Troutbirder II

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

Monday, November 20, 2017

Reading and Glasses

Having a good time last night at a Mississippi riverside bar and grill with friends, I surely had my glasses with me as the photo shows in my pocket. So much for finishing the book I was reading today . I can't find them. Wonder if.....?  In any case a book review was in order so I'll have to substitute Plan B.  An insight into some of the pluses and minuses of my well into 70 aging process.
A profound list is on Troutbirder II which you may quickly reach by clicking Mark Twain above...:)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Beautiful Tundra Swans

It's that time of the year again, mid to late November when Mrs. T and I  head down to the "Big River". The Mississippi River that is where we witness one of those true wonders of nature.  There, the Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge provides a safe haven for millions of migratiing waterfowl each fall. We, however, always have a special target in mind. Migrating from their summer breeding grounds in the northern Arctic, tens of thousands of beautiful large white birds, wend there way south to stop, rest, and refuel on the Mississippi River near Brownsville, Minnesota. They pause here, usually for a few weeks, before turning southeast, heading for their wintering grounds on Chesapeake Bay. They are the beautiful Tundra Swans.

Here, on a backwater  we see hundreds of swans and ducks. In the distance, beyond the screen of trees, a barge is moving down the main channel of the river. With Wisconsin in the distance, perhaps a mile away, we can see many more. Sometimes, huge "rafts" of these birds seem to turn the entire river white. When we step out of car, the sound of their vocalizations is almost deafening. Some are even close enough to us to get a picture. On occasion a few fly over us, but I'm not a skilled enough photographer to get a decent picture. Another wonder can occur; on some visits I've counted well over several hundred Bald Eagles. If the sun is out and thermals rise above the bluffs, we can see them "kettle." They form a spiral rising almost out of sight. Late migrating white pelicans also use this river highway. Awkward looking on the ground, they are magnificent soaring aloft as they head south to the Gulf.

With the construction of the lock and dam system on the river in the 1930's, many of the natural aspects of the river have changed. One of these is the wave action of the increased open spaces. Many islands have disappeared. Because of this many of the plants and tubers the swans fed on have also disappeared. Now man is undoing the damage and helping the birds by using dredge material from the main channel to rebuild these islands. Here you can see one of the many artificial islands providing a resting place and shelter from the wind and renewed food supplies. Way to go DNR and Army Corps of Engineers!

On November 15th the official estimate was ten thousand swan in the immediate vicinity. Some years we have seen upward of thirty thousand. The only thing I have ever seen to compare to it is the annual migration of sandhill cranes into the Platte River Valley in Nebraska.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Robert Redford Cake Got Me In Trouble

Directions  -

•Melt butter; mix with flour and press into baking pan.

•Pour pecans over and press down.

•Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.


•Mix cream cheese with confectioners' sugar and peanut butter.

•Mix well.

•Pour over crust.

•Mix vanilla and chocolate pudding mixes with the milk and Cool Whip.

It might seem the raging issue of  sexual harassment should not be the instigator of a wry grin on my part but….  Let us be clear, it is a the fact that its widespread existence is disgusting and immoral and I condemn it whole heartedly.  Still there is that wry grin. Let me explain.

It all began after my move to a new middle school after 26 years of teaching seniors social studies in our local high school. I volunteered for the move as I was ready for a new teaching experience.  It was a great  blending of a few high school teachers with a majority of teachers  with elementary experience. I loved it. The kids and parents loved it. Age appropriate at its best.

It just so happened that my lunch break coincided with a group of the female teachers. I was outnumbered.  One of the highlights was the ladies regularly brought cookies and other treats on a rotating basis. My limited culinary skills required an occasional trip to the local bakery for donuts…. On the day in question I was reminded to sample the cake on the counter. “What is it,? I asked.  “Robert Redford Cake! It’s really good they chorused.  They were right for sure I determined as I wolfed it down. “By the way it has another name, “ one chirped.  “huh”?   “It’s called better than sex cake” several revealed.   Talk about a stare down .  While quickly through my mind came the thought that the lady who baked the cake was very nice and thoughtful, several knew my spouse, gossip can be endemic in a very small town …. So I answered by clearly expressing my 5th amendment rights    One shook her head in dismay, two giggled pointing at me while the rest laughed heartedly.   Clearly I was the victim of some kind of harassment.  Perhaps gender harassment at its best….?
No doubt here sexual harassment at its worst.....

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Case 213 Location - Somwhere between Harmony and Preston in Bluff Country. Trauma - Contusions on the back of Mr. Troutbirders right leg. The victim was later treated by authorized medical personnel. He was released from care with non life threatening injuries. Photograph by Mrs. Troutbirder.   

                                                                      A  police report will follow shortly...

Mr. Troutbirder reported going down a moderately steep hill at safe speed when he began to slow down to stop and photograph a Lepidoptera Avuncular Halitosis. He somehow managed to remain upright in spite of being struck from behind by an inattentive biker . Stopping safely he raced back to find the inattentive biker laying prone on the pathway. Somewhat incoherent the perpetrator was mostly worried about locating his cellphone. Fortunately,  I had mine in my pocket and called for  medical help  not far away.

 The idiocy of tailgating while texting is obvious but I must say besides that when I first began biking some years ago now, when someone came up behind you to pass, they always beeped or said something akin to "on your right" or  "passing" etc. to warn you.  Not anymore. Its very rare. The lack of courtesy and common decency today is becoming appalling in many avenues of life. This was just a little one....:(

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

Oops. Got the title wrong above...but there may be some similarities to what's
going on today.
On that score my wife Barb had a even simpler example in her explanation of the decline and fall….

She reminded me of her upbringing in a girls Catholic high school  Our Lady of Peace (a.k.a. Old Ladies Penitentiary).  In studying, Latin she and her classmates decided that “Latin is a dead language. As dead as it can be. First it killed the Romans. And now it’s killing me."
For my take on this subject click on Mark Twain for my review of Edward Gibbons The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Troutbirder Breaks The Law (Update from Fall 2010)

It all started innocently enough. As described in a previous post, a October bike ride 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 a few other varieties 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 (Barb and Baron) 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 a 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 who made a mess in my yard twice last 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!

And so some years later as shown in several recent posts my little wildflower plots now bloom beautifully spring, summer and fall.  The neighbors stop by to admire what they can see from the adjacent road . I offer them seeds in the fall and slowly but surely our neighborhood will increasingly exhibit natures bounty of prairie wildflowers. And nobody has to break the law...:)


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Keelboat of Lewis and Clark

The last day of our solar eclipse & Lewis and Clark bus tour saw us heading up the Missouri River traversing across Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. We stopped at several museums and State Parks along the way with some very good ones in the Council Bluffs and Sioux City area.
At one we met some untethered and uncaged ferocious animals. Naturally, we didn't back off a bit. Mrs. T. took on one right away, headfirst.
Not to be out done, I managed to hold off a marauding Grizzly bear.

While visiting Lewis and Clark State Park, we took the opportunity to view the full-sized reproduction of Lewis and Clark's keelboat/barge, "Best Friend," which was constructed by Butch Bouvier of L&C Replicas. Imagine, if you can, the expedition winding its way up the Missouri River while sailing, pulling and poling the 55-foot boat.  Lewis and Clark State Park lies on the shores of Blue Lake, an "oxbow" formed by the meanderings of the picturesque Missouri River many years ago.
Here Butch Buovier, who researched, designed and built the first truly authentic replica of Lewis and Clarks keelboat/barge, enthralls his audience (including yours truly) with tales of his work and interactions with Ken Burns. Burns used his this boat in his documentary of the Corps of Discovery.
And finally for the dog lovers out there we met a  replica of Seaman, Clarks Newfoundland companion. To our great surprise, he was looking at a prairie dog in a little cage who suddenly squeaked causing Seaman to begin barking very loudly before he turned to look at us....:) 

What fun on the trail of Lewis and Clark.....


Saturday, October 7, 2017

On The Trail of Lewis and Clark

Kansas City World War I museum

Following our two day in the Kansas City area, where we saw the wonderful W.W. I museum and the childhood home of Amelia Earhart and a total solar eclipse, we headed up the Missouri River Valley on the Trail of Lewis and Clark.
Lewis, Seaman the Newfoundland dog, Clark and Mrs. T.
Highlights along the way were a number of great museums particularly at Council Bluff and Sioux City, Iowa.  Also above Council Bluff is an interesting memorial to the only member of the  Voyage of  Discovery who died during the expedition.
A view from the Sgt. Floyd memorial of the Missouri River and Council Bluff in the distance. It was here that the Captains made their first contact with native Americans. It was their task to make friends, develop trade and inform them of the authority of the "Great Father" (Thomas Jefferson) in Washington City.

Mrs. T. and Susan Rae at the memorial.
Next: Meet the man who built the exact replicas of Lewis and Clarks keelboats for Ken Burns documentary on The Voyage of Discovery.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Click on Mark Twain above for  my book review....  sorry for the mix up. I pushed the wrong button and failed to publish the review a couple of days ago.  It's up now.  Thanks to Patti for the correction.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Fall Aster Parade

Mid September/October roadsides , prairies and bike trails in Bluff Country see the exuberant explosion of purples, blues and whites of the native Asters. Their bright blooms are one of the joys in the changing season. 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.

I would be remiss if I didn't show you my five year project of creating a mini-prairie along the ditch bank facing our front road.  The blue and deep purple asters are doing their thing the last week of Sept.  and will continue for a least another month.....

And so we'll conclude our aster foray with a peek into the past with my all time best buddy Baron. He's standing in a field of white asters at Lake Louise State Park and saying in the immortal words of Humphrey Bogart..."here's looking at you kid."

Thursday, September 21, 2017


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

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

Monday, September 18, 2017

In Search of Amelia Earhart & a Solar Eclipse

Join us as we head deep into the Heartland on the way to Atchison, Kansas and the childhood home of Amelia Earhart. She, the pioneer American female pilot, of fame and mystery. Incidentally, on the day we expected to visit the museum dedicated to her memory a total solar eclipse was to be right over our heads at the airport named in her honor.....

Leaving Southeastern Minnesota's Bluff Country, very early on Sunday morning, we headed south into Iowa, lunching in Des Moines.  We were aboard a bus with John Grabko and his  Historical  Adventure & Travel Tours.  
We had taken many trips with John .... always fun and informative.  Arriving in Kansas City, Missouri late in the afternoon we immediately got to tour that cities wonderful WW I museum. It was very well done.
After a short hop the next morning we found ourselves outside the childhood home of Amelia Earhart high on the bluff overlooking the Missouri River as it separates the States of Missouri and Kansas.
Beside the living quarters, one section was filled with all kinds of fascinating memorabilia from Amelia's career. Of course, I questioned the guide about the mystery of her disappearance and presumable death near the Marshalls in the Pacific. No "alternate facts" were supported.
After our tour and before hopping aboard our bus I ran across the street to take a look at "The Big Muddy" and  the new connecting Amelia Earhart Bridge in the distance.
Back on the bus we quickly arrived at the Amelia Earhart airport along with lot of other gawkers.
Fortunately our maroon bus had priority parking in a nearby pasture as Mrs. T. has a folding chair in the foreground, waiting for the big celestial event.
Needless to say your hapless observer was persuaded to leave the shelter of the bus in spite of the scattered rain showers and   intermittent cloud cover all in hope of seeing the great event. I did briefly catch glimpses which apparently qualified me to partake of a small cup of champagne....:) Shortly thereafter we reboarded our bus to follow the trail of Lewis and Clark up the Missouri river valley into the wilderness of Nebraska and Iowa for more adventures. (More on that to come)