Troutbirder II

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

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Looking For Gold !

We were looking for Gold.  Looking for thought to be rare Golden Eagles that is.  After taking a class on identifying immature Bald Eagles from  Golden Eagles,   the Troutbirders set out on their assigned route in Winona county . The National Eagle Center was sponsoring the effort to determine how many Golden Eagles actually winter in Minnesota.  This big eagle was suspected to  associate with the hill and valley country of the unglaciated portions of southeastern Minnesota, southwestern Wisconsin and north eastern Iowa. Our route was in Minnesota. We had a wonderful five hour outing. Eileen, from the Eagle center,  was a great mentor and guide. She is a volunteer  who works with Scott Mehus the Education Director. Scott is in charge of the Centers Golden Eagle research project.

Here Eileen is searching along ridge lines above and adjacent to goat prairies. Goat prairies are south facing slopes which are dry and generally treeless (except for red cedar) The pioneers named them goat prairies due to the steepness. Golden eagles like to soar above them which gives them an open shot at their prey which consists of small mammals and the occasional wild turkey. Apparently they like their meat fresh as they are not known to scavenge in this wooded country.

We clearly identified three Golden Eagles. One was mature and two first year goldens were also sighted. All three were soaring. We also saw several eagles perched on the inner portions of trees but distance made a positive identification impossible. The mature was identified by its dark coloration and the somewhat dihedral arch of its wings while soaring. The youngsters were playing chase and tag above us and the underneath white tail and wing markings were very clear.
 You might note that the head of the Golden is much smaller than the tail. In Bald Eagles the head and tail are approxiametly equal in size.

In addition, we counted 11 bald eagles (they are much more common along the Mississippi river), nine redtails, and two big flocks of wild turkeys and a herd of deer.

Another simple key to locating goldens is that if you see a flock of calm and reposed wild turkeys, it is unlikely a Golden Eagle is soaring nearby.
On the other hand, if they are fleeing in terror for cover, a Golden could be soaring above looking for a meal or Troutbirder might be driving down the road in their direction.  We were well satisfied to have spotted three Goldens on our outing, though memory took me back to the mountains above the Madison Valley in Montana where we saw several dozens.  Did these rare Minnesota visitors come from the Far West or someplace else? Only further research would provide the answer.  Tune in to our next post...:)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

We are Soldiers Still

We are Soldiers Still:  A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam.    
  First there was We Were Soldiers and Young and then  Mel Gibson's movie of the same name. Now, I just finished the follow up as Colonel Moore and some of his men's return to the Ia Drang  some years later. There  they relive and rethink what happened  and the war they fought in Vietnam. Whether you know little or a lot about that place there are still lessons to be learned. Click on Mark Twain above to see my review....

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Cabin Fever Part II

I'm not a big whiner and complainer....really! I deal with the facts, make adjustments and life goes on. Yes, indeed. A knee replacement lead me to give up skiing some years ago. A certain pill to slow and control the heart rate makes cold in the extremities a fact of life. I don't do a lot of ice fishing any more. I find TV extremely tedious (except ESPN & BTN) So I get bored. Reading and blogging in the winter can only take you so far. We go for rides.

Houston county is known for its Swiss like vistas and lots of deer. It's wooded hills and valley's make for great habitat. Take a look.Family portrait

Pruning a shrub

Swamp deer?

Whatcha looking at girl?

GPS deer. Somebody is keeping track of her!

Cabin Fever! Take me for a ride. I know I'll feel better.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Cabin Fever

The cause of this annoying malady is quite simple. Take a look.
Something about risking broken body parts has kept us and Lily inside much of this winter...:(
On the other hand the view from inside of the trees and shrubs is quite pretty.....:)
Of course we can't forget the back yard and our little feathered friends.
This year the somewhat sloping backyard had a layer of ice covered by a layer of snow covered by a layer of ice covered by..... oh you get the idea. Still our friends got fed several time a week (Very very carefully).....

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Lost In The Wild

In the wilderness, one false step can make the difference between a delightful respite and a brush with death. Survival  stories are one of my favorite genres. Two stories here. Both in places I've spent many a happy day canoeing and fishing. To top that, one of the heroes of the search and rescue team in the BWCAW is a former student of mine. Click on Mark Twain above to jump to my book review blog for more details...


Saturday, March 3, 2018

Tall Grass Prairie

Here in Fillmore County, Minnesota we live on an ecological dividing line between “Bluff Country, an unglaciated hill and valley region sweeping east to the Mississippi River and Wisconsin. To the west we find what was once the tall grass prairie, now almost entirely corn and soybean fields.  That is except for a few small remnants here and there tucked away or restored like my friend Mr. Science has done. Early fall this year we followed him on a few mowed trails to take a look…. Come on along. 
The tall grass prairie, except for the trees, add a herd of bison and it's  much as it looked to Lewis and Clark over two hundred year ago....:)   

Monday, February 26, 2018

Troutbirder Goes on Broaday

It was the spring of 1959 and leaving St. Paul Union Deport the senior class of Harding High school was heading east to Washington D.C. and New York City by train. I was on board playing poker in the Dome throughout the night. Perhaps I was a youthful version of Sgt. Bilko as the cards kept falling my way. My only other memory was seeing the forges light up the hillsides as we passed thru Pittsburg. In Washington we saw all the famous sights. Unfortunately, we missed seeing “Ike”  in the White House as he was busy warning the nation against endless wars and the military industrial complex taking over. That hasn’t gone so well….:(

More famous places to see in New York followed. There was a real sense of vibrancy and excitement there.  Staying at the Roosevelt Hotel an evening out to world famous “Coney Island” was planned. Everyone was excited except me.  My mom had advised me that this night might provide a once in a lifetime opportunity to see a Rogers and Hammerstein musical. Its name was “Flower Drum Song.”. That morning before our tour bus left, I asked the man behind the counter if two tickets were available. “Not a chance,” he replied.  “It’s booked up months ahead, of course there might be a cancelation. Check back about 5 o’clock.”  I did but no luck. Then Plan B appeared. “If you want to see a Broadway play one recently opened right across the street from your first choice and within walking distance. It’s called The World of Suzy Wong.   To this day I can still claim I’ve been to a play on Broadway…..

Actor William Shatner has a unique place in the history of the romantic novel The World of Suzie Wong. Shatner, known for starring as Captain James T. Kirk in the Star Trek T.V. series, was the first man in the world to “woo” Suzie Wong in the original stage version. Shatner, 27 won the heart of a decent Hong Kong prostitute played by Vietnamese-French actress France Nuyen on Broadway between Oct. 14 1958 and January 2 1960.

I have no real memories of the play itself except between the acts I bought a couple of very small classes of orange juice for the outrageous price of two dollars a glass. Of course my date was impressed with my largesse. Apparently the play was roundly panned by the big city critics so it didn’t last very long.  Later yet, a movie version was produced starring handsome William Holden.  I advised my mom against seeing that movie having giving her a somewhat sanitized version of the plays plot along the lines of “love conquers all”.  Fond memories from long ago...:)



Friday, February 23, 2018

Then and Now in the Wilderness

Back when I was still young as in my late forties, I still took hunting, fishing and canoe trips into the Canadian, Montana and Minnesota wilderness. This picture is from a two week canoe  adventure in northern Ontario, Canada. We explored a river system without seeing another person. Now almost thirty years later and well into the myriad aches and pains of the Golden Years my choice of adventures is severely limited. Thus, last fall Mrs. T. and I found ourselves on a three day bus tour to see the flora and fauna of Northern Minnesota.  Join us....

In Yellowstone Park,  Western Montana and the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness in Northern Minnesota I've looked for Wolves and heard a few at night but never actually seen one.  The Wolf Center was my last chance. The International Wolf Center advances the survival of wolf populations by teaching about wolves, their relationship to wildlands and the human role in their future. The International Wolf Center maintains a live wolf exhibit, featuring an ambassador wolf pack to enhance both in-person and online educational experiences. These ambassador wolves contribute to the Center’s mission by reinforcing  educational messages and by creating a connection with  visitors.
There is something very special about large wilderness predators be they grizzly bears in Montana, Brown bears in Alaska, Mountain lions in Idaho. Wading quietly in a trout stream seeing tracks on the shore the senses come alive as nowhere else. Cautious, silent, tuned in to every sound, aware.  The wilderness. There is nothing quite like it....:)


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Dovekeepers

Perhaps you know the story of Masada. The inspiring story of the Jewish rebellion again the Roman Empire and final resistance to its mighty Legions from a mountain top. This novel is the story with a somewhat different perspective and twist. I found it very well done...  Click on Mark Twain above for details...

Monday, February 19, 2018

Dreaming of a Better World

Oh that's bad!  Actually my real dream of a better world involves the current moron residing in the White House

Friday, February 16, 2018

Birding the Beautiful Whitewater Valley in Minnesota.

Invited by our friends Mr. Science (Gary) and his wife Bobbie, we spent the day winter birding in  the beautiful Whitewater Valley.  And a bountiful day it was.  I won't list all the species and numbers. but a few highlights include many eagles (some nesting), lots of red tailed hawks, several  rough legged hawks also a few kestrels, plus a single Coopers Hawk.  There were  large numbers of the usual small and medium sized winter holdovers,  not including our human "snowbirds" who tend to hang out in places like Florida and Arizona. Lastly, the top sighting of the day was  20 Trumpeter swans,  a rescued species nearly extirpated in Minnesota some decades ago.  Two photos from Gary.  Plus a note on winter fly fishing.
The very large and magnificent Trumpeter Swan resident once again in Minnesota.
Many eagles were seen  today with three females on their  nests already.  Apparently it's  difficult to tell if they have laid eggs or are still redecorating a previously used nest....
The Whitewater River and its' small tributaries are all excellent limestone trout streams.  Some have a open winter season. I've tried a few times but winter and fishing do not go together very well for me. Once camping in mid November at Mammoth Hot Springs Yellowstone National Park and fishing downstream on the Lamar River, with myself about freezing, cured me of the habit forever....:)

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Sunshine and Retirement

When I retired from teaching I was 62 and still loved the kids, history and geography. What I didn't love was how computers made us all more 'efficient" by requiring more redundant and unuseful paperwork than ever. I did a rough calculation several times and determined  most of the staff was wasting two hours a day on this nonsense.   For Special Ed teachers with Federal requirements it was in excess of three hours per day. We had just built a more "efficient" house for us largely paying for it with the sale of our old one next door to a woods we already owned. But not quite. My beloved spouse volunteered to work two more years and pay it off. Thus, I became a House Husband. She loved it when she came home to find dinner ready, the laundry done, as I had put serious study into these diverse tasks. Still there was a little slack time here and there and I needed to find a mentor on how to use it. He was a friend of Mrs. T's who lived with us and his name was Simba.
Yes this is Simba and this is how it all began. While I don't have any actual pictures of his mentoring retirement techniques, the following pretty much demonstrates the method.    
I found the idea to  follow the sun around the house all day and to nap the most effective. The aquarium sun lamp technique was definitely unworkable and I also  had my 130 German Shepard Baron pile on top of me for warmth just plane dangerous. Thus I survived two years of retired house husbandry very amenable and WE BOTH LIVED HAPPY EVER AFTER IN RETIREMENT.....:)

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Feminism and Me

Though I abhor stereotypes, in this case based on womens tendency to family and community values and mens tendency to value dominance, power, money and war, I hope to live to see gray-haired and young women take over the Earth. We'd all be better off....

Monday, February 5, 2018

Book Review of John Sanfords Storm Front

So in spite of not being regular thriller reading I inherited one of premier mystery writer John
Sanford . So as a first time reader of him here is my take on one of his many novels. Click on Mark Twain above to find out...:)

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Pelican Island

 A few years back and our first trip to Florida, we were visiting Barb's  first cousin Joe and his wife Mary.   They were taking us to see Pelican Island.  Much further back yet, at the turn of the 19th century, the passenger pigeon, the Carolina parakeet, the American bison, 80% of Floridas birdlife and a series of other birds and mammals had all but disappeared. They were slaughtered in an orgy of greed, profiteering and carelessness. The wonderful wading birds of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts had become the staple for women's fashionable hats. There was only one place, on the Atlantic coast, a tiny 5.5 acre island named after the birds, where a small flock of Brown Pelicans survived. And it went on and on. Till some true American heroes stepped forward and took action. Tormented by the slaughter, a German immigrant, named Paul Kroegel eventually made heroic attempts to ward off feather hunters from Pelican Island with his own 10-gauge shotgun. Kroegel's bravery and dedication received the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt, one of my personal heroes, established Pelican Island in 1903 as a "preserve and breeding ground for native birds" and appointed Kroegel as the first Refuge Manager. It was the beginning of the conservation movement and the start of the National Wildlife Refuges. Today, they are the largest system of lands for wildlife in the world.
With Joe, our genial host driving, we headed off to the barrier islands, which encompass Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge. Small Pelican Island itself stands alone and protected amidst the refuge itself. It proved to be a fun day.

A sign and a Kestral welcomed us. We had a picnic lunch overlooking a small marsh and then took a hike to look for birds.....

An anhinga watches over the scene.
                                          And a Red Shouldered Hawk watches the scene
The namesake of the refuge, the brown pelican, reflects on the more secure days as he and his comrades now enjoy in this beautiful place.

The refuge islands lie off the coast of Sebastian, Florida and the Indian River Estuary. If you click on the picture you can see the town in the distance. The Audobon Society and concerned citizens had to fight in the 60's to prevent "development" from once again destroying the barrier island chain.


Later, Barb and Joe keep an eye out while "Chicken" Troutbirder, cautious of Atlantic rip tides, goes ankle deep.