Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Snowshoes on order

I haven't been writing much because I haven't been running much. I have a bunch of excuses but the results are the same - not much running. I have been working out, boot camp, yoga and regular exercise class. Winter is a time to relax and do other things, right?

As for running, what little I've done has been running on snowshoes. My snowshoes are early 1990's vintage Redfeathers and I still like them. The bindings are no longer made with the toe covers. The decking seams are starting to come apart.

I want a small snowshoe to replace my 25" Redfeathers. Not that I race in them but as long as the trail is somewhat groomed, the smaller ones do OK and I don't kick my anklebones as much. I searched the internet looking for reviews of snowshoes - there aren't all that many. The ones on the Minnesota DRS list are as helpful as the ones I found.

I went to REI on Wednesday to buy the Atlas 1027 Elektra. They were out of stock.

I went back to the web, looked at the Redfeathers again. The review said the binding were sometimes a problem.

So I looked at Northern Lites Tom & Nancy have them and they like them. DRS people like them. They have a 30 day money back guarantee. I ordered a pair of the Elite. Good news, in a week I should have a new pair of snowshoes. Hope these last as long as my Redfeathers.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Unusual Ice Formations

On the run today we went down to the beach. Not sure how these were formed, but they looked like unusual sculptures along the shore.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Pederson Benefit Run

A generous man and his family lost their home in the recent flood in Minnesota. A fundraiser to help them get back on the feet Pederson Benefit Run was Saturday. Another perfect day filled with friends.

Even with all those people running the trails, we still managed to see 2 Pileated Woodpeckers, 10 Tundra Swans, 12 Bald Eagles and a couple hundred Canada Geese. At one point, there was a pair of eagles sitting in a tree overhead. They flew off as we followed the trail underneath the them. Here is a photo of one eagle flying off (see the tiny spot with the white head and white tail in the lower right third of the photo).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Day

Thanks for the beautiful day.

We weren't alone, the tracks in the snow indicated a lot of activity even though we didn't see what made the tracks.

And we saw other runners, Bill and his family arrived just as we were leaving. Jeffrey, Lynnette, and their friends were enjoying a warm fire and conversation after their run.

I'm just thankful that we are able to enjoy such a beautiful day.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

What a Difference a Day Makes

Today: Warmer, icy, cloudy, foggy, calm winds and deer. Just one other car in the parking lot.

In the open areas, the fog created a light mist, but not enough to soak my jacket. In the trees, it was like rain. The drops must form on the branches and then rain down. The white streak in the background is one of the runs at Afton Alps - they've been making snow.

The trails were pretty clear and a little soft in places. They didn't seem slippery but maybe it was because I wore my shoes that had cleats on the bottom.

It was a great day for photos, the soft light allowed more of the small details to light up, like the moss photo this week compared to last week.

The fungus are doing their part in the woods.

And there were a couple of deer, just enough to let me know that we shared this space with them.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Eagle Watching Day

Ran at Afton SP for about an hour and a half. It was a combination of running, walking and watching the raptors. I looked down to check my footing, then I'd look up to check the skies. Loren & I counted 22 Bald Eagles! They were both mature (white head, white tail) and immature (mostly dark) eagles. Also saw 2 Red-tailed Hawks, 1 Rough-legged Hawk and two unidentified raptors. There were about 200 Canada Geese either flying over head or floating on the water.

We didn't bring the snowshoes and the trails were fine. The ground is frozen hard. Loren ran with his shoes that have spikes. Regular road shoes worked for me.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Changes at Afton SP

One of my favorite things to do while running is to look up from the trails and see what is going on in the park. A few of the changes on Sunday (and I don't know if the words and the photos will align) along the snowshoe loop.
Pilieated Woodpecker Tree Damage
I saw the wood chips before I saw the tree. The tree is about 4 - 6" in diameter with about 4' of woodpecker carving along the trunk. I hope it found some food for all of that work ! 

Fungus growing on dead tree
 I'm not very good at identifying fungus, but this looked so cool as the bright sky lit up the edges. I touched them and they were soft.

Moss on live tree
  The photo doesn't really show how absolutely green and soft the moss looks. There were melted drops of snow hanging from the edges of these little evergreen tree shaped mosses. They were outlined clearly against the white snow background.

Fairly empty parking lot

Not many other people out enjoying the trails so it was very quiet.

Didn't photograph the deer that ran across the trail as we got closer to the parking lot. Nor did I attempt to photograph the birds.

There were several flocks of birds, at least one was American Robins and the other was American Tree Sparrows. The others? I don't know. Near the park we saw a Bald Eagle (on the south end) and a Northern Harrier (on the west side).

Another change, Gene the Park Manager told us that Rachel (Assistant Manager) has a new job with Minnesota Parks and Trails.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Let it Snow !!

Yesterday's forecast said the snow would be north and west of the Twin Cities. Today, not so much. It looked like about 3-4" of snow by the time we reached Afton. Along the way, 4 cars in the ditch. The fifth car was off the road in the park and it was somebody we know - Jim McDonnell. We stopped and he said he was waiting for a tow.

We tried to run but the snow was slippery so it was a combination run / walk / slog. The trees were beautiful with all that snow hanging from the branches.

And we had a running companion. We are doggy sitting the sweetest little cocker spaniel - Bailey.

This photo was taken "after" we went running. She is one soggy doggy. But she had fun.
We saw Cedar Waxwings, Black-capped Chickadees, Slate-colored Juncos, and a White-breasted Nuthatch. We stopped and watched as 7 deer crossed the trail in front of us - no antlers on any of them.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Catch Up

It's been a quiet couple of weeks for running. Not signed up for any more races so the motivation isn't quite what it used to be. Here is what has been happening:

Someone named Joe found my cell phone and was kind and thoughtful enough to figure out how to contact me and return it. I am so grateful for his kindness. Awesome !!!

Continued doing Boot Camp and regular exercise classes.

Went to Kansas one weekend - didn't do any running there.

Procrastinated all morning. Finally did some hill repeats the afternoon of 11/4 - the first one felt awful and it didn't get any better. Decided to quit when I had to walk hill #3.

My sister got married on Saturday to a wonderful man. Wishing them and their children a "Happy Ever After".

Ran on Sunday, it felt much better than hill repeats. I was concerned about running on the snowshoe loop with deer hunting season open. But Loren wore bright orange and we didn't see anyone in the deer stands along the edge of the park. Saw a couple of other runners, they were cruising.

Stay motivated !!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Afton Sunday

The storms last night did not prevent us from running / birding at Afton SP today. The parking lot was pretty empty this morning and we were out for a couple of hours - until I realized I lost my phone out there. I retraced my steps for quite a while but did not find it. Maybe tomorrow?

We did get to talk to John Taylor for a little while, he helped look for the phone and it was great hearing about his upcoming events. What an athlete !

By the time we got back to the car, we had done about 4 hours instead of the planned 2. Oh well, it's good for us, right?  So if anyone sees a cell phone out on the trail, please turn it into the park ranger. Thanks !

Before the phone was lost, I enjoyed the Golden-crowned Kinglets, American Robins, Bluebirds, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Cedar Waxwings, Downy Woodpeckers, Hairy Woodpeckers, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Black-capped Chickadees, American Crows, Purple Finches, White-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


The marathon is this Saturday.

We've been doing our usual "boot camp" strength training workouts and yoga, but not much running. Last weekend was a bust because Saturday was a family gathering at our house - no time to run. Sunday we spent at the Twin Cities Marathon, cheering all of the fabulous runners there. Then off to Warner Nature Center for the annual open house.

There are lots of marathon stories, at least one per runner.  One story is about a runner who planned to do a Boston qualifier time of 3:20. Training went well but the day of the run, it just wasn't happening for him. So he took a break at mile 20 and told us his story about calling his girlfriend at mile 10 to pick him up. It didn't happen. So he wanted her to pick him up at mile 15. Again, didn't happen. Now he's at mile 20 and decided to just finish the marathon. I think he finished around 4:00. Isn't that great? I would love to do a 4 hour marathon.

I sympathize, I've run a couple of marathons that I didn't want to finish. A couple of years ago at TCM, I didn't think I would finish under the cut off of 6 hours. It was really hot. There were runners laying in the grass on both sides of the course, all looked awful. I felt awful. The first aid people on bicycles were tending to some and offering boullion cubes to those still on the course. At mile 20, I was ready to end my misery, why bother? Loren was there and talked me into continuing to run. The hardest part was running up Summit Avenue, pushing to go faster, in the heat of the day, to make up for the time I lost going so slow in the first 20 miles !!!

Tapering has been very easy, maybe too easy. I hope I remember how to run.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Last Weekend in September

What a great weekend. Went to the Carpenter Nature Center's Raptor Release on Saturday. The skies threatened rain but changed to partly cloudy and warm sunshine. What a great opportunity to see these amazing animals up close and learn more about them as a species. The knowledgeable volunteers shared the individual bird's stories.

Three raptors were scheduled to be released in the morning. The bonus bird was a gorgeous young eagle that flew low over the audience before heading towards the river. The morning seemed to go too fast and then we had to leave. Friends were meeting at the Gasthaus for Oktoberfest and we had to be there early to get a table.

The Gashaus was "party central". Running legends Dave & Luther were there. Larry & Marilyn, Jim & Rose, Jim's brother Don shared one table and a big bag of kettle corn with us. We talked to another table of runners that were swapping stories about their training for the upcoming Twin Cities Marathon. Dancing the polka must be good for the legs! And the famous Pennycook was there. He is famous for the story he once told us about running the TCM "on memory" with his longest run of 6 miles. A week later another runner told us Pennycook had been at the 20 mile training run. Hmmm.

Throw in a long run (4 hours) on Sunday at Afton SP with great weather and it becomes another perfect weekend. It was good to see so many people out on the trails, walking with their friends, family and dogs. One group of 3 women were enjoying the horse trails and asked us to take their photo. Hope it turned out !

While there were lots of butterflies along the trails, this one really stood out for me so I stopped to take a photo. The Audubon butterfly book called it a Giant Swallowtail. In addition to the unusual pattern (most black and yellow swallowtails we see are Tiger Swallowtails), this one is yellow when the wings are closed.

Hope your training is going well, too. See you on the trails !

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hills tonight & Links to Superior Sawtooth Races

Worked out 3 times this week. Going to do hills tonight at Afton. Hope the rain stays away.

Individual Race Reports of the Superior Sawtooth Races

Photos of the races are located at these sites:

Photos by Jen & Zach Pierce:

Photos by Londell Pease: link

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Superior Sawtooth 100 & Superior 50 Sugar Loaf Aid Station

We spent the night at the Sugarloaf Aid Station, mile 71.6  Someone from Larry's crew had arrived early and set up the shelters, tables and dropped the supplies off. We set up our tent, sleeping bags, air mattress, food, beverages, lights, and stove. We had the PBJ sandwiches made and the food fairly waterproofed and ready for runners by the time the rain started.

The first runner blasted in at 10:15 pm, almost 3 hours faster than last year !!!

The 100 milers and pacers were sporadic during the night. Some were quite cold, but all continued. They were just incredible.

Jim Wilson was in good spirits.
John Taylor kept saying thank you, I'm shivering but that's normal, I'm OK.
Valeria LaRosa looked great and she was in first place when she left the aid station.
Sheryl Wheeler was in second place and doing great.
The Saari's were organized and running great.
Brian Peterson flew through the aid station, almost as fast as the first 50 milers.
Results should be available soon at:
Superior Trail Race

It got pretty crazy when the 50 milers started coming through. Just had to focus on getting them what they needed and getting them out of there. It was much better with 4 people this year. Last year we only had 3 volunteers at the aid station. This was so this was much better.

Some of the 50 milers:
John Horns cruised through like it was just a run in the park.
Steve Krampe looked great - welcome back to running Steve !!
Phillip Gary Smith was close to the course sweeps.

We were busy for most of the morning. As things started winding down, other volunteers came by, to see if we needed anything. Then they helped with the final teardown beginning around noon. We headed home around 2pm. What a long day. We were too sleepy to drive so we pulled over at the scenic overlook in Duluth to take a little nap before finishing the drive home.

Ran at Battle Creek Park on Sunday. Managed to stay ahead of the mosquitoes. Then off to Carpenter Nature Center's big fund raiser on Sunday evening. It was really fun.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Weekend Running

Ran with Loren for over 2 hours on Saturday at Afton. Also did an hour or so on Sunday.  It is an "or so" because I took the binoculars to watch birds and be bitten by mosquitoes.

Here is a photo of a flower blooming along the snowshoe trail. It's about shoulder height for me with little blue flowers surrounding the stem.
Blue Vervain

There was a bird (or 12) that I didn't immediately recognize, even with binoculars. They looked somewhat like big, yellowish sparrows with a dark line behind the eye and a yellow stripe on the very top of the head. When I got back to the car I looked them up, They were Bobolinks ! I had not seen one all summer. They were on their way to South America for the winter. According to National Geographic, they will spend the winter in and around Bolivia, Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. By the time they get back here next spring, it will be a round trip of over 12,000 miles!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Turtle Story

On my way home from Boot Camp class yesterday, I saw an upside down turtle in the middle of Warner Road. I did a U-turn and went back to check on it. S/he wasn't dead, but that heat, in the middle of a busy road, upside down, not a good place for a turtle.

Checked it quickly to see if there was any major damage - should I take it up to the Wildlife Rehab Center in Roseville?  S/he actually looked pretty good so I took it home with me to examine it more closely. There was a nick on the left side of the shell. The bottom had some scrapes. The back legs hung limp but when I placed it in the grass it took off quickly. I placed it in a shallow bucket of water for the evening to rehydrate and check on again this morning.

This morning s/he seemed really healthy, hissing at me and trying to get away. Maybe the best thing to do was to return it to the river -  away from roads ! Loren suggested Hidden Falls. I haven't been there in years.

The river was beautiful this morning, calm and fairly clear.   I could see minnows and weeds in the water, a perfect spot for a turtle. S/he quickly took off, swimming into the deeper part of the river.

On the other side of the river there were a couple of guys catching fish from their boat and another couple of people playing catch with their dogs. I was trying to find a nice scene to take a photo when a turtle showed up next to the shore where I released the one this morning. I don't know if it was the same one or not, but it was the same species and the same size. It just floated in the water for a few minutes with its head up, looking around. And then it was off. And so was I. It was kinda creepy down there, a few men hanging around, and me.

Hope the turtle stays away from the roads!

Cross Training

Haven't been doing much running but plenty of strength training. I did the usual this past week,
Sunday Running/hiking at Afton
Monday Aerobics class
Tuesday Yoga and a Boot Camp class
Wednesday Yoga class and Boot Camp class
Thursday Circuit Training class

Hope the body remembers how to run...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Grand Island Trail Marathon

We really like this marathon so we keep going back. This was #3 for us and it just keeps getting better every year.

Yesterday we carpooled to Munising with friends Jan and Joe, stopping for a picnic lunch. While at the park we talked a couple of guys. They each had their Old Milwaukee refreshment and they shared that they were on their way to Lambau Field to try out for the Packers ;-) We wished them luck and went on our way. We arrived at Munising around 5:30 or so.

Wanting to get to bed early, we checked in to our hotel, the AmericInn, then packet pick up at the Holiday Inn and a quick dinner at the Dogpatch No pasta on the menu but we ate there anyway.

Race day meant getting by 4:00 (Eastern Time) to get ready to catch the first shuttle at 5:00. The hotel had breakfast for us and other early people.
The shuttle bus got us to the dock where we loaded our stuff and ourselves on to the first ferry. The morning boat ride was beautiful, the water was smooth and it was still dark with just a hint of light in the east. On the island, the race organizers were expertly getting stuff together for the race. We checked in, got our timing chips, placed our drop bag under the tent, swatted a few mosquitoes and started running a few minutes after 6:00 (the 1 hour early start).

Most of the course was around the perimeter of the island so it provided us wonderful vistas of Lake Superior and the shoreline. The first 10 miles seemed effortless. Maybe it was because this course was flat compared to running in Colorado two weeks earlier? The weather was great: clear and calm with temps around 60 degrees at the start.  A thin layer of clouds came in around noon and the highs were only around 70.

I really respect the race director and his philosophy that the race should have a minimal impact on the island. What did that mean for us runners?
  • We carried our refillable water bottles so we didn't need paper cups at aid stations
  • We were expected to take any of our garbage back to the mainland
Neither requirement was a big burden for us.

Jan and Joe finished long before we did but they hung around and played in the lake until we finished. Here are the results

Then we all caught the last ferry back to the mainland. To celebrate, we indulged ourselves with pizza from Main Street Pizza. Mmmmm, that was good.

This year the race included a handmade, ceramic finisher's medals, mile markers at every mile, and perfect weather. I'm glad we ran this one.
Finisher's medal

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Afton Trail Race 2010

The pre-race briefing.

A funny thing happened on the way to the finish line, I started the race, took a wrong turn (along with several other people), did one loop and was running along talking to Les (a runner at Murphy Hanrehan Park). He told me I was first woman ! I'm a 5 hour marathoner so I knew there was a problem. He told me he was 10 miles into the race. I thought I was at about mile 5. So when I got to the next aid station, I asked for a map and figured out where I had to go to run the loop I missed. Back towards the start, adding on at least 2 miles, and probably more to my overall distance.

I did the Africa loop, and the Back 40, got to see Maria and Wendy at their aid station.

Also saw a Henslow's Sparrow (difficult to find bird) singing his little heart out on the north end of the park. I sent Larry a quick email to let him know.

When I got to the next aid station (I had been there twice before), I told him it felt like I was in the movie "Groundhog Day" because I kept doing the same thing over and over. It was also where I caught up with Patty and Geri Lynn (runners I met back in 1989!) so we finished the rest of the race together.  The Aid Station people were terrific (including Jeffrey, Lynnette, Annie & others), the race organization was superb. The volunteers and Afton SP people are wonderful. The food was fabulous - at the aid stations and the finish line.

I told the finish line people of my mix up and my extra miles. This was a good training run for the 50K in a couple of weeks.

Gene the park manager presented John with a plaque recognizing the $$ the race has donated to the park over the years.

It is a great race, highly recommended !

Friday, July 2, 2010

Afton Trail Run tomorrow

Stopped at Afton SP this afternoon. Lots of activity, they are getting ready for the race tomorrow and so am I.  Alicia was there with her new car - nice ! We brought race stuff in to the Visitors Center. There were probably a dozen people running around, getting things organized for the aid stations, packet pick up and any number of other pre-race activities.

Me? I'm tapering, taking today off. Just walking up the hills over at Carpenter Nature Center was a little tiring.  Why would I be tired? Maybe, it is because of all the cross training we've been doing?

Heard the Henslow's sparrows from the parking lot. There was another person birding (I could tell from the expensive binoculars) so we talked. He heard more than I did and he actually saw one.

Tom from CNC asked if he could still register for the race tomorrow. I think I surprised him when I said yes.

It should be fun tomorrow. I recognized several of the volunteers. Not sure how many of them are running tomorrow. The one place I saw the course, it had a distinctive course marking.  I know they had to change the course because of trail closings. No one "should" get lost.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Weekend Running

Dare I say it, training is going OK.

Did hill repeats on Friday, I'm now up to 8. The last two were so hard that I felt like I hadn't done any training at all.

We did the snowshoe loop on Saturday. Talked to a few people in the parking lot before we ran. Several people from Minnesota are running Big Horn next weekend. Good luck and hope you enjoy the day !

Did a long run on Sunday, about 4 hours. Had to do a little bird watching, too. Time on the feet is important. Talked to the park manager a little. Two trails are closed due to excessive erosion. It has to be a hard job, to balance the needs of the various interest groups (horses and their riders, runners, hikers, birders, campers, etc.) with the available resources.

The Afton 25/50K is next month. The race organizers are working on a new course to accommodate the trail closures.

Did exercise class on Monday AND Boot Camp. My legs were tired.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Baby birds

This nest of bluebirds must have just hatched. Two of them still look a little wet and their eyes are totally closed. Tiny babies.

Too close to this bluebird box for my comfort, was a snake. It was about 3 feet long with some nice spots. Best guess, Fox Snake.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

2010 Peonies

Every time a flower blooms, it instantly becomes my favorite. Right now the peonies are my favorite.  These photos are examples of "my favorites" growing in the garden.

They are called:
Nippon Gold
Sarah Bernhardt
unidentified "yellow"

Front yard vs Backyard

The yard seems to be divided between the squirrel area and the bird area. The squirrels have taken over the backyard with only a few brave birds visiting. The front yard seems to be more for the birds and this bird bath is a major attraction. The bathers include the usual robins (several times a day), catbirds, and cardinals. House finches, gold finches, chickadees and the occasional bluebird, drink from the dish. The birds that don't use the water are the hummingbirds, mallards, and chipping sparrows that I see eating the seeds on the ground. But maybe I just miss them ?
This beautiful foxglove is frequently visited by bees. I've seen them crawling way up in the flower and then trying to get back out, their legs looking fat and yellow with pollen.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Short Run

With the long run yesterday and I wanted to GPS the newly planted trees, we started out at the Afton land. It was already tough to find the trees in all of the trees and grasses. We found some, 3 had actually been dug out ? What would do that? Also found a turkey. She got up slowly and moved away - may be nesting? I didn't want to disturb her more so I didn't go look.

By the time we got to Afton SP, the heat was on. Nancy was in the parking lot, she had finished her run. Tom arrived a short time later. We did the "snowshoe loop".

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Running at Afton

We ran from Afton SP parking lot. Only one horse trailer in the lot so maybe we won't see too many horses out there?

The first hill was an easy down. The uphill however, had branches blocking the way. Like most people, I thought it was a mistake so went down to the next turn and found more branches. I went back to the first pile and carefully stepped around them. At the top we saw the sign that said "closed". Oh.

We did a combination of Afton 25K and whatever trails we felt like running. When we finished the back loop we stopped and talked to Alicia. She knew about the trail closing and the Afton Trail Run organizers were aware of it and working on a course change.

It was our lucky day, a little over 4 hours and no horses.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Twins vs. Yankees

Had the opportunity to go to the Twins game today. Loren chose game 3 in the series against the Yankees. As luck would have it, they lost the first two.
The weather was sunny and in the 70's. Sitting in the sun, it felt warmer. "The kids" (why do we call them that? they are obviously adults.), joined us. It was good to see them.

The sun went down and the Twins won. Perfect !

Planting trees

Had a great morning hiking in the wet grass and marsh areas around Waseca for my section of the BBA. I only got through part of it because I'm such a beginner that it takes me longer to identify the birds. Besides, it was such a great time to enjoy the birds.

Then went out and planted about 20 trees on the land by Afton State Park. My thought process to determine where to place the trees: where might they grow successfully? is there enough water? is there too much sun in the heat of the day? where to to give them room to grow and still preserve the prairie?

Saw a couple of wildflowers growing: bergamot, false indigo. Found orioles, wood ticks, and a pheasant.

By the time I had finished planting, it was too hot to run hills.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Nature Center

Have you tried those single serve ice cream from Kemps? They were on sale recently and I bought a couple flavors to try. Then I looked at the calories - 300 !  Today I saw Rainbow had some single serve frozen yogurt with fruit toppings, 10 for $10. The calories are list as 160 - much better. Not as good as fruit or carrots, but better than 300.

Ran with "the girls" at Hyland this morning. Warm, but all of us kept saying, "not as bad as yesterday".

A turkey greeted us at the end of the run near the Richardson Nature Center.

Stopped by Carpenter Nature Center on Monday. It is so beautiful out there. The peonies are gorgeous right now. And they smell wonderful.
Saw an Indigo Bunting by the pond. And there are these cute little tadpoles swimming in the lower pond. Double click on the photo to see a closer view.
Or here is zoomed in photo. If you look really close, you can see their tails.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Afton Running

Did a quick run on the snowshoe loop at Afton this morning. Perfect weather - sunny and almost 70. The wild geraniums are spectacular and the ferns are beautiful. I am amazed at the variety of ferns. 

Sorry, no photos, my camera wasn't working.

Didn't hear many woodpeckers but saw a vulture, turkeys, pheasants, towhees, thrashers, bluebirds, tree swallows, nuthatches and other little birds. Heard several others singing. Did not bring my binoculars on the run. Took them back out on the trail after running but it wasn't very helpful. Just ahead of me were two women, a toddler and a dog making a lot of noise. I gave up and went home to watch Kathy on TV (see Tuesday's note). Both Kathy and Claire were awesome.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Running Lake Calhoun

Great day running around Lake Calhoun. The sun was out, the skies were clear. Ran with some friends so we did one loop. It was really good to see people out enjoying the day.

Two surprises, orioles were singing from the trees AND the water was so clear I could see fish in several places. My best guess: sunfish, carp and trout - long and narrow with a rounded tail? Can I really be in the heart of a big city?

Gloria organized the "puppy shower" at lunch for Kathy and her new companion dog Claire. Claire is so good and very, very cute. Kathy gave a quick demonstration of Claires ability to help her. It seems to be love at first sight - for both of them.

Kathy also shared that she will be on TV on Thursday, some morning program (about 10:40) and then WCCO news at noon. They are promoting a 5K run to raise money for the helper dog organization that is this weekend. More info at Helping Paws

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Superior Trail 25K

It seems like we usually take the scenic route and this time wasn't any different. Yesterday we drove up to Lutsen, stopping at Hawks Ridge and not at Betty's Pies. After we arrived at the Caribou Lodge, I checked us in and Loren went to see if he could get our race packets. We found our room, unloaded the car and sorted through the race stuff. For something different, we bought TV dinners that we nuked in our room, watched a little tv.

This morning we went to cheer the 50K people that started at 7am. It was a great time to see people like Steve and Carolyn with Steve running his first race in 3 years, Jason a fast first timer on this course, Wendy an energizer bunny, Maria who does everything, Carl a running machine, the Donny / Bonnie dynamic course marking team, Helen an awesome runner who is having a really good racing year, and Paul who says he is concentrating on speed rather than distance.

After the 50K started, we had 2 hours before our race began. Some of us went to breakfast at the lodge restaurant. The staff were friendly and it looked like it had been totally remodeled since we were there in 2008. A table by the window was perfect for watching the snowshoe hare and the birds at the feeder.

It was an easy walk back to the room to finish preparing for the race. The usual questions: How much water are you going to carry? How much food? What are you going to wear? Are you going to bring a jacket? With those questions answered, we walked over to the start where we talked to Carolyn and Nancy. They looked fabulous, like they were well trained and ready. It was our turn to run.

It was a perfect day, temps in the 40's at the start, lots of sunshine. We knew we had a beautiful trail and the whole day ahead of us.

I like running in the woods on trails and it pretty much doesn't matter how rocky or rough they are. I don't wear trail shoes, just road shoes that have enough cushion to protect my feet from the rocks. Slipping usually isn't an issue and the stiff soles of trail shoes make my feet ache.

Talked to a few people during the race. Found out that there was a group of women doing this as their "ladies weekend". They graduated from high school together in 1995. A couple of them had experience with trail races but they ALL decided to do this. What a great idea.

Stopping to take photos of the wildflowers slowed me down a little, they were too pretty to just pass by. At the packet pickup, someone had put together an information board with photos of wildflowers and names of the flowers: Dutchman's breeches, wild violets, marsh marigolds, bluebells and more.

How can this event can be a ladies weekend? Maybe it has some spa like features? A potential spa adventure for me included some acrobatics followed by a dip in the mud. Could wearing mud on half my body for 10 miles be considered a spa treatment ?  How did I do this? I tried to navigate around some mud. As I jumped to a middle rock, my foot slipped and I fell sideways. Luckily, I missed all the other rocks as I landed in the muck.
Not only did we finish, so did all the people we talked to before the race. One exception - Carolyn the saint. She gave up her race to walk an injured runner back to civilization. Carolyn talked to the runner later and was told that they would be OK. Carolyn has plans to to be back to finish this race. Paul the speedster had an awesome race - 2nd male in the master's division. His speed training seems to be going well. So is Helen's, 2nd woman in the open division.

It was a well organized race THANKS to Gretchen and Mike, the race directors and ALL of the volunteers.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Good to be Home

It's good to be back.

We made a quick trip to Kansas last weekend, went down for visit with my father-in-law. All is well.

I enjoy his company and he just amazes me. I knew he had a sweet tooth, almost as much as I do. But, this weekend he exceeded my expectations. We went to his favorite place to eat, Coyote Cafe in Salina, an all you can eat buffet. After he had eaten a full meal, he ate three pieces of cake! Don't ask me how many desserts I ate, because I lost track of the "just a taste". He had a good excuse, he needed the energy for his doctor appointment and shopping. I just went along for the ride...

After we got home yesterday we went out to Afton SP to run hill repeats.  Storm clouds were forming as we drove out there. We finished before the rain arrived. It actually felt good after sitting in a car for the majority of the past 3 days.

At Afton, there was one possible warbler that was noisily hunting for food in the trees. It didn't have any yellow that I could see and I didn't have binoculars with me.

We pushed each other and got the hills done. Then home for dinner.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Busy Day at Afton and Barred Owl Again

We arrived at Afton about 9:30. A school bus was there filled with teenaged youth. They headed out for a run about the same time we started our run. We didn't see them again but the bus was still there when we finished.

Larry was in the parking lot and had already finished his run.
We headed out to do the snowshoe loop. Saw Jim and Bill running together, Karen was close behind. I think they planned to start at 7:00. Nancy and Tom were off in the distance. Talked to Jeffrey, he was finishing his 25K training run. Then crossed paths with Jan and Wendy -- surprised to see them because they usually don't run at Afton. They were doing a 25K loop. Last month they finished a race in Kansas so their training is going well.

We ran almost 4 hours, including talking time and birding time. I didn't bring the binoculars but did hear some of the new "regulars", the Eastern Towhee, a Brown Thrasher, Eastern Bluebirds, Tree Swallows, and Meadowlarks. There was a large flock of Goldfinches in one location and an occasional pheasant calling. I didn't see the Eastern Phoebe on the nest but did see a small flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers. Also a couple of raptors in the woods.

The big news, the bluebirds were hatching today ! They look like little leaves in the nest.

The Barred Owl is here in Maplewood - again. I assumed it was the same one but I looked at the photos. The feet are very different. The one on Wednesday had feather covered feet and one sore toe. Today's bird doesn't have as many feathers on the feet and doesn't have a sore toe. This one appears to be possibly molting. I don't know enough to make that determination. Pretty cute, huh?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Carpenter Nature Center (CNC)

The rain held off and we were able to do some bird banding today.

This is a cardinal that had been first banded in 2008. At that time, it was thought to be about a year old. That means that it is now about 4 years old.
Someone asked Jim about the oldest bird. He said that they once had a Cardinal that was 9 years old !

The toads were trilling in the pond. Jen went looking for them and found at least 5 toads and some strands of eggs. I always learn new things when I am there. 

Larry went to Afton last week and found the American Woodcocks. He could hear them and saw one silhouetted against the setting sun.

Then off to Afton to run hills. I wanted to do them yesterday but I had too many aches and pains. It was a good decision, today didn't hurt. It was hard but hills always are.

The birds were pretty quiet. The Brown Thrasher wasn't singing in the usual spot. Heard two Eastern Towhees and several White-throated Sparrows, Field Sparrows and Chipping Sparrows. Other birds were singing but I could not identify them.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Hunting in the back yard

This afternoon I heard the noise of the Red-shouldered Hawk squawking in the backyard. I grabbed the camera and hoped to get a photograph of it. As carefully and as stealthily as I could, I went out onto the deck wishing I would have grabbed the binoculars too. What a joke, thought I could sneak up on a hawk? Oh well, I just had to try. I saw the hawk perfectly framed in the leaves, just off the deck. The screens from the porch blocked the photograph. I continued moving towards it hoping for a photo. Before I got any photos it took off with another hawk following. There were two Red-shouldered Hawks !!!

Then I saw it, an owl in the tree! The hawks must have been after it. I had a camera, the owl was fairly close, could I get a photo?

I quickly took a few shots because she was a cooperative subject. I had a good camera and filtered light. I thought to myself, this is really sad, I didn't even know what kind of owl it was. I knew it wasn't a Great Horned Owl.

Who cares, just take some more photos and worry about what type of owl it is later.

I still can't belive it but she moved closer to the deck, almost directly under where I was standing !!

The camera's low battery light came on. I just kept taking pictures hoping for that photo of a lifetime.

The batteries died and I just watched her. She was obviously hunting for something in the leaf litter. There was no way she was going to catch a mouse, in broad daylight. Mice are too fast. There are too many leaves. No way.

She flew down onto the ground, paused a couple of moments and flew back to the tree. She had a clump of leaves in her talons. Carefully she pulled them away like she was unwrapping a Christmas present. I could see the long tail of a mouse! She tucked it under her foot for while and didn't seem to be in a hurry to do anything with it.

Another 15 minutes went by of watching her perch in the tree. I went inside the house and got new batteries, a new memory card and returned back to the deck. She was still there but I couldn't see the mouse.  She dropped something on the ground. I watched as she turned this way and that, trying to decided who knows what. She finally flew to the ground where she remained for probably 10 minutes before finally eating the mouse. She flew back to her tree and did a couple of the "who cooks for you".

I won't bore you with all of the details. Lets just say I spent about 2 1/2 hours today watching a bird. She was a very accurate hunter. She pounced twice with a 100% accuracy. She caught both mice even though they were buried in the leaf litter. I can see why the birds were alarmed that she was around. And like I said, I'm not a bird expert so I really don't know if she's a male or female.

Oh, and I got my hour run in at Hyland Park this morning. It was perfect running weather.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Red-shouldered Hawk

The hawk was hanging around the back yard this morning, flying from tree to tree. I guess that it was hunting. The squirrels were continuing to feed on the deck, essentially ignoring the hawk that is a few trees away.

Fun photo this morning:

Just in case you can't tell, my crabapple tree is in full bloom and I'm using that to frame the female Wood Duck peering out the nest box.

Did a challenging cross-training workout at the club this morning.

Back home, a Pileated Woodpecker flew in and called. By the time I got the camera, it flew away.

We have White-throated Sparrows as neighbors. There are at least 4 hanging around the yard and at least one keeps flying in and out of the brush pile. They will fly if I get too close, like within feet of them, and then they just fly a short distance. Maybe they are nesting in the brush pile?  Cornell's web site says they typically nest on the ground.

Just when I thought the other birds were fun, I counted 5 baby ducks on the pond! I could not see the parents but heard Mallards softly calling all the while.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Afton Weekend Workout

Long run on Saturday - almost 3 hours. We spent enough time at breakfast to get a late start, about 9:00.  The 7:00 group, John, Alicia, Karen, and Jim were hailed on and blasted by thunder and lightening. We were wet, tired and a little muddy by the time we finished.

Then we ran a shorter run on Sunday - just the snowshoe loop. Only one slippery spot. We didn't get as wet as Saturday.

For birds, heard a Brown Thrasher in a couple different places. I didn't bring the binoculars to identify an  interesting bird. It looked like a big chickadee, black head, white chest, singing up a storm. After we located it, it continued to perch high in the tree and sing its melodious song.

The Rue Anemone and Wild Violets are in full bloom. The ferns are starting to grow.

Then we were off to the Science Museum to see the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Omni film Arabia. We enjoyed both of them.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bird Banding at Carpenter Nature Center

Went out to Carpenter Nature Center for bird banding today. The event was open to the public. The weather was sunny and in the 50's at the start. It warmed up to the 60's. It was a perfect day for birding.

Larry and Dennis set up nets / traps. Mary, Dick, Jim, Lou, Jay, Bob, set up tables, paperwork, bird processing equipment. A professional photographer set up his equipment. Visitors and birds started to arrive.

One woman commented that the bird songs were plentiful this morning, unlike the area in Woodbury where she lives. Another woman and two daughters traveled all the way from Baldwin to visit CNC for the first time. One daughter had a camera. She found several things to photograph. Both girls could identify several types of birds. By the end of the morning they were asking, "Do you have a bag? There is a bird in the net over here." It was great.

A bus load of people came in during a time when there was a long absence of birds. Jim did a good job of explaining banding even though he didn't have a bird to demonstrate actual banding.

Because it was so quiet, Bob, Shadow and I took a walk outside. Shadow pranced around like the little princess she is. The photographer showed us some of his art - really cool stuff. On our walk we found a Blue Jay, a White-throated Sparrow and a Downy Woodpecker in the nets/traps. Bob carried the birds back to the processing area. Then Jen walked in with a Brown-headed Cowbird and a Blue Jay - not in bags just one in each hand! It was after noon and I had to leave for a 12:30 appointment. I hated to leave. Larry said it was OK, he would take down the nets.

Not sure of the final count but Jay's list of birds for the day filled up most of one page.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Noisy Squirrel Morning

I usually feed the birds in the morning and it's not long before the squirrels move in to eat all of the seeds. This morning they were unusually quarrelsome resulting in quite a bit of noise. I ignored them for the most part.
Many left the deck and then I noticed they were making warning calls, at least 3 squirrels calling. I looked to see what was going on and a rather large bird (larger than a robin) flew into a tree just off the deck. I was fascinated, first by this beautiful bird and because two small squirrels were scampering around on the tree branches without a care in the world, within feet of this raptor ! I made the decision to watch rather than go for the camera. Why? Morbid curiosity?

It was a beautiful bird, rufous barred chest, big black and white stripes on the tail with smaller patterns on the wing. The bird saw me and moved to hide behind the trunk of the tree. Then it was off, flying low over the house. I ran to the front of the house to see if it would land on another nearby tree. I didn't find it again.

The National Geographic "Complete Birds of North American" book identifies it as a Red-shouldered Hawk. The book also says they eat frogs, snakes, lizards and small mammals. I guess it was the squirrels lucky day. How did they know?

The other birds found: Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Yellow-rumped Warbler. Of the 20 or so photos taken today, this is one is one of the better ones, at least the bird can be recognized.