Troutbirder II

Troutbirder II
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

And The Lion Shall Lay Down With Baron the Lamb

The Lion King is Simba. He rules the Oak Hill with les majesty. Calmly surveying his domain, he has little patience with his underlings like Baron Von Goofus. Simba has the privelege of going anywhere in the house he chooses. Usually, he follows the sun. Sleeping on the bed in the East Room in the morning. Sleeping on the living room couch, in the afternoon sunlight. Sleeping on his mistresses bed at night. Actually, being 13 he sleeps a lot. I learned a lot from him about retirement.
He deigns though to bestir himself though early in the morning. His servants need to get up and feed him. He is very particular on that subject. If somehow his mistress fails to rise early enough, say 5 a.m., he begins whining, pawing and when all else fails a few nips on her ears or nose. He eats well. Only the choicest cuts of salmon for him. Dry catfood? Never!
Simba watches carefully though, when the large clumsy dog is allowed into the house. The dog romps around aimlessly. Knocking things over. Demanding attention from everyone. The dog is definitely quite uncultered.Definitely more trouble than he is worth. Lacks dignity,that’s for sure.
Baron is a very very large GSD. He is quite smart, his master says. His mistress is more skeptical. Baron is restricted to the mud room, the kitchen, and the basement. The reason is because he sheds a lot. General rowdiness may have something to do with it as well. Baron likes to chase small creatures a lot. He is by nature a "herder."

His specialty is squirrels. Unfortunately, cats seem to be close second. This chase impulse seems to overpower all the rules about where he is allowed in the house. When Simba walks across the living room a chase is sure to follow.The name of the game changes though when Simba is on a chair, or the couch, or a counter. Baron approaches the cat quietly, knowing its against the rules to harass. Once he gets withing striking range, Simba pummels him with lefts and rights from his declawed paws. Stunned, the big dog usually drops to the floor and looks up. It's as if to say, "ok, ok, your the boss. I just wanted to lay down here."
It's evening now and Simba is sleeping peacefully. Baron is giving me his "I'm cool with all this," look. He knows it's time to go out to his kennel in the garage. Perhaps, he would like to spend the night inside sleeping by his buddy Simba. Or on the bed in the master bedroom? I think not!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Four Seasons of the GSD

This digital camera thing is getting way out of hand. I must have hundreds of pictures of my big baby. That is to say Baron, the now four year old overpampered pooch a.k.a GSD (that's German Shepherd Dog). Alias, according to Mrs. T. German Shedding Dog. Here are just a few from our year round romps.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Good Mourning, Doves

It's pretty darn cold this morning. As I looked out the window into the back yard, I noticed my reliable friends, the mourning doves, perched in the oak tree. Eyeing up the bird feeder, I thought. It seemed they looked especially well fed. We do go through a lot of bird seed, especially with impending storms on the way.

I had picked up my binocs for a closer view.Then it dawned on me. They looked so fat because their feathers were all fluffed up against the cold. They truely are the birds of peace. Once, I saw a rowdy blue jay land on the platform where a dove was feeding. It screeched a lot, stuckout its tongue and adopted several threatening posititions.The dove basically ignored the jay, turned its backseveral times as if to say, "get a life buster." I like mourning doves. Coo Coo.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mission Impossible!

We've had lots of ice and even more snow on top of that, so far this winter. That makes it especially hard on all the wild creatures to survive here in Bluff Country. I do feed the birds with black oil sunflower seeds, mixed nuts, plenty of suet and the cheapo big box variety of mixed seed which gets tossed on the ground as well. There are two platform feeders, a prized green and yellow "John Deere" hanging one and another hanging variety that closes automatically when a squirrel, racoon or other large creature climbs on the perch. The amount of food being consumed each day has increased exponentially.

The large hole in an oak tree in the back yard (our house is surrounded by oak and white pine) is inhabited by a large family of squirrels. Although they are exercised daily by my large GSD, they still manage to spend much time grazing contentedly on sunflower seeds. I had for a few years tried various stratagems, other than armed violence, to deter them . Greasing the poles upon which the platform feeders sat was only one of the unsuccessful stratagems . The following video will demonstrate why I gave up on the deterence plan.

Oh and I forget to mention, of late a herd of deer have been joining the feast, and more importantly arousing the kenneled dog. Since he can't chase after them, he attempts to deter their intrusion upon his territory by insane barking, usually about 2 a.m. in the morning. Our human neighbors are all nice people but I'm getting worried about phone calls. Grrrrr.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winter Road Trip

It wasn't a great adventure. It wasn't even a little adventure. It was more like a stupid adventure on the designated drivers (Troutbirders) part. The genesis began with the annual New Years Eve party.

Our guests, good friends Gary and Rosie, had arrived a few days early because of a threatened winter storm. The storm had somewhat fizzled into a day of fog, mist and then sleet. The next day looking to go outside for a "little fresh air" and a hike, we discovered sidewalks and streets with a veneer of ice. Senior citizens tend to be a little more cautious about walking on ice than average.
Still never one to give up easily, I proposed we all grab our binocs, hop in the 4 wheel drive truck and do a little "road birding" in a nearby state park. The goal would be to look for snow birds and hawks.

Things went quite well, on the sanded state highway, till I got the brilliant idea to take a shortcut through a wooded area with a gravel road. That road had often shown "snow birds" (horned larks, lapland longspurs and snow buntings) in the past. That day it showed mostly compacted snow and sheets of ice. I was doing well enough as we passed thru the beautiful woods, till I came to a short but fairly steep incline. I slowed down to avoid a barking dog that appeared from a nearby house. Big mistake. When I tried to speed up, to make the top of the hill, the wheels spun and then we began sliding backwards toward the ditch and a 15 foot dropoff. I had visions of the truck ending up upside down at the bottom. Fortunately, the roads edge had a snowbank, which we plowed into. Now the back end was stuck in a snowbank and I couldn't get any traction to pull out even with 4 wheel drive. Birding had never been so exciting! Grrrrr....
Assessing the situation.

All was not lost, however, as their were sand tubes (for weight) and shovels in the back
The mission now was to get the sand, for traction, under and around the wheels of the truck .... and hope for the best.
Getting ready to go..... maybe.
Luck was with us and we started up the hill. At the top there was a ninety degree dogleg to the left and a man standing in the road with his dog wanting to chat. Foolishly, once again, I stopped in the middle of the road. We talked for a few minutes and then I was unable to get going. And slid backwards stopping about 6 feet from his parked car. At which time, a road grader approached, blade down scrapping ice, slammed on his brakes and began sliding toward me.

At that moment, I was quite sure this was not going to be my day. The grader was only a few feet from my front grill when his tire chains on the back wheels gripped and enabled him to stop and then back up to go around me. Whew! Inspired, I was then able to get going and we headed off to Forestville Park. There across the valley, in the distance, Rosie spotted a rough-legged hawk. Just another exciting day here on tundra in Bluff Country.
Pictures taken by birder/photographer Rosie A.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tiger Tiger

The Tiger by William Blake
"Tiger Tiger. burning bright,In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye.Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies.Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?What the hand, dare seize the fire? "
It was a Christmas vacation outing for the grandkids. Thus, we were heading an hour south and east of Greeley, Colorado to the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, where large exotic carnivores like tigers and lions were rescued from lives of misery and abuse and given a place to live in peace. As we turned off the graveled road and entered thru a gated cyclone fence, large signs proclaimed the rules. This was not a zoo. You should not slow down nor stop along the fences leading up hill to the buildings. The animals should not be disturbed or approached in any way. We knew right then that it was going to be different..... It was.
It wasn’t a natural setting for these neglected and unwanted animals but they were well cared for, allowed to roam the landscape with others of their kind and each ones history was described in the visitor center, which was part of the viewing platforms, high above the animals.
The Wild Animal Sanctuary is the oldest and largest nonprofit Sanctuary in the US dedicated exclusively to rescuing captive exotic and endangered large carnivores, providing them with a wonderful life for as long as they live, and educating about the tragic plight faced by an estimated 30,000 such animals in America today.
Established by Executive Director Pat Craig in 1980, Rocky Mountain Wildlife Conservation Center, DBA The Wild Animal Sanctuary, is a state and federally licensed zoological facility and a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
A shocking statistic about America’s Captive Wildlife Crisis…the illicit exotic animal trade is the third largest source of illegal profits in the world today, just after illegal drugs and weapons! In the U.S. alone, there are an estimated 30,000 captive large carnivores living outside the zoo system. There are 4,000 Tigers living as "pets" in private homes in just the state of Texas – more Tigers than exist in the wild throughout the world. Countless other Great Cats, Bears, Wolves and other large carnivores live in abusive conditions in roadside stands, circuses, magic acts, traveling shows, and other substandard situations. Untold numbers of animals suffer and die each year due to neglect, abuse or because they are abandoned and left to die, starving and alone.
In spite of the huge costs of maintaining this facility (thousands of dollars a day for food alone), more space is being added all the time. There were over 200 tigers plus other big cats, bears and wolves (some half dog).
As we finished our visit, the kids were taking a potty break, supervised by son Tony and Gramma. I headed out to the parking lot to warm up in the car. It was deserted, as we were the last to leave. Spotting some trash on the blacktop, I picked it up (Minnesotans do that sort of thing) and headed for a dumpster along the fence. As I approached it, I saw two tigers sleeping in the grass. Not wanting to disturb their sleep, I set the lid down very gently. At that instant both tigers raised their heads and turned to look at me. Now, cutting to the chase, I've crossed sandbars on remote rivers in Montana (flyfishing) and seen fresh grizzley tracks. I've heard wolves howling in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area and almost collided with a bull moose coming down a portage in the same area. Still, when the tigers began to approach me, a primal moment occured. I looked at the cyclone fence between us (forgetting for the moment that the top was electrified) and thought "my god a deer could jump over this baby." I started backing up before my wits returned and I could breathe. I'm sure I will be able to conjur up that image the rest of my life..... and hope that their cousins can remain free in the wild. And that people will give up the silly idea that these magnificent carnivores make "good pets."