Troutbirder II

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

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A Massive Restoration

For these two lifelong residents of Minnesota a first time tour of The North Star State Capitol was long overdue. We took the daytrip with our friends at Heartland. The trip also included a visit to the Minneapolis Institute of Art. We get off the bus and head up the walkway to the Capitol.

A quick look back  down the park like Mall towards the "Saintly City"..... St. Paul.
This landmark building, designed by Cass Gilbert and built in 1905 was looking somewhat shabby by the 21st century. What followed was a$310 million , 3+ year restoration and renovation. We had gone to see the results. All decorative art, murals, and paintings were restored to original patters and colors. New public spaces including galleries were added along with exposing limestone basement walls etc.
Of course our tour guide filled us in on the architecture, art and history.
In the peoples house looking at the chamber of the State legislature.  It was a great morning seeing our capitol  restored to its awe-inspiring glory.
Next: The Minneapolis Institute of Art


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

A Few Yellow/Orange flowers

Yes we were very busy this spring with these yellow flowers taking over our front lawn.  And inspired by my oldest grandsons bumper sticker, "MAKE AMERICA GREEN AGAIN" MS. T. and  I attacked them with a vengeance the old fashioned way by digging them out one at a time.  No 24D herbicide for use. We've also been slowly getting rid of turf (lawns) by encouraging native woodland wildflower beds.  A few highlights follow .....

Yellow Lady Slipper (a native orchid)

Last but not least, on the edge of the woods,  the somewhat rare but very vibrant yellow/orange Hoary Pucoon.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Cold Mountain

As noted in my previous review of Varina Charles Frazier is an excellent writer of historical fiction. Looking for more I found his first best seller Cold Mountain. Published twenty years ago I read it recently. For more click on Mark Twain above.  Troutbirder II is my book review blog....

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Monday, May 21, 2018

Up North (with John Sanford)

There was a time when the phrase "up north" meant going to a mom and pop resort for a week or two of a fishing vacation in Northern Minnesota. That tradition has faded quite a bit over the years. Today, fancy resorts with tennis courts, golf courses, computer game rooms and "conference centers" dominate. Ah for the good old days.
Here I am checking out the beach with my Aunt Pearl and my mom (on the right) sometime during WWII.

A few years later, can you believe the striped pants my mom made me wear. The cabins were always "rustic." But what fun. I was an only child in those days as my little brothers didn't show up till I was almost nine...

This sudden dash of nostaligia may have been inspired by my perusing my childhood picture album on a rainy day yesterday. I'd just finished another John Sanford thriller. As typical the setting was in Minnesota.   The images of long past fishing lakes "up north" kept flashing through my mind. They are far away in time and distance but not in memory. Farm Island, Ball Club, Potato, Sawbill, Mantrap, Battle Axe, Lida, Hoot Owl, and on and on. Those were the days my friends.....

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The Path

"Do not go where the path may lead,
go instead where there is no path
and leave a trail" Ralph Waldo Emerson

The nature path led me to fishing, hunting, camping, gardening, hiking, biking, dogs, canoeing & wilderness adventures. It even returned me to the classroom as, for example, here I'm speaking to a group of seniors in Apple Valley, Minn. about birding.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018


Think you know pretty much about all the key famous people in the American Civil War? Think again & read my review of Varina  the teenager who married a much older widower and rich planter who took up politics, went to Washington, played an important role in several administrations and later became President of the Confederate State of America.  Click on Mark Twain above to check it  out.... It's an amazing story

Friday, April 27, 2018

Lonesome Prairie

With the last of the snow and ice finally gone from our small acreage I look to the delayed emergence of the spring wild flowers in our oak and pine woods. In the meantime a quick look at our tiny restored prairie from last late summer and fall. The bank along our east facing subdivision road proved to be to much work to keep weeded or mowed. A three years effort in this sunny patch turned it into a mini prairie. Take a look.....


Saturday, April 21, 2018

Winston Churchill: A Quick Riposte


Some years back, I briefly reviewed Volume II of William Manchesters astonishing The Last Lion trilogy. This is biography at its very best. The life of Winston Churchill has been covered perhaps hundreds of times. Manchester brings him alive as no one else has ever done. Of course, Churchills personality and foibles were unique. Here are a tiny sample of his quick wit in action.

Isadora Duncan the famous dancer was seated next to Churchill at a dinner party

Duncan - "Just think Winston if George Bernard Shaw and I had a child. With my talent and beauty and his brains....."
Churchill -" but what if it was the other way around?"

Lady Astor was the first woman elected to the Parliament replacing her husband upon his ascension to the House of Lords. . She was known as a fierce debater. There is a famous exchange between Winston Churchill and Lady Astor when they were both staying at Blenheim Castle. The two politicians had been at each other's throat all weekend when Lady Astor said, "Winston, if I were your wife I'd put poison in your coffee." Whereupon Winston said, "Nancy, if I were your husband I'd drink it."

Churchill was a guest at the White House in 1942 planning war strategy with Roosevelt. His bedroom was in the upper family quarters where, believe it or not, there were shared baths. Never known for his modesty, political or personal, he was late to bed and late to rise. At home, he often dictated to his secretaries while immersed in a bubble bath. Returning to his room, nude from a bath, he met Roosevelt in his wheelchair coming down the hallway. The president, embarrassed for Churchill, tried to apologize. Churchill, always quick on the uptake, replied "as you can see, the Prime Minister has nothing to hide from the President."

The scene is the mens bathroom outside the chamber of the House of Commons. Churchill enters the empty facility but is followed shortly thereafter  by lead of the Socialist/Labor party Mr. Atlee. Upon seeing Atlee, Churchill moves to the far end of the bank of urinals.
Atlee: "Feeling rather standoffish today are we Winston?" he asks amiably.

Churchill: "Well, considering you socialists want to nationalize it, every time you see something big" was the reply.

He was a wit indeed. Here's another, after he left office:
“The Americans will always do the right thing… after they’ve exhausted all the alternatives.”

Playwright George Bernard Shaw invited Churchill to the premiere of a new play, enclosing two tickets: “One for yourself and one for a friend — if you have one.” Churchill wrote back, saying he couldn’t make it, but could he have tickets for the second night — “if there is one.”

Unfortunately, they don’t make Conservatives like that man any more with the possible exception of William Buckley........:)

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Secrets of the Snowy Owl

A very interesting video tracking a snowy owl who heads back home to the frozen North in Canada....

Thursday, April 12, 2018

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. We headed North.....

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 would not die alone in a ditch. She is being given every chance to survive.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Snowy Owl

From Maine to Washington State a rare visitor from the Northern Canada had been  showing up that 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 late 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 (Gary). A snowy owl had been spotted less than ten miles from our 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 easily 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.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Invention of Wings

Click on Mark Twain above to jump to Troutbirder II and learn about a really great book!

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

My Dog Baron Her Cat Simba

Barons Daily Log
8:00 am - Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am - A car ride! My favorite thing!

9:40 am - A hike  in Forestville State Park! My favorite thing!

10:30 am - Got combed rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!

12:00 pm - Milk Bones!  My favorite thing!

1:00 pm -Fetched tennis balls in the yard! My favorite thing!

3:00 pm - Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm - Supper! My favorite thing!

7:00 pm - Chased a squirrel up a tree in the backyard ! My favorite thing!

8:00 pm - Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!

11:00 pm - Sleeping on the cushion in my kennel! My favorite thing!

Excerpts from Simba's Daily Rant...

Day 1983 of my captivity..My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects & something called a laser light. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates  are fed some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet. Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a 'good little hunter' I am. Bastards.There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of 'allergies.' I must learn what this means and how to use it to my advantage.Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow -- but at the top of the stairs. I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released - and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree. The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicating with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now................


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Golden Eagles Of Mongolia

"Thou hast chosen war. That will happen which will happen, and what is to be we know not. God alone knows." Thus spake the Great Khan Ghenghis to his people and they rode forth from their desert homeland, on their small ponies, to conquer the world..... And they almost did. They created in centuries long past, the largest empire the world has ever seen. From China to India, from Russia in the north to Persia ind the south and further west into Central Europe, where they were finally turned back at the gates of Vienna on the Danube. That empire eventually faded away as all others have. Today, though, a small in population but independent nation (Mongolia) lies as a buffer between China and Russia.
When I heard of a program on the Golden Eagles of Mongolia being sponsored by the St. Paul Audobon Society, I was intrigued. Upon learning further, that the programed involved an Eagle Festival, where mounted hunters carried their trained eagles with them, I was even more fascinated. I headed north, one hundred miles to the Twin Cities, not to miss it.
Ron Winch and his wife Toni Melitsch gave the program based on their attendance at the festival. A "retired" 3M photographer, he now travels worldwide giving back to worthy conservation and environmental organizations as well as being a regular contributor to books and magazines. His goal is always entertainment, enlightenment, and education to inspire the viewers to become better stewards of the environment. He certainly succeeded based on what I saw.
 In recent times the eagle hunting tradition was dying out among the Kazhac people of Northwestern Mongolia. The eagle festival began, as such things often do, as a small event with the hope of preserving some of the old ways. Later, as interest revived, it began to achieve that goal and become a major tourist event as well. This year some 84 nomadic hunters rode on horseback from as far as 150 miles with an eagle on their arm for the event. And what an event it was. The settin of desert, mountains, colorful dress of the local people, their rounded tent homes (Gerts) and magnificent eagles shown through the means of digital photography, added up to a wonderful two hour program.  I was so glad I was able to  attend.

My own interest in golden eagles began several years ago by participating in the National Eagle Centers golden eagle survey. Over one hundred people were trained in identifying golden eagles from immature bald eagles. The goldens visit Minnesota from Canada in the winter and return to their habitat in the far north to breed in the summer. Our group identified over one hundred of these magnificent birds last year. I did learn, however, that the Mongolian birds were slightly larger than their Canadian cousins. Although my "team" spotted three goldens that  year, I've yet to have gotten close enough to take a decent picture with my little point and shoot. The Rocky Mountain West hosts many of these birds year around and world class amateur photographer Mona (Montanagirl) graciously allowed me to use one of her many wonderful pictures.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Oh Canada!

Golden eagles were thought to be relatively rare in the hill and valley region bordering the mighty Mississippi river valley between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Most experts believed they were lost wanderers from the Rocky Mountain west. More interested birders, better equipment and knowledge of differentiating the big brown eagle from their immature Bald Eagles cousins, has begun to change that opinion. Goldens nest all the way up to the Arctic coast in Alaska and Western Canada. Their range maps show nothing along the western edge of Hudson Bay.
From late April to May, Whitey flew from western Wisconsin north to Duluth Minnesota at the westernmost tip of Lake Superior. Then he crossed into Ontario, Canada. And then he kept on going and going and going. Past Churchill on the southern shore of Hudson Bay. Then north along Hudson's western edge. He traveled 2,382 miles, averaging 72 miles per day. His longest one-day flight was 193 miles. From late May to early October, Whitey spent the summer wandering over an immense area of Nunavut — from the northern shore of Hudson Bay to a lake above the Arctic Circle. It had been a migration of astonishing proportions and came as a total surprise to everyone. Or as one of the experts said, "Wow!" And then on October 7, he turned and headed back toward his winterhome By early November, Whitey was back in southwestern Wisconsin after a 26-day, 1,750-mile migration.
Mark Martell, director of bird conservation for Audubon Minnesota said the finding has conservation implications. "These birds are cool, just cool," Martell said. "Here’s this huge, predatory bird that we weren’t even aware was here on a regular basis."
Their presence raises a serious issue — how best to protect them —. But more information is needed first. 
Whitey repeated his epic journey several times.  Other captured Golden Eagles later flew similar tracks north with some variations included on which veered north east crossing Ontario to enter Quebec.