The Milwaukee Brewers have taken big strides to improve their 2018 roster, but must have a quick start to the season to keep up the excitement among their fans and reach the postseason. Outfielders Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain are super additions. They're Gold Glove winners, and will add more pop to the Milwaukee offense. The pitching staff has also picked up a few additions, although some critics believe they need a No. 1 free agent starter. I disagree. They have a stable of young talent and the offseason acquisitions should bolster the bullpen. Hopefully, would-be No. 1 starter Jimmy Nelson will return from shoulder surgery sometime in June or July, but I think the starting rotation is in pretty good hands with right-hander Chase Anderson at No. 1, No. 2 righty Zach Davies, plus a No. 3 and No. 4 starter. My guess is the third spot will go to lefty Brent Suter and right-handers Wade Miley or Jhoulys Chacin as No. 4. Yovani Gallardo, Junior Guerra, Brandon Woodruff and Josh Hader could also be in the mix for a starting spot, although lefty Hader is more suited as a middle/late reliever, or even a closer. Hopefully, Corey Knebel will have another solid year as a closer and Jeremy Jeffress as his setup man. However, I believe the big difference for Milwaukee will be the opening month. While the Brewers open with a three-game road trip at the San Diego Padres, they kick off their home opener with three games against NL Central rivals St. Louis Cardinals followed by four more against the defending division champion Chicago Cubs. Then it's off to St. Louis for three games with three more at the New York Mets. Milwaukee returns homes on April 16 for a seven-game series - three against the Cincinnati Reds and four against the Miami Marlins. They finish the month on a nine-game road trip to Kansas City for three games, three games against the Cubs in Wrigley Field and three more at Cincinnati. Baseball gurus maintain pennants aren't won in April, but a poor start could produce a deep hole. Hopefully, the Brewers will be up to the task and get off to a fast start, not only for themselves, but their fans, too.
It's 'eagle time' on the web again
This is one of my favorite times of the year... and I have quite a few. Just ask my wife, Kathy. It's a great time to surf the "Eagle Valley Eagles," or "Decorah Eagles" web cams. I'm sure there are more websites, but these are two of my favorites. From nest building or repair to actual fledgling of newborn birds, these web cams provide awesome views into the world of bald eagles. Whether it's morning, noon or night, I spend a lot of time in front of my computer watching their progress. Here's the latest from the ever popular Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which I watch most often and recommend:
Courtship behaviors We have exciting updates on the new EagleCam. If you’ve checked in lately you’ve noticed a bit of housekeeping activity as the eagles organize their nest, adding sticks and arranging them as part of their breeding ritual. Nest building occurs prior to mating, usually beginning one to three months beforehand. Photographers in the area have captured some dramatic courtship displays, including some entertaining and breathtaking swoops, cartwheels and stick exchanges in mid-air. Eagles do not mate in the air, contrary to popular belief, but we caught a rare sight at the nest last week. Check our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MinnesotaNongameWildlifeProgram?utm_content=&utm_medium=email&utm_name=&utm_source=govdelivery&utm_term=) for video of the pair mating in the nest! They will mate several times a day, on nearby branches or in the nest. This means that egg laying could begin in as little as 10 days.
A coveted nest This weekend, and over the past few weeks, there have been a variety of bald eagle visitors to the nest, and many people have expressed concerns that the resident male has vanished. We believe the male is fiercely defending his territory, keeping him too busy to visit the nest itself. He has been seen in the area, and we also believe he is still the mate. The visitors have ranged in age from one-year-old juveniles to adults, attempting to claim the nest, the female or both. The resident female is fiercely defending her nest, and she makes it very clear that her male is the only male she will tolerate.
Night visitors The infrared imaging feature on the new camera has proven to be very informative. White-footed mice and raccoon are regular nighttime visitors. Our scientists believe the mice also use the eagles’ nest for their nests! They feed on the “nest-overs” from the eagles and use the feathers and fur for making their little homes within the large eagle nest. Raccoon also have been cleaning up the leftover food, but they’ve been warned by the eagles that their visits will soon need to end.
Webcam issues Poor quality streaming from the webcam has been frustrating for viewers and cam operators as well. We are working hard on these issues and have ruled out a number of factors. The camera itself is running fine. We have no doubt that the pixilation is happening somewhere else, but we can’t pinpoint it yet. The microphone placed in the nest is not working. It’s not part of, or attached to the camera. The mic will be replaced, but not until the chicks are banded. Xcel Energy generously provides the bucket truck to get us to the nest, and we reserve these favors for necessity. They have one truck for this region that reaches high enough for camera access, and demand for this truck is high. We ask that you remain patient while we work out the bugs of this brand new system.
Winter adaptation Many birds and other animals have a variety of physical and behavioral adaptations and strategies that allow them to survive even the coldest weather. Here’s a look at ways these amazing birds survive and keep us entertained throughout the long winter months. Birds have a higher metabolism rate and thus, a higher body temperature than humans, making it a challenge to maintain this body heat in the winter. Many birds will spend the fall taking advantage of abundant food sources to fatten up for winter -- something we humans try to avoid. Feathers are excellent insulators and many grow extra feathers during a fall molt, adding about 20 percent to their weight in winter. Their feet are covered with specialized scales that minimize heat loss and they can constrict the blood flow to their legs and feet so blood flows only to their major organs. This means less energy is required to circulate blood and less warmth is lost. Yes, birds do shiver, especially in extreme conditions. Shivering is a short-term strategy that raises their metabolic rate so they can generate more body heat. Shutting the heat down is also an important strategy. Birds can turn their legs into heat exchange stations, a term called “countercurrent heat exchange.” Because the veins and arteries in their feet and legs are located near each other, the warm blood leaving their body is cooled before it reaches the extremity (like a foot). Similarly, cool blood is warmed before entering the body. By cooling the blood before it reaches the foot, they do not lose as much heat (less energy loss). By warming the blood before it enters the body, they are less likely to get chilled by the cold blood. Behaviorally, birds use a variety of techniques to conserve body heat: * Fluffing out their feathers to create pockets of air for additional insulation. * Tucking their beaks into their feathery shoulders to breathe in the warm air of their body. * Crouching to cover both legs with their wings feathers to shield them from the wind and cold. * Turning their backs to the sun to take advantage of solar heating on a sunny day. * Roosting together in shrubs or empty bird houses to conserve much needed heat. Many birds will go into “torpor” to conserve energy. When an animal is in a state of torpor, its body temperature is lowered and its heart, metabolic and respiration rates are slowed to conserve energy and calorie output. It’s a short-term strategy (a few hours or overnight) for surviving frigid temperatures and severe storms. But how can a bird successfully hatch its eggs in the dead of winter? A few birds, such as the bald eagle and great horned owl, rely heavily on a brood patch, a bare spot on the belly that facilitates heat transfer to the egg during incubation. Interestingly, both male and female bald eagles develop a brood patch and share in the incubation duties. This is not true of the great horned owl.
Get warm and feathery Minnesota EagleCam viewers can rest assured that the bald eagles are well equipped to raise their young in the frigid Minnesota winters. Anyone can help other birds and nongame wildlife stay warm in winter by donating to the Nongame Wildlife Program tax checkoff. Just look for the “loon line” on Minnesota income tax and state property tax forms and give a gift to help continue efforts to provide quality habitat for all endangered, threatened and nongame species. It may just help warm your winter!
Minnesota Nongame Wildlife Program The EagleCam and associated technology are paid for and maintained by the DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Program, which is largely supported by voluntary contributions. Recognized as one of the most successful programs of its kind in the United States, the Nongame Wildlife program helps hundreds of Minnesota species through habitat restorations, surveys and monitoring, technical guidance, and outreach and education – critters such as bees, butterflies, songbirds, loons, frogs, turtles and bats, as well as eagles. Donations to the Nongame Wildlife Program are matched dollar for dollar by the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) license plate fund. They’re also tax-deductible. Learn more at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/nongame/index.html.
SOURCE: Minnesota DNR
An open letter to Mike McCarthy
Dear Coach McCarthy, First, I respect you and believe, overall, you have done a very good job as Green Bay Packers' head coach. Your overall record is exceptional, and I know you are very well-respected among your peers and beyond. However, as a longtime sports journalist and Packers' follower, I disagree with your decision to start QB Brett Hundley rather than Joe Callahan on Sunday. In one breath, you say preseason games are for evaluating talent. In another breath, you say there is a huge difference between preseason games and regular-season games, but the evaluation process has already begun. Isn't that a little bit hypocritical? Although the Packers and Detroit Lions are both out of the playoffs and are playing a meaningless regular-season finale, I understand your reasoning for trying to finish 8-8 rather than 7-9. Winning is the name of the game. However, wouldn't it would be an ideal time for Callahan to get some "real" action in a regular-season game. Are you saying you believe Hundley is the best choice to back up injured quarterback and future Hall of Famer Aaron Rodgers? Are you saying once Rodgers retires... whenever that may be, that Hundley automatically steps into his shoes? Are you auditioning Hundley for another NFL team? Are you sitting Callahan to protect him from other NFL team evaluations? Or, do you simply feel Callahan isn't an NFL caliber quarterback yet? These questions deserve answers.
Give Packers' president Murphy a chance to prove his restructuring move
For sure, there's been plenty of action in Titletown these days. From coaching changes to a new general manager, there's also much talk about Green Bay Packers' president Mike Murphy restructuring the organization to hopefully, return it to the top of pro football. From what has been reported, former GM Ted Thompson was the problem. Words such as disconnect, lack of communication and dysfunction have been floated throughout the media. Whether Thompson was stripped of his duties or simply wanted to return to what he enjoys most - scouting, Thompson's role was changed. As for Murphy, he still reports to the executive committee. Head coach Mike McCarthy, new general manager Brian Gutekunst and Russ Ball, new executive vice president of football operations, report to Murphy, who is expected to have weekly meetings with his staff to get a better handle on football operations. For more than 20 years, the general manager oversaw the football operation side of the business. No more! Murphy's the main man. I trust Murphy knows what he is doing. A few of my friends and other Packers' fans agree. Others disagree and that's OK, too. I say, let's wait and see how Murphy's method works for two seasons. Then we can judge.
Should he, or should he not play?
The Green Bay Packers survived another week. Good. Great. Wonderful. The Green and Gold's golden-armed quarterback Aaron Rodgers could also be back behind center on Sunday when the team travels to Carolina. Is that good news or bad news? For the Packers and their fans, it's great news. That's all we have been waiting for... survive another week with QB Brett Hundley until Rodgers returns and bails out the team again. However, there are several questions beginning with a bone density scan Rodgers is scheduled to have sometime this week to determine if his surgically repaired collarbone is completely healed. If so, will he be cleared? Rodgers obviously wants to return as witnessed by his actions and body language during the Packers' 27-21 overtime victory over the hapless Cleveland Browns on Sunday. I admire the future Hall of Famer. He's a gamer, a fighter, a tough competitor and a team player. He wants to be the starting quarterback against the Panthers this week, the Minnesota Vikings next week and the Detroit Lions in the regular-season finale. Now, let's be realistic. The Packers (7-6) must run the table and finish 10-6 to at least have a shot at a wild-card berth. I know, I know. We all remember Rodgers' "run the table" remark when they were 4-6 last year. But there's no way Green Bay wins the NFC North Division with a 10-6 record this year. The Vikings (10-3) are a virtual lock to win it unless they lose all three of their final games against Cincinnati, Green Bay and the Chicago Bears. Green Bay is one of five teams still alive for a wild-card berth, but are longshots at best. The Seahawks are 8-5, Detroit, Green Bay and Dallas 7-6, and Arizona 6-7. If the playoffs began today, The Eagles (11-2) and Vikings would be the first and second seeds, respectively. The sixth-seeded Atlanta Falcons (8-5) would face the third-seeded Los Angles Rams (9-4), while the fifth seeded Panthers (9-4) would face the fourth-seeded New Orleans Saints (9-4). By the way, the Vikings certainly didn't do the Packers any favors on Sunday by losing to the Panthers. Getting back to Rodgers, let's play out this scenario. Tests reveal he is 100 percent healed and cleared to play, which means he will start unless the Green Bay brass says otherwise. However, that would cause a furor in Titletown to say the least. Consider the buzz among the "talking heads," too. If Rodgers is cleared and does play, what if he gets injured again? Social media would go viral from fans as well as radio and TV members telling us that he shouldn't have played anyway. Finally, I hope Rodgers CT scan comes out well, but not 100 percent and he's not cleared to play. Why? Because realistically, it's not worth it. Have Rodgers come back healthy next season. Even the most loyal Packers' fans must know this season is over already. There's no question Green Bay is a much better team with Rodgers at the helm. However, their secondary is in shambles and we all know what happens to a poor defense in the playoffs. The Packers can hope for a 9-7 finish, and then regroup for 2018 with a 100 percent healthy Aaron Rodgers.