"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 venues. 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.
It been two years to the day since my introduction to birding. And what a day it was..... May 21 2008. My birding mentor Mr. Science (Gary) had called the night before to suggest the weather (sunny and calm) would be conducive to some serious birding, well, I just couldn't say no. It was my first summer of real birding, We headed out early, west to Albert Lea and a state park called Myre-Big Island.
Throughout the entire area were bike and hiking trails heading through prairie, marshland and a big maple-basswood forest.It was here along the willow and brush covered lake shoreline that we were literally engulfed by warblers. They were too fast and elusive to do any effective photography with my little "cheapo" camera so I concentrated on identifying (with the pros help) as many species as possible. Here is what just one small part of the shoreline produced in less that two hours. Warblers: Canada, Palm, Blackburnian, Yellow-Throated, Wilson's, BlackPoll, Myrtle, American Redstart, Magnolia, Yellow, Black & White and Ovenbird. Later as we returned to our car, cutting through the heart of the forest, we came upon a vernal pond where both Swainson's and Gray-cheeked Thrushes were located. This area also produced a Great-Crested-Flycatcher. What a morning! Yesterday, two years later to the date, we returned to the same venue. This time the results weren’t so promising as we didn’t see a single warbler along the lakeshore. High above in the forest canopy an occasional flycatcher or vireo was to be heard but not seen. An early spring had the maples and basswood fully leafed out much to our chagrin. Later, we hiked a trail thru more open savanna like country. Here we encountered a number of prairie birds and more than 20 Yellow Warblers, but they were the only warblers to be seen. Many people are reporting on the local birding listservs this spring, a huge dearth of warblers here in southern Minnesota. Various theories and explanations usually follow. But truth to tell, nobody really knows for sure what is going on or why. As a long time fisherman, I usually told my fishing buddies when we got "skunked," you should have been here last week. I guess the moral on this occasion would be "you shoulda been here two years ago."
It seems here in Minnesota our hygiene oriented Northern European forebearers determined that dog waste is a serious menace. Fine. Signs thoughout parks and pathways throughout the state proclaim the responsibility of dog owners to clean up after their pets. Fine. So taking Baron for a walk recently down a forest pathway we practically had to slalom the route avoiding horse apples at every turn. In recent years a plague of gnats connected to these horse leavings is at the epidemic stage. Now where is the hygene and yes.... justice in all of this??? Just one new crises in twenty first century America.
First there was Max, half Golden, half German Shorthair. He was an early version of Marley from the movie and an amazing hunter. Then came Chessie the Chesappeake Bay Retriever. She grew up with our boys and played and hunted pheasants, grouse and waterfowl.
Their was Ben. Ben was a big lovable goofus. He had a good nose but most of all liked to run and run and run. I think he was part horse and part greyhound. The running part eventually got him into big trouble.
Sweet tempered Muffy was my last hunting dog. She was also a Chesapeake. She was gentle and friendly. And a strong girl in the field. After a year without a dog, we decided a companion guard dog would be just right for us. We named him Baron. He was a GSD.
He immediately showed he was not going to be a dog to be trifled with.... attacking my slippers.
Still, he zealously guarded Mrs T's property. That first spring, he went to visit his cousin Hercules, who lives in Colorado. He swiped Herc's bone. Not good! Baron was a problem child right from the start. I was so worried his ears would never stand up. And proud when they did! We decided he needed to go to class. Being German he was stubborn. Let's put it this way.... he was not a straight A student. Not being a highly trained hunting dog, he has been basically spoiled rotten.
And yet, now at three, he follows me everywhere. We love adventure wherever we can find it. Going for a swim.
And fetching. Meeting new friends. Baron being a young studly guy now and me in the so-called "golden years," he walks and runs somewhat faster than I do these days. Yet, when he gets too far ahead, he will stop and wait for me to catch up. That's one of things that "best buds" do for each other.