Up in the Air, Junior Birdmen

A Quartet of Trumpeter Swans

A Quartet of Trumpeter Swans

Up in the air, Junior Birdman,
Flying so high off the ground,
Is it a bird, plane or Superman?
No! It’s Junior Birdman upside down.

The Junior Birdmen of America was an organization founded in 1934 for children interested in building model airplanes. It was promoted by the Hearst newspapers, with the cooperation of the U.S. Bureau of Air Commerce. After that intro, let’s get on with the rest of this aeronautical themed post, the germ of which originated with the following message that our friend DJ shared on Facebook yesterday, Arguing with an engineer is a lot like wrestling in the mud with a pig, after a couple of hours you realize the pig likes it. While, this may not be true of every engineer, it is certainly true for enough of them, to be true in my book. We call that an engineering approximation. I ought to know all this, because I’m an engineer and I work with other engineers and have done so for many years. At the paper airplane factory today, I was called into the conference room for a meeting. The wife of one of our younger team members had just had their first child and this was his first day back at work. Most of the team had already gathered to present him with a card and a little cash. I walked into the conference room in-between after most of the other engineers had already gathered and before the guest of honor had arrived. Sensing a captive audience, I announced that I had a joke to tell. This pronouncement was met with general groans all around. I guess that I must be telling too many bad jokes at work. Undeterred, I launched in to the one liner and I was rewarded with much louder laughter than the preceding groans, all of which came from my fellow engineers.

Hundreds of Trumpeter Swans!

Hundreds of Trumpeter Swans!

Hundreds of Trumpeter Swans!

Anne had MLK Day off and I took it off too, just because. The weather for this January holiday weekend has been simply fabulous. Martin would be pleased with it too, but who wouldn’t. Even if we did spend his day eyeing honking honky birds. Sunday we did the old loop-de-loop bicycle ride in Forest Park. We saw Bill the Mad Doctor. He was going the opposite way. Today, we took Joanie to the Riverlands. I don’t think that she has ever been there before with me. It was pretty quiet, except for one small section of Ellis Bay. The main channel of the Mississippi was relatively ice-free and there was no ice to be seen on the Missouri, but this back bay was still pretty much frozen over. Except for relatively small pools that the hundreds of trumpeter swans and some Canada geese have kept open. The trumpeter swan is the largest waterfowl in North America. The bird sighting board in the Audubon Center had sightings of 200+ swans, both today and yesterday. Click on the photo, it really is quite large. Looking at it, I estimate that there were closer to 500 swans. When the Riverlands first opened as a bird sanctuary there were less than a hundred trumpeter swans seen that year.  Speaking of the Audubon Center, the Corps has finally gotten around to landscaping the land between the center and the water. It looks great! We also saw one American Bald eagle. After our birding adventure, we headed across the river to Alton, to dine at Just Desserts. All pies are made that day and they calculate to sellout each day by four. We arrived at two and placed our order, just before the wait-staff started to erase the no longer available pies for the day. The first time Anne and I went there, we ordered lunch and then we ordered dessert, much to our chagrin. The pies we had been eyeing were no longer available. We’re older and wiser now. Eat dessert first, because life is short and uncertain, especially at Just Desserts.

Riverlands Conservation Area

I went to the Riverlands Conservation Area today.  I was able to photograph half a dozen different species of birds.  The Riverlands is located in Saint Charles County, Missouri, on the western end of the Alton bridge.  It was under this bridge that I met Matt Shellenberg, an avid birder and a way better nature photographer than I.  Checkout his website here.

There were plenty of  Bald Eagles roosting around the Riverlands.  The individual above is one of two that I got good pictures of.  He/she seems to be keeping an eagle eye on me.  I suspect that they were all just hanging about, because this is their nesting season.

Most of the Trumpeter Swans seem to have departed the Riverlands.  I did find one small flock (less than forty) in the wetlands area that Anne and I had gone bushwhacking for them a month ago.  I spooked them as soon as I got out of the car and only got a couple shots of them as they flew away.

Anne and I have seen Common Goldeneyes all winter long, but this pair are the first that were close enough to get a shot of, that I was willing to publish.  The female is to the left and the male is to the right.  You can’t tell it from this shot, but their eyes are really golden.

Pictured above is a pair of Common Mergansers.  Again the female is to the left and the male is to the right.  These birds seem much larger than the Mergansers that I see in the summer on Lake Superior.

I was shooting pictures of a line of Mergansers and caught this Male Bufflehead.  This is only the second Bufflehead that I have seen.  I posted a picture of the first one that I have ever seen, just a couple of days ago.  I saw that one earlier this month at Crissy Park in San Francisco.  Even though I was closer to that one than the one pictured above, the above picture is a better shot.  Chalk it up to better light.

The sixth species that I saw was a Great Blue Heron.  It is featured in today’s header.  Check it out here.

Seven Swans a Flying

The picture with this post shows in flight, two mature Trumpeter Swans and one juvenile one.  The header for today shows a flight of another four swans.  The Trumpeter Swan is the largest water fowl in North America.  These pictures are just snapshots in time, freezing a few of the steady stream of swans that over flew us when we were at Riverlands Conservation Area last Sunday.  There were hundreds of them there, swimming.

Today is Epiphany, the twelfth day of Christmas.  On Tuesday, we gave Joanie her presents.  I gave her one of the calendars that I had made and Anne gave her the socks that she knitted for her, along with a bunch of other stuff.  Anne is shown displaying the socks in the picture to the left.

Anne and I went back to work this week, I on Monday and Anne on Tuesday.  We enjoyed our long winter break, what with Anne’s schools being off and my work being closed for the holiday week.  The time off gave us time to do many different things.  In addition to the pair of socks that she has just finished, Anne has a quilt project that is nearing completion.  I would like to believe that our activities over the holidays have made this little blog a bit more interesting than usual, but now it is time to go back to work.  So, coming up with something interesting to write about will become more of a struggle.  So beware folks, we are on the eve of the blather season.  In fact, it may have already begun.  😆