Friday, September 14, 2012

Photo Gallery: Monarch Butterflies

Photos From Lowell Washburn:

I Remain,
Pastor Steve

Creation Corner: Eurasian Collared Dove

My friend Philip Cox just bagged a Eurasian collared dove.  The bird was a mature male and when I saw a photo of his huge and perfect specimen, it made me jealous.  Phil has now officially joined the honorable ranks of an ever growing number of Midwestern hunters who have successfully added America’s newest gamebird to their dinner table menu.  Although I’ve been hoping to do the same for the past two seasons, I’ve yet to receive the opportunity.

Weighing halfway between our native mourning dove and the feral rock dove [barn pigeon], the Eurasian collared dove is an invasive species that is currently in the process of colonizing both hemispheres.  In the New World, the bird got its start in the Bahamas.  Although details are less than complete, the story begins with the [accidental] escape or [intentional] release of more than 50 caged birds from an island pet store.  The scenario is somewhat similar to how another invasive species -- the ring-necked pheasant -- got its start in Iowa when around 2,000 birds were [accidentally or intentionally??] released from a Cedar Falls game farm in 1901.

By the 1980s, collared doves were nesting in Florida and have since expanded -- exploded might be a better description -- across most of the U.S.  In America, Eurasian doves prefer living in small rural communities where they are commonly seen foraging beneath bird feeders.  In Iowa, their distinctive calling can be heard in virtually every small town across the state.  Although the species has become extremely common, surprisingly few are bagged by hunters since most collared doves stick to their residential habitats. 

By contrast, the Eurasian collared dove has become a relatively important game species in portions of the southern U.S. -- particularly in the state of Texas.  Over the weekend, my cousin Ben Anderson who lives in Nashville, told me that collared doves are also commonly bagged in Tennessee.  Ben, along with two friends, recently bagged a total of 42 Eurasian doves on a single hunt.  Due to their invasive species status, there is no season or bag limit on the birds in Tennessee.

Unlike other invasive species, Eurasian collard doves do not appear to displace or otherwise cause harm to native flora and fauna -- including their nearest relative the mourning dove.  Personally, I enjoy hearing and watching them and think they make a nice addition to Iowa’s rural communities.

From Lowell Washburn...

Now We're Cooking: Chicken and Green Bean Stir Fry & Leftover Rice Rice Pudding

This will be a new feature on my blog ....

Chicken and green bean stir fry

A light, simple and delicious stir fry. Not authentic, but easy, healthy and extremely versatile.

  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast
  • 1 1/4 pounds green beans
  • Cooking oil
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sherry
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (white vinegar or rice vinegar also fine)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce (Kikkoman is best)
  • 1 tablespoon sherry
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Dash sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  1. If starting with frozen chicken breasts, set in bowl of cold water to defrost.
  2. Take end off green beans and wash.
  3. Rinse rice in several changes of water until water is mostly clear. Add fresh water for cooking and set aside.
  4. Dice chicken into bite-sized pieces (approx 1/2-inch cubes). Place diced chicken in bowl.
  5. Add marinade ingredients to chicken – soy sauce, sherry, garlic (chopped or pressed through garlic press). Stir well to distribute marinade.
  6. Refrigerate chicken.
  7. Start rice to cook before starting stir fry.
  8. Prepare stir fry sauce (note: you can double the stir fry sauce if you prefer a saucier stir fry). Add brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, sherry and garlic (again chopped or pressed through garlic press) in small bowl. You can also add fresh ginger if you have it.
  9. Add cornstarch and stir well, pressing out any lumps until sauce has a consistent milky brown color.
  10. Heat two tablespoons of oil in an large skillet over medium-high heat.
  11. Add green beans. If green beans don’t fit in one batch, cook half at a time. Use long tongs to turn beans over while cooking so that they do not burn.
  12. If beans are particularly thick, add two tablespoons of water to pan and cover skillet for a couple of minutes to steam-cook beans to desired tenderness. Do not overcook, as beans will go back in the pan briefly later.
  13. Remove beans from pan.
  14. Add two more tablespoons of oil to pan. Add chicken and stir to separate pieces.
  15. When chicken is cooked (turns from pink to white), add prepared stir fry sauce and stir. Sauce will quickly turn from milky light brown to glossy dark brown as it cooks.
  16. Add string beans and stir to combine. Add dash of sesame oil if desired.
  17. Remove chicken and string beans to serving dish.
  18. Serve over rice.
Serves 6.
  • If you are making ahead, cook green beans and chicken separately. Just before you are ready to eat, add chicken back to skillet with sauce, then vegetables last. This will keep everything looking pretty.
  • If sauce is too runny for your liking, mix 2 teaspoons of cornstarch with 2 tablespoons of water and add. Cook until sauce thickens.
  • If sauce is too thick, add 2 tablespoons of water and stir well.
  • If sauce is too tart for your liking, add 1 tablespoon soy sauce.
Here’s the link back to Easy chicken and green bean stir fry.

Leftover Rice Rice Pudding
2 cups leftover cooked white rice
3 cups milk (any kind)*
1/2 cup sugar
small pinch salt
1/2 cup raisins
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, optional
pinch nutmeg, optional

Combine cooked rice, milk, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and stir in the vanilla and raisins. Cook until just about all of the milk is absorbed (30-45 minutes, depending on how absorbent your rice is). Stir in cinnamon and/or nutmeg, if using.

Divide rice pudding into individual serving dishes serve warm or chilled.
Makes 4-6 servings.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Creation Corner:Tiny Travelers -- Fall Warbler Migration‏

Tiny Travelers -- Fall Warbler Migration‏

The annual fall bird migrations are underway.  For highly visible species, like mourning doves and blue-winged teal, the passage is hard to miss.  But there is also another mass migration currently in progress that will, unfortunately, go largely undetected by most Iowans.  That migration is the southbound flight of the warblers.

As any sharp-shinned hawk will tell you; fall warblers come in many flavors.  During the past several days, we've seen American redstarts, mourning, Connecticut, prairie, magnolia, and Wilson's warblers --- all observed within a single small patch of dogwood. 

Denizens of deep shaded woodlands and thick understory, warblers are as secretive as they are beautiful.  Many species travel only at night using the stars, constellations, the moon and magnetic fields to faithfully guide them to ancient and far away wintering grounds.  Daylight hours are spent busily refueling on protein rich insects.  Migration exacts a heavy physical toll on these tiny travelers and water is always a big draw for fall warblers.  During the past week, I've seen up to four warbler species simultaneously bathing or drinking from my backyard bird bath. 

Hyper active to a fault, warblers never stop moving for more than a second or two.  Getting a good look at one presents a unique challenge; while obtaining any kind of usable photo represents the ultimate exercise in frustration.

Final Thought:  "No fortuitous concourse of elements working blindly through any number of millions of years could quite account for why warblers are so beautiful.  No mechanistic theory, even bolstered by mutations, has ever quite answered for the colors of the cerulean warbler, or the vespers of the woodthrush, or the swan song, or --- goose music."

                             Aldo Leopold, from A Sand County Almanac

I Remain,
Pastor Steve