Troutbirder II

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

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Big Trouble

I’m in big trouble today. This is Grandma, aka Mrs. T., aka Queen B. reading to a sleeping grandson and Bijou.

This is Mr. Baron Von Getsmeintrouble. He is subject to several rules. One of them is the requirement to stay in the kitchen. They don’t call them GSD’S (German Shedding Dogs) for nothing. He is prone to try and sneak elsewhere in the house, particularly when Simba the cat is roaming thereabouts. In such cases, I yell the magic word at him....KITCHEN!!!! He then slinks back into that area.
It shouldn't be a problem telling them apart.
This is me trying to read a book in my easy chair. Having been "resting my eyes" for a few minutes I came to less than total awareness when I heard the floor in the living room creaking. I yelled KITCHEN!!!! Mrs. T turned around and really barked at me. Oh oh!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Bank

No, not that kind of bank. (For details of the flowers be sure to click on the pictures.)

It's the kind that borders the ditch along the blacktop in front of our house. It's pretty much the only partially sunny part of our yard.

Here St Francis stands in the snow in our woods with his back to the road. Of course, you can't see the road because the bank drops off several feet.

In balmier times.

As you can see, the morning commuters view of the "weedpatch along the road" left a little to be desired.
In the fall of 2007, I cut back the elderberry and honeysuckle. Then the bank got burned. I had already purchased some native wildflower seeds from Prairie Moon, a local specalist. Raking, then scattering and tamping the seeds, I hoped the spring melt wouldn't wash them all into the ditch. There was no way for me to tell that spring as to what came up. I couldn't tell the weeds from the flowers. So I waited till the maze reached about 6-8 inches in June and then weed whacked everything down to about 3 inches. Now my precious wildflowers would have a fighting chance. The bulbs I had planted, of course, bloomed that first spring. The rest would have to wait another year before blooming.... if they survived!
The results in 2008 & 2009

The north ditch is still a work in progress.

St. Francis: "Good job there Troutbirder. I always wanted to live in a jungle."

Friday, February 19, 2010

Sax-Zim Bog

We took a little mini-vacation this week with our friends Gary and Rosie. The object was to check out the Sax-Zim Bog. I had been in the area numerous times previously but only in the summer, when my brother lived near Eveleth, Minnesota. Then it was for fishing, as we had a secret "honey hole," near the small town of Melrude. This time it was for a different purpose. Ice fishing is not for me!

The Sax-Zim Bog is known statewide as a great area for birding. It's not exactly as scenic as the great pine forests of the northeastern "Arrowhead Country," which encompass the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness. Bog here means low lying wet areas of scruffy tamarack, spruce and white cedar. Scattered about one sees a few hayfields and some not very prosperous looking farms. The towns are also minute with few, if any, appearing to have much going for them The area has no lakes to offer as an attraction for tourists. Much of the land is held in various public forms.
What attracts here is a special collection of birds. Some are permanent residents like the Northern Goshawk, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Great Gray Owl, Black-backed Woodpecker, Black-billed Magpie, Gray Jay, Boreal Chickadee, and Red-breasted Nuthatch. These are birds which are not often seen in other parts of the state. Others are visitors from across the border in Canada. If food is short in Canada during the wintertime, Rough-legged Hawks, Snowy Owls, Northern Hawk Owls, Northern Shrikes, and several kinds of Crossbills and Redpolls may appear. If they appear in great numbers as the Great Gray Owls did in 2005, it's called an "invasion." These are the kind of invasions we like!

I have seen Great Gray Owls flyfishing in the mountains of southwestern Montana. This time I hoped to see them here along with several other owl species. It was not to be, but we had a great time anyway. Here are just a few of the highlights.

The Pine Grosbeak family.

The Pine Grosbeaks, who live in the boreal forests of Canada were a "lifer" for me. We saw several small flocks hanging around "feeding stations." What a gorgeous bird. The males with cranberry wine coloring and black and white wingbars.

We had hoped to see some Boreal Chickadees but instead the Blackcapped versions were busy zipping about everywhere.
In days gone by, I would have been quite astonished to see a Ruffed Grouse sitting in the bushes before getting a shot off. Even my hunting dogs seemed startled, compared to the pheasants whom they usually tracked quite readily. Now that I'm pointing a camera instead of a gun it seems a little easier.

Another bird I was quite pleased to see were flocks of Evening Grosbeaks. When my brother lived near Eveleth we used to see dozens at his feeders. Now they seems quite rare. Perhaps there content to stay further north or perhaps there numbers might sadly be declining. We saw them both feeding in the ditch along the road and high in a several trees working on some kind of berries. Adding to our list of sighting were red-breasted nuthatches, crows, goldfinches, blue and grays jays, a hairy woodpecker, a raven and a bald eagle.

I do suspect, however, that summer in this area would produce a bumper crop of our alternate state bird - the giant bloodthirsty, supersized Minnesota mosquito. Winter looks to me like the best time for birding in the Sax-Zim bog!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Hoar Frost

Last week we had a very unusual bout of hoar frost. Hoar frost is the tiny solid deposition of water vapor from saturated air which occurs when the temperature of the surfaces is below freezing point. It happens generally with clear skies. It's not unheard of here in Bluff Country but day after day for almost a week.... that's something else. I had thought it would be great to get out and about with the truck and take some pictures. Come on along!

First it's coffee and time to look out the window into the back yard. Oh my! I can hardly see the field or the road to town. It looks like some kind of icy fog. Time to let Baron out though.

As I open the garage door and step out, Baron is busy checking out the tracks of any nightime visitors. It's part of his morning ritual. The hoar frost covers all the trees.

I wave at all the neighbors as they head off to work. I don't miss having to do that much at all!

Down the highway a bit, our neighbors farmhouse looks shrouded in mystery. Fog and hoar frost can do that.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Snow Eagles

It's winter and here in Southern Minnesota we are enjoying our "snow eagles." Historically, Bald Eagles were found in the northern pine forests and survived there as their redoubt during the DDT extirpation in the rest of the lower forty-eight states. They also survived in very limited numbers along the Mississippi River . Now with the resurgence of their kind, hundreds are found breeding thoughout the state. Along with the resident Bald Eagles, large numbers of eagle visitors winter here coming in from the Canada. Also a limited number of Golden Eagles arrive for winter from the far north.

Recently our friends Don and Sandy arrived for a visit from their home at Shangi-La in Blue Earth county. You can see their fabulous abode by revisiting a previous post at They too, see the white headed eagles on a regular basis near their home. Now they would join us to look for Golden Eagles above the bluffs near the Big River. The following pictures were taken by Don.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Cuteness Personified

Suffering from a serious case of "writers block" this morning, I am forced to rely on my faithful readers for inspiration with SICS. That's "Sudden Inspired Creativity Syndrome." If you would be so kind as to put in the comments section a caption for any or all of the following labeled pictures I would greatly appreciated your assistance. The winning nominee in each category will be given full credit. Thank you!


Picture A: "Just Hangin Around" - MonaPicture B: Technical Difficulties
Picture C: "Panda Yoga Class" - Dog GeekPicture D: "Got Milk" - Mona

Picture E

Picture F: "Forgive me Father, For I Have Sinned" - Troutbirder

Picture G: "Push Harder" - Mona

Picture H

Picture I : "I Know I Shouldn't Have Had That One For The Road" - Joan

Remember this is a family oriented blog! :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Great Egret

Mr Science and I had decided on an outing in the backwaters of the Mississippi. He is not quite the devoted fisherman that I am so we usually combine a lot of exploring with a little fishing (unless they're really biting like crazy). On this particular day it was mostly poking about looking for shorebirds. Let's call it a Great Egret Day

The first one we spotted was high above a backwater shoreline.

Around the next bend it appeared that several had joined a flock of Canada Geese. More appeared as we drifted slowly along in the current.

Great egrets are found near water, salt or fresh, and feed in wetlands, streams, ponds, tidal flats, and other areas. They snare prey by walking slowly or standing still for long periods, waiting for an animal to come within range of their long necks and blade-like bills. The deathblow is delivered with a quick thrust of the sharp bill, and the prey is swallowed whole. Fish are a dietary staple, but great egrets use similar techniques to eat amphibians, reptiles, mice, and other small animals.

The Father of Waters is a busy waterway. The main channel a major economic artery and recreational boating area. And yet.... Off the beaten path in a maze of quiet channels you can almost forget train and motor traffic in the distance. The small towns along the river might have a "noon whistle" you can vaguely hear far away. Still, its easy to drift into the thought that you are in a remote wilderness. The call of the birds. Eagles and ospreys drift overhead. The splash of a hungry bass. A muskrat paddling hurriedly for shore. Water lilies blooming along the edge. Alone or with a good friend.

It's a place I like to spend a lazy summer day.