Troutbirder II

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

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Camping, Fishing & Biking Weather

With woodland flowers blooming in Forestville Park, it's time to head off to the County Fairgrounds and pick up our camper and fishing boat. Perhaps we might break out our bikes from their winter slumber as well. A high today is forcast for close to eighty degrees. All is possible as Mrs. T. continues her excellent recovery from recent surgery.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Listing The Goethite W.M.A.

I taught American History & World Geography in a Middle School for 12 years. Previously, I had taught Economics, Sociology, & Political Science at the 12th grade level for over 25 years. I loved every minute of it. I never taught ACCOUNTING OR BOOKKEEPING. Math was necessary for my checkbook but not a favorite subject. Then, in the twilight years of retirement, I took up BIRDING. For some birders, keeping track of one's sightings is part of the deal. Now, in my fourth full year of this fascinating hobby, I have joined the M.O.U (Minnesota Ornithogical Union) and ebird (Cornel University) You might say I am a "lister". It's just like being a bookkeeper/accountant. My M.O.U. list is just for Minnesota sightings. I am up to 194 on that one. On Ebird, which you can list birds from anywhere in the world, I am over 254. This includes quite a few from two visits to Florida. Any new bird added to these lists is a "lifer." Ebird is especially handy because you can go back and find dates and locations for any of your sightings. You can keep track of lists there by nation, state, county, town or individual favorite spots (like "Troutbirders backyard").
Here is one of my "favorites" . Its called the Goethite. The Goethite Wildlife Management Area consists of hundreds of acres of ponds (former iron mining pits), prairie, woods and a stream. The following list is of of sightings there so far this year (since Jan. 1). Its been mostly waterfowl to this point but in a few weeks lots of songbirds will begin appearing.
I might add that I have a phenomenally BAD memory for things that don't interest me a whole lot, like addresses, phone numbers, social security etc. You know the practical things one needs to know. Now I can, however, tell you the exact locations where I caught a fish on a lake I haven't been on in thirty years. And all the good "honey holes" on a myriad of trout streams. The birding list allows me to do the same thing. Would you like to see the Oak Tree near Lanesboro Minnesota where I saw my first Snowy Owl in 1976? There is a fence post east of Custer, South Dakaota that had a Lewis's Woodpecker sitting..... Ok ok. History and Geography teachers can be like that. Goethite WMA Sightings Jan 1 - March 28, 2012.
Snow Goose 75, Canada Goose 35, Wood Duck 4, Mallard 36, Ring-necked Duck 11, Lesser Scaup 16, Hooded Merganser 8, Common Merganser 2,, Rough-legged Hawk 2, Sandhill Crane 2, Killdeer 16, Loggerhead Shrike 1, Blue Jay 1 American Crow 8, Eastern Bluebird 2, American Robin 5, American Tree Sparrow 2, Fox Sparrow 1, Red-winged Blackbird 22, Eastern Meadowlark 2.
Of course, it doesn't hurt that the Goethite also is a great place for Baron to romp and swim without
having to be confined by a leash.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Washington Monument

On Tuesday, August 23, 2011, a 5.8 magnitude earthquake, occurred 84 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., damaging the Washington Monument. The National Park Service has temporarily closed the Monument and is assessing the damage to it. Repairs will soon be underway. These headlines bring to mind a previous incident of mine involving repairs and maintenence to the iconic monument. A few years back we had decided to visit colonial Williamsburg with our friends Gary & Rosie. Since we also planned on Gettysburg, I suggested a quick stop in Washington D.C. to see the new Holocaust Museaum before heading on to Virginia. We camped in Maryland the night before and then took a van into the Metro Station. The train dropped us off underground of the Mall in Washington. This is where it went downhill quickly. My only excuse for what happened next is that (1) it had been a few years (actually my high school senior trip) since I'd been there, and (2) I'm a little slow coming to full consciousness in the morning, especially in a new or changed environment. Yah sure! Anyway, emerging from underground onto the Mall, I looked right and then left to orient myself, whereupon I said, quoting from memory, "the Washington Monument is gone! And there replacing it with a blue, skyscraper motel." Spouse and friends looked at me with open-mouthed astonishment and then burst into laughter. I took a second look and my too quick erroneous conclusion became readily apparent. The momument was surrounded by scaffolding and much of that was covered by a blue tarp. I didn't get a picture of the blue tarp covering it but you get the idea. How come people never let you forget these kind of moments?

Friday, March 23, 2012

Snowy Owl - Conclusion

It is with sadness that I report on a phone call yesterday from the Raptor Center in St. Paul. Our rescued snowy owl did not survive. He, it was a he, essentially starved to death in spite of all the efforts to save him. Disappointed, I decided it was time to find out why so few of these visitors from the far north don’t do well in the lower forty- eight. Here are the reasons, as proposed by the experts at Cornel University, which is the nations leading collector of bird data (ebird) and research.
Scientists say the likely reason for the explosion a cycle of boom and bust among the owl and the lemmings they prey upon. Lots of lemmings lead to high reproduction rate among the owls. Few lemmings and the owl females don’t even ovulate. Last summer the owls' chief food source was abundant , allowing the adults to raise more young. More predators leads to fewer lemmings. Often it the young ones who head south in search of food.
Snowies are large, magnificent owls that have a wing span of 4 to 5 feet. Younger birds have speckled black markings; adult males grow whiter as they age. Our snowy was undoubtedly a young one
In Minnesota, the owls mostly eat small voles, mice and rabbits. Some are healthy, but others are weak and stressed. As youngsters, not all are good hunters yet.
It is likely that few of the younger owls reaching the United States survive to return to their breeding grounds. Perhaps catching mice and rabbits isn’t the same as catching lemmings. Many are malnourished. Not used to dense concentrations of roads and wires, in the arctic, the owls also crash into cars and power-lines. Observation at the Quarry Hill Nature Center in Rochester showed us a severely drooping wing.... likely broken. To rehabilitate owls is reportedly very difficult. Snow owls in particular do not care for anything other that live prey. Disappointing as our experience was we did all we could to help... and know that new generations of this beautiful bird will repopulate the bird. And the cycle will go on....

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Snowy Owl Rescue - Part 2

So there we were. A beautiful but injured snowy owl in the ditch. And we had advice from two nature centers to capture it. Now came the scary part. Bobbi rushed home to get some clothes baskets, blankets and heavy gloves. Injured or not the bird was a powerful raptor. We had to be careful to not injure the bird any further nor subject ourselves to sharp talons or beak. The operation went unexpectedly smoothly. Snowy tensed but did not resist. Into the clothes basket she went. Then we placed the basket in the back seat, covered it partially with a blanket, to keep the bird calm and headed off to Rochester, Minnesotas Quarry Hill Nature Center for further instructions.
There Snowy was placed in a more appropriate pet carrier to be transported to the University of Minnesota School of Veterinary Medicines famous Raptor Center in St. Paul




Their motto is, "Ensuring the health of raptors and the world we share." We certainly hoped so... It is, in fact, a internationally renowned education facility which trains students and veterinarians from around the world to become future leaders in raptor medicine and conservation.
We were told at the Center that starvation with injury cases are tough but their was hope. We’ve called their hot line several times and no final determination has yet been made. Still, we’re glad we could help and now know that our friend Snowy will not die alone in a ditch. She is being given every chance to survive.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Snowy Owl

From Maine to Washington State a rare visitor from the Northern Canada began showing up this winter in the northern tier of States. In what is called an irruption, snowy owls had migrated south in search of food. Mrs. T & I traveled across Minnesota in search of them with no luck. Finally, in a very warm March, the reports of sightings ceased . Apparently, these beautiful birds were returning to their natural habitat in the far north. I had given up hope for my first ever sighting. And then early one morning the phone rang. It was my friend and birding mentor, Mr. Science. A snowy owl had been spotted less than ten miles from my home. Mrs T and I rushed out the door headed for the scene.
Gary and his wife Bobbi were standing on a gravel county road as we arrived. "Is he gone"? I asked worriedly. Both pointed across the road to the ditch, where a magnificent snowy owl sat in the grass looking right at us..... Snowy owl pictures have been all over the blogoshere this winter but seeing one in person is another experience all together. Staring right at me and not moving. Wow! Take a look.








The snowy just sat there. Unmoving. They are notoriously not frightened by people ,as they live in the far north where few people are found. Still, something didn't seem quite right. We all backed away to discuss the situtation. After some time she made a few awkward hops and even spread her wings. It was time to call for help. The help was found at the Houston Minnesota Nature Center. There an annual Owl Festival is held and Karla is the expert. Because of the liklihood the owl was injured, she recommended capture. However, the locals who were expert and experienced could not be reached. Would we volunteer to do the job? With some trepidation, the answer was yes. She explained how to do it. Next in Part II THE SNOWY OWL RESCUE.







Saturday, March 17, 2012

Rescue!

I have two great rescue stories to post. One involves a German Shepherd and the other is about a rare and exotic raptor. We'll start with the dog. And introduce the dogs rescuer. Her name is Jewel and she and her husband Steve are very good friends of the Troubirders.....



"We didn’t want a dog! But, one April morning as I was walking out to get our mail, as I turned, I saw a skinny, dirty German shepherd behind me. I looked at her and asked, “Who are you?” I wasn’t sure if I should be afraid or not. No collar. No sound. No approach. I said, “Sit!” and she sat. I asked my husband, Steve, if. . . and his only words were, “We don’t want a dog.” The next day we still had a dog so it was time to ask around.
Our neighbor at the bottom of Norse Road said he had been watching her for 2 weeks. Every night she would go back to a certain spot by the river, lie down. and wait. No body came. He didn’t want to feed her because he didn’t want a dog.
The second day at our place I gave her some food. She became my dog from that moment on.

Steve said, “Now that YOU have a dog. I think she should stay outside. If anybody comes looking, she’s leaving” When nobody came, we took her to the vet. It was a small investment including a wellness check-up, shots-rabies & dystemper, spading, heartworm, flea and tick medicine and food. Our friends, Ray & Barb Potthoff, have a German shepherd, Baron, and they thought she would be a perfect dog for our farm. They even gave us a little doghouse and they were happy we adopted a German shepherd. They thought maybe our dogs could be friends but our dog wanted nothing to do with other dogs in her space.
Since she came at Eastertime and since she was mostly blond with black, I decided to name her Lily. It took about two weeks but one day when I fed her, she wagged her tail. Lily has been with us for 2 years now. She has a good home, is fed once a day, is not mistreated, and feels safe. She has space to run, she goes to the bathroom way out in the pasture, and lays mostly by the entrance step. She patrols our yard, guards our door, and loves my attention. If I am outside, I am always in her sight.
About 14 years ago, our daughter, Megan, bought a 4-month old black pigmy goat. Three years ago, Megan got married but Geno, her goat, stayed on the farm. Lily, the dog, picks fights with Geno, the goat. They are about the same size but Geno has threatening horns . Lily pursues the battle but Geno mostly walks away from the annoying dog.
Lily’s biggest fault is that she barks at night. Her ears hear all sort of sounds in the woods across the road so she wears a bark collar most nights. There are times when our lives would be easier without a dog but Lily has
wiggled her way into our hearts and she will stay as long as we live here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Minnesota Morning

I open up my sleepy eyes and seeThe morning just the way that it should beBy the setting of the midnight moonThe rising of the sunAnd the feeling like I've only just begunThe morning mist still lies upon the groundAnd it comes and goes but doesn't make a soundAnd the heavy of the midnight airLightens with the dayThere's a Minnesota Morning on the wayThere's a Minnesota Morning on my mindAnd it's precious as the fruit on the vineAnd I haven't seen a day like thisAnytime I've been awayMinnesota I am here and I'm gonna stayThe sunlight shimmers through the treesWhile the birds sing their peaceful melodiesAnd there seems to be a whisperSome magic in the airSomething I just couldn't find anywhereThere's a Minnesota Morning on the wayAnd I've tried a million times to find todayNow I know I'll never find oneWith a sky so blueOne that makes me feel the way I doThere's a Minnesota Morning on my mindAnd it's precious as the fruit on the vineAnd I haven't seen a day like thisAnytime I've been awayMinnesota I am here and I'm gonna stay
by Jeff Brooks


Good morning world. Have a great day. Troutbirder




Monday, March 12, 2012

Gitchee Gumee




"By the shores of Gitchee Gumee, By the shining Big-Sea-Water, Stood the wigwam of Nokomis, Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis. Dark behind it rose the forest, Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees, Rose the firs with cones upon them; Bright before it beat the water, Beat the clear and sunny water, Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water. There the wrinkled old Nokomis, Nursed the little Hiawatha, Rocked him in his linden cradle, Bedded soft in moss and rushes."



















[Hiawatha & Minnehaha]

Many of the names in Longfellow's epic poem (over 200 pages), Nokomis, Wynona, Pipestone, Minnehaha, Escanaba and others are familiar in the north central states of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Gitchee Gumee means something like "shining big water" but is plain old Lake Superior nowadays. I liked Gitchee Gumee better. My two sons, as young teenagers, knew these words well. I often recited them as we traveled along the "North Shore" on our way to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in the Arrowhead Country of Northeastern Minnesota. Yes, they looked at me with more than a little bemusement, when I carried on.... but the education of our youth takes a special effort.... [Taken on a very cold winter morning during out recent trip along the North Shore]

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Sweeter Than Candy

I moved to small town Bluff Country from the Big City almost some fifty years ago. Here, in southeastern Minnesota, I began a teaching career, married and helped raise a family. It was and is the good life. Living in the country brought the opportunity to have my first dog. He was what today would be called a "designer" dog. Then he was called a mutt. He was half Golden Retriever and half German Shorthair Pointer. His name was Max. He looked like the Marley of movie fame.
Unbeknowst to me at the time he would turn out to be the perfect bird dog. I took up the sport and pursued it for decades. Max was followed by two Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. My sons also came to enjoy hunting.
I gave up hunting several years ago now. My sons were grown up and gone, with sloughs ditched and drained, a bad knee and No Trespassing everywhere, it seemed the right time. Missing the loyal companionship of my hunting dogs, I went in a new direction and got a German Shepherd, Baron. Now, I’m into long walks with him, my binoculars and camera in hand. Still hunting birds though in a different way now.
Thus, it was with great pleasure to open a package sent to me by EcoRover (Pat Munday) and find a book by Paul Vang, Sweeter Than Candy. Sweet it proved to be. It was if I was transported back in time to those wonderful years of tramping the prairies, picked fields and along fence lines. Jump shooting along small creeks for ducks and the occasional goose. Then, there were the oak woods and brushy bottoms. The aspen bottoms, where the elusive grouse wereto be found. What a trip down memory lane as each chapter seemed to trigger a smile and even some chuckles about all the birds I missed. If you liked bird hunting you’ll love this book. I highly recommend it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

New Friends For Baron

Last fall Mrs. T, I and Baron the GSD, had gone on a short fall camping trip to Glacial Lakes State Park in North Central Minnesota. After several days of hiking, we drove up towards Fargo-Moorhead to check out Maplewood State Park. It was a wonderful day and after some backroads touring, we stopped at the park's picnic area for lunch. There was some sort of a festival going on but other than having a hard time finding a picnic table, we didn't pay too much attention to it. It was after sitting down to eat that we noted the other picnicers were mainly of Asian extraction and speaking something other than English. I wasn't sure what it was. Then curious people began to stop and look at Baron. Taking a chance, I spoke up in English, inviting anyone to feel free to pet the dog. Tentatively, at first, a few tried it, until eventually they came over by the dozens. Cameras were everywhere. The opportunity had opened up after some chitchat about my "big boy" to say, "so where are you folks from.?" It turned out they were all teachers, students and family on an outing from North Dakota State University in Fargo. And all were on exchange programs from The Peoples Republic of China. What a fun picnic that was....

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Central Park West

Last fall after the harvest season of their farming operation and a major renovation of the farmhouse was over, and our good friends Steve and Jewel took on a "small" landscaping project. Troutbirder, who has created some woodland gardens on his own property, was asked for a little advice. He volunteered that hosta was particularly effective in the shade. Of course, Jewell said wildflowers would be especially attractive in their native setting. Some improvement would be needed along the ditches. And a large fire pit for barbequing was essential in the picnic area. Steve watched with a somewhat bemused expression. At that point, the name Central Park West was suggested for the whole project. Mild weather in late fall helped and a good start was made. Now we’re all looking forward to spring to see the first results.