Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wisconsin Rustic Road #107

We've had our "3rd generation" Prius for a week now, and it gets more comfortable each day - both the handling and the sitting (the seats are heavenly).

Every time I get into the car, the Prius "Harmony" ad jingle starts playing in my head. You know the one - Da da dom dom... Harmony... between Man, Nature and Machine.

I'm feeling the harmony. Tom, not so much. He's still reluctant to get behind the wheel.

I am, however, increasingly more undaunted by the technology (the power button, "smart key" system and the shift lever). The "multi information displays" on the dashboard screen have become more like "fun." I'm learning to use them to drive more conservatively - and I've been rewarded with up to 65 mpg.

It only took a few seconds to program the button on the rear view mirror to automatically open my garage door. Just like the manual said it would.

I also figured out how to connect my iPod Nano to the car radio so I can play my bird calls through the radio speakers.

It was much simpler than I thought it would be. I bought a cable at Radio Shack. I plugged one end into the iPod, the other into the armrest console. I clicked the "AUX" button on the radio. And voila! I was able to dial-up the song of the Lark Sparrow (using BirdJam).

Did the Lark Sparrow do a "double-take" when he heard his song coming from the dashboard of my car?

I've taken most of my "practice drives" this week on Wisconsin's newest Rustic Road - #107 - in Dunn County. One of the best birding roads in the badger state, it parallels the Lower Chippewa River as it cuts through the riparian woodlands, prairie remnants and farm fields between Meridean and Durand.

This week RR-107 was full of the sounds of fledglings begging for bugs. We heard and watched Cedar Waxwings, Eastern Bluebirds, Chipping Sparrows and Blue Jays, but found only one Lark Sparrow. The power lines were full of swallow fledglings (barn, cliff and tree) lined up waiting to be fed by their tireless parents. American Redstarts and Red-eyed Vireos are still around, but the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Dickcissels have disappeared.

Tom, who once bought an Isuzu Trooper primarily because it had a flat windshield (which minimizes optical distortion when watching birds), gave the Prius windows a "thumbs up." There's just a little distortion at the corners where the glass is ever-so-slightly curved. The little triangular side windows to the left and right of the dashboard work well as viewing portals.

With the exception of the annoying "ding-ding-ding" alert noise when the car is in reverse, the Prius - so far - has been a great mobile wildlife photo "blind." There's no engine noise, just the sound of the tires on gravel. And no vibrations when the car comes to a full stop.

We tested the Prius "stealth factor" by successfully creeping up on a fox squirrel, dozens of red-eared sliders (turtles) sunning themselves on logs partially immersed one of the roadside ponds and the giant swallowtail butterflies working the thistles and bergamot.
Giant Swallowtail - Papilio cresphontes  

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