Saturday, November 30, 2013

Family Tales

Fredrick William II's stables
The family folklore has it, some of my Hauser ancestors were in the royal guard of a Prussian king - a requirement that these soldiers had to be at least 6' tall. During a work trip to Germany, I was able to take a side excursion by train from Berlin to Potsdam. I was tagging along with a colleague who had an idea about where he was going - me, no clue. As it turned out, Potsdam was the royal capital of Prussia where Frederick William II and his predecessors and successors had lived.

Prussian descendents
 That side of my mom's family emigrated to the United States in the 1800's - her father took over the family homestead east of Lake Winnebago, near the village Hilbert in Calumet County. We took a few vacations to visit my Wisconsin relatives while I was growing up. I only vaguely remember being on the dairy farm before my grandparents retired and moved to town. There was the root cellar/smokehouse in the front yard, the dairy barn, the access door from outside to the basement through which coal or wood could be delivered, and the woods towards the back of the property. Common to these were the warning that I should stay clear of them because that is where the "wolf" lived. I am certain that along with my height, European tales of wolves and children told by my elders were inherited from my Germanic bloodlines.

Root cellar/smoke house
In recent years while on business trips to Wisconsin, I visit my uncle who still lives in Hilbert. In addition to making short pilgrimages to the Catholic cemetery to see my grandparents' grave sites, we drive out into the countryside to see the sights, including going by the old family homestead. The family that bought the dairy has upgraded the amenities, but woods at the back of the property have not regenerated, so have continued to thin. The stonewalled pump house is gone, as well as my uncle, it is likely that there are few suitable places for an old wolf to haunt in waiting for errant children.

Peiking Duck - Birding In China

I wrote this blog over a year ago, but because of a heavy travel schedule, interviewing for a new job, and other obligations, I just didn't sit down with my Birds of East Asia - China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and Russia field guide by Mark Brazil and identify the few birds that I saw and had time to snap some pictures. It is Thanksgiving weekend 2013, so I had some time this morning to do so.

Police escort
As fortune would have it on a recent work trip to China, our hosts drove us through one of the premier birding areas in China - the Yellow River Natural Wildlife Reserve near Dongying. The provincial government officials met us at the airport, whisked us away in a bus escorted by police cars, and drove us to different agricultural development areas where there were expansive aquaculture farms and demonstration area where tracks of land formed from Yellow River sediment deposits have created new lands that are being drained of salts so crops can be grown. There is great pride on the behalf of the officials - even though this is eastern China, it could have been the 
Recognized accomplishment
western San Joaquin Valley in California 90 years ago, just when intensive agricultural development began. There is nothing like having your own escort - it makes traversing cities so much easier without the nuisance of things like traffic lights, dedicated turning lanes, and staying to the right side of the double yellow line in the middle of the highway. I would have thought is odd a few years ago to see a large billboard sign recognizing a political official for his or her accomplishment bringing a development project to the area. But is really isn't much unlike the same thing we can see here in the United States - maybe the only the style of the presentation differs.

Regardless, I saw more birds in this one day than my two earlier trips to China all added together. It was a closed-60 tour - windows up and driving 60 miles an hour - but availability of birds was striking compared to the Beijing area and it surrounding environs, as well as the part of Inner Mongolia I saw two years ago.

Northern Pintail Duck (?)
Pacific Diver
Black Swan
Ring-necked Pheasant ad pallasi
Red-rumped Swallow
Brown Shrike
Great White Egret
White Stork circling for a landing
Locals casually viewing birds

Friday, November 29, 2013

Mark Trail - First Colorado Sightings

Mule Deer buck at dusk
We moved to Colorado about five months ago, but up to this time, I have had no time to do any birding - not even casually. We regularly drive past the Fossil Creek Wetlands area near our home, but I haven't tried to make a stop. There was an article in the Denver Post earlier this week about the Mallard migration having peaked. Also mentioned were Canada Geese, that I know, but also White-fronted Geese and Ross's Geese which I have no idea what they look like.

Dark-eyed Junco
For Thanksgiving week, our daughter and her family flew in from Oregon, and our oldest son and his family drove up from the Denver area for the long holiday weekend. Earlier in the week, we drove to Littleton, and our son drove the men to the near-by hills for a hike, while the ladies did some holiday shopping. Mount Falcon Park was only 30 minutes away from their place. After the short walk up to the Eagle Eye Shelter, I saw a few Dark-eyed Junco searching for seeds among dried grass tussocks. They would fly up into the trees when anyone would walk near them, but drop back to their places on the ground where they would keep up their search. There were many Mule Deer in the fields along the road leading up to the park. While walking down from the shelter, three deer ran across an open meadow when they realized their way up a road along a wooded area was blocked by four hikers coming towards us. On the drive out of the park, a large buck was grinding his antlers on a power pole next to the road. We stopped to snap some photographs - but our son kept his car in gear, just in case the animal decided to make a move our way.

Mountain Cottontail Rabbit tracks
I remember reading Mark Trail in the Fresno Bee Sunday comic section when I was the age of my grandchildren. Earlier this week on Sunday afternoon, our Daughter's son wanted to play in the little bit of snow that was still on the lawn on the north side of our house. There were Mountain Cottontail rabbit tracks running across a patch that our grandson had not trampled. Seeing the marks, I thought about seeing a piece about different animal tracks in a long-past Mark Trail episode.1
1 A general guide example can be accessed here. A technical paper published by the U.S. Forest Service can be accessed by clicking here.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Veterans Day - 2013 - A Poem Remembering

Adam - Meal after Mike's Last Walk
Adam Dickmyer was killed three years ago - the first casualty of the wars who we knew - the first military funeral we have attended - experienced the sad expression on a widow's face. Times to remember. We have been a military family for ten years: one son an Army Veteran, a second a deployed Navy pilot. I assume there are ways parents are affected by their Veteran children's responses to the conflicts caused by our broken world. Adam's death sent our family into a journey we hadn't expected - our Veteran son was safe his time in the Army - so we thought. A year ago was a period with months added to months of times before, and times of months since, that have consumed our thoughts - the consequences of military conflicts that may not be seen, may not be so obvious as the final losses of ultimate sacrifices.

Veterans Day 2013 – A Poem Remembering

The evening paper in its plastic sleeve rests on the driveway concrete,
Touching the grass lawn skirt at the edge.
It’s 2:00 AM, February 1.
I had just driven home from the airport –
A short, two-night business trip to cold St. Paul,
And now home – the house is empty.

The paper lying there was a novelty –
Knowing she wouldn’t be home for a while –
My wife put on a delivery hold starting December 10.
With all that was planned in the upcoming weeks,
And the unknowns:
Navy Winging Ceremony in Corpus Christi,
A granddaughter’s birthday,
And a month later a grandson’s, too,
Christmas in Oregon,
All my comings and goings for work travel,
Uncertainties, our Army Veteran son
Set up with a new psychiatrist –
Our frail hopes already worn thin the past two years,
His frail hopes worn far worse than ours’– close to being gone;
At that time, the beginning of February
Seemed far enough out to resume delivery.

She comes home tomorrow night.
It’s been a long time since we sat together in our house,
Reading the paper.

February 3, 2012 
April 21, 2015. It was not acknowledged by The Veterans Administration that our son was suffering from a service-related condition until the end of May 2014. 

Veterans Day 2013 - Time Capsule

Old newspaper headline
Jan, her brother, and sister came across an old newspaper when going through some things in their Dad's garage - the headline tells the whole story. Her dad was in the Army Signal Corp in Morocco - one of the Veterans in our family.

Remembering the Veterans in our family: An old newspaper Jan, her brother Tom, and sister Nancy found in their dad's garage. Ernie was a WWII Veteran - Army Signal Corps stationed in Morocco. Thanks to him, my dad (post-war Japan) and Uncle Gordon (Army in Europe) and Uncle Mike (Army), Jan's brothers Tom and Mark (Navy during Vietnam), and brother-in-law Jim (Army during Vietnam), brother-in-law Allan (Air Force Academy and Air Force), and our son Mike (Army Global War on Terror, Washington, D.C.) - our deployed Navy pilot Tim, too. Three generations of Veterans in our family.