Saturday, January 9, 2016

Robin Stroking

The bells of St. Marys
The first time I heard the term "Robin Stroking", I burst out laughing.  It didn't conjure up a nice image!  BUT it's not as bad as you might think really.  After a huge snow storm came to Wisconsin, I was kicked out of the serious bird chasing. Inside my head I screamed "NOOOOOOOO!!" At this point, I was resigned to watching my parent's bird feeders.  Or as what some call "Robin Stroking".  

My Mom hangs up feeders as we get them filled with food
According to bird guides(the funny ones), "Robin Strokers" are people who sit at feeders and casually bird. They also have the tendency to report common birds as rare bird sightings. For example, there's a birder up in Scottsdale who was excited to find a Western Grebe in a town lake behind his home recently. The nicer birders just grin.  


While finding a Western Grebe during our winter months is not rare, it is rare observing it in flight!  Look at how weak their legs are!
But some of the sassier ones will say something back (in a not so nice manner) and put that poor naive soul in his place. In every group, there are those people. While that is an exciting bird, it's certainly not rare:) Well my parents fit this description since they like to casually glance out their window at the birds before they sit down on the couch and watch their QVC and Days Of Our Lives programs.  After our snow storm hit (and dumped 13 inches on and around our house!), it was time to Robin Stroke hard!  So the day before the storm, I helped my mom get the feeders full of food for the starving birds. 

Papa Rohrer snow plows
Then Snow Storm Ashley hit Two Rivers more than any other city in Wisconsin!  I woke up and found my 66 year old father already snow plowing!  To make things worse, I saw my younger brother out there with him helping!!!  This was a firstborn fail on my part.  So I put on my snow gear and went outside to shovel the areas that couldn't be plowed. 

A Coopers is a pretty car to look at but it's not practical for Great Lakes driving in winter or spring
After shoveling for just 20 minutes with an aching back, I remembered why I moved to the desert a long time ago:)  Don't get me wrong, I liked the snow very much but I didn't like the idea that my parents could slip on the ice and get hurt.  My ride above, the Cooper's Hawk, was loaned to me for the week. But after getting stuck in some mud near a bog, I realized it was just a fancy car that had some fun gadgets. But PS!  Thank you Erica for loaning me the car!  I wouldn't have been able to see the Short-eared Owls or Whooping Crane without it!:)  But as most of us know, this car was not made for snow or the harsh elements. My chases would end. 

Northern Cardinals never looked better!
But I thought to myself, "Hmmmm.  There is an opportunity here."  I read all of your blogs and love all the birds in the snow photos.  Here was my chance to partake in such a rare experience.  So I got my camera ready and sat within the warm house and watched the colorful birds at the feeders.  If this is what it's like to be a Robin Stroker, I'm all for it! Well for awhile....:)

Hey!  You can kinda see the red belly of this Red-bellied Woodpecker!
But I became restless.  I turned into a whiny needy child. "Dad, can you drive me to Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary?" "Dad, can you take me to the cemetery?" And so on and so forth.  The snow was still falling and to me, sitting in the house is only good for so long.  I watched my Dad sigh as I pulled him out into the snow for a walk. 


Every time I go home, I enjoy visiting this area for some fantastic bird watching.  And while I've seen a million Canada Geese and Mallards, there's still something magical about walking in the snow with them.  Until a goose started stalking my Dad and began hissing at him:) *snickers to self*


The true gem of the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary is the American Black Duck(below).  It's one of the reasons why I love going.  Plus it's become a "Dad and Son" thing to do:) Then afterwards we go to Kroll's for lunch.  Dad usually orders his Seaburger(made with Haddock) and Onion Rings and I'll order my typical Taco Salad and Fried Cheese Curds.  Don't judge now:) Anyhow, these ducks will come right up to you for close examination.  To be honest, this place has had everything from Tundra Swans to Gulls to Pelicans and lots of other amazing woodland birds. 

American Black Duck
We sat watching the feeders(aka Robin Stroking) at the sanctuary for awhile before spotting a rare Common Grackle visiting during the winter months.  Not bad for sitting near a window and watching about a gazillion birds come to the feeders. Here is my ebird report.


And have you ever visited a silent forest in a cemetery on a winter's day?  It's not haunting.  It's.....magical.  I looked for Great Horned Owls and Eastern Screech Owls there, but I began to freeze my tuckus (took- ahs) off and whined myself back into the warm car.  My Dad watched birds from inside the car. Then I thought it would be cool to go to the lake and see if any loons or scoters were floating around the icy waters.  But it was rather COLD! 


If you've been watching the Netflix series, "Making A Murderer", you'll recognize this name:)  Yes, my hometown is just 15 minutes away from this gem of a family.   The bird gods thought it would be funny to have a Snowy Owl hang out around their salvage yard.  We didn't find a Snowy Owl, but we did see......


.......a beautiful Rough-legged Hawk.  All the days were overcast in Wisconsin.  After my visit, I reluctantly returned back to my sunny desert skies. Wisconsin is an amazing place full of wonderful people and good food.  There is a lot of history there.  It's a rough life, but it's a comfortable one just like JRR Tolkiens' Shire.  My home is the Shire. It's a place where people eat dinners together, play cards, watch Packer games and look forward to their deer hunting.  I never could watch Packer games nor shoot a living creature, but I certainly can relate to good conversations and memories.  And of course, there is nothing quite like the Wisconsin pride in their amazing outdoor attractions. During the summer, so many people come to visit us from all over the world.  It's a great place to bird and meet nice people. 

Rough-legged Hawk
From one extreme to another, I returned to the desert home and helped out with the bird count down near the Mexican border as well as chase an Oriole in Yuma. I collapsed from exhaustion during that trek and I think did some snoring along the way. A birder's life is like this often.  I am officially tired and exhausted. This year is going to be a calmer one.  But still, one of substance as you'll see.  Las Aventuras has a lot in store!  Until next time, stay warm and have an emergency supply of Chex Mix with you in case your car breaks down in the snow:) As for Robin Stroking, I get it.  


Point Beach State Forest
When 13 inches of snow falls down and traps you inside your house, your only hope is a 10 year old kid looking for some money who is only happy to shovel your sidewalks! In the meantime, we birders must survive, save our aging backs, sip our coffee and watch our bird feeders while our future generation saves us from manual labor:)  Happy New Year everyone!


Important holiday gear for birding.  Chex Mix so that you can survive. Camera, binoculars and thick gloves so you won't get frostbite.  Note scarf and hat were also very important.  My scarf became the most important thing to me while standing out in the middle of the lake in Manitowoc!  Frosty!

30 comments:

  1. I've enjoyed being a "Robin Stroker" and miss having feeders in Kanab. There's no place to hang one. Cemeteries are nice quiet places and a few birds are seen in the one outside my window but too far away. Glad you were guilted into helping even if back breaking work. Thank goodness for working 10 year olds. Is that a car or a roller skate? Nice to have things to do with your dad. BTW, I LOVE fried cheese curds!

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    1. I know right? Fried YELLOW cheese curds are the best:) I won't say this publicly but thank for the gods for kids who want to shovel. It took 4 of us to get rid of all the snow. Mom on the roof, Dad and Jared snow plowing and me to clean off the front porch and sidewalks. I can't imagine one person doing all of this alone. Yikes!

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  2. Look at the Snow! So happy to see some of my favourite birds and their bright colours, the blues and the reds, at your parents' feeders. I'm also glad you got to relive the joy and pain-in-the-back of a huge snowfall. I bet you appreciate "home" more than ever now ;)

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    1. I do:) I miss Wisconsin often as I get older, but I don't miss those gray eternal skies. It was nice to have sun again.

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  3. Is "rare Common Grackle" an oxymoron?

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    1. Yes it is! It was funny to add to the report:) They should rename it the longer.....Not so common grackle in winter:) Happy New Year to you!

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  4. That was a fun post. Sounds like good family time and what beautiful snowy photos with and without birds in them. Thanks for sharing. Happy New Year!

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  5. Never heard the term 'Robin stroking' Chris, but it's something that I probably spend too much time doing - it's possibly an 'age' thing!

    I envy the snow you had in Wisconsin. We've not seen any so far this winter, and barely any frosts - most unusual! Now I've said that I'll probably have a ton of the stuff drop on me next time I'm out!

    Best wishes - - Richard

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  6. Happy New Year Chris :) Love all the snow photos and would be over the moon to see some of those colourful birds at my feeders :) Great post.

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  7. Seems to me like Robin Stroking should be declared an honourable and worthwhile occupation.

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  8. Hi Chris, great post and birds. I am glad we have not had snow as of yet. Maybe some today. Sounds like you had an awesome trip back home. Happy Tuesday, enjoy the week ahead!

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  9. Gosh the poor birds in all that snow.

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  10. The magic and ecstasy of birding....in such a winter wonderland. I love the birds you shared, but my favorite...the one photo that steals the show today is YOU under the snow-laden tree with binos!!

    ....and your narration is tops.

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    1. Hi Anni! Love winter when I get a chance to explore. Thank you for the compliment. Snow and birds are great!

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  11. HA HA HA ---I have never heard the term--but I am a perfect example of a Robin Stroker.... I LOVE LOVE LOVE my Backyard Birds --and would be the first to say that I am not a 'true' Birder. BUT--I do enjoy these birds since we have a good variety in our area.... I love seeing 'other' birds --but just don't have the interest in it like you do... More power to you!!!!!

    I would never want to live in Wisconsin ---but I do love a little snow here once in awhile....

    Hugs,
    Betsy

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    1. Robin Stroking is great when you're writing blog posts. You can daydream and watch birds:) The best!

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  12. You are certainly having an interesting time!

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  13. Great photos and entertaining commentary! (And I recently binge watched Making A Murderer.)

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  14. Oh you all got some beauties and my favorite is the Rough Legged Hawk as I have never seen one in the wild before, Such beauty in the feather colours~

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  15. Joli post, de belles photos!
    Je te souhaite une belle année 2016 empreinte de bonheur, de joie dans la création!
    Bises Cath.

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  16. Great post!!! I read it to my hubby! We are "robin strokers" supreme because of our physical limitations, but I've been fortunate to see quite a few different kinds of birds in my yard and from the car windows and from a lawn chair beside a lake. :-) Not bad. I'll take what I can get! :-) You know, there were literally hundreds of birds (mostly sparrows and house finches, of course) hiding in the Texas sage on the edge of my yard when we moved in, and I counted that as a HUGE blessing! When we put the bird feeder up (and I don't keep it filled all the time) it encouraged them to stay and so many to visit that I have managed to get some pictures of the pyyrhuloxia, Abert's towhee, cactus wren and others. The goldfinches stick around even when I don't supply any thistle. I discovered the verdins attacking the hummingbird feeders and consider them special little visitors. This yard has been such a gift!

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  17. Hilarious Chris. Now you have really got me thinking. We have "Robin Strokers" in the UK but we don't have a suitable English term for such bird enthusiasts. We have real Robins with big red shiny breasts who are not averse to fighting for a suitable mate or showing off for the camera but we really need a unique title.

    Leave it with me for a while and I'll get back to you just as soon as I've topped up those feeders.

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    1. Ok:) Full feeders at my house make me happy. I don't know why. The bird seed costs so much money but I love my feeders and birds:) Our "Robins" are big like their human American counterparts:)

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  18. This post just made me smile and smile! our folks are so brave! How come they're not down here in Florida with all the rest of us Robin strokers? Actually you made winter days sound pretty good there, but I hate cold toes and fingers so ..... I've never heard the term Robin strokers , by the way. But I get it...I must have been lucky over the years to meet only the nice birders, because I've always gotten nothing but ID help and congrats when a bird is new to me, even if they've seen it a million times.

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    1. Most birders are great, but in Arizona we have a couple stinkers:) Winter is great but like you, it's the toes and face! I hate that numb feeling!

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  19. I meant to say too that it was delightful seeing your Mom & Dad and also your "old home place." I know it must have been wonderful being home for the holidays.

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    1. It was great Marie. Anytime I get chance to spend with the family is wonderful:)

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  20. Hola Chris. What beautiful snowy places. Love all the birds specially red cardinal, blue jay and red woodpecker.. I would like some day take pictures.. Best wishes for you and your family.. :-)))

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  21. I'm with you on the Chex mix...definitely a survival necessity. I reckon I could be called a robin stroker quite easily because I wouldn't know a wild bird from a common one..being a newbie in the bird watcher's club and all. I'm glad you got to spend time with your family. Have a wonderful weekend in the gorgeous desert. Beautiful country there...I am quite jealous this time of year when all I get to see are ugly browns.

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  22. Love the snow pics! Chex mix looks good. Nice duck pic. Love the rough-legged hawk. Never heard of Robin Stroking but apparently I do it all the time and several times a day! I've been cooped up here car-less for a week now and I can't WAIT to get out and bird someplace else! Great post. I hope I get to visit the shire with you one day!

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