Saturday, June 14, 2008

Relatively Speaking

You think you know your siblings fairly well, until you discover something totally unexpected.

Sure, you "keep in touch" through the occasional family gatherings, holidays, phone calls, etc. and why wouldn't you? You know certain things like; what they do for employment, the names of their children, their birthdays, what they may "collect" in the way of a favorite thing, and so on, but not everything about them.

In the "old days" (like the ones I came from) you grew up together, ate the same foods at the dinner table, listened to the same music on the family car radio, and watched the same programs on the "rabbit-eared" television. However, insert the passage of time, add a modicum of distance, and stir in a generous helping of real life, and you tend to develop unique differences. So for me, imagine my surprise and elation the day I discovered that sister Lisa (200 miles to the north) and I had been pursuing the same hobby (sport, passion, crazed obsession) over the past several years, and neither one knew about the other. Of course I am referring to birds. It was a moment like finding a close-to-the-door parking spot at the mall on the first trip around the lot; you are thrilled at your good fortune and readily pull in thanking your lucky stars. I don't even actually remember how or exactly when I discovered our common bond, (and birders, you'll appreciate this) it was as if I were the only kid at the nut-free lunch table, and suddenly I had a good friend slide in next to me. I am not weird after all! (well, at least there's now two of us dining together)

What's the point of this blog entry? I'm not sure there is one other than to share with those that read it, how much more fun it can be when you find an unexpected kindred spirit. Someone who doesn't think its strange when you want to get up at 5:00 AM to catch the "dawn chorus," to stand with your neck craned upward staring for minutes at a time with a smile on your face, to interrupt a conversation with a, "Did you just hear that?" to search for a small beat-up blue trailer on the lake front because someone said they saw a pair of Blue-winged Teals there, and to put a little check mark in a field guide after shouting a whoop!

So, my advice to anyone who adopts these quirky mannerisms, is to find their own kindred spirit (or two) and share your joy. Call someone when you spot a Chestnut-sided Warbler who will care, It'll do your heart good.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Birds and the Bees

As President of the Enderis Park Bird Watching Club, I very much enjoy the fascinating birding programs that the Program Committee assembles for the club's bi-monthly meetings. The topics covered are and have been very diverse and wide-ranging. (If you'd like to see a listing of all of them, visit this link HERE) But June 5Th, 2008's program was all together new territory for a "bird" watching club; The Birds and the Bees.

Steven Fronk - Bee Man

Now one might conjure up all sorts of (PG and up) ratings for one such program, but I assure you, it is unnecessary. The focus of the evening was on the actual "insect," the bee. Honey Bees to bee more exact. EPBWC member, Steven Fronk himself a beekeeper, brought many of the tools of the trade to the Enderis Park Fieldhouse (Our usual meeting place) for show and tell. The attendees assembled were totally enthralled with the facts and figures of bee-keeping, and Steve was a real "honey" and unbee-lievable story teller as he guided the group through the lifecyle of honey bees and their marvelous product. He also brought in a DVD from NOVA on the life of bees called "Tales from the Hive" and shared it, after his talk.

The highlight of the evening was samples of his bee's work...golden honey! Steve also had a small gift jar of the sweet nectar for each attendee, from his bee-utiful bees, and an extra special honey gift box for the president (me). I could fill this blog with all sorts of facts and figures regarding the keeping of bees, but lets face know how to "Google" too and why not? I will leave you this one nugget of gleaned information to remember; bees need to visit about 2 million flowers to make just 1 pound of honey! AMAZING!!

Mr. Thunander raises a toast to the bee!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Shhhhh... I'm Wooking for Warblers

The spring of 2008 revealed a feathered plethora of new and different wood warblers for me. My favorite spot to visit is the woods next to a small section of the Menomonee River along a section of paved road known as the "parkway." If you are familiar at all with Milwaukee and the suburban area of Wauwatosa, WI. You will know when I say Center St. and the Parkway, just what I am referring to.

I begin my frequent visits to this little known "gem" of the birding world in the middle of March and keep going back as often as I can to (at least) the end of May. This year was no exception. As soon as the snow was down enough for me to tromp to the fridgid river's edge, I was already scouring the area for what ever I could find. This year as last, I was rewarded with my first visitor of the year; a Winter Wren. This little sprite of the woods is quick and crafty. If you intend on seeing it at all, you need to creep along the river bank and be vewy, vewy, qwiet... The small brown and tan bird with the upright tail and jerky movements will delight anyone as they watch its antics in the leafless brush piles along the water.

If you listen closely you may hear the frequent guttural squawking of the Belted Kingfisher as it flies overhead following the river's pathway, or the croak of a Great Blue Heron (along with its large shadow) as it sweeps over your position. The species list of "regular" inhabitants to this urban oasis (crowded next to a golf course and residential neighborhood) is extensive and impressive; Mallard, Canadian Geese, Red-winged Blackbird, Cedar Waxwing, Black-capped Chickadee, White and Red Breasted Nuthatch, Northern Yellow-Shafted Flicker, Downy and Hairy Woodpecker, Mourning Dove, House Wren, American Goldfinch, House Finch, Northern Cardinal, Wood Duck and American Robin are the majority of the semi-permanent birds which one can see almost any time of year.

Ruby and Golden Crowned Kinglet, Least Flycatcher, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Rough-winged Swallow, Eastern Kingbird, Wilson's Warbler, Black and White Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Prarie Warbler, and Palm Warbler begin to migrate through starting the beginning of May. In addition, you may see the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Brown Creeper and Black-throated Green Warbler as I did this particular spring. So, bring your binoculars and trusty guide for a fantastic little (easy to access) birding hot spot. I can hardly wait until fall!