Troutbirder II

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

Monday, February 28, 2011

Dreaming In Color

I was awakened early this morning by the persistent nudging of our cat Simba. He wanted breakfast. It has been said that dogs have owners and cats have staff. I'm on Simbas staff. Simba means lion in Swahili. Rudely awakened, he looks to me pretty much like the adjacent picture.
Later, I looked out the bedroom window at a cold and bleak landscape.
Quite a stark contrast to the colorful dream I'd been having shortly before being awakened. You see my dream had taken me back several weeks to our Florida vacation where some of the trees were already in spring bloom and the flowers...... Here's my dream in the warm green, red, blue, yellow rainbow colors of Florida in mid February.

Hmmmm. Maybe I'll go back to bed and dream some more.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Mea Culpa! Mea Culpa!

Mea culpa is a phrase in Latin that translates into English as "my mistake" or "my fault". The origin of the expression is from a prayer of confession of sinfulness, used in the Mass, of which the first evidence date from shortly before 1100. However, that’s not when I was born.
It appears that I have been carelessly spreading false information on my blog, in the form of misidentifying several birds. While it is true that I live in the only county, in the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes (Minnesota), without a lake and rarely see wading birds, I do have a Peterson Field Guide. Really, no excuse for missing the fairly obvious. Several people, including Hap Huber of New Hope, Minnesota, spotted these incorrect I.D.'s on my recent posts, of our visit to Florida. The most egregious of these mistakes surrounded the elusive and very tricky immature yellow crowned night heron. I did get the adult version correct on one post, but labeled the immature one I saw at Ding Darling "some "kind of yellow legs" (wrong) and then at Corkscrew a "limpkin" (that wasn’t even close) .
First, the alleged "yellow legs." Then the fabled "shy limpkin" hiding in the weeds.
Sorry, its not a limpkin. It is an immature yellow crowned night heron. Here is the correct version of a limpkin, Mrs. T. photographed in the same place a year ago.
That year, I did better, with a program in hand, correctly identifying the Twins in spring training at Fort Myers.
Earlier, during a morning walk, I saw a bunch of white egrets on a golf course and sitting on condo rooftops. Great egrets, I assumed. Wrong. They were cattle egrets. Take a look.

Apparently a yellow beak and legs were a clue here.
Finally, an actual, breathing. yellow crowned night heron taken at Ding Darling this year.
Well, folks, treading when none have dared to have gone forth before, I will finish this post up with a few more pictures. These have never seen in this space previously and have been meticulously identified with Peterson, Sibley and a well thumbed Golden at my side. Corrections may be easily made by joining the people waiting in line at the "comments" section below.

An endangered wood stork in the ditch at Ding Darling NWR. A black crowned night heron, also from Ding Darling.

Some mottled ducks cruising by.
And so, Woody the Pileated Woodpecker, says.....

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary

Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is owned and operated by the National Audubon Society. It was established to protect the largest remaining stand of ancient bald cypress left in North America. This process of saving the stand began in the 1950's, although protecting the wading birds that nested within the swamp had been going on the early part of the 20th century. The sanctuary is on the mainland north and east of Naples, Florida. It has several different ecosystems and thus different habitats for the birds, plants and animals who live there. Come on along as we take a look at some of highlights of our visit to Corkscrew.

We followed a 2.25 mile boardwalk. At a slow walking pace it should take you about 2 hours. We took about 6 hours, which would be a clue as to how many interesting sights there were and the number of photos we took
An almost eerie feeling settled over us as we headed into a forested swamp. An occasional bird call sounded in the distance, then we heard something akin to a roaring bellow of a giant "frogosaurus." Just kidding. Is that an alligator we wondered? We didn't know for sure. What else could sound that big and dangerous?
OMG! There's one right next to the board walk! "Not to worry dear," I cautioned Mrs. T. He's headed the other way." Actually, I think gators and cats have a lot in common. They look like they sleep a lot but probably are ready to pounce at a seconds notice. We soon entered a drier more wide open area and birds began to appear all around us.
By far easiest to spot were the painted buntings. As a matter of fact we saw four of them. Leaning over the railing people would stop to see what I was looking at and then pronounce it to be a fake..... till it moved. "Oh my," was a typical reaction. Or, "it looks like it was pained by an artist." All I could think of was "WOW."

The place was also a photographers dream. Many of the birds seemed tame enough to reach out and touch. My little point and shoot camera, for once, seemed up to the job. I suppose seeing lots of people on the boardwalk each day made the birds less wary..... like the red shouldered hawk who posed right above me.
Or this little blue heron, who foraging alongside the boardwalk, I could almost have bent over and touched.
Nearby were several of the much larger Great Egrets.

At about 10 a.m. the crowd began to thicken but the people remained quiet, almost reverent, in this amazing place.

A shy wading bird called a limpkin stood almost hidden among the reeds. Look for the brown stripeing on the breast. I notice another little blue heron wading in what the sign called the "lettuce lakes." It was then that I realized the plants the bird was tromping thru looked familiar. It was something which I usually bought at our local nursery to put in my goldfish pond. Small world!

We saw some familiar species as well, like this tufted mouse, cardinals and even a pileated woodpecker
There were other birds and beautiful plants and flowers, butterflies and strange insects and amphibians. I think to best describe Corkscrew, I would say it was a place of enchantment. At least it was to me. Perhaps, I can talk Mrs. T into going back there again some day

Thursday, February 17, 2011

J.N. "Ding" Darling N.W.R.

J. N. "Ding" Darling was a Pulitzer Prize winning writer and cartoonist. During the depths of the Great Depression he set for himself the task of calling the nations attention to the widespread disappearance of much of the our wildlife.
Surprisingly, in spite of the economic crises, people from all walks of life and interests answered his call. In 1938, a national conference on the subject was held in Washington D.C. Out of this conference a new national conservation organization emerged. It was the National Wildlife Federation. "Ding Darling" was its first President. The organization's first cry was a letter writing campaign to Congress to say "Sympathy is not enough. What we want is ACTION. Now on its 75th anniversary that attitude for action remains. We recently visited Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, just off the coast from Fort Myer, Florida. It remains one of the nations premier bird habitats with a special emphasis on wading and other shorebirds. Take a look......Little Blue Heron. In the ditch right below me. A Black Crown Night Heron. Well hidden little fellow. A pair of Black Vultures. There were also lots of Turkey Vultures overhead throughtout Florida. They are regular Minnesota summer visitors. Our now omnipresent Bald Eagles seem to take over their job in the winter.

How stately. Everywhere.....the Great Egrets. A strange looking, endangered, Wood Stork, fishing almost under a small bridge along the "loop" road through the refuge. A flock of White Pelicans rest on the mud flats in mid morning. Fishing must have been good!
Although a not very clear picture methinks this is a tri-colored heron or a reddish egret. Probably the former. The reddish egret has a pink base beak. Has a tendency to forage by madly dashing about stirring up the water. The first time I saw one last year I thought it was drunk!
Mr. curved beak - the white Ibis. A Yellow Crowned Night Heron drew several photographers along the road, including yours truly.
Looks like some kind of yellowlegs to me. Remember though, I've been doing this birding thing only a couple of years and don't get to see shore birds very often. (oops, corrected thanks to Veronica and Jane) as an immature night heron.
The last picture shows a not uncommon view. While birds can be seen right along the road, many are out and about on the distant islands and mudflats. A scope, which I don't have, would be a big help. Through the generosity of strangers, who did have them, I was able to see some pinkish roseate spoonbills, dowitchers, whimbrels and other unusual species. Up close and personal, were large flocks of what the pros call "peeps." That is to say, small little shorebirds, who all looked alike to me. I didn't have a clue. I guess its a good reason to keep working at it. I guess I'll have to leave beautiful Minnesota in the depths of winter and head to Florida to keep working at it. As they say "its a tough job but somebody's......... :)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Not that birding on beautiful Pelican Island was too tame for our tastes but that afternoon we decided to head to the local airport where skydivers from all over the country did their thing. The dropzone is situated directly on the east coast of Florida, offering a freefall over the beautiful Sebastian Inlet and Atlantic Ocean. First, we checked out the hanger where the jumpers were putting on their equipment.

Then a quick lunch, while we waited for the big plane to take off with a load of jumpers. What a sight. At 18,000 feet and out they came. Not familiar with this activity other than seeing movies of the 101st Screaming Eagles take off in planes and gliders for the drop over Normandy, France in 1944, I was astonished at how fast they were coming down. As they approached the field. "Broken legs", I thought. And then, at the last second, they turned their chutes, somehow, into the wind and practically hovered, before gently touching the ground.

"No way," Mrs T said when I gently broached the subject of my giving it a try. I've canoed wild Canadian rivers and walked across sandbanks on Montana trout streams, after seeing fresh grizzly bear tracks..... but she's right. Jump into thin air out of an airplane? No way!
Next - Ding Darling

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Troutbirders Return

....and so we made it back to Minnesota safely. Ah, maybe I should start at the beginning. After our first ever Florida visit last spring, to bird and watch the Twins spring training at Hammond Field in Fort Myers, we decided to return this winter. An invitation to visit Mrs. T.’s cousin Joe and wife Mary made the decision all the easier, along with the really bad weather we’ve been having here lately. So, with Baron and Simba safely boarded up for the duration and our new Garmin GPS system ready to lead the way, we drove off for the sunny South. Luck was with us from the beginning, as we were two days ahead of the mega storm, that paralyzed much of the mid- continent, before it headed on up to the Northeast.
Joe and Mary were wonderfully gracious hosts as they introduced us to the "lifestyle" of Minnesota’s "snowbirds" in Florida. Their winter home base is in Sebastian, on the Atlantic Coast, some miles south of NASA’s space and rocket launch site, at Cape Canaveral. The living was relaxed and easy with plenty of amenities and recreational opportunities yet not overcrowded and hectic. Somehow, in the excitement of packing, I seemed to think we were headed back to Alaska and failed to bring shorts or even short sleeved shirts. A visit to a local shopping center, on arrival, did cure that problem. We liked the area a lot and intend to investigate further opportunities.

Let's follow Mary and Queen B as they lead us around the community.

A golf course wound its way around the community and we found a flock of Great White Egrets checking out the fairway. Even more amazing, some of them were found sitting on the peaks of the condos, basking in the morning sun.
Thus, as the sun set on our first day, amidst the warmth of family and Florida sunshine, we looked forward to the next day..... and the barrier islands of America's first National Wildlife Refuge, Pelican Island. Stay tuned.