Science and Sarcasm
11 July 2006
Muskegon River fishing report [8 July 2006]

Flygirls on the MoIt was more than a week ago now that B and I hooked up with some of the Flygirls for a group outing on the Muskegon River. The weather was beautiful last Saturday afternoon and I think all Newaygo County residents with a penchant for tubing were enjoying the day floating the river. B and I headed north and arrived in Newaygo just before noon. We found a batch of Flygirls taking a break from fishing in the City Park at the edge of town and chatted with them for a bit before heading toward one of our favorite upstream access spots for a little fishing.

I rigged up my 7-weight spey rod for a little excercise and B chose to employ a 6-weight single-hander. I hiked down to the water first, and before I'd taken 3 casts, was joined by Mandy and Jen heading downstream in their canoe - just like last year. After a brief chat, Mandy and Jen rejoined the floatilla of tubes and canoes and we started swinging streamers and wet flies downstream through this nice section of wide river. We managed to hook a couple of small trout, but nothing more. Not surprising for the middle of a sunny day with hundreds of loud tubers floating through.

We took a break at dinner time and again joined up with the Flygirls for an organized meal at a nearby rental cabin. An ample spread was pulled together and enjoyed by all. After the meal and some conversation, the group headed back to the river to catch the evening hatch. We hoped for a good hatch of Isonychia with maybe a few straggling Hex. Most of us headed for one long stretch of river that typically yields some good evening and nighttime fishing - and it's easy to wade in the dark. We spread out and fished and waited. For some reason that I really don't understand, the evening hatch never really materialized. It wasn't windy, though it was a rather hot day. We caught a few small fish as darkness settled, but no one reported hooking very many nor anything of size. Oh well, such is the nature of nature.

B and I drove home very late, arriving home well after midnight. In the absence of great fishing, we enjoyed the social opportunities afforded by hanging out with some like-minded women anglers. We were very tired, but we made it home without event. On Sunday, in my weekly soccer game, I tore some knee ligaments that'll keep me out of the river and on dry, level land for the near future. I've remember seeing Kelly Galloup on TV with a knee brace over his waders...maybe I can figure out something similar.

Fleece quotient: -3
Lost flies: a couple
Wildlife sightings: belted kingfishers, cedar waxwings, swallows, carp, ~8000 drunken tubers
Air temperature: 90 oF max
Water temperature: ~ 70 oF
Injury report: no leeches, couple of near misses with sinktip spey line.
Did I get to use a spey rod?: Yeah.
Enjoyment grade for the trip: B+

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08 July 2006
Shiawassee River fishing report [4 July 2006]

B with a very nice smallieThe 4th of July was an above-average day for us. We missed out on hot dogs and fireworks, but we did manage to spend some time on a river, fishing rods in hand. B and I and 2 good friends hit the Shiawassee River for a short kayak and canoe paddling trip with lots of stops for excellent smallmouth bass fishing. We decided to fish the same stretch that I'd fished a couple of weekends earlier with Flygirls Mandy and Jen. The river level was still well above average for this time of year, which actually makes for much improved paddling, if not good fishing. We expected that the higher-flowing and stained water would reduce our fish-catching chances, but we were glad we did not have to portage our 3 watercrafts over exposed gravel and stones they way we often do this time of year. Everything's a tradeoff isn't it?

I rigged up my 'kayaking rod' - a 6-7 weight Cabela's fly rod that, while it's a nice enough rod, it's not among my favorites. I don't worry about breaking it as much as I'd worry about damaging my Lamiglas titanium 6-weight or my 9'9" St. Croix 5-weight, my available alternatives. While paddling a canoe or kayak, long fly rods are often poking out of the boat at odd angles and are sharing the boat with paddles, tackle bags and other gear. The risk of rod damage is greater than it is on a wading trip. The boat operator has to split her attentions between navigation/paddling and rod management. Often there is not sufficient time to do both and the fly rod catches on overhead branches or gets stabbed into the bank vegetation. I like to minimize this kind of risk as much as possible, and so I've got a couple of rods that are dedicated to canoe and kayak river trips - the Cabela's 6-7 weight is the best of this category for the type of fishing I expected to do. I chose to use a sinktip line so that I could swing streamers and drift nymphs down near the bottom of the river given the higher-than-average flow. The other 3 anglers in our party all chose to apply spinning gear on this outing. It was all I could do to be seen with them.

WadingWe pushed off in the early afternoon, under a bright cloudless sky, and immediately shared a big deep bend with two swimming Husky dogs. I don't think anyone caught anything here.

We floated downstream lazily, stopping at every deeper, boulder- and ledge-bottomed pool. There are lots of such stretches on this short float. B and my two friends caught a good number of smallies on plastic baits fished deeply. We didn't catch any monsters, but we did catch a lot. The biggest fish was a 14-15-incher caught by B and pictured above. All the smallies caught were beautiful - speckled greenish-bronze and smoothly unblemished. I don't think any of us used any surface baits, figuring that the reduced water clarity would limit their effectiveness. I definitely had less success with my fly rod than the others did with spinning rods. I caught maybe 6 or 7 fish on the day with the largest one around 12-12.5".

Fleece quotient: -2
Lost flies: 3 or 4
Wildlife sightings: bank and cliff swallows, belted kingfishers, cedar waxwings, a muskrat, carp, great blue herons
Air temperature: 85 oF max
Fly gear v. spinning gear controversy: advantage spinning gear
Water temperature: ~ 70 oF
Injury report: no leeches, no injuries.
Did I get to use a spey rod?: Nope.
Enjoyment grade for the trip: A-

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06 July 2006
The wrens have hatched! The wrens have hatched!

6 WrenletsThe cavity in this little feather-lined stick nest is so deep that the only way I can see into it is to poke my camera inside the nestbox and blindly take a photograph. I think I can see 6 little house wrens (Troglodytes aedon) here. I don't know how many eggs there were since I couldn't see into the nest and I never bothered to photograph the evidence. It looks like these little guys probably hatched a day or two ago.

I'm kind of excited about this. We've had numerous wrens build their elaborate stick nests in our nestboxes, but none have ever actually been used. We've always got a few wrens around, they must nest elsewhere. A few have vandalized swallow and bluebird clutches, but I've never found any house wren eggs (or hatchlings) until now.

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05 July 2006
Hidden in plain sight

To celebrate the 1st birthday of the I and the Bird blog carnival, carnival founder Mike of 10,000 Birds issued a request that past participants in IATB write a little bit about why they enjoy birding and blogging about birds. No problemo. For me, this is an easy answer....

Spring birdingReasons I Bird #1 - I was introduced early. As a rural farm kid, I was always interested in animals - both wild and domesticated. Recognizing this, 'Santa' brought me a copy of the Golden Press "Birds of North America" when I was 7 years old. I still have this bird guide, though the cover is partially missing, victimized by some teething cat or dog as I recall. I was fascinated by this book, paging through it endlessly. I memorized the pictures and distribution maps, wingspans and other details. I chose the California Condor (Gymnogyps californianus) as my favorite because it was the biggest with a 9-foot wingspan. I think some of my bird identification today is still based on stored images from this volume. After receiving the book, I started paying attention to birds at my Gramma's feeder in the winter and to birds seen on cow-retrieval missions down to the pasture along the river and on childhood hikes through the woods. Birds were everywhere. I reached a plateau of sorts though. No one else in my life was interested in birds beyond a casual, backyard relationship. My birding interest remained platonic, minor, wierd for a long time.

Reasons I Bird #2 - Birding can happen anywhere, any time. My birding interest and skills were renewed however, when I met B and we started hiking and fishing and birding together. At last, another person who found these critters fascinating! And she'd memorized the bird guides too! Sweet! I learned a lot in a short period of time. Now, birding is more-or-less integrated into all the other outdoor things I/we do. Birding is occasionally the sole purpose of an outing, but more often than not, it's done together with other activities. I look up to the sky, the treetops and the brush while working in my field research plots; fly fishing affords lots of wetland and riverine birding opportunities, and even backyard time is spent monitoring birdlife. A pair of binoculars is handy and sometimes a bird guide within reach is helpful, but birding requires no special equipment and can be done anywhere.

Reasons I Bird #3 - Bird populations are dynamic and transitory and always changing. No two days spent birding are the same. Even if you return to the same park bench at the same time on consecutive days, you'll likely spot some different birds. Each location and habitat holds different birds and they vary from one season to the next and from one day to the next. I've got new bluebird, sparrow and robin fledglings in my yard almost daily. Some days I catch hawks or an eagle soaring overhead and other days it's cranes and herons. This morning I noticed a titmouse singing energetically from our satellite dish. I hadn't seen a titmouse in a few weeks. We've got a brown thrasher nesting and raising young in our immediate area this year. I've never noticed one before. Spring and fall migration seasons bring birds through my area that do not normally reside here - and these birds don't stay long. I could see a golden eagle or a fox sparrow if I'm lucky.

Reasons I Bird #4 - Birding is a deep subject. I've found that my skills as a birder have changed and improved such that I continue to appreciate the depth, the additional layers and complexity of bird life. I've improved from identifying common backyard birds to spotting and identifying transient, migratory birds to understanding the general category of a bird from just a fleeting glimpse to learning to identify some birds by their songs alone, without ever seeing them. I've become comfortable with birding concepts and lingo - coverts, passerine, buteo, buffy. I've got a long way to go to become a seriously skilled birder, but I like that I can learn more whenever I'm ready to add a new species or bird song or geographic region or some other dimension to my birding arsenal.

Birding also translates into the larger picture of nature, environmental 'quality' and natural resources. It's hard not to appreciate a well-preserved habitat versus a degraded, uncared for area by noticing differences in birds and other wildlife. Attention to birding often leads to learning more about other, related natural science subjects.

Reasons I Bird #5 - Birding is fun to share. Perhaps I'm well on my way to peculiar-old-lady status, but I like to introduce others to birding in small casual ways. I point out birds to the students accompanying me on trips to field sites. B and I call out birds to each other while wading a trout stream or paddling around a lake. My sister's kids are interested because we're interested and we point out interesting tidbits at every opportunity. I look forward to birding together with nieces and nephews in years to come. I think this aspect of birding is probably the reason I like to write about it here on occasion, and also the reason I like to read other blogs that include the subject of birds at least occasionally.

Having said all that, I'm happy to have stumbled upon Mike's invention of I and the Bird and all the wonderful people and their masterful blogs that have come to be associated with it. Happy Birthday IATB! (Nicely done Mike!)

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30 June 2006
Last photo op

At sixteen days post-hatching, these 4 little Eastern bluebirds are look to be approaching fledging day. That accomplishment is probably 3 or 4 days away, but I'll not bother them any more; I don't want to shoo them from their nest prematurely. They'll have enough challenges without me adding that one. Both parents have been working tirelessly to feed everyone. It looks like their efforts have yielded healthy offspring.

The little male in the front appears to be the most shy of the bunch. He did not want to participate in this group picture.

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28 June 2006
'Search me' redux

Science made Stupid by Tom WellerI find the search strings that lead internet surfers here to S&S very interesting. Many are obvious and not surprising, others are remarkably odd. Other bloggers find 'search analysis' quite interesting too. A while back, John took the time to answer or address some of his search inquiries directly. I like his idea and have a desire to accomplish something similar, yet significantly less serious:

  1. effects of sarcasm on children - Entirely positive; just look how I turned out.
  2. graph of the eye of the potato - Hmmmm,...not a clue
  3. do we know why mute swans hold their necks in s positions - Yes.
  4. wingspan owlet moth - 2 to 4.5 cm
  5. how much was spent in 2005 on mosquito repellency? - A lot. Sorry that's probably not helpful.
  6. what temperature does snow freeze - Uh, 32 oF (0 oC)
  7. cabbage creek fly fishing - No idea, but I support you.
  8. judging of swallow bird - I tend to judge them very favorably. I consider them to be a handsome family of birds.
  9. pride and predacious movie - Perhaps you mean 'Pride and Prejudice?'
  10. materials to make a tundra swan out of household things - Maybe you're looking for an origami pattern?
  11. what roll does the tree frog play in the food pyramid - maybe a heterotrophic secondary consumer. After moths and before snakes.
  12. zeptogram - 10–21 g. Currently the smallest detectable unit of mass
  13. what type of degree would you recieve if you become an wildlife biologist - BS, MS, PhD, more....
  14. steller's jay six feet under - Here, perhaps.
  15. scientist description of population of smallmouth bass - Perch-like.
  16. koegel's pickled bologna - I heartily approve.
  17. complicated icebox cake - Ooooh no, it's not complicated. Just good.
  18. why was the hawk named pale male - HE has unusually light colored plumage.
  19. yellow fly secret repellant - No clue here. Is the fly yellow or the repellant?
  20. fishing humor brokeback mountain - This is the best I can do.
  21. physic meaning of sighting a white feather -I'd imagine you meant 'psychic', but I still don't know.
  22. 10 branches of science - Let's see - biological, physical, chemical, computer, economic, Fristi-political, Republican, anti-Kyoto-logy, Creationist and Fascofarcical. There's 10, though some overlap a bit.
  23. how does a cold air return work? - The heated air blown into the room has to go somewhere and the furnace needs to get air from somewhere. The cold air return completes the loop.
  24. how fast can a mountain bluebird fly - 300 mph
  25. mean cartoon fish - Bruce, maybe.
  26. river fishing by hand - I'm not aware of any other technique.
  27. how long does it take to have a new born - What species? 266 days for humans, 16 for a hamster, 400 for a camel.
  28. abc tecnical writhing - I'd start with a spelling check.
  29. movie trailers of mud bogging - No.
  30. biblical reference to cheeseburgers - Come back if you find one; I'd be interested to know the details.
  31. how much energy in potatoes - Potato tubers are about 22% dry matter and contain roughly 4 calories per gram of dry matter.
  32. its cold - Sorry.
  33. pintail adaptations - Northern pintails can spring directly into flight without much of a running start, sort of like Underdog. Pretty cool, eh?
  34. too deep waders - Seriously try to avoid this.
  35. is sarcasm a bad thing - No, absolutely not. It's also beneficial for children.

There then. I hope this has been helpful.

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27 June 2006
Dylan takes the plunge

Dylan drips dry on the deckDoggy swimming teachers redeem themselves.

Dylan never quite felt comfortable with the idea last year, but he took the plunge on his first opportunity this summer. We visited B's parents on their lake up north this weekend and enjoyed ourselves swimming and fishing. Dylan swam and ran himself absolutely ragged. He'd retrieve the tennis ball or a stick from the lake, run a few big hyper-energetic laps around the dock and house to whip the people into a frenzy, then go hide the ball or stick somewhere until we requested that he go find it and start the whole process over again. He had a great time. So did we.

We squeezed in a little bass and bluegill fishing in the late afternoon and evening. The big fish were not as plentiful as they often are, though we were both using 3-weights, so perhaps that's OK. The biggest bluegill was probably in the 11" range and the largest bass, pictured here, was around 17" in length.

B with a nice 3-weight bassWe enjoyed dinner with B's folks and stayed until well after dark. So our drive home was super late and punctuated by lots of jaywalking wildlife. We saw lots of deer of course. We also interrupted 2 raccoon families out for an evening excursion - fortunately no animals were harmed in the production of this blog post. We were also lucky enough to get a good look at a bushy-tailed red fox out hunting along the roadsides. I think fox are very handsome animals and I'd love to get a glimpse of them more often. We typically have a few in our immediate vicinity, but rarely see them.

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23 June 2006
They grow up so fast

Four little bluebirds hatched from 5 eggs. They should be ready to fledge in another 10-12 days. We've got fledglings galore around here right now - sparrows, robins, swallows, bluebirds, finches.

And I discovered a house wren nest, complete with eggs. We almost never have wren eggs in our nest boxes. Lots of nests, but never any eggs. Not so this time.

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19 June 2006
Shiawassee River fishing report [17 June 2006]

DownstreamB didn't arrive home from Montana until Saturday night, so she missed a fun paddle/fishing trip on the Shiawassee River on Saturday afternoon. The river is flowing just below normal volume now - down from its recent post-rainy spell flood level. The aquatic weed growth is underway, but is not yet abundant enough to limit fly presentation to surface techniques only. A streamer is not yet off the list of possibilities.

At around 12:30, I met up with Mandy and Jen, Flygirls extrordinaire, for a short paddle through some familiar smallmouth bass territory. Too bad B missed the group fishing outing, we had a good afternoon. The sun was bright and the temperature was in the 90's. Thank goodness we were wet wading in a light breeze. We strung up our rods and transferred a car to the take-out point and put in our boats. Good looking pools and runs precluded paddling much at any one stretch. We spent a heckuva lot more time fishing than floating.

Rubyspot damselflyWe found quite a few little 11-12" smallies and a bluegill. They seemed to maybe prefer subsurface streamers to surface poppers and terrestrial imitations. The smallmouth in this river always impress me with their smooth greenish-bronze color and obvious health. We watched a lot of carp cruising the deeper sections. Belted kingfishers scolded us regularly and muskrats occasionally skimmed along the river edge. We pushed an immature bald eagle downriver ahead of us a couple of times. There were only a few other paddlers on the river with us. I caught maybe 10-12 fish in total on beadhead woollybuggers of some sort. The biggest fish of the day was caught toward the end of our float - a nice 14" smallmouth.

We had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and I'd fish with Mandy and Jen anytime, anywhere.

Fleece quotient: -2
Lost flies: 0
Wildlife sightings: tree swallows, belted kingfishers, immature bald eagle, muskrats, carp, carp, carp
Air temperature: 95 oF max
Water temperature: ~ 70 oF
Injury report: sunburn
Did I get to use a spey rod?: Nope.
Enjoyment grade for the trip: B+

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14 June 2006
Hatching Day

Bluebird nest #2, 6/14/2006 @ 7:30 AM

Today's the day - right on schedule. This little guy's already bushed. I'll check on his siblings tonight.


Bluebird nest #2, 6/14/2006 @ 6:00 PM

At 6:00 PM, it's 3 down, 2 to go...

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12 June 2006
Slacktacular blogger

MuguetOh my my. I must beg a thousand pardons for my recent internet neglect. Work and school have been quite busy - plantings are nearly finished - and other stuff has taken up the rest of my time. My time is limited enough that I decided not to put in a vegetable garden this year. How 'bout that?

With her mom finally home from knee replacement surgery and rehabilitation, B headed off to Montana this weekend for an 8-day work/fishing excursion so I'm handling household chores single-handedly for awhile. And I've been cat-sitting this adorable and entertaining little Siamese kitten, Muguet, for some neighbor friends this weekend.

Muguet's people have 35 acres of sparsely wooded fields and wetlands so Dylan and I took our opportunity for a couple of nice long morning nature hikes. I'm glad that the mosquito density has dipped below 2 per cubic foot of air. Sheesh. Yesterday, we spotted a couple of whitetail deer, lots of gray catbirds and red-winged blackbirds, a male rose-breasted grosbeak, a pair of yellow warblers and a rabbit. The fields were dotted regularly with daisies, indian paintbrushes and a yellow flower I need to identify. Sunday morning, we'd scarcely made it past the backyard before Dylan scared up a very handsome young deer fawn and his mother. The spotty fawn raced into a clearing and posed for a good look before leaping away into the brush. Mama deer raced across the clearing with Dylan close behind. I called Dylan back to me with 4 or 5 shouts; he u-turned back to my feet and sat like a good dog. Surprisingly, mama deer u-turned too. She turned toward us, stopped, gave several loud warning snorts and headed right back at us snorting and stomping all the way. Oh crap. She took two strong leaps toward us and then swerved off in the direction of her fawn. I had never seen a deer behave so boldly. I've had a few dairy cows chase me away from calves before, but I was unaware that whitetail deer had that ability too. We finished up our walk without further excitement and drove home.

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03 June 2006
Bluebirds Reloaded

Another bluebird nestIt's been a pretty successful season for bird families so far here in the handful of nestboxes in our yard and surrounding fields. We've got 5 or 6 nestboxes to check regularly. Our first nest of bluebirds, blogged previously, were reared successfully and fledged a few weeks ago. I see the young birds in the yard somewhat infrequently. One family of house sparrows (invasive species) has fledged and a nest of tree swallows is about to graduate from its box, another is about to hatch. I should work up the nerve to remove the house sparrow nests when they're constructed, but I haven't done it this year. An earlier clutch of 7 tree swallow eggs met its demise at the hands, or rather the beak, of a house wren. We seem to have a single male house wren around every summer. This year, as usual, he's built several very nice nests but none have been used.

Last Sunday my nephew Patrick, a young 5-year-old bird enthusiast, visited for an afternoon. Before he came into the house, he had to inspect each and every nestbox in the yard. At each post, his dad got down on all fours and Patrick stood on his back and peaked in the holes. Once he'd seen what he could see, he came in the house and invited the rest of us to come outside for a nestbox tour. Somebody is raising that boy correctly.

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