Thursday, March 21, 2013

Two Books Ready!

“Combining lives of adventure and fun with a dedication for some of the best public-spirited nature science investigation in the history of America, Frances and Frederick Hamerstrom pledged their all to accomplish great things.  Stories of the appropriately wild lives of the Hamerstroms, which included work that saved the Greater Prairie Chicken in Wisconsin from going the way of the dinosaur, fill every corner of this marvelous book...  The hand-crafted tales in these pages bring these brilliant, charming people back to life again, in all their natural elegance, gentle kindness, knife-sharp precision and ultimate glory.  As someone who knew them both and loved every moment of knowing them, I couldn’t be more joyful that the memory of Fran and Hammy has been kept green by their family and friends.  Now you can “know” them, too.
--- Mark Scarborough
author of “There’s No Place Like Rome,” and Wisconsin journalist.

Last December I wrote in my blog that I was immersed in two book projects, both involving my parents.  What I didn’t realize at the time is that it would evolve into three book projects. Two of them are done!  The third, a book for young readers by Susan Tupper to be published by the Wisconsin Historical Society, isn’t really my project.  I helped with editing for content and gathering of visuals; now that project is in the waiting mode.  

My two books projects also involve my parents.  If you don’t know much about my parents be sure and read my December post:
Briefly --both my parents were ornithologists who spent their career working on prairie chickens for the State of Wisconsin.  They also made a significant contribution to raptor research.  My father was one of few who earned his Phd under the famed ecologist, Aldo Leopold, and my mother was the only woman to get a degree under Leopold, a masters.  

After my parents died, Deann De La Ronde, a dear friend of my parents, helped me collect an anthology of stories about my parents.  I self published it as, “Hamerstrom Stories” in 2002.  Now, just over ten years later I’ve granted permission for a new edition which includes ten new authors.  The 336 page book is being released by Golden Sands RC&D Council Inc, a non-profit organization that works to preserve Grasslands in Central Wisconsin -- where Wisconsin’s prairie chickens still live.  Books ordered directly from R. Schneider, Publishers will have most of their cover price go to 
Golden Sands.  Books ordered through with have a much smaller portion of the profits go to Golden Sands.  I have directed any monies that I might receive go to Golden Sands.  

The gentle stories ... in this book combine to produce a book of rare appeal and quality.  Alan and Elva are lucky to be the children of exceptional parents.  Instead of going to bed early when the moon is full the boy and girl explore the magic night on treks with mom and dad.  During all four seasons, the family becomes a part of the natural world and its wonders.  They make friends with deer they espy by leaving apples for the animals to find; they discover that some flowers stay wide open at night while others close in sleep; ....  
-- taken from the Publishers Weekly  review that followed my mother’s original publication of “Walk When the Moon is Full.” I’ve deleted the references to the original art.  

“Walk When the Moon is Full” by my mother, Frances Hamerstrom, was first published by Crossing Press in 1975.  The little book stayed in print for about 25 years!  There was still some demand for the book so I limped along for a few years making copy-machine copies.  When the Lora Hagen was formatting the new edition of Hamerstrom Stories, I suddenly found out Lora ( part of R. Schneider, Publishers ) and I could put out a new, beautiful edition of “Walk When the Moon is Full.”  I had the joy of creating the illustrations for this edition.  

Either book can be ordered through or through R. Schneider, Publishers.  Remember a much larger portion of the purchase price of “Hamerstrom Stories” goes to supporting grasslands if you order directly from the publisher.  To do that:

Walk When the Moon is Full --  $8.95@Hamerstrom Stories -- $29.95.  If you live in Wisconsin, add 5.5% sales taxShipping and handling is $5.00 for the first book, $1 additional for each additional copy of ‘H Stories’ and 50 cents additional for each additional copy of ‘Moon’.  Combined orders welcome.  
Mail orders WITH YOUR ADDRESS and check or credit card info to:  
R. Schneider, Publishers
312 Linwood Avenue
Stevens Point  WI  54481

I’m not the one sending the books out, so I won’t be able to autograph them for you.  

A nest full of great horned owls -- one of my illustrations in 
"Walk When the Moon is Full"

Monday, March 11, 2013

Herbert's Pond: Part II

Note this is Part II.  Part I should be read first.

I did read go home and read about wood duck behavior on Cornell’s “Birds of North America Online” (    subscription required).  I suddenly realize I have been watching more courting behavior than I realized.  They seemed to be the thirstiest ducks  imaginable, but all that bill dipping is one of the behaviors.  I saw a lot of that!  The other behaviors happen very quickly.  I think the video is a really good idea.  

Maybe if we arrive at the pond early, they’ll be even more wound up.  But, for some reason, we just can’t get out of the house as early as I would like.  I write in my notes:

“Haven’t started and we’re late already.  8AM.  The sun is actually shining  -- visible!  Of course it always shines -- somewhere.  In winter it is a rare morning that we wake up to sunshine.    We’re just heading out the driveway and I’m wishing we were already at Herbert’s Pond.

We arrive.  Quiet.  Don’t even see a wood duck!  Have they left, flown to their nesting territories?  Then I find them sleeping amongst a tree that has fallen into the pond.  Some on low limbs, some in the water.  This is what we scrambled for!”

Before long some of the wood ducks head our way.  A little chick scratch (corn) thrown onshore helps to convince them we are some of those ‘good humans.’  The corn is soon gone and the ducks get back to paying attention to each other.  

Bill dipping is happening all the time.  It looks like a quick sip of water, but they’d be as big as watermelons if they were really drinking all the time.  When I watch carefully I see a hen bill dipping.  

Another frequent behavior is a quick chin up, usually by the drake but I saw a hen do it too.  

We also watched mutual preening.  A hen and a drake snuggle up next to each other and nibble at each other’s long head plumes -- very tender.  Really quite sweet to see.  

I start videoing.   Last summer I first dared to push the video buttons on my CANON 7D camera.  I still haven’t shot a total of an hour of video. Shooting video is a challenge.  By the time the duck actually does something, it is way too late to push the button..... so I watch for birds that seem fairly engaged, start the video and hope something happens.  As we often say, “It’s only pixels.”  What we don’t want can be erased.  

I get so lucky!  I’m filming a small cluster of wood ducks bobbing about, bill dipping,  when suddenly one does the head flick, that ever so quick head fluff / rear up that happens so quickly I wasn’t sure quite what I had seen when I first saw it.  With the video I can slow it down and see the exact sequence of movement:  head fluffed the drake dips his head down then rears up and flips his head back in a flash.  Back to normal. It takes about a third of a second!

The beautiful display catches the hen's attention.
I keep watching the trio of woodies -- two drakes and a hen.  Usually a drake is on each side of the hen, but every so often one swims in front and fluffs his crest.  There is a reason a wood duck drake has all those iridescent colors on his head.  What a show off!  Suddenly he turns broadside to the hen and flashes her -- another of the ‘behaviors.’  First he bill dips, then raises his crest, quickly shakes his head, and then, ever so fast, he reaches back as if to preen his underwing.  In the process he flashes his wing, showing a blaze of iridescence.  Wow!  With my eyes I just thought it was a quick preen.  After reading about the different behaviors and actually catching it on video, I am so impressed.  He knows how to show off his beautiful feathers. 
Soon after, I see that the hen is ready.  She lays flat out in the water in front of one of the drakes.  He approaches, grabs the long feathers on her head and mounts her.   

.... and during all this duck watching, did Dale get some good photos?  Oh, Yes.