Monday, May 25, 2009

Enjoying Nature and Birds

Christine and the girls are in central MN visiting family, so I am trying my best to utilize my current flexibility. After two mornings of waking up early only to return back to bed becasue of rain I actually did go birding this morning. I participated in a Madison Audubon Society Field Trip to Baxter’s Hollow nature conservancy. We heard many birds but because of the full foliage it was a challenge to see all of them. Besides birds we found a few mosquitoes, a snake, tadpoles, a handful of butterfly species (including a Tiger Swallowtail being eaten by an Eastern Phoebe), and a handful of Yellow Lady's Slipper.

I carpooled the 30 miles with the trip leader and another excellent birder. After Baxter's Hollow the three of us went to Spring Green Preserve. While we did not find the Northern Mockingbird we were looking for I was able to see and hear a Dickcissel and Grasshopper Sparrow for the first time. We were also unsuccessful in finding many shorebirds around Spring Green, but we did find this Wilson’s phalarope.

After a short nap I was back outside and squeezed in a couple of short birding walks during laundry’s wash and dryer cycles. I did not find many new birds during the two 20 minute walks, but came across a White-tailed doe in the UW Arboretum (pictured above) and a flock of Dunlins (in picture below) and Semipalmated Sandpipers at the Water Treatment plant ponds.

Over 100 bird species today (most for me in a single day) and nearly 8 miles of walking. It was relaxing and a gorgeous day to be outside enjoying nature.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

My little girls

After the flurry of family visits last week and weekend, I am reminded of how lucky I am as a dad. I have two wonderful little girls and an awesome wife taking care of them. Michaela is still likes being a little girl. Most times when she wakes she likes to snuggle and asks for help eating. Why we still allow her to have us feed her I am not sure, but leave it such a simple task to remind you that you are desired and needed as a parent.

Michaela has really taken to being a big sister. When Danielle was crying out in the gardens Michaela tried to sooth her and make everything better. Moments like these make me completely okay with the lack of words and potty training. They almost offset the times when Michaela gets cranky at night and pushes Danielle over...I am just waiting for Danielle's payback.

I feel bad at how we noticed most every little thing with Michaela and take most of those things for granted with Danielle. Danielle has started to cling to us more and has become more shy with strangers. She is still very laid back and quickly warms up to almost everyone. This is her sizing up Great Grandpa Gold and Lael when they visited last week, she was a good sport.

I am guessing that Danielle will become more independent once she figures out how to crawl rather than scoot around, but until then it is okay with me if they stay my little girls.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Graduation Weekend

On Friday I walked in the University of Wisconsin's spring graduation ceremony. My parents, Grandma Gold, Steph, as well as the Nibbe Family all traveled down to Madison to join in the celebration. A quick walk across the stage amidst a two hour program and I received a diploma cover. Now all I have to do is finish my dissertation, defend and deposit it to actually get the diploma.

The ceremony took most of Friday, but on Saturday we were all able to spend some time together. My parents hung out and swam with Michaela while the women found garage sales. Bob, Aaron, David and myself went for a short walk birding in some very blustery winds. After dinner my parents took Michaela with them back to Staples and the rest of us enjoyed Henry Vilas Zoo before Nibbes headed back to central Minnesota. Bob, Caroline and the boys as well as my parents drove back on Saturday...making for consecutive days of long drives. It was great having family with us in Madison, we know it is a long drive and appreciate each of their visits.

We enjoyed a quiet night with Steph and Grandma Betty playing cards and eating pizza. Steph and Christine got the better of Grandma and myself at hand and foot, winning the best of 3 series this morning after splitting the two games last night. Christine read Twilight and I went golfing today before going out to look at Terns and Egrets tonight. (Black Tern in the picture.)

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Migration Fallout

This past weekend we spent a good portion of each day outside walking and birding. The weather was fairly cooperative as was birding. Saturday morning there were showers and the chilly afternoon winds coincided with a migration fallout across much of Southern Wisconsin. This caused birds to come to the ground and feed. We were at a local park and saw the most warblers in any one place and time. There were easily over 500 warblers as well as vireos, thrushes and sparrows. The wind was perfect, pushing and congregating the birds along a lake. This made for great viewing and many photographic opportunities of birds already previously seen as well as completely new birds. It was great to be outside! Here are three pictures from that day...I bet we took nearly 300 times that many though.

First time seeing a Cape May Warbler!!

Most thrushes, including this Veery are almost never this cooperative for picture taking.

This Yellow-throated Vireo was nice and close.

After the long walk Michaela was ready to get to the slide.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Weekend Trip: Birds & Marshfield

On Sunday we took a drive over to the Spring Green Preserve. We had a nice walk with the girls and I got quite the workout walking up this hill. The weather was nearly perfect with almost 70 degrees and a good wind. The birding was great also. Not only did we see a handful of bird species for the first time ever, we were also fortunate enough to got some pictures of them. At Spring Green Preserve we saw Lark Sparrows, Vesper Sparrows, a Short-billed Dowitcher, and Wilson's Phalaropes for the first time. Taking pictures of anything else Christine also took pictures of Turkey Vultures, Field Sparrows. Savannah Sparrows and Lesser Yellowlegs.

After birding on Sunday we drove north to Marshfield. We met with a banker and realtor, talking through our options for housing. We are both very excited about the upcoming change in our life which hopefully will include being home owners. At this point we are still looking into all of our options and expect another trip in the upcoming weeks to look at more houses.