Troutbirder II

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

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Prairie Smoke

We stopped for a smoke. A prairie smoke that  is…..   This unusual plant was found the day we hiked the Hayden prairie located in northeastern Iowa.  We had found hundreds of dainty shooting stars that day but only a few of this now rare plant. I had never seen one before. 
In birding terms it was a “lifer.”  

The silky, flowing styles of the fruiting stage of Prairie Smoke (Geum triflorum), never fail to win admirers at first sight.  When setting seed, large stands of the plant create a gauzy effect that resembles smoke hovering close to the ground.  Blooming in spring to early summer, Prairie Smoke will spread slowly from its roots in well-drained, dry to wet-mesic soils.  It prefers full to partial sun and has a native range from the northern tier of the US through most of Canada thus growing well in zones 3-9. It is quite rare in Minnesota.

I do believe finding a prairie smoke was, indeed, a "Lucky Strike."  :)


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Shooting Stars

Just a few weeks ago now Mrs. T.,  Baron and I took our last hike together. We were looking for shooting stars. Not the kind that one looks up into the night sky to find but instead in a very special place.  That place was a few miles south of us across the Iowa border.    Near Chester is a remnant of America’s frontier past. It’s a three hundred plus acre plot of never tilled land. It’s called Hayden Prairie.

The preserve is named after Ada Hayden, who was the first woman to receive a doctorate at Iowa State College (now called Iowa State University). Her doctorate was earned in 1918, making her the fourth student, male or female, to obtain a Ph.D. at Iowa State College. In 1920 she was appointed Assistant Professor of Botany at Iowa State. Teaching probably occupied a great deal of her time until 1934, when her appointment was changed to a research position in the Agriculture Experiment Station.

She devoted herself to prairie preservation and research and  wrote 29 papers, most dealing with Iowa flora. She campaigned for a system of prairie preserves. Take a look……
Dodecatheon meadia (Midland Shooting Star)

Midland Shooting Star, or often called just 'Shooting Star', is one of several varieties found in the Upper Midwest. It is a strong bloomer with a few dozen flowers often coming out of each plant; especially in moist rich soils. The color variation that naturally occurs in any population of Midland Shooting Star ranges from purple to pale pink to almost white.
There were literally thousands of shooting stars in this magical place.  I'll post an unusual prairie plant in my  next post.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


It is with great sadness that I must pass on the news that Baron our beloved GSD had to be put down yesterday.  Baron persevered for almost eight years in spite of malformed elbow joints in the front legs and chronic arthritis. All that knew him saw a gentle giant whose passions were to romp in the woods and have his ears scratched. He had admirers everyplace he went including the internet.   With tears I can only write “R.I.P. my best buddy.”

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Lost In The Jungle

We are deep in the Minnesota jungle. Lost! Fighting for survival. The plants tower above us. Huge white flowers peer down at us. WHAT ARE THEY???? Ok, maybe it’s not the jungle but it sure looks like it from this angle. I hear a rescue helicopter approaching and I will provide an overhead view to make this a lot easier.

 The plants  are Mayapples and  the English called them mandrake.   English folklore says they scream when pulled from the ground! As you can see, the white flowers cannot be seen from overhead and so I had to lie down on the ground to photograph them. I did think the umbrella like stalk and leaves had a somewhat tropical effect. Thus my "jungle" fantasy.

The plants beyond the mayapples are lily of the valley. These plants both represent the third year of my effort to restore woodland gardens to the north section of our property. The south plot is in its sixth year. Both are the result of intent to reduce grassy areas, fertilizing, herbicides and mowing. The oak wood, where our house now stands, was once the residence to several horses and later a playground for our two sons.

This area, also in the north section, gets a little more sunlight, so the buttercups seem to do quite well

I must admit some of the flowers here, I don't have a clue as to what they are. I cleared brush, did some burning and in the fall threw some seeds on the ground labeled "shady wildflowers." So be it. I'm not going to be a native restoration type of purist. In other words, if it’s a flower and grows in the shade I’ll take it. Mrs. T loves hostas . I do too. These  Japanese "aliens" are more than welcome here.

Finally I built some simple benches, restored an old picnic table and added a fire ring. This project is turning out to be a lot of fun and I'm just getting started!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Baron To The Rescue

I had mentioned in my previous post about "yard birds" a tiny warbler who was rehabbing in my cooler when I took his picture. Several people had asked for the story which I had posted several years before. Well here's the story....
"Recently, the new editors of the Minnesota Ornithological Unions, Minnesota Birding magazine asked their members to submit "Real Stories of Minnesota Birders." So I did. It was a post from Sept 23, 2008 titled "Bird Rescue." Imagine my surprise when reading the March/April, 2011 issue of the magazine I came across a story titled "Baron to the Rescue." While somewhat abbreviated from the original, I recognized the hero dog immediately. Here's the original post......

I was sitting in my reading chair in the living room, deep into Steven Pressfield’s new novel, "Killing Rommel." The LRDG (Long Range Desert Group) was about to set out on their desperate mission, as new 8th army commander Bernard Law Montgomery was attempting to hold the line against Afrika Korps, less than 80 miles from Alexandria. There was the thump of heavy artillery and ooops... it was something that just hit the window. I rushed outside to find Baron (my GSD) mouthing a tiny bird. "Drop it," I ordered. Like a good soldier he complied.
I picked up the tiny creature stunned but still alive (barely). Walking into the garage I found a rag and placed it and then the bird into an empty beer cooler. With a cat in the house and a curious dog that followed my every move, I determined the safest temporary refuge for the bird was to place it into a empty  cooler.Heading back into the house, I found my trusty Peterson birding book and began searching for an identification. Probably a warbler I thought. I had narrowed it down to several LBJ’s but nothing conclusive. I decided to wait an hour or so and then check to see if the bird was still alive. I took the cooler out into the garden and carefully opened the lid. The bird had previously been laying on its side barely breathing. Now to my utter astonishment, it was sitting perfectly upright with a "I just woke up and where in the heck am I" look about him. I took several pictures. Here he is looking at me in mutual astonishment.

Then he tried to fly but kept crashing into the side of the cooler. I carefully picked him up and set him on the ground. We looked at each other for a few seconds . I took another picture.

Then he just flew away into the woods. When I downloaded the digital pictures I saw the conclusive proof. He had pink legs. It was an ovenbird. The first one I had ever seen....."
Later,  I received a comment about my post from a lady who belongs to a group who during there morning walks in downtown Rochester, Minnesota, counts and sometimes rehabs birds who have crashed into the windows of tall buildings.  The most numerous victims tend to be ovenbirds, who being a "woodsy" species tend to be unfamiliar with the dangers of big city life.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Yard Birds

For Troutbirders complete book review on A Love Affair With Birds by Sue Leaf click on the above book cover to take you to Troutbirder II. 

I came late to birding in my life after having given up upland game hunting due to a defunct knee.  After an introduction to this new hobby by a good friend, I also thought it was also an excellent opportunity to take my big GSD for long hikes in the countryside.  And so it all began.

Here a just a few of the almost two hundred birds I’ve seen In Minnesota  and counted along the way…..
Chipping Sparrow and Indigo out my back window.
Early spring Northern Oriole on my white pine.
Blue Jay
Red Breasted Nuthatch & friends
Hummingbird on front porch.
Screech Owl in my woodduck box.
Baby Barn Swallows also on the front portch.

Rare Tufted Titmouse
Female Summer Tanager
Rose Breasted Grosbeak convention.
Ovenbird (warbler) rehabilitating in my beer cooler. I'll tell that story another time. :)
A few of our many "yard birds" taken with my little point and shoot camera.