A Crazy, Busy, Birding Day in Texas!

Texas is a huge state! I am never sure when I will be back to Texas, so I visit as many places as I can before leaving the state. But this day I was really crazy. I thought I would only be visiting two places. My goal of an eBird checklist per day prompted me to bird at my Harvest Host location: Haak Winery at 7:50 am since the weather looked questionable. (Not a fan of birding in the rain.)

My next stop was El Jardin Del Mar in Pasadena, Texas. Stopping at small local places, off the beaten track, is fun, so I do it. I observed seven different species of about 60 birds total and maybe a good photo or two. A young man approached me and asked if I got any good photos. My response always is, I hope so. He and I got talking and before I knew it I was in my life coach role. A time later as I left he said, “Bye and thanks for the advice”. I wasn’t sure I did, but okay if he felt that way. Then I was off to my main event location, Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge.

The wind was blowing so hard at this refuge I had a hard time standing. I used my van as a wind block to set my camera on its tripod. With baseball cap on backwards, viewing birds through my binoculars and taking photos, this was work! My van door flew open with the wind and I literally wrenched my left shoulder trying to capture the door. A couple also on the auto loop and smart enough not to get out of their vehicle stopped by to chat. They asked me why I do not check out Smith Oaks Rookery. Obviously they saw my battle with the wind. They mentioned I could take photos of birds up close, out of the wind, and on a boardwalk. Sounded good!

I was to be at my Harvest Host for wine and alligator egg rolls … who would miss that opportunity! With AT&T not connecting I drove to the Harvest Host location to let them know I will not be there by 5pm as planned. No one was there! Well, off I went to the rookery. What a great recommendation from the couple! Easy peasy as they say … photos taken in no wind! When I was leaving the couple was excited to see me and asked what I thought. (They too drove the half hour to view the birds at the rookery again and hoping our paths would cross to ask my opinion of their recommendation.) Very nice, great recommendation and the birds were everywhere! I hoped to have some good photos.

Back to the Harvest Host. Bummed, as the host was in Greece and no wine or egg rolls … good quiet night with only 2 local dogs barking at times. After a day like today, they did not bother me!

A couple of photos from this day:

Laughing gull
Roseate spoonbill
Common Gallinule

The Holiday Season

It’s here. The holiday season. Does this holiday season mean anything different than any other season in the year? Aren’t there 4 seasons in a year? Should we be doing anything different during this one? Are we not always grateful, kind, happy, and appreciative of what we have in our life during the other seasons? Or do we need a special holiday season to be genuinely appreciative?

I am always confused by this season. Now some are thankful to their creator and attend their seasonal ritual. Others finally buy the holiday gift a loved one wanted during the year. I like to think we are prayerful, thankful, giving and loving throughout the year and not solely this season. Or maybe I am once again part of the minority in trying to make sense of so many things within our world.

Today and always, I wish you many good days … may they be healthy, happy and what you wish of life … we are here today and every day to live each day to the best of our ability and to provide support to those who need it … celebrate all the holidays of this month and after with continued kindness and love!

I wish you a wonderful holiday season and upcoming year … as we be our best loving self in our ever-changing world.

From one heart to another, I wish you love.

With Gratitude … on this Thanksgiving Day

As I fall asleep each night, I have a habit. During the final minutes of my wakefulness, I take time to be thankful for the individuals in my life. I know people write gratitude journals, but I enjoy thinking about my day and past experiences each night.

Thank you to the people in my life who remain communicative even when discussions get difficult. Politics and Covid ripped apart opportunities to talk with some people. Thank you to those of you who have been open to respectful discussions. We can at times agree to disagree. It is easier to do so when we know where each one of us stands and why. We may not like another’s stance, but it is truly not the end of the world! We all want solutions.

Thank you to the people who supported my efforts this year! I appreciated the positive experiences while birding around the USA. The beach-comber, the local naturalist, and the fellow birder at a park, each continue to open my eyes to our natural world! For at least 50 years now, I continue to worry about the state of our environment. I also thank those who provide positive direction in protecting and maintaining our web of life on this planet. 

Thank you to the medical world: the technology and personnel providing the needed procedures as individuals need chemo treatments, surgery, and/or transplants. Living in the USA with great medical care allows us here to live longer. I will always appreciate science, the scientific method and scientists.

Thank you to my life partner. I know I can be trying at times, yet during the past 27 years you know how to make our partnership work. Each night I do think what a lucky person I am, especially if I did something stupid during the day. I appreciate your love and your patience with me. I love you for your support of our shared activities and my projects.

Thank you to my friends. Your love and support never go unnoticed each day. I hope I have told you how important you are to me. While I do not see you often, I can appreciate your energy when I need to connect. Also regarding Jane, who died this year … I loved our hour long phone calls and talk about politics and birds. They will be missed. I worry about my Tibetan friend. We met and communicated with each other since 2010, yet the past 2 years I have heard nothing. I continue to hope she is okay.

Thank you to my family. We have had our ups and downs this past year, yet my love for each of you is real. I look forward to this next year … to visit, have fun, and create great memories. Despite my living thousands of miles from each of you, I do think of and love you. We are family and can connect via the latest technology and/or at times a home visit. The connection needs to work in both directions so never hesitate to say hello.

With fond memories regarding my Dad who died 7 years ago. Every time I pick up a screwdriver or hammer, I think of him. My van-build this year with bed, sliding drawers and bench and/or my volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity reinforces the love of my Dad.

Sometimes I lay in bed and am so thankful it brings me to tears. I am so grateful … thank you all, you are greatly appreciated.

A northern cardinal is always a special bird for me … there is plenty of symbolism if you research it … but for me, when I see a northern cardinal it is about encouragement and remaining positive about life. I love seeing this bird!

A Northern cardinal sighting means different things to each of us … for me, it is encouragement & to remain positive about life.

Bird Migration Tools Are Available

Don’t delay in checking out these bird migration tools. Active forecasting of bird migration will end November 15, 2022. Don’t you want to know how many birds are flying above your town tonight?

Thanks to Cornell Lab of Ornithology, other colleges, organizations and foundations, forecast maps and migration alert tools are available for our use. First, download birdcast.info on your computer. Then choose one of the migration tools. Enter your county and state to learn the number of birds flying overhead each night. The nocturnal migration count begins 3 hours after sunset. It is updated every 6 hours so we can watch the live migration happening across the lower 48 USA states.

I especially like the local bird migration alert. It provides the current night’s migration forecast for the town I enter along with the upcoming 2 nights. Depending upon where you may be, a low forecast may be 3,000 birds/kilometer/night. Whereas in another town in a neighboring state on the same night, the count may be 25,000 birds/kilometer/night! 

Your best bet is to go on-line, birdcast.info and click away on the various bird migration tools available to us. This is the time of year when birds are moving, so check out what’s happening where you live. Or choose other places and see what is happening in that night sky! 

Active forecasting is only between March 1 – June 1 and August 1 – November 15 as birds migrate in the USA. Don’t forget: light pollution is a threat to migrating birds – please do your part: lights out! Thanks.

AZ to WA, My Van Adventure Begins!

My goal the first three days of travel: drive from the hot desert of southeastern Arizona to a cool forest of northwest California and begin a coastline adventure of Oregon and Washington.

Day 1: 

There is a blue-winged warbler in the Phoenix, Arizona area. Since I am passing the place then no reason not to stop and find the bird! Well it was off the interstate by some distance but doable. I was up at 4:30am, out the door of my home by 5am, and at the birding site by 7:30am. Other birders were on the trail with the same goal. We commiserate together as we wait and watch and hope. I was fortunate to talk with a woman who had seen the bird the last few days and knew the bird’s routine! (That is a true blue birder!) Long story short, the blue-winged warbler arrived, hopped around deep within the ash tree branches. I saw it and have no photo! It was amazing to see the bird though.

My destination for the night was to visit friends in Sedona, Arizona. Always wonderful to see them, drink wine and enjoy delicious food with a friend who is a fantastic cook. My partner rented a place for time away from our desert heat, thus I could sleep on a real mattress for one more night before the van adventure really starts.

Day 2:

With a beautiful sunny blue sky, my partner and I walk after breakfast and see the new housing in the Sedona area where we used to live. Once headlined on USA Today’s newspaper as the “best place to live” led to everyone descending on the area. Now every housing lot is built upon. Plus half the people eventually driving their rental car from the Phoenix airport to Grand Canyon National Park, drive through Sedona and seem to discover traffic circles for the first time in their life!

I take off and just 15 miles down the road I am in a thunder, lightning and torrential rainstorm on the interstate. When truckers put on their emergency flashers I know this is quite the downpour! No hydroplaning, clean windshield, and thoughts of appreciating my van, knowing I will not be setting up a tent in the rain tonight.

I head to Williams, Arizona where I will overnight. Time exploring Kaibab Lake and downtown Williams were also on the agenda before settling back at the campground for dinner. While waiting to check in at the campground, the woman at the desk finished her statement to another as she looked at me, “and so I am working on my AB list”.  I asked her about her AB list. Years ago she wanted to hike a trail at Walnut Canyon National Monument, near Flagstaff, AZ. Her husband, Bruce, said she should not … and so she did not. She kept a list of things he pooh-poohed and ever since Bruce died she has been doing the activities on her “After Bruce” list.

(Just so you know: Walnut Canyon National Monument has cliff dwellings 350 feet below the canyon rim. 240 steps down for the visitor … thus 240 steps back up. Bring water, wear good shoes, and take your time as you walk the path of the ancient inhabitants and see 20 ruins. It is a worthwhile visit.)

At Kaibab Lake, I discover it is an area enjoyed by fishermen and campers. It is in a beautiful setting where I saw a bald eagle, osprey and great blue heron. I witnessed how crowded the town of Williams can be in the summer. So busy with all its hotels, cafes, and shops selling all sorts of knickknacks. This town is at one end of the train line that runs north to Grand Canyon National Park. Have you visited Grand Canyon National Park? That is a must visit for anyone in the area!

Kaibab Lake

Day 3: Williams, AZ to Barstow, CA

This is not rocket science. Waking to a 55 degree AZ morning … but it is 78 degrees already in Barstow, my next stop. I am leisurely enjoying the morning here. The  cool breeze through the ponderosa pines and Steller’s jays stop by. My 105 degree California afternoon of adventure can wait.

I left the campground at 9am with time to detour to the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City. So I did. Lake Havasu City is about 20 miles south of Interstate 40. Easy detour and perfect time for me to check out the area. Boating and fishing is huge here, but I wanted to see the London Bridge. It was originally built in 1830s and spanned London’s Thames River. Robert McCulloch bought the bridge in 1968. He had granite blocks cut from the original bridge brought to the United States. Reinforced concrete structure then had the original masonry on it. In 1971 the bridge was complete linking an island in the Colorado River with the main part of the city. I walked along the Bridgewater Channel canal to take this photo.

London Bridge
Another Colorado River stop with Santa Fe Railroad

Yes, it was very, very hot and I was happy to get rolling down the road again. A short while later I stopped at another section of the Colorado River. No birds, just boaters. The train is often seen as this was a main route across the USA. I am driving across the Mojave Desert. It is known for the hottest air temperature … you may have heard of Furnace Creek in Death Valley. The record: 134 degrees Fahrenheit on July 10, 1913. There is truly no joy in stopping at a rest area when it is so very hot. 105 degrees at the moment.

I check in at the campground. After eating some food I decide to check out Liberty Sculpture Park. Somehow I missed the park. If there be one advantage to having everything in the van when I leave a campsite, this was the day! Using my phone, I reserve a hotel room about 20 miles down the road and head there for the night. Air conditioned room, a shower and a good night’s sleep are needed. I have a 6 hour drive the next day. That’s the way adventure travel happens. So much for the best of plans … do what is best to stay safe and healthy! It may require a detour!

Mohave Desert, hottest desert in the world.

Three Quick Moments with a Hummingbird!

Birds crack me up! This broad-billed hummingbird was not flitting around as fast as hummingbirds are known to do, so I found myself with a smile on my face as I watched it. Here it looked like it was falling asleep, eyes closed but beak open:

Eyes closed, beak open!

Then the bird is awake yet still remaining on the branch! I am thinking I may be looking at the bird’s their eyelid called a nictitating membrane. Often when a bird is waking up or sleepy this membrane can be visible. And then the hummingbird’s eyes were open as seen below:

Bird is awake and still on the branch!

The final pose, obviously a great stretch of its body, making me smile was what I called the “yoga move”:

Is that “Warrior” pose?

Never know what you’ll see with birds; that is what makes bird-watching fun! Have you spent time watching any interesting birds lately? Let me know, thanks.

In researching some info for this post I learned birds of prey, example hawk, close their nictitaing membrane, third eyelid, when capturing prey. Birds of prey cannot afford to have prey scratch their eyes! Hmmm…. I wonder if I’ll see that some day …. keeping my eyes open!

Nature Appreciation … Begins Early!

It warms my heart when I see a family hiking a path and especially when a child is wearing a pair of binoculars! How wonderful for adults to expose children to nature, an active outdoor activity, and one with teachable moments while on a trail.

I feel positive about our future when young adults are photographing nature or studying how there can be better ways to approach present environmental concerns. Thanks to the adults fostering a love of the outdoors when a child is young so they have a continued appreciation of nature as they grow older! We want a planet here for them to enjoy in their golden years too!

What is that Elevated Surfboard?

Are my eyes deceiving me or is that board above the water’s surface?

See the blade under the board?

I had to research this sighting to be sure it was a real thing … yes, the surfer is riding a wave on a “foilboard” or “hydrofoil board”. The blade is longer than the traditional fin on a surfboard allowing the foil surfer to ride above the water’s surface! Some will also pump their legs up and down to generate more energy. Foil surfing can be done anywhere thus not needing an area where others are trying to catch a wave. This apparently is one advantage of the foilboard, along with easy maneuverability in slicing through the water. But be careful as this blade’s hunk of metal can also slice a body part if you are not careful! 

Here were some people out using their foilboard:

Hydrofoils require users to have greater balance, skill, and fitness to keep the board out of the water compared to using a surfboard, but maybe this is an activity for you! Great fun watching though as that will be the closest I will be to this activity! Are you a foilboarder or know of someone?

Surfing Lesson #1 for a Child!

While bicycling a bike path along Pierpont Bay in Ventura, California you’ll find yourself stopping, like I did, at Surfer’s Point at Seaside Park. There are always individuals of varying abilities on a surfboard trying to catch and ride a wave, but this time I saw something unique!

Amid all the surfers there was a man carrying his child and surfboard into the surf. I wondered what the heck he was thinking as he continued to walk out, through the oncoming waves, with the child seemingly sitting comfortably in his arms.

After a period of time, here are the scenes as the child had their surfing lesson/ride:

Walking out
Have a seat …
Riding a wave…
Time to stand!

What fun! A fantastic way to get the feel of it all! Who knows when the child will be on the board alone!?! What a great experience and way to learn! Very cool man!

Bicycling in CA … And Drink Wine!

Our goal was to bicycle in Edna Valley, Avila Beach, Santa Rosa, Ventura and Napa areas. So if you are looking for some insight as to where to cycle, here are some ideas, along with wineries to check into.

Edna Valley area, east of San Luis Obispo: We park our vehicle at one of the wineries, we usually ask Saucelito Canyon staff if this is okay. From there we ride to Lopez Lake by way of Orcutt Road and then back via Orcutt Road but will turn-off onto Tiffany Ranch Road (passing more wineries) to Corbett Canyon Road to Route 227 to Claiborne & Churchill winery. One can buy a delicious lunch, just up the road from Claiborne & Churchill, at Sextant’s gourmet deli and then finish the ride on Biddle Ranch Road to hop off the bicycle, pack it on your car and enjoy a wine tasting at Saucelito Canyon winery. You’ll pass many wineries for tasting opportunities. The overall trick is to pace yourself cycling the miles and drinking the wines!

Wine tasting & cheese plate at Claiborne & Churchill

Avila Beach: With a bit of planning you can cycle from San Luis Obispo to Avila Beach via Ontario Road to a paved Bob Jones Trail head to Avila Beach Drive to eventually spend time on a pier for lunch, such as at Mersea’s Seafood on the Harford Pier. Or you could wine taste at Sinor-LaVallee, my favorite, and/or walk the beach area and find delicious food at other restaurants, such as Custom House.

Santa Rosa: On both sides of the Santa Rosa Creek you’ll find bicycling opportunities so park downtown, to eat good food here when done cycling, and hop on your bicycle. The Joe Rodota Trail, can be linked with the Santa Rosa Creek Trail and/or the Prince Memorial Trail. Be sure to have a map to know how they are connected and/or how you can further your ride to Sebastopol. If you have more time in the area, bicycling Sebastopol to Graton to Forestville is a combination of roads and trails with more wine tasting opportunities, such as Dutton-Goldfield Winery in Graton.

Napa: Years ago we bicycled the busy roads in this town and are now happy to see the Napa Valley Vine Trail, a safer bicycle ride from Napa to Yountville, and then can add bicycling miles on local roads with lower traffic. I continue to have fond memories of Trefethen Family Vineyards on a bicycle ride years ago, but you’ll discover there are many wineries to visit in this town!

Oxnard, Ventura, Ojai, Carpinteria: Bicycling options are many here. Bicycling from Oxnard to Ventura to Carpinteria is a combination of cycling Harbor Boulevard from Oxnard to Ventura, then Omer Rains Coastal Bike Trail to the Rincon Bike Trail and continue on Pacific Coast Highway to Carpinteria.

Or ride Ventura to Ojai by way of the Ventura River Trail to the Ojai Valley Trail, enjoy lunch in Ojai and ride back. I liked this trail on a recent hot day because much of it is shaded. Wine tours are an easy way to visit various places especially after a day of cycling … so consider them.

Shady trail

If you do not have any bicycling apps to help you plan your routes, I would suggest “TrailLink”. There you can choose the type of trail, length, surface and what activity you are planning … there is biking, but also cross country skiing, walking, mountain biking, wheelchair accessible, etc … so check this app when searching for your favorite activity.

Enjoy cycling and wine tasting, but always remember to be safe … wear a helmet, apply sunscreen, drink water, eat snacks, and ask to share a wine tasting with your friend at the tasting rooms so you are not cycling under the influence of alcohol. When telling the staff I am cycling and want to be safe, I have always been able to share a tasting with my friend. Enjoy the ride and sips!

Stop & sip some wine along the way!
Cycling past many growing vines!