Showing posts from 2012

Whooping Cranes by Kate Crowley

In my last column I wrote about snow geese – large, white, migratory waterfowl that have recovered far beyond anyone’s expectations from a severely depleted population.  Another migratory waterfowl (wader) that replicates the white and black feather patterns of the snow goose is on the other end of the spectrum; struggling to recover from near extinction. Who am I talking about? Whooping cranes; that’s who.   While still considered Endangered, they are gradually, through much human research, breeding and reintroduction programs, on the increase.
At five feet, these magnificent, stately birds are the tallest in the North America. They have a wingspan of 7-8 feet, but only weigh between 11-16 pounds.  Besides their white and black feathers, they also sport a bright red patch on their forehead, a black moustache and legs.  They have a long, sharply pointed beak, typical of all cranes, the better to penetrate the thick marshy vegetation while they search for food.
I have only seen one w…


WINGIN’ IT By Kate Crowley
Until the snowstorm we had a couple weekends ago, we were getting a bit bored by the activity around our bird feeders.  I hate to say it, but with the snowless ground and the general drabness of the landscape the chickadees, nuthatches and blue jays just weren’t lifting our spirits.  Then the snow fell and with it came the common redpolls.  I think it is unfortunate that whomever named these bird’s gave them the title ‘common’, because they are anything but.  They belong to the finch family, which can often be stereoptyped as having dull brown, featureless feathers.  These redpolls do have brown feathers on their backs and streaks of white and brown on their flanks, but they also have a little black ‘goatee’ below their bill and on their heads (poll) they wear a jaunty cranberry colored cap.  And the males go even further, with a flush of pink, verging on red, flowing down their breast and belly - the perfect little splotch of color against a background of sno…

Time travel

By Kate Crowley
I have always been a fan of Science Fiction and one of my favorite genres is time travel.  I try to imagine what it would be like to go back in time and see what my ancestors looked like and how they really lived.  I wish I could see this continent before it was settled – the great herds of bison, the millions of passenger pigeons, endless pine forests and tall grass prairie.  Traveling to the future holds less appeal because while I am curious and hope that the world is a better place and my descendents have happy lives, I have too many concerns about where we’re headed as a species.  Having read the classic H.G. Wells novel, The Time Machine when I was young probably accounts for this feeling. But in a sense, we can experience time travel anytime we get in an airplane and cross datelines.  I have always had this feeling when I leave Minnesota and three hours later arrive on the west coast.  Driving the same distance doesn't create the same feeling because it take…


By Kate Crowley Who doesn’t love penguins?  They defy our definition or image of a bird, since their wings are not used for flight, but as flippers in their watery world.  And they walk upright with an endearing wobble, using flippers and tails for balance.  We grow up with images of penguins sitting on ice floes next to polar bears and Santa Claus, but in fact they are not even a northern hemisphere bird, with the one exception of the Galapagos Penguins.  The reason they are found on the Galapagos Islands is because currents flow up that way from the cold Southern oceans.  All penguins need a cold water environment. This is where the richest fishing stocks are found.  To survive in those frigid waters they are helped by a layer of insulating air that is trapped in their feathers, which also gives them buoyancy. I have been entertained and captivated by all the recent penguin films from the animated Happy Feet and Surf’s Up, tothe TV show, The Penguins of Madagascar (my favorite), a…

New Zealand Birds

By Kate Crowley As soon as I saw the kookaburra, the song started playing in my head, “Kookaburra lives in the old gum tree, merry, merry old……”  I don’t know how often I sang that song in school or at Campfire Girl gatherings, but I never could have imagined as a child that one day I’d see the real live bird in the wild. This kookaburra however was not sitting in a gum tree.  It was perched on a wire alongside a road on the North Island of New Zealand.  The kookaburra is a native of Australia and was introduced like so many others here. New Zealand, having been separated from Australia for millions of years had its own unique flora and fauna. But as soon as people arrived, the composition began to change.  Native birds were killed off – the Moas (there were nine species) being the most famous. These birds were bigger than the ostrich (12ft) and had hair-like feathers and no vestigial wings.  Its big size and unfamilarity with a predator as efficient as man brought it to extinction by t…

Wilde Rover - Kirkland, WA

Dinner in Kirkland at Wilde Rover – an Irish Pub with Oscar Wilde as the namesake.  Met Nancy Crowley and caught up with one another’s lives.  She had recommended the place and we were glad of it.  Nice dark wood for the booths and walls – very pub like.  We each ordered something different and were happy with our choices.  I had the Shepherds pie.  Always a favorite of mine.  It came with a wedge salad.  The pie was cooked in a small cast iron skillet and was topped with a thick layer of mashed potatoes. Underneath was a rich mix of beef chunks, veggies and broth.  I could only eat half of it – brought the rest back to my sister’s house (breakfast the next morning – seriously).  A slice of Irish brown bread and butter, and a half pint of Guiness and I was happy. Nancy had a bowl of clam chowder served in a big white bowl.  A pretty orange color and lip smacking good.  She also had the slice of Irish bread and a glass of Guiness.  Mike ordered the applewood smoke chicked, with melted…

Pike's Place Market - Seattle

What to have for lunch?  A difficult question and the first step is to figure out what is available.
We start at Pike's Place Farmer's Market where the smells, sounds, and colors provide a feast before the taste.

Kate and I explored the Alley - where we could each sample a different set of flavors.  I chose the European sandwich cafe.

Kate's tastes went to the sea and chowder.

We both liked our lunch and then enjoyed a walk through the market where we took in the various sensations that play with your senses.

Jimmy's - Coeur D'Alene, Idaho

Jimmy is no longer here - Mike has replaced him, but don't let that stop you.  The same menu and the same staff serves bigger than one person can eat meals - we shared ours.  Chicken fried steak with eggs, fried potatoes, biscuit and gravy and we still took some with us - even though we shared.  I can see why Guy from the food channel loved this place.  We did too.

The new owner walks around and visits with you, the waitresses are friendly and take good care of you and the food is terrific.  It was a nice find on our trip west.

This is comfort food done very well.  It is a lunch and breakfast diner.

SW North Dakota

We were overwhelmed by the oil boom traffic and the thick dust around Dickinson and I was tired of the freeway so we went south on 85 and then west on 12 to Miles City for a really enjoyable ride.  Here are some highlights - Amidon.

Here is what Wikipedia says: "Amidon is a city in Slope County, North Dakota in the United States. It is the county seat of Slope County.[4] The population was 20 at the 2010 census, making it the third least populous county seat in the United States, behind Mentone, Texas (population 19), the county seat of Loving County and Brewster, Nebraska (population 17), the county seat of Blaine County, Nebraska.[1]

Amidon was founded in 1910 at the anticipated terminus of a Milwaukee Roadbranch line that diverged from the railroad's Pacific Extension in McLaughlin, South Dakota. The line was ultimately never built farther west of New England, North Dakota, making Amidon one of the few surviving North Dakota cities to have never been served by a rail line.

Black Hills

When we took our Twin Grandsons - Aren and Ryan to the Black Hills this year.  It was their first visit - it was my 51st.   The Black Hills is a favorite place of mine, but considering how big the crowds can be and my love for solitude, you might ask why. I see in this landscape the same sacredness that the Lakota, Cheyenne and other tribes found.  There is a sense of spiritual renewal when I am away from the crowds.

Kate took the boys to Rushmore - I did not go.  It is not why I am here.  I do not find justification of carving up any mountain to honor any people - presidents or Lakota warriors, like Crazy Horse. 

What I love is the open landscape of Wind Cave National Monument and Custer State park.  It is the feeling of the plains Indian, the unconquered beauty of wildlife, rocks, forest, and back country.

The feeling of the rocks beneath our feet, the songs of birds, the color of flowers are the attributes of the Black Hills for me and it is what we wanted the boys to experience.

Badlands National Park

Three years ago I reached the 50th consecutive year of visiting Badlands National Park.  I have backpacked it in every month, explored it in every season, come with family, friends, tour groups, and college classes.  I was proud.  So I mentioned to the ranger at the Visitor Center - this personal fact.  He said, "that's nice."  I was deflated.  I have not been back for two years, but this trip with the twin grandsons was enough to reignite the passion I have for this remote and challenging land.

The prairie birds in the surrounding grasslands are enough to entertain me. I loved the western kingbirds, Lark buntings, Upland sandpipers and Western Meadowlarks of the Buffalo National Grassland, but most fun for the grandsons was the common Killdeer and its little fluffy, long legged offspring.

We spent a long time listening to and observing the behavior of the grassland birds.  This group is reduced in population all over the country so it is a pleasure to find them as they…