Who are we? We are our stories.

Saturday, March 24, 2018


We have been back in Minnesota from the Rio Grande Valley for one week. We may have pushed the calendar a little this year. I have given most of my serious winter gear to the Salvation Army, but I kept an emergency set of winter clothes, just in case of an outbreak of snowblowers. I am currently in my stall mode, drinking another cup of coffee. I am wearing malone pants with sturdy leather braces, long underwear, and knee-high Filson wool socks. L.L. Bean 14" insulated duck boots, Filson double-cruiser, Makinaw cap and choppers await me. It has struck me that a goodly number of my southerly friends do not even know what I am talking about. Minnesotans of an old school bent certainly do.

Upon returning from the south I made a trip to Farmers Seed to buy black-oil sunflower, niger thistle, and suet cakes. The Chickadees bounced around the branch right over my head watching me fill the feeders. Impatiently dee-deeing, they seemed quite interested in the goings-on ;-). The first one was at the feeder before I closed the door.

Good thing I got my act together; this is the feeder this morning. 4" more forecast.

Next year we ain't comin' back 'til May, or June ......... or damned July! - G.

Monday, March 19, 2018

A Battle Brewing

Yesterday was our first evening back in Minnesota. As I stepped outside I could hear at least two pair of Barred Owls discussing land ownership issues. It actually sounded like there are possibly three pair. Oakwood is a round wooded pennisula, large enough to support a single pair of owls. Across a little bay is Oakhurst, in the past the territory of another pair. The Oakwood owls consider those Oakhurst Owls as decidedly inferior interloppers and they regularily let them know it. 

Three pair? There is simply not enough defined territory for three pair of Barred Owls in the neighborhood.

Photos as the season goes on? - Gunnar

Friday, March 16, 2018

Going Bird Blind

"Bird Blind": an ocular condition caused by staring for a long period at a Vermilion Flycatcher.

It was a worthwhile stopover. Because we were in a new location we got some life birds:

There was a surprise sighting of Cassin's Finches among the House Finches (male and female posing nicely together). A single Black-throated Sparrow - my favorite bird of the stop. We got a short look at a Woodhouse's Scrub Jay (Lorna got a photo). And I suppose the Carolina Chickadee was new, but visually they are so close to a Black-capped it is like splitting hairs.

The real reason we were at South Llano Park was to see the Golden-cheeked Warbler. Early we stumbled onto the local Golden-cheek expert, Randy, who led us on a long hike up a canyon where the Golden-cheeks breed. They were certainly there. We could hear them and caught occasional glimpses of them flying from shrubby tree to tree. If someone was doing a "big year" or maybe keeping a "life list" they would count it. For me it will remain a bird for the future. I do not need to see or photograph every species of bird on the earth. But that is just me. ;-)

On the road again tomorrow - Gunnar

Thursday, March 15, 2018

South Llano River State Park

We finished packing and left Alamo, Texas at about 9:30. We arrived in Junction, Texas at 4:00 this afternoon and checked into a motel. We decided to go out to the park to reconnoiter for full day tomorrow. And took our cameras.

Before we even got to the first blind we bumped into Gary Davidson and his wife (who's name escapes me at the moment). They are friends of Paul Prappas and I met him three years ago in the field at Santa Ana.

It is getting late so I am just dumping unlabeled photos except the Black-throated Sparrow, which was a life bird for me.

Looking forward to a full day in the field tomorrow. - Gunnar

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Estero Llano Grande

An afternoon walk with Lorna. There were things that needed to be seen.

Pace yourself. Take naps when you need them.

 Don't let your moss slow you down.
                                 Packing tomorrow, then a farewell meal with friends.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Lizards, Bugs and Butterflies

We were at the National Butterfly Center by mid-morning. It was warm - later to become the hottest day of the year, pushing 100F. There was nothing uber special except I did watch a lizard kill and eat a huge black carpenter bee.

Clouded Skipper?

Tawny Emperor

Then dinner out with friends - 9:19 and cool now. :-)  - Gunnar

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Hot and Humid

Minimal breeze. Man, this has GOT to be great butterfly weather. So we went to the Butterfly Center to be dazzled. Pffft, there were hardly any butterflies out. ???  But damn, it was hot.

Long-billed Thrasher

Tawny Emperor (female)

Headed for the porch with an IPA now  - Gunnar

On the Passing of Cheri Register

A friend died three days ago. Cheri was a teacher and writer by trade. We all knew IT was coming, but it still came as a shock when the news came. Her last March 1 Facebook posting:
“I have just entered at-home hospice care. I am dying of Caroli's disease, my lifelong companion. 
Your cards and emails will be treasured.
I have lived a remarkable life. Thank you for your part in it.
Since her passing there has been an exchange of emails between friends. The following is a tribute by Margadant, one of that group. I think he expressed our feelings of loss better than I can.
I feared that this news would shortly be forthcoming. Cheri does not have to fear “sad emojis” from me. I’ll celebrate her for the rest of my days just on the strength of her two books, Packinghouse Daughter and The Big Marsh. I’m thankful for The Big Marsh, because in it, Cheri taught me more about the country I grew up in, curelessly as it turned out. Cheri’s Packinghouse Daughter turned out to be a very emotional read; her chronicle of the Wilson’s strike brought back clear memories. I was shocked at the visceral reaction I had when I read the names of the Chicago players that figured in the strike; they were known among all the families with members in the various trade unions in town and we’d been schooled on them at our dinner tables. I reread the book a couple of years ago. I was somewhat calmer, but those names still rankled me. I admired Cheri for staying true to her mission. She wrote a memoir that is also excellent history. I recommended both books to my kids. Reading them will teach them a lot about the people, culture, and land that have something to do with who they are today.
 And a long overdue thank you to those teachers we all had at A.L. who taught us all to write.


Friday, March 9, 2018

Moon Lake

We were at the end of the last road south at the end of the world, up against the Mexico border. A place beyond the reach of Verison cellphone service.. Beyond the reach of everything except for a couple of white Border Patrol pickups. When they pull up we just flash our binoculars. They are invariably friendly, seemingly thankful for a break in their boring routine - stopping people just to talk to someone. We were finding our way to the backside of Moon Lake, an isolated resaca - literally a backwater, an isolated piece of the old wandering Rio Grande. 

We were there to see what there was - a couple of Fulvous Whistling Ducks among a couple of hundred Black-bellied Whistling Ducks?  Other rare Mexican wanderers? Maybe, but if so, we didn't see them. But we did see a lot of ducks.

And across the resaca, a house - elegant and slightly weather-worn. It is relatively new?  Or is it an old house built on the Rio Grande and cut off when the river wandered south? I know what I suspect, but I am sticking with my story of an isolated lady abandoned by her fickle lover.

- Gunnar

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Butterflies and Birds Today

This morning we drove over to McAllen to the Breadsmith Bakery for crusty bread and a couple of cookies to get us through a day of heavy butterflying at NBC. The butterfly preserve is great because they are "raising" butterflies, not in cages but by planting butterfly friendly plantings creating habitat and letting the butterflies find it and reproduce. 

It was a great day. There were butterflies everywhere in numbers. This is just a typical sampling of the large number of species we saw. Okay, not a typical group. I had never seen a Pavon Emperor or a Mercurial Skipper in my life and I threw in a couple more that are particularly beautiful. I am sorry I could not get an opened wing shot of the Emperor, and did not get a better focused photo of the Mercurial, or a Black Swallowtail that wasn't so weathered. I think Lorna's may be better.

I have never seen that many Grass Skippers. I was going to post fourteen Fiery Skipper photos, but with much discipline I was able to contain myself.

Bordered Patch

White-striped Longtail

Giant Swallowtail 

Black Swallowtail

Mercurial Skipper

Mercurial Skipper

Crimson Patch

Brown Longtail

Pavon Emperor

Longbilled Thrasher

Eastern Bluebird (female)

Audubon's Oriole

Habitat attracts birds. We weren't primarily bird chasing, but when they presented themselves we took photos of them. Some are common here in far south Texas, some aren't. The Audubon Oriole is uncommon and declining, probably due to Cowbirds.

- Gunnar