Lino Lakes save blue herons

Quick work helps Lino Lakes save blue herons

  • Article by: KELLY JO McDONNELLSpecial to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 17, 2012 – 11:00 PM

The revival of a colony that was declining a decade ago is a living legacy to Art Hawkins, who sounded the alarm.


The blue heron is Lino Lakes’ logo.

Photo: Brian Peterson, Star Tribune s

In northeast Lino Lakes, there’s a piece of land that could be right out of “Jurassic Park.”

“Just north of 35W, look over to your right, and you can see an island and a lake,” said Marty Asleson, environmental coordinator for the city. “That’s where the blue herons are living. When they fly over, they look like a pterodactyl. Their species dates back to the dinosaur age. They’ve been around a long time.”

Not so long ago, however, the Peltier Island colony appeared to be going the way of the dinosaur.

In the early 2000s, Lino Lakes resident Art Hawkins, a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife biologist, noticed that the blue herons were disbanding.

“Art was the one that rang the alarm on the colony,” said biologist Andy Von Duyke, “and the Peltier Lake Heron Task Force was organized; it was a coalition of stakeholders as well as DNR [the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources], Anoka County Parks, and the city of Lino Lakes and Centerville.”

Hawkins died in 2006, but his warning already was bearing fruit. The project received some funding, and with the help of DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, steps were being taken as early as 2004 to reverse the trend.

“I was a new graduate student at the time,” Von Duyke said. “That season I started studying the colony. In the previous season, there were 250 nests in this colony early in the season. We went and installed cameras. … That colony had a 100 percent failed [birth] rate that year. Based on my camera evidence, I had a pretty good idea what it was.”

Predation, mainly raccoons, seemed to be the main culprit, Von Duyke said.

Asleson also suspected boating activity in the shallow waters around the island and 35W road construction, as well as low-flying seaplanes, as possible factors.

Said Von Duyke: “I had an experimental design to test my hypothesis on the remaining couple hundred nests. But in 2005, there were only 25 active nests. [The number] dropped 90 percent in one year. So I immediately went into crisis mode. We had to keep this colony going.”

He and volunteers started by installing predator guards and monitoring the nests. Asleson said a no-wake zone around the island also was enforced.

Three blue heron chicks survived that year, and there’s been a steady increase since then, Von Duyke said. The following year, 50 chicks survived.

Observers estimate there are now more than 100 active blue heron nests on Peltier Lake. The coalition volunteers have confirmed great egrets nesting on the island, as well.

“It’s very exciting,” said Von Duyke. “A colony that’s on the brink in 2005 now seven years later is graduated into a big colony — not the huge one that it used to be, but bigger than the average colony in Minnesota.”

Von Duyke, a volunteer on the project now, said blue herons not only are magnificent creatures, but also are important to the ecology of the region.

Asleson agrees and notes that the bird is ingrained into the Lino Lakes culture:

“The Blue Heron is our city logo. It’s on our water tower. We have a Blue Heron Elementary, and it’s on our coffee cups. If you live in Lino Lakes, you know about the blue heron.”

MN. Parent-April Issue

It’s my party :: Hayden and Harry

By Kelly Jo McDonnell

My son is a party-planner, and I have no one to blame but myself. I love a party… and a theme party? Even better. Best: my son is with me every step of the way during our party planning process. Hayden, now nine-years-old, chooses his “theme” each year. When he was really little, I chose for him, trying to match the theme to whatever my son was “into” at the time. At age five, it was bugs, so I booked Dr. Bruce the Bug Guy for a live bug demonstration complete with edible bugs and a strange looking bug cake (gift bags included rubber bugs and bug tattoos). By six and seven, he was in the Pokémon phase (I tracked down Pokémon-themed games including Pin the Tail on Pikachu). By eight, George Lucas had his hold and Star Wars ruled. Invitations stated, “Invited you are, on a Galactic adventure with Hayden,” and Yoda Sodas were a hit (lime sherbet with sprite). All the boys brought their own light sabers, and they proceeded to destroy the death star piñata, which was really just a painted soccer ball. The force was with them.

So that brings me to the ninth year. I assumed that perhaps the Star Wars theme might hold strong. Did I have it in me to plan a Transformers party? Or, heavens, a Bakugan or Ninjago party? I’m still trying to figure out how to pronounce Ninjago. But a few months before his ninth birthday, Hayden proclaimed that Harry Potter would have the theme honor. Let the planning begin!

I booked the party at Grand Slam, though the venue threw me off a little bit: a Harry Potter theme amidst laser tag and mini golf? I was out of my comfort zone, but I figured I would just bring all things Potter to our party room. While ordering a themed cake would have been easier (but expensive; my local bakery only offered one huge Harry Potter cake for the wee price of $100+), I decided to bake my own and add the characters myself (courtesy of Hayden’s LEGO Harry Potter collection).

The treats were even more fun. On the menu was Magic Color-changing drinks and Honeyduke’s Wizard’s treat mix. I found out how to do “color changing” on the ivillage site: basically you place two to three drops of food coloring at the bottom of each party cup and let it dry. Just before serving the drinks, fill each cup with ice to hide the food coloring. When you pour the drink over ice (helps if it’s a clear liquid), it magically turns into a color as the cup fills. I used a lot of different colors, so none of the boys knew what color they were going to get. For our Honeydukes treat mix, I used the standard Chex mix recipe (minus anything that might trigger a nut allergy), but added large gummy and novelty candies.

All of the party favors were on display on the Harry Potter table, decorated with wands, potion jars of “gillyweed” and “truth serum” (green chives for gilly and lemon water for the truth serum). We had some Harry Potter magic right smack in the middle of Grand Slam, and it went over well.

In the meantime, I’ll be on the look out for what birthday number 10 will bring. And who knows, perhaps this will lead to a future career for my son. I wonder what an entertainment director’s salary will be in the year 2024?

A Rustic Vacation shouldn’t mean rustic wine!

HERLIFE | wine

A Rustic Vacation Shouldn’t Mean Rustic Wine

by kelly jo mcdonnell

My family’s annual trek in early summer is north. Until the road ends…literally. Voyageurs National Park, specifically Voyageire Lodge and Houseboats on Crane Lake, is the desti- nation. It’s located between Minnesota’s beautiful boundary water canoe area and Superior National Forest. And as one might guess, it’s a tad on the rustic side. There’s a sign right when you drive in that says “End of the Road.” I’ve learned from this subtle reminder–don’t wait until you’ve come to the end of your road to start purchasing your wine.

While the liquor stores are plentiful in the city, they are far and fewer between on the way up to Voyageurs National Park. The towns get tinier and while you see more bait shops on the side of the road, it’s tough to find a liquor store that’s going to have the selection one may be looking for.

“My advice on this,” said Elizabeth Schneider, certified Sommelier and writer of Wine for Normal People, “is before you leave civilization and head for your rustic paradise, buy the wine in a major city or bring it with you. Wine selection varies widely from state to state and place to place. Normally, when you head to a lake house or a more rustic, rural area, the wine selection caters to the LCD…lowest common denomina- tor. If you want good stuff, you’ve got to bring it with you or you’ll be drinking swill! These places usually have a great beer selection, but if you want to drink well, don’t leave it to chance…bring all the wine you’re going to drink with you.”

Our crew finds that pre-planning and pre-packing meals help make the wine selection much easier. Before we hook up the canoe, we verify which family “section” is in charge of cooking what night. The first evening could be a hearty chili and a Cabernet Sauvignon for those cold Voyageurs’ nights. Second night, if the fishing is cooperating, fresh fish

can be on the menu along with Pinot Noir. We buy the wine from our favorite liquor store in the cities before we head north.

The fishing usually cooperates in this area of the country. Voya- geurs National Park is a mosaic of land and water, a place of intercon- nected waterways. Every year our family catches walleye, northern pike and pan fish. And as Jim Janssen, owner of Voyagaire Lodge reminded us, “My family likes to pair our fish with a white wine; Pinot Grigio with walleye is perfect!” It’s well-known that fish is usually best with white wine. Some wines can overpower the delicate flavors to be found in the fish group, so try to aim for anything light and fresh that will let the flavor of the fish shine through. Schneider agrees that white is best, but pairing is always best done by the sauce, topping and preparations. “Spices, citrus, cream, butter, wine, oil, salsa–each will go with differ- ent things even on top of the same exact fish,” she explained. “For in- stance, halibut with lemon butter will be a hit with Sauvignon Blanc, but if you put mango salsa on the top, you may want a Chardonnay that has more tropical flavors as a complement. If you blacken the fish, a red like Merlot may be best.”

Summer vacations are about getting in touch with family, and in our case, nature as well. Keeping things simple is a good rule of thumb. Schneider shares some classic wine “tips” that are easy to remember when fish is on the menu:

26 HERLIFEMAGAZINE.COM“If you want good stuff, you’ve got to bring it with you or you’ll be drinking swill! These places usually have a great beer selection, but if you want to drink well, don’t leave it to chance…bring all the wine you’re going to drink with you.”

With simple grilled fish with lemon, a Sauvignon Blanc is ideal. The citrus flavors of the wine are complementary to the fish. For a cream- ier sauce, think about Sancerre, which is 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc, but is chalky, minerally, grassy and lemony. A lightly oaked Chardonnay is awesome with fish, but warning–too oaky and it kills the fish dish!

Fishing for something a bit different? How about cooking with fruit or doing a fruit salsa to go on the fish. Viognier is amazing with fish. It’s floral, fruity and still has some great acid to keep everything light.

When eating blackened fish–you can go with a red here, but be careful about the iron levels of the wine. The ones that have higher iron pair horribly with fish. Terra Rosa or red soil is a fish disaster! Pinot Noir or Merlot goes well with a white fish that’s blackened.

Fishing not cooperating? Italian wines define rustic, so if you’re doing some Italian-inspired pasta salads or simple salads with bread, look

no further than reds like Barbera from the Piedmont region or Chianti Classico. And don’t forget the Rosé, so sippable, so dry and refreshing. Go French on this and you won’t be sorry.

The old-fashioned bonfire grill is a staple of the Voyagaire experi- ence. (Although we do cheat and bring a fish fryer that sits out in the three-season porch.) And the fish that’s usually on the menu is walleye. For grilling out, it’s best to stick with old standbys: Zinfandel and Merlot. Schneider reminds to keep the Zin anywhere in California (the primary stomping grounds of Zin), but that Merlot from France; St-Emilion in Bordeaux is a favorite area. It’s great with charred flavor from the grill, as is Shiraz from Australia. “For the grill, hands down, Zinfandel from Mendocino County,” she exclaimed. “It’s fruity but not over-the-top and has a smoky, earthy character that I don’t find in other Zins.”

And let’s not forget the dessert of choice in our rustic pine setting–S’mores. While the young boys in our family love to pair it with milk, what else could the adults pair with it?

“S’mores are tough!” said Schneider. “The rule is that the wine has be to sweeter than food for a dessert pairing to sing. I’ve got to go with a ruby Port or a Zinfandel Port-type wine for that. Amazing with chocolate! If you want to get really crazy…and it’s not available every- where, Banyuls from the south of France is a red dessert wine made from Grenache and is INSANE with chocolate and wouldn’t overpower the other goodies in the mix, either.”

Roughing it has never tasted so good. Cheers to the end of this road! ␣

Tapping into Spring

Tapping into spring at Wargo Nature Center

  • Article by: KELLY JO McDONNELL , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 13, 2012 – 4:20 PM

Wargo Nature Center will celebrate one of the rites of the season with a maple syrup-making event.


Photo: Yannick Grandmont, Associated Press – Nyt

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

It’s a sweet sign of spring.

The sap is running, and the Wargo Nature Center in Lino Lakes is ready to tap into it during Sunday’s Maple Syrup Madness festival.

“It started 13 years ago, actually as a maple full moon event,” said Deb Gallop, program supervisor at Wargo. “In 2004 we switched it to a day festival, and it’s been a wonderful family event.”

The event attracts an average of 100 participants, and it happens rain or shine.

But the conditions have to be perfect for maple syrup making.

“It has to be above 40 [degrees] during the day, and under 30 at night,” said Jennifer Fink, marketing and visitor services manager at Anoka County Parks and Recreation. “That’s what causes the sap to run. Some years are better than others, but it’s always fun to teach folks about it.”

All stages of the maple syrup process will be shown and demonstrated by the Nature Center’s naturalists. The history of maple syrup making will be covered, dating to the 19th century.

The actual process itself hasn’t changed much over the years. In the spirit of the old tradition, the sap will be collected from the maple trees, then cooked down over an open fire. But there also is an evaporator for use on-site, so participants can take in the modern-day maple syrup processes as well.

The Nature Center event incorporates many other activities along with the maple syrup making. Visitors can participate in a hike where they see tapped trees, learn about the process of making sap into syrup, as well as craft making.

“It’s a lot of families, from parents with young kids all the way up to empty nesters,” said Fink. “It really varies, and it’s a free-flowing event where people get to choose what they want to listen to, what interests them.”

Everyone’s favorite, especially the kids’, seems to be the taste-testing, Fink said.

All sorts of maple syrup treats are available, from maple syrup baked beans to log cabin sundaes, which are topped with maple syrup made at the center.

The syrup tasting is an education in itself, Fink said, with many people not believing the difference when they taste the product for the first time.

Fink and Gallop said it’s a treat to see the kids stick a finger under the spout and taste the sap.

“What they think is maple syrup from the store, and what true maple syrup is that gets made right in front of their eyes. … There’s definitely different grades of maple syrup,” said Fink. “Most of the stuff in the store is flavored with additives, to make it taste like maple. The actual stuff you’ll taste at our event is lighter in color, and it’s a much softer taste. … It’s just more subtle.”

Empty Nest? Prime Magazine

My son had training wheels on his bike for a long time. Longer than most, I would say. The reasons vary—perhaps I was too soft, and would keep my hand on the back of his bike too often. I’m a single Mother, and on occasion I carry the “mother Hen” role a bit far. Or that he just seemed to be perfectly happy with them on, so I left them on, long after the neighborhood boys took theirs off. He would adamantly deny that he was ready to take them off, even when I raised them up so they weren’t really even touching the pavement. When I tried to take them off, he insisted that I hold onto the back of the bike. He didn’t think he could ride it without my hand holding it up.
But on Mother’s Day in 2008, that all changed. It’s a very specific memory, since something in my heart “dinged.” A ding that meant I’d be feeling this again, but in a different circumstance. We were heading out on a bike ride, myself, my son Hayden, and my long-time partner Cy. Cy announced to Hayden that he would be riding his bike without the training wheels; he proclaimed this as he was taking them off his little bike. I still remember Hayden looking at me with complete fear and uncertainty in his eyes. “You hold onto me, Mommy?” he pleaded. I figured perhaps it was time for me to release my grip. But I really didn’t want to. “You can do it,” I reassured, and climbed onto my bike next to him.
My baby climbed onto his bike, and stared down the driveway. I expected a wipe-out, or at least a stagger getting started and trying to turn out of the driveway, so I braced myself. Without looking back at me, he started pumping his pedals and away he rolled…successfully. Down the driveway, then he turned and continued down the road. It was there he stopped and put his foot down, looked back and exclaimed to
me, “Did you see me! I did it all by myself!” And away he went down the road, not waiting for his mother to catch up. As I watched him go, I couldn’t help but get a glimpse of things ten plus years down the road. My little Hayden was well on his way to growing up, and when he leaves for college and leaves me with my empty nest, he probably won’t look back then either. And deep down, I don’t want him to. But it makes the heart sting just the same. I knew I would have to accept that Hayden would someday ride off into his own future. Then what? How would I handle that? With grace and composure? Not sure.
Other friends of mine, most of them baby boomers, are dealing with this issue currently, the dreaded “empty nest.” I notice that some have euphoria, like a newfound freedom. And some seem completely lost and are downright lonesome. And of course, I gleaned the most from my parental birds, who
According to research by Del Webb, 26 percent of baby boomers say they felt like newlyweds when their kids were gone.
seemed to soar after me and my siblings left the nest back in the 1980s. According to research by Del Webb, 26 percent of baby boomers say they felt like newlyweds when their kids were gone. 58 percent said they are or were ready for the kids to head out of the nest. The older the boomers become, the more ready they are to clear the nest. After researching both

books and friends, I’ve come up with a few gems that I’m going to keep in mind when my time comes.
First, and the most important in my book, is to keep the magic of “Challenge” in your life. Keep doing your routine in your nest as nothing happened will reveal parenting holes. What the heck else would you like to do? Learn Yoga? Learn how to make sushi? Get a tattoo? There are a lot of opportunities out there, and you only have to hop out of the nest to find them. I was confused when my 70-something mother decided to take up kayaking just last summer. “You have a bad back!” I blurted out. “Gotta have a challenge, honey,” was her answer.
Second, keep things interesting, especially yourself. I’m amazed at my mother and father who are always trying new things, including kayaking and fly fishing. Whether it’s a hip new TV show, the latest news, or a weird fashion fad, they keep up on it. While they have lifelong friends, they also keep “younger” friends. She and my father are interesting to talk to, and everyone likes their company, no matter the age. They don’t hole themselves up in the house I grew up in. Far from it. Seems like I can never catch them at the nest…they’re always on the road looking for a new adventure. And keeping it interesting.
Third, don’t let the technology at your fingertips allow you to “hover”over your birds once they’re out of the nest. There are many options today for staying in touch with our kids—texting, email, chat, Skype or just calling them on their
cell phones. I have one baby boomer friend who seems to keep constant dibs on her daughter while she’s in college. I think it’s her full-time job. While we’ll always worry about our kids, it will send the wrong message if we seem to be nagging them all the time…via technology. Use it here and there, as it used to be “in the old days.” Being a hovering parent isn’t good in the nest, or out of it.
And lastly, just like when your children were small, remem

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ber the little things. It’s those tiny moments that keep us going. It doesn’t have to be, “Now let’s sell the house, shave our heads bald and join the circus!” Take a look back and see what really mattered once. Look good enough and you’ll see it. What adventures do you want to have? They can be little adventures, not huge ones. Were you once an inspiring writer before family life got too busy? What were you passionate about at one time? Perhaps that flame never extinguished…it’s still there waiting for you. A small, tiny gem, but a gem just the same.
It will be interesting to see if I will handle myself grace- fully with my own empty nest. I hope to. Until then, I continue to watch my growing son head out on his bike, spending more and more time with his friends. His training wheels still hang in my garage, but he doesn’t need them anymore. On occasion he’ll wave to me as I watch from the door, but mostly he rides away full throttle without a single look back.

Real Life: MN. Parent Magazine

Real Life :: Tony Carr

Tony Carr knows all about bridging the tough issues. Just one look at the Stillwater native’s collection of memorabilia and it’s easy to see why. It’s a part of history that’s tough to view for both kids and adults—and even tougher to talk about.

Carr, a former professional basketball player, and currently a professional diversity speaker, began collecting black memorabilia about 20 years ago. Every piece of Carr’s collection has a story, and he knows every word of it.

What was your first piece of memorabilia?

My first piece was an Aunt Jemima salt and pepper shaker [set]. I bought it down in northern Illinois for [about] 50 cents. After that, I started paying attention and researching memorabilia. I’d see an ashtray and wonder where it came from. That got the juices flowing. It’s history, but there’s no finger pointing. It’s not about that. It’s about everyone’s struggle.

Has having kids changed how you collect and display?

Once my daughters began arriving, I changed my collection a bit. I rotate my artifacts in accordance to my daughters, and what I think is appropriate to display based on their ages.

Without a doubt, the piece that children (and most adults) notice first is the Klansman statue. It’s an eerie thing…period. My parents could not even look at it. They had personal experience. I had to put it away when they were visiting.

How has your collection affected your children in a positive way?

One thing I’ve found, each time [my daughters] become more aware of my memorabilia pieces, it’s a history lesson. When it was Martin Luther King Day, they would see videos at school and see the KKK…they would come back to me and say, ‘I saw that (he gestures toward the Klan statue) in a video!’ This gives them an opportunity to talk about it.

I try to give my daughters positive role models to gravitate toward. All my girls love the Muhammad Ali doll from the ’70s, for example. They saw him on a video and it gave me an opportunity to tell them what he stood for, and how active he was in the civil rights movement.

What is it that you hope this collection conveys to your girls?

Two things: the first is to understand their ancestors, and how their blood, sweat, and tears gave them the privileges they have today. And number two, I tell them no matter what kind of day you have at school, it’s never going to be as bad as it was back in those days. It’s definitely a privilege to have that opportunity.

I would like to take all of my daughters to Mississippi. I’m waiting until my youngest is around seven or eight. I’d like them to touch the dirt. It’s a weird feeling to sit on your roots, to feel it—it does overtake you. It’s instinctual, and it’s home. I want to see if they feel the same thing. They’re just about ready.