Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Happy Birthday




12 years old today.


We’re wearing the shaggy look this week.




Looking back, here is her baby picture; the picture we got before we got her.



Monday, January 30, 2012

I've been wondering


If three wheeled ATVs are outlawed because they are too dangerous, how is it that three wheeled motorcycles are safe enough to ride down the road at highway speeds?



Sunday, January 29, 2012

Isn't it ironic


All our lives, as kids, Dad sold trailers so we could live in a nice house.  We didn’t live in a trailer, we lived in a house.  All the brothers grew up to live in nice houses, not trailers.


Now, as we get older, two of the four brothers live in trailers, and another of us, Tom, is about to.  That leaves Brother Bill, the lone exception.  He still has a stick house (but he is currently spending winters in a motorized trailer, his motorhome).



Saturday, January 28, 2012



In the forest.




And a scary scary scary Peregrine!



Friday, January 27, 2012

I'm not a superstitious guy


But when I found out I was on the manifest for my *13th jump* I was concerned…


It was 1965.  I was in the Army.  I had been on the island of Okinawa in the South China Sea, for a year.  I had heard that after a year, a person could take a Leave (vacation from the Army), and hitchhike on Air Force airplanes all the way back to the United States.  It sounded crazy, but on the chance the rumor could be true, I submitted a request and to my amazement, it got approved!  A 30 day leave back to the “World”.  All I needed was for nothing to go wrong between that moment, and when my leave started in a few weeks, but suddenly I had to make one more jump!  By this time we had been reduced to “pay” jumps.  We had to jump at least once every three months to keep our active status and get that extra $50 a month jump pay.  I hadn’t jumped for months.  I felt a sense of dread.  If I got injured in a jump, I wouldn’t be able to take that leave.


Jump School consists of three weeks of physical and mental torture.  There are practice falls, platform jumps to the ground, then tower jumps into the air in parachute harnesses hooked to a cable.  All the different parts of parachuting are covered in the first 2 weeks.  In the 3rd week, we got to make real jumps out of real airplanes.  We only made 5 jumps in Jump School, but every move is choreographed.  Practicing for 3 weeks nonstop, with every other thought driven out of your head, makes all the moves automatic.  It goes like this:  Ride around in a crowded hot airplane with all your gear on with the side doors of the airplane open.  When the Jumpmaster demands, Stand up.  Hook up.  Check the guy in front of you.  Do the airborne shuffle toward the rear of the airplane.  Turn at the door.  Place each hand on the outside of the airplane.  Launch.  Nice and straight.  Feet together.  Arms in tight hugging the reserve chute mounted on your belly.  That’s it.  No variation.  No room for error.  By the book.  When the ground approaches, hit it with both feet together to protect your ankles.  Do the Parachute Landing Fall:  feet, hips, shoulders.


That was then.  Now however, it had been over a year since Jump School.  Plenty of time to improvise; to come up with our own variations.  We were no longer used to doing it the “right” way.  When the jump command came, we stood up, hooked up, checked the guy in front of us, then started toward the door.  Everything went just fine up to this point.  But now, instead of just charging for the door like we’d been doing for the last year, just to make sure nothing went wrong, I decided to go back to the basics.  I’d do the Airborne Shuffle, outside foot first, catch up with the inside foot, then forward with the outside foot again.  Problem is, they had left some loading equipment on the floor of the airplane.  I shuffled the outside foot (the right foot in this case) forward, then caught up the left foot (which was on a section of rollers used to move boxes).  It took all my concentration to keep from falling.  I was being pushed from behind.  The whole line rushed to the door.  I kept my concentration on my feet.  I kept my concentration on my feet so much in fact, that I missed the door.  I went Airborne Shuffling right by it and found myself staring straight into the face of the Jumpmaster while the guys behind me were turning left and heading out the door.


Well, you never want to be left on the airplane after everyone else has gone out.  You never want to be in the airplane when it lands.  You never want to have to deal with an angry Jumpmaster.  I grabbed the backside of the door with my left hand, waited for one more guy to go out the door behind me, and threw myself out the door sideways.


Did I mention that protocol requires one hand on each side of the door and a straight jump out to keep all your equipment in order?  I learned why we do that as I went spinning out the door.


After falling for a count of 4 seconds, the static line opens the chute for you with a thump.  The next thing you do is look up to make sure the chute deployed properly; that there are no malfunctions.  At the count of 4 seconds, my chute opened with a thump.  I reached up to grab the risers and check the chute, but I couldn’t.  I was still spinning from going out the door sideways.  The risers were spun together so tight they were wound all the way down to my neck.  It was physically impossible to look up.  All I could do is look down, watch the ground spin, and try to judge if I was falling a normal speed or at some accelerated speed.  I had passing visions of parachutists on both sides of me so I judged that I was falling at a normal rate.  I spun till I stopped.  Spun back the other way until I stopped, and so on.  When the spinning finally finished, I got to look up and check the chute, and it was just fine.  All that remained was to get to the ground.


When you’re 1,250 feet up and the chute is open, there is not a great sense of motion.  Falling is a leisurely enterprise.  Time seems to stand still.  At treetop level however, time makes up for what it lacked before.  Prepare to land.  Not much time.  Let’s see.  My last jump I had executed a perfect standing landing; the badge of honor.  Feet apart, hit the ground, bend the knees, and hold it without falling over.  Can’t risk that.  Drifting backwards.  Better try to do it right this time.  How does that Parachute Landing Fall work again?  Oh yeah.  I’ve got it.  Feet.  Yes.  Ass.  No that doesn’t feel right.  Head.  Ouch.  I’m sure that wasn’t it at all.  Glad I had a helmet on.


Took a deep breath.  Stood up.  Looked around.  I Made it.  Hot and sweaty.  Relieved.  I packed up my gear and carried it off the field to the waiting transportation truck.  I survived the jump.  The good news:  I got to take my Leave and go home for 30 days.  The bad news:  At the end of 30 days I had to go back.



Thursday, January 26, 2012

They're doing it again


The Australian Open.  Men play best of five.  Women play best of three.  Women can’t play five sets?  What’s up with that?  The weaker sex?



Wednesday, January 25, 2012



Last weekend’s edition of Conner’s News



Conner’s News       1-22-12

The Conner museum will be an ant museum.

It will be opening soon.

A cruise ship sank.

This weekend is the stock show.



Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The End of the Road Trip


We’re back at Sandpipers.  Judy had an afternoon doctor’s appointment in McAllen today.  We did that, went to 10th and Dove and got the Green Parakeets and Mitred Parakeets, got some Chinese food, and came home.


Our campsite at Falcon yesterday.  That’s Barb and Henry over on the right, Judy in the middle, Huck on the left.  Me, I’m the empty chair.



The State Park lets us put up as many bird feeders as we want.



Monday, January 23, 2012



The weather was grungy; cold and wet, but the birding was bright.  We popped over to Salineno before work.  It’s only 7 miles away.  In the cool mist, we got the Brown Jay.


The Brown Jay rarely visits the United States.  The last time we saw it was in 2005.  Good to get that for a year-bird.



Then I got to thinking about Zapata County and our seedeater efforts.  So far we’ve recorded the second most number of species in that county.  We’re only 4 birds behind number one.  I thought: 4 birds?  We could go back and get 5.  Then we’d be number 1.  But then I thought a little more about it and realized having the most birds in Zapata County may not be a badge of courage and honor.  It might just demonstrate that it has taken us longer to find the seedeater than it has taken anybody else.  Okay.  Nevermind the Zapata County bird count.  Until the next time we get an opportunity to go search for the seedeater again anyway.



Sunday, January 22, 2012

Road Trip!


We’re at Falcon State Park.  Drove up here yesterday in the coach, all of two hours away from our place at Sandpipers.  Came to make a home base closer to the White-collared Seedeater and the Brown Jay.  There is only one place in North America where the seedeater is being reported and another place where the Brown Jay is being reported, and they’re both within reach.  We’ve seen them each before, but we thought we’d go get them for our year-list.


Today’s was a valiant effort.  Up early, I stood security watch against the howling hunting coyote pack while Judy emptied the dogs in the dark.  We were gone in time to arrive 30 miles north at the park in Zapata by dawn.  We stayed there and monitored the seedeater spot for six hours.  We saw a lot of birds, enough to move us to number 2 for most birds recorded on ebird in Zapata County so far this year, but we didn’t get the seedeater.


Seedeaters or not, this is a nice place to be.  Maybe we’ll get a Scaled Quail in our campsite tomorrow morning.



Saturday, January 21, 2012



Got the shed cleaned up and organized.



Friday, January 20, 2012

The sound of a quiet walk




If you happen to be walking with five hundred black-bellied whistling ducks, a few black-necked stilts, green-wing teal, ruddy ducks, and northern shovelers.



Thursday, January 19, 2012

Don't you hate it when.


You get caught with your eyes closed when someone takes your picture?  The poor unfortunate Canvasback.  He’s just not that photogenic.  He can’t seem to take a picture without blinking at just the wrong moment.


Really, he has nice red eyes.


But over and over, he blinks just as the shutter snaps.


You won’t catch the Ring-necked duck in an unflattering blink.



Wednesday, January 18, 2012

It's official


I’m an old guy.


Today, I got my first Social Security payment.  Social Security is no longer a check in the mail; the payment went straight to our checking account by direct deposit.


Now we’re living on the government dole.  (except for that part where I’m still working)



Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Out on a walk


This nice little female Green Kingfisher flew in to the brush right next to me.




That was really cool.  It’s not a common bird and there aren’t very many places in the U.S. to even see it.  The Green Kingfisher is the smallest of the three kingfishers in North America.  It’s less than 9” long.  That’s smaller than a meadowlark!


The male looks like this:



Monday, January 16, 2012

Monte Cristo Tract


National Wildlife Refuge.


An interesting little Hobbit House off in the brush.


I don’t know who made it.


But they did a nice job.



Sunday, January 15, 2012

Close Encounters


Of the coyote kind.


I believe he was looking at what he thought was lunch.


The two dogs looking back at him from the car window.


I kept the motor running.



Saturday, January 14, 2012



Well, the Patriots *could* have had an off day.



Conner's News


Is back.


I’ll do the closed captions:


Conner’s News       01-13-2012

I cut my hair for Locks of Love.

The Broncos are in the playoffs.

North Korea’s Leader died of a heart attack.

The Conner Museum will be opening soon.

The Stock Show is in Denver.

It will be windy this weekend.



Friday, January 13, 2012

The floor registers


Look plain.



So we found some nicer ones.




Thursday, January 12, 2012



I put bird sightings into ebird.  It keeps track of what we’ve seen.  Life list, year list, state list, county lists.  I can check our status any time.  Ebird has a new feature this year.  It will send a “Needs List” email each day telling me what birds have been seen in our county of interest, that we haven’t seen yet.


In the fall, it was a simple list.  One bird, sometimes two or three in the county that we hadn’t seen yet in 2011.  Now that our year lists have all started over, the daily list of birds we haven’t seen yet looks more like this:


- American Wigeon (1 report)

- Canvasback (6 reports)

- Hooded Merganser (1 report)

- Cattle Egret (2 reports)

- Green Heron (1 report)

- Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (3 reports)

- White Ibis (3 reports)

- Roseate Spoonbill (2 reports)

- Cooper's Hawk (6 reports)

- Gray Hawk (3 reports)

- Peregrine Falcon (2 reports)

- American Avocet (4 reports)

- Solitary Sandpiper (1 report)

- Long-billed Curlew (1 report)

- Stilt Sandpiper (3 reports)

- Forster's Tern (2 reports)

- Green Parakeet (1 report)

- Barn Owl (2 reports)

- Eastern Screech-Owl (2 reports)

- Great Horned Owl (2 reports)

- Common Pauraque (3 reports)

- Ruby-throated Hummingbird (7 reports)

- Black-chinned Hummingbird (1 report)

- Broad-tailed Hummingbird (1 report)

- Rufous Hummingbird (4 reports)

- Green Kingfisher (2 reports)

- Black Phoebe (1 report)

- Tree Swallow (5 reports)

- Cave Swallow (5 reports)

- Verdin (4 reports)

- Carolina Wren (3 reports)

- Marsh Wren (1 report)

- Eastern Bluebird (4 reports)

- American Robin (1 report)

- Sprague's Pipit (2 reports)

- Cedar Waxwing (1 report)

- Ovenbird (7 reports)

- Tropical Parula (1 report)

- Pine Warbler (6 reports)

- Golden-crowned Warbler (2 reports)

- Field Sparrow (3 reports)

- Western Tanager (1 report)

- Crimson-collared Grosbeak (2 reports)

- Black-headed Grosbeak (4 reports)

- Orchard Oriole (4 reports)

- Lesser Goldfinch (2 reports)

- American Goldfinch (9 reports)


These are all sightings in Hidalgo County yesterday, of birds we haven’t seen yet this year.  Tantalizing.  Here I am, back at work, and all these other people are out birding.  My vocation is getting in the way of my avocation.


The good news is that we have already gotten 110 birds in the county.  Can’t get the rest all at once.  We’ll get them over time.


We’ll report back.



Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Taking a walk


Have you ever walked into those giant aviaries they have in zoos?  They’re in San Diego and Omaha; probably a lot of other zoos as well.  You walk through an environment that feels natural; plants, water, open air, but the whole thing is surrounded by netting and screens.  You’re surrounded by birds because they can’t get away.


As a teenager I raised pigeons.  I kept them in a big cage, but the best part about it was I could let them out.  They would fly around, then come back.  The homing pigeons could even be taken to work by dad, 20 miles away, and let loose.  They would find their way home.


Well, taking a walk here is like having a walk through a giant aviary except there are no walls, no netting, no screens.





Yet we’re surrounded by birds.  The bird population here is almost as dense as in an aviary at the zoo.  They come and go as they please, and the selection changes every day.  The coolest aviary ever.



Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Madagascar Palms


Judy got some Madagascar Palms to frame the doorway to the shed.


Fine looking specimens.



But we’ve had a couple cold nights since then.  The spiky little palms didn’t like the cold much.


*All* the leaves fell off one of them.


We don’t know if the leaves will come back or not.  Guess we’ll find out in the spring.



Monday, January 9, 2012

How about those Broncos!!!


Did everyone see that Broncos/Steelers playoff game?  What an effort by Tebow, tricking everyone into thinking he couldn’t pass the ball, then unleashing touchdown passes on Sunday.  It took him three weeks of throwing the ball into the dirt to set up this one game.  A master stategist!



Sunday, January 8, 2012



We mounted the toilet paper holder way up on the wall by the light switch, out of Henry’s reach.  (but still just within Judy’s reach.)



Saturday, January 7, 2012



A honey-do day.  Towel racks.  Robe hooks.  Pictures.  85 degrees out.  A trip to Lowe’s.  A walk around the Lake.  A little football.


Here is a Golden-fronted Woodpecker.


They’re golden in the back too.



Altamira Oriole.


And a scary scary scary Coopers Hawk!




Friday, January 6, 2012

Greater Roadrunner


We got them at Falcon State Park last Monday.


Always a fun bird to watch.


Meanwhile, loving the weekend forecast!

A little sun.  A little rain.  And always warm.


Thursday, January 5, 2012



We got Judy’s left knee and right ankle checked out by the Ortho today.  Probable meniscus problem with the knee.  Maybe an achilles thing going on with the ankle.  They’ve been slowing her down a little.  She got a steroid shot in the knee to reduce the inflammation.  MRIs on both next week.  Stay tuned.



Wednesday, January 4, 2012



Orioles are generally just in North America in the summer.  They’re migrants.  We get them in migration, but some orioles we get in the winter too.




Audubon’s (with an Altamira)