Troutbirder II

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

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Stocking Up On Vitamin C

I put the orange halves on the oak tree. I walked up on the deck. I turned around to look. There they were. The first orioles of spring.
Inspired by our friends Steve & Jewel, I then decided to upgrade the quality of our stale big box store black sunflower offerings to include finch food, nuts, dried fruit, sugar water for the orioles and hummings birds, homemade plugs for the suet feeder with lard, oatmeal, raisins & other secret ingredients the ladies (Jewel and Mrs. T) threw into the mix. Here are some of the results.

From left to right. Indigo bunting, downy woodpecker, chipping sparrow, gold finch & female rose-breasted grosbeak.

Brown Thrasher


Indigo bunting, male northern oriole
Swainsons Thrush

In addition, this spring, we also saw at the feeders, the usual bluejays, northern flickers, yellow bellied sapsuckers, hummingbirds, chickadees,robins, white throated sparrows, juncos, northern cardinals, grackels, & starlings but alas no bluebirds yet. To see waterfowl, warblers and other songbirds I've got to go futher afield.

Feeder watching in the spring.... what fun!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Touch The Sky Prairie

To many, it is simply known as "the prairie." A landscape where the eye can see the horizon, and thunderstorms can be watched from infancy to fury. It is America's breadbasket, its corn belt, and its duck factory; a place of hard work, strong families, and civic pride.
The original Tallgrass Prairie is mostly gone now, with only one-tenth of one percent remaining. Our challenge is to save, and restore remnant portions of the remaining Tallgrass Prairie. A good friend of mine, Mr Science, has already restored 2 acres of his property. So have countless others.

On a larger scale The Northern Wetland National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1999 to preserve 77,000 acres of native prairie and buffer lands at widespread locations within the historic northern tallgrass prairie region of western Minnesota and northwestern Iowa. The refuge was established to address the loss of America's grasslands and mounting evidence indicating that many grassland species are vanishing as fast as the prairies that support them.
A recent camping/birding trip brought us and our good friends Gary and Rose to Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne, Minnesota. This beautiful site lies in the far southwestern portion of the state near the South Dakota border. Here, were spent several days exploring the native prairie and wildlife areas. We also took the opportunity to visit the gallery in Luverne of world famous wildlife photographer Jim Brandenberg. It was there the we learned of the efforts of his foundation to preserve this preserve the small remnants of the now rare prairie ecosystems. The Northern Wetland National Wildlife Refuge provides the means for private groups and individuals to support the cause of preservation. . The Brandenburg Prairie Foundation, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have purchased over 800 acres of untilled prairie land in Rock County, Minnesota creating the "Touch the Sky Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge." Together, they have developed a 15-year management plan for its restoration. With time and continued effort, hundreds of native species will return – the tall grasses, the songbirds, flora and native wildlife. Their dream is to see the bison roaming "Touch the Sky Prairie" again.

Troutbirder & Rosie. Photos by Gary
Take a look.

By late summer this land and others like it will be ablaze with native prairie wildflowers. Blazing Star (liatris), New England Asters and countless others. The Blue Stem grasses will reach upward of 5 feet to the horizon. Perhaps someday buffalo and even prairie grizzley bears and... wait cancel that last one. Might be a little tough on birders since there a few trees to climb up for safety.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Bluebell Dog

Hi! My name is Baron. I'm the offcial guard dog and the unofficial greeter & tour guide here on Oak Hill. The boss went into town and should be back shortly. Come on up the driveway. I can't go out there cause of this "invisible fence" thing which give me a tingle if I try to cross the property line onto the road.

You can just follow me up the red path. They put that red stuff in here last week. I don't get it because the grass was easier on my paws. People do strange things.

Watch your step. That little plant is a trillium. The boss likes to show it off to the neighbors cause the flowers are above the leaves. The ones that grow in the woods around here are more bashful. The white flowers are hidden underneath. He found it in northern Wisconsin. Figures.....

I got in trouble for laying down in this blue stuff. The then he started calling me his "bluebell" dog. I'm no pansy.

These umbrella looking things are called mayapples. I looked. No apples that I could find.

Speaking of apples this is where he throws the rotten ones and tomatoes etc. I have no idea why The Trout Man saves that kind of stuff.

Say maybe you'd like to sit a bit? This is the "birds and blooms" bench. They said they saw a catbird last week. I keep and eye out for the real thing. The neighbors cats. Somebody has got to keep those troublemakers off our property.

I like this area. It's where they eat outside sometimes. I don't understand though why they put good meat on a stick and then char it over a fire. I get the leftovers though so it's not all bad.

Wait a minute. I hear the bosses truck in the driveway. Let's go see. Maybe we can go for a hike

Friday, May 13, 2011

Repeat Repeat Repeat.

I'm wondering if it was a system wide malfunction as I lost my last post and so did my daughter in law???? I so look forward to the comments and their gone too...... oh well. I'll try again.

Since I gave up bird hunting (with a 12 gauge) due to a bum knee some years ago (now replaced) and took up birding due to the necessity of walking a large GSD...... I’ve been very lucky.

Birding has encouraged me to visit new places like State Parks and refuges.
Also new states like Florida. And met new and interesting people, like top ten Minnesota birder John Hockema. To top it off, this past month has brought some amazing bird sightings thanks to John and my birding mentor "Mr Science," Gary Erickson.
Here’s the story. I joined a state birding society called the M.O.U. (Minnesota Ornithological Union). They provide lots of information through their magazines and website. You can report your sightings and get a daily report on recent sighting by other Minnesota birders. You can check to see statewide and individual county descriptions as to whether a particular bird is common, occasional, unusual, rare or never been seen before. In May I got to see two birds that had never been seen before in my southeastern Minnesota county. The first was a white-winged Scoter who wandered in lost from the Pacific Northwest and beyond. The second was a Glossy Ibis whose northernmost range is in Florida. Even more amazing both birds were spotted several weeks apart by John on the same nondescript farm pond about 20 miles from where I live. I guess the moral is it pays to be lucky and have really good birding friends....

The White-Winged Scoter

The Glossy Ibis. Photo by Bob Ekblad.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Vegetable Garden

It’s been some forty plus years since we left the confines of civilization in the big city to move into the wilderness of southern Minnesota as pioneer teachers and homesteaders. Under those circumstances, we quickly adopted the now trendy lifestyle known as "Frugal Living." This, of course, was in the days before Martha Stewart showed people how to do it.
We did manage to purchase our Little House On The Prairie next to the Big Woods and intent on establishing the means to support a family, I began clearing a plot of gooseberries, prickly ash, and crabgrass. All this was done with a hand axe and spade. The ultimate goal was a large vegetable garden. I had to learn the business from scratch, never having gardened before. Ultimately, a seasonal rotation was successfully developed, as I learned how to turn the soil with my trusty spade, plant, weed and harvest. Then I added a compost bin and also took up flower gardening.

Thirty years later, when in hopes of a more "senior friendly" abode, we built a new home, in the woods next door, I carried on with the gardening.

By this time, without the need for a large vegetable garden and tired of the constant weeding needed to make it work, I was ready to give it up and just stick to the flowers. Besides the shady woods, where we now lived, wasn’t really conducive to growing vegetables. Mrs T explained the problem to our neighbors and they came to the "rescue" by volunteering a portion of their adjacent cornfield for our use. I shouldered on.......
This year entering my seventieth decade I decided the time had come to retire from the tomato and carrot business once and for all. It seemed to me that the nearby farmers markets would serve what need we had for fresh fruits and vegetables and the fact that the Amish ladies had fresh pies for sale didn’t hurt either. I announced my final retirement. It was then that she (Mrs T.) claimed she would do the vegetable gardening herself. This, even after I pointed the back breaking labor involved with tilling and endless weeding requirements. Finally, I said I would serve only in a consultative capacity.... no physical labor to be provided on my part. I was worried she couldn’t handle it the strain.
So it was to my great surprise last week, when I heard some noise beyond the backyard and left my difficult computer chores to go and see what was going on. Here is how my ever resourceful wife, approached the backbreaking, getting the soil prepared for planting, part of vegetable gardening.... with the help of our kindly corn farming neighbors.....

Preparing the soil and fertilizing all in one operation....
She also asked me about something for weed removal called Roundup. Or her more likely plan is to replace all the carpet in the house, due to my GSD (German Shedding Dog. Then use it to carpet the rows in the garden so the weeds can't come up. Yup, I think she’s going to make a go of it......

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Bird Feeding Perspectives

It seems an old dog can indeed learn new tricks. Our good friends, Steve and Jewel, have recently taken up bird feeding at their beautifully renovated farmstead in Fillmore County, Minnesota. (Here pictured on our trip to France.)

Now while birding with binocs in hand and tramping in the woods with my GSD Baron is a relatively new activity for me..... birding feeding is not. That I've been doing for decades. So when Mrs T & Jewel came back from a visit to a local bird store with lots of fresh seed, I wasn't too impressed. I've been getting that stuff at the big box store a lot cheaper, I thought. The result though was a lot more winter birds at my backyard feeders. Mmmmmm.
So when Steve and Jewel added a bird bath and mealworms to their "attractors," I was paying attention. Particulary after the following pictures were sent showing bluebirds and rose breasted grosbeaks right outside their dining room window. This was before anyone else was reporting these birds in our area. Mmmmmm.

Not being entirely a slow learner, I followed suit with the rehyrated meal worms. Yesterday, a first at my feeder. A warbler was sitting their with the chickadees and nuthatches wolfing down the new delicacy. It was a "butter butt" i.e. a Yellow Rumped Warbler.

This old dog had indeed learned some new tricks.....

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Spring Wildflowers

Ten years ago, tired of the tuck-under garage and the many steps up from the basement to the living area, we decided to build a new house 100 yards to the north in our two acre woods. As the inexperienced 3rd man, on the three man building team, I worked 10 hour shifts, much of it as a "gopher." In addition, in the evenings, I took on the job of saving some of the many plants surrounding our old house. A trench was dug to run a water line from the new well to the old house to mitigate the nitrate problem. In the process, a huge number of limestone rocks were dug up. .I decided that rather than return the rock to the trench, I would use them to build a retaining wall and lay out garden paths throughout the woods on the south side of the new house. Ouch... my aching back.
Year One: limestone pathways, some ground up branches from the city "tree dump", plant rescue from the old property (the new owners were not interested in gardening) , some grubbing of gooseberrys and prickly ash.
Year Two: more grubbing and selective weeding, trying to preserve wildflowers and shrubs, planting hostas and ferns donated by a kindly neighbor.Year Three: Wildflower seeding and intensive weeding plus more planting of nursery stock.Year Four: Read several books on eco-friendly self-sustaining shady gardens. More intensive weeding and additional planting.
Year Five - Although each year would require a little extra fine turning, the north Shady Garden was a success. Many visitors from town and "groups" from various organizations have requested tours. Fortunately, the garden speaks for itself as "senior moments" seems to strike me when I am asked what a particular native plant is called. I have never been too focused on names like I should have been. If I like something I plant it. It's the impulse method rather than the carefully designed and coordinated plan but I'm happy with the result. Since then I've added new gardens to the north (more woods) and the west, semi shade with afternoon sun.
Some of the native spring wild flowers now living in the shady south garden ........