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.