Thursday, May 30, 2013

This bird is named after a cat?  Go figure.  They say he imitates the mewing of a cat.  Come to think of it, I guess maybe they do.  I remember years ago at my cabin in Wisconsin, I would wake up on the porch to their songs.  Then as over the years, as the habitat changed subtly, they seemed to vanish.  I am hearing them all the time now, as I walk along the RR tracks near my house.  They are much more vociferous these days.  In fact I thought at first that I was listening to a Baltimore Oriole.  There a quite a few of them around also, so they are probably mimicking them.  Being in the Mockingbird family, that is what they do.  Good to have them around!

The American robin

Subject: Bird of the Day                           The American Robin

Well, he's back.  In fact he has been back for quite a while...and so
have I.  Having worked my way through the shoulder business, I finally
returned to the living at about the same time these guys arrived in
Minnesota...early April.  I'm not sure if it is a recent phenomenon ,
but a sizable population of robins seem to be hanging around here for
the winter months..they flock up in large numbers.  Global warming?
Who knows.

Speaking of phenomenona, I have been blessed with my own...Anxiety
attacks!  I wake up at midnight in a panic, feeling claustrophobic and
crazy.  At first I thought I was having a heart attack, then I learned
what it was.  I gotta get out of the house right away, and walk for 30
minutes or so.  Fortunately I have a dog who walks with me, dispelling
the notion in the neighborhood at 1 AM, that I am a prowler.  Sometimes
I'll drive out to my ex-wife's house and play scrabble.  How crazy is
that!  Then my close friend Stu made me aware of the term,
"Mindfulness". This, in a nutshell means not thinking about tomorrow,
but "living in the moment".
Seems to help.  I feel bad about not paying my bills, but they are
simply "not in the moment".  Certainly walking everyday, hassling
robins and other birds keeps me "in the Moment".

Anyway....glad to be back

Friday, December 28, 2012

Red Breasted Nuthatch & White Breasted Nuthatch (and the Double-breasted Walter Cronkite)

Red Breasted Nuthatch

Just returned from a great day of birding with my brother Tony, and one of my oldest friends, Ned, who flew in from New Hampshire.  We targeted the Sax-Sim Bog, just north of Cloquet, and west of Duluth.  The place has become a mecca for those seeking out winter birds.  In February, they even celebrate with a winter birding festival.  They bird during the day, and drink at night.  At Least three birders have wondered off into the huge bog, never to return.

We were treated with several sightings, including Pine Grosbeaks, Evening Grosbeaks, Common Redpolls, Rough-legged
Hawks, Bald Eagles, and the Boreal Chickadee, of which I have written about in an earlier blog, and a handsome little bird that has eluded me all these years.  We saw several other more common species as well, and of course, the Red-breasted Nuthatch.   Very rarely I will see one on my feeder at home. The White -breasted Nuthatch I see every day.
They both go backwards, forwards and upside down on the bark of trees.

We missed seeing the Crossbills and the Great Grey Owl, which would have been a lifer for Ned.  I checked my daily Minnesota Ornithological Society web posting this morning, and another party saw these birds who skillfully avoided us.  Maybe they don't like people from the big city.  

We returned home at the end of the day, and enjoyed a nice meal at Ned's sister's home, where Ned was greeted with the news that he had been voted "New Hampshire Tree Farmer of the Year".  I'm glad one of us finally made a name.

This is what unemployed musicians do on a saturday night, when they are not working...they write a blog about a bog!

GOP Vulture

 (Limbaughcus cheneyotrious)  

This relatively rare avian is occasionally spotted in Minnesota as it migrates (one might even say, "roves") south to Alabama and Mississippi from Idaho's mountains.   Shown here in its Fall plumage, this rather awkward-looking high-flier often wears sport jackets to disguise its badly withered right wing.  In Winter it sports a feathering sometimes compared to 1970s leisure suits.   Its prey is the unsuspecting "low information" voter.      

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Wild Turkey

Not so wild, it would appear, for this duo showed up at my brother Tony's house a couple of weeks ago, and was photographed by my niece, Julia.  These guys, and I suspect it is the same pair, have been plaguing our neighborhood for the past couple of years.  Tony lives just a few blocks away.  I have had them pass by my house as they were working the hood, snooping around in each yard as they went by.  I have also seen them down by the RR tracks, where I walk the dog each day.  

Back in the seventies, there were only a modest number in the state, and none in urban areas.  They have thrived easily, and now this is what you see.

Old Ben Franklin wanted the Wild Turkey designated as the symbolic bird of the U. S., but was overruled in favor of that ugly bird, the Bald Eagle

If I were one of these guys, I might want to hide out is someone's garage for a few days.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Red Neck Pheasant

I'm back!!    Now that I have that nasty diverticulitis behind me, as well as other diversions, I'm ready to have at it once again.

If ever there was a late autumn bird, it is the iconic Red Neck Pheasant inhabiting the agricultural vastness of America.  First brought to this country from Asia, the great bird has flourished, and has become one of the country's most popular game birds.

I even saw one in my backyard a few years ago. Anyone who has ever hunted will get a smile on his face when hearing their familiar and singular cackle off in the matter what time of the year.

I dedicate this Bird of the Day entry to my two good friends -- and about the only hunters I still know -- Jim Brown and John Erickson.  Jim is probably my oldest friend, having grown up with me on the same street in St. Paul back when we were both about twelve years old. Together, we graduated from Forestry School at the U of M.  Jim went on the become one of the leading fire scientists in the country, and has lived and hunted in Montana for the past fifty years.  When we were kids, my dad took us pheasant hunting in southern Minnesota.  Belatedly, we found discovered that our well trained dog was gun shy, so the old man put Jim and I down into the ditches to flush out the birds.

John, a friend of later years is a my defense attorney, when he is not hunting.  It is good to have him in my pocket.  Even though I'm old, I'm still not too old to get into trouble.  Last year John said he was going to have me over for pheasant dinner. He still hasn't come through.  Perhaps it is because I told him about my involvement with the Tea Party.  He misunderstood me, apparently, for I was speaking of a Tea Party on my block, where all the ladies invited me over, in the the hopes that I might debauch and marry one of their daughters, who would only have to wait a few more years, to inherit my vast empire.

I haven't hunted in years, and don't suppose I will again, but I have many happy memories of walking those cornfields with my father and my friends.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Black-Capped Chickadee & Boreal Chickadee

Just returned from Walker, MN, on the shore of rugged and beautiful Leech Lake in northern Minnesota.  The attached photos will indicate how, after all these years, I have finally reached the pinnacle of my career, riding a float in a parade, celebrating "Ethnic Days."

It was really great fun, however, since I was joined by my good flamenco buddies Laura Horn, Chris Kozachok and Ben Abrahamson.  We performed three 45-minute stints, the last one being during the evening, at the "Lucky Moose" at the edge of town.

When we walked in, heads turned at the bar, and I was reminded of those westerns where a guy walks into the bar, and everyone stares at him.  I don't think the locals knew we were coming.  But then, to my great surprise, a girl who I had a crush on back in high school, Carrie Vitelli (now Carrie Kemp) introduced herself.

We had a great time, and she is a great lady, working as a Catholic minister (un-ordained), helping disenfranchised people everywhere to find better lives for themselves.  It was rewarding to know that at least there was one other good old fashioned liberal who came out of Sibley High School in 1956!
Black-Capped Chickadee

So I took one pleasant walk, but apart from some gulls flying over the lake, crows and robins, the only bird I saw was a black capped chickadee..which I see on my feeder every day.  

When I go north, I am always in search of the Boreal Chickadee, whom by his very name, will tell you where he hangs out. He is easily distinguished by his brown cap.

We returned home today (Sunday).  I took the soup hound out for a walk down by the track and, I'll be damned if I didn't see a flock of Solitary Vireos and an Eastern Wood Pewee!  I gotta get to bed... maybe tomorrow I'll talk about these guys.

Thanks to Ben and Laura for the photos.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

The Mergansers

This is quite a trio of colorful ducks, the Mergansers.  These  saw-billed guys are long-bodied, and ride low in the water.  They like clear, deep lakes and rivers. 

 I was recently in Duluth, discovering what a great city it is -- Zillions of places to hike, in and out of the city. I was walking south along the beach that borders the lakeside finger of land, known as Park Point. On the other side is a small harbor, with Superior, Wisconsin bordering the far shore.  I was looking at Duluth in the distance, when up popped a Red Breasted merganser, pictured here.

The Common Merganser is the largest of the Trio.  The Red Breasted is described by Sibley as being smaller and more "spindly".  It is hard for me to imagine such a thing as a "spindly" duck.  The hooded is the smallest.  All three can be seen in Minnesota... especially during migration.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Ruby-Throated Hummingbird

Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Unquestionably our smallest bird, hummingbirds can sometimes be confused with large dragonflies by non-bird people.  There are eighteen different species of this amazing little bird, but only the Ruby-Throated exists east of the Mississippi, and our immediate area of the Midwest.  The other species can be found in the West and the Southwest.  If you are close enough to one, you'll hear his rapidly beating little wings "humm," like a bee.  In fact his main source of food is the nectar from flowering plants, and small insects.

The second photo here was taken by my brother Tony just last week, while he and his wife,Carol were vacationing in the Porcupine Mountains of northern Michigan.  I thought they were roughing it in the wilderness, but then his photo indicates that he must have taken it in someone's backyard, maybe enjoying a barbecue.

Great Blue Heron & the Tricolored Heron

Great Blue Heron

We've all seen the Great Blue Heron, either standing in a shallow pond or the backwater of a river, probing for for small fish and other aquatic life.  They are our largest herons, and indeed seem much larger than they really are.  When I was a kid, and a hunter, I accidentally shot one, thinking it was a goose!!  I was only about eleven years old, and yes, I felt just terrible about it.  I went to pick it up, and it could not have weighed more that a couple of pounds...all feathers.  I continued hunting for about twenty more years, but just a little bit of the joy was taken out of hunting, especially when I would reflect back on that awful day

My father, who instilled the love of hunting in me, grew up in La Crosse, Wisconsin, along the banks of the Mississippi. Just upriver was the town of Onalaska.  When he would see one these magnificent flying birds, with his long neck curled back, he would shout out, "There goes the Onalaska Clipper."

Tricolored  Heron
While in the south of Texas, we saw a somewhat smaller and more slender cousin, the Tricolored Heron, a bird with a really long neck and bill.  He is described as a "foraging bird, very active and dashing".  I don't know about the "dashing" part, but I suppose if I were a female Heron, I might indeed be turned on by this handsome devil.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Laughing Gull

Lauging Gull
Continuing on with gulls, here is a neat little guy...smaller and more slender than the Herring or Ring Billed. 

These birds are found around open shorelines, especially in the east and the southeast.  Although not known for hanging around Walmart or Target parking lots, they do like other sorts of parking lots and municipal parks.  We found them on our way from Brownsville over to South Padre Island.

These two guys who I travel with can identify almost any bird at a glance.  They had the laughing Gull pegged right away. 

As the photo shows, he was standing right there laughing at how slow I was in establishing his identity.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Herring Gull

To Escape the heat for a couple of days, I headed to Duluth to cool off.  Even up there it was in the 90's, except when you get right down to the shoreline, which is what I did.

It is not a great time for seeing a variety of birds, as they are hunkered down raising their young.  Consequently, I decided to make a study of these two gulls.  They are about the only species of gulls on the big lake at this time of the year.  Later on, in the fall, winter and spring, one can see a wonderful variety of gulls -- the Thayer's Gull, Iceland gull,  Glaucous Gull and others.

There is a pleasant two mile walk along the Lester River shoreline just at the north edge of town.  It's a city park, actually.  Here I found them both.  They are really quite similar, with the Herring Gull being a bit larger. 

The ring around the appropriately named gull can be deceiving -- sometimes only a mature bird will display this ring.

Otherwise, both gulls look as though they have dipped their bills into a bottle of ink.  The best identifying mark I found was in the color of their legs.  The Ring-Billed gulls haves distinct yellow legs, whereas the Herring Gull has pinkish, or grayish legs.  The gulls we find around here are, most likely, the Herring Gulls.

The Kmart parking lot just off of Nicollet Avenue is a great place to find them, but the Kmarts are disappearing... like vanishing bird species.  The gulls had consequently moved over to Walmart... until, that is, just the other day, when it came to light that Walmart has been doing business with farms here in Minnesota that have been cited for cruelty to animals.  I suggested to the gulls at one of their council meetings that they might upgrade to the Target lot, especially the one over on Minnehaha Avenue in Minneapolis, which is also near a Cub and Rainbow grocery store.  But they reminded me that Target made a large contribution to the Emmer campaign during the last gubernatorial race in support of his stance on gays. (Apparently there are more gay gulls than I ever realized.)  I assured them however, that Target has apologized, and has reversed it's stance on the issue.  The gulls seemed gratified to hear this.  We'll see...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck

Maybe we'll stick with ducks for a while, for they represent water, and water is all one thinks about on these hot July days. 

As you can see, in the world of ducks, this poor guy is kind of ugly, although he doesn't know that, and from a duck's perspective, he is probably considered beautiful. 

When we first saw the duck -- in Texas earlier this year -- I was confused, as he looks so similar to the Muscovy ducks we used to have on the farm.  In reality, they are a feral duck, and the ones with the whitish heads are usually of the more domesticated stock, while the ones which are black all over, are still in the wild mode.  The domestic ones are heavier, and are more stocky.  In the wild, they prefer shallow ponds with lots of shade.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Sour Owl

This is a bit out of the purview of our regular postings, but, recently, I was reminded by an old friend of the Sour Owl.  It was a coffeehouse which predated the Ten O'clock Scholar in Dinkytown where, back in the early 60's, Bob Dylan and the rest of us lesser known musicians got our start.

I was not in this group, as I was between living in Alaska, and West Africa, as the following e mail will explain. But Steve Oleson, a gifted young flamenco guitarist was present, and after all these years, his name has come back into my life.  This is about flamenco, not birds, so you can cut out at any time.

+ + +

I graduated from the School of Forestry at the U of M in 1960, and took a six month job in Alaska.  When I came home, unsure of what lie ahead of me, I signed a contract to go to Liberia, West Africa to be the superintendent of a rubber plantation (Fireststone Tire & Rubber), where I was to remain for two years until I realized my dream of going to Spain to study flamenco.

Much like Steve, up to that point I had taught myself -- lugging my axe all the way up to Alaska to drive my bunk mates nuts.  Upon my return home, I'd have six months before leaving for Africa.  It was during this period that I discovered Steve, whose brain I picked relentlessly in pursuit of knowledge.

He was a gifted musician, and a gracious teacher.  We became good friends...and then I left for Liberia.

While I was gone, Steve was killed in an auto accident.  His wife, Ann Mossman who danced with my mother as part of the Nancy Hauser Dance company, followed through on the gypsy tradition of having his marvelous Ramirez guitar smashed and put into the grave with him.  Had I been around, I would have convinced her to give it to me!!

Tony and I appreciate Billy's accolades on our behalf, but given  lives in music, as we have been blessed with , I know Steve would have continued growing as an artist and a musician, and would have achieved great acclaim.  He never got go to Spain (as I have had the good fortune to do) and to learn the full dimensions of the craft of playing flamenco... learning to accompany dancing and singing and everything that goes with a centuries-old folk art form.   That would have been his next step.

His life was cut short, or he would have emerged as I have, now at the age of 74, as one of the few representatives of the first generation of Americans to travel to Spain to study this deceivingly complex, difficult and poorly unappreciated and misunderstood form of guitar playing.

If I had stayed in forestry, I could have retired 20 years ago!

The Gadwall

Gadwall?  'What is a Gadwall,' many of you are saying. 

Simply put, the Gadwall is a common duck...sort of like a Mallard, but without the features.  The Gadwall is what we call a "dabbling duck."  They are found in marshes and ponds throughout most of the country, and certainly in Minnesota.  They are described as wearing a "herringbone" suit. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Audubon's Oriole: Part 2

Audubon's Oriole
This oriole also exists only in Texas, and for the most part, the southern tip.  He is unmistakably an oriole, with a hooded black head (adult).  The major difference with this guy and most other orioles is that yellow replaces orange as the main color of his body.  Scott's Oriole is also yellow, but the black hood extends much further down it's chest.

It was at this point, north of McAllen, Texas, and overlooking the Rio Grande that we encountered a number of border guards.  Apparently the cartels were very active, and some innocent person on a ski-do recently got shot in a case of mistaken identity.  My friend Jim once told me a story about a time when he was down here in the same general area some years before.  He was sitting in the bushes watching a flatboat come across the Rio Grande loaded with what seemed tt be bales of something or other.  A border guy later told him he was lucky to have gotten out of there alive, for if the drug smugglers had seen him, they surely would have shot him!

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Great Kiskadee

Great Kiskadee
Finally, here he is, the bird you have all been waiting for...The Great Kiskadee!

He is a a member of the flycatcher family, and is considered a "tropical flycatcher" in that his range in the U. S. is pretty much limited to the southern tip of Texas.  He is described as stocky, short-billed, round-winged and large-headed with a heavy bill. The Great Kiskadee is slightly smaller than the American Robin.

The Tropical Parula and the Painted Bunting

Tropical Parula
As long as we are warbling, this is a warbler that I did see, not far from the Rio Grande.  They are really quite rare, as they exist mostly in Mexico and South America.  There were however, reports of one or two being spotted in this particular wildlife preserve we visited, where we also saw the Ibiis, the Least Grebe, and a number of other aquatic birds that will be discussed in future postings.

Painted Bunting
We also saw the beautiful painted bunting, an unbelievably pretty little bird.  Apparently they both enjoy similar environments. The Parula hangs out where there is Spanish moss, or halfway up in large trees. 

As we walked back to our cars, we passed a group of birders called "listers," or "head hunters."  They seem to be only interested in adding to their list.  I had just seen the bunting, and was excitedly telling them about the find, just around the corner.  They dismissed me out of hand.  "We're after the Tropical Parula."

The Colima Warbler

Colima Warbler
Well, it is finally time to talk about the Colima Warbler.  I've been avoiding this bird, which is found in the U.S. only in the Big Bend National Park, in Texas, and only at an elevation of about 7,000 feet, as one climbs up towards Emory of the highest in the Chisos Mountains in the southern part of Texas.   This is the very northern part of the bird's range, which spreads out into Mexico in equally inaccessible areas.

He is quite shy, and flits about, making him even difficult to spot once you have gotten to him.  Unfortunately, I never got to him. The afternoon before, the three of us scrambled up about a fifth of the distance, just to check things out.  As we ascended, and I was sweating and panting for breath, I noticed my two comrades hadn't even broken a sweat.  They weren't panting any more than if they had walked from your kitchen into the dining room.  Not that I didn't already know it, these guys are the hikers from hell..definitely in a different class. 

The plan was to get up at about 5 AM, and be on the trail by 6 AM, so as to be in the area of the warbler around 11 AM, when the temperature would be approaching 100 degrees.  Throughout my life, I have been known as the "bulldog"...kind of dumb, but never giving up.  And so it pained me greatly to back out of this adventure, using my recent knee replacement, asthma, blah, blah, an excuse.

The boys made the trip without me, and indeed saw the Colima Warbler.  Along the way, they encountered a couple of hikers that only went half the distance, and claimed to have seen the bird.

Just like the Repubulicans, they lied.

Enjoy the Colima Warbler...

The Glossy Ibis & the White Ibis

These strange looking birds inhabit ponds and swamps.  They forage in groups by walking slowly with heads down, probing the mud with their long, curved bills.

White Ibis

The white Ibis is only fully white when he becomes an adult.  As a juvenile, he has a lot of brown, or is mottled.

Glossy Ibis
The Glossy Ibis is dark in color, and appears to be, guess what...glossy.  You won't see them around here, except possibly in migration.
They love crustaceans, so don't let your crustaceans out of sight

The American Crow Vs. The Common Raven

Common Raven

American Crow
A good friend recently asked what the difference was between a crow and a raven.  Everyone has seen crows around these parts; a large black bird, considerably larger than a blackbird.  We don't really have ravens around here, but they flourish in the northern part of the state. 

They are considerably larger than a crow, and have a sort of rough look about them.  The have a thick bill, and a head that begs for a trim.

The call of the the crow is, of course "caw-caw-caw".  When they all get together as a group. like they do around Loring Park, they are called a "murder of crows"  Weird.  The raven, however has a much more guttural call...almost a loud croaking.  There is another, smaller raven that inhabits the plains of West Texas and Oklahoma called the Chihuahuan Raven.  He has a tiny patch of white on the nape of his neck.  Sometimes you can only see it when he puffs up his head to utter his call "ay chihuahua, ay chihuahua."

Let's just agree to call them LBB's (Little Brown Birds)

Since yesterday's posting of the English Sparrow, I have been viciously attacked from all quarters, over the question of this particular bird.   Bill Brown, who I thought was my good friend, and one of the state's leading birders contradicted me, saying in reality, the bird is a Weaver's Finch.  Even my own brother launched into me!  Consequently I turned to a dear friend, and librarian (if a librarian doesn't know, then who does?) for clarification.  Thank God she cleared this up for all to see. 

As for me...well, I never want to see one these critters again..except that there is one right outside my window.  Life can be cruel!

Unfortunately, this has set back what was to be my next posting; Crows Versus Ravens...maybe tomorrow.  Gotta go practice now.

Dein Bruder ist schon zu Hause.Es ist BOMBENSICHER ein SPATZ, und zwar ein Hausspatz – steht ja auch drunter. Wenn Du das Bild vergrößerst, siehst Du den riesigen Bart.
Wenn es ein Fink sein sollte, dann also ein Kernbeißer = hawfinch? Da käme dann wohl nur ein Kernbeißerweibchen in Frage, die Männchen sind zu bunt. Kernbeißerweibchen haben aber einen viel kräftigeren Schnabel, der außerdem hellgrau ist. Die Farben beim Weibchen sind ansonsten allerdings ähnlich. Aber der Kernbeißer ist viel, viel, viel größer als der Hausspatz. Und der riesige Bart fehlt. Die Kernbeißer sitzen ab und zu bei uns auf dem Vogelbeerbaum und fressen den Minis die Meisenknödel weg. Unfair.
Spatzen haben wir gerade zum Brüten über unserem Esszimmerfenster.

Zur Erläuterung ein Bild. Kannst vergleichen. Oder Deinen Bruder nochmal fragen. Der weiß es natürlich garantiert am besten. Allerdings ist heute Abend keiner da, der ihm das Bild ausdrucken kann….

Also glaube mir nichts J


The House Sparrow (English Sparrow)

House (English) Sparrow
Affectionately know as the "Sputzie", this is the most common of all is everywhere. You would have to be blind not to see at least one of these little buggers every day... on your front lawn, your sidewalk, your bird feeder.

They are all over Europe and Asia too.  Eight pairs of sputzies were brought here in 1850 to rid shade trees of the inch worm.  The rest is history.

This, however, is only one of the many species of sparrows that exist in North America.  There are many more, and many of these will be dealt with as our "Bird of the Day" series proceeds.

Audubon's Oriole

Audubon Oriole
As long as we are looking at Oriole's, here is another one, found only in the southern part of Texas.  This is a photo of an adult.  The juveniles have more yellow, as the black is only beginning to develop.
This bird takes his name, of course, from the great naturalist/painter, John James Audubon, one of the very first to depict the birds of North America, way back in the early 1800's.  Lacking, perhaps, the sensitivities of the modern day nature lover, he shot 'em, stuffed 'em, and painted 'em.       

The Altamira Oriole

Altamira Oriole
The name borrows from the spanish; alta, (high), mira (look!).  In other words, look high. (What else is new?)

Altamira Oriole
It seems that 80% of the birds are up high.  Being in rattlesnake country, one is always aware that while looking high, you are not looking low, where you should be looking.  There are several orioles in this part of Texas.  In these parts, mostly what we see are the neighborhood Baltimore Oriole and the Orchard Oriole.  All the orioles are beautiful birds, mixing yellow with orange and black.  The juxtaposition of these colors varies with each species.  The Altamira Oriole is the largest of the oriole family with a large bill and a short tail.  He has perhaps more black under his chin that the others, and white at the base of the primaries. 

We were standing on the banks of the Rio Grande while observing this bird.  We struck up a conversation with a fellow who had a huge telephoto lens, and was only 15 or 20 birds away from seeing and photographing all seven hundred and some birds in North America.  His other passion was rock climbing.  The guy was 60 years old, and had just scaled El Capitan in Yosemite!  He had been to Minnesota last winter looking, without success, for the Great Grey Owl.  I began to wonder what this guy did for a living to be able to devote so much time to these passions of his.  At the same time, I was beginning to realize that I was involved in a hobby for which my level of income was poorly out of sync with reality.  I might have to settle for the sparrows and robins of Bedford street.

The Fulvous and Black-Bellied Tree Ducks

Fulvous Tree Duck
Now here is a duck for you.

He is very goose-like in appearance and perhaps a little larger than a mallard, with quite a long neck.  He is generally brown in color (the Black bellied has a black belly).

Black Bellied Tree Duck

They both have a bit of white on the wings, and the Fulvous has white outer tail feathers. They love to roost in trees, and were, until recently called Fulvous and Black-bellied Whistling Ducks -- which means that besides sitting in trees, they like to whistle.

I thought my friend Dan Elsen was a strange duck!  They can be seen (except around here) grazing in open fields and swimming in shallow ponds. Their range is along the southern fringe of the U.S.

Brewer's Blackbird

A good friend of mine who lives in the Loring Park area of Minneapolis, and is also quite knowledgeable about birds recently posed a question.  She watched as a red-tailed hawk dined on what some said, was a crow.  Her thought was that it must have been a blackbird.  Who knows...I'll have to ask my good friend and top notch birder, Jim about that.  Do red-tailed hawks eat crows?  I know I have been forced to eat crow many times.  I suppose there are a number of blackbirds it could have been, or maybe even a cowbird?

Brewer's Blackbird
The Brewer's blackbird is the size of a robin, slender with a longish tail, and mostly black, but with that haunting yellowish eye again.  Where do those yellow eyes come from?  We saw many of these guys in Texas, which is their winter range, but they do enjoy Minnesota in the summer and probably love Loring Park, which, due to the pleasant pond with it's accompanying aquatic plants is also home to the Red-wing blackbird.  Look for the Brewer's on your front lawn in the fall.  They go after those acorns from the oak trees, as do the grackles and other blackbirds.

The Least Grebe

Least Grebe
I guess they call him that since he is the smallest of the Grebe family.

The Grebes are small water birds who forage for tiny aquatic animals at the bottom of ponds and lakes.  The have lobed feet, and can dive very quickly out of sight.  The Least Grebe is specific to the southern region of Texas.  He is a gray, drab little bird with a sharp bill.  He is much smaller than a duck.
About the most exciting thing you can say about him is that he has yellow eyes.

When I first saw this little bird, I thought of a turd bobbing up and down in the water.

Pied-billed Grebe
The Pied-billed Grebe, on the other hand, is a bit larger, and a little more exciting, with a black throat patch and a ring around it's bill.  This guy can be found all over Minnesota. You have no doubt seen them when driving by a small lake.  You will ask yourself, is that a duck? Something tells you, however, that it is not.  You might also be seeing a coot, a bird we will delve into at a later time.

The Plain Chachalaca

Plain Chachalaca
This crow-sized bird with a long tail exists only at the very southern tip of Texas, near the Rio Grande.

It is a very raucous bird, constantly squawking it's name.  Sometimes there will be two or three of them carrying on at the same time, filling the area with their sound.  The bird is a depressing brown in color, and can be seen either on the ground, or up in a tree.  We almost stepped on the egg of one of these birds...looked exactly like a chicken egg.

It was here, I suspect, that I left some items in a drawer at the motel, including my "Law and Order," and "Paco de Lucia" T-shirts."  The boys had to put up with a one-T-shirt partner. Towards the end of the trip, the T-shirt was able to stand up on it's own, and walk around the room like the Plain Chachalaca.