Friday, May 20, 2016


 I wrote this post for the JTI back in March of 2016...

There is nothing like serenity for tired eyes, especially in the mornings. Aside from a little bit of traffic, the country roads at 5:30 A.M. are usually quiet and peaceful. Therefore, going to work at this hour can be a blessing. Sometimes it's a curse.

Recently, it was a curse....

I'm driving down this serene back road, alone and radio is on to keep me company. The moon glow is beautiful on these darkened streets. There is nobody around for miles! Nothing to worry about except for an occasional critter. I'm in my peaceful world....

About a third of the way to work, I see something that resembled a small star behind me in my rear view mirror. (Mind you, I drive a car similar to a PT Cruiser)  Nothing to worry about, yet. Seconds later, lights flood the interior of my car, blinding me! What is this thing? An amusement park ride? A U.F.O.? A spaceship? Is E.T. on board? Am I going to be abducted? Should I worry? You guessed it, it is a 4 x 4 SUV of some model with luminous headlamps, fog lights, cab lights and a disco ball.

"Go around", I thought. Minutes later, it's still kissing my exhaust pipe. The temperature is rising. My corneas are slowing burning... I'm fumbling around a glove compartment for sunglasses. Maybe, I'll find some sunscreen. WHY!

I get to a corner to make a left hand turn. Can't see a thing, because of this blinding white light. Am I going to be interrogated? Is there a baseball bat to bust out some lights?  Well. I have to make the turn. Going for broke, I gunned the car and made the turn, barely. At least, I lost whatever that was....

As I was making a sigh of relief, this supernova reappeared in the rear view, again! "Seriously!" I screamed. Time get some distance between me and this, I floored the gas. 60, 65, 70 mph (in a 50 zone) and Captain Kirk is still right behind me!

I get about two blocks from work and the lights disappear. The Enterprise has changed is course, assuming to dock its work at the Death Star. Its a peaceful ride from here.

I'm still seeing spots......

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Best Songs of 2012

2012 was a great year for music. The big surprises were the veterans of rock and roll making huge comebacks... let's start with the honorable mentions.

Joe Walsh: Analog Man from Analog Man
Bruce Springsteen: Land of Hope and Dreams from Wrecking Ball
ZZ Top: Flyin' High from La Futura
Beach Boys: That's Why God Made the Radio from That's Why God Made the Radio
Iron Maiden: Blood Brothers from En Vivo!

10) KISS Long Way Down from Monster: I had long ago dismissed KISS as nothing but a bunch of rehashing, money hungry and commercialized comic book clowns. As a young teenager, I had idolized these guys, then watched them go on a downward spiral to a mockery of rock and roll. Adding insult to injury, by donning costumes on newcomers Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer revisiting the roles of original members of Ace Frehley and Peter Criss. I vowed to never see KISS in concert after the facts. Enter my future stepson-an obsessed 26 year old KISS fanatic... He turned me into this album. Surprised! It is their piece of work since 1977's Love Gun. Recorded on analog equipment with a modern twist, KISS retakes their glory days with chock full of party anthems. The way that KISS should sound.

9) Soundgarden Been Away too Long from King Animal Taking where they left off 16 years ago, Soundgarden sounds like haven't skipped a beat. King Animal is a big, bright album, executed with precision and professionalism. Filled with strong and catchy kooks, Kim Thayil's deceptively sinewy guitar work fills the atmosphere with his signature sound from the Gothic like riffs to psychedelia. Chris Cornell's modulated wail fits well, anchored by the rhythm section of Bill Shepard and Matt Cameron, which is a testament to their innate chemistry....

8) Aerosmith Street Jesus from Music from Another Dimension The Toxic Twins and crew seemed to patch up their differences long enough to put out their first album of original materiel in eleven years. Their strongest since 1993's Get a Grip. Enter the song, "Street Jesus"- a raucous, gritty, balls to the wall rocker that recalls their classic days of Toys in the Attic and Rocks. One huge catch to the album though. A third of it was weighed down by the American Idol influenced ballads (including a duet with Carrie Underwood) that screamed sell out.

7)  Chris Robinson Brotherhood Rosalee from Big Moon Ritual Even though the Black Crowes are on hiatus right now, it doesn't mean singer Chris Robinson has exactly been idle. Sounding more like the Grateful Dead than the Black Crowes, the music just flows with the tide-never diving into murky waters, instead into a pretty sunset. This isn't just a self conscious retro revival here it's more or less a band that seems to be doing what comes naturally.

6) Counting Crows Jumping Jesus from Underwater Sunshine The Counting Crows are a difficult band to explain... They are extremely talented. The groups instrumental interplay are a reminder of a modern day The Band. Singer Adam Duritz lyrical style rivals Bob Dylan, creating a visual landscape that is almost unparalleled by anyone. Question is why an album of cover tunes? The answer is quite simple. Because they can. The tune "Jumping Jesus" my oh my, stands out. It makes me feel like a pile of sunshine.

5) Heart Fanatic from Fanatic Heart has made a wise decision to return their hard rocking roots. Rightly so, the atmosphere of this album feels much like their fifth release, Bebe La Strange. The opening hearty power chords of the title track, along with Ann Wilson's huge voice can deliver more than enough energy to rattle the farthest corners of an arena. Even on the softer sounds on this record can bring an emotional hook that goes beyond sheer volume.

4) Neil Young and Crazy Horse Ramada Inn from Psychedelic Pill Music is a box of chocolates when it come to Neil Young, never know what you're going to get. In the case with Psychedelic Pill, it is the golden cream filling. Working with his long time band, Crazy Horse, Psychedelic Pill was born from extensive jam sessions in the studio. The sprawling 16 minute track, Ramada Inn, takes a listener on a musical journey though the past with laid back powerhouse chords and extended solos. Feels like I'm on the vintage Route 66. And that is one the shorter tunes. It may sound overindulgent, but with the profound lyrics and the emotional guitar interplay, the album seems to have a spiritual effect.

3) Led Zeppelin Kashmir from Celebration Day I know, it's an old song performed from their reunion concert at the O2 Arena in London in the December of 2007. Recorded, filmed and then tweaked and released last month by the legendary band. For those who missed the countless bootlegged YouTube videos, it's all here in one neat package. After 27 years since Led Zeppelin performed their last concert, it is apparent that these rock gods haven't lost their mystery and magic. Jason Bonham, the son of the late "Bonzo", does his dad proud on the skins. Robert Plant's banshee wail has aged gracefully like fine wine. Jimmy Page still can play the riffs and solos like the days of old. John Paul Jones still hasn't lost his touch on the keys and bass. Four years after the show, the band still are dodging questions on a reunion tour. This could easily be the last testimony of this legacy. A fitting one as well...

2) Van Halen Outta Space from A Different Kind of Truth  After so many years of fumbling dysfunction that reduced the once-proud Van Halen name to a laughingstock, A Different Kind of Truth proved the skeptics (including me) wrong. Against all reasonable expectations, this a real Van Halen album! Diamond Dave is back in fold along with Eddie Van Halen's son replacing Micheal Anthony on bass. The album is relentless. It takes you by the jugular and drives down high octane rhythms and adrenaline guitar solos and never lets up. No ballads, no keyboards and no bullshit. It's simply Vantastic! Please read my full review here

1) Rush Clockwork Angels from Clockwork Angels Rush is a band that never seems to stop growing, they evolve. taking form over the years, yet never losing their signature sound. This Canadian power trio makes a long awaited return to the prog rock concept albums that they perfected with 2112 in 1976. Loosely based on a novel written by Kevin J. Anderson, this set sprawls, embracing everything from metal and prog to electric jazz to flamenco touches -- and more. Varied musical shades jostle up against one another, keeping the listener not only engaged, but delightfully surprised. It's no wonder why the Rush fan base keeps growing after 36 years...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Back Where It all Began

The balls of my feet dug into the sand as I ran up the hill towards the parking lot. I just had spotted a Merlin chase an American Crow across the sandy woodland towards the parking lot. By the time I had reached the asphalt edges of the paved lot they were gone-vanished.... No photo, no piece of the action. Well, at least I got to see a Merlin, my first official sighting ever. I was happy with that. Walking back to where I came from, I spotted a Black Capped Chickadee in a bush. By the time I had my camera pointed at him, he was gone. A Double Crested Cormorant was drying its wings on the rocks just off of the second pier.... Got a snapshot of it.

Then the real action started....

Out from the blue and coming in from the west, was the Merlin-still chasing the crow! The hapless crow maneuvered downward into a nearby half bare tree as the Merlin overshot its strike and landed in a tree to the north. Far to distant and well covered for a decent shot. Not for long.... The pint sized falcon fired out from its roost at the crow, flushing it out of the tree, making a loop in the process. The chase was on again! Zooming towards me, I literary had a bird's eye view of this life and death struggle. The action was so fast paced that I couldn't ever get my camera ready. "Get 'em, get' em, GET 'EM !" I screamed, silently cheering for the raptor. I was amazed how diligent and small the Merlin was compared to the crow. It was about half the size of its prey! Must be hungry... The crow swerved to right and landed on a tree behind me while the Merlin landed in another nearby tree. This was an opportunity for a picture. I made off with three quick snaps before the chase resumed. With lightning speed over my head, the crow dipped down into another tree and Merlin overshot again! This time, it just flew off to the north and headed towards the lighthouse.

Merlin Shoop Park Racine WI 10 24 2012
It's not the greatest picture I had ever taken, yet I feel lucky and honored to even get this shot. The field of opportunity was quite small and I had to utilize whatever resources I had for a pic. My Sony DSC-H2 camera isn't the the most wildlife friendly one around. No high speed shutter, no interchangeable zoom lens and focusing it can be a pain. Yet, I've gotten some great pics off it. It's the opportunity to be out there and being able take these pics that drive me. It's just like hunting, except I bring home a picture instead of a carcass.

Just how did I get started with this birding anyways?

Growing up, my grandparents used to have this cottage along a lake in the boondocks of Northern Wisconsin. A big platform bird feeder was perched about six feet tall outside our picture window in the kitchen. A potpourri of birds came to the feeder-Blue Jays, White Breasted Nuthatches, Black Capped Chickadees, Dark Eyed Juncos, Downy Woodpeckers, House Finches, Indigo Buntings, Morning Doves and occasionally Northern Cardinals. If we were real lucky, Evening Grosbeaks.In the lake there would be Mallards, Common Loons, Great Blue Herons. Sometimes an Osprey or a Bald Eagle would snatch a fish from the blue waters. I'd sit there for hours with a field guide and stare... That is, till my mother kicked me out into the woods.

In the woods was another paradise. I remember family excursions in our '64 International Truck. The engine would be ticking away through the muddy fire lanes. 4 x 4 snow tires dug deep in the ground, insuring that we would never get stuck. We would shine a spotlight on an American Woodcock, Ruffed Grouse, Snowshoe Hare, Ermine or a White Tailed Deer that happened on our path. If we were lucky a bear.

Canoeing on the creeks and bogs nearby were quite an experience. Painted Turtles basking in the sun on the logs. Cedar Waxwings and Belted Kingfishers perched on trees, looking out for their prospective preys. Beaver slapping their tails on the water alerting others on the oncoming danger. Paradise.

Then there were family vacations to the national parks out west....Yellowstone, Glacier, the Badlands, Crater Lake, Rocky Mountain, the Grand Tetons and more... Roosevelt Elk, Pronghorn Antelope, Black Tailed Tailed Prairie Dogs, Mountain Goat, Moose, Pikas, Yellow Bellied Marmots, Western Tanagers, Clark's Nutcrackers, Mule Deer and a slew of other creatures we saw... This is about time I started my wildlife photography...on a Vivitar Pocket Camera.
Yellow Bellied Marmot Rocky Mountain National Park  Colorado 1983

Somewhere, somehow, someway I lost connection. Life got in the way, I guess. I didn't do anything photography wise for years, save a few pics here and there. It wasn't till this late last winter when I was bitten by the outdoor bug.  Tender Heart Bear and I were out driving around looking at scenery at the harbor. We noticed the Mallards there. "Too small to be Mallards" I thought. Besides, they were diving underwater instead of dabbling like Mallards normally do. They were Red Breasted Mergansers. I had never seen them before. The next day we came back, they were still there, along with Lesser Scaups and American Coots. Later we started seeing Buffleheads and Eared Grebes in the harbor. Needless to say, I was impressed in what I was seeing. It was time to brush the dust off of the camera....

It was a start of a new hobby, something Tender Heart and I could do together as loving couple. As the summer approached, our interest bloomed as we swapped the camera back and forth, now taking pictures of wildflowers along with the wildlife. A team we became... We began to "discover" hot spots, hitting the woods, trails and beaches of Samuel Meyers Park, Shoop Park, Smolenski Park, Nicholson Wildlife Refuge and Trout Ponds Conservatory. We even spread our wings towards Richard Bong State Recreational Area, Chiwaukee Prairie Nature Reserve and to the crown jewel of Wisconsin, Horicon National Wildlife Refuge. Along the way, we managed to identify (as of this posting) 126 species of birds (Photographed 105 of them, including an unconfirmed sighting of the endangered Whooping Crane) and 120 species of wildflowers and plants. That's a lot! And we have just begun....

Winter is coming around real soon. Flowers are shriveling up and drying, The birds are migrating southward. Soon the lakes will ice up and the snow will fall. Yet, it doesn't mean that we'll be hanging up the camera. It just means that we will be preparing for spring and rest of the 2013 season... We will be spreading our wings even further.....Never where the trail will leads us....

I'll leave you with some of my favorite photos....       

Eastern Bluebird Petrifying Springs Kenosha WI 4 29 2012

Tree Swallow Trout Ponds Conservatory Caledonia WI 528 2012 

Great Egret Smolenski Park Mt Pleasant WI 8 25 2012

Red Tailed Hawk Hwy 47 between Keshena and Shawano WI 7 1 2012

Red Knot Shoop Park Racine WI 5 26 2012

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Horicon Marsh

Exited Hwy 41 north from Milwaukee just north of Lomira and then hung a left on 49. The rolling rural plains were dotted with towering wind turbines that kissed the sky. Rolled pass a little town called Brownville, making our way towards the western horizon. Coming around a bend we could see the vastness of the aviatory crown jewel of Wisconsin-the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge.

The Horicon is a vast sprawling wetland that covers over 32.000 acres in size, making it the largest freshwater marsh in the United States. The marsh provides habitat for endangered species, like the Whooping Crane and the Trumpeter Swan , and a critical rest stop for thousands of migratory ducks and geese coming from Canada. Not only waterfowl can be found here, nearly 300 species of birds, White Tailed Deer, Red Fox, River Otters, Muskrats, Snapping Turtles, Garter Snakes, and many other animals call the marsh home. It's an outdoor paradise!

Tender Heart, my son and mine's first stop was at an observation point near Wild Goose Road. Numerous wildflowers like the brilliantly beautiful Golden Ragworts, Orange Milkweeds, Pink Coneflowers, and Late Purple Asters blended with the lush green grasses and cattails, filled the countryside with a rainbow of color. A picture perfect moment! Just over the hill we noticed a small partially dried up pond with a Mallard a a couple of Blue Winged Teals. Fearful of the drought that had stricken Wisconsin, we were hoping this wouldn't be the extent of the wildlife we will see. Undeterred, we moved forward....

Exited the parking and drove westward on 49, thus came my first surprise-a Lesser Yellowlegs! (First picture below)I've only seen a couple of these before at Smolenski Park. The little guy kept walking around, wading into swallow pools, probing its long bill around in search of food. Behind him, were a count of seven Sandhill Cranes hanging around of couple of Canada Geese. Moving down the road along the gravel shoulder I could see the the pond widen up into a small lake. My mouth.... just... dropped!

A cornucopia of birds! It was like the Garden of Eden before my eyes as my count began... One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight Blue Winged Teal -the white crescent markings behind their blue beaks were distinct. Five Mallards were floating along. Oh wait! Another teal sunning itself on a waterlogged stump. A couple of Canada Geese swam by. As I peered into my binoculars deep into the flocks of waterfowl, I could see a Pied Billed Grebe (see first picture below) diving into the water. Safety in numbers they say.... A Great Blue Heron (second picture below) was standing close to the road waiting for a photo opportunity. My camera whirred and clicked in response.

As the car crept forward, I could the crunch of the gravel under the wheels. As the pond was getting wider and wider, the more abundant these winged wonders became...Three Northern Shovelers foraged the waters. Four more Pied Billed Grebes appeared. In the distance, I could see three American White Pelicans bobbing in the water. A Bald Eagle appeared and landed on a tree way in the back. Far too distant for a picture. Twelve Great Egret were sighted in a back swamp. I was starting to get overwhelmed here. Tender Heart grabbed a pen and a receipt from the glove compartment and started to write things down. Coots! (see first picture below) There had to be hundreds of them! I saw at least a hundred of Tree Swallows hovering close the mudflats. I wondered about this bizarre behavior. A Black Crowned Night Heron was sighted. A Double Crested Cormorant was sunning itself with its wings stretched out on a bed of Ring Billed Gulls. (see second picture below). Eight more Sandhill Cranes flew overhead. In the distance, I could see something in the tall grass with a long tan white neck and white body. A juvenile Whooping Crane? No. A later look in my photos revealed it was a Trumpeter Swam. A good find!

It took us an hour to cover a mile long stretch of road. It was time to seek out other places in the refuge. Westward we went again. We saw a sign that said Auto tours and trails. Interesting. Intrigued, we went along this half hour ride. The ride was scenic and serene. It offered a good view of the diverse countryside. Interpretive signs along the way pointed out the different sights to see-rolling prairies filled with colorful flowers, a brilliant red Northern Cardinal flew across the road into the woods and marshes were filled with Blue Winged Teals (first picture below) and Great Egrets (second one below).

Fascinated by a floating boardwalk sign at the end of the Auto Tour Road combined with the need to stretch my legs, a path over a marsh is a perfect place to take a hike. Zigzagging across a scenic march filled with Golden Ragwort laced mudflats, this wooden planked path not only exhibits an observation tower and bridges, but an excellent view of wildlife. By about this time, I had lost count of everything. I saw two more Lesser Yellowlegs. A lone Great Egret was preening itself on a mudflat. Dozens of more Canada Geese hanging with many more teals and Mallards. This is heaven I thought. Walking over a bridge, I heard a call of an Eastern Phoebe. Looking around and there it was, sitting on a branch. Snap! A picture was taken. Saw a Northern Waterthrush fly by. An Eastern Kingbird landed nearby. Snap! Another picture. A Sora Rail (see picture below) came out from the tall grasses and played hide and seek with me. Snap, snap! Another few more pictures - all in a few minutes of time! Just is too great to be true!

As we climbed back into the car, Tender Heart and I noticed the time. We had spent over three hours in this paradise. "It's getting late" she says, "and we have business to take care in Racine". "I know", I whined, "but I'm having fun!". "I know that, Babe, but we'll be back again, I promise", she answers. And we shall....For we haven't even barely scratched the surface of the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, especially this early in the migratory season... Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Wolf Hunt Controversy

Despite criticism from both sides of the debate, the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board recently unanimously approved a gray wolf hunt.

The harvest limit was set at 201 animals, nearly a quarter of the state's population. Hunters and farmers seeking relief from wolf attacks on their livestock argued at the that the number was too low, pointing out the DNR has estimated as many as 880 wolves may roam the state, far exceeding the department's goal of 350.

According to the DNR, there were 162 wolf packs active in Wisconsin in 2010, including 23 in Central Wisconsin and 139 in Northern Wisconsin. A pack consists of at least two adult wolves, and at least 47 of the packs had five or more wolves.

Those are just some of the facts I just read out of the Shawano Leader. Here's what I kno
w already... Wolves are the largest wild member of the canine family. They are highly sociable and live in packs up to six to ten animals, led by a dominating alpha male and female. The dominant pair is a charge of the pack, raising the young, capturing food and maintaining territory.

A wolf pack's territory may cover up 20 to 120 square miles. That is a lot of ground to cover! A fact that does invite conflict with wolves biggest enemy, humans. Remember this, wolves by nature are shy and timid around people and are rarely seen.

A glimpse of Wisconsin's history with wolves may offer insight on the strug
gles between man and wolf, according to the DNR... Before Wisconsin was settled in the 1830's, wolves lived throughout the state with a estimated population of 3,000 to 5,000 of these creatures. Explorers, trappers and settlers transformed the native Wisconsin habitat into farmlands, hunted the bison and elk to extirpation, and reduced deer populations. As their prey species dwindled, wolves began to feed on easier to find prey-livestock. This did not go too well with the farmers, whom put pressure the Wisconsin Legislature to put a bounty on the wolves. By 1960, wolves were declared extirpated from the state.

A similar story occurred among the lower 48 states with the exception
of Minnesota, which claimed to have 350 to 500 wolves in their state. In 1974, the federal government recognized the dire need of the wolves by placing them under the protection of Endangered Species Act, making it unlawful to kill the wolves. About this time frame, some wolves from Minnesota reentered Wisconsin and established home in the northwest corner.

In 1979, the DNR began an extensive recovery program for the wolves by the intense monitoring of these creatures. Attempts to capture, attach radio collars and radio-track wolf movement throughout the state. Part of recovery program was not only to educate, provide legal and habitat protection and provide compensation for problem wolves, but to set a goal to reach 350 wolves in the state for reclassification to a threatened species. This goal was reached in 2004. As of
now, there are about 880 of them.

As their numbers increased, so did the the conflict between man and wolf. In 2012 so far, there has been eight confirmed cases of wolf depredation in the state, six of them to livestock and other two to hound dogs. So far the state has paid out $214,794 this year in compensation for the losses. (Some of them may be fraud). This raises a concern to farmers and dog owners. A concern that may be well valid.

The hunting season will begin Oct. 15. Permit sales will begin Aug. 1, with an application of $10. License fees are $100 for residents, $500 for nonresidents.

This whole thing raises some thoughts out of me. 880 wolves doesn't seem too big of a number to me compared to about 1.16 million deer and about 40,000 bear in Wisconsin. Are the farmers using wolves as scapegoats? True, wolves are carnivorous creatures that have attacked livestock. Yet, the bear population has exploded in the the northern regions of Wisconsin in an alarming rate, creating a nuisance out themselves. And yes, they are being hunted. Are the bear responsible some of the attacks? At an 880 wolf count is a wolf harvest really necessary? I understand the farmers' plight, for they do have a right to their investments. Is $719 for a lost cow or $1500 for a lost hound enough compensation? Would getting rid the wolves solve the problem?

I'm not a NRA lover nor a PETA activist. I draw my line the middle somewhere. I don't hunt, yet my father does and I have no real issues those who do. He has taught me t
he integrity of a good hunter, that is take what you need and leave alone the rest. However, I do enjoy spending time the in woods taking wildlife pictures. I dream of the day where I can gaze into a wolf's eyes just before I snap a shot, for I have never seen a wolf in the wild (save for a few tracks). Wolves are an integral part of nature's ecological system. They help keep the deer population under control by feeding on the young, old, sick and the weak. It's the way Mother Nature conducts her business....

What do you think about proposed wolf hunt? What are your thoughts?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Deep Purple Keyboardist Jon Lord Passes Away

"Jon passed from Darkness to Light"

Former keyboardist from the legendary hard rockin' British band, Deep Purple, has passed away at the age of 71. Straddling a Hammond B3 organ, Lord 's powerful, driving tones helped turn Deep Purple and Whitesnake into two of the most popular hard rock acts in the '70's and the '80's.

Pioneering classical-blues fusion into his trademark Hammond/Leslie combo, Lord was a founding member of Deep Purple in 1968. Lord pushed the Hammond-Leslie sound through Marshall amplification , creating a growling, heavy, mechanical sound that gave a rhythmic counterpoint to guitarist Ritchie Blackmore's lead playing. It also allowed Lord to compete with Blackmore as a soloist, with an organ that sounded as heavy as a lead guitar. Here is some of the greatest rock classics like "Smoke on the Water", "Space Truckin'", "Highway Star" and "Child in Time" came from...

Deep Purple dissolved in 1976 and Lord went on to Whitesnake with vocalist David Coverdale. Feeling the pressure of a rather limited role with the band, he left to reform Deep Purple in 1984. The second coming of Deep Purple was successful, resulting a hit album Perfect Strangers and a high grossing reunion tour. Lord stayed there until his retirement in 2002. Since then, Lord has mostly worked on classical rock solo albums.

In 2011, Lord was diagnosed as suffering from pancreatic cancer, a normally swiftly developing and deadly form of cancer. Lord died on 16 July 2012, surrounded by his family at the London Clinic after suffering a pulmonary embolism.

Here is how I remember Jon Lord, back when I saw Deep Purple at Alpine Valley in the summer of '85....

May he rest in peace....

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Cheap Trick and Aerosmith at Summerfest

What a difference a few days can bring....

The heat wave that paralyzed Southeast Wisconsin, baking it like a blazing, superheated oven had moved over to the east. The cool winds over Lake Michigan had brought the much needed relief over the dry and parched landscape. Still no rain, at least not yet....

The standing room only on the shuttle buses were a sign of things to come. With the temperatures down to a more comfortable level in the high 70's, flocks of people migrated towards the Summerfest grounds, packing it like anchovies in a sardine can. It grew even more crowded as the day drifted along... As Tender heart Bear and I, along with some close friends of ours, filtered through the hordes met of with some good friends ours like, Aaron from the band Full Flavor and Dan and his lovely wife Cindy. Conversations were great and the beer flowed freely.

With heat gone, good beer and good friends is was perfect night for some good old fashioned rock and roll....

As the clock struck 8:00 (Or should say 10? It's a joke...) Cheap Trick burst into action, led the quirky guitarist, Rick Nielsen launched the band into their raucous blend of rock and roll. Trademark checkerboard guitars flashed in the spotlights while vocalist Robin Zander, dressed in his customary Dream Police cop outfit, belted out the words to classics like "Clock Strikes Ten" and "ELO Kiddies". The show was on!

After being bombarded by some classic tunes, Cheap Trick, kept rolling along, laying down some more... 12 string bassist Tom Petersson held his ground, thundering the audience with his own tune,"I Know What I Want". Nielsen tossed a KISS record so far in the masses, that it somehow managed to reach the middle of the arena on "Surrender". Zander sang his heart out during the "The Flame". The crowd roared to their feet upon hearing the first notes of "I Want You to Want Me'. Rick's own pride and joy. Daxx Nielsen, filling in on the drums for Ben E. Carlos set the the backbone for the band seamlessly. The biggest highlight of the show was the five necked guitar that Nielsen brought out in the closing number, "Goodnight" . Never have seen one those before....

At this point, Tender Heart Bear and I looked at each other as if to say, this going to be one a hell of a great night....

The setlist

Clock Strikes Ten
ELO Kiddies
California Man
Ain't That a Shame
Sick Man of Europe
Baby Loves to Rock
Need Your Love
I Know What I Want
The Flame
I Want You to Want Me
Dream Police

Aerosmith was the headliners for tonight's show... This is band that just won't quit rockin'! Aerosmith earned their stripes early in their career with their massive success of their phenomenal 1975 release, Toys in the Attic. Wildfire success followed by endless tours, drug and alcohol abuse and the the departure of the original guitarists Joe Perry and Brad Whitford, led to the downfall of this great American band.

Under new management, Aerosmith cleaned up their act and checked into rehab. After signing under a new label, Aerosmth reunited with the original members with a new attitude. Renewed, revived and ready to rock, this Aero Force was set to take on the world. Thanks to the help of MTV for spawning an unbelievable set of hit singles and albums, Steven Tyler and the boys set a course of world domination. A success story that still stands today and unparalleled by any other act ever.

Undaunted by the recent fiascoes surrounding Steven Tyler's employment as an American Idol judge and near break up rumors, these Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees come out to do what they do best....ROCK! Starting with the opening bars from their title track of their fifth album, Draw the Line, Aerosmith proved that they will never be forgotten. Joe Perry blazed his slide up and down his famed glass guitar. The Demon of Screamin' vocalist, Steven Tyler dressed in a black vest, a golden turncoat, jeans and a red bandana twirled his trademark scarf dressed mic stand to the sky as if the lead the band. The Toxic Twins were taking no prisoners!

As Aerosmith was barreling though their 19 song set list, they stuck basically to their golden classics from the '70's with a few great tunes from the 90's for good measure. Guitarist Brad Whitford led the band through a searing replica of "Last Child" from the Rocks album. Joe "F@#king" Perry seared the frets off his guitar on "Boogie Men" while he sang his ass off on "Combination". Tom Hamilton displayed his bass prowess, introducing the band to the legendary classic "Sweet Emotion"; even nudged Perry for a killer song ending guitar solo. Tyler rapped and danced has way through the fan favorite, "Walk this Way". Skin master Joey Kramer even banged his head (literary!) on the drums during his solo.

Their were many highlights in this show. For me, it was the between of the tossing of the colorful lights and the performances of "No More, No More" and "Lord of the Thighs" of the endless sea of cellphone lights of Tyler sat down on the piano to perform "Dream On". Only two songs, "Oh Yeah" and "Legendary Child" from their upcoming release, Music from Another Dimension were played. This is the classic Aerosmith show, the way it's meant to be played...The way I like it!

The setlist:

Draw the Line
Love in an Elevator
Oh Yeah
Livin' on the Edge
S.O.S (Too Bad)
Last Child
Drum Solo
Lord of the Thighs
Boogie Men
What It Takes
No More No More
Legendary Child
Sweet Emotion
Mother Popcorn
Walk This Way

Dream On
Train Kept a' Rollin'

As we were corralled out of the packed Summerfest grounds like herds of cattle through mazes of fences, I couldn't help my smile knowing I had witnessed a great show. Then again, I could tell you about the first time I saw Aerosmith. Seventh row at Alpine Valley... Then again, I could wait till another time....

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Alice Cooper and Iron Maiden at Summerfest

HOT and HUMID....

The words I'd describe the night... The temperatures rose to a sweltering 102 degrees while the moisture in the air made the humidity almost unbearable. I was wondering if we were going to make it. Water...the panacea of the gods, was a necessity. Armed with 24 oz refillable bottles of H2O, Tender Heart Bear and I strolled through the gates of Milwaukee's largest music festival, Summerfest. Slapped with Extreme Heat Warning by the National Weather Service, Summerfest provided the means necessary to find relief from the inferno: misting stations, air conditioned buses parked on the grounds and over staffed medical teams ready for emergencies.

It didn't stop us from having a good time... After we met up with good, close friends of ours, we strolled across the scorching asphalt to the Marcus Amphitheater to see Iron Maiden with special guest Alice Cooper. Surprisingly, it was a little cooler inside than I expected it to be. Thank god, for the gentle breezes off of Lake Michigan for some relief. Every little bit counts...

As the clock struck 7:30, the curtain dropped for the opening act, Alice Cooper. Six musicians burst into action, crowding the stage that was already filled by Iron Maiden's super-sized stage. On stage left was Ryan Roxie and Tommy Henrikson, both on the guitars. Filling the other side was the 27 year old blond guitarist Orianthi from Micheal Jackson's band and bassist Chuck Garric. Filling in the skins for Glen Sobel was Jonathan Mover. Where was Alice Cooper, the Master of Macabre himself? Perched high on the right stage pedestal wearing a mechanical spider arms like contraption belting out the words to "Black Widow". A vision of Dr. Oct from Spiderman came into my mind upon seeing this. The theatrics had begun...

The 64 year old rocker roamed across the stage like a confident and seasoned veteran. His conviction and charisma captured my undivided attention. The band, especially Orianthi (I originally thought that was Alice Cooper's daughter, but it ain't) rocked hard, bringing on the retro feel and bringing me back to the '70's. Well, almost... That odd feeling almost left me when we began to notice two young kids more half our age head banging and singing away to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. Thinking I knew a quite a bit about Alice Cooper, these kids knew more!

At this point, I was seriously getting into the show. Although crude at times, the macabre theatrics amazed me. Some of them I guessed would happen. After all, THIS is Alice Cooper, the shock rock king. The snakes, top hats, baton twirling, fake blood, the make up, the costumes, a guillotine and what? A 20 foot Frankenstein! And yes, in Alice Cooper's image... Each had its place among his set of classics- "No More Mr. Nice Guy", "Billion Dollar Babies", "I'm Eighteen", "Poison" and "Hey Stoopid". When the confetti fell on "School's Out" the show was over. I was begging for more....

The setlist:

The Black Widow
Brutal Planet
I'm Eighteen
No More Mr. Nice Guy
Hey Stoopid
Guitar Solo
Billion Dollar Babies
Feed My Frankenstein
Wicked Young Man
I Love the Dead
School's Out

Of course, the stars of the night fell upon the British heavy metal act, Iron Maiden. Maiden roared into the scene back in the '80's, mercilessly annihilating every other metal act out there at the time with their progressive rock like guitar structure and their dark storytelling imagery. With singer Bruce Dickinson soaring vocals and of course, their mummified mascot, "Eddie", the band was indestructible. During the mid '90's Dickinson left the fold and Maiden descended into obscurity with a forgettable singer. Twenty years later, Dickinson is back, along with the addition of a third guitarist, Maiden comes back to life again!

Wrapping the spotlight around tunes mostly culled from their 1988 release, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album, Iron Maiden mainly focused on their earlier work on this tour. Its a wonderful approach, yet it has its flaws. I'll try to explain as I go on....

Bouncing into action, Dickinson takes control of the stage and making it his domain. At the age of 53, his athletic skills are outstanding! He jumps and leaps over stage monitors. He runs around the back stage props like a demon unleashed, jacked up upon adrenaline like a Monster drink junkie. I seriously don't know were his gets his energy from. but it's unbelievable! And that was the beginning of the action...

From the opening bars of the show's first tune, "Moonchild", Steve Harris' rapid fire bass was relentless, thundering the arena into submission. The triple axe threat of the guitar trio, Dave Murray, Adrian Smith and newcomer Janick Gers intertwined and weaved through the endless time progressions, laying down maps of emotions, leaving listeners in awe- especially on the show's haunting centerpiece "Seventh Son of a Seventh Son". Driving a pulsating beat, connecting and combining the elements together, drummer extraordinaire Nicko McBrain lays down a solid foundation for the band to stand on... This is a force to be reckoned with!

While of the six piece band was driving a good show, the stage show itself was worth the price of the tickets. A U-shaped stage was set up to the likeness of the Seventh Son of a Seventh Son album cover along with a pyrotechnic galore and an elaborate set of props to go with it. Sparkling fireworks on the side and flames in the back, who needs the Forth of July fireworks at this point? It's all here! Along with a 20 foot "Eddie" dressed as a buccaneer dueling with the band and a larger than life "Eddie" similar to the Seventh Son album cover creeping up the back stage adorning flames on his head while holding an unborn "Eddie" still in the womb. Sounds strange, but awesome!

Was this my favorite show ever? No. The Rush show I saw two years ago was much better. The seats I were in wasn't the greatest. I couldn't even get a glimpse of Nicko's drum set. Although Maiden did play many classic tunes like "Run to the Hills" and "The Number of the Beast", I would have preferred to hear "Rime of the Ancient Mariner", "Flight of Icarus" and "Hallowed be thy Name" over "Fear of the Dark" or "Afraid to Shoot Strangers" any day. For the die hard Maiden fans this would work, but me....ehh....

The setlist:

Can I Play With Madness?
The Prisoner
2 Minutes to Midnight
Afraid to Shoot Strangers
The Trooper
The Number of the Beast
Phantom of the Opera
Run to the Hills
Wasted Years
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
The Clairvoyant
Fear of the Dark
Iron Maiden

Aces High
Evil That Men Do
Running Free

As for the heat, we endured....Grinned and bared it... Got relief on the shuttle bus on the way to our car. The temperature read 89 degrees.

This Saturday is Aerosmith with Cheap Trick....

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Arrival of Summer

"It's been a long time, been a long time, been a lonely lonely lonely time" cried Robert Plant over the crunch of Jimmy Page's bombastic guitars. Yes, it has.... May 14 was the last post I wrote here. Three posts in May. I've been seriously neglecting my blog lately. The problem is that ever since the weather has been warming up, I have been OUT there. Either I've been working overtime or skulking in the woods snapping pictures of wildlife; of which has been an obsession lately. Though I have several blog thoughts floating around in my cranium, (most them wildlife photos, anybody interested?) by the time I hit the keyboard I'm too wiped out to want to even write long posts.

On the contrary, being out there didn't mean hitting the rummage sales and thrift shops. I've been saving most of my hard earned dollars for some major events coming up this summer. However, I did stop at a few rummage sales, but the pickings were few...

Chicago: Greatest Hits Vol. II
Sammy Hagar: Marching to Mars
Joan Jett and the Blackhearts: I Love Rock n' Roll (my girlfriend wanted this one)
Alan Parsons Project: Eye in the Sky
Roxy Music: Avalon

I did pick up Bruce Springsteen's latest, Wrecking Ball and thought it was pretty good-much better than Devils and Dust and the Seegar Sessions, but not as great as his classic stuff like Born to Run, Born in the USA or even Working on a Dream. Maybe I'll warm up to it over time. Then there was a Robert Plant bootleg I picked up, a show with the Band of Joy from Kiev, Ukraine in July of last year. An excellent show featuring reworked versions of both Zeppelin and cover tunes. There are a quite a few head spinning surprises here that are worthy of a blog.

Anyways, this summer is going to be a very busy one. We're kicking it off a couple of weeks with a trip to Appleton to go to my girlfriend's niece's wedding. I just learned that I have been nominated to take pictures. I'm not a professional I keep telling them, I'm just a novice with a snap happy finger.. Geeze..

Following that in the end of June, starts Wisconsin's biggest music festival-Summerfest! Over 700 bands in ten days, more than enough music to satisfy my insatiable taste for rock and roll. ZZ Top, Gov't Mule, Steve Miller Band, Scorpions, and a slew of others are headlining the side stages . I've already landed tickets for two of the major headlining acts in the Marcus Amphitheater; Iron Maiden with Alice Cooper on July 4th and Aerosmith with Cheap Trick on the 7th. Both should be great shows, hopefully more of the older material will be played. I should doing a review on both shows.

The following weekend my girlfriend gets to watch her first grandchild while her son his girlfriend go see Motley Crue and other bands at Rock Fest up in Oshkosh. It ought to be a hoot watching a ten month old little girl wreck havoc in my little apartment. Knowing me, I'd end up spoiling her anyways.... Isn't that what grandparents supposed to do?

The fun doesn't just stop there, a pilgrimage to De Smit, South Dakota is in the works for the end of July. My girlfriend, whom I can describe her as a Prairiehead, is a fanatic of the "Little House on the Prairie" shows and books. We'll be traveling along Hwy 14 through Walnut Grove, Minnesota towards our destination trying to see the landscape though the eyes of Laura Ingalls Wilder. If we have time, we might make it down to Burr Oak, Iowa for a visit there. This should be an interesting summer.

So, what your summer going to be like?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Two Miles of Road

Sorry, that I haven't been around for awhile...I took a long needed break to the boondocks of Northern Wisconsin. Three days with no phone, no TV and no internet. Refreshing. However, I did bring back a story to tell...

It was that stretch of road on Hwy 47 between Black Creek and Langstad when it all happened... That is where the waters from the springtime rains overflowed the banks of Black Creek and White Lake, turning the surrounding basins into a marshy field. Abundant wildlife thrives there in the mid evening hours as the sun starts to drift toward the horizon. Armed with a camera while eyes were wide open, gazing over the farm fields.

"Crane!" Tender Heart called out as she slammed on the brakes of the car. Tires spit gravel as she wheeled the white Chevy around for a better view...

Sure enough, a pair of Sandhill Cranes were grazing on cultivated corn in a farm field. Standing at about 38 inches tall and with the wingspan of almost seven feet, the Sandhill Crane is one of the largest birds in North America. After seeing so many crane in these parts, it is hard to believe that this elegant bird was once endangered in the 1940's. Because of human intervention, the crane has thrived and flourished... It still remains endangered in several states.

While snapping away at the crane, Tender Heart taps me on the shoulder, "Sweetheart, I just saw something big fly into that tree over there". I saw it, but I wasn't sure what is was... "Probably a raven or a hawk, but let's take a better look", I whispered. We crept forward. I could hear the sound of crunching gravel under the wheels of the car. The humongous bird flew from the oak tree with a black bird chasing it. It was a Bald Eagle! I clearly saw the white head and tail as it turned around flew towards us, its seven and a half foot wingspan kissing the sky. The raptor then swooped down to about 200 feet away from us, snatching a Red-winged Blackbird with its massive talons. Somehow, the black bird managed to get dropped and fell to the ground as the magnificent bird of prey flew to its roost. This is where I took this snapshot...

Excited and satisfied with the series of photos (even though the traffic was blasting past us), we headed back on the road. We had a couple of more hours of travel ahead of us. We didn't even get more than a couple of miles before I called out,"Turkey!" On my side of road there were a dozen or so Eastern Wild Turkey in an unplowed farm field. Some of these gobblers were engaged in a courtship display trying to impress the hens. With their puffed up feathers, tails fanned out and wings dragging, they were so engaged in what they were doing that they barely even noticed us.

Just behind the turkeys, we noticed a White Tailed Deer foraging in the field. It was that time of the year that we couldn't tell if it was a buck or doe, for its antlers hasn't grown in yet. Mammals by nature, are more skittish than birds. To get a close up shot of our beautiful state animal was nearly impossible, even with my Sony DSC-H2 camera. To complicate matters, the animal was trotting off to the woods intending to get out of sight. After a short chase, I managed to get a shot of it glancing at us, just before it stepped out of sight....

We didn't get to our destination till WAY after nightfall, by then we have seen more turkey and deer along the way. It was worth it....

Monday, May 7, 2012

Wildlife Photos

Here it is, as I promised, another installment of wildlife photos. Instead of waterfowl, I'm bringing this one closer to home and into the backyards. Blackbirds are quite common everywhere, yet little is seemingly known in the difference between the species. Here are some of them found in the Racine area...

Above is a male Red-winged Blackbird. Picture taken at Pritchard Park. Red-wings are often found anywhere there is tall grasses and marches, especially among the cattails were they thrive. While the females tend to be a dusky brown in color, the males have red plumage on their wings. Red-wings are omnivorous, feeding mostly on seeds and wheat grains, however they'll snack on insects.

Above is the Common Grackle. Picture taken on a front lawn on Charles Street. These icterids can be easily found on lawns and open fields, often in flocks. This robin sized bird can be identified by a long tail and feathers that are appear black with purple, green or blue indescence on their heads. They'll eat most anything-often seen on the ground foraging for bugs, especially after a lawn trimming.

Above is the Brown-headed Cowbird. Picture taken at Roosevelt Park. Found where ever there are open fields and lawns, often foraging with Starlings and Grackles. Cowbirds are brood parasites, meaning they'll lay eggs in other bird's nests. The young Cowbirds are taken care of by the host parents in expense of their own young.

Above is the European Starling. Picture taken at Roosevelt Park. Commonly found on lawns and parks everywhere. Identified by the metallic sheen plumage and white spots. Often they are found foraging for insects among other blackbirds. This invasive species was introduced to the Americas by the English settlers in the late 1800's. Since then, they have adapted and multiplied to a point where they have become a nuisance.

All pictures here were taken by Tender Heart and me using either a Sony DSC-H2 Cyber-shot or a Sony DSC-W350 Cyber-shot. Wildlife photography is not easy. Animals don't pose for pictures, nor even stay still. Most often, they are gone before the camera is ever focused. For every good shot, a few are missed completely.

Here is a partial list of complete misses for last week...

A Red Fox with cub. (You know about that already)
A Green Heron at Trout Ponds (I finally got him this afternoon)
A Baltimore Oriole at Trout Ponds
A couple of Eastern Chipmonks at Sanders Park.

Never fear, I've a few dozen pictures ready to be posted and more coming as I head out there with armed with a camera. Some pics will SURPRISE you....

Thursday, May 3, 2012

3:30 A.M.

The sleep was still in my eyes... 3 A.M., the streets were dark, barren and void of life, at least so I thought. I made my way through the darkness, rolling along the desolate side street, headlights leading the way. Out of the corner of my eye, I see the yellowish gleam of eyes piercing the darkness. A cat I thought. As I was rolling along, almost beside her, I noticed the big ears and a bushy tail-the unmistakable characteristics of a fox! Amazed and gawking at this elusive creature, I couldn't hardly believe my eyes. I had only seen a few of them in wild.

I had just turned my attention to road before me when another critter suddenly appeared directly in front of my car. "Whoa!" I screamed, jerking the wheel violently to the left. Tires screeched and squealed. My heart was pounding as I rolled my Chevy to a stop. It was a baby fox! It was just a little smaller than a Chihuahua and twice as cute. I had never seen a baby fox before. I looked into my rear view mirror to see if I killed him. All I could see was darkness. Not wanting to let it rest, I turned the car around to survey the area.

There they were! Alive! Both the mama and her cub were standing on the sidewalk staring back at me. My camera! I remembered that I had my small camera in my dashboard compartment, just for situations like these. This could be a photo opportunity of a lifetime for me. As I was fumbling around for my camera in darkness, the sly pair started to trot off in the opposite direction. Damn! I slammed the car into reverse with wild abandon, the game was on! The hunter and the hunted. I had to get a photo. Foxes move fast, therefore I had split seconds to stop the car, roll down the window, focus the camera and snap a shot. By the time I stuck my camera out the window into the darkness, the foxes had slipped underneath a wooden fence and into the night.....

Wildlife photography is not as easy as it seems...

Monday, April 30, 2012

Nicholson Wildlife Refuge

In the past couple of months my girlfriend and I have been driving around the county taking pictures of wildlife and flowering plants. We've snapped some photos of some of the common backyard sights as well as some interesting surprises. We are hoping to educate as well as honing in on our photography skills. We are not exactly the Nation Geographic quality type of photographers, but we will sure try.

One of our stops was the little known Nicholson Wildlife Refuge here in Racine County. Located on 5 Mile Road between Nicholson Road and County Truck V, this 127 acre gem offers a paradise for shoreline birds like Great Blue Herons, Snow Geese, Canadian Geese, Tundra Swans, Mallards and Hooded Mergansers as well as Magnolia Warblers, Red Wing Blackbirds and Savanna Sparrows. Deer and Beaver also has been sighted there. Below is video I found on YouTube to give viewers a taste of what can be seen there. Just remember when visiting, it's the luck of the draw in finding anything. Sometimes you'll get very lucky...

This is just a prelude to what is to come...we are presently sorting through photos and taking more along way. So in the upcoming weeks, you'll see photos coming in...

Friday, April 20, 2012

New Rush Song

This is the latest song called "Headlong Flight" off of the new coming album, Clockwork Angels by Rush. It's due in stores on June 12. Hell yeah, I'm getting it!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Yesterday & Today

Been busy for the last couple of days.... Yesterday was my son's birthday. My little monster has grown to be a beast of a man at the young tender age of 15. (It's just a metaphor folks, not to be taken seriously). Actually, he's a great kid with a heart of gold. Had him over my place to enjoy a meal of my girlfriend's delicious mostaccioli casserole and cake. Its amazing, soon he'll be able to learn drive...(Lord, help me!)

The day's festivities were marred by the death of music icon Dick Clark. The world oldest teenager best known for his long running show, American Bandstand passed away at the age of 82. The cause of his death was after suffering a heart attack following a medical procedure in Santa Monica, California. Among other shows his gained fame from Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes and the $10, 000 Pyramid. He will surely be missed.

Today saw another passing of a rock and roll great, drummer Levon Helm of The Band. Helm was known for his deeply soulful, country-accented voice, and creative drumming style highlighted on many of the Band's recordings, such as "The Weight", "Up On Crippled Creek" and "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down". Just two days ago, his wife sandy and daughter revealed revealed that Helm had end-stage cancer. Fellow band mate Robbie Robertson had visited him the hospital a few days before his death. The great waltz in sky awaits...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

KISS Sighting in Shawano!

My girlfriend's son is a huge KISS fan. So am I, to a point... Imagine the surprise I got he sent me this pic.... I'm still laughing....

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Details on the New Rush Album

Just announced! The long anticipated release of the Canadian trio, Rush album Clockwork Angels is set for June 12, 2012.

The first two songs, Caravan and BU2B, were completed during that first session at Nashville’s Blackbird studios and performed nightly during the wildly successful Time Machine Tour, which ran from June 2010 to June 2011.

Work on Clockwork Angels resumed in the autumn of 2011 at Revolution Recording in Toronto after the tour’s finale, with additional strings (arranged by David Campbell) recorded at Hollywood’s Ocean Way Studios earlier this year.

Lyrically Clockwork Angels chronicles a young man’s quest across a lavish and colorful world of steampunk and alchemy as he attempts to follow his dreams. The story features lost cities, pirates, anarchists, an exotic carnival, and a rigid Watchmaker who imposes precision on every aspect of daily life.

The novelisation of Clockwork Angels is being written by science fiction writer Kevin J. Anderson in collaboration with Rush drummer and lyricist Neil Peart.

Rush will herald the release of Clockwork Angels with a new single Headlong Flight landing at rock radio on April 19. Details of a full-scale North American tour to support the new album will be announced shortly.

Can't wait!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Just Ducky

Seemingly, little do many residents of Racine know about the wildlife here in town. Much of it not in woods but right in front of us! A trip down to the harbor can yield an abundance of birds, mostly waterfowl. Though gulls and Canadian Geese are quite common around here, it's the ducks you've got to watch out for.

Mallards are a dime a dozen around here. Many of them are year round residents, often finding open water to wade in. Pictured above are the drake (left) and the hen (right) .

Looking similar to the Mallards are the Red Breasted Mergansers. Upon closer look, one would notice they are smaller and sleeker than the Mallards. Check out the spiky crest and thin red bill. Unlike the Mallards, they will dive and swim completely underwater for small fish, aquatic incests, crustaceans and frogs. Honestly, I haven't noticed them around till this winter.

Often hanging around the mergansers, I believe are the American Coots. Check out the short white bills on these small birds. These birds can be seen swimming in the open water. They can dive for food and forage for food on land. Coots will pretty much eat anything-plant material, arthropods, fish and other aquatic animals.

Remember, Lake Michigan is a migratory route for many species of birds. I've seen Lesser and Greater Scaups, Buffleheads and Harlequin Ducks on the lake shores over the years. Now, I'm waiting for the terns to arrive. Maybe I'll get a chance to video them dive bomb into the water...