Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Christmas in August
Clay Aiken
Minneapolis Orchestra

I meant to do this last month - you know, Christmas in JULY? But, the summer is slipping away, camping trips, gardening....all the things that fill my days. I had forgotten I had these videos from the 2007 Clay Aiken Christmas Concert in Minneapolis.

Although it's not far to Minneapolis from where I live, it was my first Christmas in snow country and I was a little afraid to drive so I flew!! I was meeting up with a friend and we connected at the airport and made our way to the hotel which was only a block from an entrance to the skyway. Downtown Minneapolis has a skyway linking all the big buildings so one can move around without having to go outside. Very cool - or warm, in this case. There are 8 miles of these glass "tunnels" connecting buildings. Minneapolis has the largest skyway system in the world, linking nearly 80 blocks of downtown attractions, businesses and hotels.

This concert was a twofer, December 19th and 20th at the Minneapolis Orchestra Hall.

Here's Don't Save it all for Christmas Day from the first night. Sorry, I missed a bar or two at the beginning, LOL.

I had wonderful seats, second row right in the middle and he looked and sounded marvelous.

And this one is obviously from Jingle Bells, LOL.

A silhouette during one of the story readings.

And for those that appreciate the hands on the microphone.

These last two videos are of medleys from the second concert. Again, I missed a little here and there and they aren't the best, but there are some wonderful moments that I think you will appreciate. It's glasses Clay - complete with the twinkle in his eye. Enjoy.

Remember, above, that I mentioned I was nervous about driving in the winter? Well, after two wonderful concerts and beautiful Christmas lights and atmosphere in downtown Minneapolis I arrived at the airport and discovered my flight was cancelled and since it was Christmas time - yeah, you guessed it - no flights available. I'll have to give them credit, though. They had a whole fleet of buses outside and they loaded us in and DROVE us back to Madison, Wisconsin. So, I ended up "driving" anyway!! And, I was only 6 hours late getting in. It was a scary ride, but I had my trusty ZEN to listen to and when I got to Madison at 2:00AM, my son picked me up and we slid into his driveway just as the roads turned to ice and the torrential downpour turned white. All in all and exciting adventure. And we had a white Christmas.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Whooping Crane

International Crane Foundation

Baraboo, Wi

This last weekend we went camping at Devil's Lake State Park, located a little south of Baraboo, Wi. As I got there first and had a morning before the rest of the family joined me I took the opportunity to visit the International Crane Foundation facility. As a birder, I wanted to add the bird to my life list. Chances were slim I would see this endangered species in the wild, so I was excited about my visit.

Frankly, knowing they were almost extinct at one point was about all I knew about whooping cranes, but I came away from my visit a member of the foundation and I am looking forward this fall to watching a group of captive bred chicks follow an ultralight airplane from Wisconsin to Florida on their first migration. Who knew?

At one point during the 1940's there were less than 20 known whooping cranes left in the wild. Their migratory path originated in Wood Buffalo National Park in the Northwest Territories of Canada, where they nested and raised their young. In the fall they flew south 2500 miles to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas where they spend the winter and early spring. In 1993 a second flock of Whooping Cranes was reintroduced in central Florida. An average of 20 chicks, hatched and reared in captivity, have been released at the Florida site each year in an effort to establish a new flock of non-migratory Whoopers. The third flock, however, is being trained to migrate. The birds spend spring and summer at Necedah National Wildlife Refuge in Wisconsin and migrate to Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge in west Florida for winter.

Today, the total population of the three flocks has increased to over 500.

Birds like geese and cranes who migrate during the day have no inbred sense of where to go - the chicks learn the path by flying south with their parents and the next trip they are on their own and remember the way home. Obviously, with captive bred chicks (or orphans) that first trip is not going to happen naturally. So, man has come up with a clever way to lead young cranes on their first migration - the ultralight airplane. They call them trikes - and that's what they look like. Here's a picture I borrowed from one of the sites linked in this blog.

In Necedah (say Nuh SEE duh) National Wildlife Refuge in Central Wisconsin 16 chicks hatched in captivity in 2008 are being readied for their first flight to Florida. Here is the website to track their progress - Whooping Crane Journey South. This is a great site for children to participate and comes with downloadable booklets, etc. aimed at the younger crowd.

I don't pretend to know much about this yet, but since I am so close to the ICF and the Necedah National Wildlife Refuge I plan on learning more. I also plan to watch thse little guys head south starting in October. You can see their pictures on the link above.

A website with tons of information, additional links, pictures, etc - Operation Migration. This is the 8th year of this program, in which pilots wear crane costumes to teach the young birds to bond with and follow the pilot.

The facility I visited - International Crane Foundation says -
The International Crane Foundation (ICF) works worldwide to conserve cranes and the wetland and grassland ecosystems on which they depend. ICF is dedicated to providing experience, knowledge, and inspiration to involve people in resolving threats to these ecosystems

In addition to conservation methods, the foundation is also a founding member of the Whooping Cranes Eastern Partnership, which is a group of non-profit organizations dedicated to bringing a migratory flock of whooping cranes back to the eastern USA.

At the ICF there is a natural wetlands habitat for the whooping cranes and they house many other international cranes in enclosures. They are presently under construction for a new natural habitat which will be home for some of those cranes.

International Crane Foundation (ICF) page on the Whooping Crane - ICF - Whooping Crane

There are many nature walks at the facility, lots and lots of wildflowers - I am told it is spectacular in May but the best thing of all were the whooping cranes.

Here are a couple of my pictures.

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

As Long As We're Here
Katee & Joshua

Last month I posted links to some videos using Clay Aiken songs.....I wanted to add this very awesome video of Katee and Joshua from "So You Think you can Dance". They are now in the final four and I have my fingers crossed for them in the finals.

Click off the Jukebox before you play the video.

And, of course, totally adore Clay's song!!!

ETA - Here's another one for SYTYCD - with Twitch and Katee.

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