And so it is July 4th …

Justice for all continues to be a goal.

July 4th is a national holiday celebrating the birth of America in 1776, but as I read President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s quote I was reminded of the work still needing to be done in America!

Here is his quote: 

“[W]e look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way–everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want–which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants–everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear–which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor–anywhere in the world.”

Let’s make our country best for all, including the world’s population, so we can be one in peace … happy July 4th! Stay positive; keep working!

Birds at San Luis Obispo & Avila Beach, CA

I actually discovered a new bird at San Luis Obispo as we hiked near Laguna Lake in San Luis Obispo and another new bird while walking the Harford Pier in Avila Beach! So exciting to find new birds and to enjoy those I already can easily identify!

At San Luis Obispo’s Laguna Lake:

Grasshopper sparrow with a bit of yellow above eye … new bird for me!

At Avila Beach:

Pigeon Guillemot caught something after his very deep dive!
A new bird for me …pigeon guillemot and now I see it flying by!

Of course there were many other birds to observe, but I enjoyed time watching this downy woodpecker at Laguna Lake where we hiked a few miles of trails. I suspected this woodpecker to be young/juvenile as it was fascinated with a spider’s web as I watched too, but here it is just checking out the bark and where to peck in the bark.

Downy woodpecker

There is plenty to do in this area of California; hiking, bicycling, shopping, wine tasting and spending time at the beach. Once the fog rolls out there is often a windy, sunny day to enjoy!

My Abortion Story

It was spring 1973. I was sitting in front of a panel of 3 older women. Older I say because I was 21 and they had already lived decades before me. This interview was for a resident advisor position at my college for the upcoming year. I had been encouraged to apply for the position by my dorm director. I really wanted the position to help offset upcoming college expenses.

The panel asked a variety of questions and the interview seemed to progress quite well … until one scenario/question was asked of me. One woman on the panel explained this scenario and asked the question: a young girl at your dorm asks if you could drive her to an appointment the next day. Her boyfriend’s car broke down, needs to get fixed; therefore, she is looking for a ride the next morning so she can make her appointment. She tells you her appointment is for her to get an abortion, would you drive her to the appointment?

I was quiet. I looked at the 3 women. I thought long and hard about the ramifications of my answer. I thought about this young girl in this scenario and how it could someday be a possible real scenario. What would I do?

I looked at the 3 women again and asked my question. Do you want me to tell you the answer you want to hear … and I thought a few seconds again before continuing … or do you want to know what I would do?

I knew earlier in the year, January 1973, there had been a landmark decision with the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the U.S. Constitution protects a woman’s liberty to choose an abortion without government restriction. Roe v. Wade

They looked at me. I am not even sure they ever answered my question because I kept talking. I was incensed with what I knew at that moment was a generational gap in truly understanding a “woman’s choice”. It means the woman chooses. It may not be my choice, but it is also not my decision to make … each woman chooses for themself.

I repeated the question … what would I do, drive this young girl to her appointment … I then answered, yes. I also explained this girl had already taken time to think and decide what was best for herself. Plus, besides making her decision, the appointment and the plan on how to get to the appointment had been set. Now she needed help; I would drive her.

I got up from my chair and left the room knowing there would be no resident advisorship in my future. I spoke with my dorm director about the entire interview. I explained my need to stay true to myself, to answer honestly and not play a game to be considered for a position. I believe each woman is more than capable to think what is best for her situation and still believe that to this day, 49 years later. 

Why is government and other men and women making decisions about a woman’s body? It is none of their business. Decisions belong to the woman, made by the woman, it is their body, their decision. You do not need to like it or love it; it is not your decision! Let the woman walk in her own shoes with the decision she made … and you walk in your own and make the decision you wish for your own body. Hands off each other!

Recent rulings are not respecting women or an individual’s ability to choose … I worry about the slippery slope that may be ahead … and it will be more than just this issue. Time will tell.

MO’s Katy Trail for Cycling, Part 2 of 2

The next day I bicycled from McBaine access point to New Franklin and back. I started earlier this day; it was hot and I really appreciated shady sections on the trail. I loved listening to the birds. The indigo bunting and northern cardinal were the two birds most often flying across the trail in front of me and impossible for me to capture in a photo. Since my bicycle makes noise as I slow it down, plus I have no kickstand or fast access to my camera, it is a wildlife photographer’s nightmare. As a result, I stop, get off my bicycle, spend 15 minutes at a location to view birds in the area, and maybe get a photo. Often I wished I had my zoom lens; these birds hid deep in the trees!

Caution signs along the trail.

I did ride through a short tunnel on this trail. A sign: “Caution, falling rock, do not stop on the next .25 mile of the trail” were posted. Each time I saw these signs I’d look up the bluff’s wall and wonder, is this my day to be knocked dead by a rock? We take all kinds of risks in our lives, some more calculated than others. Sometimes a rock can come careening down a mountainside, as one did when my partner and I were in Colorado. Fortunately no one was hit. Other times you hear of a person enjoying lunch and being killed by a tree limb falling on her head. Wow! Life is like that … unpredictable, unexpected, keeps us on our toes! We can try to control what we can, but otherwise my philosophy is live in the moment and enjoy it while you can.

There are many historical signs along the trail, but I was intrigued by this gnome on a stump. The gnome is measuring the actual depth of flood waters that reached this spot in Rocheport in 1993 when there was a flood! The people of this town did not give in to the river. They rebuilt and the gnome is their mascot and part of a memorial to the McDermott family who had a home here.

See how high the water was?

I love meeting people when I travel. One couple and I talked about their bicycling adventures on the C&O and GAP …. future trails on my to-do list. They were planning to bike the entire Katy Trail trail and bike back to their starting point. However, between the heat, humidity and price gouging from places along the trail, they were contemplating a shuttle from the endpoint to their start. (I did pay $2.15 for a can of soda and from their info prices seemed to be high on everything.) Another woman was walking the trail; I passed her by with a “hi” and wave. We met again at my turn-around point which was where her car was parked. We got talking; she is a cancer survivor; moving from St George, Utah to Virginia with her partner whose family lives in Ohio. They felt Virginia would be closer to his family. I asked, how was it that she was here in Missouri on this day? She had a horse, found a place here for it to be cared for, and they allow her opportunities to stay at the place and visit the horse. Great! As I rode away I thought we really should not need reminders of how fortunate we are when we have good health, opportunities to travel, and supportive family and friends … but I did ride away thinking about all of that. Every person I meet has a story and I always want to hear it. Most often, there are lessons to be learned and/or reminded with moments of reflection and gratitude in my own life. Yes, life is good; I am grateful!

This day’s ride: 37.62 miles accomplished with no flat tire! I could have ridden an additional connector: the 8 mile MKT Trail from Columbia which connects with the Katy Trail, but I chose not to this time. There are future plans for another loop south of the Katy Trail to eventually connect with this one to create a loop. That would be an interesting trail too. Now time to truly head home.

Heading West … Ohio to Indiana!

Time to head home … it’s been a long trip and with many more miles to drive before I get home. It was nice being off major roads, noticing just how beautiful our countryside is with its rolling green hills, seeing Amish driving their carriage with a horse, stopping at their bakery, contemplating a cheese curd stop, and loving less traffic!

I stayed at a nice campground in Homerville, Ohio … lakefront campsite, quiet as it was just the start of their season, and with land to explore while I stretched my legs. 

My typical routine: cook and eat dinner, then take a longer walk before the sun sets. Two birds caught my attention: singing robin and house wren jumping, actually about to fly off!

The next morning was beautiful. I wished for another day here, but it was time to move on.

I stopped at Alum Creek Park Reservoir in Lewis Center, Ohio. I looked for waterbirds on the reservoir and then walked their Storybook Trail. Plenty of birds here! I could not miss this Baltimore oriole.

By days end I was in the Indianapolis area, cooking dinner, and finally taking a walk at 7:00pm. This is not the best time for photography, but did see a house wren singing and a red-bellied woodpecker.

Next day …driving to Missouri!

In CT? Have You Visited Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center?

Mystic Connecticut is known for its aquarium, seaport, and historic village, yet do not overlook a visit to a very informative nature center surrounded by various hiking trails at Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center. I walked the Forest Loop, a meditative trail, around a couple of ponds, Meadow  and Ledge trails to enjoy the outdoors and observe wildlife.

The nature center was founded in 1946, and in 2013 it acquired the 45 acre Coogan Farm to protect the colonial (earliest 1646) farms including the Denison Homestead and Avalonia Land Conservancy. It was enjoyable walking the trails through diverse habitats which also link with the nearby neighborhoods, the nature school, other businesses and nature center. There was much more for me to check out if I had time to do so, but not on this visit. 

This center is located on the North Atlantic Migratory Flyway so a wonderful place to observe birds throughout the year. I did observe 10 different bird species during my visit. Also, squirrels were scurrying around and turtles were sunning themselves … everyone enjoying the day!

Here are some photos from this visit:

Common grackle
Blue-gray gnatcatcher
Canada goose

Time to Connect or Not … 

Solo travelers, such as myself, can choose how connected we wish to be with others while we visit a place or observe some activity. There are times I want/need a quiet, meditative experience; other times, I enjoy newly discovered connections, shared moments, with individuals or people around me. 

With travel, one does not know the individuals one may interact with and/or if a possible connection, shared moment, or not will be made. This is a huge part of why I find solo travel so enjoyable. Conversations with people I had never known may spark new ideas in my brain as I listen to their point of view. This allows me think through what is said and to speak my mind to someone who cannot assume they know what I will say. Shared observations open my eyes to see and learn about something new or can be a reminder of things I should have known. It is the perfect time to be non-judgmental, in the moment, and with no expectation. When meeting new people it is time to break away from possible old habits, thinking you know what the person will say and not really listening. No assumptions can be made and thus I find myself more engaged and enjoying the moment. The level of connection, shared moment, varies upon the place and/or activity … and of course the individuals you’re with … and can be most fun!

I was at Southard’s Pond Park in Babylon, NY when I had an amazing shared moment while walking the trail and looking for birds. I met one woman and almost immediately we were sharing birding and photography info, talking about life, and the wonderful park with its wildlife. This woman patiently pointed out where a red morph Eastern screech owl was sitting, a new bird for my life list. Finally seeing it through many branches blowing in the wind and about 50 feet off trail, we continued walking, talking and observing birds for each other. When we bumped into another woman it was obvious she wanted her own space, so little was said to her and that was okay. Next we were talking with a man with his very young daughters. He was such an animated guy one could not help but be excited as he talked about the observations the 3 of them made, but he also wanted to know where the owl was… so we gave him the bird’s location. 

At one point I continued on and the woman I was walking with headed back to the parking lot. When I decided to return too, I got talking with another birder who was looking for the owl. I tried to help since I had seen the owl earlier, but which tree was that bird in? Before I knew it, the father with his daughters and the woman who initially pointed out the owl to me was returning to the spot. She pointed the owl out to all of us! There was such joy with help in locating the owl and seeing the young girls and father excited too. It was a magical moment; the power of connection, a shared moment, was perfect as we all saw the owl!

As I walked back to the parking lot I thought how wonderful a world would be if we could have more positive connections in the world. I struggle in understanding why there is so much negativity, conflict and disconnect among humans in the world. Why is there no desire to have a healthy, supportive, fair world for us all to live in for the decades we are only here? I simply do not understand the strife we put before ourselves when with the same energy we could do for the betterment of all. It seems this is one of those things I will never understand and can only do my part to to remain positive.

Thanks to the woman pointing out the red morph Eastern screech owl to me or I would never had seen it! It was a challenge taking this photo, the wind blowing tree branches in front of the bird, but I wanted it since few times do I see an owl.

I did see 15 different bird species on this walk. Photos of a mute swan and osprey are below. This is a nice park to visit if you are in the area. I’ll return someday as I did not walk all the trails and would like to do so.

Mother’s Day … 

This day is a special day to acknowledge the important work mothers do each and every day and to recognize those efforts. The majority of countries around the world recognize this date as the second Monday in May. 

To my Mom: Thank you for bringing me into the world, loving me and remaining in my life to the healthy age you are. It is always an interesting visit when with you. May you continue to be healthy and happy!

To all mothers: Never forget how special you are. You have worked hard caring, loving, and fighting for what you think is best for your child(ren). It takes tremendous energy and maybe you have not heard thank you often enough, but know you are appreciated, loved and respected … and thank you!

Happy Mother’s Day to all!

Memories and Madness… What a Day!

While visiting family in New York State, I drove to the northern tip of Long Island, specifically Orient Point County Park. It’s been more than decade since visiting here. Driving past what once were duck and potato farms and large agricultural lands, now were vineyards, farms growing fruit and raising goats, numerous small businesses and certainly none of the usual fast food joints! My youngest sister and I had tasted Long Island wine at some beautifully located tasting rooms in the past, but never out this far on an island that is 118 miles long. 

I had an elementary school friend whose family owned another property in Greenport, located on the north shore, where the rocky terminal moraine ended its movement eons ago. My family and I grew up in Suffolk County on the south shore created by the sand from that terminal moraine glacial melt eons ago. The geologic history of the island is fascinating especially regarding glacial movement.

The Long Island Expressway is more than half the length of the island, 71 miles, and always feels like a racetrack! The speeding and traffic is a horrible combination and increases on weekends, thus I plan my travel during the week. Once off the expressway there are smaller roads to the island’s tip where people can ride the Cross Sound Ferry to Connecticut.

On this day I hoped to see some unique, or new to me, birds along the stony north shore looking out to Orient Point Lighthouse. The day was cool and sunny, slight wind, with birds off in the distance. I was carrying my tripod with my largest zoom lens about a half mile and trying to capture photos of the birds in the distance, but even with my binoculars I could not be sure of their identification. I would have to wait till looking at the photos when I returned back to our family home. That’ll be okay.

And then …

I had a long drive to return to my Mom’s home so I headed back with plans to stop at a supermarket. I plugged my phone’s cord into the USB  slot and the radio indicated “no media connected”. Then my new van’s back-up camera started working as I drove forward!! I could not drive forward and see this camera showing the road behind me at the same time … distracting! Very weird! After a short distance I pulled off the road, turned off the van, started again and had nothing at the radio. Fortunately I had a service appointment for an oil change the next day at a RAM dealership so I headed to that location while simultaneously handling a spurting nosebleed! WHAT!?! Now I really was crazed… it’s been years since ever having a nose bleed … yet with nose pinched with fingers on one hand and other hand on the steering wheel I continued down the road.

I arrived at the dealership, pulled straight in to a parking space, and explained to a service advisor they would be looking at more than an oil change the next day. I walked out to the parking lot now realizing I pulled into a parking space and wondered how I would safely back up the van with no back-up camera. What happened? Everything is working!!

What a day! Sigh…..

Next day I brought the van in for the oil change and the back-up camera and radio were still working! Okay, so that is good, except they will not be able to diagnose the problem because at the moment there is no problem! My solution has been to not turn the radio off. I will do so when finally home and deal with whatever happens then … closer to a RAM dealership … yet hope I have no major issue as I still need to drive west to get to my home.

The good news: I observed 3 new birds while at Orient Point County Park: great black-backed gull, long-tailed duck, and white-winged scoter with hopes I can eventually get better photos of each than the ones I have since I will be along the Connecticut and Rhode Island coast, other side of the Long Island Sound, in the next week. But here are some of the birds:

Long-tailed duck
Double-crested cormorant and Great black-backed gull
Common loon

Wildlife Surprise … Not a Bird!

My eyes are scanning … up, down, across … bushes and trees, the water’s surface while also wondering if a water bird will pop up through the surface and dive again, observing the ground and thinking the birds may not be enjoying the light rain that is currently falling … I too would fluff up and tuck away if I could! 

I am at Ithaca’s Stewart Park, located at the southern end of New York State’s largest Finger Lake, Cayuga Lake. It’s a beautiful park with plenty of human activity when the weather cooperates. Some 10 -12 brave souls are learning and practicing sailing techniques in their sailboats, a couple of hearty fishermen are hoping to catch something and I am sitting in my van with the window open, camera and binoculars ready, and all of a sudden I notice something!

What is that drowned rat-looking creature? I think to myself, that animal is too large to be a weasel or a rat, I am guessing a mink. Thanks to the app, iNaturalist, I include a photo and the necessary info about time, date and location of my observation for others to agree or disagree with my identification. Here the American mink is running by:

American mink sniffing around…
And then it was running off!

I was surprised to see the mink since they are usually nocturnal, but the gray rainy weather may be throwing us all off kilter. The mink’s thick brown coat appeared to be soaking wet, possibly from just being in the water. Mink are known to rely on aquatic prey so it may be the reason it was active during the daytime. I like seeing other wildlife. My outdoor time is not only about birds, but observing the web of life firsthand … yet I do worry about its future… in this moment though, time to enjoy this critter as it will be gone in a flash! And so it was!