Sunday, April 19, 2009

A Sunday Afternoon Drive

We were finally blessed with some much-needed moisture in the form of rain (not snow!) overnight and most of today. Because it wasn't really nice enough to do anything outside, Mr. Johnson took us for a turkey scouting/birding drive down to Fillmore County this afternoon. Here are some of the sights we experienced.

Because last week was quite nice, many of the farmers around here have started on their field work. We came across this old cemetery located some distance away from the road and in the middle of a cornfield. I don't remember ever seeing this cemetery before and once the corn gets tall, you would never be able to see it from the road.
I would have liked to walk over and look at some of the gravestones, but the ground was too muddy. I tried to find out more information on the internet, but this cemetery wasn't listed as one of the public cemeteries in Fillmore County. It looks very desolate on this dreary day, doesn't it?
(I was also extremely surprised these gravestones hadn't been vandalized and broken, as is so often the case of these old cemeteries in rural areas.)

We came upon an old dead tree that was a perfect roosting spot for some turkey vultures. Naturally they didn't sit still very long after we stopped the car for some pictures.
This was a lucky shot!

Fly away vultures!

We continued heading south and eventually ended up at Goethite WMA. On one of the ponds near the road, we spotted a large number of Blue-Winged Teals.
These pictures aren't the best, but the colors of their breeding plumage makes them easy to identify--especially the males with their large crescent-shaped white patch at the base of their bill.

While we were watching the ducks on this pond, I looked to my right and spotted another large flock of birds flying in the distance.
I quickly got my binocs on them and was thrilled to see it was a huge flock of white pelicans!
These were the first white pelicans I've seen this year. I haven't had a chance to travel down to the Mississippi yet this spring and I thought perhaps I might have missed the opportunity to see pelicans this year.
I love seeing these beautiful birds soaring in the sky. I only wish the skies had been clear today because the sight of these huge white birds with a blue sky in the background is breathtaking.

I like this picture because you can clearly see the "breeding horn" on the top side of their beak.
Did you know their wingspan is 9 feet? Here's the Wikipedia link if you want to read more about the American White Pelican.

Have a good week everyone!


Mama Pea said...

The cemetery you found looks to be really old by the grave markers. Too bad conditions weren't right for hiking through it. I'm sure it would have been super-interesting to read the inscriptions and dates. And you sure did see some birds of the BIG variety on your drive. Sounds like you made good use of a gray, drippy day. Thanks for sharing!

Kelly said...

...I always love visiting old cemeteries and studying the gravestones. They are works of art. Love your vulture photos (I'm partial to them!), and I love the White Pelicans. We had one here last year at the Oxbow. I hope to see one there again this year.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard of the Bateman Cemetery either. Where was it located? These old cemeteries really are a treasure and tell so many stories if you take the time to read the headstones. I too am surprised that the stones haven't been vandalized. It's probably too far from the road and would require walking on the part of some morons who aren't ambitious enough to get out there. Great pics.
Your Sissy

Gaelyn said...

Old cemetaries are interesting. You might ask the farmer if you can walk into it when things dry out. Maybe your county courthouse would have info. The stones have probably been spared because of the corn.

I love the vultures as they are the first sign of spring here. Didn't realize white pelicans were so big. Great captures.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a great day despite the rain.

Jayne said...

Those are really beautiful shots of the cemetery Ruthie. So glad the stones have been left undisturbed.

I've never seen the white pelicans. Very cool! Have a really great week ahead.

Anonymous said...

Have we passed on the gene of looking in old cemetaries and reading the stones? We still like to do that, especially the very old stones, it is so fasinating, maybe because we took care of a cemetary for all those years.
Enjoyed your bird pics, great shots of the pelicans. Springtime is the most interesting time of the year.


Lynne said...

What a fun and birdy drive! I remember the first time I saw that breeding plumage knob on Pelicans. It sure looks odd. They are such beautiful birds in flight.

Richard said...

I seems like just about everybody else has a fasination with old cemetaries as I do. I love to look at the dates and the dash between them and imagine the life that they lead. It you look at the headstones on the left of the picture, I believe that is one that used to be ordered from Sears, Roebuck and Co. Sears would do the carving and ship them on the trains to where they were needed.

Saw some Pelicans a couple of days ago and when you see them here there is normally a bunch of Cormorants with them or vice versa.

Diane C. said...

So many pelicans, I didn't know they were so big or about the breeding plumage on their beaks. The old cemetery looks like it has some interesting gravestones. I guess I find old cemeteries fascinating too.

Red said...

Those Turkey Vultures and Pelicans are awesome. Such large birds and large wingspans, especially that White Pelican. It can be dwarfing to be so close. I had no idea about the breeding beak before. Interesting.

Mary C said...

Lurking behind Red, again! :) Red and I saw some brown pelicans yesterday, in Santa Cruz. It looks as though they are also coming into breeding plumage. The Brandt's cormorants are also getting the bright blue throats, which is indicative of their breeding plumage. Very interesting about the cemetery. Something tells me you'll take the time and opportunity to check it out further in the future. Funny that you hadn't seen it before. Amazing what cornfields can cover up. :)

Marsha said...

Oh how I loved taking this Sunday drive with you. I too love to walk around old cemeteries and see the unique stones, dates, german language writings, etc. In some I have noticed stones that look like old tree trunks and I have recently learned that this means "a life cut short" - I went back to look at one in a local cemeter and it was a 12 year old girl.

I've seen the pelicans fly over several times too.

Ruth said...

Your "lucky" picture is great. One white pelican got lost in our region last week and birders were driving from all over to try and see it. They do not fly over here as a rule. It has been a very dry spring here too.

Julie said...

Good Morning Ruthie! Thats a neat old cemetery. Did you get up close to any of the tombstones?
We seem to have an abudance of turkey vultures this year. More than we've had in the past. Maybe they're just resting here for a bit and will travel further north.
I saw my first blue winged teals at the park on Saturday. Beautiful!
I too saw a flock of something flying north on my way into work. They were too far from me and it was too early to get a good idea of what they might have been.

RuthieJ said...

Hi Mama Pea,
I'm sure I can get more information on this cemetery and its inhabitants from the Fillmore County History Center (I'm a card carrying member!) It would be interesting to know who's buried there and how long ago.

Hi Kelly,
The big birds are especially fun to see aren't they? I hope you see a white pelican this year too.

Hi Sissy,
I'm sure you've been past this cemetery before too and didn't realize it. Turn south at Hulbert's and then right (west) at the next intersection. It's about a mile or so down that road--just past a farmstead with a cool old house and outbuildings (on the north side of the road). Or I can just take you down there someday when we're on a birding trip and we can walk across the field and investigate the gravestones.

Hi Gaelyn,
I'm sure this cemetery has been spared because the access isn't very easy. If I find out some more information someday, I'll be sure to post it.

Thanks Lisa, it really was a great day.

Thanks Jayne, I'm glad you enjoyed this post too.

Yes Mom, another gene you passed on to your unfortunate children....spending all our time wandering around in cemeteries, looking at birds and reading! Yikes!

Hi Lynne,
I was so excited when I realized they were pelicans flying around. I could sit for hours and watch them.

Hi Richard,
There are quite a few old cemeteries in Fillmore County. I'm sure a person could spend an entire summer just driving around and exploring them.....especially if I ever run out of ideas for blog posts!

Hi Diane,
Fascinating for sure! I always wonder what sort of life the early settlers in Minnesota had to deal with.

Hi Red,
I never knew about that bump on the pelican's beak before until I read about it on the Birdchick blog last year. It's amazing the things a person can learn through blogging!!

Hi Mary,
It's fun to see all the spring migrating birds in their decorative plumage again isn't it?
I talked to Brother Phil this afternoon and he said they saw some nice birds up at Monterey a week ago.

Hi Marsha,
This area of SE MN had a lot of German settlers--that makes it more difficult to read what's on the stones, but you can still learn a lot from the dates anyway.
I think you are on a good migratory flyway over there closer to the Dakotas.

Thanks Ruth.
Did you ever hear if the "lost" white pelican get re-oriented and on its way again?

Hi Julie,
I'm glad you got a chance to get out and do some birding. Those blue-winged teals are so pretty aren't they?
I've seen quite a few vultures here, now that you've mentioned it. I don't know if there are really more or I'm just more aware of them now.

Aleta said...

That cemetery is really something, right in a field like that. We have one on top of the hill behind our house. There are at least 13 graves, only two are marked with headstones and the rest are marked with field stones. It is very old.
What a wonderful pic of a vulture in flight! And the other bird pictures are wonderful too!