Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Life on the road

The jeep didn’t want to leave the beach either. It had one last chore to do before leaving and it balked. We had decided not to take the kayaks with us this summer, but to leave them here. We found a place in Aransas Pass, on the other side of the ferry that would store them for us. Saturday morning, we put the racks on the jeep, put the boats on the racks, and headed off for Aransas Pass. When our turn for the ferry came though, the jeep wouldn’t start. They gave us a few minutes to try to get it going then pushed us off to the penalty box.

The problem was not the battery. In fact, all the next guy that got pushed into the penalty box needed was a jump. We took care of that and got him on his way while we were still stuck. A tow back to Gulf Waters, push the Jeep back into one of the boat parking places behind the office, and we were set. Pull the mothership around the next morning, back it up to the Jeep and hook up. The boats will stay on top of the Jeep and go with us this summer.

We’ve towed the dead dog a thousand miles so far. We called ahead to Benson, Arizona and found a Jeep dealer who will fix it for us. No problem; all it needs is a starter motor. Small problem; there aren’t any in Arizona. No problem; we’ll stay here a couple nights while the part gets shipped from Los Angeles. We should be on our way again mid-day Thursday. We’ve made good time so far. We’ll still make the conference in Las Vegas in time.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Time travelers

We have been so looking forward to getting back to the mountain time zone. The whole while we’re in the central time zone, we never quite shake mountain time. Our home channels on satellite TV are the Denver stations. Programs that air at 9 and 10 mountain show up at 10 and 11 central time. We’ve been watching TV in the evening; going to bed on mountain time, and getting up and going to work on central time. We’ve been missing an hour every night.

We have been so looking forward to getting back to the mountain time zone and cashing in that extra hour of sleep. Just before we crossed from Texas to New Mexico, we crossed from central daylight time to mountain daylight time. We gained an hour. Three hours of driving in New Mexico and we crossed into Arizona. Know what happened when we crossed into Arizona? We went from mountain daylight time to mountain standard time. Arizona doesn’t recognize daylight savings time. We gained another hour! So after five months of being out of synch with the time zone of our kids and our television, we were in synch for exactly three hours. We didn’t even get to go to bed and wake up once on mountain daylight time. Now we have no idea when to go to bed and when to wake up.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Van horn

We couldn’t open up the front door to warm up the coach this morning. We actually had to turn on a furnace. A low in the forties last night. Great driving weather today. Eighty and sunny.

A couple birdy rest stops on Interstate 10, and a walk around the Van Horn KOA. Today’s list:

Scaled quail

Gambel’s quail

Black vulture

Turkey vulture

Swainson’s hawk

Red tailed hawk


Euarsian collared dove

White winged dove

Mourning dove

Eastern phoebe

Couch’s kingbird

Western kingbird

Scissor tailed flycatcher

Chihuahuan raven

Barn swallow

Cactus wren

Northern mockingbird

Curve billed thrasher

Yellow rumped warbler

Summer tananger

Western tanager

Canyon towhee

Lark sparrow

Lark bunting

Savannah sparrow

White crowned sparrow

Blue grosbeak

Western meadowlark

Great tailed grackle

Brown headed cowbird

Bullock’s oriole

Scott’s oriole

House finch

Lesser goldfinch

House sparrow

Not a bad bird day for a travel day. Quail, kingbirds, tanagers, orioles.

Tomorrow, another travel day. Tomorrow night, somewhere in Arizona.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Kerrville, Texas

Texas hill country. We’ve a fifteen hundred mile trip to make between Port Aransas and Las Vegas. We knocked off all of two hundred fifty miles of it today. It’s always a slow start after we’ve been in one place so long. There is a lot to unhook, hook-up, and put away to get away.

Buckhorn RV Resort; a regular overnight stop for us.

Buckhorn bird list:

Black vulture

Turkey vulture

Rock dove

European starling

Red winged blackbird

Yellow headed blackbird

Great tailed grackle

Lesser goldfinch

House sparrow

Today’s crock pot torture: ham and scalloped potatoes.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

We don't wanna go.

We don’t wanna go. We don’t wanna go.

There isn’t an easy solution to the problem though. We’ve loved being here through April. We’d love to stay through the end of May. If we stayed through the end of May we’d probably want to stay through the end of June. It doesn’t matter how long you stay, at some point you have to leave.

The reason for the leaving this time is to head west to the annual accounting conference we always go to. This year it is in Las Vegas. After that, we’ll work our way back east and end up in Colorado in early June for the Aspen Center for Physics job. After that we can head over to the front-range to spend some time with the kids and grandkids.

For years we’ve been saying we live on the road. We roam from town to town. We’re citizens of the universe. Now, as we’re leaving, we recognize that we live here now. Gulf Waters on Mustang Island is where we live. We take trips to other places and return to Gulf Waters.

This will be an extended trip. We expect to be gone from here about five months.

Friday, April 25, 2008


Okay. Here is the person the well dressed Hibiscus is wearing this year.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Poor annie

Poor Annie,

She is recuperating from minor surgery on her leg. She needed a lump removed. She is supposed to wear the collar so she doesn’t take her own stitches out. She’ll have a cool scar to show her friends though.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Right now you’re probably asking yourself: “What does it look like when a roseate spoonbill spits?”

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Some birders feel it’s important to fit in with your surroundings. You don’t want to go out birding in a white T shirt. You don’t want to attract attention. You don’t want the birds to hide from you. Hunters camouflage themselves; why shouldn’t birders? This evening I birded as something local. I dressed as a giant hibiscus.

Monday, April 21, 2008


We got some “B” warblers this evening at Paradise Pond. Blackpoll and Blackburnian.


The central mountain.




Sandfest sunday

Sunday, April 20, 2008


Saturday it looks like this.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Sections of the beach are roped off for sand sculptures. Friday it looks like this.

April 19th

Only 36 more days until the French Open. Only 65 days until Wimbledon.


Sometimes we get the Port Aransas beach to ourselves. Sometimes events happen, like the Texas Sandfest, and the beach looks like this.

Friday, April 18, 2008


When we got here in December we didn’t have much energy for decorating, but Judy put a few lights out anyway. Later, we found out we won the Christmas decoration contest. We didn’t even know there was a contest and we won it (we got our name on a plaque). With that in mind, we've had some conversations about the yard train that is currently back in Colorado in a pod, and how we could expand on the electrical service at our site to support a little more lighting.

Deck the palms …….. A little encouragement can be a dangerous thing.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Big day

Birders are a compulsive lot. They keep lists. They do a life-list for how many birds they have seen altogether. Some keep “state” lists, “year” lists, “day” lists, and so on. We met a world birder who was on a global quest to see at least one bird from every family of birds on the planet. Family is the next classification up from genus and species. There are a lot of families.

The year list has its own name. It’s called a big year. The standing record for a North American big year is 745 birds, set in 1998. North America is everything north of the Mexico border. If you stand on the banks of the Rio Grande, look across and see a bird standing on the other side, it doesn’t count on your North America list. It has to be on your side of the middle.

Our recent participation in the Coastal Birding Challenge was an effort at a Big Day. We got 89 birds. Last Sunday was our friend Jon’s big day. His record day is 165 birds. He wanted to try to break his record. I got to go along.

It was Jon’s day. Even though I got to see every bird, I wouldn’t have gotten nearly as many alone. Jon is the birder that knows where to go and when. He knows all the birds and can make the calls quickly. I went along as logistical and moral support. He birded. I drove.

We birded towns, forests, fields, marshes, grass, bushes, leaves, dirt, and the open sky. Palm trees, cemeteries, state parks, county parks, city parks, beach parks, and jetties. We birded from the car, on foot, and by sound. The first birds we got were all by voice in the dark. The first bird we saw was the silhouette of a monk parakeet flying out of a palm tree before dawn. After it got light, the pace picked up.

Overall, it was a fifteen hour effort. Fourteen hours of birding. Three hundred miles of driving. One hundred seventy birds. Jon had a big day. So did I. It was great fun.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008


Found out today a good friend died. Client and friend for twenty years. We worked together, laughed together, played racquetball together. He never spoke in simple sentences; always metaphors. Never quite sure if I really understood what he was saying, but I always loved the challenge. Clever, energetic, enthusiastic. Greg Truog. Fifty eight years old. Died at home of a heart attack.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Just because

A recent conversation led me to remember a motorhome discovery we made a couple years ago but neglected to report. Just because there is a fuel fill door on each side of the motorhome doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to fill from both sides at once. Truck islands have pumps, a master and a slave, on each side of every bay. It doesn’t matter which side your fuel fill is on you can always reach it with a hose. If you have two separate tanks, you can fill them both at once.

Our motorhome has two fuel fill doors but only one tank. Warning; filling one tank from both sides at once creates a real mess when the tank gets full.

Another public service message; things not to do while motorhoming.

Monday, April 14, 2008


Becky and Brian may have to rename their dog, Angel. The story begins at their house one morning with an attempt by Taylor to play the electric keyboard. No success. The keyboard won’t work. First thing; check the cord. It’s plugged in. The cord was plugged in at the socket on the wall and it was plugged in at the keyboard, but there was a problem with that all-important middle part of the cord. It was missing. The cord ends appeared to have been chewed.

An examination of the dog. She didn’t seem to be feeling well. A visit to the Vet. An xray. A three foot wad of electrical cord coiled up in a dog stomach. Laxative. No success. They waited and watched until the electrical cord got close enough to one end of the dog or the other to reach in and pull it out. That worked.

The keyboard cord has been bandaged and the dog is well, but there are some harsher names than “Angel” being bandied about.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Too cute

She took a nap and the babies took turns falling asleep, losing their balance, falling off the log, and climbing back on.

Way cute.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Too cute?

She piled her eight babies on a small portion of a small log (the part that wasn’t already covered by turtles), and went about her business.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Life on the beach

Warm days and warm nights. Can’t sleep with the window open anymore; we run the air conditioning at night. We sleep in the sixties. To warm up the coach in the morning, we open the doors and windows and let the seventies back in.

We get warblers in the yard in the mornings. Hummingbirds zip past my window as I work. We even had one fly in the open door, look around and leave.

Terrible distractions.

Too cute?

The mom mottled duck was ready for a break…

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Remember the runaway buoy on the beach? There is more to the story, I’ve just been a little slow getting it out. The buoy washed up early in the week. After a few days a guy here in the park got a serial number off it and looked it up on the web. He found out who owned it and wrote an email to them. He had a response within ten minutes. The buoy was last seen in Louisiana before Hurricane Katrina. It arrived on our beach with 250 feet of anchor chain still attached to it. The owners were glad to hear where it was and sent a truck. They retrieved it and hauled it back to Louisiana.

There must be more to this buoy than just a shell that floats. Must be some equipment inside. I wonder if they’ll put a gps in the next one before they float it.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


A hundred forty might sound like a lot of birds to see in a week, but it’s not. Not for the Valley. We weren’t making an effort to get the most birds we could; we just took a few looks for some rare birds and wrote down everything we saw in the meantime. We got some unusual ones. We got that one bird, the white throated robin that isn’t even in the North American bird books. It’s not like we’re the only one who got him though. He had been discovered in someone’s yard and there were people there every day watching for him.

The red billed pigeon is a rare bird too. Even knowing where he is, you can watch for days and not get him though. We got lucky. We didn’t have to watch for days and saw six of them flying back and forth across the river.

Of course we didn’t get every bird we looked for. We weren’t as lucky with the white collared seed eater. We were where the seedeater was; we knew he was there, but couldn’t get a look at him. We knew the section of the Rio Grande where the Muscovy ducks fly in the morning, but none flew past us the morning we were there.

We’re trying to add birds to our life-list by looking for rare birds but it’s slow going. We’re considering changing our strategy for the harder to get birds. We’ll go out looking for them and write down the names of all the birds we don’t see. We’ll get to write down more names that way.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Valley birding

We scored some cool birds while we were in the valley last week; 140 altogether. Some of the specialties and rarities:

Black bellied whistling duck

Mexican mallard

Mottled duck

Plain chachalaca

Least grebe

Neotropic cormorant


Black vulture

White tailed kite

Gray hawk

Harris’s hawk

White tailed hawk

Crested caracara

Solitary sandpiper

Gull billed tern

Caspian tern

Red billed pigeon

Common ground dove

White tipped dove

Green parakeet

Red crowned parrot

Common pauraque

Buff bellied hummingbird

Ringed kingfisher

Green kingfisher

Golden fronted woodpecker

Northern beardless tyrannulet

Vermilion flycatcher

Ash throated flycatcher

Great kiskadee

Couch’s kingbird

Scissor tailed flycatcher

White eyed vireo

Philadelphia vireo

Green jay

Chihuahuan raven

Black crested titmouse

Carolina wren

Clay colored robin

White throated robin (try to find that one in your bird book)

Long billed thrasher

Nashville warbler

Black throated green warbler

Yellow throated warbler

Black and white warbler

Louisiana waterthrush

Wilson’s warbler

Yellow breasted chat

Summer tanager

Scarlet tanager

Olive sparrow

Cassin’s sparrow

Botteri’s sparrow

Lincoln’s sparrow

Swamp sparrow

Bronzed cowbird

Hooded oriole

Altamira oriole

Audubon’s oriole

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Port aransas

It was hot in the Valley. Friday was 98 degrees. Saturday we drove back north to Gulf Waters. It’s cooler here; in the low eighties with a sea breeze. It was fun to go on a trip. It’s good to be back.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Northern beardless tyrannulet

Got the tyrannulet. New favorite bird.