Saturday, June 29, 2013

Summer Birding - Breeding Bird Atlas Surveys

With Memorial Weekend fishing, Christine's road trip (June 11th through June 23rd), and a few rounds of golf I haven't been out birding much since migration slowed down. Luckily for my psyche, a fellow birder asked me to assist with the Minnesota Breeding Bird Atlas Project around Winona. He showed me how to enter data after birding a couple hours together on June 2nd and I agreed to survey a couple of three mile square blocks. This project was a reason to get out birding and contribute to a useful purpose beyond my enjoyment.  

From the MN BBA website, "A breeding bird atlas is a comprehensive, systematic field survey of the occurrence and breeding status of breeding birds, conducted by citizen scientists during a limited time period. Hundreds, sometimes more than a thousand volunteers, both professional and amateur, watch and record breeding evidence for birds in selected survey areas. The data collected by these volunteer surveyors provide the information used to create maps that describe which species breed in the state and where in the state they breed."

Basically this project was very similar to when I go birding in general as I identified different species, but new to the projects is that I watch their behavior and enter codes to indicated if a species was observed, a possible breeder, a probable breeder or a confirmed breeder.  After birding yesterday and tonight I finished four different blocks by driving approximately 150 miles and spending 24 hours in the field this past month. I enjoyed how the survey asked me to be a better bird watcher and observer, seeing what the bird was doing rather than merely identifying them. 

BobolinkIn total I entered data on 79 species in Winona County. I focused my effort on four different blocks and had 43 species confirmed breeding (which includes the same species in multiple blocks), 79 probable, 95 possible, and 2 observed. The highlight was watching two male bobolinks sign their hearts out tonight and return to the same area repeatedly (likely their nests).  This species has a unique song (Click on the link to see an awesome YouTube video) and the male appears to have training wheels on in flight, but luckily for me they perched on the same shrub a couple of times and allowed me these pictures. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Fishing Report: Weekend of June 22nd and 23rd

While the girls were playing at Grandpa and Grandma's cabin, I was fishing in Canada with Dan, Nick, Gary, and my dad.  Dan, Nick, and myself drove up early for half a day fishing Friday while the other two joined us late that night.  I'm quite blessed with a dad that takes me fishing and friends and family to spend the time together.  This was my second Lake of the Woods trip this year. I was at the Deck Memorial Day weekend also. 
Mike with a 28 inch Walleye from Memorial Weekend
The trip was wonderful, lots of fish, a good number of box fish, a handful of big ones, and cooperative weather. The trip was a success all around. We ate fish three meals in a row, played a few games of smear, and did not encounter any major problems along the way.  The weather was wonderful Friday afternoon and showers held off until late Sunday morning.  The rain brought out the raingear but passed quickly and allowed us to go back out around noon on Sunday.  This happened to be quite the blessing as three big fish came from the last three hours on the water.

Below are pictures of these fishermen's largest catch ever of that species, what a good trip! 
Gary with a 27 inch Walleye
Dan with a 25 inch Walleye
Mike with a 43 inch Northern

Weekend of June 22nd and 23rd

This past weekend Michaela and Danielle went and stayed at Grandpa Dan and Linda's cabin in as I went fishing with Grandpa Mike in Canada.  Dan and Lilly joined us on the trip, and we broke the long drive into two days as we spent the first night at Grandpa Mike's before dropping all three girls off at the cabin on our way north.

The girls get along great. They enjoyed their time swimming at the lake, snuggling together eating popcorn, and golf cart rides.  

A painted turtle caught their attention at the cabin and received a ride on the trampoline with them one day.  An extra bonus was that Michaela and Danielle were able to spend time with their extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins.

Two weeks ago Christine joined my mother and aunts on a 2500 mile road trip to Connetictut and surprised family. 

My sister flew in and joined them for half the days.  From the brief trip reports I have got from mom and Christine, it sounds like they immensely enjoyed their trip and time visiting.  Along the way they stopped at Niagra, Boston, looked at flowers, visited historical sites and in Conneticut they went to the coast, watched softball, and Tessa's graduation!
Monday the three girls, Dan and I left the cabin and returned home to find mom waiting for us. Michaela, Danielle, and Christine have spent the past 20 hours together telling stories and slowly getting back into our daily routine.  It has been tough to figure out whether the girls missed mom less or more than how much mom missed the girls.  Now we are planning the rest of the summer, trying to get as much in as we can with the available time.  We'll try to keep everyone posted as we go.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A week in the life of Michaela & Danielle: June 19th 2013

The wonderful weather continued one more day, but we spent the day getting the house caught up and errands done before our weekend plans start.  The yard is mowed, sprayed for broad leafs once again, watered new seeding and indoor plants, and the grocery shopping is purchased.  

The girls were excellent and played inside most of the morning.  They pretended to be a dog and cat, pretended to be mom and daughter, and even talked about pretend chores.  

We had a handful of stops throughout town but we all enjoyed the Library the best. I told them we could stay until closing, but they were not allowed on the computer stations.  As a result we read a book together, played with Legos, and colored a couple of pictures. I think I even nodded off as they played for a couple of minutes.

Danielle colored a fire engine and Michaela colored a submarine.   It was a very enjoyable hour relaxing away from home. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

A week in the life of Michaela & Danielle: June 18th 2013

I've blogged about daily activities, or lack of activities, for a week and am now on the eighth consecutive day. As I sit at the computer, transfer pictures from the camera, edit the day's pictures, strain my mind to remember the day's activities, and type draft retype compose a posting I have experienced good and bad of blogging. Knowing that I will blog has given me pause to enjoy the moments, pay more attention to Michaela and Danielle, take more pictures, recall and process my emotions to the daily activities, and (at least in my head) work at telling a story. I will likely revisit these posts in the future and refresh my memory of days gone past. Perhaps the best outcome of these blogs has been Christine's ability to feel close to our daily activities as others have with past posts. At the onset of this project I didn't know the time I would devote to this activity (you'll note I only was able to get the post done by midnight the first three nights), how I would be forced to realize the routine of our days, or how my back would become sore from the computer chair. This is enough with my ramblings, lets get to the 8th of 9 daily blogs. 

Last night Michaela and Danielle spent the night as close as possible to me in bed.  Danielle is, and quite possibly will always be, a contact sleeper.  She occasionally snuggles close and pulls your arm over her. More often she tosses and turns throughout the night and wakes just enough to ensure our presence by having her toe, knee, finger, or head is touching us.  Last night she started as a smuggler, woke me up with her bum in my face, woke me later her left arm across my forehead, and then finished the morning off in a tight snuggle.  Michaela on the other hand prefers to sleep in the same room but not touching. This is a change from her first couple of years when she could not sleep alone and often slept right next to us.  Last night Michaela reverted to earlier days and was in full snuggle mode the entire night.  I woke with both arms numb, a girl on each shoulder, and their legs sprawled on top of me.

I enjoyed the morning stretch when Danielle hopped out of bed, but was surprised when Michaela rolled over and pulled the covers up.  Danielle immediately grabbed the recorder that was left on the counter last night.  I asked her to be quiet and come downstairs with me so Michaela could sleep. I was surprised when Danielle started singing Puff the Magic Dragon by Peter, Paul and Mary.  She knew the chorus and let me fill in the verses the best I could. Michaela came downstairs and told us she went back to bed because she was having a good dream. I didn't ask what it was about, but I should have. Michaela asked what we had done already that morning so we watched Puff the Magic Dragon and followed it up with a related cartoon.

The topic was too enticing and the girls watched an episode of Dragon Tales while I got my morning online fix. The girls were enthusiastic to cut my hair, something I've been contemplating the past couple of weeks. Michaela decided not to help cut my hair and I am concerned that she is too worried about failure.

Christine will be pleased to know the girls agree with her on a short-hair preference, as heard in the first minute of the video.  Forty-five minutes later I took a shower (this might have taken longer if I had not helped Danielle with the clippers), the girls got dressed, and we headed into town for lunch at the Chinese buffet.  Michaela and Danielle have been asking for this location the past three weeks and is one of their favorites.

I surprised a former student (perhaps he remembered the facial and shaggy hair) who happened to be our waiter. I asked him to sit for a moment and we had a short but nice conversation.  I was VERY impressed that he introduced himself to the girls, asked their names, and told them how he knew me. I think Michaela was impressed as well, as she asked later in the day  if we could go back and have him (by name) as a waiter. He was in microeconomics this past semester and told me he wanted to take macroeconomics with me as well, but was mad that I was leaving and that he could not take any additional classes from me. I suspect all teachers love these types of interactions with former students. The restaurant unfortunately experienced the negative externality: smaller bill with free kids meals and a large tip.

The babysitter from last night came over again today and watched all three girls this afternoon. Danielle and Michaela love when she visits and were sad when she informed them that she would be unavailable tomorrow night. I played a round of golf and enjoyed the wonderful weather. My golf game is a bit like a roller coaster right now and I shot 6 over with 6 penalty strokes, 3 three putts, a 9 on a par 4, but 5 birdies (three in a row).  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A week in the life of Michaela & Danielle: June 17th 2013

The girls woke up this morning rested and happy.  They seemed to be quite content around the house, even turning down the opportunity to go catch dragonflies at the Farmer's Park.  I believe they were looking for a slower day after their busy Father's Day.

As such we snuggled on the couch and watched the last two hours of Heidi, which we had started a couple of days before.  Michaela asked allot of questions during the movie, but two stuck out in my mind, "Why is Heidi an Orphan?" and "Why does the the grandfather's feeling of guilty?" 

Frozen corn dogs and pizza were not much of a meal, but at least Michaela the red sauce pizza.  Around noon I asked the girls if they wanted to go to Whitewater, but they still wanted to stay home. Instead we ended up calling Christine and the girls took turns passing the phone back and forth, talking to everyone possible on the other end.

With library items due back tomorrow we watched The Owls of Ga'Hoole. The feisty little screech is a great character! Once the second movie of the day was finished I convinced the girls we had to go outside. We loaded a foul smelling garbage container of yard waste from the past winter to drop off at the Lewiston compost site. Danielle didn't want to come and wouldn't smile for the camera, even though she liked the camouflaged Army Van we let pass us on the way there.

We stopped at KwikTrip on our way home, and I forgot the second half of the promised snack & drink. The girls quickly found $0.99 bug juice at their eye level and I gave them $5 to go pay.  I was finishing up at the ATM when Michaela came running up asking for more money, what?! (I was confused and even asked the attendants why it was so much.) The girls had switched their selection to chocolate milk with a monkey straw ($3.19 each!), and luckily I did not give them enough money to buy two. In the above picture Michaela is caught red handed in a Bigfoot pose drinking her sister's Fruit Punch having already finished her Lemon Lime drink.

Michaela and Danielle were anxiously waiting the babysitters arrival. As we waited, the neighbor kids came over to play and Michaela took pictures of newly blooming flowers.  I went birding a couple of hours, and when I came home the girls asked for the babysitter to stay longer.  It is great having someone to watch the girls that they enjoy so much. 


Monday, June 17, 2013

A week in the life of Michaela & Danielle: June 16th 2013

In August Christine and I will have been married twelve years.During these years we've had a number of friends in the six different locations we have lived. We are truly blessed with the friendship of Dan, Michelle, and Lilly.  If I had taken their friendship for granted int the past at all, Father's Day 2013 will be in my memory for a while.  Christine has been gone the past week and they gave me a much needed break, even though they were both called into work on a Sunday!

The girls were exhausted yesterday and slept until the alarm went off at 8:30.  We got ready for the day and met them at Cedar Valley Golf Course for brunch.  There was a wide variety of food and all three girls tried hot tea, but not much was actually drank. 

Michelle took Michaela, Danielle, and Lilly to the La Crosse Children's Museum while Dan and I played a round of golf.  Michelle even took a couple of pictures to email Christine, know that she would be missing her girls.  My golf game is not very impressive anymore, but the weather was wonderful and 18 holes that I've never played before.

We picked up the Jeep from the mechanics, which now has the back brake lines replaced! We made a couple of errands in town and had hot dogs, bratwurst, and cauliflower for supper at their place. The girls have settled into a routine at night, with Danielle falling asleep in our bed first, a pillow between them as a placeholder for me later in the night, and Michaela hopping in our bed afterwards.

I hope all of our friends, family, and fathers had a wonderful day regardless of where they are.  Hopefully no one gets lost in Boston!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

A week in the life of Michaela & Danielle: June 15th 2013

Today was the fifth day since the girls said bye to Christine when she hopped in the car with Cindy, Chris, and Caroline for Connecticut. We're missing her greatly, but all in love and happy they are able to visit the east coast family. 

Danielle had a rough night and was constantly waking with nightmares and kicked, screamed, and cried a handful of times last night.  I felt bad for her and was awake more than any parent wants to be between 2 and 6 in the morning. When Danielle got out of bed at 7 and laid down crying on the living room I was hoping that she was not sick.  Michaela slept for another hour but we snuggled the morning away watching cartoons.

Lunch was a colorful plate; salad, broccoli, and noodles...three items from the pantry and refrigerator.  The girls didn't like strawberries on a salad with dressing however.

Luckily Danielle is not sick, rather just tired and in currently seriously missing mom. Michaela is close in tow. Michaela told me yesterday that she wished that I had left instead of mom, not because she didn't love me but because she is really missing Christine.  Today Danielle told me it is boring with me and that she only wanted mom. 

After lunch the girls grew tired of each other and starting fighting over what they thought the other person said. Neither was correct but that doesn't matter when emotions are involved. Danielle's timeout lasted an hour and Michaela's was only 20 minutes.  In our wait for Danielle to join us Michaela tried her hand with the camera timer setting.

We took a walk around the house taking flowers pictures that may be done blooming before Christine returns, courtesy of Michaela the photographer.


I wonder how many parents are willing to admit that McDonald's play land can be a saving grace. After an hour and ice cream, luck brought a preschool classmate and another hour of play without incident.  The girls went to sleep quickly tonight and I hope they will be rested and in a better mood tomorrow for Father's Day brunch and play date.  I have a great appreciation for my wonderful wife and her ability to do this everyday, she is a saint.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A week in the life of Michaela & Danielle: June 14th 2013

Danielle got to talk about yesterday, so it is my turn today.  Last night I fell out of the bed around midnight.  Dad was watching a movie downstairs and I scared him good.  I don't remember it, but he told me I was scared and hurt.  I'm not sure if actually happened though as I don't have a bump on my head, perhaps Danielle fell out of bed instead.

We all slept until 8:30 today, but I woke up ready for cartoons. Before anyone else was even out of bed I was on the couch downstairs watching Dora.  We ate cereal for breakfast and went shopping at Menard's this morning.  Dad had a surprise for us, but he wouldn't tell us until we were there.  I picked out green and purple and my sister took pink (red) and gray.  We were very excited about them until the ride home when we found out they don't stay in our ears very well.

We got home just in time for mac and cheese for lunch.  Dad watch golf on the computer and we watched The Littlest Pet Shop on Netflix before my sister put Dora in and I threw a temper tantrum.  Dad consoled me and taught me how to play peek (four card golf) before we went back into town to pay for Jeep repairs.

I helped Dad empty the garage, but got tired and went swimming with Chase and Cameron while he cleaned the cement.  Dan and Michelle took me and my sister to pick up Lilly and play at Farmer's Park.  We found a monster alien at the park with 15 feet and 100 eyes!  When we got home Danielle helped dad was the car and put the garage back together.  

Tonight dad and I played and entire game of peek rather than only a few hands.  I kept score for most of the game and I WON!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A week in the life of Michaela & Danielle: June 13th 2013

Last night I wasn't to happy with my sister, but I still expected her to be in bed with me and dad when I woke up....but she wasn't! I woke up happy and went downstairs to watch cartoons.  When Michaela woke up we started talking and dad came downstairs a few minutes later.  I was so proud that I woke up first and that I was quiet!!!

With everyone awake we had yogurt, bananas, and mini blueberry bagels for breakfast. We went to the golf course this morning with our own special bag and clubs.  I filled the bucket of balls, but it was too heavy for me to carry.  Sister carried the bucket and I toke the sunscreen. All of us hit and putted on the green.  I'm really good at golf already, but Michaela is better at putting. A gentleman thought it was funny that we were giving dad a lesson and he let Michaela sit on his cart, but I was too scared.

I wanted Chinese for lunch but dad took us to HyVee. We shared chicken strips, mac and cheese, a roll, low mien, a crab Rangoon, and orange chicken.  Dad let us watch a Barbie Mermaid movie in the car on the way to Farmer's park.  At farmer's park we only saw three butterflies but Michaela caught one. We echoed in the tunnel, played on play sets, collected seeds, and rode the sheep but my tummy was a bit sore from eating too much and I learned what a pit toilet was.

We got home late in the afternoon and put on our swimsuits to play with the neighbors in their pool while dad mowed the yard. Michaela had a tough time choosing her favorite part of supper as she really liked the crescent rolls with Apple Butter as well as the Cheddar Bites, but I liked the cheese bites best.

Dad is so funny, he thinks he is being tough by forcing us to be polite but little does he know we are really controlling things. We stayed up to 10 last night and 9 tonight, and we get to sleep wherever we want!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A week in the life of Michaela & Danielle: June 12nd 2013

Here is the second day of the week installment.

After yesterday's interesting night, I put the girls to bed in our room.  Danielle was first to sleep and Michaela followed only 10 minutes later. After posting yesterday's blog I returned to this sight. While Michaela and Danielle often snuggle and hug during the day, I was surprised as they are like oil and water at night.

Michaela woke around 8 and went downstairs to watch cartoons.  Breakfast was not until I woke Danielle at 10 and was light with three kiwi.  The girls helped peel the fruit and were wonderful the next two hours watching cartoons as I met with someone about the bird club.

The weather forecast included a chance for severe thunderstorm, hail, and a possible tornado but we packed up anyways for Whitewater State Park.  We stopped at Kwik-Trip in Lewiston for the girls favorite convenience store food, mozzarella filled bread sticks. A banana each and a shared apple rounded out the Quickie Mart meal.

We arrive around 1:15 for the 1 o'clock program...oops! Luckily the short program was interactive and she was wonderful at engaging the girls' thoughts. I found the skull and bones program interesting and I was amazed at how much the girls new about animals, especially Michaela. With skulls in hand they focused on teeth, especially the incisors and canines, to determine whether the animal was a herbivore, carnivore, or omnivore.

Their attention did not last however as they were very excited about swimming with life jackets at the beach. Even though 80s were forecasted, an overcast sky and winds had it feeling closer to 65.  We were all quite cold in the spring fed stream, but the little American Toad tadpoles (just likely a guess based on size) were quite entertaining.  The girls carefully caught many, and their actions were quickly turned into the activity for all most other kids (and adults) at the beach.

Drizzling rain started shortly after we left the park around 4:30. The girls hopped in the bath to clean and warm up as soon as we got home.  They washed each other's hair and checked for ticks before drying off for supper.  Salad and left-over noodles were any easy and quick meal.  With the sun shining, contrary to the weatherman's predictions, we found a blanket and headed into town for Concerts in the Park after a grocery store stop.

At the grocery store we ran into Danielle's teacher, who said "Danielle, we missed you the last week of school!"  Oops, somewhere we got bad information and Danielle missed the last two days of school.  We will have to stop by in July when summer school is in session to pick up remaining materials.

The Winona Community band played a handful of songs while we ate raspberries.  The nearby playground seemed to lure the girls away however. You can here a song end in the video above. The concert started at  8 and we were late getting home tonight.  A slice of lemon-poppy seed cake for dessert and off to bed they went.  As well as last night went, tonight was just the opposite. A bit of anger from both resulted in Michaela sleeping downstairs and Danielle in our bed.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A week in the life of Michaela & Danielle: June 11th 2013

I figured it is time to take a break from posts on birding, so today is hopefully the first day of a week long diary following Michaela and Danielle's daily activities.

Michaela went to bed last night in our bedroom closet while Danielle was in bed with us.  By morning Michaela had moved to the living room couch, but forgot to bring either a pillow or blanket and was sleeping like a  curled-up pill bug.  The girls haven't slept well or in the same spot since we rearrange the house to sell. Last night just happened to be weirder than usual.  Breakfast was fruit, donuts, and juice and we enjoyed a couple of cartoons and a bit of garden work during the morning.

We packed the car for a day of errands and drove over Stockton Hill, grabbing lunch at Taco Bell before stopping at Family Video.  The girls were allowed to pick out one movie each, and we found out that Family Video awards free rentals for grades. It would be a wonderful treat for Michaela if we can find her report card.

We planned to quickly returning a "Home for Sale" sign at Ace Hardware. It was too easy to buy something that looks right, only to realize after getting home that it the sign was one-sided rather than printed on both sides.   It was time to return the sign after having it lay around the house for the past couple of days. While I was signing for the 2 dollar credit the sign the girls were looking at the miniature train diorama. I've been to this store a dozen times but was blind to the "Find Waldo" sign until they pointed it out. Luckily the girls had done this before, told me where Waldo was last time, and informed me had to find him. Ten minutes later we found that Waldo happened to be camping in the woods. A store employee kindly turned on the power and we watched the trains and emergency vehicle flashing lights before heading out.

The next stop was to return a handful of due items at the Library. The girls quickly ran to the children's video section and each picked out a Dora DVD. Once that regular activity was finished they followed their normal schedule and went to the computer game station.  As they played I found a couple of field guides for later and we were off to HyVee to pick up groceries for supper.  

Three hours after leaving home we returned ready for an excited adventure using the field guides, but plans changed as a message on the answering machine informed us of a house showing later tonight. Michaela colored a picture and Danielle played downstairs allowing us to pick up the house. An hour later and we were ready to start cooking! 

The girls had picked out mushrooms (Danielle) and broccoli (Michaela) for supper, which we paired with pasta and Parmesan. The girls helped wash and cut the vegetables, reluctantly taking turns for what they deemed a very exciting activity. Both girls stopped at least once and looked at their fingers where it "felt like they were cut" but luckily neither was bleeding. They were proud of the fresh colorful dish which was followed by Lemon Poppy seed cake for dessert.  

I hope the house did not smell too strongly of broccoli during the house showing, but we will likely never have the opportunity to ask that question. We stepped out of the house and visited neighbors when the realtor showed up and returned home after an hour for a second round of cake before bed. 

We are tentatively planning on visiting Whitewater state park tomorrow for a nature program and swimming before Concerts in the park, but of course plans may change if mother nature does not cooperate.