Monday, March 28, 2011


Recently a friend/photographer, who goes by the handle "evilbear" (have no idea why) posted an example of turning a rather nothing photo into a interesting image by using PhotoShop methods. In the mean time I've been sitting here trying to come up with a new Blog of my own. Evil's piece was just enough to get the coals of imagination glowing. Out on the edge of town there is a barn that is slowly crumbling away due to neglect and age. The ravages of Wisconsin's harsh winters, blistering summers and cheese breath has finally taken its toll on old "Barney". Over the past couple of years I watched "Barney" deteriorate a little more each month. I really wished there was something I could do to comfort this old guy. I'm guessing that "Barney" is probably somewhere around the same age as me and if I were to fall into such a sad state of repair, I would hope some one would come to my aid. Physically there isn't much I can do to fix up "Barney" but maybe I could restore some of his dignity photographically. I have spent considerable time researching the structure itself as well as the surrounding foliage, atmospheric pressure, ground water table and global warming. Armed with a brain full of useless information I set out to bring "Barney" back to life. I replaced as many planks as possible, got the trees to sprout new leafs, greened up the grass and weeds and even got rid of that old horse trailer. The road in the foreground was pretty distracting so I modified that to one lane. I had considered putting another coat of paint on him but I ran out of red paint when Jo and I went out on the town the other night. All in all I think "Barney" turned out fairly well but, I'm afraid if too many "Barney" owners see the results, I may be up to my manure spreader in requests for cosmetic barn surgery. Oh, yeah! Here's how "Barney" turned out!!!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Bird watching?

With a break in the late winter weather it seemed like a good time to leave my paperback friend from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Rachel Porter, and strike out on my own in search of local critters who are emerging from their winter hideouts. Preparations for these little excursions is quite a deal, charging batteries, finding blank video tapes (yeah, I'm going to try taking videos this year) and, the really big deal, filling up the Honda with fuel. I have paid less for a used car than what a tank of gas costs at today's prices. The warmer temperatures should have started to melt the ice on The River so I headed West to check out "Ole Muddy". I decided to cross The River in Prairie du Chien and head North on the Iowa/Minnesota side. Here and there a Hawk settled on a telephone pole would eye me as I drove by hoping that I might provide lunch by bumping off a squirrel or raccoon. The River wasn't nearly as thawed as I had hoped. There were Eagles around but not nearly the number that I had expected. The leaf-bare trees allowed for good views of nests (aeries) that stood ready for this year's family. Now and then, above the high bluffs, a pair or "Baldies" would perform their midair courting rituals. As I crossed back to the Wisconsin side, I slowed down to check an area that, when open water was present, it attracted hundreds of Eagles. Not today. Although there were a half dozen or so roosting in nearby trees seemingly waiting for the buffet to open for the season. All in all I saw a few Eagles including one who sat perched in a tree above me as I tried to shoot pictures of some swans and geese in a little creek that snaked its way through a swampy backwater area. I promptly became entertainment for the Eagle as he watched me fumble around grabbing for cameras while trying to quietly open the car door and twist myself into a position where I could get a clear shot of him. (I anticipated something like the photo at the beginning of this post) He managed to contain his laughter long enough to give me a "wing flip" and lift off to the safety of a heavily treed area. As I sheepishly slipped back into the driver's seat I looked around to make sure that only the geese and swans were witnesses to my exhibit of photojournalism at its best. Needless to say, I have neither a shot of the Eagle or the geese and swans. The Eagle hunt may have been a little disappointing but as I proceeded to the South, I discovered still another interesting species , the Flannel Shirted, Rubber Booted Fisherguy. Normally you find open water around dams and power plants. This attracts fish which, in turn, attracts eagles, gulls and other waterfowl AND . . . fishermen. This year is no different. I guess there's some sort of fishing season open now.

Not that interesting? Consider this, open water - dozens of guys in boats hoping to bring home dinner. Now let's go down the river a couple of hundred yards where we find another group of fishing guys sitting on plastic buckets staring down little holes in a sheet of slowly disappearing ice.

They're hoping to bring home dinner too! This scene replayed and replayed as I continued the rest of the way down The River. Open water - boats, frozen water - buckets. In some cases the boat guys were close enough to wash a wake across the bucket guy's domain. Interestingly I only saw this taking place on the Wisconsin side not on the Iowa/Minnesota side. I'm sure there's a tale to be told there but, I don't know what it is. Ironically after driving over two hundred miles, as I spotted the welcome sight of the Fennimore skyline I noticed a graceful image soaring overhead. I know the birds and animals have a way of communicating with each other but, do you suppose that the "Tree Eagle" had tweetered his cousin in Fennimore just to bug me. I'm not sure if it's related or not but, moments later a large white splat hit the windshield directly in front of me. Maybe with the price of gas, I might be better off sitting on my deck waiting for the Eagles to come looking for me. I even have a plastic bucket to sit on.

Monday, March 7, 2011

On a mission?

No posts for almost a month? Normally February is the dullest month of the year as Winter is gasping and spewing its last bit of "Crappy" weather, the landscape is slowly turning to mud and leftover black snow, the wildlife is in a state of transition preparing for the seasons ahead. My mind had moved into a dull, crappy mode as well when I received a call to action. With the help of the wife of a photographer friend in New York, I became involved in a number of adventures during the past month or so. I was introduced to an agent of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who allowed me to accompany her on some interesting escapades . Being a lover of the outdoors and native wildlife, I eagerly followed agent Rachel Porter as she dealt with poachers and smugglers of exotic and endangered creatures. We spent time on a Blackfoot Indian (Native American) Reservation in Montana tracking Grizzly Bear poachers, we rubbed elbows with sleazy Parrot smugglers in the"Little Havana" section of Miami then hustled off to the Louisiana swamps to investigate the illegal "Gator" skin trade. Well its been a great, and very busy, month and I had the opportunity to visit places that I wouldn't normally see. I haven't experienced anything quite like this since I accompanied a English guy named Bond back in the sixties. Yeah, you got it., I spent most of the last month curled up, surrounded by my clock collection (now reaching about fifty in number) reading a series of books about a Fish and Wildlife Agent written by Jessica Spreat. This has really helped me pass the time as I await the birth of a new season to brighten up the local landscape. I fact that I sat down and actually read a book might not seem too significant except, if you know me, you know that reading books is far, far from the top of list of things I like to do. I must thank George for introducing me to Jessica (although I have never met George face to face we have talked on the phone and communicated electronically for over twenty years without ever meeting). And, I must thank Jessica for allowing me to witness some pretty chilling adventures. I should say that she allowed me to experience these adventures. I've heard and felt buzzing insects of the Louisiana swamps, I shivered from the icy wind of a Montana winter, melted in the heat of a Miami summer afternoon, dripped sweat in the searing sun of the Mojave Desert, and enjoyed the pleasant spray of the surf on Oahu's North Shore. All in the comfort of my cozy little clock room. I still have four or five more locations to explore with Rachel. That should easily bring me through the final winter blahs. Well I'm off to round up some more bad guys in California, Tennessee, Texas, Georgia, and New Jersey (New Jersey???). After all this stimulation I should be ready to get out there and really do some bang up wildlife investigating this Spring and Summer. I must admit that, with the price of gas going up so ridiculously fast, I may have to be content doing my wildlife exploration right here in my clock place with some good books on the subject. For sure I'm going to, at least, need books with lots of pictures.