Troutbirder II

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

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Success! Failure!

When I first came to Bluff Country some 50 years ago, as a young schoolteacher, deer were quite rare in the area. Most deer hunters in southern Minnesota talked of "heading up North" to pursue their quarry. Since then the logged over boreal forests in the North Country have matured and the browsing conditions for tender young aspen have lessened. Thus, their are fewer deer in that region. Things have changed here in the South as well. The hunters now speak well of our "corn fed deer." Gardeners and Christmas tree farmers complain that the deer have become a major nuisance. My friend, Mr. Science, has to cover the leaders on his young pine trees in the winter to protect them from the deer. "They eat the tips like candy and breed like rabbits," he says. Last year one of our neighbors fed deer big time and I counted herds of 25 her barrel corn feeder, other bird feeders and white cedars and other shrubs for browsing.

Another success story are the wild turkeys. I fished for trout and smallmouth bass on the local streams for many years and hunted pheasants and ruffed grouse before I ever saw a wild turkey. Then some bass were traded to Missouri for a few wild turkeys. They slowly spread from here, north to the central part of the state. Now I see more turkeys than pheasants. Spring turkey hunting season has become a big deal.

These turkeys live acoss the road in the Oak Woods. They do like those acorns. The fenced in area belongs to the goat family but I think in winter the turkeys find some leftovers.
And then their were the "extinct"  Giant Canada Geese. Turns out they weren't as extinct as people thought. A flock was discovered wintering happily in  Silver Lake in Rochester MN. There the water remains open in winter due to a power plant. Now the Giant Canada can be found everywhere, in the State munching grass happily on golf courses, city parks, suburban lawns and corporate landscapes. By the thousands, by the hundred thousands, by the..... well you get the idea.

Finally is the story which I have written about many times. My favorite birds are our magnificent Bald and Golden Eagles. Except for their redoubts in Alaska and a small remnant in northern Minnesotas boreal forests, the Balds had all but disappeared throughout the lower forty-eight. Finally, protected as an endangered species, they have rebounded amazingly. Here, one county away from the Mississippi River, they were historically unknown. Now they live and nest here in Minnesota's Fillmore county the  only county without a lake in the Land of Ten Thousand. I see them everywhere year round. Flying over my house carrying pine branches to a nest only several blocks away. Sitting in my garden keeping watch on a deer carcass at the bottom of the hill. On top of a telephone pole across the street.

These pictures are all of my friends the Troutfarm Eagles. They are neighbors and live just over the hill.

These are a few of the iconic success stories in my own area. And for all of them I'm very glad. For many of the other animals including our song birds, I'm far far from encouraged. The purple martins who once swept from their condominiums over our lakes, the meadowlarks whose beautiful song reminded me it was time to get up and go to school as a boy, the warblers whose flashing colors danced about me as I waded our local streams, and countless others. There numbers and other have dropped precipitously to all time lows. I hope time and human concern will eventually foster their comebacks as well.  There are many causes for these drastic declines both here and in the migratory areas of  Central and South America.  One of the biggest causes here are the millions of feral and domestic cats roaming our towns, suburbs and rural areas.  Now something  can and should be done about that...... Troutbirder and his neutered, declawed free ranging ( only in the house) pal Simba. Who lived happily with us for eighteen years without killing a single bird.....

Monday, February 23, 2015

Snow Eagle

The Big Guy (Baron)  and I had gone early morning  road birding in a snow shower a few years back now. We were in the valley of the Middle Root River practicing our spotting skills, when a mature bald eagle flushed from a tree line to my left and swept in front of the windshield of my truck. Startled,  I must have been seeing too many juncos and other really small birds because the eagle seemed so big and I thought at first, perhaps, it was a gliding prehistoric  pterodactyl! Obviously the snowfall, combined with some heavy fog, had put me in a "spooky" mood!
Later, we checked out the eagle nest on the far side of the trout ponds. There, sitting near the huge nest were the two adults. Were they hunting, resting, sleeping or just plain waiting for spring? If the later, they surely have a lot more patience than I do these days.
Each year of my retirement. the winters seem to get longer and longer, here in Bluff Country, even including this years hiatus to Florida.  Talk about patience being a virtue. My impatience with this very cold and  seemingly never ending winter is palpable. And I don't even live in Boston...:)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Troutbirder Gets Dressed

He clears the fog from his brain, rolls over and says, "I suppose church is on the agenda for this morning." He knows the answer, so gets up and looks out the window and utters the first prayer of the day. "Oh God help us."
Then, gathering the essentials, he sits down on the bed and puts on his cotton socks and underwear, followed by his "long johns", a sweat shirt, long woolen socks, a fleeced hunting vest, and his quilted pants. Now venturing into the mud room, followed closely by Mrs. T., what happens next is remindful of those scenes, where the astronauts were helped into their space suits.
 He puts on his felt lined snow boots followed by the winter parka. Then comes his stocking cap, personally knitted for him years ago by his mom. The Mrs ties up and adjusts the hood, cinches the various zippers and a velcro tab across the lower part of his face. He peers out through the narrow slit and shakes his head when she asks if he needs a scarf. "Gloves. I need gloves." Mittens and "choppers" would be better but he couldn’t find them . Hoping the snow blower will start, he steps out into the garage and opens the door looking out. A momentary shock. Its -15 below zero with a strong wind chill factor. That could be - 30 degrees something. There appears snow drifts on the driveway. Mrs T starts shoveling the sidewalk. He gets the snow blower going and heads out of the garage onto the driveway. Paraphrasing Bill the Idaho blogger.... Just another day in wild Minnesota.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Florida Birding Part II

We've been birding in Florida since our first visit to Fort Myers in March 2010 for the Minnesota Twins spring training. March seemed the best month since the locals were complemented by the songbirds heading north from Central American.  Our vacation this year encompassing the local waders, shorebirds, raptors and other random locals in late Jan. and early Feb was still great though songbirds like warblers were rare.  Take a look....
The snakebird (Anhinga) swims along with only its head showing above the water.
Not the Turkey Vultures we see in Minnesota in the summer, these Black Vultures are very common in Florida circling everywhere.
And you thought Pinocchio had a big nose... Mr. Brown Pelican.  Who can? Peli Can!
Cattle (Egrets) grazing on a local golf course.  Mooo!
Lots of red shouldered hawks were seen,  a rare summer sight in Minnesota.
Huge and gangly wood storks are  slowly coming back from endangerment.
A small falcon - The beautiful Kestrel
The tri-colored heron stalks his prey in shallow water
Some of the birds seemed very tame like this Sandhill Crane standing right along the highway.
A flock of these White Ibis landed on a front lawn as we were driving into town for groceries in Homosassa.
One thing  for sure,  all these big birds like the White Pelican are sure a lot easier to photograph with my little point and shoot than   the tiny songbirds we see  at home in the spring.
Glossy Ibis
A long distance traveler who winters in southern Argentina and breeds along the Artic coast in Canada.
The first time I saw a Reddish Egret hunting I thought he was drunk.  Staggering and lurching about in shallow water to stir up food is accepted "technique" with this large wader...:)
A strange looking but beautiful wader The Roseate Spoonbill


Monday, February 16, 2015

The Florists Daughter

A great book reviewed on Troutbirder II.  Click on the link  (picture above) with Mark Twain and Troutbirder

Friday, February 13, 2015

Florida Birding

Standard procedure some years ago for me was upland game and duck and goose hunting with my Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. Then about ten years ago changing health circumstances and new interests brought me to birding with binoculars and my first German Shepard Baron.  Now Lily, another GSD, and I carry on with twice a day hikes and the same trusty binocs.
From our first trips to Fort Myers to see the Minnesota Twins in spring training I realized Florida was a birders paradise.  This year in January I knew the vast flocks of song birds wouldn't have arrived yet on their migrations north but there were plenty of waders, shorebirds and various raptors to be seen.  The plan this year was more laid back than in the past.  That meant some hiking in nearby parks and refuges and also a lot of reading from the screened in porch and the dock with keen eye on the creek across the front yard.  Take a look....

Friend Gary and Mrs. T. keeping a lookout.
Visiting every day and known locally  as the "W.B.s" (the white birds) aka Great White Egrets.
The cottage came equipped with both a canoe and a kayak so Gary and Rosie headed upstream. The following photographs by Gary Anderson.
A rare Wood Stork.
Little Blue Heron
 Black Skimmers
Rare Migrating Minnesota Lovebirds

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Daydream Relaxing

It was the evening of Feb. 5th as we watched the sunset over the Gulf on the last day of our month long Florida vacation. The next day would begin our two day 20 hour trip home to snowy Minnesota. What a fun and relaxing  time we had with Daydream Cottage as our home base. Mrs. T. takes a final look and a rainbow is seen as hopefully an omen for the long ride home.....


We were looking for a place that had room, privacy and was pet friendly and VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) provided the answer. It was at the end of a long driveway with three acres surrounded by woods and one creek close to the Gulf.  To our Minnesota eyes the woods looked more like a jungle though.  Here Mrs. T. and Miss Lily are on the driveway ready for their early morning walk.
The front porch and the dock proves to be great spots for some relaxing birding and reading.  Here our friends Gary and Rosie who joined us for a week joined in the action.
As to the birding, we counted almost thirty species from the front yard, flying over,  swimming and wading by..... More to follow.