It has been a long and cold January. One of the coldest winters for us ever, and one for the record books. The Governor closed schools on at the beginning of January for the first time since 1998, because of the cold. The temperature was -28 below with a wind chill of -44 below when I woke up that morning. Individual school districts closed the next day on their own, the temps not being much better. Last week, districts were once again closed on Thursday. This week, yesterday and today, which interfered with my sidekick’s final exams of the semester. Temps have been in the upper teens below zero with wind chills in the 20’s and 30’s below.
This almost NEVER happens. As a kid, I remember having snow days. But I NEVER remember missing school because of the cold. Yes, we get way below zero with an average of 24-25 below zero temps each winter. You can see the statistics here in this article. The article names the Twin Cities the coldest city/cities in the U.S. I live about 30 miles NW of the Twin Cities. About average, the temps are 5-10 degrees colder than what the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport reads. And when it has warmed up the 1 or 2 days, it has snowed. We have a lot of snow already this year. It’s not even the snowiest month yet.
Don’t get me wrong. I like winter. I love the snow. I like it more when it hovers between 20 and 30 ABOVE 0. I go for winter photo walks all the time. We’ve hiked in 10 degree weather. We’ve bundled up and gone to the refuge Winterfest two years in a row, last year it was 5 above. I drove for three years without heat in my Blazer. I got my beautiful Snowy Owl pick in frigid temps. I’m not a wimp by any means. That being said, it’s cold. Damn cold. Except for having to go to work and to the gym, and the “necessary” grocery store runs and dance invitationals, we haven’t been out much. And we’ve been drinking a lot of hot chocolate!
Cabin fever made me venture out beyond work today. Just for a bit on my lunch hour. It was a balmy -9 below with -22 below wind chill. I drove around my town (I will be doing a blog about my town all on its own soon) getting pics of this and that in the cold. A few Golden Eyes and swans down by the river, but took off when they saw me approaching. Even a bunch of robins puffed up in a tree. Too far away to photograph.
But I got a few things, some I didn’t have to get out of my car for. I have also added some of the photos that I have taken over the past couple weeks for my Project 365, mixed in with my Sunday Snippets that I have not posted.
Looking at 22 degrees ABOVE zero tomorrow! I say we put the top down on the convertible!
The minute the calendar went from April to May, I felt it. I knew it was going to be a hard month for us. My mother passed away January 3, it has been a tough road and will continue to be. Mother’s Day and her birthday were right around the corner. I know she is no longer suffering and in a better place. That gives me a bit of peace, and I know it should give me more. I guess I am selfish and want her with me.
There have been days where I hear or see something and pick up the phone to call her to tell her about it, only to stop myself realizing I can’t. Now that Spring has arrived, I see yellow roses, her favorite. Last week was brutal. I passed by the Mother’s Day card aisles in the stores and I couldn’t even look at them without getting teary-eyed. I’ve seen Mother’s Day commercials, and had to turn the channel, me being the blubbering fool. I got really angry with people complaining about their mothers and give them a piece of my mind. Whereas just a few short months ago, I was one of them. Last night I took her old sweater and wrapped it around me and cried myself to sleep.
It has been rough for me and my sidekick to say the least. And from what I hear, my sister is also having a hard time. We would text each other blubbering gibberish. Our moods fitting, as we snapped at each other on text a couple times over stupid things. My dad pretty much doesn’t know what to do with himself these days. I’ve even thought about taking him out to the refuge with us for the drive. Maybe soon.
So on the advice of family and friends, I took the day and made it about me. What??!! How dare I be a mother on Mother’s Day! We reminisced about Mom and remembered the good times. All we have now are memories, and nothing is going to change that. Learning to accept the things I cannot change has been a big struggle for me, but in the past couple years I have come a long way in that regard.
I told my sidekick this weekend was about me. And her. Afterall, it is because of her that I AM a mother. The only thing my ex gave me worth holding on to, and I will treasure her forever. So I made plans to stay busy doing what we like doing best, and hopefully make the best of this dreaded Mother’s Day weekend.
Friday was a splendid day weather-wise. During my lunch break, I took a little stroll through my favorite park for birding in the Spring. I pulled up and instantly heard several songbirds singing and I immediately wished I didn’t have to go back to work. I heard and saw a cardinal, several Yellow Rumped Warblers, etc. I walked the trail and several small Downy and Hair Woodpeckers were flitting about here and there. Sandhill Cranes were calling in the distance and I knew I had to bring my sidekick back in the evening, as they are her favorites. I have only been bird watching for a couple of years now, not nearly long enough to identify birds by their song. Some yes, most no. I once read that Minnesota is one of the top 5 states for birding, as we get well over 300 species during migration in Spring and Fall. Maybe by the time I retire I will know most of their songs.
As I walked the path hoping to see a new warbler or a Baltimore Oriole, First of Year (FOY) for me, I stopped suddenly as I heard a Rose Breasted Grosbeak. I love these beautiful birds. They sound like Robins on steroids, LOL. At any rate, I first heard, then saw the female. The male was not too far behind. I was so excited, as this was indeed FOY for me. I kept walking, and saw an Eastern Bluebird, sparrows (there are so many species it is so hard to differentiate which one), the usual suspects around here. Canada Geese nesting finally, a male Wood Duck. I always end up dilly dallying and my lunch hour goes so fast.
I got about halfway around the trail and realized it was time to start back. I turned around and headed back, only to be stopped again by the female Rose Breasted Grosbeak. However, this time I saw some nesting material in her mouth and followed her with my eyes to see where she may go. Low and behold she flew about 10 feet off the path into a nest. No eggs yet, but I was so excited, what a find for me! The male came and sat above me on a branch checking me out. With our very late Spring and cold weather, we are just starting to get buds on the trees so she is very visible from the path. My first thought was that I really hope the buds and trees come in fast so more passersby don’t interfere with the nest. I got a few shots in, not too many, as they are very skittish birds.
My sidekick and I returned that evening after dinner. We saw the nest, but no sign of the birds. I am hoping to keep track and monitor the nest for babies, but then I will be very sad if something happens to them. Nature at it’s finest, I guess. Taking the good with the bad.
Saturday morning we had plans to attend the Spring Celebration at the refuge, as it was Migratory Bird Day. We got up at 5:30 (yes, on a Saturdaymorning, much to my teenager’s chagrin). It was 34 degrees, cloudy, windy and very cold. We had signed up for the birding tour which was from 7:00 to 11:00 am. The first part of the tour was a caravan around the refuge on a couple of the DNR roads which are not usually open to the public. The chilly, windy weather made it hard, as the birds were not out and about. We saw some shorebirds, including, Lesser Yellow Legs, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper. Several Blue Winged Teal, Trumpeter Swans, Sandhill Cranes, and a couple of Bald Eagles.
The hearty people of the bunch decided at 9:00 to go on one of the trails hiking. My crabby, tired, cold teenager was not so eager. So we just went on the wildlife drive, saw several birds, highlights were an American Kestrel and a Ruby Crowned Kinglet, nothing too out of the ordinary. The wind was blowing so hard I had to keep the windows up in my vehicle and the sand was flying all over we couldn’t see anything, so we headed out.
The refuge headquarters was having a plant sale, so we stopped there on our way home. I always like to see what birds are at their feeders, I had been hearing good things. However, the wind always plays a factor and there wasn’t too much next to the Red Winged Blackbirds and White Breasted Nuthatch. BUT, we did scare up this guy digging around on the ground eating up the bird seed dropped by the birds. The workers at the refuge tried sending him home with me, LOL.
On Sunday morning, Mother’s Day, we had every intention of hitting two parks and walking some trails. However, the early morning on Saturday did us in and we slept in on Sunday. I also had a couple of meltdowns over my own mom, but wanted to concentrate on new memories and traditions with my daughter. By the time we headed out of the house it was after noon. We headed to a Nature Center in a suburb of the Twin Cities. They had some great birds at their feeders and had some nice walking trails. Saw my FOY Baltimore Orioles, they do have a lovely sound. We saw a number of birds, and some Canada Geese nesting, which was also a FOY for us because of the late Spring. Toward the end, my back was giving out with all the walking, so we decided to call it a day.
All in all, not many photos for the week but lots of birds seen and heard finally after such a rough Spring. Just not close enough for photos.
On Friday, we left for Wabasha, Minnesota. It is about a 2-1/2 hour drive Southeast from my place. I’ve never been there before. According to the Chamber of Commerce, Wabasha is the oldest city on the entire upper Mississippi River and has been occupied continuously since 1826. U.S. Government records and “The 2nd Treaty of Prairie du Chien” (1830) conclusively establish Wabasha to be the oldest town in Minnesota, established 1830. The city is named in honor of an Indian Chief of the Sioux Nation, Chief Wa-pa-shaw. Wabasha’s “claim to fame” is that the Grumpy Old Men films were filmed there. Everywhere you look, it is either the eagles or Grumpy Old Men, LOL.
Wabasha is also home to the National Eagle Center www.nationaleaglecenter.org. Southeastern Minnesota has one of the highest populations of Bald Eagles in the country, next to Alaska. They winter on the Mighty Mississippi and Lake Pepin between Red Wing and Wabasha-Kellogg . In the winter you find them in the hundreds on Lake Pepin, as it is open water. But during the Spring and Summer, they are also plentiful.
After a few stops here and there, we arrived in Wabasha around 12:30. I had made reservations at a local motel, the “cheapest place in town”. UGH. I don’t know how many times in the last three months “you get what you pay for” has haunted me. I have not stayed in a “motel” for quite some time. And in a town the size of 2,250, apparently no one mans the motel at night. We were the only guests and let me tell you, it was spooky. Never again. I was thankful that it was only one night. Next time we will be stepping it up a bit.
Our plans were to walk around town for a bit, then head over the the National Eagle Center. They had “shows” at 11, 1, and 3. We were going to make the 3:00 show. We headed downtown and what a pretty site it was. We found a park at the end of the block. We saw what we think were a pair of Cooper’s Hawks, some American Robins, and a couple of eagles flying down the river.
The architecture and the history of the town was fantastic. However, very sad, as a lot of the shops were closed down, due to the economy :(
There wasn’t a lot of shopping to do so we headed to the eagle center. What an amazing experience. I am so glad we went. There was a ton of information around the center on the eagles of North America. Some of it good, some of it very sad :( But they are learning about them every day and teaching the public through the center and the classes they offer there.
This contraption had you squeezing the grips to see how strong you are. My sidekick got 50 psi, me 40. It wasn’t a good day, LOL. The talons of the eagle are very powerful, up to 400 psi!
We learned that eagles can see up to 2-3 miles. You could put your head in this makeshift eagle and see what they see, it was very cool. Also learned that they are very clean animals and even shoot their poop out of the nest up to 6 feet! LOL! We cracked up!
We were saddened to discover the lead poisoning issue, though. Very sad. It only takes a quarter-sized piece of led to kill an eagle.
There are five resident eagles at the center. Residents due to some ailment or another, that keeps them from making it in the wild.
There is Donald, the lone Golden Eagle. He was my favorite. What a brilliant, gorgeous bird. Donald is from California and had his wing broken when he was hit by a vehicle. He is unable to sustain flight, thus his residency at the eagle center.
Harriet was a hoot. Harriet is the oldest of the eagles at the center, 30 years! She was also hit by a car and part of her wing had to be amputated :( So she is unable to fly as well. Her feathers stick up like a mohawk, they say from part of the concussion she received in her accident. She has been seen on Leno and other talk shows. She is also the eagle featured on the Minnesota veteran’s licence plates. Harriet was part of the show we attended, and they fed her turkey and fish. Apparently, they are spoiled at the center :) Oh, and the 30 years. Eagles in the wild usually live up to 20-25 years. In captivity, that number is doubled!
Then there is Angel. Angel was found on the ground with a broken wing as a fledgling. She was surviving on fish from nearby heron’s nests. The musculature of the wing was damaged so much that she also cannot fly. She is the most vocal of the bunch. When she sees a wild eagle fly by through the window, she vocalizes her pleasure. The eagles are tethered at all times for their own safety. However, they get a lot of outside time by the river and a couple of them have even caught fish in the river while tethered!
My sidekick got her picture taken with Angel.
Next is Wasaka, the other male in the bunch next to Donald. Was’aka was discovered as a juvenile with a tumor on his eye. Surgery removed the tumor, but Was’aka remains blind in the left eye and is unable to hunt for himself. He seemed very, very sad :(
And last, but definitely not least, is Columbia. Columbia was feasting on a deer carcass on the side of the road in California and was hit by a van. Her wing was broken and fixed, but she is still unable to fly. The accident, however, saved her life. For when they took blood tests they discovered lead poisoning, and she was treated for it and got better. She was a card. She was also one that was fed in the show and turned up her nose at some offerings until the manager hand-fed her, LOL.
The show was very informative and fun. We left the show feeling a bit more knowledgeable about my favorite bird. We headed to the giftshop and had someone take our picture, albeit with my iphone. It was a bit windy up on the balcony along the river!
We headed out and walked around outside, this is my sidekick with Wa-pa-shaw.
We were hungry, so we headed to the bar and grill made famous from “Grumpy Old Men”, Slippery’s. The food was pretty good and I got a coupon at the motel, so even better. We left the restaurant, and there wasn’t much else to do so we headed around town. Causing trouble, LOL, and taking pictures.
The bridge that separates Minnesota from Wisconsin. Of course we drove over it, and wouldn’t you know there was a wildlife refuge on the other side. Right up our alley. We couldn’t see any trails, though, so turned around. Saw a few eagles flying here and there.
These guys were a hoot. In the middle of town, in the middle of nowhere near a pond. A bunch of geese. I am thinking snow geese? Not sure at all. I can find these first ones, but the others I cannot find in my Audubon guide. I am told they are here all the time wandering and meandering about.
I stopped at this old Episcopal church that was built in 1901, and I loved the rod-iron fence :)
We headed back to the motel and got our jammies on, I downloaded my first day’s photos on the laptop, she played on Facebook, and we fell asleep. Albeit it wasn’t a very sound sleep for me, being the only ones in the motel I was a bit scared.
We got up early in the morning and headed for breakfast. I always love the little cafe’s in small towns, the food is always so good. We had plans to drive a couple miles further south to Kellogg before we headed back up north and home. Kellogg is home to the Lark Toy Store. What a fun little shop it turned out to be. They had old toys on display, along with new toys to buy and a cool old camera collection. Also a carousel and in the back yard, 3 llamas. They were funny! And oh my gosh, for the fudge. I bought 3 large pieces of fudge and it cost me $9. Chocolate for my sidekick, Salted Nut Roll fudge for my dad and Maplenut fudge for my mom.
The weather was not cooperating, it was chilly and starting to rain. We had a 2-1/2 hour drive home and I wanted to make a couple stops. I had seen a few spots on the way down that I wanted to photograph. Typical :)
This is Lake Pepin, outside of Wabasha and before you hit Lake City. Now why they call it Lake Pepin I don’t know, because it is also the Mississippi River. Wider near these spots, but still the Mississippi. The water down there is so much bluer than up here on the Mississippi. I am assuming because there aren’t as many people? I got home and my sidekick noticed a bald eagle sitting in one of the trees on the right of the photo. It looks like an ant, you can barely see it.
This was a spot in Reid’s Landing, I don’t know quite what this is. Not quite a barge, not quite a ship. But there were people onboard working. It was pretty cool, I thought.
We headed up further north and came into Lake City. I would love to come back here and spend a weekend. What a quaint little town and lovely marina.
Further north brought us to Redwing, Minnesota. Redwing is a HUGE tourist town in the fall. It is a beautiful little town on the river. I hadn’t been there in years. Nature was calling to both of us and I turned off the main highway down toward the river. I found a park, what are the odds, LOL. Also right on the railroad tracks and the old depot. We entered the depot, “did our business”, and headed to the park. They were giving river cruises; however the weather was really crappy and I really didnt want to waste my money on a crappy cruise. Another time.
So that was it, we headed out because it really started raining and we had to get home. We had grocery shopping to do and Easter to get ready for. I really didn’t want to drive home in the rain, but didn’t have the choice. And oh, the places I wanted to stop. Barns, old farms and stops on the river. All needing to be saved for another time.
Hope you enjoyed our trip as much as we did! Have a great week, everyone!