Monday, December 29, 2014

Time for the Christmas Bird Count!

For the third year in a row, we are participating in the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count.  We have a certain route to cover and on a certain day--today, the 29th--we drive our route a couple times, morning and afternoon, and see what birds we see.  We can also informally record birds we see around here for the three days before and three days after the official bird count day.  Here are some of the roads on our route.

That's Lake Superior WAY up there to the north.

And this is another one of our pretty, wintry roads in the afternoon sun.  To do the bird count, we just watch the trees for any movement there or over the roads and in the fields.  We record the time and location of the sightings.  And...we didn't see a great variety of birds today--crows, blue jays (LOTS of them), pine siskins, chickadees, possible a sharp-shin hawk, ravens (although it's hard to tell them from crows), and an eagle--but he wasn't on our official route.  And that's the moon up there.

And we saw this coyote, also not on our route.  He was sitting right by the road like he was someone's pet and didn't run away until after we drove by.  

When we were done with the afternoon drive, we finished up with a trip down to The Lake, because that's how we roll!  The angle of the sun gave everything a reddish tint.

The ice is back in the channel and near the shore because we're back to being REALLY cold!  And it's hard to see in the picture, but we could see the jagged line of big waves out in the middle of the lake.

I just love those colors!

We were headed home when we saw two fishing boats heading in to the harbor.  And that was strange because the boats that usually are anchored here were already in and tied up.  So we went back to watch them come in through the ice.  First one...

Then the second one.

The second one pushed in ahead of the first, followed by lots of gulls.  We're not sure how the boats decide who is going to park where, but at least they were safe in the harbor.

And then we saw a fitting end to our bird count day!  Hundreds of seagulls!  (And some drops/smudges on our windshield.)  But we didn't record these guys.  Too many varieties of gulls to differentiate and how to count this???

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Can't trust those Minnesotans*!

Yesterday after taking our garbage to "the Dump" (waste transfer station), we made our trip down to The Lake to see what we could see.  Last weekend it was foggy and warm, and the days of thawing were really making everything look pretty ugly at the beginning of the week!  But a fresh layer of snow has us looking properly wintry again, and the weather people are promising more snow...on the day one of my daughters is driving up here, of course!

So, looking out on The Lake, we noticed that all the piles of ice were dotted with seagulls.  It looked interesting enough to get me out walking on the pier, and below is a zoomed in shot of some of them.

Hard to see here but there was a whole bunch of them out floating on the lake, too, over to the right.   I was walking VERY carefully up toward the ones at the end of the pier to see how close I could get to take some more pictures before they flew.  And then the Minnesotans* showed up...behind me.  (Their license plate gave them away.)

There was no "walking VERY carefully" with them.  They just stomped up behind me, passed me by, and went right up and all the seagulls flew away!  Here they are mid-flight--the seagulls, not the Minnesotans.  *Full disclosure:  I'm a former Minnesotan for 30+ years, but wow...way to mess up a picture!

So instead here's an update of the ice along the shore.  It's building up into some interesting formations.

Here's a close-up of a mini ice cave from waves washing over.

And I bet you didn't know we had alligators in Port Wing!  Ice-encrusted alligators dripping...something...

We haven't seen much sun lately so we stay content with the knowledge that we are lucky just to live here!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Waiting for the fog to lift

Too many warm days like this and there will be no possibility of ice caves this year!  Temps up in the lower 40s and we didn't even wear jackets.  And when we went down to The Lake, this was all we saw.  We're wondering when we will see the sun again!

Last night was the big Lutefisk & Meatball Dinner put on by the First Lutheran Church.  Lots of people came to get their annual infusion of lutefisk...and the rest just had meatballs!  I grew up eating lutefisk every Christmas Eve and I thought it all was delicious.  All the cooks and planners did a great job!

Last time I posted we were just bringing in our Christmas tree from the meadow.  We finally got it all decorated, even the ornament up at the very top.  That was acccomplished by Leann by standing probably too high up on the ladder and leaning in a little.  Next year we'll remember to put it on BEFORE we stand up the tree...and put water in the base.  This year we remembered to measure it while it was still outside and cutting off what needed to go BEFORE we brought it inside.  Learning can happen every day/year!

And finally, we finally got our trail cam put out and pointed at the deer feeder.  Leann made a post with a stabilizing base that we can move to a good position and it's easy to swap out the photo chips to download the pictures.   Mostly we've had bluejays during the day and deer at night.  These jays below are posing nicely.

And these are all in the middle of munching sunflower seeds by hammering them on the side of the box.

And this is our deer friend we've been calling "Mouse Ears" because they look like they've been frozen or damaged at some point in her life.  She's been coming here for a couple years now.

Someone recently suggested that deer might be attracted here by putting out some hay.  So I bought a bale of alfalfa from down here at Johnson's Store and it looks like he might be right.  Turns out he's the one that sold the bales to the store!  Marketing!

Then one night (by the digital time I see it was morning!) we had a group of three deer at the feeder.  They weren't posing very well though.

This one, however, got the memo about posing!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Nighttime visitors & daytime Christmas tree treks

We've had our backyard feeding station set up for a couple weeks now.  Our first diners during the daytime have been bluejays...lots and lots of bluejays!  I don't know if they are staying for the winter or just passing through.  There are so many of them that they even keep the crows away!

But it's at night that things get interesting.  At first it was just all of the wind gusts blowing grasses and things that set off the motion lights outside.  Now in the last week there have been actual animal eaters causing the lights to go on.

These are two of the foxes that we've seen around here.  Our neighbor calls them cross foxes because they are gray with some red fur, too.  There are two is hiding.

Not the sharpest pictures at night in low-ish light.  There's the second fox.

We first saw this big guy a couple weeks ago, just before hunting season.  And seeing him back a couple nights ago shows he made it through this year's "10 days of hunting."  He looks pretty big here but that other one was really very small, maybe from this summer's fawns.

He looks pretty healthy there.

Leann is home from Rochester now, it was a beautiful day, so we snowshoed up to the meadow to get our two Christmas trees--one for inside the house and a little one for the front porch.

We had tentatively picked this one a couple weeks ago, but there are always second thoughts when it comes time to cut it down.  We almost picked the white pine next to this one.  It was REALLY wide but needed a little more height.  So back into the pot for another year!  That's Leann peeking through the branches.

We tied two sleds together to have something long enough to haul them back up to the house.  That little "Charlie Brown tree" laying on top is the one destined for the front porch.  It was trying to grow in the shadows of some bigger trees, so it was a good one to get out of the way.

Down the hill, over the creek, and up the hill over to the house.
Guess what we'll be doing tomorrow?

Monday, December 1, 2014

December 1st - A long-awaited day!

Why long-awaited?  Find out down below the fold...and not because it's unimportant!

First, I see that my last few posts have been basically the same location here in Port Wing.  And my excuse for that is this...for those of us enamored by--and feeling blessed--to be living up seems there is always something to see.  Take yesterday, for example.  Sitting out there on the ice ridge is an eagle.  My iPhone camera is not quite adequate for this zooming situation, but his white head shows he is definitely an eagle.  And watch what comes next...

I got into my car, because it was cold, and I looked up to see him flying away with something white in his beak.  Not sure if it was a seagull or what, because I didn't seem him dive after anything.  Again, not zoomed enough, but still cool.

And today, it's even colder (8˚ at 3:30pm or so says my car) but seeing all the ice chunks out in the lake intrigued me.  So I took another walk along the pier.  So beautiful.  And see the moon?

I decided to walk out a little bit farther (further?) today and this is what I found.  Ice!  Waves must have splashed up and over at some time recently.  Or else it's wind-blown down to ice.  So...I stopped, looked around, took a couple pictures, and turned around to go back where the traction was better!
View to the right - northeast.
View to the left - northwest.

Now, the reason that this is a long-awaited day.  Today is the day that Leann's sister, Kristi, is finally able to have the surgery to remove the cancerous areas in her pelvis, recurrences after her original colorectal cancer back in January, 2013.  But this time she's in Rochester with her team of Mayo surgeons, doctors, and other specialists.

In the past year Kristi has undergone two rounds of chemotherapy over 16 weeks from April to July (done near her home in Fargo, ND), 5 1/2 weeks of radiation treatments in September and October--every day for 28 days minus the weekends--done at Mayo, numerous scans and doctors' appointments at Mayo, all leading up to her surgery day today.

Her team consisted of a surgery oncologist, urologist, vascular surgeon, and radiologist, and a host of others in support.  A final part of the surgery today was doing a blast of intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) after all of the cancer was removed to try to get any remaining cancer cells in that area.  And surgery went just fine!  She's visiting with Leann and their other sister, Sandy, tonight and she was soon to take her first little walk still this evening!  And when I asked if she had her post-surgery pain button this time like she had in Fargo, I was told that they do pain management differently there using no narcotics.  Evidently they've found that people heal faster using this plan.  Amazing!

We're so thankful for the skills, knowledge and expertise shown to her in this process, and so proud of her and how she has dealt with everything she has gone through the last couple of years.  And we hope she will make this the first day of the rest of her life!  She deserves all the best!

And I'll try to find some different photo scenery tomorrow!