Sunday, May 15, 2022

Our Daughter's Big Day of Achievement

We came back from Scotland just in time to attend our youngest's graduation at Hamline University in St. Paul yesterday.  It was Lauren's big day, graduation with honors in Chemistry and History on her way to Dental School at the University of Minnesota.  

It was a crazy line trying to get into the Rivercenter in St Paul for the ceremony.  The previous graduation went late, but we got in fine and the pomp and circumstance started late.

The ceremony was fine, but it also ended up being a little long as Senator Klobuchar made a cameo appearance and gave a surprise speech.  (Her husband went to graduate school at Hamline).  Her speech was a classic stump speech, but okay.  Hamline divides their graduation in two and Former Gov (and senator) Dayton gave the keynote.  Ours was some 80 year alumni who I had never heard of before.

L was near the back of the line but eventually, all masked up, her name was called and she got her moment of achievement!  We all had to wear masks inside, except when speaking I guess.  Oh well, photos of the time.

The proud family....

Grandma and Grandpa Segelstrom

It took a village to get Lauren through Hamline.  Aunt Jena tutoring sign language classes, Allwin Chemistry and Calculus, Grandparents feeding and helping her move.....well all of us helped her move.  Numerous mentors for her future Dental practice, took a lot!

She still calls me with bird consults and I suspect we'll go birding and fishing next week.

Congrats Girl!!
A proud 


PS I got a Minnesota lifer Wilson's warbler walking back from the ceremony!!!


Thursday, May 12, 2022

By Land, By Sea, my Clan Experience

There is more to Scotland than just tits, (like this coal tit).  One cannot go to Scotland and not notice the local culture, the kilts, the tartan, the titles, and the Clans.  I have hated to admit this, and for most of my life ignored it, but as it turns out I have deep roots around the Highlands of Scotland.  As it turns out, I am a member of the Clan Donald, one of the largest clans around and usually known as the Clan Mac Donald.  By land and By sea, the motto of the clan is etched in my soul somewhere.

Clan Donald traces its descent from Dòmhnall Mac Raghnuill whose father Ranald or Reganeld was styled "King of the Isles" and "Lord of Argyll and Kintyre" and grandfather was Somerled, King of the Hebrides.

Specifically, I am from the branch known as the McDonnells of Antrim, in County Antrim in Northern Ireland.  You see, I have deep roots in the whole of Scottish history.  The MacDonnells of Antrim are descended from John Mor MacDonald chief of the MacDonald of Dunnyveg, John Mor MacDonald was the second son of Good John of Islay, 6th chief of Clan Donald and six generations descendant from the founder of the clan.  This birth was through John of Islay's second marriage to Princess Margaret Stewart, daughter of King Robert II.  Hence why the MacDonald's ended up on the Jacobite side of the whole threat to the English crown when the Tudors of Henry the VIII's line had no more children and the Stewarts took over but then they were removed by William of Orange in 1688 when the Protestants kicked out Catholic King James in the Glorious Revolution.  James or Jacobus would lead revolts from Scotland as would his son Charles,  Scotland would lose its independence in the ensuing years. 

John Mor MacDonald married Margery Byset daughter of the Mac Eoin Bissett Lord of the Glens of Antrim. They would take on the title Lord of Antrim from the Bissets even though that was not given.  It would turn out John Mor would be murdered in Edinburgh in 1427 by James Campbell continuing a feud that continues between the two clans, possibly even until today.

 John Mor MacDonald is my 20th Great Grandfather as it would turn out, and like probably hundreds of thousands, I am a direct descendant of the founder of the clan.  As the Jacobites gathered their forces in 1688, the second son of of the nobility of the Clan McDonnell, a young man named Bryan McDonnell was commissioned at Lieutenant of the Jacobite army, to fulfill the loyalty of the clan to the Stewart king James II, this despite that they were protestant.  James was open to al religions or so the history states. In 1691, James II left his army to go to Europe to secure support and left Lord Tyrconnell in charge of the Williamite War in Ireland, and he distrusted protestants in his army despite Clan loyalty and purged them all including my ancestor Bryan, who not being the family heir, decided it would be a good time to leave for America.  He purchased 693 acres from William Penn & moved to Delaware in 1691 with his family.  He was then known as "McDonald the immigrant."

So my ancestors have been in America for a very long time, oddly, as far as can be determined, none of my ancestors ever married another Irish person.....

Everywhere I went, I was surrounded by my Clan history.

The Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness was sacked by the Clan in 1513 and just about everything was carted off.  It was retaken in 1517 by the Clan Grant and then sacked again by my clan in 1545 when even more was taken.  The Grants blew up the castle in 1690 so the Jacobites would not use it in the Uprising of the period. 

Now it just gives a nice view to look for monsters

The Loch Ness Monster?  No, just a pipe.

We went to Skye, which we would learn must be the most crowded place on Earth in the summer and was still nuts.  The weather is also nuts out there.  Rain, fog, wind, cold, .....seeing the sky in Skye, a lucky break. 

It is also home of the ancestral and spiritual center of the Clan Donald out at the ruins of Castle Armadale. 

The view from the castle

The MacDonald's have been largely replaced by the Clan MacLeod of the other side of the island and who owns like 100,000 acres of the island which is most of it.   

We toured their castle, Dunvegon.  The MacDonald's were kicked out as "Lord of the Isles" in 1493.  The end of the MacDonald Lords came in 1493 when John MacDonald II had his ancestral homeland, estates, and titles seized by King  James IV of Scotland. Since that time, the MacDonald Clan has contested the right of James IV to the Lordship of the Isles and uprisings and rebellions against the Scottish Monarch were common.  This is why they sacked things like the castle on Loch Ness.

The MacLeod's (Leod which means "Ugly" in old Norse, the son's of Ugly, is a rather interesting name).  and the MacDonald's have had a rather odd and UGLY history.  Let us review a few of them.

Until the Lordship of the Isles was forfeited to King James IV of Scotland in 1493, both MacLeod branches were loyal to MacDonald Lord of the Isles, and kinsmen from both families fought side-by-side at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 for the Bruce cause; the Battle of Harlaw (1411) for the Chief of Clan Donald; and at the Battle of Bloody Bay in 1481 for John of Islay. After the loss of the Lord of the Isles’ title and lands, however, Scotland fell into a period of crisis and anarchy and the two major family branches — the MacLeods of Dunvegan and MacDonalds of Sleat — became locked in a violent feud that would last for over a century.

The enmity was bitter, the fighting barbaric, and both clans committed terrible atrocities towards each other’s kinsmen in a bid to regain and extend their powers over the Island. The fighting laid waste to farmland and the collateral damage to communities was high with reports of the civilian population being reduced to eating horses, pets “and other filthie beasts".

In addition to the battle sites during the Wars of the One-Eyed Woman, there are many places on Skye which mark the historical hostilities between these two vying clans. One such place is Trumpan Church, now a ruin, on the Waternish Peninsula.

In 1577, after a MacLeod raiding party landed on Eigg, the island’s population of MacDonalds fled to a cave in the south of the island. With a view to flushing them out, the MacLeods blocked the cave entrance with heather and vegetation and set it alight. Instead of becoming prisoners, however, all 395 MacDonalds were suffocated to death. Enraged by the slaughter, the following year, the MacDonalds of neighboring Uist landed eight birlinn war galleys at Ardmore Bay. While the MacLeods were all gathered inside nearby Trumpan church for their Sunday worship, the marauding MacDonalds barred the doors and set alight to the church, killing all but one – a young girl. The girl apparently managed to escape through a window, run the 10 miles to Dunvegan Castle and raise the alarm. Unfortunately for the MacDonald party, a low tide had grounded their escape vessels, leaving time for the MacLeods to catch them. A battle ensued, during which MacLeod raised the fairy flag and slaughtered his enemies to every man. The bodies of the fallen MacDonalds were lined up behind a turf dyke which was collapsed over the top of them. This bloody moment in history is widely known as the Battle of the Spoiling Dyke.

The Damn fairy flag of the McLeods, supposedly given to them by the supernatural and it hangs in the Dunvegan, when I saw it, my instinct was to steal it.

They were brutal...

Iain Ciar MacLeod, 4th chief

Iain Ciar and his wife were a particularly infamous couple. He was described as a “tyrannical and bloodthirsty despot” who was not only hated by his enemy but also his own clansmen. His wife apparently had her two daughters buried alive in the castle dungeons for trying to escape the clan.

Alasdair Crotach, Alexander the Humpbacked, 8th chief
“The Crotach” is lauded as the MacLeods’ greatest chief. Said to have been mutilated by a strike with a MacDonald battle axe during the Battle of Bloody Bay off Mull, this belligerent warlord who was feared by many had an aesthetic side to his nature. He embraced culture: he positively encouraged dancing, poetry and music. He formed a piping college on Skye and installed the MacCrimmons as pipers to the MacLeod chiefs, a relationship that still lasts today. He built the castle’s Fairy Tower and entertained King James V to a mountain feast on Healabhal Beag, one of the MacLeod’s tables overlooking Orbost. ‘The Crotach’ spent the latter part of his final years living as a monk on Harris and died there in 1547.

The strange but true

In 1739, Norman MacLeod of Dunvegan (The Wicked) and Sir Alexander MacDonald of Sleat and others were accused of being involved in the kidnapping of 96 of their kinsmen, men, women and children with a view to selling them into slavery at £3 per head. The plot was led by Waternish tacksman Sir Norman Macleod of Berneray who managed to herd his victims onto a ship bound for the Americas. A storm wrecked the vessel off the coast of Northern Ireland and the reluctant passengers were all rescued.  They escaped justice.

He also locked his first wife in the dungeon of Dunvegan to starve slowly to death, lost the ancestral lands of Harris due to excessive spending, never visited Skye, and was a generally all around bad dude.

John MacLeod of MacLeod, 29th chief, this man was featured on the introductory video of the castle, had a prominent painting and was a classically trained actor and looked like an outstanding citizen.  His picture is everywhere....but the truth, maybe is not so great.

I had thought MacLeod was a cool dude, but then I read about him.  He was just like the rest of the elites and not unlike his ancestor Norman, anything for profit mentality.  In 2000, John MacLeod attempted to sell-off the Black Cuillin for £10million in order, he said, to restore the dilapidated roof of Dunvegan Castle. At the same time, he also put forward plans to build a 60-80 bedroom hotel and leisure complex near the village. The intended sale of Scotland’s most iconic mountain range caused public outrage and fuelled a heated debate about Scotland’s ownership. When the plans fell through and the Cuillin taken off the market, MacLeod was forced back to the table for funding ideas. A subsequent bid to the National Lottery for £25 million with a promise to hand over the Cuillin and Dunvegan Castle to the public also failed. Further controversy followed his death in 2007 when he left £15million in his will.  Pleading poverty?  Hope his death was painful.

The Black Cuillins would be like selling Yellowstone to a mining concern or Exxon.  Would he have let go the famous Fairy Pools where his kin may have gotten the famous battle flag?  Stunning mountains, the best in the whole UK.

There were birds (and other creatures) on Skye and the son did shine.

Common ringed plover

Eurasian Curlew, a lifer

Gray heron

Greylag goose

Highland cattle

hooded crow

rock pipit

Northern wheatear 
Don and then Leroy befriended this chicken at the old MacDonald hunting lodge nee Sconser Hotel on Skye.

Old Man of Storr, owned by the MacLeods is an over popular hike

We finally moved on 

First Glenfinnan, another MacDonald site, better known as the site of the Bridge scene in Harry Potter and everyone came to see the steam train go over it

Inadvertently on the MacDonald tour as the monument to the Jacobites and the clan is on the other side of the road

Then on to Glencoe back on the mainland in the Highlands, despite this fleeting picture, the stunning area was encased in fog and rain on our entire visit.  

Again, MacDonald land.  In 1692, the MacDonalds took in a patrol of Loyalist forces from the king during a terrible snowstorm.  Twelve days later, violating the code of the Highlands, the men, led by a Campbell, massacred somewhere over thirty men and women with children in their sleep, and forced the rest into the Highlands in a blizzard, most and unknown number died.  This even shocked the nation, but after a parliamentary investigation, nothing happened.  There have been coverups for centuries.

Can I even listen to Glenn Campbell's music again?

Lesser redpoll, a lifer, recent split from the common redpoll, British birding thinks there is 5 species of redpolls, there is probably just one, but here we say three

I needed a pub after all of this Clannish stuff, some serious pints

I was overwhelmed.  I even thought, do I contact the Clan Chief for the Irish arm of the clan?

The Clan chief is the Right and Honourable Randall Alexander St. John McDonnell, 6th Earl of Antrim even looks a bit like me., well maybe.  LOL

Do I buy a kilt with the colors?  Do I keep up the feud with the MacLeods and Campbells?  Do I join the MacDonald Society USA?  What to do...but maybe history IS bunk.  Even for me, I had way too much, and it was all surprisingly thrust upon me due to poor choices for places to go birding.  maybe it was my genes dragging me here, I do not know.  It made me want to go home.  There was too much here for me, and the damp clouds did NOT help and we had some sun.  

More to come


Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Doing the Lek dance in Scotland

 A lot has shaken my confidence in the future, humanity, and just about everything recently.  Was this rook on a gravestone an omen?  No, and I’m not talking about the little issues, like “family,” “my values,” “owning a good dog,” birding,” “the joyful solitude of fishing,”  just walking in the forest or a meadow, or even the “peculiarity of cats.”  No, I mean the bigger issues…..politics, religion,  “America” as a concept, the future of humanity….etc.  At least I haven't lost my confidence in sex, however, but I guess I am now what should be referred to as a "cis-gendered male," and I am not sure really what that means or why I am that, so maybe my confidence in sex IS shaken.  I am just so....confused.

This all started with a trip to Scotland recently, so recently, I am just getting back, although it just exacerbated it.  I have been festering thinking for weeks and I've had a month of writing fatigue.  Maybe it was just the documentaries I watched on my Delta flights.  “The Fibs of American History.”  Some I knew, like Revere was not the only rider.  The Soviet nuclear threat of the 1950s was exacerbated, and the tenuous ties with the Civil War to end slavery was there.  But my new lack of faith was more.  In the UK, I read a headline.  “NASA sending nudes photos into space,” in some sort of misguided attempt to attract aliens, maybe they’ll get lustful and come….?  IDK. To be fair, I did not read the article.  There has been talk about Artificial Intelligence and how it was going to “improve life on Earth.”  Soon AI controlled drones could be directed from a remote location to “bring peace.”  I began to think….has ANYONE read science fiction?  How many episodes of Star Trek, the movie series Star Wars, or Terminator have the people in charge not watched?  Are they that naïve?   All I can say, is NOTHING nothing good can ever come of Alien contact, just ask the Incan, How many native islanders of Easter island are there?  Maybe a US Native tribe?  Pick one, anyone.

In the middle of this, I spent a week with Silja and two friends at a nature center in Scotland, Aigas, owned by a Baronet, Sir John Lister-Kaye.  The place meant well and is trying to save Scottish Wildcats and beavers, plus other things like the pine marten and the badger, but as we drove about, what I saw was the elite core of the UK, a various Who is Who of the UK aristocracy.  These landowners, ones with bigger titles than sir John, and leaders entrenched in the House of Lords in London and in Edinburgh, totally in control of the land, and managing it much like Facebook, Google, and Amazon manages the internet (for profit). Management is all for hunting, hunting lodges, and anything that might be a predator, even the lowly magpie, has been shot, killed, and stuffed.  I found two stuffed eagles at the Aigas manor, unconscionable…..the best thing in America is the protection of raptors and migratory birds with a huge fine for shooting one.  In the somewhat secret case of windmills killing them, corporate fines… it perfect?  NO, but here we have a place with a VERY well represented Green party, giving more talk on Kyoto and whatever than in the USA, and….the employed gamekeepers shoot magpies…( I challenge anyone to find one in the Highlands of Scotland or see a close up eagle.

Aigas Manor, our home for the week

Our cabin for the week, MacIntosh Manor

Enough rant....well maybe not.

Scotland………I just do not know what to say, it is a place mismanaged for over population by red deer, managed for the elite to shoot, and to go on ptarmigan hunts to just shoot hundreds of birds because, I guess, they can.   It is a place of much water, BUT few ducks.  I say, back in just Day County South Dakota, there are more ducks in a 20 mile by 20 mile square than the whole of Scotland.  One good sized bay between Port Angeles and Neah Bay Washington, has more sea ducks, and eider, yeah, I do not what to think about it.

Not a single duck on Loch Ness, nor a monster for that matter, I guess they were full from eating ducks

In all of this, I went to a lek.  The highlight of my trip as it would turn out.

We met up with the local expert on a reserve, I would lead my four intrepid travelers, Don and Nancy Harrington and my wife and I, two days earlier by pure happenstance to look for tree pipits and whatever else we could find, and inadvertently walk past a very nice black grouse lek, which we would return at the crack of dawn to see the birds.

Black grouse male

Black grouse hens

In two leks we saw 20 males and 3 hens, doing the dance of life and spring.  The black grouse is a pretty widespread species, essentially Scotland all the way across the north into Siberia, and its dance was sort of a sharp tailed grouse meets black grouse, or a prairie chicken with more noise.  There was fighting, or mock fighting as the case make be.  Some spinning, and a dance like the “B-52” takeoff of sharp-tails, but mostly we saw posturing and a couple of males just squawking for their mates to return. 

Some more pictures……

They were a life bird, one of 14 for the trip and the number one bird I was looking for.  The tree pipit was also a lifer, and essentially the only ones we saw.  They had their own acrobatics, sort of a skylark meets a bit of a snipe.

It is a strange thing, thinking about life in a grouse lek, with numb toes, shivering legs, and a having ones fingers shake from the cold so much, that the photos tend to get blurry, but in 2022, my only grouse lek will end up being a black grouse’s lek…..hopefully, I still have many leks in me.  But such is like, one needs to enjoy what they can of it.

Tree pipit, first lifer of the trip

I think the black grouse are holding their own here, but I'm sure someone would want to shoot them.

I have been thinking a lot lately.  Introspection is good to a point, I guess.  In days before my trip, I went to memorial to an old friend of my, in some ways, a kindred spirit, but in others very different.  I would love to just show some of what are probably Bill’s favorite moments besides his wife Joyce and family, but well, I am not sure if all 1970s photos can be handled by the majority here.  Others Woodstock photos a probably best left censored or in the drawers.  Bill was also an atheist.  His was the first atheist funeral that was pretty upbeat I have been to…..the problem with humanism and atheism have always been the voids at the end.  Being the ever historian, Joyce gave me some old photos of lost Halcion days, and they made me laugh, and made me smile, and made me wonder what I was going to do with them…..I am not sure about atheism… is hard not to look at a grouse lek and see God, others may just see nature. It is easy to see the Devil at work…..hw is working right now in Ukraine and maybe many of the world’s capitals.   

The Devil may also me seen in a Uber-rich Malaysian owning an estate in some Glen in Scotland with a game keeper managing the place only for deer, filled with starving stags, and forever altered environment due to overgrazing and refusal to manage the population down.  It is also hard to support Green House gas initiatives over apparent hypocrisy in tearing up carbon holding peat moors to put up a windmills, that may, may just go carbon Neutral in year 20 of their existence while it kills eagles, hawks, and the roads to an from it are covered in plastic little.  Just drive the streets near the Glasgow airport, to see good old fashioned 1970s American littered roads.  I Guess the windmill manufacturers are laughing all the way to the bank.  Plus, who is going to tear down the old oil drilling rigs anchored and rusting away in ports on the east side of Scotland, like at Crawley? 

Oil derricks at anchor rusting in Crawley Scotland 

Are they going to do it in 10, 20, 40 years?  Is it going to end up looking like the old castle ruins of the previous estate owners with too much money who would rather hang out with the kings and Lords than actually take care and manage their property?  These old ruins sit abandoned and neglected in the moors and points of view and are now called historical sites.  If there EVER was a place that screams property redistribution it is Scotland.

Maybe I am confusing the Scottish National Party (the SNP and the party that wants Scottish independence) as a party that cares about the country not only in who leads them.  It all seems like History revisiting from the Jacobite insurrection of three hundreds years ago, something I will revisit next time, in my “Clans” blog, and yes, I am not just a product of Swedish ancestry from Grangarde Sweden— an insignificant town halfway between Ludvika and Falun Sweden. I have deep roots in the Scottish moors, possibly too deep, it is ancestry I have largely ignored, but it is there, and I stumbled upon it, like I always do.   I am not sure I even want to deal with it, either.

This is all above my pay grade, and I am punching above my weight.  I have my own religion thoughts, and I gave up trying to convert anyone long ago to anything. I am just a philosophical birder, maybe birding is my religion?  I am a father of three, husband of a wife who for reasons unknown took hop on Olaf’s bus of (mis)adventure, and who is a bad writer, and I can't even convert them.  

Aigas was a nice visit....

Badger (Eurasian), different from ours

Our group of UK birding enthusiasts

The Eurasian pine marten

Some of the garden birds at Aigas were not common to us, but I had seen most before

wood pigeon

willow warbler

white (oied) wagtail

common firecrest

European Robin "Bob"

Great spotted woodpecker

Finally, a lifer and a bird that eluded me on the grounds for six days, a Dunnock

and saw some vistas in many of the glens on private estates looking for...eagles and scoured the lochs for...ospreys.   

Newborn lambs were everywhere, and sometime there a hour after we walked past

At the moment I am just travelling home, trying to get home, on a just crazy 24 hours, I may NEVER write about and I have a to prepare a Zoom talk on birds of the South Atlantic, again, more on that later, and I am glad that I am leaving Scotland sit and ripen like a cask of Ben Nevis Scotch, and Scotland, likes it signature alcohols needs to mellow, it is still like gasoline in my mouth and I am still high over Iceland, too close to be objective.

I am going to now watch “Little Miss Sunshine” on the Plane’s entertainment system, a happy fictional memoir centered on “body image” and a satirical look at pre-pubescent beauty pageants….more OMG…I switched to "Yesterday"  a story of what if the Beatles never existed but a guy remembered their music and sings it..that was better.  I need to revisit old Bill’s treasure trove of photos…maybe they will cheer me up.

Sending nude pictures into space?  WT....F

this was just the start of a very long trip, so more soon....I got a lot to say but on simpler topics like....Scottish Caravans, Clans, and well, more birds....


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 ...