Troutbirder II

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

Monday, March 31, 2014

Sebastian/Vero Beach

The final week of our Florida "snowbird" vacation was spent in the Sebastian/Vero Beach area on the Atlantic Coast.  Mrs. T’s cousin and his wife Mary winter in that area and naturally we visited them and did some“outings” together.
One was The Stick Marsh near Fellsmere Florida. It  is  considered to be one of the best kept fishing secrets in Central Florida with its premiere bass fishing. We drove throughout the refuge as well as did some hiking to check out the birds.

On another day Barb and I took an airboat ride through the nearby Blue Cypress Conservation Marshland with Captain Bob.  These unspoiled waters are also perfect way to observe exotic birds, plants, turtles and Florida alligators in their own natural environment. Our tour was  fully narrated by Capt. Bob through a TALK-AROUND HEADSET system which allows two way communication. Capt. Bob, in a highly knowledgeable and entertaining way,   tells you about the birds, plants, alligators, fish and the local history of the area as you glide across the marshlands. The man bubbles with excitement and passion for the wetlands. It was great…..
We saw dozens of alligators of all sizes.
We saw a few Bald Eagles in Florida but many many Ospreys. This is quite of the opposite of southeastern Minnesota where osprey are rare and Bald Eagles have become common along the Mississippi.
While lots of the usual large wading birds were seen, a "lifer" for me was the strangely colorful purple gallinule.
A large relative of the Cormorants, know locally as the "water snake" bird was seen frequently. The Anhinga does look like a snake when swimming though the water submerged with its head and neck visible. All in all we had a great time on both the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts..... 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Trumpeter Swans

The largest of North American waterfowl, the Trumpeter Swan is resident throughout much of its range, but migratory in other parts. It was reduced to near extinction by the early 20th century. The Trumpeter Swan was hunted for its feathers throughout the 1600s - 1800s, causing a tremendous decline in its numbers. Its largest flight feathers made what were considered to be the best quality quill pens.

It was more than 90 years since Trumpeter Swans lived and bred in Minnesota when in 1966, the Hennepin County Park Reserve District brought the first trumpeter swans back to Minnesota from Red Rock Lakes, Montana. However, initial breeding efforts were not very successful. Continued efforts  by local, State and federal agencies working finally brought initial success in 1982. From 1982-1985, the Minnesota DNR's Nongame Wildlife Program acquired trumpeter swan eggs from wildlife refuges in Montana and South Dakota, zoos, and private propagators. From 1986-1988, eggs were collected from wild trumpeter swan populations in Alaska. The eggs were incubated and the hatchlings reared at the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area in Anoka County. In 1987, the Nongame Wildlife Program released 21 two-year-old trumpeter swans near the Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in Becker County. Since then, more than 350 swans have been released in the state and Minnesota's trumpeter swan population now exceeds 2,400 birds.  And in one of the coldest winters on record, several weeks ago two migrating trumpeter swans were seen less than a mile from our home in Fillmore County (southeastern Minnesota)  The exact spot was a small park and pond with a spring which kept a little water open.  Photography by Mr.Science (Gary) and Lance S.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Our new former farmdog Lily, adopted under tragic circumstances,  is adjusting to small town "suburban" life absolutely fantastically.  We have not had a single problem. She even rides quietly in the back of Mrs. T's Buick.  All my hunting dogs and even Baron were required to ride in the back of the Chevy pickup. What a sweetheart.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Merritt Island

I had never had much interest in visiting what I call “touristy” or crowded big city places. Though if “touristy” included National Parks and wildlife refuges I was ok with it…   Thus I’d never been to Florida until a few years ago when our friends Gary and Rosie suggested an early spring visit to Fort Myers, Florida to see the Minnesota Twins in spring baseball training.

I was good with that being a huge baseball fan and what a revelation it was. Florida has tons of wildlife refuges and State and National Parks. We’ve been going back for longer and longer visits ever since, the main object being birding.  Three of the very best are Ding Darling National Wildlife refuge on Sanibel Island on the Gulf Coast near Fort Myer, The Audubon Society’s Corkscrew Swamp Refuge near Naples Florida, and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge on the Atlantic Coast near Titusville, Florida. 


Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1963 as an overlay of NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center. 

 Consisting of 140,000 acres, the Refuge provides a wide variety of habitats:  coastal dunes, saltwater estuaries and marshes, freshwater impoundments, scrub, pine flatwoods, and hardwood hammocks provide habitat for more than 1,500 species of plants and animals                           The coastal location of MINWR, with its seven distinct habitat types and position between the subtropical and temperate zones contribute to the Refuge's importance as a major wintering area for migratory birds. Over 500 species of wildlife inhabit the Refuge with 16 currently listed as federally threatened or endangered. Several wading bird rookeries, approximately 10 active bald eagle nests, numerous osprey nests, up to 400 manatees and an estimated rare 2,500 Florida scrub jays can be found on the Refuge.        We spent a day in the refuge stopping along the way as we went from Cedar Key on the Gulf to visit Mrs. T.'s cousin in Sebastian on the Atlantic Coast.  
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Little Blue Heron

White Ibis, Tri-Colored Heron, Snowy Egret
Roseatte Spoonbill
Glossy Ibis
Red Shouldered Hawk
Black Vultures
Reddish Egret (He staggers around in the water stirring up his lunch and basically looks drunk)
Yellow Crowned Nite Heron

Most of the photos by Mrs. T.  Guesses at the names of the birds by T. himself....

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Guns at Last Light

There have been a huge number of books written about World War II and I’ve read quite a few of them. 
One of the very best has been Rick Atkinson’s acclaimed Liberation Trilogy about the Allied triumph in Europe during World War II. I just finishing the concluding volume in the Trilogy titled The Guns at Last Light. In the first two volumes Rick Atkinson recounted how the American-led coalition fought through North Africa and Italy to the threshold of victory. Now, in The Guns at Last Light, he tells the most dramatic story of all—the titanic battle for Western Europe.

 D-Day marked the commencement of the final campaign of the European war, and Atkinson’s wonderful account of that bold gamble sets the pace for the  narrative that follows. The brutal fight in Normandy, the liberation of Paris, the disaster that was Operation Market Garden, the horrific Battle of the Bulge, and finally the thrust to the heart of the Third Reich—all these historic events and more come alive with a wealth of new material and a mesmerizing cast of characters. Atkinson tells the tale from the perspective of participants at every level, from presidents and generals to war-weary lieutenants and terrified teenage riflemen. When Germany at last surrenders, we understand anew both the devastating cost of this global conflagration and the enormous effort required to win the Allied victory.
What makes Atkinson special, as a writer of history, is the way  he manages to knit together the seemingly minute and personalized details, scenes and comments of many   participants in the events of the war ,  into a broad tapestry that is both interesting and understandable. It is  narrative prose of incredible richness which at times can almost take your breath away. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


We left our little cottage on the bay in Cedar Key, Florida for an early morning walk. In a few blocks along the main road we heard a commotion and looked to see what some men were doing in an open building.
As we approached I asked one of the men if they would mind if I took some pictures.  “Not at all,” he said.  He then proceeded to tell us what they were about. They were tumbling freshly harvested clams. Tumbling gets rid of sand, shells, and anything that’s not a live clam. It also rinses and cleans the clams for processing.

There are basically four stages: hatchery, nursery, growout and harvest. Naturally we were looking at the end of the harvest when the clams were being sorted for their ultimate destinations.

It turns out here the size of the clam determines the common name as in Littleneck  2 -2.5 inches, Cherrystones 2.5-3 inches and Chowder more than 3 inches. Little island vacation retreat Cedar Key has lots of clam farms.  Which makes it Florida’s largest producer.  Whoda thought? We kept going on our morning walk and later decided to head back to Tony’s restaurant for lunch. Tony’s serves their world champion famous clam chowder…..:)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Troutbirder and the 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? "

As a follow up to my “pot luck” animal posts I present Troutbirder and the Tiger.   Thus, we were heading an hour south and east of Greeley, Colorado with son Tony and the three grandchildren,  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. You should not slow down nor stop along the fences leading uphill 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 than as zoo and it was.

It wasn’t a natural setting for these neglected and unwanted animals but they were well cared for, allowed to roam the dry prairie 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.

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 Grandma. I headed out to the parking lot to warm up in the car. The lot 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, I noticed  two tigers sleeping in the grass about two hundred yards away. 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 rather intently. One stood up, then the other.  Now, cutting to the chase, I've crossed sandbars on remote rivers in Montana fly fishing and seen fresh grizzly 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. The point is I don't spook real easily.  Then larger of the two immediately went into a stalking crouch. As he  began to approach me, a primal moment occurred. 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." Adrenaline flooding as my body went into high alert, I started backing up as Mr. Tiger broke into an all-out sprint coming right at me. Of course he stopped right at the fence and disdainfully turned and walked away. It was only then that  my wits returned and I could breathe.  I'm sure I will be able to conjure up that image the rest of my life.....  but just in case,  I managed to stop shaking as I snapped his picture. Oh and it was only then that I turned around to make sure I was still alone in the parking lot.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Menagerie Part 2

A few more pics from my animal collection.....
Being an early riser I spotted this coyote hunting jackrabbits  on the golf course where we were staying in Arizona.
At a big cat refuge in Colorado
Is this the one that sells car insurance?
At the Phoenix zoo with two of our  grandchildren to the right.
I darn near ran over this groundhog on a local bike trail. He was busy forecasting the weather and didn't notice me.
Baron chased this crew of bird feeder raiders up a tree in our woods.
Sabrina was about twice as big as Baron. They met in puppy school.
Rajah a white tiger in Colorado.
As a follow up to this post next I'll describe a frightening moment in my short lived big predator cat photography career. The title might well be "Troutbirder gets the #$%&  scared out of him...."