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Fencelines is a weekly column I write for a couple local papers. Normally includes bird sightings and tidbits of information. This one is from last week and the next one will be completed in a few days.

"Out and about this past week one could notice the phlox in the abandoned farmsteads were in full bloom. Nannyberries, elderberries and honeysuckle were also colorful and fragrant this past week around the dooryards and fencelines across the countryside. The ever-present dandelions have entered their ugly stage whereby if the lawn isn’t mowed every other day, it looks like it should be.

Bird watching took me into several counties in my travels this past week. Canada goose goslings were seen in and around several ponds. Baby robins are starting to show up around the lawns. Wild turkeys stopped traffic outside Owatonna as they trotted across the road in front of those of us who waited for them to cross. At home, a couple indigo buntings added variety to the goldfinches at the thistle feeders. And finally, perhaps some of the work on habitat and limiting undesirable species has paid off. While whistling at the orioles to get them stirred up, I was answered by a small bird that came and landed on the wire above me. It had some blue on it so was wondering if it might be a female indigo bunting. Upon looking in the field guide and listening to the song on a couple websites, it was definitely a female bluebird. Long time, no see and welcome back.

Been awhile since we’ve seen a spring as ornery as this one when it comes to allowing us to get fieldwork done. Growing up on the farm in the ‘70’s, it seemed like we had a lot of those types of springs. We didn’t have near the tile drainage we have nowadays and ended up planting soybeans more often than not in early June. One year in particular I can recall my younger brother working around a wet spot as close as he could with the narrow front E-3 and Kovar quack digger. Dad had told us to stay away from the holes. Having to tell him you were stuck in one of them after you’d been warned wasn’t high on the list of fun things to do.

Sure enough, from where I was working with the 656, it appeared he’d stopped and it looked like the tractor was stuck. Upon driving over to take a closer look, he’d managed to get it in far enough so that the rear wheel on the outside of the wet spot was actually about a foot off the ground! Can’t remember exactly what we did to get it unhooked from the digger but do recall we had to be careful pulling the tractor out so as not to tip it over. Don’t think we ever told Dad about the incident although like most siblings, I might’ve saved it up for when the “proper opportunity” presented itself.

See you next week…real good then."

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And every Saturday we work in the yard  Pick up the dog doo  Hope that it's hard (woof woof)  The Weather Eye apparently benefitted from the Studebaker windshield washer bag, predicting the showers a

Now he's rolling down the mountain goin' fast, fast, fast And if he blows it this one's going to be his last With the Weather Eye firmly entrenched in their weather forecasting arsenal, the scurs hav

Running on - running on empty Running on - running blind The scurs were a little disappointed that the Weather Eye got ahead of itself, predicting rain for Monday rather than Tuesday. When in doubt,

Aw, thanks hobbydog. That's really a great pic, with them sitting on the barbed wire and all! Barn swallows are some of my favorites, a true sign that spring has arrived and summer is on the way. While some might grumble about their messy little mud nests, I'll put up with that given all the bugs they eat while skimming along just above the ground. Watching them and the tree swallows raise their families raises a smile. When they line the electrical wires before saying good-bye in the fall, it always makes me a little sad. Part of growing up and living on a farm. smile.gif

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"The hit and miss showers from this past week made the scurs edgy as they dipped into their stockpile of mosquito repellent. Yup they’re out in force. Rainfall amounts were variable but most of the Bugtussle area received amounts in the .1” - .2” range. More warm temps though for the upcoming week but more chances of rain too Highs should remain seasonal through next week between 75 & 80. Lows around 60 in that timeframe. Chances of rain every day through Monday but should be clearing out for the early part of the week. If the mosquitoes keep biting the scurs may suggest clearing out to see where the fish are biting instead.

The Twinkies had a pretty good week, taking 2 of 3 from the Tribe and their old nemesis, the Yankees. The White Sox stubbed their toes and allowed the hometown boys to inch closer in the standings. For a team that’s been so hot, it’s interesting to note they’re only 3 ½ games ahead at this writing.

The crop made progress and most actually managed to dodge the showers and complete their soybean planting. Post-emerge spraying was commonplace on corn by weeks end and soybean aphids were reported in SE MN. The second wave of soybeans planted has begun to emerge with some problems here and there. Hay was harvested including the wonderful crop of dandelions that competed with the alfalfa after the early May frost. Hard to expect perfection from less than perfect conditions.

The garden here at the ranch neared completion with a few bedding plants remaining to be planted. No sense putting them out if the weather was just going to beat them to a pulp right away. Always a big relief to have it planted but now the real work comes: Worrying about how many times we’ll lose the zucchini crop while sitting at the elevator watching the markets. Sound familiar?

Was a noise fest of magnanimous proportions this past weekend as we weaned the lambs off most of the ewes and turned the ewes out on pasture. That’s where sheep belong: Outside rather than lounging around burning up hay and creating enough organic fertilizer for to supply the free world.

Bird watching was special this past week. Not only did I see a bluebird the week before, the pair chose a bluebird house behind the old granary Last I checked, there were 3 cream colored eggs in it. Heard my first dickcissel of the season in some Aurora Twp. CRP I was adjacent to. Identified a bird I’ve rarely been able to see but have heard it for years. After listening to the song and searching it out on the internet, found it was that of a warbling vireo. Upon reading about the bird’s habits, it fit. They like to hide in the leaves of shade trees making them difficult to see. The males are even known to sing while on the nest. Still a pair of teal on the pond yet. Keep waiting to see ducklings but have not as of yet. Saw their old nemesis, Mr. Raccoon, squashed on the road near the house the other day. Strange, he seems to be getting bigger...

Some have asked how do I think of things to write? It’s actually pretty easy. When doing menial tasks as is my wont, the brain is always engaged in other pursuits. Somehow, I still have all my fingers and toes. Better yet, I have a panel of experts at the Mall for Men, some of whom don’t have all their digits! They ponder the same life’s mysteries I do. Take the other day for instance: Were you aware that Marcia Cross (Bree on Desperate Housewives) did not play Mulva on Seinfeld? What’s more, we now know whom she did play. These are the kinds of important items we hash over on an almost daily basis, even though we’re supposed to be busy in the field. It is through a process like this that nuclear fusion will someday be harnessed as the definitive energy source.

And finally, a great big Fencelines “Thank You” to LaVonne for putting up with me lo these many years. Little did I know when I wrote the first column, there would be a request for another, then another, and then become a weekly feature. We’re now read in 2 southern MN newspapers and via e-mail by many readers. Even though my agent is a tough negotiator, bargaining for that last dollar, she apparently thought it was worth it. After all, you get what you pay for! A note to Jim: Nice to meet you. My agent knows where you work. He’ll be in touch soon. We’re talking doubling my 6-figure salary and an increase in vacation time. Bet LaVonne didn’t tell you about that part of my contract!

See you next week…real good then."

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Sounds like a contest to me! In this corner we've got HOBBYDOG a fantastic photagrapher able to catch swallows in an uncommon state of loitering on a fence. In the other corner we have BUZZ The master of the digital avieary pict. The captcherer of Hummers & BUGs! At the sound of the bell Photograph!!!!!!!! Ding grin.gif

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I'm not sure I can keep up with Hobby. tongue.gif I only have a two MB Fuji Fine Pix thats four years old, I think he's got the camera National Geopraphic people use all over the world! Seriously, I could never get those duck pictures in motion remotely close to the quality he can and has. I can get real close to alot of species however and do Okay that way. If I was casting a vote it would be for Hobby! I think the last post is funny! grin.gif

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Quote:

I'm not sure I can keep up with Hobby.
tongue.gif
I only have a two MB Fuji Fine Pix thats four years old, I think he's got the camera National Geopraphic people use all over the world! Seriously, I could never get those duck pictures in motion remotely close to the quality he can and has. I can get real close to alot of species however and do Okay that way. If I was casting a vote it would be for Hobby! I think the last post is funny!
grin.gif


It certainly helps to have good equipment. The lens I am using is about as good as it gets in it's price range. Fortunately I have a good job and a wife who understands. smile.gif

You can take good pics with low end digitals though....maybe not action shots but good scenery and outstanding macro stuff. You need to learn some basic stuff though. learn how to use shutter or aperture priority and know when to use what. Light is everything. Having good places and things to shoot helps. As an example, arange your birdfeeders so that when you take pics the light is at your back. Set them up so you can get close without spooking them. Use a blind. If you want to stop action use a shutter speed of at least 1/800 (need good light). Having some computer skills to be able to crop and do minor touchup is a big plus. You would be surprised how much you can sharpen up your pictures by adding a little unsharp mask and contrast with a touch of color boost. Below is a link to some of my first digital pictures with one of the first consumer digitals...a Nikon coolpix 950.....a 2 megapix camera.

http://www.hobbydog.net/images/nikon_950.htm

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I'm envious of both you guys! Ok, The article is pretty good too. I REALY love all your picts.! Please feel free to keep posting tips. and picts. and articles. I will get a digital... Someday, but I'll never be a writer. I do want to see a picture of an Indigo Bunting (male) though. Or, some old Squaws, or Harliquins. Realy guys, Thank you for the fantastic words and pictures.

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Your request has been served up! However this picture was taken through a window on a dark rainy day. Indigo Bunting.JPG

I agree with Hobby on his point that you can take good still shots with lower megapixel camera's but if you want the far away shot or motion shot you need to pony up the greenbacks. I'm certain if I didn't already have a decent digital camera I would go out and get the one of the best available.... It would seem kind of excessive to have two digi camera's.

Keep those pictures coming!

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Very Nice! How often does he visit your feeders? Is there more than one around? I've only noticed two in about 3 years. And they are always on the ground under the feeder.

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That bird was seen by me and my neighbor on and off for a period of 4 days! Then he was on his way up north I assume. When they come through we have to be quick with the camera, unfortunately it was during a very gloomy rainy period and taking a good picture was tough.

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From this week's episode:

"Welcome to another week of Fencelines where we attempt to prove life does actually exist south of Otisco, albeit at times in primitive form.

More hit and miss showers were the hallmark of this past week. The scurs are getting really good at covering themselves. If you predict it’s going to rain often enough, eventually you’ll be right. Sunday was about as nice as nice gets though. Just enough breeze to keep the bugs away. The upcoming week should see a break in the pattern of dodging raindrops we’ve become used to. We should see highs in the 70’s and lows in the mid 50’s for Wednesday and Thursday as the rain moves out. Then get ready for a stretch of what promises to be great weather. Highs in the low 80’s and lows in the low 60’s, about normal for this time of year. The scurs may get to wear their new Speedos yet!

The Full Moon this month will be on June 23rd. It is referred to as the Full Strawberry Moon as the Algonquin tribes were commonly harvesting the wild variation of the delectable June fruit we know today. As a kid, there were tasty wild strawberries growing in the south fenceline and we’d sometimes go pick a few. Probably took along a cap pistol to protect ourselves from the Indians while we were at it.

The Mall for Men was into thinking up new TV shows for farmers this week. A reader mentioned from his place, the moon appears to rise over Matawan so “Moon Over Matawan” is a lock. Most popular on our list was “Freeborn Co. Sprayers” after Orange Co. Choppers. Can just hear Larry barking, “Those sprayers aren’t going to plumb themselves!”

Twinkies played .500 ball on their road trip, not good enough to keep pace with the Chisox, who went 5 - 1. Money can buy a lot of things but wouldn’t suggest the Pale Hose start polishing their World Series rings just yet. A lot of season to play.

Pollination on the apple trees apparently wasn’t hurt much by the frost here as the trees in the yard are loaded. There are so many apples they’ve already sloughed off some of the excess but after looking at the trees, one can understand why. The cherry tree hasn’t fared so well. It didn’t look good last fall and was surprised it even made an attempt to leaf out this spring. If it doesn’t make it, will replace it with a Honeycrisp apple tree. After eating a few of those, it’s a “must have.”

Out and about this past week, ran across some old friends. Noted in Freeborn Co. along a drainage ditch were several bank swallows. Hadn’t seen that many since fishing along the banks of Deer Creek west of Spring Valley many moons ago. The killdeer babies that caused the mothers to feign injury to lure me away from the nest a few weeks ago are now slightly smaller versions of their parents. The bluebirds continue to set on a clutch of 4 eggs out back. Significant because we haven’t had a bluebird nest here since ’96 when a bad storm took down a dozen trees and our barn. In downtown Bugtussle the chimney swifts fly above the buildings. They used to nest in the chimney at our old office and once in awhile one would crawl through the damper vent and fly by your nose. Great little bug eaters so just let ‘em outside to do their thing.

This was a good week to observe insects around the area. Dragonflies were on the wing near the pond where their lifecycle likely started. Monarchs were common too along roadsides as they were searching for milkweed plants to lay their eggs on. Around the yard the bumblebees were busily working over the blossoms on the spirea & sweetclover. These are some of natures premier pollinators. Visiting a greenhouse specializing in tomatoes, was interested to note once inside all the little boxes strategically placed on the ends of the benches. They contained the bumblebees that pollinated their primary source of income. 1st soybean aphids found locally on the 13th. Let the games begin! The deer flies are also out as evidenced by those of us with thinning pates being bitten. It’s wear a cap and get chewed for having “cap-head” or get chewed by the deer flies. What a choice!

See you next week...real good then."

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  • 2 weeks later...

6-21 edition...

"The scurs suspect the weather has shifted gears somewhat. Not at all unlike what they predicted earlier in the year as our cool spring may become a warmer, drier summer. We’ve seen a change to a more typical summer weather pattern as of late. The chances of rain diminish somewhat as we approach July. When rainfall events happen however, the convective thunderstorms that result from the juicy air tend to dump large amounts in short periods of time. Following the early week rain, prepare for a lengthy, steamy stretch of weather. Highs mid-80’s, lows mid 60’s through next Tuesday. Slight chances of rain Wednesday through Friday. Uncomfortable weather for scurs but watch the corn and soybean growth take off like a rocket.

One positive aspect about a slow down in rainfall: Lawn mowing has also slowed down. The grass has become tougher too necessitating a blade sharpening to keep the mower from chewing the grass off. Not seeing the 5 o’clock shadow on the lawn caused by those pesky dandelions though.

Time to trim some of the evergreen shrubs, in particular the yews, arborvitae and junipers. By now their new growth should nearing completion. Trimming them now allows one to shape them and keep their size manageable.

The Summer Solstice occurs on or around June 21st. The word “solstice” is derived from two Latin words; “sol” for sun and “sistit” for stands, as the sun appears its noontime elevation in the sky does not change. . It is directly overhead at the Tropic of Cancer. This is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere. It also marks the beginning of days becoming shorter not long afterwards. Slowly but surely the birds sing a little later every morning signaling Congress that it’s time to change back to Standard Time.

The garden has gotten off to a mediocre start, thanks to the striped gophers that insisted on digging up the vine crop seeds and seedlings. Very few cucumber beetles thus far although some (spotted cucumber beetles) were found in a recent alfalfa field scouting. Warmer temperatures may cause them to become more active so wise to stay on your toes. Noticed the bean leaf beetles have been chewing holes in the string bean leaves. Fortunately the first generation that over wintered should be nearing the completion of their life cycle and about ready to call it quits. However, look for their progeny to show up in late July to early August. Anticipate seeing that white bearded Cockshutt owner in my office wondering (in so many words) what’s wrong with his string beans.

Bird watching continues to satisfy. There is still an indigo bunting feeding on the thistle seed sock. The house finches and goldfinches are regular customers as is the oriole. His feeder gets full of flies quickly so have to change the sugar water mixture every few days. There are 4 nests of tree swallow hatchlings and the bluebird eggs appear to be close to hatching, judging by the behavior of the parents. Am keeping close watch over their house. On the pond, still appears there may be 1 nest of teal that made it. No ducklings yet but the drake watched me warily from shore where I’d seen the pair recently. The vegetation is thicker so predators will have a more difficult time finding them. I found another nest, this time a pheasant, which had been destroyed. Despite all our good intentions for increasing habitat, am convinced predator management is key if we want to see more waterfowl, upland game birds and non-game birds as well.

The flora around the pond includes Spiderwort, a native prairie plant with a cluster of purple flowers on top of a thin stalk, not unlike alliums or lily-type plants. Spiderwort flowers are short lived, lasting just one morning but they produce 20 or more flowers per stem. The petals disintegrate quickly after flowering. They do add color to what has been up until now a green prairie landscape. The name is derived from its reputed use as a cure for spider bites. The Cherokee used Spiderwort as part of a tea made for digestive upsets. It was also part of several preparations for kidney trouble and female problems (or was it problem females?). Hmmm…

See you next week…real good then."

More on the bluebirds and teal next week... grin.gif

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Hmmm...fishface seems bored. From this week's episode:

"The scurs sure hit last week sultry temps right, didn’t they? Bugtussle area rainfall varied from 1.5” – 2” for the week. Looks like some of the same for the upcoming week. Early week rains should give way to pleasant temperatures however and diminished chances of rain. Look for highs in the mid-80’s and lows in the mid-60’s through the weekend. The Mother Nature may provide some of her own fireworks on the 4th. Look for a refreshing cool down Monday and Tuesday with highs in the mid 70’s and lows in the mid-50’s. The scurs may need to keep their legal fireworks in a waterproof container until the big celebration.

The crops continue to thunder along. GDU accumulation at Waseca went above normal last week at Waseca and shows no sign of letting up this week. Soybeans are starting to flower and corn should be waist high on the 4th of July. The Canada thistle are blooming in the pasture meaning it’s time to hook up to the mower again. Crabgrass has reared its ugly head in the lawn too. Combined with dandelions and white clover, the resulting wet guck clinging under the mower deck is as close as it gets to artificial cow manure.

At the Mall for Men, we’re still vying for spots on the US Olympic Hiding and Napping Squad. My own position seems assured after some in IL witnessed my prowess two days in a row with a lawn chair in the goat barn after a good meal. One of my little fat buddies over the weekend (in the absence of his family) was able to sneak off to an ideal hiding spot, complete with cool breeze, chilled drinks and lawn chair. He also took one for the team. A nap that is.

Missed writing about the Twinkies last week and they went on a slide. Some positive signs came out of the Brewer series though. They started scoring runs again. And, the Sox lost 2 out of 3 to the Cubbies. Not superstitious or anything but maybe if I keep writing about the Twins, maybe they’ll play better (he said, wearing his rally cap and sticking pins in a little White Sox doll)

Great news this past week on the bird watching front. The blue-winged- teal I thought had a nest on the pond did indeed. 8 fuzzy yellow ducklings were spotted paddling behind their mom around the pond. The bluebirds hatched as well. Last check found the female with insects stuffed in her beak while the male stood watch should a house sparrow happen by. Found a group of cliff swallows near a field I was in. But we don’t have any cliffs in the area you say (Sorry, Cliff Tufte doesn’t count). Seems these birds have adapted well to humans and will often build nests on the vertical concrete surfaces under bridges. The nests are fascinating to look at, resembling some kind of an overgrown mud beehive. Fishing as a lad, cliff swallow nests were common on the limestone bluffs near streams such as Bear and Deer Creek.

Came home last Thursday evening and after doing chores, took a stroll towards the pond where I spotted the aforementioned ducklings. I also spied my neighbor David toiling in his garden across the fence. Only one thing to do: Went back up the hill to fetch a cold beverage to share during the ensuing visit along the fenceline. It was long overdue and while it didn’t help David’s weeding, the visit and beverages certainly hit the spot. Got an invite to the house for another one and who am I to turn that down? We visited about a wide gamut of things as we always do. He didn’t realize we’d been neighbors 20 years this fall and I didn’t realize how some we visited about were related to each other.

It was a great visit and hated to stop but another day of work was ahead so had to wrap it up. One thing we talked about stuck in my mind and reminded me of how the name for this column came to be: Used to be when farmers worked with horses, was a common practice for them to stop at the end of the field and visit across the fenceline. The horses needed a breather and since there wasn’t much electronic media to listen to, info was disseminated and real news was exchanged. My uncle Harvey who does the old farm scene silhouettes had one called “Back 40 Philosophers” documenting just such an occurrence. A copy hangs at the Mall for Men as a reminder that even though the times have changed, there’s still a place for visiting, with or without the horses.

See you next week…real good then."

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For the week of July 6th - 13th...

"Strange how after offering my neighbor some refreshments last week, suddenly everyone claims to be my neighbor, has a fenceline and a garden. This could get expensive. Gotta be more careful what I write about I guess.

The wily scurs were a day ahead on Mother Nature’s fireworks. The thunder and lightning on Sunday woke some up wondering I’m sure if the 4th had already arrived. Rainfall last week was spotty with the northern end of the county receiving upwards of 2” in places to .3” in more southerly latitudes. Prepare yourself for another warm and generally dry week. Look for highs in the low-80’s on Wednesday and mid 80’s to low 90’s on into midweek next week. Slight chance of rain Saturday. The scurs are rummaging around to find their watering can.

The forecast does not bode well if you are betting soybean aphids won’t be a problem this year. If you are a soybean aphid however, you probably think otherwise. Aphids have very few paid subscriptions I suspect. In general, warm and dry plays to insects favor. Some have mentioned seeing holes in soybean leaves this past week. Since 1st generation bean leaf beetles have run their course, grasshopper nymphs are probably the culprits.

Action in the garden this week as striped cucumber beetles were noted munching on the leaves of cucumbers, squash and melons. Several products including Sevin and synthetic pyrethroids to choose from to help keep them from ruining your efforts. Also noted some feeding on the leaves of the cabbage and flowering kale. The cabbage butterflies are out and upon examining the leaves, no question they are the culprits. Again, the aforementioned products work well as do the Bt’s such as Thuricide.

The Twinkies won 5 of 6 after last week’s edition and the Sox faltered, allowing the Twins to claw back to within 8 ½ games. See? Not superstitious just hedging my bets. Hmmm, maybe if I run that White Sox doll through the chopper on the tractor…

It was amusing to watch all the baby birds emerge from their nests or at least watch their parents try to keep up with them. Brown thrashers were frantically flying to and fro with wads of insects for their teenagers. The house finches once again this year brought their young along to the feeders. Little wrens are scattered all over the yard as one can’t walk near a shrub without being scolded. The tree swallows have multiplied thanks to a little help keeping the house sparrows at bay. While chopping the thistles in the pasture was amazed at the swallow numbers and how many insects they were consuming. As slow as I was going they must’ve had a tremendous bellyache afterwards!

On my thistle mission, ran across the gray (Hungarian) partridge I thought had nested near the garden. When the adults got up, I immediately shut the mower down and inspected the grass in front of the tractor. It was crawling with tiny chicks fleeing from the racket. Left an unmowed strip 30’ x 150’ for a few days to allow them find their way to the CRP. Walked through the patch before mowing it just to make sure. Most of us aren’t familiar with these little butterballs but they’ve been here since their release across much of the Midwest in the early 1900’s. Native to much of Europe and parts of Asia, these little guys (and gals) adapted well to our cropping systems and survive as a result of a high reproductive rate. Not unusual to hear reports of 15 – 20 eggs in a nest. Only females sit on the nest but the male assists rearing the young unlike a rooster pheasant. Huns as they’re called are primarily seedeaters but also eat insects. The chicks in particular rely heavily this time of year on insects as they need a high protein diet. However, as a whole, gray partridge need a little better habitat than we’ve generally given them in order to maintain hunt-able populations. They like areas such as our garden because it combines brushy vegetation (redosier dogwood) and is right next to a pasture that isn’t overgrazed. With the elimination of fencelines and a trend towards large, open fields, it’s not easy being a Hun. That’s okay. They’re welcome in my fencelines anytime.

See you next week…real good then."

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Welcome to Fencelines, read in such exotic locations as Philadelphia PA and Brooklyn NY, not to mention the Du Drop Inn.

More heat in the area and rainfall tending to be sparse last week, much as the scurs predicted. It did rain enough to make splatters in the dust on area windshields but that was generally about it. This week conjures up visions of much the same forecast, a very typical July pattern after the 4th for this part of the state. Look for highs in the mid-80’s Wednesday and lows in the mid-60’s. The burner gets turned up slightly Thursday through Saturday with highs near 90 and lows near 70. Sunday through Tuesday, back to mid-80’s for highs and mid-60’s for lows. There’s a slight chance of rain Saturday through Monday. Hurricane Dennis made a mess of the south but doubt it’ll make a dent in the rainfall deficit in IL. The scurs are looking for their old flesh colored nose plugs. Attired in their Zuba’s, the beach looks like a promising destination.

No rain means fewer therapy sessions at the Mall for Men although we did have a small ceremony to retire the shoes of New Richland’s Fastest Man. Good thing they got most of those road kill Tootsie rolls and chewing gum cleaned up following Farm and City days. Morning footraces begin again!

Speaking of Farm and City Days, greater Bugtussle did itself proud once again. Most people behaved themselves and had a great time. Super job by those patrolling the festivities and keeping us safe while celebrating what it means to be part of small town America. Where else can one visit on the street with the mayor then watch him clean road apples off of it the next?

The Twinkies struggled this past week. The All Star break comes at a good time. They made up a little ground on Chicago thanks to a sweep in Chicago by the A’s. They’re 9 back vs. 7 ½ back last year so all is not lost. Interesting to see if Brett Boone will help shore up the Twins defense and kick start their offense.

Crops continue to motor along. Corn could use a rain following tasseling. We’re seeing some tassels around groves. Soybeans are liking the warm, dry weather but as mentioned last week, so are the soybean aphids. Numbers have not reached threshold levels in fields in the local area however so addition of insecticide to a herbicide application at this point would be frivolous due to the nature of the little beasties.

The bluebirds left their nest, but only two of the four made it. Predator guards for the variety of nesting boxes here are the order of the day for next year. It is far too easy for a cat, opossum or a raccoon to climb up and reach in to grab what they can. They are relatively easy to make but since we have 4 different kinds of bluebird houses, they will have to be custom designed. While cleaning out the tree swallow nests I came across another nest in a previously unused house. The eggs were small and blue and the nest was similar to the bluebird nest in the nesting box behind the granary. Only thing was, the eggs in that nesting box were cream-colored. After consulting with birding guru extraordinaire Al Batt, turns out some female bluebirds lay cream-colored eggs and some lay the light blue variety. As he claims, just knowing there are more bluebirds is always good news.

Sadly, it appears something got the teal ducklings I’d had high hopes for. That or they moved to the neighbor’s pond. I strongly doubt it however as I haven’t seen any ducklings magically appear there. There is a rose-breasted grosbeak back at the feeders that helps put a little ointment on the wound.

Some insect notes include the mating of monarch butterflies. Also seen were black swallowtail butterflies. Spent many hours collecting their caterpillars in fruit jars as a kid, feeding them either the dill or carrot tops they were found on. Dragonflies are helping keep the mosquitoes in check. The drier weather has helped too. Heard the first cicada buzzing in town the other day. Seem to take a few days longer in the country as we don’t get the heat island effect from all the asphalt in downtown Bugtussle.

See you next week…real good then.

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The scurs weren’t fooling when they said the heat was on. Several days topping out over 90 as part of what has been hailed by many as the longest heat wave since the drought of 1988. This week we should see more moderate temps once again and some slight chances of rain midweek. Highs should be in the mid-80’s most of the week with lows in the mid-60’s. Early next week, expect highs to drop back down into the 70’s a few days with lows in the mid-50’s! The trend through the end of the month should be for near normal temperatures and normal precipitation. The scurs may have to find their blankies again.

The Full Moon falls on the Thursday the 21st and has many names depending on the source of the info. Most commonly it is known as the Full Buck Moon or the Full Hay Moon. However, in the plains and woods of MN, the Sioux called it the “moon where the red lilies bloom” and the Ojibwe called it the Full Raspberry Moon. Wonder if they were wearing Deep Woods Off when picking raspberries as Shannon Schonrock’s uncle does?

The Twinkies continued to slide following the All Star break while the White Sox are still playing out of their gourds. Bret Boone hasn’t lit a fire under anyone yet and their offense is anemic. Yes they ran into good pitching but the clutch hits needed to win one-run games are not there. Still a potential Wild Card team IF they get their hitting shoes on.

Many native prairie plants are showing up in the road ditches and CRP around the area. Big bluestem is beginning to head out, as are yellow Indiangrass and Canada wildrye. On the wildflower side, oxeye daisies and compassplants are blooming, as are wild bergamot, purple coneflower and evening primrose.

Birds watching again this past week saw an indication that the pheasant hatch hasn’t been all bad. Stopped the truck on a gravel road and watched as 10 chicks about the size of meadowlarks crossed in front of me. Looks like the orioles had a good hatch too as there appear to be some juveniles visiting the feeders in addition to the male and female.

Small grains are turning and corn tassels are evident field wide across much of the area. Some timely rains and moderating temperatures should help ensure good pollination. Due to ideal conditions soybean aphid numbers continue to climb in area soybean fields, as do numbers of beneficial insects. Unfortunately, with soybean aphid numbers doubling every two to three days, in many fields it’s unlikely they’ll be able to catch up before yields are damaged. However, this is still not a reason to begin spraying every field without checking them. The treatment threshold is 250 aphids per plant on 80% of the plants. And, despite the best coffee shop analysis, the recent rains did not wash all the aphids off the plants. Drat!

Gus and Lucy got baths after the 4-H clan was through washing their sheep here. Amazing how well they stood for it. It was hot out and we used warm water so the benefits of cooling them off were only realized once the water began to evaporate off them. Neither one is really much of a water dog although Gus likes his mud whenever he can get it. Both are shedding off right now and thought I heard the screeching of tires the other day. A driver stopped only to see a large wad of Gus hair blowing across the road.

Was fueling up the truck the other night and an older gentleman approached me. “Say, you look like a farmer.” He said. “What did the markets do today?” “Corn was up a couple cents and beans finished about even.” I blurted out without really thinking about it. He thanked me and went inside as I finished filling the tank. Then it struck me: Do I really look like a farmer? He thought so. I had hay bales in the back of the pickup, my overdue for a haircut mop was all matted from sweating profusely and I was wearing a seed corn hat, blue jeans, a stained T-shirt and work boots. Am guessing I didn’t smell good either. Am I really a farmer though? Let’s see, I do chores twice a day, hang out in the barn a lot, clean it once a year whether it needs it or not and I file a Schedule F. That last one clinches it. Just proud to wear the uniform.

See you next week…real good then.

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i can't get a pic. of an uncommon bird,however i got tired of waiting and snapped chippy. DSC00045.JPG i more or less want to see what kind of advise i can get from hobbydog & buzzsaw to improve my photo skills. do you guys use any of the camera's scene programs,or just shoot in standard mode? any info. appreciated. thanks.

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If I can get up real close on the picture I'm taking I put it in "Macro mode", however, I usually keep it in outdoor mode with the "sun & cloud" picture on. I always use flash regardless if it's a sunny day as you can get shadows. I'll make a new thread titled back yard pictures and post some pictures I took in macro mode.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Skipped last weeks edition, partially because there wasn't a lot of bird sighting info and partially because between soybean aphids, helping sponsor a soybean rust meeting and simple laziness, there wasn't a lot of time.

"Scurs are certainly batting better than the Twinkies of late. Blanket sales locally rose sharply as we had some wonderfully cool evenings after the heat left us. After the early week heat, we’ll see a return to more seasonal temps along with a chance of showers and thunderstorms on Wednesday night into Thursday AM. Highs on Wednesday should be around 90 with lows around 65. Thursday through the middle of next week, highs should be in the mid to low 80’s and lows near 60. Still some time for the scurs to peruse the beaches, searching for their lost shaker of salt.

The Twinkies make no deal, play it close to the vest so what you see is what you’ll get. Somehow losing 2 of 3 to the Yankees and getting swept in Boston with the status quo isn’t going to help put butts in seats. Oh well, we’re still fans anyway. The other day at a restaurant ran across a bunch of Red Hatters while the Twins game was on. The Twins were behind in the late innings (surprise, surprise) and could swear I saw some of the Red Hatters put their rally caps on!

Summer has really flown by for some reason. Maybe it’s because a person is always busy doing something. With work always hectic, it leaves only a few precious hours to complete tasks at home. What’s worse, it really cuts into my naps!

Lots of bird activity and some indications autumn will be staring us in the face before we know it. The pond we put in 2 years ago now was host this past week to numerous types of waterfowl. Egrets and herons are almost always present looking to spear one of the myriad of frogs the pond contains. Blue winged teal, mallards and Canada geese waddle through the mud on around the edge and paddle around undisturbed. Hard to believe the area was a non-vegetated depression where it now is surrounded by reeds, cattails and bullrushes.

In the yard, the feeders are constantly busy. Whether it’s the goldfinches at the thistle and sunflower feeders or the hummingbirds and orioles at the nectar feeders, it is rare to see no activity. Some chickadees were scoping things out, as were the nuthatches, probably taking notes to see where the best handouts will be this winter. Swallows are starting to line the wires already. While some are the barn swallows that likely came out of our buildings, there are some cliff swallows interspersed with them. Too early for that yet.

Gus and Lucy continue their shedding. After brushing them in the yard it looks like a dog exploded. One of the tasks completed this past weekend was filling the holes dug courtesy of Gus. He’ll be celebrating his second birthday on the 6th but judging by the size of those holes, he’s just a big puppy.

Like many farmsteads in the area, ours is in full bloom right now. The purple coneflowers have been spectacular, as have the orange tiger lilies that gave me my start in weed control as a lad. Amazing what can be done with a toy hoe, right Mom? There will be more to come too. Four O’Clocks and sunflowers are budded and ready to burst open any time.

Sunflowers are definitely near and dear to my heart. It is the only seed crop that originated in the Americas and was first cultivated by Native Americans. They used the plant not only for food but also for dyes and as an indicator as to when to hunt buffalo. When the sunflowers were in bloom, the buffalo were fat and ready to be hunted. Seeds were collected and taken back to Europe by various explorers and by the 1600’s, sunflowers were common in European flower gardens. Sunflowers were first utilized as an oilseed crop in the Former Soviet Union. In the mid-1960’s, cultivars were brought back to the US to help develop our own oilseed sunflower production.

Sunflowers were one of the most fascinating crops I had the pleasure of working with after graduating college and moving to ND in the early 1980’s. The sunflower heads follow the sun, a phenomenon known as heliotropism. This movement is the result of a bending of stem through a process known as nutation. Once anthesis (pollen shed) begins or shortly thereafter, nutation ceases. About 90% of the heads are then facing east or northeast where they hang until maturity.

Worked with the striped confection sunflowers, which are raised for the sunflower seeds you and the birds eat as well as the black oilseed type, used for oil and birdseed. Loaded with different insects, susceptible to disease and subject to low prices, they had their share of problems. Still, there were few things aside from a field of flax perhaps that were more stunning than a field of sunflowers in full bloom against a clear blue ND sky. Most of the farmers at that time were not familiar with row cropping so it was a learning experience all the way around. Sunflowers also need to be run through a dryer after harvest so that was especially exciting, as they tend to catch fire rather easily. The local fire departments were doing land office business.

Always try to plant some sunflowers every year here. They’re still pretty, the birds still like them and the flowers still follow the sun across the sky, just like they did on the prairies of ND.

See you next week…real good then."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Wonderful thundershowers this evening as I paste this. Sorry, no pics! frown.gif

The scurs called it close again but we narrowly missed the showers August 5th. They stopped about at Mankato and fizzled out. While a rain would be beneficial, we’re not in the dire straits some are. This week brings with it increased opportunity for rain from Wednesday through Sunday. After midweek highs in the low to mid 80’s, we’ll see a kinder, gentler temperature regime move in with highs in the 70’s from the weekend through early next week. Lows will be in the low to mid-60’s Wednesday through Friday and cool into the mid-50’s through the middle of next week. Good sleeping weather for the scurs who are always behind me in line for a good snooze on the couch.

The Twinkies still have a pulse after taking 2 of 3 from the Red Sox. Doubtful they can make the playoffs but winning series is the only way to get there. The Viqueens with their new owner have been in training camp awhile. Should be interesting to see how this team functions without Randy Moss. Some think it may make them an even better team offensively as there won’t be one guy to focus a lot of the attention on. One thing’s for sure; their defense will be better.

The mourning in Bugtussle is over: The bakery is open once again. They’ve worked overtime I think since they got back from their vacation though. All the goodies I like to eat for lunch are in the cooler once again.

The sheep continue to enjoy the bounty of the garden. Cucumbers have taken off this week and some ewes wait by the fence each morning for last night’s vegetable peelings. Wonder why they’re always the ones that are so fat?

Pepi left the Mall for Men last week. Due to a shriek that was like sticking an ice pick in your eardrum, she had pretty much worn out her welcome. The mess we could tolerate as we were already used to that. In the meantime we’ve started a book club. We’ve replaced the African gray parrot owner’s manual with one concerning some of the other birds that frequent the joint. Our first book: Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands.

Goldenrod is starting to flower and fills in for the Black Eyed Susan’s that are about done blooming. Noticed the chipmunk in the kindly neighbor’s pasture must’ve been sampling the still green acorns atop his favorite stump. Some of the trees around the ranch have begun to give indications that autumn is just around the corner. The hybrid poplars are showing some yellow leaves and the walnut trees are starting to turn. Amazing how they are one of the last trees to leaf out and one of the first to drop their leaves. Remind you of any people you know?

The birds are beginning to give us a taste of autumn too this week. Cedar waxwings have finally been seen here in the white pine tree. Could always hear them but they were being secretive. Much harder to locate them with all the leaves still on the trees yet. The wrens have for all practical purposes stopped singing too. There are still some in the bushes but they must be tired from the almost nonstop singing they did in June and July. The orioles have made themselves scarce so the hummingbird has laid claim to their feeder. The bluebirds still grace the electric wires with their presence and up to a dozen mourning doves are rummaging around under the feeders every morning. Their songs are so soothing. The goldfinches are blowing through thistle seed like it’s candy. Usually close to a dozen of them tittering away in the trees. The sunflowers are blooming now and they’ll be keeping an eye on their progress as they ripen.

Wound up with border collies Gus and Fudgie celebrating their birthdays together at our place as Mom ended up in the hospital over the weekend. The doggies are growing up and play together pretty well but just like kids, they still have cross words once in awhile. The resident squirrel certainly got a lot of scrutiny though.

After a battery of tests, Mom was considered good to go and was released on Monday. Mrs. Cheviot graciously did the chores as I took Fudgie back home Monday after work. As I pulled in front of the garage at Mom’s, Fudgie was bouncing off the seat like a Mexican jumping bean. She knew exactly where she was. As we settled in Mom prepared a “little supper”, complete with many of the seasonal fruits and vegetables, including pie from the Oriole apple tree, one of over a dozen varieties that Mom and Dad planted shortly after we moved to the Spring Valley farm in the mid-1960’s. Fudgie was her usual self, trying to push Mom’s buttons for a nibble of people food. Mom relented eventually and allowed her to lick the plate off after we had devoured that absolutely scrumptious piece of Dutch apple pie. Even though it became a late night drive back to Bugtussle, it was an evening to store in the memory banks, as it will always be there to treasure. Like Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.”

See you next week…real good then.

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Sixteen Quality Birding Locations Around the State

A brief guide to some of Minnesota's best birding areas.

1) Roseau Bog. (Roseau County) This area, and the Lost River State Forest just to the east, are good birding spots for such species as nesting Wilson's Phalarope and Sharp-tailed Sparrow. In winter look for a possible Gyrfalcon, Northern Hawk Owl, Snowy Owl and winter finches. Resident birds include Great Gray Owl, Black-backed Woodpecker, Gray Jay and Boreal Chickadee.

2) Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge. (Marshall County) A large, expansive refuge good at all times of the year, this is one of northwestern Minnesota's most interesting birding areas. Look for Yellow Rail, Sandhill Crane, Franklin's Gull, Sedge Wren and Mourning Warbler. Agassiz is also an excellent place to bird during migration, especially for shorebirds.

3) Felton Prairie. (Clay County) Famous for its nesting Chestnut-collared Longspurs, Felton is also a good spot to look for prairie birds such as Swainson's Hawk, Upland Sandpiper, Marbled Godwit, Sedge Wren, Loggerhead Shrike and numerous sparrows.Several tracts owned by the Nature Conservancy are located in this general area as well.

4) Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge. (Becker County) Here is an interesting area in the northwest to look for woodland and boreal species. Great Gray Owl, Ruffed Grouse, Golden-winged Warbler and Mourning Warbler are all species that can be found here.

5) Itasca State Park. (Clearwater and Hubbard counties) While this park is not noted for having specific Minnesota specialties, it is nonetheless a park with a great variety of northern species, and therefore good birding in general. Look for Common Loon, Northern Goshawk, Alder Flycatcher, Winter Wren, warblers and, in winter, finches.

6) Sax-Zim Bog. (St. Louis County) Some say this is the place to bird in Minnesota. Indeed, species difficult to find elsewhere are often much easier in "the bog." Upland Sandpiper, Sharp-tailed Grouse, Great Gray Owl, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Boreal Chickadee, Gray Jay, Connecticut Warbler and LeConte's Sparrow all nest here. In winter look also for Snowy Owl, Northern Hawk Owl, Northern Shrike, Snow Bunting, crossbills and redpolls.

7) Gunflint Trail. (Cook County) Nowhere else is Black-backed Woodpecker or Boreal Owl found more often. The trail is actually a road -- County Road 12 -- which wanders north from Lake Superior for about 50 miles. Other species to watch out for include Spruce Grouse, Northern Saw-whet Owl and Boreal Chickadee.

8) Aitkin County Road 18. (Aitkin County) One of the better roads for finding such specialties as Sharp-tailed Grouse, Great Gray Owl, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher and Boreal Chickadee. Also a good drive in winter for Snow Buntings and winter finches.

9) McGregor Marsh. (Aitkin County) This is the best known spot in Minnesota for nesting Yellow Rails and Sharp-tailed Sparrows. Arrive well after dark and listen for each of their distinctive calls -- the rail's clicking sounds and the sparrow's dry wheezing. Look and listen especially on the east side of Minnesota highway 65.

10) Rothsay Wildlife Management Area. (Wilkin County) Greater Prairie-Chickens nest here, and nowhere in the state are they easier to find. Also look for Marbled Godwit, Prairie Falcon and, in migration, flocks of Sandhill Crane and Smith's and Lapland Longspurs. Also an excellent place to find migrating Short-eared Owl.

11) Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge. (Sherburne County) Sherburne has a varied habitat, and therefore a variety of possible species. In summer, look for Sandhill Crane, Eastern Screech Owl, Whip-poor-will and Golden-winged Warbler. In winter Barred Owls, Snow Buntings, crossbills and redpolls are likely.

12) Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area. (Anoka and Chisago counties) Over 2000 acres of marshland, lakes and swamp, Carlos Avery is best visited in migration when the shorebirds come through, usually in large numbers. Species usually found in summer include Sandhill Crane, Sedge Wren, and Golden-winged Warbler.

13) Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge. (Big Stone and Lac Qui Parle counties) Big Stone has lakes, pools, meadows, fields, woods and marshes. Take the auto tour road (best by bicycle) and you can find water birds, prairie birds and woodland birds. This is a park that is best visited in migration or early summer. Western vagrants are always a good possibility, and there are many good nesting species here as well. Watch also for Cattle Egret, Swainson's Hawk, Marbled Godwit, Sedge Wrens and many Sparrows.

14) Salt Lake. (Lac Qui Parle County) Every spring as many as 100 birders from around the state make the trip to Salt Lake for a long birding weekend. A good place in high water times for migrating grebes and ducks, in low water years it can be exceptional for shorebirds.

15) Blue Mounds State Park. (Rock County) A habitat most unlike the rest of Minnesota, the park has cactus, a herd of buffalo and a feel to it more like states found farther west. So it is not surprising that Ferruginous Hawk, Prairie Falcon, Western Kingbird, Say's Phoebe and Mountain Bluebird have all been seen here. And nowhere in the state is Blue Grosbeak easier to find than here.

16) Whitewater Wildlife Management Area. (Winona County) Simply a beautiful area with steep ravine walls, groves of eastern red cedar, and a winding gravel road, Whitewater is promising any time of year. In winter one can usually find a soaring Golden Eagle overhead or a Red-shouldered Hawk in the nearby trees.

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