Thursday, June 10, 2010

What a Difference a Month Can Make

Today is the end of week #23, and I am sitting on my bed in a motel in Minneapolis, MN. I just drove 1600 miles over the past 3 days from outside of Boston, MA. I made several stops along the way.

On Tuesday about 10:30 AM I pulled into Shady Glen in Manchester, CT to try one of its reknowned burgers called the Bernice original which was first created in 1949, my birth year. Having lived in nearby West Hartford in high school, I thought it only appropriate as part of my big year hamburger component to try the Bernice. It's claim to fame is that the 4 oz burger has 4 slices of cheese that become crispy on the grill and are curled up by the grillman making the finished burger look like it has a cheese crown. My burger came with fries and cole slaw, and was even cooked medium rare. I enjoyed eating it but I can not say that I am now a diehard convert.

Since I was heading west on I-84 towards Pennsylvania, I stopped in to see some friends who live near Port Jervis, NY. I have known them since high school/college, and they say I am the only person they know who has visited them everywhere that they have lived since being married. Whenever driving by their current home in my travels over the past 20 years I just drop in unannounced, and only once have they not been there. Tuesday was no exception, and we spent some time catching up.

I finally pulled myself away so that I could make it to Clarion, PA by dusk to check out the henslow's sparrow spot that my wife and I visited back in early May. The sparrows were still singing away. I was hoping that some owls might show up at dusk, but none did.

On Wednesday I was up early enough to get over to Magee Marsh by late morning when the rain had stopped. When my wife and I spent 5 days here in mid May, it was like grand central station for birders taking in the spring migration. Yesterday I pulled in as a couple was departing on a motorcycle, leaving the place entirely to myself. I spent the next hour walking the boardwalk, listening to the breeding birds, and thinking what a difference a month can make. Instead of throngs of people, and lots of migrating birds, the boardwalk was covered with some kind of flying insect that I had never seen before. It's body resembled a 1 inch worm but it had wings and a long hairlike tail. There were literally 10's of 1,000's of these creatures. They would fly up, hitting me in the face, or land on my pants and stick there until I flicked them off.

After an hour of mostly hearing birds, and dealing with the constant bombardment of the flying insect, I got back in my truck to head on west toward Minnesota. The sun was beginning to break thru the clouds as I was leaving Magee, and I passed 3 cars coming in.

I unfortunately arrived in the greater Chicago area at rush hour, so it took over an hour to get past downtown on my way up to Milwaukee. I was headed to Solly's Grille to try the famous Wisconsin butter burger. I had mine with grilled onions, cheese and bacon. Butter burgers are a Wisconsin thing, and Solly's supposedly makes one of the best. I have to say for my taste, the burger with the big dollop of butter on it is way too rich, and not to my liking.

This morning at 8:30 I arrived at Horicon Marsh, which is about an hour north of Milwaukee. This is one of the country's premier marshes, and one of the places that Roger Tory Peterson particularly liked to visit. I came here for the first time back in 2006, and was looking forward to birding here again. The photos above are of a mama american coot with chicks (top) and a fully plumaged male ruddy duck (bottom)--how about that blue bill. Remember to click on the photo to enlarge it.

I had a totally satisfying morning birding this very large area, but I needed to leave about 1 PM in order to make it over to Minneapolis in time to see a friend. I am heading out the door of my motel room right now to do that, and will finish this posting when I return.

I am just back from seeing another long time friend who lives in Wisconsin, but was in Minneapolis today doing some work. We had not been able to get together since 2006, so we were both glad to be able to see each other for a long overdue sharing of our lives since then.

With so many good new birds at Horicon today, the week's bird count ended with 120 birds seen. There were no new year birds since the last posting, so the YTD is still at 610. There is an updated travel map at the top. Tomorrow my wife and children arrive for a long family weekend, but there will be some birding involved. Stay tuned!


  1. Hey Chris!!!

    Im in Nome and thinking about the good times i had birding here with you and MArty a few years back. Along those lines... I went with my group for the for the Bristle-thighed Curlew this morning, my third successful trip this week! On the way Out we passed a small rental car that honked at us as we drove by. I looked in the mirror to see Ashok driving the car with abig shit eating grin on his face!!!!! What a treat to see that guy, he is doing great and here for a week with some friends doing photography.

    Besides great looks at the Curlew, we had a perched Goshawk at Penny river and a wonderful Bluethroat.

    Still trying to figure out a northwest hookup with you this summer



  2. I wonder if those were Mayflies at Magee? We had a red-shouldered flying around our yard the other night and landed right on the post by the birdfeeders while we were sitting at the table eating dinner on the patio! Completely unabashed.