"Wherever I go and wherever I am, I find I should be somewhere else."

Sunday, August 19, 2018

To Cross a Fox

Cross Foxes is a 5 star restaurant at the foot of a mountain in Wales that is apparently dog friendly.  It is called "a dining extravaganza in a fantastic setting."  Did I just return from Wales?  Did I visit my acquaintance Harry Holland, a famous artist in Cardiff?  Although, it seemed like I traveled 6 time zones, sadly, I have never been to Wales so the answer is "no."

But...I did experience a cross fox, the four footed critter.

The Cross Fox is a mutation of the red fox, mostly seen in the boreal forests on Canada.  This was where I was and as I sat in line at the Canadian Customs line, a cross fox came out of the forest to look at us and defying rules on cameras, I snapped a quick shot of the beautiful creature harvested for its unique fur.

It was a typical week of pike fishing, birding, and having an adventure.  There was a rare Greater Black hawk in Maine to chase but this trip had been set year's ago so there was no second thoughts on that, Ontario was on.  Not everything is a seaplane awaited to take us northwest from Armstrong Ontario

On Sunday the 12th I luckily knocked off item #121 on my bucket list.  I drove completely around Smoothrock Lake, making a 35 mile or so odyssey in a 16 foot boat with a 20 horsepower motor,something I had never done since I first came there in 1982.  We caught some nice walleyes cruising around and saw some nice views.  It was my longest boat ride since 1991 when my wife and I crazily drove a 14 foot boat 100 miles down Lake Powell to see Rainbow bridge actually knocking off two buck list items, oddly both having nothing to do with the journey or the monument, and both incidental
#2 Catching a 1lb bluegill and #9 catching a 2lb crappie,both under the dock at the trail to the famous natural arch

Besides completing a life goal, I also caught some fish....

I saw some birds
Gray Jay

Baby loon with parent

Ruffed grouse on a cabin roof

Red eyed vireo

I also saw some "good"bugs:

A common branded skipper

One of the northernmost  reported to the bug site, BAMONA

Aphrodite fritillary

I saw some fabulous scenery, before a nearby forest fire filled the air with burning smoke and making days seem like dusk and dusk resembling nights

Sea Monster Bay from my book..."Confessions of a Pike Whisperer" absent this year of anything scary including large fish

The falls on the west side of the lake

The falls on the east side of the lake at Funger Lake

Trophies were handed out:
Unfortunately, none to me.  It was another year without hardware or prize money. 
Dr Jerry McCollough from Wadena, MN won the Stan Peer Trophy for winning the walleye challenge, catching the winning fish on his last fish.  2017 champion, Eric Thoreson of Rice lake, WI is handing him the trophy.

My boat partner Greg Peer bested my pike by over two inches to win the pike trophy, the 9th year of the last ten, the "pike boat" won the contest.with his second fish of the trip.  It was Greg's 3rd in a row, since we tied back in 2015.  Our boat caught 151 pike, down about 100-150 pike from a good year, due to the calm and the heat.

I ate some fine bush lunches:in remote spots, it wasn't five star like Cross Foxes, but my cooking was good, I gave it half a star because it was hot and generally we had something to sit on
I made grilled cheese

Franks on Burnt Over Lunch island

There were woodchucks:

There were few blueberries on the bushes to pick again this year, but we got enough for pancakes

While I was out searching for warblers to photo on one of the too many hot and lazy days without fish, I stumbled upon a scene with a guide Greg Alexander and some of the camp help, tried to water ski.  One  looked to be almost drowning after starting well.

Another kid finally making the longest run possibly ever on the lake, and Greg gave him the thumbs up!  way to go!

Yet another great trip up above the tension line, hundreds of miles north of the 48th parallel in the land of the North....It wasn't Wales but oh Canada!  I think this is my 42nd up here. I could go for free in September but well,  I have other things to do, like fire up our new land yacht....


Thursday, August 2, 2018

A Glamping We Will Go!

Dan Lanik, a local artist in Wahoo, Nebraska  was moved when a local gang of utility workers cut down a huge pine tree and were just taking the log to the dump so he carved a bear holding a large pike.  He donated it to Nebraska and it stands at the entrance to Lake Wanahoo State park, guarding a lake with neither bears, nor northern pike.

I can feel this, I catch a record pike and some bear would sneak up and steal it from me, as we all know my relationship with bears.  I can picture me grabbing the fish from the bear...."give it back!"

We stopped in Wahoo yesterday on our way to Lincoln, Wahoo, what an odd name for a town...

Wahoo is defined as:
a)  A type of bush or shrub
b)  a fish of the mackerel family that can exceed 150 pounds
c)  A famous submarine sunk in WWII by the Japanese
d)  An exclamation said upon buying something cool or after catching something like this big fish

As I implied in my last missive, a life changing event was waiting for us in Lincoln, much like the scenes from "Yes Man." A Jim Carrey Movie.  We did not visit the sights in Nebraska's capital, however, because we were getting the three hour tour (remind you of something?)....we were getting the tour of our new....toy?  home?  What really is it?

You see Olaf is going back on the road, with Silja this time.  Bob Tiffin of Tiffin Motorhomes describes it perfectly with the motto of his company...."Roughing it Smoothly."

By 2pm,we signed the paperwork and we now own something made by Mr. Tiffin, a new 34 foot Allegro RED, a glamping (glamour- camping) machine that has its own laundry, household refrigerator,and four TVs, and an impressive 800 ft pounds of Cummings powered tourque behold the behemoth.....

Truth be told, it was a little scary driving it for a while. Passing my first truck  carrying cut wahoo driving to Wahoo took a little nerve, but I survived.  The drivers between Lincoln and home survived.  It is big...and there are 43 foot versions of this. We skipped the submarine memorial in downtown Wahoo, which is named for the bush and not the fish, which can actually swim faster than this land yacht can drive on a two lane road in most states (the fish and not the bush).

Buying this is a big deal, it scares us a bit.  We are not selling our house...yet.  The maiden voyage will be west in September, but we may have a few mini test trips before that, and then, let the glamping begin.  A cat and dog were freaked out inside it this morning in our yard.

We will have to christen the land yacht, but we have to figure out the name of her, something this big needs a name.....we will accept submissions.  Before that...



Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Summer Doldrums

The doldrums of summer have descended upon me like a curtain descends on a play for intermission, where I wonder if I should go grab a glass of wine, go to the bathroom, or go and make a phone call.  Like most Julys, I start pondering things—thinking, scheming, or finding things to amuse myself. Other years, I just sit out in the sun and work on my tan, or lack-there-of.
Some years, I start a novel, either writing or reading one.  Almost all of the novels I’ve written were started in July.  Not this year and the one I’m trying to read, a history of the founder of Rolling Stone, I can’t get into.  It is hard for a Midwest boy to even understand either San Francisco or the Seventies.  I was too young to appreciate the Seventies, by the time I “woke up,” It was 1985 and the Baby Boomers had turned off the switch for the good times and conservatism and Reaganism were firmly in control.  I was 10 days old enough to be able to drink at 18, but that was a minor consolation. 
 I have an idea for a non-fiction research project but, ….yawn!  It is just too hot to sit in a museum and do research in Benson or Granite Falls, Minnesota.   Two dead congressmen will still be dead this fall when I’m more motivated. 
I get into hobbies in July, but rare birds are few and far between. The pike don't bite well, although even a blind dog occasionally finds a bone.
  The dickcissel have stopped singing, as had the snipe.  So these views from June are now fading memories.
My local pair of red-necked grebes are leading their chicks around and although fun to watch, how many photos can a guy take?  

Generally, not much is moving and neither am I.  Usually, I end up photographing snakes, bugs, furry mammals, and occasionally sunsets.  Not that anything is wrong with that and it is about the only month I do it.

A white-faced meadowhawk gets chummy with a garter snake in Day County, SD

A red admiral lands on my wife, she is now blessed with good luck and  fortune

Mud-puddling Melissa Blues

We binge watch television series, like "Comedians in Cars having Coffee" with Jerry Seinfeld., but I won't say anything about that.
There is a behavior I do in July that scares my wife.  As it is the time, I plot adventures.  My two big year projects were July ideas as were two company formations.  Mind you, they were profitable, but still, as they say, an idle mind is a Devil’s tool. A new lake cabin was thought of in July.  I buy things, sell things, and worse for my wife, I schedule things in July.  Even spending July’s in Europe, I schedule things.   “I wonder where that plane goes?”  These are never good words.   Largely, our kids were spared this as they spent July at Swedish camp, and it was being without kids that led to many adventures and many ideas.
This year is no different.  Yesterday, I plotted something big.  Chapter 97, or something like that,  in Olaf’s life now has a title.   Where it will take us?  I don’t know, I never know.  The next adventure starts in Lincoln, Nebraska next Wednesday and I will leave you guessing.  A movie, I like, “Yes Man” goes to Lincoln, too, one of the few, and that ended both good and bad.   So be advised, Olaf IS up to something, something big.  That is next week’s story as Wednesday is coincidentally August 1st, and August brings action to Olaf’s July’s ideas.


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Birds in the Attic, Interesting Inheritance part I

Ladysmith  Wisconsin is a large small town in Northwestern Wisconsin.  It is the county seat of Rusk County and was platted in 1885 along the Soo Line main line, but was first named Flambeau Falls and four names later was renamed Ladysmith on July 1,1900.

I do not have any specific memories about Ladysmith. I never played them in sports and I never birded there.  I had a room mate from Ladysmith for a week during a leadership camp when I was 18, but other than that it is just a dot on a map, but one with some color.

It was back in  1926, when two loggers, Art Charpin and Walter Latsch,  were scared out of their wits on a February day. It was first told by a Rusk County weekly newspaper. The day started out innocently enough. The basswood had been marked by a timber cruiser for cutting and Charpin and Latsch were wielding the saw. They noticed a large hole in the tree some 30 feet above the ground, but they felled it anyway, figuring they’d get a 20-foot log out of it. The trouble started when they tried to saw through the trunk. The saw bound up against something hard. They came in from another angle. The saw again hit a rocklike center. At this point they were curious about a rock inside a tree, and turning the log as needed with a cant hook, they managed to saw all the way around the “rock” and pull the end of the trunk away. The wrinkled face of a man stared up at them. Shaking, they hightailed it back to town.

Eventually their story was believed and a party of four went into the woods to investigate. Sure enough, when the trunk was completely removed, they found the body of a man, fully clothed in coarse homespuns and buckskin, which fell away when touched. The head, covered with long hair, still wore a coonskin cap. With the mummified body the men found an old muzzle-loading flintlock rifle and a fancy muzzle-loading pistol. Pieces of paper found on the body at first seemed to identify the man as a Captain D’ Artagon who had been with the Marquette-Joliet party seeking a route to the Pacific Ocean in 1673. This seemed totally implausible, however, as the exploring party never came near Rusk County, and if the man had been lost, it is not likely that he would have continued to travel westward, away from the Wisconsin River. The finders of the grisly surprise finally theorized that the man, whoever he was, had been pursued by Indians, had taken refuge in the hollow tree, and unable to get out again, had died there. According to the Rusk County weekly, the body was supposedly shipped to the University of Wisconsin–Madison. The two loggers vowed never to return to the haunted forest near Ladysmith.

Some how this story got forwarded by telegram and appeared in Duluth, Madison, Chicago, and within days, thousands began to appear at the Historical society in anticipation of the arrival of the "Petrified Man."  Unfortunately, this was always intended to be a work of prose, like the later War of the Worlds. The story just got out of hand
The buzz around Ladysmith had died down by the next year, when unrelated, a worker at the Flambeau River Lumber Co.named Walter Evans fell off a scaffold at the mill and severely hurt himself.  After he healed up enough, he learned that he could  never work again.  Undoubtedly dejected and needing a way to support himself.,he carved a couple of duck decoys, and sold them. Then in a burst of entrepreneurial spirit, he formed the Evans Decoy Company in 1927 and bought a lathe machine from the Rhinelander Boat Company to make duck bodies as it had never been used for production.  Duck Decoy history began in earnest that summer and for six years some of the finest most desirable duck decoys were made. When Evans, got too ill to lead the employment of  six women making wooden ducks, his son in law, the local mortician, led the company until it closed in  1934 after just 7 years.

I was working on my Grandmother's estate this past week.

Packed away in large box, covered with "postage due" stamps, postmarked on my Grandmother's birthday, March 14,1972 and sent from somewhere in West Germany was a surprise.  The box was located in a closet no one ever visited and was a stash of old duck decoys I had never seen. In the middle of them, were three "field fresh" Evans Decoys classics.....

Birds with history.  I have no idea where they came from. They still even had their anchoring lines attached.   Did my grandfather confiscate them when he was a game warden in 1942? Did they buy them at an auction?  Certainly,they weren't sent to them from Germany in that box in 1972, but who knows?

Cool 90 year old rare decoys,with a mysterious past, but that is what interesting inheritances are. In my grandmother's will, the decoys go to my son Tyko, I hope his grandchildren don't find them in a box in 90 years.


Monday, July 9, 2018

Skippering around in the Prairie

I posted a photo of a butterfly on Facebook last week without really looking at it and a good birder from Minnesota responded.  “Ooh wow!  That is a Regal Fritillary!”  I looked at it again, yea, he was right.  The Regal Fritillary is one of North America’s vanishing butterflies, now only restricted to tall grass prairies and lush meadows on states that border South Dakota, local colonies are common here but in the eastern US now, extremely rare. Today, I saw probably 300.

Northern State University in Aberdeen SD writes, “Regal fritillary populations have declined in the Midwest mainly due to the conversion of tallgrass prairies into cropland. Pesticides have also contributed to the species' decline. Large tracts of native prairie with abundant wildflowers are needed  to protect this beautiful butterfly. One such area is the Samuel Ordway Prairie near Leola, S.D., managed by The Nature Conservancy. The regal fritillary is a candidate for listing as a federally threatened species.”   To be needs to get in line.

I’m lucky enough to have large tracts virgin prairie near my cabin on Enemy Swim lake.  As the blurb from Northern State explains, this butterfly is being decimated my farming and pesticides, every swath of marginal farmland plowed up on the Coteau brings this gorgeous insect closer to not being with us anymore.

I may be primarily a birder but there is much on the prairie to see, and as I get older, I am realizing that butterflies are really cool.  It isn’t that I’m not trained in entomology.  It was a fun diversion to got out and photograph butterflies this past week.  I though, became entranced with finding something really rare,

Currently, South Dakota does have two species listed as threatened or endangered.  One is the small butterfly the Dakota skipper, and the other is the Poweshiek skipperling.  The little skipperling has not been seen west of Wisconsin since one was found near Brookings in 2008, the last one seen at Waubay NWR two years earlier, and for all purposes now it is considered extirpated in the state, so its designation as endangered in 2014 was too late for these bugs.  It still hangs on in isolation in Wisconsin and Michigan.  In my opinion, its days are numbered.

The first of July is an important day around the prairie.  It is the central day for the emergence of the other endangered butterfly, the Dakota skipper.  They only live for a couple of weeks and if you miss the flight, you out of luck for a year.  But there are other skippers that are similar, at least 8 of them.  Skippers are small, shy, fly low to the grass and are direct.  If they are not perched up on a flower, they are impossible to find.  I find myself using bins to search the tops of the flowers for bugs that are waiting for females to mate with.  

I sent some emails to birders I the eastern Dakotas...I asked them if they new of skipper prairies.  "Skippers?  Like in the insect?'  "One had never even heard of it.  Here we are people who walk in the prairies every week and we do not even know about our local endangered butterfly.  

It is hard to get excited about this bug.  It has little PR, and it was hard to find on the internet if any had even been seen in the last decade.  With intel scarce we looked up prairies that were being managed for the insect and they are few and far between but one was 15 miles away.

I ended up our near Summit SD, looking in a small piece of virgin, native prairie, there is little untilled or not over grazed even up here on the Coteau.  Barry my bider buddy tagged along.  We found skippers, some looked suspicious for Dakotas, and another was small and we had no idea what it was.  Soon we learned this was not going to be easy.  We identified a couple....



Later, I brought my wife back to this prairie.  Then Silja finds a dead one standing on a flower later that evening.  I take it home, despite rules against collecting endangered insects without a permit.  In my eye it looks exactly like the insect on the Waubay NWR photo, 

So is it a long dash or a Dakota?  Eventually I take it to the biologist at the refuge who is unsure maybe a long dash, maybe a Dakota so she is sending it in.  She brought out their specimen collection and even then, identifying it seemed a bit hopeless, fritrating, or impossible.  I had added seeing a Dakota skipper to my lifelist and had called it, but now, I uncalled it.  

I also learn something, at least half of the photos of Dakota skippers on the internet are NOT Dakota skippers or at least not for certain Dakota skippers.  People reporting this bug are probably seeing long dashes.  I talk to a local bug expert on the telephone who says the prairie near my cabin might be the best one in the state for skippers so on July 9th, I went out for a last ditch effort next to my cabin.  The males should be dying off soon and so any longer and I will have to wait until late next June.

Two miles of hiking the prairie, I found ...another long dash skipper, the line on the wing is too long. 

then something entirely new

I could be wrong on this one but it looks like an Arogos skipper, a little smaller, yellow on underside and large bands on wings.  It also likes to keep its wings, was I out of luck?

It is yet another skipper becoming hard to find.  Possibly on the way out of this world.

No, I wasn't out of appeared on a cone flower, shorter line, clean edges

I'm calling it....Dakota Skipper, rarest South Dakota butterfly and 450 yards from my deck.  All I can say is too many skippers to sort out, they all look the same.  I will add, the bug listers are a crazed lot.  

I did see some cool stuff  The prairie right now is incredible.  There are butterflies and other cool insects everywhere.  One of the best long grass prairies in the state is adjacent to my cabin.  There are cone flowers everywhere.multiple species of colorful butterflies

It is loaded with life and diversity.  As I said, it is also one of the best Dakota skipper prairies left on earth
Here are some of the sights.... enjoy!















I do not think, though,  I could make a hobby out of butterfly photography.....skippers?  Next year, you need to come and try to see this bug, they may be gone soon.