Nature Notebook Moment with Chickadees

On Wednesday and Thursday this week we went on a birding trip up to Door County which is the long thin peninsula that sticks out on the Ne side of Wisconsin. We had planned this trip about a month ago thinking Spring would have sprung and the birds would have begun their migration. Not strongly but enough that we would see some new birds for the year. Then on April 14th and 15th, Wisconsin got hit with a Spring blizzard. Many birds who were already in town were struggling. Food sources were buried in snow and the wind and cold for that long of a period just didn’t help. We have had late snows in the past but even in March we say, Ah, it will all melt by tomorrow. Not this one. We had huge drifts that made it difficult even to get out the back door much less try to get to the bird feeders. In the days after, many reports of dead birds came in to the bird reporting sites, a lot of them robins. So when we headed north two days ago, we didn’t know what we would find.

We mostly birded from the car or stayed on main paths. Trails in the parks were really muddy or still had snow packed on them. Some of our best finds were in flooded fields. The farmer probably wasn’t happy but the birds were enjoying the new lakes. One high note on the trip was in Peninsula Park. Further into the park from the main entrance is a Nature Center. It is a small building where you can talk to a staff person about recent sightings or ask questions about other flora and fauna. That is, when it is staffed. Park funding being constantly cut, doesn’t allow for someone there most times. But there are feeders and a white board where people can record what they have seen in the park.

When we pulled in on Thursday there was no human on site but instead we were greeted by a gang of chickadees. There was a pair of cardinals in the tree and a red breasted nuthatch swooped through. But the chickadees seemed quite friendly and seemed to be hoping we had handouts. Curt found a large can of sunflower seeds around the back of the building and was going to try to call them in. ( We sort of had this idea planted by the Park staffer at the entrance who wanted to know if we were interested in feeding chickadees but we declined). Now it seemed like a good idea. So Curt put seed on his hat and in both his hands and sat on a bench. I went for the camera, just in case.Well it didn’t take very long and in came the chickadees.

Curt waiting for the Chickadees while a Cardinal curiously looks on.

I tried really hard to get shots but those little guys were fast. I managed to get them in each of his hands but even though they also landed on his hat my only shot was one taking off.

Left hand feeder

Right hand feeder

Chickadee taking off from his hat

Then it was my turn. Please ignore the dumb look on my face. I was trying to be as still as possible but still get to see the birds on my hand.

Perched on my thumb.

So cute!

Their little toes tickled, and every time they came in and out there was a little flutter sound. It was so great. The cardinal was also hovering nearby when I sat down but they don’t feed like the chickadees so I put some seed on the bench right next to me and waited. Sure enough, Mr. Cardinal saw this was for him. It was marvelous to see him up close. He stayed for a bit taking in 4-5 seeds unlike the chickadees who grab one and fly off. Curt watched him when he flew and said he was feeding seeds to the female. He came back again. So cool!

Me and my Cardinal friend

It was a great experience. We were so glad the park wasn’t crowded or that a family with 4 kids didn’t come storming up. We might have called in the chickadees, they seemed pretty conditioned. But I don’t think the cardinal would have come in. Hope your encounters with nature are as fun as this.

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When in Door County, WI, act like a Bier Zot

A what?

from B.C., Johnny Hart

No, not that Zot.

Translated from the Flemish: Bier = Beer   Zot = Idiot or Crazy :  To be a Beer Idiot or someone Crazy for Beer who goes to the Bier Zot Beer Cafe in Sister Bay, Door County, Wisconsin.

Bier Zot front door ( that space in the right side of picture is Wild Tomato 2 Restaurant) , Menu pic

We discovered this fun place last Friday but it has been there since 2014. We’re a bit slow sometimes. The Bier Zot is a Belgian style Beer Cafe that serves 11 drafts, one cask and 100 bottles of craft and Belgian beers. Couple this with a “European inspired” menu and you’ve got a tasty combination. The restaurant has casual pub style decor with outdoor seating as well.

Now the only way we found this place was through another restaurant, Wild Tomato, owned by the same people, Britt & Sara Unkefer. That restaurant in Fish Creek (further down on the peninsula) serves really great wood fired pizza. We did a short post on it in 2010. Last year the owners decided to open Wild Tomato 2 alongside their Bier Zot so while stopping for pizza at the new location we discovered it (the entrances share a hallway.) On this latest trip our destination was definitely Bier Zot, no pizza distraction.

Once seated the Beer Board offered an interesting selection. The waitress helped us navigate through it. There were full descriptions of the beers in the menu as well.

Curt went with the Ommegang Rosetta, a sour beer that I find hard to take by itself but it goes very well with food. I wanted something in the pale ale range and she suggested Boulevard Tropical Pale (half pour please). On both of these we were allowed a sample before committing to a glass. Our friend Carol was with us and she went with the Ommegang as well.

Ommegang Rosetta and Boulevard Tropical Pale

Next up, food. Now Bier Zot describes itself as a European inspired cafe and for the most part that is true. I saw a lot of German influence ( Thursday night was actually German Night) but there was French influence and some just creative cuisine as well. Find their menu here.

I went with the Chicken Schnitzel Sandwich. Schnitzel is just a pounded, seasoned and breaded meat that is fried. I am sure you are familiar with Wiener Schnitzel which is a breaded veal cutlet. My Chicken Schnitzel was served on a pretzel bun with greens, a yellow heirloom tomato and Dijon horseradish sauce. I liked it.Carol chose the Bier Zot Bratwurst. This was their house recipe brat on pretzel bun accompanied by sauerkraut and Dijon mustard. We can only assume they make these on the premises because it was extra long and it fit the bun, sort of. It had a taste and found it milder than many Wisconsin brats, more like a veal sausage.  I am ordering that next time. Finally Curt started out with a half-dozen Washington State oysters, which seems to be a new addition to the menu, pending availability. He followed that with the Aubergine Zacusca. This was grilled eggplant with tomato, greens, shallots, basil chevré and ground cumin on Naan. Our server told us this was concocted by a former staff member who is Muslim and had a hard time finding anything Halal in the kitchen.  It was a success and  found a permanent home on the menu.  It was excellent.

You can tell we passed our dishes around so everyone could get a taste. Hmm, maybe I’ll have this one next time.All in all it was a very enjoyable lunch and we will return.

One more thing. It took us a minute to figure out what the wooden tables were constructed from…..can you see it? Bleachers. Sturdy and a good reuse. In case you don’t feel like an idiot, Zot can also be translated from Albanian as “god”.  Beer idiot?  Beer god?  Maybe there’s not much difference between the two.