Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
Click on Mark Twain to jump to Troutbirders book review blog

Monday, October 25, 2010

Troutbirder Breaks The Law

It all started innocently enough. As described in the previous post, a recent hike along the Shooting Star Bike Trail had revealed some beautiful Asters & Stiff Goldenrod. I also noticed dozens of other prairie plants gone to seed. Although I had some Compass Plants growing (a type of native sunflower) I hoped to add another, the Cup Plant, to my small plot of wildflowers.

A little foraging along the bike trail with an ice cream bucket and a few envelopes seemed like a good idea. It happened a few days later.
In the interest of complete disclosure, I did have several accomplices. We found some dried cup plants and several other seeds including rattlesnake master, milkweed and purple coneflowers. A few of each were gathered.
Some time later I was discussing prairie restoration with the local guru. It was then that I was informed that I had been in violation of state law. "But the bike trail is thirty miles long and there are zillions of these plants along the way. Plus I'm not digging anything up, and it wasn't in a State Park. " "Makes no difference. Removal of seeds from any state property, be it park, forest, trail or anything else is strictly illegal." I bowed my head looking properly chastened and humbly repentent. Unfortunately, the "lesson" continued unabated until I'd had enough. "Perhaps an anonymous suggestion to the anti-terrorism authorities that they give up their fruitless search for Osama Bin Laden and come after the Bike Trail seed robber would be in order. While your at it, mention the toilet papering tree defacers from the local high school during Homecoming week.

Just to be on the safe side, me and the Mrs. will be heading on the lam to a hidden location in Ireland for the forseeable future. Wish us luck!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stiff Goldenrod

It was time for the annual "leaf tour" with our friends Gary & Rosie. This year we also worked in a hike along the Shooting Star bike trail. Baron led the way. It has been an absolutely stunning Oct. The essence of what we Minnesotans call "Indian Summer." Warm and sunny. No rain. And the knowledge that our Artic type winter cannot be far away.

Rosie, the intrepid photographer, spots a butterfly on the trail and manuevers for the right angle.
While the prarie landscape surrounding the bike trail has that drab late fall brownness about it, I'm alert to patches of color here and there. The fall trifecta of New England Asteers, White Asters and Stiff Goldenrod makes their appearance here and there along the trail.
It's the Stiff Goldenrod that catches my attention this time. Knowing that its was some kind of a late season goldenrod, I couldn't quite put a name on it. Checking my wildflower books turned up the corect I.D.

Stiff Goldenrod (Hard-leaved Goldenrod)Oligoneuron rigidum (Solidago rigida)
Stiff goldenrod is a common plant in midwestern prairies.
• Family: Aster (Asteraceae) • Habitat: open, dry, rocky or sandy areas• Height: 1-5 feet• Flower size: small; arranged in flat-topped clusters 3-5 inches across• Flower color: yellow• Flowering time: August to September• Origin: native
For us northerners late fall can be a special season. A hint of cooling wind from the North. The warm rays of sun. And the "last roses" of summer. Enjoy it while you can!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Then and Now

They were having a reunion after 40 years and all were looking healthy and amazingly well... Remember the 7 children of the Von Trapp family? The Sound of Music' won the Academy Award for Best Picture of 1965 and is one of the most popular musicals ever produced.
40 Yrs Later: The 7 Children in 'The Sound of Music'.
CURRENTLY..... It wouldn't be funny if it weren't so true.. Julie Andrews turned 69 and to commemorate her 69th birthday on October 1, actress/vocalist Julie Andrews made a special appearance at Manhattan 's Radio City Music Hall for the benefit of the AARP. One of the musical numbers she performed was "My Favourite Things" from the legendary movie "The Sound Of Music."

Here are the actual lyrics she used: "Maalox and nose drops and needles for knitting, Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings, Bundles of magazines tied up in string, These are a few of my favourite things. Cadillac's and cataracts, and hearing aids and glasses, Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses, Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings, These are a few of my favourite things.. When the pipes leak, When the bones creak, When the knees go bad, I simply remember my favourite things, And then I don't feel so bad."

Ms. Andrews received a standing ovation from the crowd that lasted over four minutes and repeated encores.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Deep Waters

There is a rather large lake adjacent to one of my favorite dog/hiking birding venues - Myre Big Island State Park. The name of the lake is Albert Lea as in the nearby town. There has always been a mystery surrounding this big lake for me. The mystery, quite simply, is this. Why do I rarely see any kind of boaters there. I mean really! Minnesota has tons of fishermen, water skiers, jet skiers, canoeists and kayakers.

Recent rains had flooded many nearby towns earlier that week but I took a chance anyway. Sure enough the dock at the launch area was a least a foot under water. The ramp was still functional though, and with Mrs. T hopping up and over the bow into the boat, we launched out into the lake.

Of course, we were the only watercraft on the water. We cruised the shoreline, bays and middle of the lake for several hours. We saw plenty of ducks and some submerged backyards. Also some beautiful shoreline as the leaves had begun to change color.

I kept the depth finder running so as not to run aground. That proved to be the key to the mystery. With the lake at least two feet above normal, judging by the flooded docks and yards, the deepest spot on the lake I could find was 6 feet. Hmmmm. Mystery solved.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Regular Customer

He and his family are regular, and I might add voracious, visitors at my bird feeders.

"Hey Troutbirder! Supplies are looking rather low here today. I expect better service than this. Now get on it!"

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Biker

I was standing on the bike trail bridge looking down at the recently flooding Upper Iowa river, when a biker zipped on by behind me.

She looked vaguely familiar so I hurried to catch up. Coming around a bend there she was standing in the trail.

"Hi Sweetie," I hollered. Ok time to fess up. It was Barb, my wife, a.k.a. Mrs T.
This was a special day for us. She hadn’t been biking for several years. It had been a rough period actually. First, there was cancer surgery. This was immediately followed by a serious wound infection, where I had to learn how to "pack it." Then came gall bladder surgery. Then a year later an artificial knee replacement. She had carried on bravely and with great resolve thru all of this. We continued to travel, go for lots of "rides" etc. but biking seemed a little much. This day the tide turned. The sun was shining and after getting our sea legs, we raced down the trail together. Life is good.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Fall Aster Parade

Mid September/October roadsides , prairies and bike trails in Bluff Country see a exuberant explosion of purples, blues and whites of the native Asters. Their bright blooms are one of the joys in the changing season. Even deep in the woods asters will make an appearance. There being many different models of this particular plant and the fact that some of them "interbeed" I'd make no claim at expertise in identifying each and every one. Still, short or tall, an aster is an aster and for fall color, I love them all. Take a look at a few along the bike trail.

Amidst the beautiful colors of the blues and purples are the whites: wood aster, calico aster, small-flowered white aster and flat-topped white aster, like bright candles in the Autumn dusk.
The first to bloom among the white asters is the wood aster, opening its starry flowers under the trees in late August. The small-flowered white asters and calico asters come next. Calico Asters are so named because the white ray flowers can surround either yellow or purple disk flowers on the same plant. The aspect is one of an old fashioned calico fabric spread across the bushy plants, which can reach a height of 5 feet, but are often smaller.

My hiking companion Baron "Humphrey Bogart", standing in a patch of Calico Asters says "here's looking at you kid."

Monday, September 27, 2010

Nothing Much Happened

The sun was out this morning. And there was no rain in the forecast either. As I peered over my cup of coffee, and looked out the window, the tops of the trees were perfectly still. A good day for cleaning up the garden and clearing the downed trees out in the woods. Perfect, I thought and then I changed my mind and decided to take Baron for a long morning hike. Days of cold, wind and heavy rains left me and the big guy ready to commune with nature.
We hiked perhaps 6 miles this day at a relatively slow pace. Not another person was to be seen all morning. We had Lake Louise State Park all to ourselves. Neither did the birds, deer or even butterflies seem to be around either. . The summer flowers were long gone to seed and only a few scattered asters were in bloom. Baron constantly sniffed the ground looking for anything interesting. Parts of the trails had standing water from the flooding last week. I guessed by looking at the grass that was laying flat, the Upper Iowa River had briefly risen by about three feet. Other areas and towns further to the west had been completely inundated.

In the distance I could see a cross country ski shelter along another trail. Another reminder that winter is not that far away.
At several points the trail left the open grassland and entered the deep woods. CLICK on the small picture and see if you can spot the large wolflike creature hiding in the light and shadows.

A distant reminder of civilization came into view. Giant windmills converting the prairie wind into electricity.

We ended our walk with a little fetching at the deserted beach. Baron loves to fetch. Rather that bring the stick back to me, he would drop it on the beach, begin growling, and then paw, drag, and leap at it. I actually think he believes the stick is a snake. And they say German shepherds are very smart dogs. I have my doubts, though, about that one.
All in all, it was a quiet day. Lots of fresh air. Hiking with my best buddy. Nothing much happened. I love it.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Day Of The Eagles

I had decided to rev up my new birding hobby three 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 Goldens. There we learned that over one hundred Goldens had been spotted in Minn. Iowa, and Wisc. the previous weekend. It was on to Wisconsin!! We made a waystop near Reeds landing on the Big River, where we spotted six Balds and a host of the usual waterfowl including common goldeneyes and Canada geese.
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 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 Goldens. 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!!!!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Nostalgic Camping

Here the sun is setting on the channel from the landing on beautiful Mantrap lake near Park Rapids, Minnesota. The lake is so named because of the myriad bays and channels where a man can get easily lost. A woman, of course, would ask for directions. The picture was taken on a vacation to the lake several years ago. Unfortunately, this year, we, along with friends Gary and Rosie, were plagued with rain, wind and cold. Thus, my hopes for some of the usual great fishing were dashed by the weather.

For a change of pace and on what turned out to be the only decent day of our trip, we decided to head up to Bigfork and visit Scenic State Park. For me this was a trip into fond memories. My parents had taken me and my little brothers camping many times to this beautiful park. That's me and my mom packing the car for one of those trips. Can you believe that hat? I think I was about 15 at the time of this picture. Yikes!

The park then and today is noted for great fishing and hiking trails. It was the first state park to be built by the CCC in Minnesota. It's lodge was considered to be a model for other project across the nation. Of course, we didn't know that then.... it was just a place for all the kids to hang out on rainy days. Much later Mrs. T and I also took our sons there for some of their first camping/fishing trips.

Naturally our first stop on this outing was to visit the lodge and the parks two campgrounds. Although much had changed, those long ago memories came rushing back. Those were the days my friends. Here we all are inside the famous lodge.

Another highlight of the park is Chase Point Trail. This esker or long winding ridge of sand and gravel divides adjacent Coon and Sandwich lakes. Come on along with us and take a look.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Flutter....A Blizzard

The Baron and I were driving along a track on our way to one of my favorite hiking/birding trails. To the right was a prairie, to the left a long line of shrubs and scrub trees. The flutter of monarch butterflies coming off the shrubs quickly became evident. The flutter soon began to look like a blizzard of orange & black for the next quarter of a mile.
I fumbled to get my little cheapo camera out of my pocket. I like the camera because it does fit in my pocket, while the binocs dangle from my neck. The following pics thru the windshield doesn't come close to doing justice to what I actually saw....but you get the idea.

Like many of our migrating birds, the monarchs gather in the fall for an epic journery. My friend, Mr Science (Gary) gives the following succinct explantion.


His notebook "Nature Notes" on the flora and fauna of Fillmore County, Minnesota can be found at