Troutbirder II

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

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ribbon Cutting

Several hundred people were gathered along a new overlook in Minnesota, near the Iowa border, south of Brownsville. Across the river, clouded in mist, lay Wisconsin.

A yellow ribbon lay across a corner of the turnout, behind which stood a number of dignitaries. They represented numerous conservation groups, government agencies and private corporations. All had been involved, one way or another, in the building of the overlook.. State Senator Sharon Ropes speaks of the Upper Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge and what it means for all of us.
As Mrs T, Loretta and I parked along the highway, under the direction of state troopers, we heard a rather loud and strange sound emanating from the river. I think it was some sort of excited yet friendly conversation among some visitors from the far north.
Here, we were to witness a world class event in the world of natures wonders. Coming from the arctic north, in their thousands, tundra swans had stopped to refuel and rest, before continuing their journey to Chesapeake Bay, far to the southeast.
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 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.

The new overlook provides a safe place for people to turn out to see and photograph the swans.

Mrs. T (a.k.a. Queen B) now successfully cruising around with a cane and camera.
Loretta spots some opportunistic eagles resting comfortably far out in the river on an artificial island.

Previously people would park along the shoulder endangering themselves and passing vehicles.
Way to go DNR and Army Corps of Engineers. We make an annual trip along the river to see this amazing sight. It never grows old.
Thanks Mother Nature!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pheasant Hunting

I went pheasant hunting today with my longtime hunting partner Rick. Well, to tell the truth, he had his shotgun and I was carrying my camera. It had been a long time since we tramped the fields together in search of the elusive ringneck Let’s go back to the beginning.

I grew up in the city and hunting was not part of my youthful experience. My father had hunted a little back in thirties and then lost interest. When I got my first teaching job and moved to rural small town Minnesota, he gave me his double barreled sixteen gauge shotgun. Mrs T and I decided on getting a dog. Kids would come later. The dog was Max. He was half golden retriever and half German shorthaired pointer. If the book Marley hadn’t already been written, I could have done it myself, based on Max’s exploits. He looked just like a big golden lab. And later proved, among other things. to be an amazing hunter.

Max The Wonder Dog

I tried upland game hunting a few times but had indifferent success at best. Then Rick joined the staff as our American History teacher. He was a pro when it came to hunting and I learned a lot. Thirty some years of successful pheasant and grouse hunting followed.

Back from grouse hunting.

Later, when my old football knee became so bad that I couldn’t walk safely anymore on uneven ground, I had to give it up. I then took up duck and goose hunting from a blind for a while and enjoyed that as well. Seeing a flock of honkers turn and come in to the decoys, as you called for them, was always fun.

The best memories though and the stories that go with them usually involve, somehow, my hunting dogs. Max The Wonder Dog, then Chessie and Muffy, the Chesapeake Bay retrievers.

Chessie von Milville

Pheasant hunting with gun or camera Nov. 9, 2009

Eighty acres of public hunting, restored wildlife habitat provided by the organization Pheasants Forever and the Minnesota DNR

As the sun set and it was time to call it a day, I reflected on the fact that a few years ago, after my knee replacement, I had decided to go in a different direction. A friend introduced me to birding, I got a digital camera, some binoculars and a non hunting GSD - Baron. You can find me afield year around now. Tramping the trails and woods, the parks and prairies, still hunting birds or whatever of Mother Natures bounty catches my fancy. Today, I went pheasant hunting with Rick again. A hike through the nostalgia of great memories and my younger years. But I am just as fond today of the new memories being created each time I grab my camera and round up my big puppy saying "hey Baron, let’s go for a walk."

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

We Got Skunked

We got skunked....literally that is. It all started innocently enough last week. The Baron & I decided to do a serious hike. We had been cooped up by cold and rainy weather for far to long. The sun had peeked through that morning and off we went.

These say that dogs often reflect their masters. Well Baron and I both like to explore. He follows me through the woods and pastures. Sometimes I follow him because he has the nose and finds interesting things. That proved to be a bad plan on this day.
Of course, he loves romping in the water. That usually is pretty safe, except when he runs up to me and does that shaking thing.
Heading into the woods might turn up some deer or turkeys. Chasing turkeys or squirrels is ok but running after deer is a no no.

We were heading across a grassy field where Baron got his nose down and began tracking seriously. Then the "pronking" started. For those unfamiliar with the term, African antelopes are most famous for the technique. All my hunting dogs did this in the field, especially when they were trying to spot a pheasant in the tall grass. Apparently Baron, the GSD, also had a use for it. I figured he was on the trail of a mouse or something akin. Wrong!!!

It was ugly. I never saw the stripped pussy cat in the tall grass, but when Baron came rushing back to me and then rolled over and over on the ground, I knew what he had found. Phew!!!

We trudged back to the truck and loaded him up. A minor plus was, that for the first time, I wasn't totally sorry that a few years back a virus had taken away some of my sense of smell. Later, Mrs T pointed out that besides the dog, the truck, the garage, the kennel, me and my clothes all reeked. I barely escaped being banished from the house. What to do? Actually I already knew from a previous experience with Max (my first lab hunting dog) that the tomato juice remedy was highly ineffective. Calling ahead on my cell phone and warning my spouse of our immenent arrival, she did an internet search for a cure. Here it is -

1 Qt 3% hydrogen peroxide 1/4 cup baking soda 1 tsp. liquid soap

All you need to do is wet down the dog with a hose, mix the ingredients together in a container, and then slowly pour the mixture over the dog while rubbing it into the fur.

After the dog has been bathed in this solution rinse it down with the hose and the dog will be odor free.

My dog weighed 100 lbs so I doubled the amounts shown above, but if you have a small to medium size animal, the recipe listed should do just fine.

Although the ingredients are not dangerous, care should obviously be taken to keep the solution out of your dog's eyes, ears and mouth. Credit for this remedy goes to chemist, Paul Krebaum, of Molex Inc. in Lisle, Illinois. The above listed ingredients were published in the August 1995 issue of Popluar Science.

It worked great. Here's hoping you don't have to try it!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Flyfishing For Trout

Life certainly has a lot of paths and its twists and turns, sometimes leaves one wondering. For me, flyfishing for trout, has been a passion ever since, as a young adult, I moved into Bluff Country. Its beautiful limestone streams and the wily brown trout were an immediate attraction. Now, this summer, I have hardly gone fishing at all. It's a bit of a puzzle, beyond all the obvious rationales of weather, health, age and duties on the home front. The home front includes things like my wildflower projects. The bottom line, though, I think comes down to my huge puppy Baron, who needs a daily hike to release some of his inexhaustible energy and a new interest on my part - birding. I am content with all this for many reasons. One of them is knowing
that the young man shown here hiking down a bike trail with me to a Bluff Country trout stream

and taking his first boat ride on the Mississippiand here checking out a Colorado Rocky Mountain High stream with his dad,

seems to have adopted his father and his grandfathers passion.
Here, at eight years of age, he casts into a sparkling mountain stream. The next generation of Troutbirders is learning the trade.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Minnesota State Fair (Part 2)

It was early afternoon and we were slowing down. Ok. I will take that back. The weight of the popcorn and the deep fat fried cheese curds was slowing ME down. Sitting down, I pulled out my fair map, looking for something we had never visited before. Then I found it in the far far northwestern part of the fair grounds, next to a parking lot. The Pet Center.
We headed off in that direction through enormous hordes of people crowding both the sidewalks and the streets.

There was a small grandstand and luckily we were able to find front row seating. It was clearly an obedience and agility demonstration for sometype of dogs. The sound system was terrible so I missed much of that. Still the skills being demonstrated by the owners and the dogs (who turned out to be Austrailian Shepherds) was amazing. We watched them do their thing for about a half hour before going into the Pet Center to meet the various dogs and other pets being shown.
btw... when we got home, I had a long talk with The Baron on the need to raise the bar :) .....on his obedience training!A big surprise occured when Mrs T suggested a trip to The Olde Mill. This has been a popular fair venue for almost a hundred years. You float , in a wooden gondola, through a very dark tunnel. Its very popular with parents of little kids and young couples of romantically inclined teenagers. Puzzled, I said "huh?" Turns out to have been much darker than I vaguely remembered. We had a good time.

Our last highlight that day was the new Miracle of Birth Center This agricultural education exhibit is the birthplace of approximately 200 animals including calves, lambs and piglets during the fair’s 12 day run.
The most popular free exhibit on the fairgrounds moved to its new, larger home for the 2006 State Fair. Three times its former size, the new CHS Miracle of Birth Center allows more visitors the opportunity to learn about animal agriculture

It was amazing. Although having lived in a rural area most of my life, I would have to count myself among the probably 95% of the citizens of this state, who have no personal experience on this subject whatsoever. There was a huge crowd in the building. It was evident from the big TV monitors hanging from the ceiling that a cow was giving birth and that there was no hope, due to the crowd of getting anywhere near it. So we plunked down on a small bench near the sheep. Watching the TV monitors Mrs. T began giving me the "I not sure I want to stay and watch this" look. That quickly changed as she was drawn into the drama.

For the moment, I was more fascinated with Mrs Ewe and baby lamb. A small sign said the baby had been born less that an hour before. Mom was cleaning things up and I was wondering how long it would be before the little guy stood up. The answer was very quickly as it wobbled to it's feet.

I wanted to shout "try the other end little fella," but thought let nature take its course. Eventually it did.

I have no pictures of the calf birthing but the TV images and words are still quite clear in my mind.

"Were going to check now to be sure the calf is positioned correctly."

Two assistants with rubber gloves up to their elbows ascertain that it is.

Sometime later two feet appear.

"The're saying it's a very large calf. She is a good mother but we will prepare a backup plan to assist her."

More time passes and technicalities are discussed. Then the head appears and the crowd goes...."ahhh."

The back up plan is attaching a chain somewhere. Troutbirder thinks OMG!

Time passes then suddenly the calf literally pops out and is grabbed and laid in the straw.

The crowd applauds and cheers wildly. You would have thought the Vikings had finally won a Super Bowl!

What a day at the fair!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Minnesota State Fair (Part 1)

On Monday the Troutbirders headed off to St Paul and The Great Minnesota Get Together. The Iowa State Fair is the largest in the nation with Texas second: however, the Minnesota State Fair has a higher number of attendance daily but is open half the amount of time. It a lots of fun and gives Troutbirder the opportunity to break all the rules, once a year, on what he shouldn't eat! Come on along and take a look.

If you've gone to state fairs off and on for decades, there is a routine that develops. Certain venues are always visited, things eaten or done year after year. This year was going to be different. We decided to branch out, try some new things and began with the gondola ride.
Launch pad
Up Up and Away!
It was mid morning about this time and the huge crowds hadn't arrived yet. Mrs T, not being enamored of heights nor amusement rides, thought the gondola ride was just fine. On a roll, I suggested the dealth defying giant bungee capsule ride. "No thanks," I heard her say.

We could hear some music and stopped at one of the many band shells. This was the "Leinie Lodge" named after a certain Wisconsin Beer.

Alpinsterne (Stars of the Alps) was playing oompah music. Soon members of "senior day" audience began jumping out into the aisles and dancing to the melodious strains of "The Beer Barrel Polka." "Edelweiss" from the Sound of Music soon followed along with other favorites. We sat and listened for about forty-five minutes. At this pace, I suggested we just might not be exhausted, as we usually were, at the end of the day!
All right lets cut to the nitty gritty - food. Fast food is in, usually of the....shall we say, grossest types. Years ago there were many church dining halls, serving wholesome standard family fare. No more. Every exotic item is available now. Much of it is served on a stick after being deep fat fried. For example, deep fried Snickers Bar. Yuk. One of my favorites though are deep fried Cheese Curds.

Here is something new this year. They take chunks of bacon fat and deep fry it. I did have enough sense to skip that one but still managed, in about six hours, to put away approximately 25 thousand calories and a three week supply of chloresterol.

We stopped in the horticulture building. Being a gardener, I like to check on the standards that are being set in the vegetable field.

No doubt about it. My veggie garden needs more sunshine and fertilizer!

One thousand One Hundred and Eigthy Six Pound Pumpkin. Seriously!!!

We also visited the livestock barns.

Now speaking of BIG, in the swine building, we met Deano. Deano, a Hampshire boar, weighs in at a measly 1310 lbs. I wonder if he has heard of the Big Fat Bacon stand? He doesn't look too worried though.
Next in Part 2 we see some amazing dogs, venture into a romantic tunnel, and witness a live birth.