Monday, April 8, 2013

Solitaires and EagleMonks

A thrush not unlike the American Robin, Townsend's Solitaire is found in the mountains of western North America.  During the breeding season, they eat bugs and other creepy crawlies.  As winter sets in, they move down the mountains and switch their diet to berries.

Perhaps you saw some key words in that paragraph- western and mountains.  Just look at that range map - you'll see what I mean!


So, when one shows up in Lansing, Michigan (hardly west and hardly mountainous!), birders can get excited. 

I've already seen it.  Utah, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and Michigan (in '06), believe it or not. But, knowing Natalie has not yet seen one, Saturday seemed like a great day to make a short road trip.  Birds and beer.  That's how everybody should spend a day off.

By 10am, we had arrived at the Fenner Nature Center.  A brief conversation with some other birders did not set the morning off on the right foot. They did not see the bird.  Natalie and I, using our noggins, had reason to believe the bird was still there.....

This bird was originally reported back in January.   As expected, swarms of birders ran to go see it.  We did not. The chance to do it just did not materialize. After a few days, online reports started to fade.  Before long, there were no bird reports. Birders assumed the bird moved along.  I certainly did.

On Friday, a Townsend's Solitaire was seen on the property again. It certainly made sense that this was the same bird.  It probably never left the property.  Birders simply stopped looking for it and reports dried up. Sure enough, photographic evidence proved it was the same individual - the January bird and the April bird were both missing a foot.  A tough bird, that Solitiare!

Knowing that the others, prior to our arrival, had missed the newly reported bird in the expected prairie region, we covered that area only briefly.  From there, we opted to widen our search to other prairie locations on the property. Sure enough, there it was. White eye ring.  Stunning rusty stripe on the wing when in flight. Gray.  Slender  It's a total stunner no matter what state you see it!

With the target bird in the bag by 11am, the day was totally ours.  After a bit of doodling around on the property, we found ourselves seeking a new target. By 1:00pm, we had a found it - the EagleMonk.

I don't know alot about this place.  From what I gathered, it brand-spankin' new - July of 2012 I beleive.  Things were already looking good for them as the greater Lansing area was desperate for local craft beers.  Being unique in your region can be a good thing, right?  Buying the shuttered party store (which used to be a gas station), the owner turned it into the EagleMonk Pub and Brewery.

The place has an identity crisis.  Some months ago, I went out with friends to a regional brewery and it was decided that location was caught between a brewery, sports bar, and dance hall. 

EagleMonk might be worse.

The stark white walls suggested....I dunno what.  Nature photography hangs on the walls suggesting an art gallery or coffee house.  The hand-crafted ceramic mugs hanging  from the ceiling provided a feel straight out of Dark Horse Brewing Company.  The music? Jazz fusion.  Seriously. I think it was Spyro Gyra.  The TV?  A fancy car auction on FOX.

But here is the truth - none of that matters. Get there for the beer.  

Splitting the eight-glass sampler (and a chicken pesto pizza), Natalie and I enjoyed a dynamite round of beers. 

Apparently, the head brewer/owner was homebrewing for thirty years!  It appears he was well ahead of the "home brew craze" that is sweeping the country.  It shows.  Red Eye Rye, EagleMonk IPA, Irish Red, Easy Blonde Ale, Winter Warmer, Delta Porter, Instigator Doppelbock, and Raven IPA were all were well done. 

Standouts would have to include the EagleMonk IPA and Winter Warmer.  The IPA was thick, hoppy and beautiful just like an IPA should be. The Winter Warmer? With the three malts and two hops varieties, Natalie and I struggled to find words to describe. Really.  We did. A very complicated beer.  In the end, we gave up and just enjoyed it. 

(It should be noted that I have not assigned my list rankings to these beers.  I have become lazy in the last few months and simply record my notes into the voice memo function of my iPhone.  At a later date, I sit at home and transfer the notes to the spreadsheet.  I am at least 20 beers behind, I gather.  I suspect my beer list is about 1,425 or so....)

An afternoon walk on the grounds of Woldumar Nature Center (Lansing's other nature center) rounded out the day.  While not a particularly birdy piece of property during our visit, any walk in the woods is worthwhile, right?

With the day a bit off from the pleasant temps of the previous days, Saturday was certainly one for the books. A super state bird for me (again) with a fair photo to boot, a new bird for Natalie, great beers during a great lunch and time outside.  All splendid.

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