) in 1855. They lived a communal life until the mid 1930s.

Another special day was certainly had by a British "bobbie" based on the following photograph. I did a short background on Troutbirder II.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Troutfarm Eagles

We are on a mission. Less than a mile from our home base. Moving silently Baron scouts ahead. I probe the trees with my binoculars looking for clues. Distant crows break the early morning quiet. Have they returned, I wonder?

There high in the tree overlooking the trout ponds! I move closer but not too close. I do not want to cause any disturbance! My friends, the troutfarm eagles have returned. All is well here in Bluff Country

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Dog Heroes

Dog Heroes of September 11th by Nona Kilgore Bauer (Bowtie Press). More than 70 search and recovery dogs are featured in this tribute to canine heroes. I reflected back on this heart-warming book this morning after running across a tragic news report from the neighborhood in St. Paul where I grew up. America's hard working K9 Corps can be found doing SAR (search & rescue), being guide & companion dogs, therapy dogs, tracking dogs, detection dogs, police dogs and myriad other tasks. This morning news report involved a GSD, Boomer, who had been featured recently on the TV show Animal Planet.
Vet med clinic nurses St. Paul K9 back to health

Boomer is expected to make a full recovery and return to work in three to four weeks.
"Severe blood loss, two molars falling out and a fractured upper jaw — all the result of being shot in a scuffle that killed a man police believed was suicidal — landed Boomer in a University of Minnesota hospital Monday night.
Reporters, not friends and family, huddled around the sick bed — a cage — of the 4-year-old German Shepherd Tuesday afternoon at the University of Minnesota Small Animal Hospital. He was alert and smiling, despite bandages on his paws and a small wound on the left side of his face.
His doctors described his condition Tuesday afternoon as stable and in “good spirits,” and they expect Boomer will make a full recovery in three to four weeks.
Dr. Julie Schildt, the critical care specialist monitoring Boomer on Tuesday, said the top concern was the amount of blood Boomer lost. The area where the bullet entered is considered to be “non-critical,” but Boomer will undergo a second surgery Wednesday morning.
Schildt said Boomer’s handler had been to see the dog earlier on Tuesday.
Assistant Clinical Specialist Dr. Greg Anderson , the veterinary surgeon who worked on Boomer, said there’s no way to know how much blood he lost at the scene or in transit, but Boomer received multiple blood transfusions Monday night when he arrived.
Dogs, especially workforce dogs like Boomer, “are very resilient,” Anderson said. “They get through injuries like this a lot better than we would.”
Anderson said he doesn’t think Boomer will have any long-term effects following his recovery.
St. Paul Police spokesman Peter Panos said it’s currently unknown whose bullet injured Boomer, and the three officers involved are on three days paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure.
Panos said, based on evidence collected by the investigators, they believe the incident was a “suicide by police officer” — where the suspect purposely acts in a manner to provoke lethal violence from the officers.
The victim was identified as Robert Jerome Jeske, 34, of St. Paul. According to a release from the St. Paul police, officers responded to a 911 call around 6 p.m. Monday. Panos said the officers didn’t fire on Jeske until he pointed a handgun at them."
— Emma L. Carew is a senior staff reporter for the Minnesota Daily

Officer Murphy and BoomerOfficer Patrick Murphy's partner Boomer is a black and tan colored German Shepherd dog. Boomer was born in Holland and was bought with donations given to the St. Paul Police Canine Foundation. Boomer is a patrol dog trained to use his nose to find people and evidence. When he is not working he comes home with Officer Murphy and lives at his house. When at home, Boomer likes to run and play with his favourite toy, a Kong.
BTW Trouterbirder II posted a "Dogs Prayer" at

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Iowa Adventure

My interest is birding. Her interest is
shopping. Late March "cabin fever" has
set in and we decide to head south
towards Northeastern Iowa and the
Mississippi Valley.


As I enter my second year of serious
birding my "life list" reveals some
serious gaps. Shorebirds is one.
Fillmore County Minnesota where
Troutbirder lives is the only county
in "The Land Of Ten Thousand Lakes"
without a lake. Not exactly prime
shorebird territory. The Mississippi
Valley, an hours drive to the south
and east, might be the answer

New Albin, Iowa has a long gravel road
heading through the river backwaters
to a boat landing. It might just be the
ticket for finding shorebirds, assuming
they have arrived from their wintering

Binocs and Peterson in hand the
first pool we come to has dozens
of shorebirds along with some Herring
Gulls, geese, and several eagles watching
from nearby.

The problem becomes immediately
obvious. The shorebirds all look the same. And yet I know they are not. It reminds me of my previous rookie year experiences with sparrows and warblers.
The devil is in the details.

I note fairly quickly some have yellow legs and others don't. Some of the
yellowlegers are about 1/3 bigger than
the others. Check the Peterson. Well...
Greater and Lessers Yellowlegs. Two "lifers" right there! It's a start.

The rest proved to be the kind I could
narrow down to several species but was
unsure at that point. Still, I was happy with
the mornings work.

It was approaching lunch time so we
headed on further south down the river
road to Lansing Iowa. Lansing is your
typical small river town with one big exception - Horsfalls Lansing Variety.


There are two of them (the old and
the new store) each taking up
about a city block. It is difficult to
find the right words to describe them.
Junk stores comes immediately to mind.
To others it might be "bargains" or even
"treasures." I will stick with the word
"junk" although it's not used junk like
you find at garage sales. It's all in the
original packages, mostly direct from

The aisles are narrow. So narrow you
may have to turn sideways or hop over
boxes to find your way thru. I don't believe
the town could possibly have a fire marshall.

To the bargain hunter this is paradise personified. Mrs T loves it. Myself, perhaps,
a little less so. I'm strictly a Sam's Club kind of guy. (Just kidding!)