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Pat Middleton is the founder/publisher of the Mississippi River Home Page at www.greatriver.com and Great River Publishing which has produced quality river heritage and natural history books since 1987.

2019 Birding Updates, Many and Sundry!

TUNDRA SWANS are still in Wisconsin! Several reports from the Wisc. Birding Network indicate there are some 500 tundra swans on the ice and
Water at Madison’s University Bay. One of my favorite scenes is of Swans sliding on ice as they land. By contrast, I had my first report of Tundra Swans arriving at Chesapeake Bay on Nov. 19, 2019.

Sandhill Cranes are also extending their stay in various pockets in Wisconsin!  As of Dec 16  sandhill cranes were reported hanging out in the harvested corn fields near the intersection of Hwy 60 and Rainbow Road just NE of Spring Green, WI in Sauk County.Thank you Donald Maum.

Fred Lesher’s journals are available online at UW La Crosse Murphy Library digital Collection.  Paul and Bernadette Hayes and others have been working
to enter Fred’s extensive historical observations onto ebird.
For example, Fred found a Bewick’s Wren in the La Crosse area in April 1969
(see https://ebird.org/checklist/S34769360)
Scans of the original journals can be found at
https://digitalcollections.uwlax.edu/jsp/RcWebBrowse.jsp;jsessionid=DF2C5CF4
F102FD46DECBADEB4336CF54

Barbara Duerksen
Richland County, WI

SNOWY OWL UPDATE: I post new updates every 10-15 days during November and  I post new updates every 10-15 days during November and December. The latest is up on  2019-20 Update tab at: https://dnr.wi.gov/topic/WildlifeHabitat/SnowyOwls.html
Ryan Brady Conservation Biologist, Bureau of Natural Heritage Conservation
Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT
Dan Jackson, La Crosse Audubon Group

The La Crosse / La Crescent Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was held on Saturday, December 16th    For those who haven’t participated in the past, for the La Crosse CBC, we count all of the birds that we can find on the count day within a 15 mile circle that is centered on the La Crosse County Courthouse.  I divide the circle in 25-30 sections and individuals or teams are then responsible for covering a pre-assigned section on the count day (this year 12/16/17). Yes, we can use help each year to cover all the sections! Please contact Dan if you would like to be on the list for next year.

The Next BACKYARD BIRD COUNT is underway February 14-17, 2020
Here is a great opportunity to participate as a “Citizen Scientist!”  If you have never participated before, and are interested, see the GBBC website to get started and create an account, which you will need to enter data.
http://gbbc.birdcount.org/
Count birds anytime, anywhere, with eBird »

A Christmas Story for Birders….

The Christmas Bird Count has a rather fascinating tie to the Victorian Era and a tradition of the day in which Christmas was sometimes celebrated with a theme of dead birds. What the Heck?? I had many images of birds, both dead and alive in an old postcard collection. Here is what I discovered.

image

So what possessed Victorians to send Christmas and other greetings with illustrations of dead birds? One such card reads, “Sweet messenger of calm decays in peace Divine.”

It may hark back to an archaic English celebration of St. Stephens Feast Day, on Dec 26, when folks went out and killed a robin… or a wren… and saved the feathers for good luck. Often young boys in the village would visit homes and exchange feathers for a treat!

During medieval times, Dec 26 was the only day when a wren, considered sacred, could be killed. In fact, “King Wren” was paraded through the village in its death box…  which may actually date back further to a Druid tradition when the priest-king of the tribe was sacrificed to avert disaster for the tribe. Over time, English robins replaced the wren as the symbol.

But were the Victorians really connecting dead birds to tribal druid kings? According to Chan Robbins from an Audubon Science video on Vimeo, another Christmas tradition evolved in New England before the turn of the century which involved birds and small mammals.

The townsmen on Christmas Day engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt”: They would choose sides and go afield with their guns to shoot as many birds and species as they could that afternoon. The resultant pile of feathered (and furred) quarry were sorted by species and counted. The team which had shot the most, won.

Conservation was in its beginning stages around in that era, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank M. Chapman, an early officer in the nascent Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition-a “Christmas Bird Census”-that would count birds during the holidays rather than hunt them.

So began the Christmas Bird Count. Thanks to the inspiration of Chapman and the enthusiasm of twenty-seven dedicated birders, twenty-five Christmas Bird Counts were held that day. Those original 27 Christmas Bird Counters tallied around 90 species on all the counts combined. So there is the answer to why we have an annual bird count in the middle of our northern winter!

christmasrobin

English robins continue to festoon modern Christmas cards, though they are alive and nestled among poinsiettas and berries!!

With that, I would like to wish all of you a Very Merry Christmas season!

Pat

Annual One-For-You and One-For-Them Sale!

‘Tis the season for Pumpkin Spice EVERYTHING! And our annual one-for-you-and-one-for-them sale! 

Doesn’t sepia make you think of Pumpkin Spice? ‘Tis the season for Pumpkin Spice EVERYTHING!

This is one pumpkin spice that will not add any unwanted pounds and will last for years on your wall.

All of November and December we offer one of our most beautiful maps as a gift with every shipment….Our Sandwich Islands Map! It’s a print of a classical 1879 Augustus Mitchell map restored and painted by Lisa Middleton. It features early Hawaii, Caribbean, Bermuda, and the Panama Canal. You will receive this gift in addition to all of our holiday discounts!

This gift is free with all 16×20″ or larger map orders. Maps smaller than 16×20″ will receive this map as a magnet as a bonus gift! All bonus maps will be mailed to the address on the order. If you mail it to yourself keep it or give a “Christmas Bonus” to someone you love. No discount code required. It comes with every order:) Or, you may also order it directly and receive 2 for 1 right now! Order your own copy here

Clinton, IA. Eagle watch Jan 4, 2020

If you have been on Pool 8 watching the Swan migration, you will have noticed that the American Bald Eagles are abundant wherever water is open. Eagle Watches have been a traditional Winter celebration along the length of the Mississippi River. The first of our announced dates is for CLINTON, IA.  The Eagle Watch will be Jan 4, 2020 at Lock and Dam 13.

Booths, etc. will be at Clinton Community College, Iowa.  Bus will run between the two to save parking, etc.  Scouts will have food there to sell.  We will have
coffee, etc. at the Corp. building to warm you up.  David Stokes from WI
will be the guest speaker.  If you would like the flyer, please e-mail astraight4@frontier.com

Eagles on ICE by Richard Middleton

Eagles on ICE by Richard Middleton

Woohoo! Tundra Swans by the thousands this morning!

Had the great joy this morning of seeing thousands of pristine white Tundra Swans along Wisconsin’s Hwy 35, just to south of Goose Island!  The sky was full of flying swans as well as swans filling the ponds.  When I returned 1/2 an hour later, the skies were empty and there were fewer swans on the water.

Tundra Swan

“So where did they go?” I asked another birder who was panning with his scope.

“Did you notice that the wind changed direction and picked up, since 11 a.m. ? That’s what some of them were looking for. They’ve already resumed their migration to Chesapeake Bay.”

I was also curious as to what he saw in the scope. “Any gray cignets (juveniles)?” He said, yes, a few, but indeed most were adults and most were not family groups. The first drop of migrating swans is normally the single swans rather than swans traveling with juveniles.

Finally, make a grand journey THIS WEEKEND along the Great River Road between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Dubuque, Ia.  In addition to Swans in the pools north of Genoa, American Bald Eagles are migrating and we are flush with both our resident eagles and the eagles moving down from the north (more on this in a later piece). Remember to visit the National Eagle Center in Wabasha, MN.

BEST Fall color on the AQRichardFall Color will be in its waning weekend the next several days. Oaks are a rich rust color and some of the late coloring trees are still coming into color (it’s all in the genes!)

So hit the road!! There is lots to see! and don’t forget your copy of Discover! America’s Great River Road by River Author, Pat Middleton... your guide to eagle watching, regional history, Treasure Hunting, commercial fishing, and more!!! Order your copy of each of the four volumes which lead travelers from St. Paul to the Gulf of Mexico by CLICKING HERE!

Discover America's Great River Road, Vol 1 - St.Paul Minnesota to Dubuque Iowa By Pat Middleton

 

 

 

 

White Phase Turkeys

white phase turkeyHere’s a nice discovery for November! Wild Turkeys quite commonly appear in their white phase. Again the white version is not a mutation, or “half domestic”, it is simply a white phase of our familiar turkey.  Use the SEARCH button to see more of our “white phase” collection!  We saw these too at HIDDEN HILLS off Hwy K, near Goose Island. Our toddlers enjoyed seeing the pigs, goats, turkeys, calves, and all!

 

Plan ahead for Map Gift Giving! Textiles, Fine Art Prints, Home Decor

Our Historic Map Collection is Growing by Leaps and Bounds! More than 350 hand painted Historic, Retro, and Custom Designed Maps are now available, many on our Mississippi River-focused Great River Shopping Cart !

Now is the time to order your historic map ART for Christmas/Holiday gifting.  

Our 1887 Mississippi River Historic Ribbon Map can now be artisan matted, framed and shipped nation-wide for $220. Need a custom map of YOUR estate or favorite destination? Please PHONE 888-255-7726  Hand painted originals available now! Usual wait period is 1 month! So order now for a gift to be available by Christmas. Four matting choices!

CLICK HERE TO SEARCH our Map shopping site by any KEYWORD… date, cartographer, locale, state, etc. If you don’t find it, Call us! 888-255-7726

Custom Framing Services   

Old Time Railroad Stories in three volumes

Steamboating on America’s Rivers!

Phone 406-471-756 with Questions, or
visit our MAP Shopping Cart to order online!

For Mississippi River BOOKS and More, visit click links above, or enter BOOKS in the Search Box.

 

COME HELL OR HIGH WATER, Kindle Version, Free on Amazon!

You never know what you might find on Amazon, and today I discovered they are offering a FREE promotional Kindle version of Michael Gillespie’s COME HELL OR HIGH WATER, A Lively History of Steamboating on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. That seldom happens, to my knowledge, so I am happy to share this brief opportunity with you. If you enjoy this excellent Kindle version Steamboat Anthology, please be sure to review it! 

Here is the link, the Kindle version is normally $9.99! Now available in Kindle Format.   $9.99  

Come Hell or High Water, Volume 1 (Kindle Edition): True Tales of Steamboating on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers (The Era of Steam) by [Gillespie, Michael]You can also purchase the perfect bound paperback of 300 pages direct from the publisher HERE.

True Stories of Steamboating on the Missouri River from one of our favorite steam era authors! In Come Hell or High Water, Gillespie invites the reader to experience the challenge that was steamboating in the nineteenth century–as recorded firsthand by passengers, crew members and journalists. Dozens of historic photos, charts, maps and Illustrations.

“For one brief moment in history, it was possible to slide down a muddy bank, board a steamboat, and travel anywhere within a 16,0000-mile system of inland waterways known as the Western Rivers. They included the incomparable Mississippi River…”

300 pages, 6×9″, ISBN 0-9620823-2-5   $19.99

Also available in Kindle Format.   $9.99