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

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Of Omens, Numbers, and Booksignings

Tuesday was a strange day out on the prairie, a strange day as part of a rather weird week.  I kept finding myself saying, well that is odd, or saying "I never seen that before."  The fence posts near Summit, South Dakota were littered with dozens of common nighthawk including one of the lightest colored ones I've ever seen.

It was a very pretty bird, but even the darker ones are pretty sitting 20 feet away on a fence post.

The Wilson's snipes had to fight for a place to call.

With the rain this week, it is probably a lot drier sitting on a post than hiding down in the grass in the prairie.

Not everything one sees out in the field is a bird, in fact, todays find wasn't even warm blooded.  On the east shore of Enemy Swim Lake, I found the largest moth in North America, the dark and mysterious, Black Witch Moth.

Typically a creature of the night this foreboding and ominous insect filled with dark mythology flew in front of me and tried to hide on the side of a bush.  They say if one touches you, it can predict your death, but seeing one like I did, after a loved one recently passed is a good omen and means my grandmother's spirit is nearby.  The bad luck I had was on Friday so I wasn't having any more of that.  I blew a trailer tire on US 12 pulling my boat, destroying my fender but oddly despite 90 percent of the tread having been ejected the tire was still inflated.  This was after my motor started missing out on the lake.  My solution was that i needed a new boat.  I also hurt my back on Sunday and couldn't move much since.

Black witches are a great find.  This male is very far north for them and I have never seen one in South Dakota but I'm no expert.

Maybe burning this chair seemed like I symbolically burning a witch and the moth came to remind me that doing that is NOT a good idea?

I don't know about those things, during my big year, I got cursed by a something I had to lose in Maine at a troll village, so who knows what is real and what is fantasy in this world.  All I can say about the moth is it was a much better find than the dickcissal, which is yet another fence post bird

or a willow flycatcher is found a few hundred feet away from the huge moth

I had two book signings since my last missive.  One at DDR Books in Watertown, SD, where a woman gave me a very interesting picture of a Peoria Gateway train near Revillo SD maybe 4 miles from where I birded

and one at the very cool store Zandbroz Variety in Sioux Falls.  There I met a Volvo employee on vacation from Sweden, who just happened to be someone whom I had lunch with coincidentally in Goteberg six years before at the car factory...small world.  I also met many fishermen who apparently don't read books, but they had fun stories.

It is tough to market a book.  I just agreed to give a talk to the Prairie Lakes Audubon Club in Alexandria MN next month, which since "Confessions of a Pike Whisperer" is as much of a birding book as a fishing book, might be a better audience.  I know birders read.  I have a book signing later in Alexandria, so we'll see.  It is one book at a time.  In the end I just like telling stories and meeting people.

I did go birding near Sioux Falls on the Big Sioux River across from Iowa nabbing a bucket list item, South Dakota bird number 300, an eastern Towhee, but that bird was not photographed, a second towhee stood momentarily for a photo which showed it was not an eastern towhee but a rather eastward extreme spotted towhee, more commonly seen in the western part of the state.

I was thinking it would be a champaign moment but it made me feel cheated, as I couldn't get a decent photo of the bird I needed...oh well that is birding.  I took ibuprofen instead.

So I don't know what to make of seeing cursed moths, since all that black witch did was become the cherry of a rather strange and not very tasty cake, as they say, but my World cup team, Iceland won as did the Swedes.  That bug was the best thing I'd seen all week and I guess that was something.  300 in South Dakota?  That is just a number, not even that big of a number and all of my birding is numbers and lists and to be honest mean very little to anyone except me.  Much like selling books, each sale doesn't matter but it is the stories and the oddity of meeting the Swedish couple I'd met before that matter to me.

You know my back even feels better which is good since I'm off to the hinterland of northern Ontario to chase pike and spruce grouse....that will be my next report.

the end of a strange week.....


Monday, June 11, 2018

Happy Memories Riding the Bumblebees

Sunday was a day of mixed feelings.  Where have all the years gone?  You may also ask why did I let them go?

I was back home cleaning up my grandmother's estate and Sunday was the day that Cousin Steve came to pick up his inheritance, a pair of 1972 Ski-doo Olympique snowmobiles, and one very cool snow-tow trailer.

I can remember it like it was yesterday, those family outings and to be honest, it was only a couple of times a year that we went out on the sleds to go fishing or just joy-riding.  I feel like the guy in the movie the "Good Year."  Those times were grand...just grand..

These two sleds were the last two purchased by my grandparents.  Grandmother Lucille's sled was a 1970 Ski-doo Nordic (Was it Nordique?), a machine with twice the horsepower of these two and was heavy and fast.

Here is the model in front of an ad, it was like riding a bumblebee, it even buzzed.
personally I liked the ad for the 1969 version a little better

but somehow, it is hard to think of snow looking at that advertisement.  I just don't think Grandmother Danielson was influenced by those types of ads, but who knows?

Despite USA being in Vietnam, the end of the Sixties and early Seventies, The period was the pinnacle of American life to a large degree.  The WWII generation was at peak earning power, jobs from the space race's technology boom were plentiful and we were the manufacturing center of the world.  That 1970 snowmobile cost $1059 for my grandparents who were not well off by any stretch of the imagination but a business deduction for a trapper/ logger would be worth $6300 today, and with the twin 1972 machines, they were quite an investment.

It was a time of snowmobile clubs, snowmobile trails connected all of the rural bars and every winter weekend, people did the "bar runs" or "poker runs" across the northern tier of my home state of Wisconsin and I'm sure many more.  You could get anywhere on a sled, you didn't need cars.  We drove them to school, through towns....Here is a snapshot of Williston back in the day, I can remember over 100 speds parked on my mainstreet on a Saturday in Wisconsin

My hometown still hosts the Summer National Waterskipping Event, a sport that was invented nearby and led to the development of the Jet-ski

They have long since stopped the winter event in nearby Clam lake Narrows near siren due to insurance concerns.

As a family, we watched the I-500 snowmobile race, quite a grueling affair from Winnipeg to Minneapolis through the fields and woods of the great while north.  It was for us northerners more of a spectacle than Daytona, held in the same month.  It was even televised when I was a kid.   It is still held but now due to paranoia over 9-11, it doesn't cross the border, and it is even hard to find out when it is held as the results are never published, or so it seems to me.  Not that i care much any more

Our fair grounds had winter races.  I rooted for Sno-Jets for some reason, I like the blue with white trim color.  They were fast but never seemed to win.  It was just a wonderfully fun time.  It seemed wee could not get enough snowmobiles until I guess we had.  Many always say the old times were better but I think in this case, they truly were.  Yes, drunken snowmobile crashes killed many, but drinking and driving something has always killed, they always have, even during Prohibition.  We went outdoors and enjoyed life, sadly unlike today.

In 1971, the peak year, Ski-doo sold 212,000 sleds and there were over 30 manufacturers.  I can think of 7 dealers within 10 miles of my house.  Which was easy to do since for about 1800 dollars you too, could become a dealer buying three sleds and you'd just have to guarantee purchasing $30 in parts.  It was something you could set up in your garage.  The Sno-jet dealer as in Trade River, at the Trade River Oil station, a place that you'd never figure was much of an oil company let alone a snowmobile dealership.  The ZZZ Arctic Cat dealership was in basically a garage, out in the woods a few miles west of Frederic Wisconsin.

It was a great time and even as a little kid, i can remember the fun and happiness we all had each winter, and then like a thief in the night, first two mild winters came in 1972 and 1973, followed by the Arab Oil shock of 1973 following the Arab-Israeli War of the same year threw the economy in a tail spin.  We ended the space race in that time frame and by the time Nixon resigned in 1974, the US was no longer on top.  By 1976, the number of snowmobile manufacturers were down to 6, and then after the second oil shock of 1979 due to Iran, things got even worse

In 1970 575,000 machines were made, at the end of the Seventies, sales fell off a cliff and bankruptcy was filed or threatened by everyone left, in 2005 the sales number was back up to 180,000 by just 4 manufacturers.

My grandparents bought the snowmobiles to spend time as a family but when they bought them, the family was leaving to start their own lives.  Isn't that just the way things go?

I last rode the old Ski-doo snowmobiles back in 1984 when grandpa sold off the Nordic and in helping him get it out, and I refound the the other ones in the shed, I filed them with gas, and they ran!  We got them licensed and it was a glorious revival.  I became jealous of the by-gone days before  but it was a great winter of snow, and I took the sleds out with the cool trailer fishing.  But that was it, by that fall I was in college, in a hurry to get on with my life, maybe in too much of a hurry.  Along the way, I nearly forgot my past, and what I was and where I was from.  Without a break, I was in medical school, I found a wife, and grandpa died both in 1990, and afterwards, I was too busy making my own go of it to comeback and celebrate with my grandmother that she had made it.  I hope my own kids see this as my daughter is 18 and is off registering for classes at Hamline University today and my twin sons turn 23 on Wednesday.  We are always in too much of a hurry to get somewhere that we forget to enjoy where we are.

My grandmother, as it turns out was very sentimental, and I knew she loved the old days on the snow cruising fast, and thought if she sold them, she'd lose the memory.  It makes me sad to think I never got them going.  They were there waiting for me and grandmother was waiting to go, now she can't she is in a different place, one we cAn't imagine, and can only hope

Maybe I should have kept them myself?  Although they'd just sit in my will get them fixed up and will show them some attention they long deserve.  Unlike me, just another opportunity lost and a memory cut short for reasons I just don't know...why?  Why did I let those happy times go?

I sit here with tears in my eyes thinking of what could have been, what should have been...and truly wonder if it all was worth it.


Wednesday, May 30, 2018

My time is unfortunately not money

Time is priceless, time is money, time waits for no man, lost time is never found again and of course time flies, but if time flies like an arrow. and fruit flies like a banana, therefore if you find an arrow that looks like a banana is time just a fruit?

Okay, enough logical paradoxes and proverbs or whatever they are.  Summer has come, whether we like it or not.  The other day Professor KC Jensen of SDSU reported a least bittern near Brookings, SD and needing one in South Dakota and the warbler migration passing us by largely with few birds as the midwest weather has been rather tame, I headed south.

KC picked me up and a few minutes later we heard it, and then eventually, it popped out.

Patience rewarded us.  Boy they are tough birds to photograph let alone even see, my only previous photograph was one I saw in Florida during my big year which was too close and all I could photograph was its head.

Usually I only see this bird accidentally, flying from me after just about stepping on one, or just a heard bird deep in the marsh, sometimes even just a few feet away calling it's tell-tale call, never to be seen.  Whatever the case, I had South Dakota life bird #299, and it was even seen.  One to go!

Another bird frequently heard by me but never photographed is the Virginia rail, but KC had a pair of them too and after a brief stop, we had a pair looking at us in the ditch enar the Big Sioux River

They were almost too close, too.

After this bird adventure on Friday, I had to go and work on things.  I had an annual meeting in Minnesota and then on Tuesday, I was in Highland Park in St. Paul at the fashionable Jewelry Store RF Moeller.  You see, my grandparents had a collection of pocket watches and they thought they had something special, especially these two 1880ish watches.  One lady's watch on a gold chain.  14K is a sellers best friend right?

Let me say it here, I know more about farming than I know about watches, I can tell time and that is about it.

The watch repair guy told me a story about a Macalaster student the week before that came in with having a pocket watch for 3 years in his backpack.....he told the guy it was worth 25,000 and the student left carrying a 20,000 check that would cover his senior year's tuition payment in a bewildered state.  Good thing he hadn't squashed it.

He looked at mine, starting with an 18 jewel Illinois, that still works, it is nickle silver and has a clean face.......$100, then another $50, and then he got to my two gold ones, one of which may have family history to it.  My great grandmother was born out of wedlock, and then after being thrown out of the Mennonite family, her and her mother were taken in by the local vet into what looks to me like a rather functional threesome with his existing wife, although some of the vet's existing wife's looks at the young mistress are quite snide IMHO.  Some say he was just a generous man to take in such a handsome young lady, and I don't sugarcoat the past.  It was 1900 and well, you had to get by and what was a young woman in Iowa to do, her only assets were herself.  I think it rather smart otherwise, I wouldn't ever be here.

We think she was given this watch as a present and then it was passed down.  It was probably the Vet's mother's as that would answer the date it was made or maybe not....

The watch expert looked at commented that it was pretty and then explained to me the Waltham company in MA that made it and bronze filled gold.........I instantly knew what that meant, the chain was a 1970ish, gold plate chain, it wasn't anything.  Value....$100.

The well done men's watch had to be something....

It has lavender dial, but filled bronze.......just ....$100, made in 1881, but really of no substantial value.  "Sorry, we don't buy parts watches and that would be what these would be for to us, sorry.  Neat dial though."  He recommended Ebay as maybe two guys would think these would be something of value in it, and bid it up over a hundred bucks.....much like probably my grandfather did back in the day, three of these he paid nearly $50 back in the fifties to fix, that was a lot of money then.....

my time pieces are not worth much......14 watches and maybe I can scrape together a grand which may take quite a bit of work.  We'll keep the one with possibly family connections although I can't help but think she should have held out for a better watch, but again, she probably thought it was worth a heck of a lot more than it was.  Possibly the wealthy Vet from Jessup Iowa shrewdly played her with a watch that looked nearly priceless but really wasn't.  Oh well, it wouldn't be the first time a mistress was given something that glittered but wasn't gold.

I did feel a little sad for my grandparents guarding these watches for six decades like they were treasures of immense value, but in actuality they were just run of the mill watches, but things like that happen every day.  They may have paid about as much for them back in the 50s as they are worth today, but again this proves the time value of money.  I guess pocket watches turned out to be a poor long term investment, much like all collectibles.....Now as executor of the estate these are my problem.  I'm not starting a watch collection.

So anybody in the market for some old watches?  I got a few....

I guess the bittern had a little more value........
what is a bittern worth.........?



Friday, May 18, 2018

Birding the Peoria Road ...

Some have rode the Burlington Route, others have been routed on the Milwaukee Road.  My grandfather ate on the Nickel Plate, and a few took the curves on the Soo Line...but few remember the old Peoria Gateway.  The Peoria  Gateway!?......when I think of Peoria, I don't think of it as the center of anything let alone transportation and the gateway to what?...but...I could be wrong.

Today I was birding on the road bed of the abandoned railway of  one of the most inconsequential railway enterprises that was ever built.  The amazing fact is that this 1400 mile rail system that went from nowhere to the middle of hardly anywhere lasted for 90 years....90 years!

The Minneapolis and St Louis  railroad, the Peoria Gateway was described as a "Spunky Line" and today I was walking the grade between Revillo and Strandburg SD, looking for an eastern towhee.  Old rail beds are surrounded by bushes and those bushes....are habitat for a bird I need in the Rushmore fact I also need it in Illinois, because to be honest, I've never even been to Peoria, having skipped a speech tournament at Bradley Univ. in college.

Today, I went for a walk to see what I could find....

I saw some deer

Some rather common year birds....eastern kingbird

A saw blackpoll warbler females

Bobolink female

Then I heard something in the brush and I tried to phish it up and I waited and I tripped down the grade and then...up it popped......
A brown no towhee for me
Eventually, I ran out of bushes....and didn't experience any ghost trains...luckily enough for me.

And I looked around.

I'm a mile from LaBolt , South Dakota, a town of about a hundred people, and it's own railroad, still in operation--a BNSF branch that also went through insignificant towns on its way to Watertown, South Dakota, so I was thinking why would they put another railroad here?

I thought about it the whole way home. Then I did a little research.

The Peoria Gateway....Their west of Minneapolis main went right where I was standing and until 1960 came complete with passenger service although truth be told, I can't picture a lot of demand except for taking it all the way to Minneapolis.  Strandburg to say Gaylord Minnesota.  Maybe there was a huge appetite for Hauenstein Beer in New Ulm?

After 1940, the western end was Leola, South Dakota....then Aberdeen on to Watertown, Madison, Minnesota, and Minneapolis then you could go dead south towards Mason City Iowa, meander your way through Iowa to Oskaloosa and then you could go east to Peoria.  It would take a few days, but you could go from Northcentral South Dakota to Peoria, I can't picture any doing it though?.

The 1870 charter for this railroad, like many rail charters showed promise and hope.  Hope for profits of Minnesota and Iowa farmers sending wheat to Minneapolis to be milled.
One interesting facts of this road.  In 1886, North Redwood, MN agent Richard Sears, maybe 60 miles down the road bed gets a box of watches.  They go unclaimed.  Using these as seeds, he created a mail order business....Sears Roebuck....go figure?

The railroad began building its "pacific" division in 1906 heading westward from Watertown, and developing towns along the way laying tracks across the prairie, being called a "dirt railroad" as most of the track was not laid with ballast, only dirt....grass growing through the rails....

they reached the Missouri River the next year and founded the station of LeBeau on the east bank.  They began some effort to secure the crossing and made a deal with the Cheyenne River members about development but the Milwaukee Road was also laying track west in the hopes of getting to the pacific and when the bridge in Mobridge was built, the Milwaukee Road then swung a branch line from their main south on the west bank of the river to cut off the Peoria Gateway, founding towns along the line ending in Faith.  The plan worked and the Milwaukee Road blocked a competitor east of the Missouri......The Peoria ended at Lebeau......When Lebeau didn't work out, and the ghost town was flooded when they damned the river at Oahe....the end of the line was moved back to Anaska....a town that literally meant "confusion" in Lakota, and confusing it was, the railroad went from Anaska to Peoria, literally from nowhere to really not much of anywhere.

After the railroads were nationalized in 1917 in one of the worst things  to happen in America as the big roads liked it since the government agreed to pay them profits based on their previous 3 years of earnings, however, the smaller lines like this one got little and when congress voted to give back the lines in 1920, they basically left this one with nothing.  The railroad went bankrupt in 1923 lasting there for 20 years.  During that period, it was marginalized and the government postulated plans to parcel it out, sell it for scrap, just abandon it entirely, or merged but somehow it survived, and then entered the colorful man, Lucian B Sprague, not to be confused with Louis Spray, the man that caught the record Muskie for a long period in Wisconsin.

Sprague became the white knight of this railroad and a legend in the industry.  He even had a name for his road, the "Miserable and Still Limping."   Sprague turned the lemons into lemonade, except that the Gateway didn't even have any lemons....and it made money, somehow, despite it being a road in the middle of nowhere, he found customers, and was liked by his employees.  It eventually exited bankruptcy in 1943 after one of the longest in US history.  Sprague started spending on infrastructure and guess what?  People used the line,  Despite it going from nowhere to no place, it soon was no longer limping......Sprague bought a Stanley Steamer and showed it off along the route, was a marketing genius and he had his own personal train and sped along the route and top speed hauling famous people to Conde to hunt, fish and caroused with loose women and drank with actors and comedians. 

By 1954, the line had no debt, was profitable and serving some of the smallest towns in America.  The only thing he did was to abandon the end and close the line from Conde to Anaska,  Things were going good but then entered big Chicago money and boardroom drama.  A vulture capitalist came in, bought up stock on the cheap, won a proxy fight, and then kicked out Sprague.  Immediately, the line began to lose money, because they didn't care and which was probably the plan.  Having no debt, like a few of railroads, these lines were worth more in parts than from operations so in 1960 it was sold to the Chicago Northwestern and they basically sold off everything.  Passenger service ended in 1960.  The last freight train out of Watertown went through Strandburg in 1974.  The entire pacific main was disposed of.  half for scrap, a part was sold to the Burlington east of Madison, MN and the line in southern Minnesota became one of the most decrepit shortlines ever....less than a 5% of the 1500 miles was even owned by the CNW when it merged with the UP, but that was apparently the plan.....
Everyone made money except the local people.....but to be fair, many of these towns shouldn't have even existed.  Building west of Watertown in the first place was an ill conceived plan...

Towns along the route took a beating over the years.  Anaska now has a population of 40, Lowry, 6, Wallace 84, Bradley 74, and Strandburg sits at 72.  Conde has 140 people down from nearly 600 when the railroad had a junction there in 1910.  many of the other towns are now doomed, with places like Revillo just losing their high school which can only lead to more of a population drop.

all this knowledge and no towhee...oh well....the walk was fun and the history was interesting


Monday, May 14, 2018

Warbler Week!

Its warbler week in northeastern South Dakota!  This is always a happy time in spring migration.  This year, especially so, since after last week.  That ended up being dominated by a screwy car deal gone bad.  It was an anger filled and frustrating six days, so having something as happy as this is a very good thing indeed.  I’d write a column about last week, but it was just too exhausting and irritating. I’m not sure I want to relive it.  I’m even hesitating on writing Yelp and Google reviews, despite it being a OMG event.  I did get a new car but I did apparently contribute to getting a general manager dismissed, so it wasn’t without a casualty or two.

This blog is also the basis for my Column this week in the Watertown Public Opinion, so it is meant for a more general audience than my followers of avid birders.

I was also working on scheduling book events for my new book “Confessions of a Pike Whisperer,” which is much more satisfying than writing nasty reviews online about Volvo dealers and employees of Volvo dealers.  I will be at DDR Books in Watertown on June 5th at 7pm to sign and sell books.  If you are reading this and located in NE South Dakota support your local bookstore and show up and say “hi!”  I’m sure more on that it looks like I’ll also be in Sioux Falls at Zandbroz on June 16th form 2 to 4 PM and working on others, so contact me for questions.  I'll be at the Grantsburg Public Library in Wisconsin on June 2 at 10 AM.

Warblers….every year, the northern birders wait patiently for the annual spring return of the colorful little song birds called warblers.  These birds can make it about a hundred miles a day in good weather after wintering in central and South America.  They can literally, if there happens to be a fallout, fill trees with yellow, orange, red, and even blue.  A fallout happens if the migrating flock of birds hits a front or a storm causing the birds to all end up in the same place like a small grove of trees, a cemetery, or one shore of a lake.  Places like the south shore of one of the Great Lakes can be a great place as many birds can pile up, waiting for favorable winds to cross the water.  Magee March in Ohio has the “Biggest Week in Birding Festival” where you can see over 20 species or more on a normal day.  After May finding warblers is hard work as the little birds hide in either the tops of the tallest trees or in the middle of the thickest bushes.  Many of them also breed in the wilds of the northern and northeastern forests so even getting to where they live can be a bug and tick infested adventure.

We are on the western edge of warbler migration so here in South Dakota, it is always a very spotty event.  I tend to monitor locations in the eastern border of the state with mature trees and water like Milbank’s cemeteries, Hartford State Park, Sicca Hollow, and the park in LaBolt, but last year, the best fallout around here was at the cemetery on the west side of Aberdeen on a day when a “mega” rare bird showed up near Sand Lake NWR.  We had to abandon the fallout to chase the curlew sandpiper which after driving above the speed limit over there, flew away just as I got the scope on it.  I really didn’t see the sandpiper and I left many unidentified warblers in the Aberdeen treetops so it wasn;t the best of days even if it was the best day of the year.  So we’ll see if we have a good year or not.

They call a group of warblers by many nouns.  One I like is a “bouquet” of warblers but the terms “confusion,” “fall,” or “wrench” also works.  So far I’ve found some small wrenches, and logged two state lifer warblers.  A magnolia warbler and a chestnut-sided warbler this one which eluded my camera since I had ran out of battery power…the luck of Olaf.  I have such a paltry state warbler list...

Magnolia warbler, SD Lifer #295

 Blackburnian warbler

Palm warbler

Go out and find a pretty bird this week!  You might be surprised by what you see.


Friday, May 4, 2018

Marketing and self promotion

It seems always a little weird self-promoting something you did like a piece of art, a performance, or a book.  Despite everything Swedish in me telling me not to, to be frank, books don't market themselves, so I'll say it.  My new book is out!!

To be honest, I have to market the &&% out of this book or my garage will not have room for my car. .

Today I have my first two retailers locked up, Log Gables in Brule, WI and DDR Books of Watertown, SD.  I have also scheduled my first book event for June 5th, 7pm for DDR Books in Watertown, SD.

Some say it couldn't be done and some say it shouldn't have been done, but well, I have (I think successfully).  I have crafted a book about my two passions, birding and pike fishing, telling a lot of stories about my many zany pike fishing adventures AND my big year of 2016. 

Have I have fished with..?
a) A convicted murderer
b) A congressman
c)  An NFL and college sports legend
d)  A crazy Finn who only spoke Clint Eastwoodism English

The answer is ALL of the above.......the stories will leave you ..well....they will leave you scratching your head

The history of the Falun Sucker Club has never before been written

It has some good reviews so far.

I think that is the best book you have ever written
                                            Susan Segelstrom, my mother and author

Okay family members aside:

I have enjoyed Olaf Danielson's tales for years. Whether its high-adventure birding in Alaska or documenting the environmental tightrope of modernization in the tropical paradises of Hawaii and the Virgin Islands, his world-traveling adventures always pull my mind into a magical world that actually exists somewhere beyond the beaten path. Through his stories, photographs, and humorous philosophy I find myself pulled into Zen of learning without even realizing it, and Confessions of a Pike Whisperer fits that genre like the finest fishing braid on the spool of a well-oiled reel. Read it, loved it, and am insanely jealous of his knack for collecting and photographing monster fish, not to mention his unrivaled ability to paint a zesty story that perfectly captures mankind s love affair with the raw beauty of nature.
 --John Luthens, Wisconsin Outdoors Jounalist and Author of Taconite Creek

Here is the official synopsis:

Born into a family of avid fishing people, Grantsburg, Wisconsin native and Watertown Public Opinion columnist, author and adventurer Olaf Danielson’s life quest of catching big fish has taken many very interesting twists and turns.  Even Olaf’s first date with his future wife was ice-fishing. Confessions of a Pike Whisperer  outlines the mysticism of pike fishing and shares many his tales from his founding of the Falun Sucker Club in 1984 to various other surreal experiences from the Midwest to Canada to Sweden. In his Year Without Pike section, Olaf also relates how he became a Big Year birding record-holder in 2016. This is the book for everyone who loves adventure in the outdoors.

So there you have it

it is 296 pages with lots of pictures, PG, and'll even learn something

You can buy it on Amazon shortly (they don't have any in stock as it was just printed) but my publisher sent me a garage full to market and since Amazon doesn't pay royalties save for a few pennies, I would rather you buy it from me, I even take credit cards....$19.50 post paid....

email me at if you want a signed copy and we can figure out the details.

Obviously, you like my blog or you wouldn't even read this, this is more of the same, fish stories, UFO stories, birding adventures, and like I said the history of the Falun Sucker Club....all for one low-low price...........

can you beat that for entertainment?

Thanks for your support


PS  a few spring birds from the week.....   so you feel like you are getting some birding value here...there are field sparrows everywhere
Field sparrow

chestnut collared longspur

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Chili-dippin' down in the desert

An odd thing happened on my way to a bird.....Murphy Rules.

Word went out last weekend that a fan-tailed warbler was a foot in Arizona, unfortunately Sioux falls airport was closed and so was Minneapolis and we were snow bound, then on Monday my father-in-law had a stroke...luckily, a small one as they say.  Then Thursday was my daughter's 18th birthday.
all this and my camera hasn't returned from being repaired yet.  Friday, I got the green light, unfortunately, the bird no showed Thursday and I didn't get word until 0230 when I was heading south to a 5 am departure to Tucson by way of Minneapolis and Salt Lake City.  I got on the plane on time

...and then it happened.  there was a wire hanging from the door.  The pilot delayed pull back, and then as it seemed the mechanic was still in bed, we deplaned.........I went for breakfast after the gate agent rebooked me to Phoenix.  Delay was supposed to be an hour 45, Then came an urgent call to get back on the plane, my breakfast hadn''t arrived so scrapping that, I raced back to plane, all was not lost....I boarded......then as we pushed back, the generator wouldn't go.  So we sat and sat, Phoenix flight looked doubtful...then gone.   I rebooked to Tucson, this time on the non-stop which didn't leave Mpls until 11am.   It got going knocking out the TV/ video screens.  I got to Minneapolis....then we boarded the TUS flight and right in front of me was the maintenance guy....

The holder of the flashlight in the emergency kit had broken, I watched for 30 minutes as he fixed it, and for a moment, even held a part for him, everyone needs to be able to pitch in to get a plane off these days apparently....eventually though late, we left, at Tucson, my rental car reservation was lost, as was small the time I rolled into Portal AZ, at 1630, and found the home of Rick and Nancy Taylor, the site of the fan-tailed warbler, I had no hope of the bird and the chase in general was long since doomed...but there I was on a quick trip for no singular purpose.

I sat there and met the nice couple of alpha-birders and watched the hooded oriole (above) and began to think about what I was doing.....truly doing

In my worldly travels I've met some people with some really strange hobbies, really strange./ some are so off the wall that I'd hazard to even present them here.  There is this doctor I know (but he doesn't work with my company) that collects everything tanks, tank pictures, model tanks, uniforms, and he even has a full-scale working Russian T-35 in his shed.  of course there are the pathologists with reams of odd tissues and tattoo pictures.

Then there are the people I met in Europe, oddly watch them quickly strip bare in front of the Vatican who have collected naked pictures of (usually their wives but not always) in front of world heritage sights, like the Pyramids, the Louvre, Notre Dame, The Obelisk at the vatican, Mt Rushmore etc, .  They were shockingly efficient.  On a same vein, I know of someone who does this in front of "Welcome to State" signs. Those are odd hobbies....

I'll pose a question here, what ARE the most pointless hobbies?  Truly hobbies that one sits and wonders...really?

here are 10 I'm thinking of...feel free to add some

10)  Train spotting.   The hardcore of this endeavor keep tack of train car and engine numbers, they are train to speak....they do photograph drive bys, drive or fly thousands of miles if a certain engine is brought out for a workout from retirement....and after 9-1-1 had to watch out for the ire of Homeland Security and the FBI.  TRAINS Magazine is a popular read for these people.  I must confess, I subscribed for about six years.

Don't ask why I took this picture in Alaska  or any of my train pictures, I've only gone twice to chase a train, and one of those ended up with me bringing my son (four at the time)  to an ER.
There are ship spotters, license plate spotters, car spotters, plane spotters, they'd all be in this category.

9)  Pooh Sticks.  This is a game from Winnie the Pooh.  You take a stick, personalize it in some way, go to a bridge with your buddies or even alone.  Throw in sticks first to an arbitrary point wins.  Now a good kid game but there is a world championship in England somewhere for adults. I haven't done this in 40 years.  this proves my belief that they will have a championship in anything...but for this?

8)  Beer can collecting.  Let me describe some pitfalls of this.  HARD to display and harder to explain.  Let me just say that I was a member of the Beer Can Collectors of America, now Brewery Collectors Club of aged twelve.  My first publication was in the club magazine.   My photo of an old brewery in Sheridan, WY.  I got a book with defunct brewery addresses.

Somewhere now in retrospect tI think his was like candy cigarettes, and I wonder if Miller Brewing had some fingerprint in the formation of the hobby.  Pinholed from bottom opened cans used to be worth more.  I got a multi cubic meter collection of stuff.  When I found myself bidding down to the last cent in my checking account for the sign on top of the defunt Chief Oshkosh Brewery in Oshkosh Wisconsin, I took a deep pause.  There are large conventions and over 100 chapter clubs...still.

7)  Match book collecting, much like above, mostly in support of cigarette industry, I had found myself with 10 gallons of rather unique matchbooks as a kid.  Now I just wonder why?

6) Generic bizzaro collections, these make match books and beer cans seem normal.  Tops of liquor bottles, wine corks, pop tops, napkins, etc.  There is an endless list of pointless collections

5) Making candles out of one's own ear wax.  I had a patient come in once and when I cleaned out a plugged ear, I was ordered to return her ear wax.  She had candles from all sorts of people.....let me just say this here, this was a really weird hobby.

4) Cup stacking.  Also called Sport stacking.  They have a world governing body. Timed event to stack up usually plastic cups into a pyramid and then back into pile.  A very competitive event, sort of like martial arts for people who do not desire contact.  Best women in world are all Asians for some odd reason.

3) Geo cashing.   Finding a hidden stash at some GPS point, one thing to do this locally but I know people who go around the world just for this...?  At least the sights are real, unlike

2) Pokemon Go.  Like catching a mythical thing at a mythical site, placed at some random point by a computer.....virtual birding will be next

1) Bird chasing

Okay, just going out in nature to see and appreciate birds is a wonderful hobby, not to be confused with bird watching but militant OCD bird listing

Yesterday, vanquished of the target bird I was driving down the the state line of New Mexico and Arizona.  State-line road.  I see an Osprey, not a great bird, but heck, a fish eater in the desert...

About a mile farther along, I come up to birders on the road.  They got Brewers sparrows, they ask me what I got.  ""An Osprey back on the west side of the road a mile".....I say.

"We are only birding in New Mexico, what is on that said of the road, doesn't matter."

I drive on, two miles father, I stumble upon another car.  We roll down windows.  They ask me what I have seen....brewers sparrow down on the left.

"left?"  The man exclaims.   "New Mexico doesn't exist in our car..  It might as well be Mexico."  I then tell them about the osprey and they speed off to count it.

Bird listers........and to spend a garnd to go chase a bird and to dip on it as in, not see it....?   I am crazy crazy

well....I did see some interesting birds, I spent a day and a half wondering aimlessly around SE Arizona, looking for some cool things

Mexican Chickadee

A bird that only breeds in USA on the top of  just one "Sky Island"

Slate throated redstart

Actually a code 4 bird, I've seen before, possibly even the same bird.  I met a fan of mine, Sam from Santa Fe, it was a lifer bird for him.  I was so honored when at noon, he asked me to share a lifer bird with him.  Cheers!

Stellar's jay

Common but an extra spectacular jay
greater pewee

Rufous winged sparrow
pretty isolated distribution and a bird I always like to find

Broad billed humming bird on a nest

I met my friend Thor for breakfast coffee today and he gave me some intel on a Tubac rose-throated becard, a bird, I'd seen in AZ, but a cool one, so I went after it.  There is a pair in the cottonwoods and she is on her nest.

It took some doing but I found her nest.....

Maybe  I heard the male, but saw nothing and then had to scram for my plane.  I did see some things that made me think

I pretty scary bridge to walk across, and in fact I chickened out and I learned, the car bridge nearby is so afraid of birders we got are own walkway with hazzard guards.  I never saw a car use this bridge either..

Even the local people in Tubac know that birders a to be feared. 

Initially I thought I nabbed a thick-billed kingbird, although, on looking at the photo, I' started hesitating on it, It's dark bit the bill looks too small, but the bird is so dark, with a forked tail, hard to think what else it would be besides a Cassin's Kingbird?  

Pointless and without hope, the chilidippin' bird chase


PS  I booked myself at the wrong lodge, DD Gamble Ranch Lodge south of Rodeo, but in AZ, quite a surprisingly nice place, they even fed me.

If you are down this way, I'd recommend it.