Monday, January 29, 2018

Best Duck by a Dam Site

January 29,  2018  Pickstown, South Dakota, 10:00 am

Back in the days when America was a great country and we could multi-task, we built dams.  Authorized in the middle of an expensive war in 1944, Construction of Fort Randall Dam began in 1946 and President Eisenhower threw the switch  on it in 1954 just after the completion or at least the cessation of hostilities of another war.  The cost 200 million dollars.  How did we have all of this money to build things back then?  Oh wait, those WERE the good old days.

This dam, the first built from the Pick-Sloan Plan forever ended anyone doing what Lewis and Clark had done 150 years earlier, navigating the Missouri River into South Dakota and upstream at least to Great Falls.  In the twenty years that followed, 5 more large earthen dams would be built, one downstream at Gavin's Point and four more upstream.

Built for flood control and hydroelectric power, the dam makes lake Francis Case and generates 320 MW of power production, which as impressive as that may sound, the coal fired Big Stone powerplant near my house is rated at 474 MW, about 50% higher.

I'm not a real fan of dams.  The dam at Glen Canyon on the AZ / UT border, I, along with Edward Abbey, think it is among the biggest ecological nightmares ever concocted.  Yes, it generates 1300 MWs of power out of the Colorado, and none of this puts out any carbon, but I ask the people wanting a low carbon footprint, if destroying a wonderful canyon was worth this?  Is stopping the Colorado River from flowing into it's delta was worth it?  

What does blocking migration of fish on a major river in South Dakota do?

Okay, environment aside, one thing these dams do is keep the river open, and below this dam, and the ones upstream do is lead to places where waterfowl and gulls congregate.  One such bird that has appeared here, is the Barrow's goldeneye, in fact, this appears to be the 10th appearance of the bird in the ebird era, and as such, trying to get my South Dakota life list to my goal requires me to chase otherwise common birds.  

I should have went yesterday, but I got an attack of the lazies and the best I could do was to go out to hunt for owls, although all I found were finches.

My alarm went off at 4:30 and I arrived at 9:30 this morning after a 4 1/2 hour drive nearly to the Nebraska border.  I drove down to the tailrace and put my bins right on the bird.

TICK! it was feeding right in front of my car, SD lifer #290.

There were quite a few winter ducks hanging around, I got both goldeneyes, this flying common goldeneye got its picture taken.

There were red-breasted and common mergansers, this is a female common merg that was right in front of me....

and my wife's favorite duck....buffleheads.  I can never get a perfect photo of buffleheads, their contrast makes my camera go nuts

then I got another good bird with my Barrow's goldeneye, a lone glaucous gull, the only gull I saw while I was there.  Only my second one in this state and a good bird itself.

I watched the ducks for about an hour and then zig-zagged my way home, finding a good looking spot to dig out bobwhites possibly in the spring near Scotland, South Dakota, another bird I need

So yes, the Barrow's goldeneye, the best bird by a dam site, I've seen this year, but the year is early....

another day, another bird closer to the 300/800/850 club


Saturday, January 27, 2018

Winter owls

There is just something about going owling in the dead of winter.  Its cold, its lonely, its tedious, and its tripping over your feet, over a log, over a snowbank because invariably, your light has frozen up and won't work and wherever the owls are you're not and trying to get to them in the middle of the night is always through stuff humans weren't meant to walk through.

Owls are humorless, serious, and generally ominous creatures.  The words happiness or joyous and owls are rarely ever used in literature together.  I'm not sure this is good...or bad. It just is...

Throughout human history, the symbolism of the owl has almost always represented evil omens, demons, illness, disease, and death to many ancient cultures.  The Boreal owl, Aegolius funereus, means literally the owl of death or funerals, corresponding to a Norse/Germanic belief that this owl would show up on houses of those soon to be departed from this life.

Here in North America, in most Native American tribes, owls are a symbol of death. Hearing owls hooting is considered an unlucky omen, and they are the subject of numerous 'bogeyman' stories told to warn children to stay inside at night or not cry too much, otherwise the owl may carry them away. In some tribes, owls are associated with ghosts, and the bony circles around an owl's eyes are said to be made up of the fingernails of ghosts. Sometimes owls are said to carry messages from beyond the grave or deliver supernatural warnings to people who have broken tribal taboos. And in the Aztec and Mayan religions of Mexico, owls served as the messengers and companions of the gods of death.  The great-horned owl specifically is viewed as the humorless lawman of the Hopi which is the straight man to respond to Koshari clowns and their antics. 

I've had a little luck finding owls this winter... 

The great grays above were from the cold of northern Roseau County, Minnesota and are down in the bog, just not down in numbers.  Back in 2013, I wrote a blog "Pardon the Irruption." when I stumbled upon an irruption of GGOW at this same spot, and saw 31, then buried my car and had to get rescued on the Canadian border.  An irruption is defined as any sudden appearance of a lot of birds not usually found in a given spot for some reason, there.  That was my second hard core irruption.  In Denmark I ended up in the middle of nearly a hundred of the cool birds when I was picking up my first Volvo.

The only irruption going on in South Dakota is white-winged crossbills.  They have been all over the state and have moved into Brookings where I got my lifer state bird last year..  On Tuesday, I stumbled upon 19 of the critters in a diminutive cemetery just west of the Minnesota, South Dakota line, ten miles from my house.  The first ebird tick in Grant County ever....

The cool thing was I found them.  Always fun to dig out a rarity, even if it is just wwcr.  Best thing in Grant County South Dakota in a long while.  I was out searching for owls, sometimes a guy gets just dumb lucky.  Been back twice, a red-bellied woodpecker is the best I've gotten there since the big find.

Great Horned Owls are out and about.

Here is a Dueul County SD bird that was pushed out of its favorite sleeping spot by church goers at a small country church at a place called Zoar

I also stumbled upon one that was watching a group of feeding pheasant intently near the shore of Lake Traverse in Roberts County, SD.

Tis' the season of Snowy Owls unfortunately they seem to be either way north of me or much farther south, as we are in some sort of nadir for them.  I just so rarely see snowy owls near our house in Milbank, although I did have one a few years ago fly over our backyard.

Morris, Manitoba, Canada

Richland County, North Dakota #2

Richland County, North Dakota #3

Northern Saw whet owls.  These little buggers are hiding out in the small groves of pines and junipers around.  They had been seeing them at three spots in Fargo, which I hooked up with a local guy named Dan Mason while I was up there when my daughter toured Concordia College of Moorhead...go Cobbers!  Fear the ear and all of that.....

Image result for fear the ear concordia 
My daughter is down to four colleges and refuses to talk about her choices.
So I don't know how the lunch etc worked out but it was better than than finding owls along the Red River of the North....we struck out.....later at West Acres mall, my wife got her year 
Stuffed owl  Asio Stuffedicus

They tend to like shelves in toy stores.  This is Bison country and one has to be careful of them as well.

A full-sized bison toy is what every guy wants, I thought about it buying one, but then I didn't know if we had room.

I spent some time digging around for the little owls, but no luck, I found one last March south of Fargo and I'm sure if I keep at it, I'll find one....

I'll keep up the tedium and vigil to find more owls until I get up the gumption to go chase something.

Just remember....never wake a sleeping owl, words to live by


Monday, January 15, 2018

Tipsy Canoe and Olaf, too

Okay, I had a lot of choices for potential titles for this blog.  There was "A Merry time in the Maritimes,"  I could have also said "Miracle in the Maritimes" in the honor of the Vikings shocking win.  I could have started out with the Immaculate Reception tale.  Then there was the "Legend of the Dungarvon Whooper," which I will talk about as one of the horror movie scrips I could come up with events from this trip, which surprisingly have nothing to do with me.  But since I earned a lifer beer, and I like the sign, we will leave the title as is.  Lifer beers are rare, these days.

New Brunswick....I can only say one thing about New Brunswick, in that it is one of three  Canadian Provinces I had never been to before yesterday.  Getting here is a piece of work, as there is no jet airport and the turbo-props seems to go late if at all.  So from where I last left you in Winnipeg, I flew to Toronto, then after a monstrous layover, I had to wait through a further 2 hour delay.  I got to Fredericton, and then began a nighttime odyssey on roads covered in more black ice than I'd seen before intermixed with the occasional moose.  I got stopped in Blackville NB as a house was on fire and the trucks were blocking the highway.

Here is a look at the burnt out shell in the morning.  It is sad that someone lost a place to live.  Miramichi, my goal, never looked so good when I finally got there.

Morning came, it was cold and gray, even the coffee line at Tim Hortons didn't lighten the day and I drove up into a residential section to look for the rarest bird that has been seen in North America (except for the Bering sea) in over a year.  It was also day 36 for this bird.  This poor mistle thrush appeared in a backyard of a birder on December 11, and has just moved two blocks, still living off of Mountain ash berries, as to be real about it, this European bird has nowhere to go, certainly it won't return across the ocean.  It will starve or become a meal for a sharpie.  This huge thrush is not even a world lifer for me, as I have seen the bird previously in Norway.  

All that being said, I should have came here long ago, be it for illness, sloth, storm warnings, Christmas, chasing other birds, and a general malaise of traveling alone, delayed my departure but finally, I had to go get it.  I may never in my life get a second chance for this species.

Full of Tim Horton coffee, I arrived at the stakeout by myself and then twenty minutes later I saw it in the trees eating berries.  I think it just hopped out of a spruce, but there it was.  Mistle thrush...TICK!

I snapped pictures  until my fingers were numb.

Tough to get a great picture of this bird.  It stays in the thickest branches.  I ran into the finder of the bird.  I staked out his backyard for a while and then began my meander back to Fredericton.  It was kind of cold to go sightseeing but well, I always find things.

There are some strange legends out there, maybe the legend of the Miramichi Mistle Thrush will be told for decades but the Legend of the Dungarvon Whooper might take the case of an odd one, possibly also bird related.

Back 200 years ago at a logging camp, there was this young cook named Ryan, who died, probably killed by the camp boss, the men returned in a severe snowstorm and buried the poor lad in a shallow grave.  From thenceforth every night, whoops and screams could be heard from the grave all night, then men fled in fear never to return.  This continued for three years necessitating a priest, Father Murdoch from Renous  to come to the area and bless the grave (or possibly shoot the owls) and the whoops ended.  So ends the legend of the Dungarvon Whooper.  It would make a great horror movie.  A guy can't make this stuff up.

I found New Brunswick to look just like Douglas or Bayfield Counties in Wisconsin, complete with white-tailed deer under almost every tree.  "Give our deer a brake."  Was a popular sign.

The churches seemed older...

The stop signs different... 

but generally the same.

This place just had massive winter flooding and the water is high, roads flooded by sort of frozen water and the rivers look impressive.  There are piles of ice everywhere.

There is one difference to eastern Canada, though.  It is French Country and Western music that just is the weirdest thing.  It befuddles me, to hear this intermixed with Sammy Kersaw and Neil McCoy "The Shake" is just wrong.  

2nd verse of The Shake

Eve first said to Adam
Which outfit do you like
The maple or the fig leaf
Now honey they both look nice
Clothes don't mean that much to me
Maybe you better go and ask the snake
And what really turns me on is the shake

You know, when I think of cowboys on the range, I don't think of a Frenchman doing it and especially not singing about it.  It is amazingly popular out here and I find myself laughing endlessly.  I just couldn't take it any longer and I had to switch to an English language station, which of course causes its own issues.

Then came my idea for a second horror movie.  The big sound off on Fredericton radio was a woman ranting against the church bells near her house.  She told how many times the bells tolled a day.  Saying.  "Many think the bells invite you to church, I think they are driving us away in droves.  When you are sick, resting, trying to concentrate on you home job, the bells, the BELLS prevent you.  Will the city or the church pay for one's mental health, will they cover the medicine?  Will they pay my salary?"  The woman asked the church to lower the volume and not shockingly, they started playing Amazing Grace at 8am  ....the radio guy laughed.  This woman is not following the Canadian stereotype to strive to just get along with everyone....."The Bells, The Bells!"  would make a horror flick with a woman pushed to the brink and then snapping becoming a murderer.....starting in the church....then if your cell phone goes off then it will be you.....the Christmas bell ringer at Canadian Tire....zap....the school kids in Music class....pow....what a movie!

And you thought Canadians were the nicest people.


Despite the many month wait to add this bird to the checklist, (can't count it yet, North American first), I'm drinking my beer now, because I earned it.  Lifer bird!!  It is happy hour at the airport as I'm already heading out to get back home, and I may be a little tipsy in my canoe....



Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Middle of Nowhere

I was in the veritable middle of nowhere.  It was cold, I was lost, and all there was around me was ice and snow covered flatness.  It could be said I was at the corner of Forgotten and Ignored.  Then I saw a sign as I cruised past Tache' township, Manitoba today.  It was a big sign, I really was in the middle of nowhere, here at the center of Canada ...apparently equidistant from Cape Spear Newfoundland  (which I had been to) and some place on Vancouver Island or British Columbia which I hadn't.

This place was overkill to a degree you rarely see, there were flags, more signs, stone markers, picnic sites, yet more signs, and informational plaque, then a second plaque.

But all told it was about as inviting as a cold windswept place devoid of vegetation could be and then I looked it up....this location is the center of much see, it isn't the only place to lay such a claim....

This other place is well over a thousand miles away.  The people of Baker Lake, Nunavut, are proud of their coordinates: 64 degrees, 18 minutes, 41 seconds N and 96 degrees, 4 minutes, 8 seconds W. In 1951, someone bushwhacked through the forest on the periphery of town and hammered a sign into the dirt proclaiming, “Geographical centre of Canada.” Billboards at the airport and town hall, as well as the mantra on the town’s pamphlets and website, will not let anyone forget it. 

Their equivalent of the mayor, Denis Zettler was quoted as saying.  “We’re the centre, the core,” says Denis Zettler, the senior administrative officer of the 1,728-person town. “We’ve got the documentation. We all know it. Everybody knows it.”

Then in 2015, tens of thousands of dollars were spent in Manitoba for the above series of signs and a marketing campaign.  From Macleans Magazine, Baker Lake isn't the only other place making this claim.

Well, all I can say is .....Really?  This is that important?

The planned park is being built and can you imagine wi-fi hotspots here and a "meeting" spot?  I'd ask the local officials "what are you smoking?"  But since pot is legal here, we all know what is being smoked.  Wi-fi?  I don't even have a cell phone signal here.  At least in America, we haven't spent much of an effort on this, as the center of America is located out in the prairie in western South Dakota also in the middle of nowhere.

Luckily, it looks like all we've spent about 10 bucks on this piece of roadside Americana, nearby there is a pole and a FLAG out there. Even that looks used.  I can't find my picture of it, but trust me, it isn't worth the 22 mile one way trip north of Belle Fourche.  The farmer does warn online about rattlesnakes....but invites you to look around and enjoy yourself.  

So what the heck am I doing up here in Manitoba?
What else?  I am chasing birds...some I know, and like to find and others I want....sometimes you got to go left to go right, west to go south, or north to go east.

I cruised up to Roseau, Minnesota with the aim of hitting my favorite bog for owls....cause it was sort of on the way.  To get great grays you have to be there at first light so that meant I was hitting the road at 3am.  It was just a little brisk when I pulled into the home of Polaris snowmobiles.  I got to my spot and there was one, then another....

Great Gray owls at dawn....could anything be finer?  Then I looked at my thermometer...

It was cold outside....dang cold......-31F   (-34C)  and that was not windchill.  Burrr!!!.....I've birded up here at -36F, this is cold,  This bog in Lost river State Forest is probably routinely the coldest spot in the lower 48 states, it just doesn't have an official place to record the temperature...

Gosh my "flat tire" warnings all went on when I hit the bog.
then the Canadian Customs official looked at me when I told him what I was up to...."You came up to do what?"  Then..."You are heading where?"  

Here is a road to nowhere I drove on right after the border looking for Manitoba ticks. I'm facing south.  The trees at the end of the road are American trees, the deer standing in the road down there is in Canada, as where I am standing.  If it wasn't so cold, I may have tried to walk 50 feet into America, just to see what happened, but just the deer did...and nothing happened.

So, I'm sitting in a hotel in "The Peg" watching football; waiting for my morning flight out.  Where I'm off to?  A place that is is 50 degrees warmer than here, but that isn't saying much.....

Maybe I'll order room service...

Gosh, even the Eagles/ Falcons game looks warm by comparison, and for me, I'm just going from the Middle of nowhere to the center of nothing...and back again.

The fight for the Center of Canada..  Their out here spending $200,000 on this project so far, and now Baker Lake is starting to spend their own money, personally, I'm voting for the unnamed lake in Nunavut comes complete I hear with their own black there would be a place on everyone's to-do list, .The Center of Canada fight....who knew?

Don't forget your booties cause its cold out's cold out there everyday


Monday, January 8, 2018

The Night They Drove Old Harley Down....

WHEN I WAS a little kid, I was given those absolute rules one needed to know to survive to live to a long and healthy life.  I was told to eat my vegetables, to not play in the traffic, and to not mess with the loaded gun in the corner.  There was that lecture about not playing with matches and of course I was chastised to not run with scissors, or to ever throw rocks and pencils because eventually, someone would loose and eye.  All that was said or implied many, many times.  Oh, and there was one more thing, don’t ever go out and play on thin ice.  I learned all of these cornerstones of life and somehow, I made it to being 18.
 Christmas 2017 was a typical affair for us, except for three things.  We went to my family first, enjoying the season with 500 card games, gift giving and overeating, then we went to my wife’s family in Minnesota.
             I say three things were different.  One was that I went ice fishing with my wife and daughter on both Big Dunham Lake and Big Wood Lake but unfortunately, we didn’t catch any fish.
            The second difference was that my family forgot to get out the pickled herring which was truly tragic.  It was the third thing that was really different.  I got this email late Christmas Day afternoon from my family.

I was looking out the window @ 4:40 today, and a truck came across the lake from the south, & broke the ice. The front end stayed up long enough so who ever should have had time to get out. I called 911, and they sent out  ambulances, etc. No report yet! will let you know if we hear anything!!! 

The ”whomever” was a man named Harley Meyer and passenger, Keith Choronzy.  Neighbors of my family  ran out and with ladders and ropes, and rescued the men floundering in the water.  I don’t know Keith, but Harley….Harley is just one of those guys.  It took almost 30 years for my grandfather, Allwin to be proved correct.  You see Harley had a bit of an ice fishing reputation, he was usually the first person each year to drive out on Big Wood Lake.  My grandfather’s prediction:  Some day, some day, they’re going to go in, because you just never know.
            My grandfather knew a little bit about going through the ice.  Being about as close to a professional trapper that you could be without being one,  he had broken through beaver trapping a couple times on foot near shore.  On one cold January day half a century ago on 30 inches of ice on Grimh Lake near Frederic, he put the back wheels of the family logging truck through the ice, right where you’d never suspect you’d ever have a problem. 
            There have occasionally been big things to happen to Grantsburg, my home town.  There were the forest fires of 1959 and 1980.  The Grantsburg area invented watercross, the activity of skipping snowmobiles over open water.  This lead to the invention of jet skis and since 1977, Grantsburg has hosted the summer nationals races in the sport on its mill pond, Memory Lake.  Other races and events have been held at nearby towns. Then there were the Bigfoot sightings of 1985 which led to large scale investigations and then followed by a series of secondary hoaxes.  There was the 7-foot four-inch policeman named Big Gust, and there have been bank robberies.  Many trophy deer and bears have been killed, and even of course, I chipped in, with the Falun Sucker Club.  Everything previously, however, done or seen now seems to be dwarfed by this, but well, it may just be perspective. 
            So what really happened?  Like any event, there is the truth.  There is the story that ended up in the newspapers, and then there is what will end up being the legend.  When confronted with truth and legend, it is said, believe the legend, always believe the legend.  I asked out on the lake, on January 7th, and well, the legend was already well ingrained in the local lore.
            There is a reason I don’t know Keith Choronzy, one of the victims in this event.  He could be the luckiest and unluckiest man around, as it turns out.  He isn’t a local guy, having just moved to my hometown from Michigan.  It even turns out he works at a local company with my uncle Dennis and this story begins with him.  It turns out his wife decided to go visit her relatives in Michigan over Christmas and he, for whatever reason, decided to stay home. 
It is Christmas Day, and well, he gets bored and for want of something to do, he ends up in the Rendezvous, Grantsburg’s infamous tavern.  A somewhat seedy place that has been the subject of far too many damnation sermons at the many local Swedish Baptist and Swedish covenant churches over the decades.  In the eye of the holier than thou crowd, that dominated the western Burnett County landscape for the last century, drinking alcohol equals hell, and the ending of Prohibition was the beginning of Revelation, and the center of it all was this single bar located on Madison Avenue in downtown Grantsburg.  I’ve heard so many sermons and comments overt he years that you think the words “sin” and “rendezvous” were synonymous.
            It is a lonely and sad situation to be hanging out at a bar on Christmas but well, it happens.  Keith starts chatting with the other bar flies and shares that he is apparently in the market for a fish house.  One thing leads to another and he ends up in a conversation to one of the biggest bar flies, a man named Harley Meyer.  Harley, you see, has a fish house he may be in the market to sell, and well, after a while he offers to drive Keith over to his place to show it to him, and then after that, they end up going for a drive.
            How this unlikely pair actually ended up out on Big Wood Lake at dusk and what the blood alcohol level was of the driver was something you can only imagine, but certainly the standard comment about the lack of common sense was plainly involvedThey had been driving a fair distance out on the lake, but went in and apparently the electric windows shorted out on the older GMC Yukon XL.  They also couldn’t open the door.  Keith couldn’t swim but as they were doing 40 mph by witnesses out there, they made a huge hole when the car created a wave and and the ice finally snapped.  Harley now a big 65-year-old retired guy had a hard time climbing backwards in the vehicle towards the end that remained above water.  The only thing they had to break the rear window was Harley’s ice auger, so they used it to smash the window and exit the vehicle, reminding me of why all of our vehicles all have window hammers.  Now a couple hundred yards from the nearest shore,  surrounded in ice, the two men were soon floundering in the water.  They were unable to pull themselves out of the ice as the Yukon finally sunk, engine down torpedoing down the 28 feet of water burying itself into the muck of the bottom.
            Keith was going down for the proverbial third time, when, as I said previously, people from a couple house away from my parent’s were running out to rescue this intrepid pair, one of which had just finished a course on water rescues.  They arrived and yanked him out before he drowned and then fished out Harley, saving them both from a tragic death and then brought them into a house to warm them up.  I guess the rest was history, but they were lucky they didn’t drown.  My family still remembers the tragedy of Louis Marek, another local man, who put his car down into Spirit Lake, a few miles away, back in 1962 with his son.  His son crawled out onto the ice but he just didn’t have the strength to pull out his father before he drowned on that fateful December day, haunting the poor kid for the rest of his life. 
            Car Down 2017/18 will be remembered in ice-fishing huts, hunting lodges, and campfires for years to come, maybe forever.  Not one to miss out on all the action, I arrived at a little after eight in the morning on January 7, 2018, walked out, drilled holes for tip-ups in front of my parents house and came back in to warm up.  

The weather was in a bit of a warming spell, as it even broke 25 degrees, that is -4C for all of you Canadians and Europeans out there.  This time of year that is about 2 degrees warmer than average.  It was a good day apparently, to go car fishing, as in fishing out a car.  You see, Wisconsin allows you  just 30 days to extract a sunk vehicle before they start imposing huge daily fines, which will quite quickly exceed your net worth, should you have the fortitude to avoid organizing a recovery operation.
            I’ve done a lot of stupid and crazy things in my life but I’ve never sunk a car.  Once, on a lake named Upper Clam Lake about 20 miles northeast of here, I was standing by a tip-up hole (too close to the open water) when I felt the sheet of ice I was standing on sinking.  Another time in eastern Ontario, having the ice-fishing time of my life, I was walking back to my car with about four inches of water on top of the ice over maybe 24 inches of solid ice.  For some reason, I stopped.  I looked down and six inches in front of my boot was a six foot hole.  I got warned as a kid that if I drove out on the lake, and sunk a car, I’d be paying for it out of my own bank account.  I knew that it would be more money that I had.  Thereafter, I’ve been pretty cautious, typically fishing from shore, or walking out.  That is not to say I’ve never driven on ice.  I actually learned to drive a car on ice.  It is a great way to learn how to counter steer in a spin.  I just never pushed it.
            Luckily, Grantsburg is the center of water recoveries.  Due to waterskipping and the ingenuity of locals, an apparatus needed to be invented to be able to float out and pull up sunk snowmobiles in open water or through the ice.  Carl Anderson of Anderson Towing and Recovery from the north side of my hometown does quite a bit of business with his team of water recovery experts.  The FIRM, a float-able ice recovery machine, he invented to avoid the weight of a tow truck to go out on the ice.  It is pulled out by a stripped down open Jeep and has four heavy duty winches mounted on each corner enabling it to extract just about anything. 

About twenty minutes after I was officially fishing, the recovery crew came out and started getting ready.  First they sent down a camera to see if, I guess, the SUV was still there, as maybe a large sneaky northern pike might have moved it.  

They set up a divers hut, to have a second hole for them to have access, and put up a food hut to feed and offer hot drinks for the crew and the many onlookers.  The lake was a frenzy of activity.  Nothing beats sloppy Joes and cider out on the ice.  

They cut out the ice for the main hole (actually cutting Harley’s ice sled in half in the process which was floating just under the ice).  

They placed the FIRM in the correct location, divers went down, and then began the recovery operation.

Being engine down in the mud, they had no access to anything in front of the doors of the Tahoe so they had to raise it back-end first and then send divers down a second time to attach cables to the front end.   As they raised it, fish buckets, coats, and fishing poles started floating upwards, and then a trailer hitch appeared.  The growing crowd let out a bit of a celebration.

It took almost an hour to actually turn the vehicle to its normal orientation as the excitement of all of us built watching it, and then up it came, quite a bit worse for wear, and of course now, just a $200 hunk of scrap iron.  

Harley’s favorite ice-fishing rod looked salvageable, however clinging to the molding of the back window.  

At the end someone asked…”Where is Harley?”  Harley was actually nowhere around.  It appears, Harley has been persona non-grata and since the event has been hiding in his house and not answering his telephone.  A character apparently unwilling to remain part of a play that was now centered about him.
Out on the lake, it was said that recovering a vehicle costs a grand a foot.  So this recovery will probably cost between $20,000 and $35,000 depending on how, I guess, they measure the feet.  It was almost priceless and that is a lot of money for a vehicle that would only be worth $5,000 before it went in and now virtually nothing.  I hope he doesn’t have fine print in his car insurance policy.  Somehow, I don’t think the price of the fish house will cover it, and maybe from now one, Harley may not be the man who races out to be the first to drive out on the lake.  Possibly he’ll just do a lot of his early season fishing from his bar stool in the Rendezvous, eventually telling his version of the story adding in more of the flavor.
For me, it was the end of a great one-day trip to my hometown, as it isn’t every day you get to watch something like this.  It made almost want start to compose a song, at least one popped into my head, at least a parody of one.  No, I didn’t actually catch any pike on this crazy day, but I didn’t need to as I already had a great story to share, the tale of the night they drove old Harley down, and the bells were ringing, the night they drove old Harley down, and the people were singin' they went ..La. la, la, la la la... my apologies to The Band
I guess since it happened on Christmas, the bells were ringing and the people were also singing.   Now they just have to write the real song.

Be careful out there and stay off thin ice!


PS The bird count during this was two species, American Crow and Bald eagle

Golden dreams and memories

  Today brings me to the north suburbs of Chicago.  Although not for a bird even though a lifer bird had been flying tantalizingly close to ...