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Monday, April 28, 2008

What a DRAG...

...Drag Queen that is...today my husband played Frenchie at the local "Remember When" at Rice Lake High School. Our friend, Donna, conned him into playing the part of Frenchie from Grease. They did "Beauty School Drop Out" with Donna playing Frankie Avalon's part and Brad as Frenchie...the Beauty School Drop Out. It was very funny, yet strange, to see my husband in a skirt and jacket along with hose and flat, hot pink sandles with a flower on top. Oh...and did I mention the hot pink wig? It was too much fun! Robby ended up not having to work the evening shift and was very excited not have to miss seeing Brad in drag. The entire show was fun...it was the 22nd Annual event...I'm thinking it will be on our calendar every year going forward. Here are a few photos from the event.

I sure am glad he was born a man...because as a woman, he's quite a drag...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Crane Count Day

Saturday was the day of the annual Sandhill Crane Count. It is always an early morning as the cranes are most active (or so they say) first thing in the morning. We were up at 5am...all of us, Robby included...did I mention he didn't go to bed after he worked the late shift?...yikes...I'm not young enough to do that any more!!!
In any case, we left the house and were greeted at the first pond out the driveway to the left by 4 sandhills standing on the ice. It was still too dark and wasn't very conducive to photos...which was fine. As we drove around the north end of Long Lake, Brad spotted our first loon of the year!!! Again, no shot! We continued on and drove to our assigned site over off of Hwy 70...last year it was a beautiful day...today it was gray and raining lightly. Last year the pond and the small lake were all thawed...this year both were still frozen. We made the best of standing out in the rain, listening for crane calls...here are a few shots from the morning.

We didn't see any cranes while we were there, but here are a few I captured off our dock on Monday morning after the count...

Later we also saw this cool hawk! I have yet to figure out what kind of hawk it is!!!




One of my favorite ways to "blow" a day...

...is to "joy ride" with Brad...exploring new places...aimlessly driving...with the hopes of running across something interesting, cool enough to take photos of, a new place to eat, etc. We did just that on Sunday...after a great breakfast at Grumpy's we were off to explore.

It was the first real day of spring up here in the Northwoods. We finally had some of the nice weather we had been hearing others have. The temperature had a + sign, was two digits, and the first digit was a 7...holy cow...at one point the car said it was 78 outside...that might have been a bit high but I'm good with somewhere between 70 and 75!! It was a beautiful day. It did seem strange to have the windows down with the warm air blowing...driving next to a frozen lake...but what the heck...a few more days like that will resolve that strange feeling!!!

We started out heading for the Blue Hills. Although it was a beautiful drive, given that we are still in the beginning stages of spring, everything was brown, most lakes were still frozen, and we are only seeing tiny hints of green. We didn't see hardly any signs of wildlife...well, that is, until I had the chance to chase a porcupine. Ok...yes, they are slow...but I still had to work to get into position to get a good photo. I've had the chance a couple times to shoot them, but this was my best chance thus far. I used to be scared of them...apparently that has passed. I even ventured far enough into the woods to know I'd come out with at least a tick or two! It is that time of year after all...and I am the resident tick magnet!!! For the record...I did get two ticks from the little adventure but this photo was worth it for me.

After running through Farm and Fleet to get some tick spray, we moved on to more familiar territory. We headed to Haugen and Bear Lake. We saw a few deer in one of the reliable places. We then drove around the north end of the lake...a place I've only been to a couple times. There was a man with his two kids playing around this little area (Brad would know the actual name of this particular area!) where the ice has begun to melt...it lead into one of the creeks. The creek was completely free of ice but the majority of the lake was not. With the distraction of the dad and kids down the other way, a loon spent time closer to our end doing a bit of fishing. Brad was on the right side of the car so we stayed in the car since it was pretty much a blind, and he took the loon photos this time. It was cool to see him with the camera in his hands!!! He got some good shots...here is my favorite one.
Meanwhile, on my side of the car, I had a great look at the creek. Brad pointed out a man made nesting platform in the distance...instead of seeing an osprey up there as expected, an eagle was there (look closely at the top of the pine tree in the photo below...the eagle is sitting there). Here's a shot from my side of the car...we'll keep an eye on that platform to see if we see any babies!!!
We headed toward home...taking a road I've never taken before. And to my pleasure, more surprises were awaiting us...the best of them, a pair of osprey...one standing guard the other on the nesting platform (There are many up here! They are normally for osprey as they are known to be poor nest builders!) a short distance away over the lake. He was right out by the road on a dead tree. I had only seen osprey from a distance flying over Long Lake. They are regal birds...and oh so very cool. Again it was on Brad's side of the car/blind...darn it. He took quite a few photos while the bird just sat there. Eventually I opened up the sun roof and comandeered the camera...the beautiful bird of prey stayed there and let me shoot more photos of him while I was hanging out the sun roof. Just to add a little entertainment, the sentry decided to head over to the nesting platform...and much to our amazement, decided to mate with the female right in front of us. Not being able to help myself, I continued snapping shots of them...feeling a bit like a voyeur!!! Who gets to actually see something like that...let alone get photos of it???!!! I wasn't about to be a prude at that point! Here, see for yourself...could you have stopped watching???

Leaving the mating couple behind, we went up a short distance and there were two immature eagles perched over the lake on the other side of the street. They were in the trees and the sun was behind them, so no photos to share...but, as always, it was cool to see them.

There are lots of other water fowl migrating through...here are a few shots of some we saw yesterday...
These are called Lesser Scaup's...two males and a female...
This is a Ring-necked Duck...it is a very blurry photo but the best I had...
Just a couple canadian geese here...
Oh...a couple other things happened that didn't get photographed...the peeps are out!!! The small ponds, run off areas, etc. are thawing and warm enough now for the peeps to start singing their mating calls...they aren't up to maximum volume yet...but they are finally out again. Another great sign of spring!!! On the way back to the house, over near the artisian well, there were a couple jakes and along with a couple hens...yes, it is the turkey mating season as well...best part, the one jake was showing off!!! It is a bad photo below but again, the best I could get. Isn't he the bomb?!!!

As we were checking out the peeps closest to the house, I saw another owl. Again, too dark to photograph, but hokey smokes...he was cool! He was calling out right above us! Incredible!!!

I think that's it for what we consider our first day of Spring...I truly can't come up with a better way to "blow" a Sunday!!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

My little kitty girl

Took this photo the other day of my Kiki girl and felt the need to share...how/when did I become such a cat lover??? Good grief...she's the bomb and I simply adore her (when she wants me to, of course!).





Right in my front "yard"

Ok...so I don't really have a front yard...but I do have a front "ice"...yes, the lake is still frozen. With any luck, it should be gone within the next week or so. Today I was really glad it was still ice. I was sitting at my desk this morning looking out at the lake...a very large bird lands out on the ice...immediately I figured out it was for a sandhill. I grabbed my camera and headed downstairs to tell Brad. He was on a conference call and had seen the same thing I did. I head out to the dock...lo and behold...there are 8 sandhill cranes out on the ice. Given that they are one of my very favorite birds, I was in complete awe. They were sounding off and walking around. They were definitely paired off...they mate life. It was so cool. They headed down toward the neighbor's house...so I ran in and called Marsha to let her know. This evening I found out they spent an hour and a half out on the dock watching and listening to them. I had a conference call so I didn't get to spend much time out there...but I did get a few shots while I was there. It was fun while it lasted...here is my favorite shot of the day...


My friends are back

It has been really fun to watch so many of the migratory birds come back to (or through) the area and those that stayed to weather the winter are out and about. Definitely the first signs of spring up here in the northwoods!

Monday was an exciting day for this...although I didn't get very many great shots, I actually wasn't disappointed...I reveled in the feeling of just being in the same space with all of the incredible animals I saw. Between a jaunt out of the house for lunch and a detour on the way home from Birchwood as the sun was going down, I had the opportunity to see all of the following: several pair of hooded mergansers, a couple pair of wood ducks, several Canadian geese (nothing new!), a pair of sandhill cranes (my favs!), a barred owl, an immature bald eagle, a mature bald eagle, 7 deer walking across the ice on the north end of Long Lake, and an otter sitting at the edge of the ice in the same area. Could life get any better?

As I said, the photos aren't great...but here is proof of some of what I saw...

Pussy willow with a pinecone? Is it a fluke? This wasn't the only one...I'm confused! But it looks cool!!!

The ice went off this part of the channel the next day...and instead of it looking pretty and interesting, it looked yucky!

Same here...I thought this was stunning...the next day was UGLY!!!

This is a male wood duck...isn't he stunning? They are flighty...I would need a huge lens to get close to this guy!!!

This was my first sandhill sighting for the year. I had heard them...but had never been this close!!!

Ok...I'd like to say I planned this "pan" of the eagle...but I'd be lying! It was total luck!!! Panning is a technique where you move the camera while the shutter is open...following the action you are trying to capture. If done right, it keeps the main subject in focus but you see the movement in the background...like this...total luck...but I personally love it!!!

This is an immature eagle...

Not a great shot...he only gave me one chance to get it right and I failed...but I'll take it for my first owl shot...I took this while parked on the side of the road and I popped up out of the sunroof!!! This is a barred owl.

You'll have to trust me on this one...the dark "bump" just on the other side of the opening in the ice is the otter.

It is dark...but to the left right above the water opening in the ice is three of the 7 deer that crossed the lake.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

It must be Spring somewhere...

This has been a very strange weekend...we started off with ice and snow showers late Thursday and into Friday. By the time the storm was over, we had at least 8" of very wet snow. While all of our friends, family, and fellow bloggers were celebrating Spring, we were beginning to sing Christmas songs again!!!

We couldn't stand staying in on Friday night, so during the middle of our little snow storm, Brad and I ventured out for the normal Friday night fish fry at Pine Ridge. There weren't too many others with the same thought...seems as if most everyone was hunkered down for the evening to see what Mother Nature was going to do for her winter finale (we hope!). We didn't see a single car on the road to Pine Ridge and less than half a dozen vehicles were in their lot. Service was fast and as usual we had a great meal. The unusual part of the evening came on the way home...the snow was still coming down at a pretty good clip...the brights were on in the Pathfinder so we could keep an eye out for deer...about a mile north of Long Lake Road on B, in the near distance I could see what appeared to possibly be a rabbit hopping toward us in the right tire track left by a previous vehicle...as we got closer, Brad swerved to miss the "rabbit" which ended up being an OTTER...are you kidding me? An otter in the middle of County Road B in the middle of a snowstorm...in the middle of April. We were both in shock...and amazed at the same time!

I did get a chance this weekend to get out and take some photos. Most of Saturday was pretty gray but the clouds rolled out late afternoon and gave us some great blue skies. Sunday finally showed some signs of hope...nice blue skies, lots of sun...and 40+ degrees...enough warmth to melt some of that not so welcome spring snow. Here are a few shots from the weekend...

These are from our property...


While I was out shooting, Brad was moving VERY HEAVY snow around with "Big Blue"...


This chair is at a neighbor's house...I love the random paint on it against all of the white...




Here's a boatlift wishing for Spring too...



This is a hooded merganser...just passing through...

And some wood ducks...there are so many beautiful males in this photo...just wish I had been closer!!!

A stunning sunset...with a couple geese in what little open water there was..


A view of the Namekagon River...

Another sure sign of spring...the beautiful pussy willows...

We see grouse fairly frequently...but normally I don't get a chance to get a photo...