Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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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.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Our Neighbors

Our neighbors across the street are a friendly family. I must say though, we often keep an eye on them, from our front porch. It's not that they cause trouble or anything. It's just that they had four new kids this summer. I don't know all their names yet, but one of them should definitely be called "peek-a boo." He seems to like to watch me a lot.... when not climbing the huge woodpile.

Friday, September 10, 2010


"When you pray with this pipe, you pray for and with everything." -Black Elk
We left our campground at Blue Mound State Park and headed an hours drive north to visit Pipestone National Monument. As often happens, when we take the big guy with us, people stop to ask if they may pet him. The comments usually sound something like "wow, I've never seen a German Shepherd that big." Here Mrs T and Baron stand outside the Visitor Center at the monument. Of course, large dogs aren't allowed inside the museum/center, but Baron got to hike along the trail leading around the quarries. There we met an elderly man busy at work with the precious stone. He tells us about a summer festival, just concluded, where tribal members from all over the upper midwest participated.
For countless generations, American Indians have quarried the red pipestone found at this site. These grounds are sacred to many people because the pipestone quarried here is carved into pipes used for prayer. Many believe that the pipe's smoke carries one's prayer to the Great Spirit. The traditions of quarrying and pipemaking continue here today
The soft red stone is found in a vein between layers of the harder red Sioux quartzite. Methods of quarrying have changed little since the process began. Quarrying is a laborious task involving weeks of work with hand tools. Today, only American Indians may continue this tradition here by permit.
A small creek passes through the quarry area. Later, on the trail, we come across an attendant falls.

Baron and I scrambled up the hill to the top of the falls.

Here you can see the thin layer of reddish pipestone lying between the harder quartzite.

All in all it was a great day. We had a nice walk and some interesting history to boot.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Blue Mounds

This vista of Blue Mounds State Park prairie provides you with an idea of what southwest Minnesota might have looked like hundreds of years ago. In 1836 George Catlin, making his way to the Pipestone Quarry described the scene. "There is not a tree or bush to be seen. The grass at our feet changes to blue in the distance like the blue vastness of the ocean. Man feels here, the thrilling sensation of unlimited freedom."
Blue Mounds State Park, located four miles north of Luverne, is one of the largest prairie parks in Minnesota. The park's approximately 1,500 acres of prairie preserves a wide array of rare and common plants and wildlife. A bison herd grazes peacefully on a portion of this prairie. Most of the park's prairie sits atop a massive outcrop of rock known as Sioux quartzite. The rock outcrop slopes gently up from the surrounding countryside but terminates abruptly in a spectacular cliff line. The cliff, one and one-half miles long and at some points 90 feet in height, provides a panoramic view of the countryside and is also used by a number of rock climbers from throughout the Midwest. Miles of hiking and cross country skiing trails take you along the cliffs, around the park's two lakes, into the oak woods, and through the prairie. Here you can experience tall grasses and colorful wildflowers swaying in the wind or witness the power and color of a summer prairie thunderstorm rolling in from the west.

There were outcroppings of rock everywhere, providing evidence of the thin soil on this elevated area. The fence contains the buffalo herd, while to the south and west farmsteads and cornfields stretch to the horizon. Prairie plants like golden rod pop up along the trail outside the fence.

Recent rains have left the occasional puddle and surprisingly I spot some killdeer and a lone lesser yellowlegs.
Next stop - north to the famous quarries at Pipestone National Monument.

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