Thursday, December 31, 2009

First Christmas Bird Count and a Lifer!

I went on my first Christmas Bird Count on Monday. Deb my Minnesota birding/blogging friend from Sand Creek Almanac invited me to join her group in Pine County where she lives. Since the day would be starting very early, I drove up the afternoon before and stayed in a hotel so I could get to the meeting spot by 0700. Steve Weston and Jim Ryan, two very experienced Minnesota birders were the other two members of our group. I can't remember the counts but I believe we came up with 20 bird species. We spotted a flock of about 50 White-winged Crossbills eating cones in a tamarack bog. A single Snow Bunting right outside the car gave me the best look I've ever had of this beautiful bird. We saw many species that I expected we'd see: Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Red and White-breasted Nuthatches, Goldfinches, Purple Finches, Black-capped Chickadees, Starlings and about a bazillion Blue Jays. Bald Eagles, crows and many Ravens were counted. One farm house on our route had three surprises. The first was a female Red-winged Blackbird, very common in summer but unusual in winter. The second was a male Cardinal. Cardinals aren't very common that far north in Minnesota. The third bird was a total surprise. Jim spotted a Towhee fly away from a platform feeder to a dogwood thicket. Both Steve and Deb were able to get looks at the female. I missed it! By field marks it was id'd as a female Eastern Towhee- VERY unusual here in winter. I wasn't able to get my binoculars on her. I was disappointed but I asked Deb to write down the directions back to the farm and I made plans to return the next day. It was a fun day of birding but I knew I wouldn't want to drive two and a half hours back home after a long day so I went back to the hotel. Actually I really wanted to watch the Vikings play Chicago on Monday Night Football! I was exhausted and falling asleep before half-time. I was just about to turn off the light (the Vikings were losing anyway) when an enormous bus-load of high school hockey players checked into the rooms on both sides AND across the hall from mine! It sounded like stampeding elephants and slamming doors untilpast midnight! Grrr...
Tuesday morning I checked out and headed up to Hasty Brook about 25 miles away. I planned to fill the feeders and have a look around. I was thrilled to see that our Good Neighbor Mark had plowed out our driveway! I quickly filled the feeders and hustled back the the warmth of the car- it was six below zero outside! I plugged the directions from Deb into my Garmin and headed back to the Towhee farm to see if I could get a look. It was COLD waiting for that bird with the window open and the car turned off. I spent and hour and a quarter sipping coffee and trying to keep my toes and fingers from going numb when finally the Towhee popped up in the brush! I got my binoculars on her to get a good look and then started firing off pictures. I was so excited to see the Towhee. I've never seen one here in Minnesota. My lifer was last spring in West Virginia with the Flock.
I headed home looking forward to seeing how the photos turned out. When I got them on my laptop I got out my Sibley to help me reinforce the field marks. The longer I looked the more I thought the bird looked like a Spotted Towhee and not an Eastern. I sent the pictures off to my birding mentor Hap in New Hope to see what he thought. Hap agreed! It was a Spotted Towhee!! LIFER!! I forwarded the photos to Steve, Deb and Jim and all agreed it was a Spotted Towhee- a Pine County record in Minnesota!!
My patience and frozen toes paid off!! My last lifer of 2009 was the Spotted Towhee.
I wonder what 2010 will bring?
I hope you all have good health and much happiness and peace in the New Year and
I thank you all for your friendship and kindness here. yYu've all made this blogging adventure so much fun.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Grouse in the Woods

Art and I were on the road at 0730 headed north to Hasty Brook. Last month the creek was still open but today it was frozen solid and coated with fresh snow.
With the leaves gone and snow on the ground we could see the rolling contour of the land across the creek. I caught a glimpse of quick movement on the ground...

The snow dusting the spruce trees along the hill made the view look just like a Christmas card. Maybe one day one of those trees will be decorated for Christmas.
Again, movement- up in a tree--
A Ruffed Grouse!! She was up in a birch eating the catkins. I think she heard me scramble for my camera. We see Ruffed Grouse up there nearly every trip but it's so hard to see them before they see us. They're such pretty birds! After a bit I saw another female on the ground. She was walking slowly as they do but then took off running in a burst of speed. Then I spotted a male chasing!. He was displaying for her! I've never seen a male with his tail up and fanned and his black ruff all fluffed and shaking. At one point he hopped up onto a fallen log. He continued his dance trying to impress the two females.

I took about fifty pictures of the male and got this one to keep. It's not perfect but considering the distance and dense brush I'm pretty happy. I didn't see or hear any drumming.

I watched the three grouse for over an hour moving around the hill directly across the creek.

Can you see the female in the birch? They move slowly out to the tips of the branches to get at the catkins on the very ends. It was overcast and gently snowing all day and by mid-afternoon the light was all ready fading. I thought my eyes were playing tricks on me as I began to see movement all over the hill. Through my binoculars I counted nine grouse on the ground, in the brush and up in the birch trees.

The lighting is poor but here are five grouse near the top of a large birch across the creek.

I had packed up my camera and was checking the lock on the patio door when I saw this grouse. It was at eye level in a birch on the near side of the creek, about twenty feet away. I ran for my camera and quietly slid the door open for just a few more pictures.
(I had to run the ISO up to 800 so it's a little grainy.)
My trip list included a mature Bald Eagle and two Rough-legged Hawks.
It took the Chickadees all of five minutes to find me filling the feeders. Within an hour White and Red-breasted Nuthatches were zipping about. A small flock of Redpolls showed up shortly before we left. I haven't seen any Pine Siskins since the beginning of summer. Two pairs of Hairy Woodpeckers were vocalizing and chasing each other. Isn't it early for them to be pairing up?
I'll have to look that up.
The Vikings lost to the Carolina Panthers.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Eleventh Eagle

Art and I made a day trip up to Hasty Brook on Saturday. Within two miles of our house in the Twin Cities I saw three Bald eagles and five Red-tailed Hawks. It promised to be a good day. By the end of the trip up I'd lost track of the Red-tailed Hawks, there were so many along the highway. This is a picture of the eleventh Bald Eagle. I spotted him on the ground about a half mile south of Hasty. I wonder what brought this enormous eagle down to sit in a pasture. There were several crows circling above but there was also a road-kill dear carcass nearby. As big as they look in the sky, this one looked enormous sitting in the grass. I used the truck as a blind, exiting the passenger side away from the eagle. As I crept around the front of the truck I was able to take many (about 50) photos of the eagle. This was the best. Later in the day as I was walking along the creek side back at Hasty I heard a pair of Ravens croaking above me. As I looked up I saw them harassing my twelfth Bald Eagle of the day. Not bad.
We didn't see any of the Wild Turkeys on Saturday- not even tracks. I wonder if all the deer hunting has them laying low. It was a pretty chilly day but Art ran a propane heater upstairs and with the ceiling insulated it was really quite cozy. The plumber had been out and the shower, toilet, sink/vanity and electric water heater are installed. I can't wait until we can get the electricity hooked up to everything in the spring. (Hear that Richard?) :)
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Skywatch Friday: The Skies are Always Sweeter

From the balcony at Hasty Brook, after a long day of gray sky and rain, first one glorious rainbow and then another.
Look for more Skywatch Friday posts here.
Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

When Wild Turkeys ATTACK!!! (sort of...)

Thanks to Art for being such a good sport letting me post this video of him being a goofus.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Has it Really Been a Month?

Sorry for the lack of posts this past month. No excuses, I'll just catch up.

Art and the kids had the flu last week, fevers, aching muscles, cough and sore throat. The whole works. They all seem to be on the mend. I'm not sure why but I didn't get it. Thank God.
A few weeks ago I got to spend a morning birding with "Hap in New Hope." For the most part birding was slow but the conversation was wonderful. Hap brought along a great photo album of many of the rare birds that he's seen here in Minnesota over the years. Any time that I can spend with Hap is special and I can be sure that I'm going to learn something good.
Thanks Hap! I hope we can go birding again soon.
We have snow. On the ground.
My mad knitting skilz that Ruthie taught me are getting dusty. I finished my green dishcloth without too many bumps and loops (not part of the pattern!) I did find some pretty yarn at the thrift store last Friday and I hope to get back on track. I need to crank out a few posts first!~~~~
Canada Geese are flocking by the hundreds in the corn fields near home. I scan every flock hoping this will be the flock hiding a Cackling Goose. No luck yet...
I've applied for a 911 emergency address for Hasty Brook.
An address. That makes it real.
On our last trip to Hasty the siding and roof were on. We talked to the builder last week and the well is in! The plumber should be out soon to install the bathroom fixtures. Then we need to get electricity to the pump and we'll have running water!! We'll need to buy a water heater over the winter so we can run the shower next spring. I immagine showering with well water would be brisk.
I love it! I saw my first Great Blue Heron sneaking up along the creek. I'd heard them there before and they've flown over but it was the first in the "yard."

The view from the drive in to our place. Both garage doors are installed now.
You can see my spotting scope on the balcony. It's just a pefect spot for me to watch the creek and all the life around it. I'd like to find some kind of mount to attach to the railing so I don't have to have the tripod up there. Space is limited on the balcony and the tripod takes up a lot of it.

Here is the view of our new building from near the road. The clearing just ahead is the septic mound. This was the only site on our land that met the 150 foot set back (from the creek) required by the county. This area and the trees around it seems to be a popular evening roost spot for the wild turkeys up there. The big tom likes to do his strutting dance back and forth across the mound.

Isn't this a great spot to sip coffee and watch the world go by? The maples were just beginning to turn. We won't be able to go back up there until October 23rd. I hope the leaves aren't all gone by then.

Backing up from the chair, on the left you can see the stairway up from the garage.

Under the dormer oposite the stairs, we'll have a small kitchen. You can see the pipes coming up through the floor where the sink and counter will go.

Across the whole back we plan to biuld a wall to separate off a big bedroom. (15x32) Since the walls on the ends of this room are only 4 feet high, we plan to put up walls to create storage space on either end. We can't decide if we should make this space into two bedrooms. We have all winter to decide how to finish off this space. We'll also need to make a decsion about heating the building. We had the slab built with the pipes for in-floor heating but have not had the boiler installled. We'll wait until closer to the time when we can live there year-round. It will serve as our cabin for several years until our kids are grown and we are able to build a home at Hasty Brook.
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ruthie and Lynne Take on Wausau

Here we are!! Ruthie and I are having a blast in Wausau, Wisconsin. We birded two parks today including Rib Mountain State Park where we took this silly picture.
Scroll down to see my personal best Turkey Vulture photograph.
I'm thinking of submitting it to WildBird Magazine. Amy?

What do you think??

We haven't found Julie Z. or Debby Kaspari yet. We'll try again tomorrow.
I need to keep this post short-
Ruthie's teaching me to knit!!
This is Lynne, Hasty Knitter signing off!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Recent Hasty Brook Birds

There's not much time for text for this post as I'm leaving in a while for my road trip to Wausau with Ruthie. I've got a stack of bird photos from our trips up to Hasty this summer so I thought I'd just post them all together. This mature Bald Eagle is actually the last photo I took two weeks ago when we were there last. He cruised just at tree top level past the balcony.

I'm calling this little guy a Least Flycatcher. I am admittedly poor at identifying flycatchers so if I'm wrong, help me out.

When I took this picture of the Black and White Warbler I didn't even realize there were two birds in the view.

Here's an immature Bald Eagle flying over the yard.

The hummers liked the clover better than my feeder.

"Dueling finches!"

We have many Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers breeding at Hasty.

I finally got a picture of the Golden-winged Warblers breeding at Hasty. I've seen them for three summers but this is my first photo. It's not a great shot but I'm happy to have it. This bird spent a lot of time hanging upside down checking out clumps of dried leaves for insects. When I looked it up in my Peterson guide, that behavior was listed as characteristic of this warbler.

Chestnut-sided warblers are very common breeders at Hasty. They seem to be very curious birds and are easy to pish in for a closer look. In fact, this bird sat a long time letting me take pictures, then launched himself right at me landing only about two feet away checking me out!

These Sandhill Cranes were about a quarter mile from Hasty but last visit we had three Sandhills fly over the camper. I've heard them down by the creek several times but have never seen them. Maybe with our new view from the balcony I'll get a look.

White-throated Sparrows breed at Hasty but last visit the numbers were way up. Are they starting show up from the north? This one is shy.

It was only last summer that I was finally able to hear Red-eyed Vireos and identify them by sound. Now they seem to be everywhere up there. They are another bird that seems to be curious about pishing.

Well, that's it. Time to finish my packing for the ROAD TRIP! We'll have wifi at the hotel so I hope to post from there.
Have a good weekend everyone!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Pull Up a Chair

I worked all of Labor Day weekend but we were up at Hasty the weekend before. Most all of the siding was up as was the decking for the balcony. The weather was lovely- warm but not hot during the days but chilly at night. In fact it got down into the 30's every night we were up there. I got up early one morning, made a pot of coffee and brought it up to the balcony to watch the woods wake up. Mist was rising from the creek and the sun shining through it gave it life. The white spots in the bare birch branches on the photo are big spider webs coated in dew. The Wild Turkey Gang was chuckling on the ground below the balcony, a Pileated Woodpecker called from across the creek and several Turkey Vultures were floating toward the south. I wish you all could have joined me!
I've got a few more pictures to post tomorrow showing the progress on our building. It's really coming along! I also have to pack my bags tomorrow because Ruthie and I are going on a road trip! We're going to Wausau, Wisconsin for the weekend to see Julie Zickefoose and her wonderful artwork at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum. It's going to be a blast!
Posted by Picasa

Friday, September 04, 2009

International Vulture Awareness Day

Tomorrow is International Vulture Awareness Day. I wish I had time to write a post beautifully singing the praises of vultures. Instead, here's a photo of a gorgeous Turkey Vulture floating past our balcony at Hasty Brook last weekend. All of you who know me even a little know of my passion for Turkey Vultures. I've taken more than a little heckling about my love for TUVUs. I don't care. They are simply magnificent. I love their physical form; crinkly red skin on their heads, large intelligent eyes, pearly white beak, silver lined wings. There is no other bird that can compare to them in flight as they hang effortlessly on thermals. While others watch for warblers to arrive in the spring, I am thrilled to see the the first Turkey Vultures return.
They draw my eyes to the sky and make my heart sing.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, August 24, 2009

Turkey Chuckles

There's a gang of five Wild Turkeys that live in the area in and around our place up at Hasty. I call them a gang because they've been known to chase our construction guys around the site. They seem particularly possessive of our yard and driveway. Last month when Art and I were up there Art heard them clucking and chuckling outside the camper. I started taking photos through the screen door but moved quietly out the door to stand about ten feet from them. This male in particular was so engrossed in pecking at the chrome on the bottom of Art's truck that he didn't mind my being so close. He'd make his funny mumbling noises, looking from every angle and then would haul off and smack his beak into the truck. Clang! Others in the gang crawled under the truck looking for the rival. You can see one peeking under the truck and one under the truck looking back. I think the one by the driveway is the look-out. The big guy in the middle puffed himself up, spread his tail feathers and dropped his wings in indignation.
The nerve of that truck-turkey!
Posted by Picasa

Construction Part Two

August 1, 2009

Art and I made a day trip up north to talk to the builder and look around. The slab was in!

This angle is from our current campsite, roughly where we'd like to build a house some day. We had hoped to build the house shell this summer but had to change plans. Building a house would have required new home financing and we would have had to have the house, inside and out, nearly completed within a year. We wanted to do some of those jobs like finishing the kitchen, baths, flooring, wiring etc. over time and we didn't want to spend that much money in so short a time. So, after much thought, we abandoned the plans of building a house for right now. We could build a garage though. We had been approved as part of our variance, to build a 32X32 garage with a maximum height of 25 feet. The garage would be Art's dream garage with lots of space for building whatever he wanted. I wanted a bathroom with shower so he could clean up before coming back to the house (in the future...). I also wanted a little loft area for a workshop/office for him. We'd add a little cantilevered balcony for me to watch over Hasty Brook. It's all we talked about last winter. We wanted to make the most of the space we were allowed to build. I hoped we could use some of the garage level as a relaxing living space over the next several years. Then Art got the idea to enlarge the loft area to a second story. Using an inexpensive software package (by Better Homes and Gardens- $60 at Costco) Art put together the plans keeping in mind our 25 foot height limit. We'll have plenty of room for a small kitchen area, a long bedroom (or two smaller-haven't decided yet) and a good sized living area facing the balcony and my Hasty Brook.

This is our future bathroom- sink, stool and shower. The red tubes are for the in-floor heating for Art's garage so he can eventually be out there all winter. We won't install the boiler for the heating until later but it'll be all ready to go.

Here's the view from the garage toward the septic tank and mound. Tommy seeded the area and in two short weeks the grass has taken hold and it looks pretty nice. Wouldn't this be a nice spot for wildflowers? I've been grabbing up wildflower packets (on clearance!). Should I spread them this fall or wait until spring?

Before the rain drove us away Art and I laid down some long, skinny aspen poles to give me an idea of what the usable space will be like on the upper floor. Yes, Richard, it was lots bigger than I expected! My vision of this space changed and I could see that there was room for a kitchen area and sleeping area too.

On our next trip up: walls!