Troutbirder II

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

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Maryville, Tennessee

On our way home from Florida we made a slight detour to eastern Tennessee to visit some new friends.  Diane is a retired nurse while Allan served 13 years as a volunteer park ranger in Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  We had first met them at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Allan had promised a grand car and hiking tour of the park and a wonderful one it was.  While the Great Chill of winter 2014 had also hit the Park with some serious snow and lots of rain, it didn't detract from our visit.  The creeks were all flooding and as Allan said, he had "never seen the waterfalls in the Park so spectacular." Come on along for a visit.....

Mrs. T (Barb) and Allan did most of the photography and as you can tell by the attire it was a tad chilly and misting....
Barb and Diane at  an ice wall.
Ice on the mill at Cades Cove.
The millstream.

I have to admit we saw so many waterfalls that day, I lost track of their names but one thing is for sure,  it was a truly fun day and all due to the grace and hospitality of a couple of Tennessee Volunteers, our friends Diane and Allan. Thanks from the Troutbirders....:)

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Way Down Upon The Suwannee River

Sung by the now immortal Pete Seeger.  God rest his soul....

And yes we did hike along the Suwannee River. It was not far from our haven at Cedar Key. What a fun day it was.

We followed the boardwalk down to the river. There were lots of birds round and about but no manatees on this particular day.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


With the People and Wildlife of the Upper Mississippi by John Madson.
Part history book, part travel book, part natural science and a whole lot of wonderful reminiscences of a place he came to love, John Madson eloquently recounts his years on The Father of Waters.  That mighty river which flows from its orgin in northern Minnesota all the way to the Gulf.  And more specifically that portion which ends near St. Louis. The Upper Mississippi  is encompassed within a broad and beautiful valley created at the end of the last ice age....
Wide river. Big valley.
And what a story it is populated with all sorts of interesting people and places. I grew up on the bluffs lying above the river overlooking the city of St. Paul.  Down below were the tracks of several major railroads heading east and west. an airport and many barges busily moving up and down the river. Much later, when I had to give up fly fishing in the southeast (Bluff County) portion of the State, there was a boat in which I spent many happy hours fishing the river and its myriad backwaters.
The walleyed pike. Lots of them in these waters.
 Madsons stories can draw you into a great place whether you are familiar with it or not. A place in the past and the present full of enjoyment and wonder. 
Lake Pepin a widening in the river great for sailboating.
Troutbirder and sons prepare to jump over the Mississippi at iconic Lake Itasca where the Mississippi begins to wind it way to the sea.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Snowy in Florida and Minnesota

No, the photograph of Mrs. T. in the header was not taken in Siberia. In fact it,  was a picture of
her standing, snow shovel in hand, along our driveway in Bluff Country (Southeastern Minnesota).  Seemed like a good time to make a comparison of the wordy "snowy" as commonly applied in Minnesota and Florida..... The Florida birds are snowy egrets.


"Snowy".  I guess it depends a lot upon where you are.....:)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Good Food

A great vacation location requires some good places to eat out and Cedar Key has many. Our favorite two were Tony’s and Kona Joe’s.

Tony’s Seafood Restaurant opened its doors in June of 2005 on the small island city of Cedar Key, three miles out in the Gulf of Mexico. Featuring fresh gulf seafood, Tony’s 54-seat eatery in the historic downtown area of Cedar Key first introduced its famous clam chowder after being open just one month.Chef Eric, Tony’s founder and owner, created the amazing recipe right in Tony’s tiny little kitchen while working on a variety of other new dishes.

Folks constantly try to guess the ingredients and frequently request the recipe. The secret formula is not available and only Chef Eric knows it’s true identity. Even Bon Appetite magazine’s request for the recipe was politely rejected back in 2007. Many chowder lovers asked Tony’s to consider taking it to the Great Chowder Cook-off held in June each year in Newport, Rhode Island. On Saturday June 6, 2009 Tony’s Cedar Key Clam Chowder won the 28th Annual Great Chowder Cook-off and claimed the title, Clam Chowder World Champion. We went back three times during our two week stay. It was that good.

Our other favorite spot was Kona Joe’s. Gregarious super friendly Joe shares his story,  “Having lived in South Florida for many years, we were getting tired of the crowds and the traffic.  We were looking for a place where we could get away from it all and relax in a quiet and beautiful setting. We found our paradise in Cedar Key, a small fishing village located on an island in Levy County on the nature coast. Here, we have plenty of nature and water and beautiful sunrises and sunsets...once we found this place, we did not want to leave.

 There was only one thing missing: a coffee shop!  So we decided to relocate to Cedar Key and open a coffee shop and eatery where folks can get a quick bite to eat without putting a hole in the pocket.”  Less than a block from our cottage we had lunch or breakfast on the deck several times and it was all very good. Or as Mrs. T. described the chicken salad sandwich “fantastic.” 


Another option across the street from our cottage was a fish and fruit market. We bought "cooked blue crab" and several varieties of fresh caught fish whose names escape me right now but all good. Nope we didn't starve at all. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

See ya later alligator

And we did after while with Captain Bob.  Capt. Bob Montuoro was our personal airboat tour guide of the Indian River County Marshlands. We were west of I-95 in Vero Beach in his airboat.  There were as many as 50 gators on a hour long ride. Lots of birds too along with a few snakes and some exotic plants. What a ride to cap our Florida vacation. Mrs. T. took over a hundred close ups.  She, who is seriously petrified of many large animals.  Except put a camera in her hands and all caution goes to the winds.  I've had several experiences preventing her from chasing down grizzly bears. Alligators. No problem!   Thus,  she was  never shy about leaning over the boat for some close-ups….
And hey maybe you'd like to join along with us in singing the alligator song.....


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

War Is Hell

“War is hell” Civil War general William T. Sherman once said. Some more than others. Like the war against Japan in the Pacific during W.W. II. All this as the Americans fought fanatical resistance island hopping their way to Tokyo.

Ugly, brutal, dehumanized, suicidal, no holds barred, take no prisoners……  It’s all there in Jeff Shaara’s historical fiction novel The Final Storm.  Why read about such true but ugly history? Fair question. Especially when it’s so much easier, more comfortable to turn our back on “real” reality,  when our youth culture is obsessed with video game violence, sham “reality" TV and  facile “saving democracy” generalizations about some of our more recent wars. 

This book will take you into the eye of the storm in the spring of 1945, as the United States turns its vast military resources toward a furious assault on the last great stepping-stone to Japan – the heavily fortified island of Okinawa.  The three-month battle features some of the most vicious combat of the entire Second World War, as American troops confront an enemy that would rather be slaughtered than experience the shame of surrender. Told through the voices of combatants on both sides, The Final Storm reminds us that the real reality of war is truly hell. That the sacrifice of those who confront suicidal fanaticism should never be forgotten. I highly recommend this book.  And a short clip from my cousin Terry in Idaho showing one small ship defending the American Fleet surrounding Okinawa against Kamikaze attackers….


Sunday, February 9, 2014

Cottage By The Sea

A few years ago we had stopped there for only a night in a local B & B.  We were on our way home to Minnesota from a short birding trip to Florida. It had the air of a small remote fishing community. My kind of place, I thought and vowed to return someday for a longer stay.  We did. This time in a cozy rental cottage called the Bonaire House. We even had our own dock out into the bayou.

Cedar Key is a  island nestled among many tiny keys on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Long admired for its natural beauty and abundant supply of seafood, it is a tranquil village, rich in tradition, friendly people and fun things to do.   Take a look from a comfortable spot on the dock thru the lens of Mrs. T's camera.... …

A little blue heron almost below the dock.
Each day brought more waders close by as the tide went out.
We watched the ospreys fishing over the bay and they often landed on a post one dock over from our vantage point.
Across the bay from our backyard view a long abandoned fishing boat appear at ebb tide.
A White Ibis joined the Great Egret practically on shore while we watched from our comfortable back porch.
All this on our first day on the island.  With the sun setting we planned for supper at Tony's, where his world championship clam chowder was on the top of the menu.   More on that later.....

Friday, February 7, 2014

True North

After a perilously icy  return trip from our month long sojourn to Florida and Tennessee, I’m ready to take up blogging again. In addition to birding, hiking, beach combing, eating out, photography, visiting relatives, friends and meeting alligators from the safety of an airboat, I managed to get several books read.

True North by author Jim Harrison seemed initially like a sure fire thing when I picked it up.  It had an interesting woodsy locale (Michigan’s U.P.), trout fishing & other assorted outdoor activities, history, and a Holden Caulfield like main character David Burkett. Burkett is 4th generation scion of a very wealthy family.   He tells the story of a life filled with mountains of guilt over his timber-baron ancestors’ exploitation and desecration of the north woods, its natives, and its working folk. I think the first person narrative is something called “stream of consciousness.”  It’s easy to get lost in the stream. I did       at times…..

 Our protagonist embarks on a project to write a grand expose of and apology for his family’s misdeeds. It’s obvious the project will never be completed. Burkett is so mentally and emotionally unstable, wanders so aimlessly through life and loves, that anything he accomplishes will be purely by accident. His love life is pathetic at best. He does have somewhat of a sense of idealism but seems incapable of acting upon it. Being a lifelong member of the “clean plate club” I finished the book. Not sure why. The author wrote several “best sellers” made into movies, Legends of the Fall being one of them.   Though bringing Brad Pitt to the forefront as a leading actor that movies postcard Montana setting was as seriously marred as the book  by a wandering and  confused plot....