Troutbirder II

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

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Florida "Lifers"

No, not that kind of "lifer." It's a bird that has been added to ones life list.

A life list is a compilation of all the bird species a birder has identified with absolute certainty during their whole lifetime of serious birding. Being "serious" implies knowing about look-alike species and subspecies, the various plumage states, and having a systematic-enough mind to not be sloppy and haphazard when it comes to making the lists.

This is my third year of "serious" birding. By serious I mean I'm fairly obsessed with it, enough to spend a good amount of time at it. The first year I decided to keep track of things. With a good mentor and lots of wood lots and parks nearby, the first hundred birds came fairly easily. The next summer brought about fifty more and then it became hard and harder. A winter trip to northern Minnesota and the Sax/Zim bog area brought another dozen. Then a March first ever trip to Florida brought a new bonanza of "lifers"which put me over the 200 mark. Take a look at a few of them.

Royal Tern
White Ibis
Brown Pelican
Little Blue Heron
Painted BuntingIf you should start your own Life List right now, and for some reason during the rest of your life you never travel beyond your neighborhood, you might well end up listing a hundred species or more -- many species being spotted during migration. If you should expand your birding trips to include local parks and nature reserves, you could end up with 300 or more species. If somehow you were to see all the bird species ever sighted in all of North America, your list would hold about 850 names. So far no one has seen all the earth's more than 9,000 bird species. Hmmmm. I think I should have started this counting business sixty years ago. At this stage of life 9,000 looks like a pretty long shot for me. :)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Eagles Revisited

As you may know I’m big on several subjects these days, two of them being trout fishing and birding. On a fishing outing, I recently reported an encounter with a pair of nesting eagles. They had settled in on a stretch of one of my favorite spots - the South Branch of the Root River, near Forestville State Park. Here is the report in case you missed it.
Early this week I returned to the scene of the first encounter. Although I’m mostly a "catch and release guy", on this occasion Mrs T. had requested the fixings for a trout dinner. I’m always ready to take that request in hand. The Root is especially great fishing for larger brown trout now that the DNR has implemented a "slot" regimen for the stream. This means any trout caught between 12 & 16 inches must be released. That policy encourages the growth of trout larger than sixteen inches, of whom only one can be kept, of a limit of five fish. That day though, I caught only one trout under 12 inches and the rest were in the prohibited range.
I finally gave up and headed back to my truck, stopping to rest on the bank of the river, near the site of the eagles nest. Looking up I couldn't see the nest anywhere, although the leaves of the cottonwood may have obscured it. What I did see was an eagle perched at the very top of a dead tree nearby.
"How was the fishing for you today Eagle,?" I asked tentatively.
Eagle softly: "Squawk, squawk, cluck, cluck, peep."
"Whoa. I didn’t know Eagles sounded like that! I don’t mean to cut in on your territory but I’m sure there are plenty of trout to go around. Had two biggies on today and couldn’t bring them in."
Eagle: Screech Screech Screech.
Ok Ok Relax. I’m on my way home. Maybe you didn’t have good luck today either?
Eagle: "peep peep"
"Hey I know the feeling. Oh well we’ll get em next time. By the way where’s the Misses?".
There was no response to that one, so I started heading back, to stop briefly underneath the big cottonwood. I couldn’t find the nest anywhere in the tree nor on the ground. There had been a big storm in mid May, with heavy winds and a subsequent flood. As I put my gear in the truck, I took as final look back across the cornfield toward my friend. Now, there were two eagles perched together on the dead tree. No young eagles in sight though. Still a smile crossed my face as I thought ... maybe next year we’ll all have better luck

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Lilies on Parade

I grew up in the St. Paul and gardening was a non starter for me. When first married, we rented a little shack in the country and a small vegetable garden was my first venture. Later, when we bought our first home on three acres in the woods, I expanded from vegetables to landscaping and flower gardens. It became a life-long passion. I was entirely self taught on the subject and no one told me you should keep track of the names of all the flowers that were purchased. Decades later, when I became fascinated with native wildflowers, especially woodland and prairie plants, I did their all the wild ones names. Now, as I show friends and visitors my wildflower gardens, I rattle can off their names. The lilies and the roses etc. though remain largely unnamed. . So today, with all the lilies beginning to burst forth in early summer bloom, here are a few of mine. Unnamed lilies on parade. Enjoy!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Revisiting Shangri-La

On Saturday, August 23rd, I did a post on a visit to our friends Don & Sandy's beautiful home and sixty some acreage in South Central Minnesota. They call it Kerkwood but for purposes of that post I called it Shangri-La. FDR had concocted that exotic name in answer to a reporters question as to where the first American bombers had been based to make the first attack against Japan in 1942. As you can see, clicking on the following link, it is a gorgeous property indeed.
We returned there a couple of weeks back. Being an early riser, I did a short walk around the place at sunrise. Here is how it looked like that morning to an early birder
I could hear birds greeting the day everywhere. The house sits on a small knoll overlooking a prairie like area and the trees following a small river. Don has mowed trails throughout. Looking back over my shoulder I watched as the sun rose above the treeline. I saw numerous birds emerging from their houses and nests. Curious about a lack activity near a bluebird abode I approached more closely There were no bluebirds but instead a pair of feisty tree swallows who emerged looking for a fight. They began dive bombing me furiously, barely skimming the top of my hat. Discretion being the better part of valor I beat a hasty retreat.
Later that day, while the ladies were doing their shopping thing, Don and I visited Minneopa State Park for some more birding. The park had a beautiful waterfall, and some thick woods, where several varieties of rare owls were known to nest. Also an extensive restored prarie. By the end of the day my total count was well over thirty birds, including a rare (for southern Minnesota) hooded warbler.
Your kisses take me to Shangri-la Each kiss is magic That makes my little world a Shangri-la A land of bluebirds and fountains And nothing to do But cling to an angel that looks like you And when you hold me How warm you are Be mine my darling And spend your life with me in Shangri-la For anywhere you are is Shangri-la How warm you are And spend your life with me in Shangri-la For anywhere you are is Shangri-la

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Partly Cloudy

It looks like it going to be a great day here in the Upper Midwest. Not too hot, windy or stormy. Partly cloudy with temperatures rising into the mid seventies. Mrs. T is busy doing her thing and I'll go..... flyfishing or maybe birding with the Baron. Hmmmm.
Actually, I've been thinking "deep thoughts" about both hobbies. They are really very similar. To be successful you need to be observant. Close to nature works best. The best trout fishing is invariably away from the crowd. Birding is as well. You often find yourself in the most beautiful of places. Crowds of people might work once in a while but I suspect solitary or with one other person is best. You need to be quiet you know. Stalking really.

Both hobbies have their "technical" aspects like "hatches" and "migrations and specialized equipment You need to know how to "read the water" i.e. where to find you quarry. Both can produce stories of which I have more than a few. Like the time I caught a bat who was attracted to my homemade fly. Or when I was trapped against a cliff while two testosterone crazed elk had it out right in front of me. Or..well the tendency and the need to place close attention to things and the time to contemplate about them. This is why, for example, trout fishing has produced the only real "literature" in the fishing genre. I mean what are you going to do with a $70,000 dollar bass boat, 3 guys on a polluted river and 2 cases of beer?

I'm often asked what I find appealing about each sport. A number of years ago, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Michigan , who wrote a best selling novel (Anatomy of a Murder), which later became a movie starring Jimmy Stewart, answered that question in a way I've always liked. I think his answer applies to birding as well as to flyfishing.
Testament of a Fisherman by John Voelker (Robert Traver)
"I fish because I love to; because I love the environs where trout are found, which are invariably beautiful, and hate the environs where crowds of people are found, which are invariably ugly; because of all the television commercials, cocktail parties, and assorted social posturing I thus escape; because, in a world where most men seem to spend their lives doing things they hate, my fishing is at once an endless source of delight and an act of small rebellion; because trout do not lie or cheat and cannot be bought or bribed or impressed by power, but respond only to quietude and humility and endless patience; because I suspect that men are going along this way for the last time, and I for one don't want to waste the trip; because mercifully there are no telephones on trout waters; because only in the woods can I find solitude without loneliness; because bourbon out of an old tin cup always tastes better out there; because maybe one day I will catch a mermaid; and, finally, not because I regard fishing as being so terribly important but because I suspect that so many of the other concerns of men are equally unimportant - and not nearly so much fun.