Saturday, October 31, 2009

October fest

Some recent photos from Minnesota, Ohio and Illinois (above) are here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Brazil's cat

Cougar sightings are popping up all over the place in the Midwest, the latest in Brazil, Ind. A hunter took a cellphone photo of what appears to be a mountain lion dashing through the woods. One theory is that it escaped from a nearby rescue center a few years ago. Brazil is in west-central Indiana, not far from Terre Haute.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Good morning

Today began as a perfect fall morning. Temperature was about 38 when I arrived at Montrose Point at 7:45.

I tallied 33 species including a first--black-bellied plover. There were two immatures on the beach, sifting through big piles of green seaweed. I had seen the species before, but only in breeding plumage in Eleuthera. The plovers are the biggest in North America, according to All About Birds. They're listed as "common" in the Peterson guide, but I'd describe them as "local" for the Great Lakes in fall.

I stayed as far away from them as I could, but one plover definitely was alert to my presence. It puffed up into a ball, dropped to the ground and glared at me. It was almost unsettling the way it kept its eyes on me. And it looked strangely like a hawk when it did this; maybe it's some kind of defense mechanism.

Other highlights were both kinglet species, part of a nice fall/winter flock of creepers, chickadees, nuthatches (including red-breasted--a nice find for the lakefront) and winter wren.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sigging water

Life can't be too bad when one of your concerns is which steel water bottle to choose. Even more insane is the selection of water bottle accessories that exists--straps and pouches and all sorts of lids.

Today I received a $47 gift certificate from Sigg for the .6L and 1L bottles that we returned because they're lined with BPA. I'm torn as to weather to cash them in for new bottles. After all, the company wasn't forthcoming at first about BPA in its bottles. Now, we'll continue to carry around the Sigg brand.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Starling attack

Ah, starlings. The cuckoo of the city. The myna of metropolitan areas. Residents of the Bridgeport neighborhood are tired of the autumn flocks of starlings. As much as I admire the Bridgeporters' "Roman candles" approach, this could be a job for the starling whisperer of Decatur.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Big river

View Larger Map
Today featured a 135-mile ride through the Driftless Area, from Saint Paul, Minn., to Dakota, Minn. Here the Mississippi River winds between 500-foot tall bluffs at places like tiny John Latsch State Park. U.S. Highway 61 skirts Lake Pepin, which is the widest part of the Mississippi River. The terrain was really stunning and dwarfs that along the river in Northwest Illinois.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

White stuff

Today dawned frigid here in the Twin Cities, with about a half-inch of snow covering cars and grassy areas. It's just 38 right now, with a stiff breeze. About 200 miles away, in Park Rapids, it's only 29 at the moment. Today's statewide low of 17 (17 on Oct. 10!) was recorded in Granite Falls and Benson, both about 120 miles away from here. We're so far north and west here (South Dakota's only four hours away) that the cold air seeping down from Western Canada, along the Rockies and south into the Great Plains meanders over here, too. The leaves are still green on most trees and we have odd sights like healthy hastas covered in the white stuff.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Autumn update

Snow was in the forecast for this weekend, but the predictions have since changed. There's still some freezing precipitation on the western edge (in Iowa) of a big rain system that's pushing through right now. The weather's been very fall-like for a couple weeks now, and some leaves are definitely changing--still a lot of green, though. Some areas of Minnesota are already at peak color.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Dunes revisited

Last year, I posted about Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore's strict alcohol policy ($5,000 fine for even possessing it). The policy affects the lovely walk-in sites at Dunewood Campground and lowered the rating to just two campfires.

The park recently released a survey indicating that 97 percent of visitors are happy with the site including 92 percent who think the campgrounds and picnic areas are very good to good. I, of course, think it is an incredible place. But it's such a shame that even a beer in your cooler is considered a scourge that must be stopped. The full results of the survey can be found here.

Olympic flameout

It was a shock that Chicago was eliminated so quickly from the 2016 bidding yesterday. The voting process is so fluky, though, that some odd places can wind up hosting Olympics (Apologies to anyone from Georgia, but Atlanta!?!). It was interesting to think about where the events would have been held--tennis at about 3600 North Lake Shore Drive, mountain biking in the Palos Preserves, yachting on Lake Michigan. This post on Gapers Block sort of sums up my ambivalent feelings about the whole thing.