Troutbirder II

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

Friday, November 17, 2017

Beautiful Tundra Swans

It's that time of the year again, mid to late November when Mrs. T and I  head down to the "Big River". The Mississippi River that is where we witness one of those true wonders of nature.  There, the Mississippi National Wildlife Refuge provides a safe haven for millions of migratiing waterfowl each fall. We, however, always have a special target in mind. Migrating from their summer breeding grounds in the northern Arctic, tens of thousands of beautiful large white birds, wend there way south to stop, rest, and refuel on the Mississippi River near Brownsville, Minnesota. They pause here, usually for a few weeks, before turning southeast, heading for their wintering grounds on Chesapeake Bay. They are the beautiful Tundra Swans.

Here, on a backwater  we see hundreds of swans and ducks. In the distance, beyond the screen of trees, a barge is moving down the main channel of the river. With Wisconsin in the distance, perhaps a mile away, we can see many more. Sometimes, huge "rafts" of these birds seem to turn the entire river white. When we step out of car, the sound of their vocalizations is almost deafening. Some are even close enough to us to get a picture. On occasion a few fly over us, but I'm not a skilled enough photographer to get a decent picture. Another wonder can occur; on some visits I've counted well over several hundred Bald Eagles. If the sun is out and thermals rise above the bluffs, we can see them "kettle." They form a spiral rising almost out of sight. Late migrating white pelicans also use this river highway. Awkward looking on the ground, they are magnificent soaring aloft as they head south to the Gulf.

With the construction of the lock and dam system on the river in the 1930's, many of the natural aspects of the river have changed. One of these is the wave action of the increased open spaces. Many islands have disappeared. Because of this many of the plants and tubers the swans fed on have also disappeared. Now man is undoing the damage and helping the birds by using dredge material from the main channel to rebuild these islands. Here you can see one of the many artificial islands providing a resting place and shelter from the wind and renewed food supplies. Way to go DNR and Army Corps of Engineers!

On November 15th the official estimate was ten thousand swan in the immediate vicinity. Some years we have seen upward of thirty thousand. The only thing I have ever seen to compare to it is the annual migration of sandhill cranes into the Platte River Valley in Nebraska.


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Robert Redford Cake Got Me In Trouble

Directions  -

•Melt butter; mix with flour and press into baking pan.

•Pour pecans over and press down.

•Bake 15 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.


•Mix cream cheese with confectioners' sugar and peanut butter.

•Mix well.

•Pour over crust.

•Mix vanilla and chocolate pudding mixes with the milk and Cool Whip.

It might seem the raging issue of  sexual harassment should not be the instigator of a wry grin on my part but….  Let us be clear, it is a the fact that its widespread existence is disgusting and immoral and I condemn it whole heartedly.  Still there is that wry grin. Let me explain.

It all began after my move to a new middle school after 26 years of teaching seniors social studies in our local high school. I volunteered for the move as I was ready for a new teaching experience.  It was a great  blending of a few high school teachers with a majority of teachers  with elementary experience. I loved it. The kids and parents loved it. Age appropriate at its best.

It just so happened that my lunch break coincided with a group of the female teachers. I was outnumbered.  One of the highlights was the ladies regularly brought cookies and other treats on a rotating basis. My limited culinary skills required an occasional trip to the local bakery for donuts…. On the day in question I was reminded to sample the cake on the counter. “What is it,? I asked.  “Robert Redford Cake! It’s really good they chorused.  They were right for sure I determined as I wolfed it down. “By the way it has another name, “ one chirped.  “huh”?   “It’s called better than sex cake” several revealed.   Talk about a stare down .  While quickly through my mind came the thought that the lady who baked the cake was very nice and thoughtful, several knew my spouse, gossip can be endemic in a very small town …. So I answered by clearly expressing my 5th amendment rights    One shook her head in dismay, two giggled pointing at me while the rest laughed heartedly.   Clearly I was the victim of some kind of harassment.  Perhaps gender harassment at its best….?
No doubt here sexual harassment at its worst.....

Tuesday, November 7, 2017


Case 213 Location - Somwhere between Harmony and Preston in Bluff Country. Trauma - Contusions on the back of Mr. Troutbirders right leg. The victim was later treated by authorized medical personnel. He was released from care with non life threatening injuries. Photograph by Mrs. Troutbirder.   

                                                                      A  police report will follow shortly...

Mr. Troutbirder reported going down a moderately steep hill at safe speed when he began to slow down to stop and photograph a Lepidoptera Avuncular Halitosis. He somehow managed to remain upright in spite of being struck from behind by an inattentive biker . Stopping safely he raced back to find the inattentive biker laying prone on the pathway. Somewhat incoherent the perpetrator was mostly worried about locating his cellphone. Fortunately,  I had mine in my pocket and called for  medical help  not far away.

 The idiocy of tailgating while texting is obvious but I must say besides that when I first began biking some years ago now, when someone came up behind you to pass, they always beeped or said something akin to "on your right" or  "passing" etc. to warn you.  Not anymore. Its very rare. The lack of courtesy and common decency today is becoming appalling in many avenues of life. This was just a little one....:(

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The Decline and Fall of the American Empire

Oops. Got the title wrong above...but there may be some similarities to what's
going on today.
On that score my wife Barb had a even simpler example in her explanation of the decline and fall….

She reminded me of her upbringing in a girls Catholic high school  Our Lady of Peace (a.k.a. Old Ladies Penitentiary).  In studying, Latin she and her classmates decided that “Latin is a dead language. As dead as it can be. First it killed the Romans. And now it’s killing me."
For my take on this subject click on Mark Twain for my review of Edward Gibbons The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Troutbirder Breaks The Law (Update from Fall 2010)

It all started innocently enough. As described in a previous post, a October bike ride along the Shooting Star Bike Trail had revealed some beautiful Asters & Stiff Goldenrod. I also noticed dozens of other prairie plants gone to seed. Although I had some Compass Plants growing (a type of native sunflower), I hoped to add a few other varieties to my small plot  of wildflowers.

A little foraging along the bike trail with an ice cream bucket and a few envelopes seemed like a good idea. It happened a few days later.
In the interest of complete disclosure, I did have several accomplices (Barb and Baron) We found
 some dried cup plants and several other seeds including rattlesnake master, milkweed and purple coneflowers. A few of each were gathered.
Some time later I was discussing prairie restoration with a local guru. It was then that I was informed that I had been in violation of state law. "But the bike trail is thirty miles long and there are zillions of these plants along the way. Plus I'm not digging anything up, and it wasn't in a State Park. " "Makes no difference. Removal of seeds from any state property, be it park, forest, trail or anything else is strictly illegal." I bowed my head looking properly chastened and humbly repentent. Unfortunately, the "lesson" continued unabated until I'd had enough. "Perhaps an anonymous suggestion to the anti-terrorism authorities that they give up their fruitless search for Osama Bin Laden and come after the Bike Trail seed robber would be in order. While your at it, mention the toilet papering tree defacers from the local high school during Homecoming week who made a mess in my yard twice last week."

Just to be on the safe side, me and the Mrs. will be heading on the lam to a hidden location in Ireland for the forseeable future. Wish us luck!

And so some years later as shown in several recent posts my little wildflower plots now bloom beautifully spring, summer and fall.  The neighbors stop by to admire what they can see from the adjacent road . I offer them seeds in the fall and slowly but surely our neighborhood will increasingly exhibit natures bounty of prairie wildflowers. And nobody has to break the law...:)


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Keelboat of Lewis and Clark

The last day of our solar eclipse & Lewis and Clark bus tour saw us heading up the Missouri River traversing across Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa. We stopped at several museums and State Parks along the way with some very good ones in the Council Bluffs and Sioux City area.
At one we met some untethered and uncaged ferocious animals. Naturally, we didn't back off a bit. Mrs. T. took on one right away, headfirst.
Not to be out done, I managed to hold off a marauding Grizzly bear.

While visiting Lewis and Clark State Park, we took the opportunity to view the full-sized reproduction of Lewis and Clark's keelboat/barge, "Best Friend," which was constructed by Butch Bouvier of L&C Replicas. Imagine, if you can, the expedition winding its way up the Missouri River while sailing, pulling and poling the 55-foot boat.  Lewis and Clark State Park lies on the shores of Blue Lake, an "oxbow" formed by the meanderings of the picturesque Missouri River many years ago.
Here Butch Buovier, who researched, designed and built the first truly authentic replica of Lewis and Clarks keelboat/barge, enthralls his audience (including yours truly) with tales of his work and interactions with Ken Burns. Burns used his this boat in his documentary of the Corps of Discovery.
And finally for the dog lovers out there we met a  replica of Seaman, Clarks Newfoundland companion. To our great surprise, he was looking at a prairie dog in a little cage who suddenly squeaked causing Seaman to begin barking very loudly before he turned to look at us....:) 

What fun on the trail of Lewis and Clark.....


Saturday, October 7, 2017

On The Trail of Lewis and Clark

Kansas City World War I museum

Following our two day in the Kansas City area, where we saw the wonderful W.W. I museum and the childhood home of Amelia Earhart and a total solar eclipse, we headed up the Missouri River Valley on the Trail of Lewis and Clark.
Lewis, Seaman the Newfoundland dog, Clark and Mrs. T.
Highlights along the way were a number of great museums particularly at Council Bluff and Sioux City, Iowa.  Also above Council Bluff is an interesting memorial to the only member of the  Voyage of  Discovery who died during the expedition.
A view from the Sgt. Floyd memorial of the Missouri River and Council Bluff in the distance. It was here that the Captains made their first contact with native Americans. It was their task to make friends, develop trade and inform them of the authority of the "Great Father" (Thomas Jefferson) in Washington City.

Mrs. T. and Susan Rae at the memorial.
Next: Meet the man who built the exact replicas of Lewis and Clarks keelboats for Ken Burns documentary on The Voyage of Discovery.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Click on Mark Twain above for  my book review....  sorry for the mix up. I pushed the wrong button and failed to publish the review a couple of days ago.  It's up now.  Thanks to Patti for the correction.