Troutbirder II

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

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Winter Arrived Last Night

As I stepped outside, this somewhat cold and dreary morning, winter had arrived on Oak Hill overnight. Greetings winter! I'll let Baron outside to romp. My own snow romping days are over. But content, I'll start up the snow blower to clear the driveway. Go back inside for some hot chocolate. And watch the bird feeders from my easy chair while starting a new book. Each season to its own rhythms here in the northland.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Turks Cap Lily - Not!

Lilium Superbum - The Turks Cap Lily

There are lessons to be learned in just about all phases of life. History, or in this case botany, can teach that. Keeping an open mind might be one such lesson. Take the case of the elusive Turks Cap Lily. Wildflowers like birds can have "local" names. Thats why both are scientifically identified by latin names. Some time back I posted some wildflower pictures and identified one of them, found in a native prairie preserve, as a "Turks Cap Lily." Every one around here called these wildflowers Turks Caps, so I was absolutely certainly positive that's what they were. Thats why when several commenters gently informed that they were Michigan Lilies I replied that they were seriously mistaken. The ideological rigidity of todays politics come to mind doesn't it?

Michigan Lily

Lilium michiganense is an attractive plant that adapts well to flower gardens. The Michigan Lily can be distinguished from Lilium superbum (Turk's Cap Lily) as follows: 1) the former species has a more northern distribution in Illinois, 2) the anthers of the former are ½" or less, while the anthers of the latter species are ½" or longer, 3) the former has yellow bulbs, while the latter has white bulbs, 4) the tips of the tepals of the former curve backward toward the base of the flower, while in the latter species they curve backward considerably beyond the base of the flower, and 5) specimens of the latter species may have a conspicuous 6-pointed green star at the base of the flower, although it is not always present. Somehow I'd been unaware of the difference. Oops!

Today, I wish I could remember the names of the people I'd self righteously "corrected" by email. I'd send them a belated apology. Or maybe the title of this post might catch their eye... but I doubt it. In any case, let's all try to keep more of an open mind..... I'm working on it..... :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Petrified Forest National Park - Arizona

We were a little ahead of schedule on our three day drive to visit the grandchildren in the Phoenix area. Thus, it was convenient to make an afternoon stop a the Petriefied Forest National Park, straddling I-40 in the northeastern part of the State. Here, 250 million years ago, a vast floodplain was crossed by many streams, surrounded by stately conifers, ferns and other plants and inhabited by crocodile-like reptiles, giants amphibians and the occasional dinosauer. Eventually, as the climate and continents changed and moved, a mix of silt, mud and volcanic ash buried logs, cut off oxygen and slowed the logs decay. Thru a complex "substitution" process, they were convered to silica and then quartz. They became logs of stone.

The history of the area was the typical story of discovery, amazement, exploitation, vandalism and eventual preservation of the remains. The rescue of parts of the Painted Desert and Petrified Forest began in 1906 with President Theodore Roosevelt and culminated in 1970 with Congresses approval of the National Park. We took an 18 mile "auto tour" through the Park. Come on along and take a look.....

Ace photographer Barb working The Painted Desert.

Stark, yet majestically beautiful in its own way, is what I thought.........

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wile E. Coyote

On our recent visit to my son and his family in Phoenix, Arizona, I had a flashback to the favorite cartoon of my misspent youth. It was The Roadrunner. Due to the kind generosity of Tony’s in-laws, Jack and Barb, we got to stay in their winter home in the Mesa area. Right on fairway number 2 as it were {Sunset view from the patio}

The day in question we had noted the neighborhood was overrun with long eared jack rabbits. They were everywhere. We had also visited a local arboretum with Tony, Kari and the grandchildren . There I managed to add a roadrunner to my "life list" of birds.
Exhausted, we slept in the next day and just as the sun was coming up, I heard a siren going by along with a series of loud howls and yips. This was a familiar scenario because at home my big GSD Baron does this whenever the fire engine goes by. Half awake I thought I was home until Mrs. T poked me in the ribs mumbling "what’s that?" Grabbing my camera I rushed outside on the patio to see a pack of coyotes emerge from between the house and the neighbors. They were headed out onto the golf course, presumably after the ever-present jackrabbits or maybe even an elusive roadrunner. Arizona. There’s some wild things going on down there!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

We're Back!

It's always good to come home but we had a wonderful three weeks visiting our son and his family in Arizona. They had moved from Colorado to new jobs (in education) in the Phoenix area. Specifically Scottsdale and Queen's Creek. On the way down we stopped at The Petrified Forest National Park. Going home it was a detour through the southern Ozarks in Arkansas. Once I get the tons of pictures sorted out......

The desert family from left to right: Kari, Ethan, Tensae, Gramma, Vanessa, Tony & Leonard.

Photo by Troutbirder

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hot Bikin Mama

I think, perhaps, tomorrow will be our last biking outing for the year. It's been wonderful. I went often this year. By myself, with friends, and most important with Barb (Mrs. T.) Back in the saddle after recent bouts with cancer, gall bladder, and knee replacement surgery. She's one tough cookie. :)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gophers R.I.P.

It was a couple of years ago now that I drove down to LaCrescent, Minnesota to attend a fall birding expedition along the Mississippi. It was free, led by a famous birder, and on a Sunday morning. Seemed perfect. Arriving to the meeting place in a Kwik Trip parking lot, I saw about a dozen people standing around. "Morning folks" was my opening remark. "Morning. Beautiful day for birding" was the friendly reply.
A little chit chat soon revealed they were ALL from LaCrosse, Wisconsin, across the river from where we stood. I was already feeling a little outnumbered when one gentlemen wearing Wisconsin Badger outfitting and looking at my Gopher hat and jacket asked "so how did the Gophers do yesterday." Surely they all knew that the Badgers had crushed the Gophers once again in the final game of the Big Ten season. This question, of course, was a set up so I just sadly shook my head. Another "birder" then asked "when was the last time your team was in the Rose Bowl". Taking my hat off to reveal a seriously graying head, placing it over my heart, I owned up to the fact that I had been a freshmen at the University when it last happened. They began to shake their heads in faux amazement until I boldly added it was time to go birding.
Thus it was, last Sunday, after the Michigan Wolverines had handed my Gophers a 58 to 0 shellacking (their worst Big Ten loss ever), that I found myself shovel in hand, calling for Mrs. T to join me in the garden. "Will you sing a Church Song," I asked her while handing over my Gopher hat and jacket. This line harkens back to the time, when during a burial ceremony for our first pet dog, our four year old had made a similar request of his mother. Smirking broadly, she headed off in another direction my hat and jacket still in hand.
Patience is a virtue they say. I’m not feeling very virtuous these days, although my empathy for the long suffering Chicago Cubs fans has grown immeasurably over the years.
The "Little Brown Jug" symbolic of one of college football oldest rivalries going back to the late 1800's. The Gophers have lost 27 of the last 30 games against Michigan. Ouch!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Dubuque Arboretum

One of our favorite warm weather destinations is a 3 hour jaunt to nearby Dubuque, Iowa. This Mississippi rivertown is located in the northeastern corner of the Hawkeye State. Two attractions there that appeal to us are the Mississippi River Museum and Aquarium and Americas largest Arboretum and Botanical garden maintained entirely by volunteers. Recently, we joined friends Steve and Jewel, to make an early fall visit to the gardens. The gardens are the home of the American Hosta Society and have a huge collection of those favorites. In addition, there are perennial gardens, wildflower and native prairie gardens, an English garden and many other displays. Take a look.

A favorite place to stop on our return to Minnesota is Breitbach's, the oldest restaurant in Iowa. We were saddened to learn last year that the place had been destroyed by fire for the second time. . Rebuilt again, it lies on a ridge overlooking a beautiful valley a few miles west of the Mississippi. A heartwarming story is that, in spite of great financial difficulties, the place was rebuilt with the help of neighbors from the small community of Balltown, Iowa. We had the buffet. It was excellent as always

Friday, September 16, 2011

Geography Quiz

We went over to our friends, Steve and Jewels, farmhouse to pick them up and then headed off to Pikes Peak. It’s a fairly long drive from Bluff Country (southeastern Minnesota) but we left early in the morning. We stopped for lunch at a Red Robin before arriving at our destination about 1:30 in the afternoon. From the top we looked out over a vast and beautiful landscape. Take a look.

Later, after dinner at Brietbach’s, the oldest restaurant in the State, we headed home arriving there about 9:00 P.M. the same day.

The test question is "how did we do it in one day?" I’ll give one hint: Yes, it’s true, I did get a speeding ticket ( 73 mph in a 55 mph zone). It’s not a regular practice on my part as this was the first ticket in several decades. There are no prizes for answering the question correctly except for the knowledge that you are in the top tier of American geographers.
Did you know that Iowa has its own Pikes Peak, named after the same explorer, and that theirs was there first? That’s right, as Zebulon Pike was moving westward, he stopped in Iowa, and the place where he viewed the area from a bluff high above the Mississippi River is now named after him. He identified the bluff, about 400 feet above the Father of Water as a good site for a potential fort. Perhaps then it looked like the following painting when he was there. That's the Wisconsin River entering across the valley.