Thursday, July 29, 2010

#791 and #792

Sometimes a nice evening is just what the doctor ordered.  Dinner and recreation were solo tonight.  Don't read that wrong way...

Dinner?  Those pheasant in my fridge.  Roll 'em around in italian bread crumbs and pan fry them with a bit of oil.  Zuchinni in the steamer with gobs of salt and pepper makes for a good, healthy side.  And how does one wash it all down?  With a beer, of course!

#791 was the Good Juju Ginger Ale from the Left Hand Brewing Company in Colorado.  All in all? Pretty fair.  Apparently, the ginger is added largely to replace the hops.  As you would expect, the beer was not very hoppy.  Crisp, refreshing and a nice gold/straw color, it went down  pretty well.  Unfortunately, the finsih was a bit funked out.  I am not sure what to make of that.  Since the hops can often be detected in the finish, it could be the ginger, but we will never know.  I could barely detect it anywhere, quite frankly.  Was this a bad brew?  No, not by any means. That said, I think Left Hand has better stuff.  3 out of 5.

Recreation?  On site at the Fort Street Brewery. Why on a Thursday?  Doug, the brewer, in his all knowing beer world, brews new beers in casks and taps 'em every Thursday night.  You really should get here now and then.  Never the same stuff here.  No door prize for me tonight.

The beer?  What is this rye doing in my coffee?  No, really - that is the name of the beer.  "What Is This Rye Doing In My Coffee?" is #792 and is certainly one of the more unsual beers I have had as of late.  As you might gather from the name, coffee is a key ingrediant.  While I can't say it is Bird Friendly (it should be!), I can say the coffee taste is quite strong.  You really smell it and get it on the finish. On the palate, it fights a bit with the roasted tones, you would expect in a stout.  Pretty fair overall but be aware - fi you don't like coffee, this stuff will kill you!! It was also creamy and thin as weird as that sounds.  Nothing to get get crazy about, but nothing to shy away from either.   3 out of 5.  (If you are keeping track, by the way, the coffees were from Columbia and Sumatra. )

Quite an eclectic evening, eh?  Pheasant, squash, ginger, and coffee....

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Last night was simply one of those evenings I needed to get out. With Lake Erie Metropark right up the street, it seemed like a good place to go. After saving a Painted Turtle from becoming a speedbump on West Jefferson, I made my way to the lakeshore.

Photos of the Caspian Tern doinking around nailing minnows just were not up to snuff. Lighting was a bit iffy. Photographing swallows over the flowerbed was just about impossible. Their size. Their speed. Forget it. I don't know how anybody does that.

Nevertheless, beautiful temps and nice light made for a awesome walk and a great evening. As I was returning to my car, I spied a Belted Kingfisher on a branch. That big, fat head with the massive beak on that proportionally tiny body make ID a cinch, even if  it was backlit.  No rattling call, either. Simple silence while it surveyed its kingdom.  Lighting was a big rough. Plus, trying to take advantage of the mild pinkish cast to the sky, I shot with my rig at a negative exposure compensation. That can provide some nice saturation options later. Here is the best shot I got, even if the noise in the sky is enough to make you puke.  On a positive note,  the bird was cooperative and sat there for at least 15 minutes. 

There it sat.  Male? Female (a Queenfisher?)?  I can't be sure.  I never saw the front so I didn't see whether or not it had a belly band.   

Royally cool? You bet.  

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Bottle In Bowels

If this picture grabs you, read here.

What will they think of next.......

Friday, July 16, 2010

Boneyards, Beers, And A Bird's Butt

Having the opportunity to combine birds and beer with some travel is always cool. For just a few days this past week, a few of us managed both "b's" and a visit to an old boneyard, too. A very old boneyard. Hah! Another "b" for this silly blog. Ahhh, the mini-trip.

In my on-going quest to visit National Park sites, I realized that the Hopewell Culture National Historic Park, in Chillicothe, Ohio, was just a few hours away. Yes, I spent some days off in Ohio. Not just any part of the Buckeye State- rural Ohio - where, along with scenic vistas and fresh air, skulls of deer are found on every other porch, drive-thru party stores sell ammunition, and eve
ry town has a street called "High". All of that is true, by the way. I'm sure the human skull on the car dashboard was least I hope it was.....

By sundown Tuesday, lodging was set in downtown Columbus. This was after the GPS took us to the first 161 High Street. Ending up in a residential neighborhood, we realized that there was actually a second 161 High Street, miles away, in the greater Columbus area. Only in Ohio.

What was in Columbus that we were so eager to see? The Elevator Brewery and Draught Haus. If you live in Columbus, get there. If you drive past Columbus, stop there. If you like beer, it is a must. Of the six beers I sampled (is very nice little goblets with little rings on each naming and describing the beer), a few that really impressed the hell out of me. Mogabi Ale (#776) and Bleeding Buckeye Red Ale (#778) both scored solid "5's". The Bear Ass Pale Ale (#779), Dark Horse Lager (#780), Three Frogs IPA (#777), and Procrastinator Doppleboch (#781) were all pretty good, too. In what now appears to be a tradition, the gourmet, goofy-topped pizza was awesome.

Late morning found us just north of Chillicothe at the National Historic Site. On that very location,
beginning about 200BC, folks from what we now call the Hopewell Culture, clearcut some land and started to to build enormous m
ounds of dirt and clay. As a guy who has had to move dirt now and then (I dug a hole once), I can appreciate the labor involved. Sure, Ohio has Bobcats, but back then, they didn't have these Bobcats. Modern stuff could have done this in no time! All that dirt was moved one basket at a time. Back-breaking, for sure.

Ah, but why did they do it? Well, if you figure it out, let the Park Service know. It's a mystery for sure. We know the mounds involved burials originally (cremations, actually). All sorts of objects were found, including projectile points, various shapes from copper and mica, and pipes, one of which was absolutely in the shape of a Prairie Chicken. Knickknacks like that suggests that the burials were of important people. There are those that think the mounds are oriented to the stars and planets like other locations around the world. One thing is for sure - if you are in the area, it is worth checking out! It is not on the scale of the Cahokia Mounds in Illinois, but it's still neat.

The picture, by the way, shows the distribution of mounds with some of said mounds in the distance. These are not all of them. An early 20th century military operation, dealing with the need for troop housing during the build-up for World War I, leveled many of these ancient features. These are the ones that remain. Also, the sign was not used by the Native Americans to help they lay things out. No, they did not wear construction hats and I'm sure OSHA did not know about the project.

The Old Canal Smokehouse, just up the street, was well worth the stop for a late lunch. The Shiner Blonde (#782), from the Spoetzl Brewery, on the other hand, was not worth the gum on the bottom of my shoe. Boring to look at, boring on the taste buds and nose, and just a huge disappointment overall, this could only get a "2" out of 5. Keep in mind, that puts it right in league with unfiltered water from the Scioto River which runs right through town - I would give that a "1".

Our travels took us next to the Tar Hollow State Forest and State Park. 16,000 acres of good stuff. Unfortunately, the birding was a bit dull. The Black-and-white Warbler and the American Redstart were nice, but the heat (196 million degrees) was really keeping things quiet for the most part. Of course, that means the butterflies should be hopping. Giant Swallowtails, Tiger Swallowtails, Spicebush Swallowtails, and Red-spotted Purples were everywhere. At times, dozens were feeding on the wildflower beds through the area and the roadside puddles. With more time and motivation, I could have snagged some nice pics. This critter, a dark Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, I believe, is a bit beat up.

Dinner time was in Athens. Of all the places in Ohio to spend the night, why Athens? Yeah, you can see it in the picture. It turns out the little, last minute trip to the Mounds was right in the middle of Ohio Brew Week. How cool is that? All things beer for an entire week! Guest speakers, samplings, contests. Some events were open while some had tickets. If this was the fifth one, the first four must have been pretty good Great fun all around! Without really knowing what was going on, we just settled in for some drinks.

The craziest beer of the night, Grand Wazoo (#785), was at Jackie O's Pub and Brewery. Passing up a beer that is described as "an Imperial raspberry vanilla porter aged in a bourbon barrel with wild yeasts and raspberries served in a tulip glass" can not be done by a snob like me. It was so worth it. Ultimately, it had a sour taste. But don't let that stop you. It was, I believe, brewed in the tradition of a Flemish Red Ales or Belgian Sours. - sour is the name of the game. Despite the wackiness of it all, it was was balanced nicely and pretty impressive in looks and smell. 5 out of 5. Cool stuff.

Unfortunately, that was the only beer from Jackie O's that I had that night and I did it much later in the evening. We were looking forward to sampling more, but when we first went in the door at dinner time, seating was basically zilcho yet people kept piling in. It was decided to head off to another place celebrating beer, the Red Brick Sports Pub, and then maybe head back to Jackie's. The sports bar? Not a bad place. Twisted Kilt (#784) from the Thirsty Dog Brewing Company and The Pride of Willoughby (#783) from the Willoughby Brewing Company were pretty good. In fact,the Pride was awesome - everything one would expect from a porter was there. Chocolate tones, a wonderful creamy body and an ever-so-slight dry finish. An awesome 5 out of 5.

After a slow, laid back breakfast in town, Burr Oak State Park and the Wayne National Forest were the next stop. What a gem. A little walk through the basically deserted campground yielded, among other things, Hooded Warblers, Yellow-throated Vireo, Northern Parula, and a Yellow-billed Cuck

The big bonus bird on the trip? How about a Worm-eating Warbler. It wasn't singing at all. We just bumped into it. From a distance of maybe 25 feet, everything, right down to the slick racing stripes on his noggin, was crystal clear. They nest on the ground and feed in the understory, so yeah, this bird was eye level. In case you were wondering, yes, my camera was in the car...

Our final planned stop of the mini-trip was Millersburg, Ohio. Resisting the urge to buy a small coffee mill from Parker while antiquing (I spent a ton of money on books the previous day), we made our way to the outskirts of this tiny town in Holmes County ("Amish Country ") with what has to be one of the mo
st unique ways to look for birds - standing in a barn.

It turns out I know a guy who knows a guy who knows some people with barns. Yeah, you can see barns here in Michigan, but the ones in Holmes County have "special squatters". Can you see him below?
Yes, that is one awesome shot of....... a Barn Owl's butt. I was shooting up the silo.

While Barn Owls are found through large parts of the country (worldwide, for that matter), these pale beauties are no longer found in Michigan. Sure, one shows up now and then, but all evidence suggests they don't nest here anymore. The barns in Amish Country are perfect. The Amish help by providing nest boxes and the agriculture they practice doesn't decimate the rodents. The owls get to do that!

(what a cool name!), our guide , took us to four different barns. Three of them had owls. Two barns had views like the one above. One, however, had some older nestlings tucked in the box. They were big enough where they were expected to fledge any day. After sneaking some peeks in the nest box through the tiny built-in peephole, we opted to leave wondering what became of the fifth youngster. My eagle-eyed travel companion, apparently a soon-to-be professional owl-finder, found it in the tree where it sat completely oblivious to the woman moving the grass just a few feet away!

You gotta trust me - while seeing the bird in the picture here is easy, it was not an easy find in the yard. At first, we all looked at it wondering if we had been tricked by the "trunk bird", a close cousin of the "leaf bird", "mangled oriole nest bird", "grocery bag in the farm field snowy owl". No trickery here. It was the real deal.

Moving to a better position, with the setting sun at our back, I snagged this picture:

Content with the looks at this awesome bird (a lifer for some, but not me - I had one years ago out west), we bid farewell to Paul, plotted a course for home and made it there in just a few hours.

One new National Park site, 10 new beers, one new state bird (the owl) bringing my list to 228 species, and a trip list of about 60 total birds made for good fun. Mini-trips. Get 'em while you can.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Wounded Veteran

This Blue Dasher, with his stunning jade eyes and lightning blue abdomen, was patiently waiting just a few feet from me as I was scoping out some marsh shots this morning. Not two inches long, they are normally outstanding flyers. But, perhaps like a Spitfire returning from the Battle of Britain, its wings were damaged by fierce combat.

For the Blue Dasher, dominance of the marsh skies, and real estate below them, involves dogfighting. No machine guns, missles, or radar. It's pure flying. Males in combat try to fly under the opposing male to "push" them up and out of the way. On some occasions, they actually collide; the "thwipping" of delicate wings crashing into each other can sometimes be heard. After a few duels, the inferior flyer gets the clue and moves on to a new territory that is, perhaps, owned by another dragonfly of even more inferior skill.

As I sat just a few feet from this injured flyer, I noticed that the other dashers were not bothering him. The fierce dogfighting that was unfolding immediately in front of us did not involve him at all. While I would like to think that this grizzled veteran of the marsh war was being left alone because he could "shoot down" the enemy with maneuvers that would make a modern F-18 pilot drool, I don't think that was the case.

His perch, a blossom from a Flowering Rush, was off to the side and seemingly out of the way. His otherwise powerful flight was compromised by the now damaged wings. Lacking the ability to outfly his competitors, he was relegated to an inferior location along the marsh edge. Any thoughts he may have of engaging others for a better location would most likely mean trouble. Others would not bother him because his location was not good enough to attract the babes. So, as long as he stayed out of trouble, and a female with low expectations sauntered by, he might be okay. Challenge the others for better property, and therefore a better chance at the females, and he could end up dead.

Unlike pilots of wars gone by, this wounded veteran won't get a new set of wings. No ground crew is available to patch those holes. No "Rosies" are feverishly making a new craft. Nope. None of this happens in the brief life of a dragonfly. His flight school is all instinct with a flight timeline measured in days or weeks, not years.

I suspect within a week or so, unlike the brave pilots of World War II, this little fellow will be largely forgotten by most. He won't get any flight medals. The best award possible would be the passing of his genes to his offspring. Given his current situation, that is unlikely. There won't be a memorial, parade, or holiday, either. His grave? That will be the marsh itself with the flowers being those that surround it.

Alone In Its Field

Give Me An "S"!

I found this on my drive home yesterday. While their fish might be awesome, their spelling certainly is not.........

Friday, July 9, 2010

One More.....

Here is one more from the other night.....

Lookin' Up

I have a couple of photographers I pay attention to for various reasons. One of them, Rick Sammon, always encourages you to stop and turn around, look up, look down, and look all around for interesting shots.

I snapped this pic at Greenfield Village a few days back. Good thing these old farm tillers were attached securely to the wall! Those spikes don't look inviting! I have to think this old barn has future in an horror movie!

Monday, July 5, 2010


What would the 4th of July be without fireworks? What the would the fireworks be without the little 6 year old asking "Daddy, was that the finale?" only to repeat the question 30 seconds later? What would fireworks be without a few mosquitoes? What would fireworks be with a camera?

I snagged these pics last night of the Trenton Fireworks. A bunch of us were at a secret location on the west side of Grosse Ile looking south along the Trenton channel.

For you photo people, most pics were taken using my tiny lens at ISO 100 with a 2-5 shutter speed. Magic word of the night? Tripod. I managed only about 60 exposures, but you when you are sittin' there for 2 or 5 seconds at a time, I guess that's not bad!

Friday, July 2, 2010

#763-#767: A Jolly Night

As you might gather from above picture, this past Tuesday evening was a pleasant one. Anytime one can have great beers with great pizza in the presence of great company, you can't go wrong.

A pile of us went to the Jolly Pumpkin in Ann Arbor. While they have been in Dexter and Traverse City for a few years, the Ann Arbor location is new. Sure, good beer (more on that later) could be found, as you would expect, but there was more to it. Like the Great Lakes Brewing Company in Cleveland, JP is really taking their sustainability operations seriously (totally Ann Arbor-ish. Nothing like a progressive liberal town!). Local connections with farmers for the freshest stuff (as opposed to "organic and fresh"............. from California). The bizarre pizza, with wacky mushrooms, crazy cheeses and arugula, was really something. Eating on the rooftop section was a nice change, too.

The beers?


Keeping in mind the beer list corresponds to the beers from right to left, you can see just how beautiful a beer can be. The stout (on the right) looks pretty typical, but check out the Siren Amber and the Luciernaga ("firefly" in Spanish, I was told). Does that look inviting or what?

You can read some of the the restaurant's beer descriptions here. My opinion? They were all pretty damned good with crafty names (which you know I like). Admittedly, I did not totally review them all in detail, as I have found that is hard to do when you are trying to being social. In short....

Luciernaga(#763) - a pale ale/saison "hybrid", this thing was quite odd. At any given moment, characters of the two styles would be present. One minute, the hoppiness of the pale ale would be there (especially on the nose), only to give back to the fruitiness of the saison the following minute. Cool stuff. 3 out of 5. Cool name, too.

Bam Biere (#764) -
very much like a wheat in appearance but certainly more "aley" on the tongue. 3 out of 5.

North Peak Siren Amber Ale (#765)
- this beer re-enforced why Amber Ales just might be one of my favorite beer styles. Malty. Caramelly. Mmmmm... goody. The only thing that held this beer back from a "5" was the overall lightness of all. Many of the solid characters that make ambers so good were very subdued. If they could "up" it a bit but keep the balance, a "5" for sure.

Golden Manitee Belipago (#766) -
This beer should get "5" just for the name! That said, I gave it a "4". No solid notes here (again, being social), but it was pretty damned good.

Tortuga Ale Company Chocolate Stout (#767)
- hands down, the best beer of the night. 5's across the board. Balance. Flavor. Finish. Very, very well done.

Needless to say, this will not be my only trip to the Jolly Pumpkin. We had tried to get in months ago, but the line was hours long. No beer is worth that.

Well, okay, maybe a beer is worth that somewhere.....