Thursday, May 22, 2008

Hiking with warblers

Following the Superior Trail Race on Saturday, I stayed up at Mom and Dad’s place for a few extra days to relax, recover, and take in some of the surroundings. I was fortunate that the weather was decent; meaning, no rain (or snow!) and relatively decent temperatures in the 50’s, which made it quite conducive for outdoor activities.

Yours truly, hiking in a creek bottom



The bird watching was nothing short of fantastic. I spent every day out in the woods, usually once in the morning and once in the afternoon for a couple hours at a time. It is my contention that the spring migration was really just getting started up in that part of the state, so new birds were arriving all the time.

In the woods behind Mom and Dad’s place, I saw fourteen different species of warblers over the course of the weekend. The most exciting find was a new “life lister,” the bay-breasted warbler. Dad and I were lucky to encounter this guy. The bird was docile enough that we were able to observe him for more than 20 minutes. What a gorgeous creature!

A couple of other interesting sighting included the dapper black-throated blue warbler. I have seen this guy before, but never at Mom and Dad’s place, so that was very exciting. Also, Cape May warblers frequented a couple of birch trees that were dripping with sap. I learned that these birds in particular enjoy the sap from trees and have been occasionally known to stop at hummingbird feeders to drink the nectar. Awesome and colorful birds!

The chickadees were happy to see me



Norris and Noreen are well, as are the roving band of chickadees. They kept us company in the woods, and also gave us the added benefit of attracting the warblers (because everyone loves hanging out with the chickadees!). Noreen was particularly amusing, as she has grown much more assertive since my last visit. On one occasion, both Norris and Noreen were sitting in my hand arguing with each other, and all the while a chickadee was sitting on my shoulder patiently waiting for the domestic squabble to subside so he could pick up his sunflower seed. These little guys and girls are a treat; as are the feisty red squirrels who visit us along the trail!

The red squirrels know where to go for a handout



But not all was about bird watching and hiking. There was plenty of food and drink as well, especially over at my brother and sister-in-law’s place where the garage was turned into a makeshift brewery on Sunday! Dad and I stopped over to check out the goings on, and we discovered my brother and some friends boiling a kettle of what will eventually be India pale ale. The operation was a fairly simple one, with a giant kettle placed on top of a propane burner, and we got a quick overview of the process. The beer smelled great as it was boiling, so hopefully the finished product will be equally as good. Save me a sip, guys!

Brewing in the garage



And, we were fortunate enough to show up when some awesome burgers were being grilled, and venison loin was being smoked, to feed the hungry brewers. So we got a little lunch out of the deal, too! :)

A grilled treat while watching beer being brewed!



Of course, Mom and Dad fed me well also. Chicken, asparagus, and spinach pasta, salmon and tomato stir-fry, grilled brats from Knaus Sausage House in Kimball, Dad's homemade venison stew, and even a Sunday prime rib. (Mmmm...prime rib...) Wow, it is good I got in all that running and hiking to work off some calories!

Bratwurst and sweet corn; a plate that just screams "summer"



Beef; it’s what’s for dinner



A great long weekend up north; I completed a brutally difficult trail race, hiked all over the woods, saw a huge variety of birds, learned about home brewing, and ate like a king. Not a bad vacation!

Until next time,

Jean
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