Tuesday, July 31, 2012



Morning coffee at the edge of the forest.


Spotted a Verdin nest.


We drive to the northwest for a few hours and here we are at Jeff and Carol’s outside Bandera in the Hill Country.  Look how far north we are now:




Deer out the window.


We’ll stay here awhile.



Monday, July 30, 2012

Can you find the.


Can you find the bunnyrabbit in this picture?



Sunday, July 29, 2012

Choke Canyon State Park


The day dawned at South Padre Island.  The morning view.  Coffee in the windshield.


I put a pin in the map for the pelagic birding tour.  I’m not suggesting we took the motorhome 50 miles out, but that’s the reason the tour took so long.  50 miles to get to deep water so we could get pelagics.




We moved on.  Finished the day at Choke Canyon State Park.



  Wild Turkeys, White-tailed deer, and Javelina.


Can you find the Wild Turkey in this picture?


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Birding adventure


Boat trip.  Birding tour.


All day.  6am to 6pm.  Pelagic birds; birds we can’t see from shore.  Six lifers:  Cory’s Shearwater, Audubon’s Shearwater, Band-rumped Storm-Petrel, Sooty Tern, Bridled Tern, Pomarine Jaeger.


Hundreds of flying fish.  A pod of 20+ pilot whales lolling about the boat.



And during a quiet moment I landed an albacore. 


Friday, July 27, 2012

On the road again.


Now we’re on the road in earnest.  We left Gulf Waters on Sunday, July 22.  We left Sandpipers today.  Summer trip 2012 is underway.


We start by going South.  We’re at the southernmost tip of the South Texas gulf coast.  South Padre Island.






Thursday, July 26, 2012

Before we left Gulf Waters


We took one last look at that lot that’s being developed; that nice one right on the end of the pond.


They’ve got the cement work done.


Now it’s time for retaining walls, pavers, and more planting.


We won’t be here to chronicle the rest of the job.  We’ll just see what it looks like when we get back.



Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mission accomplished!


Eight 90 degree valve stem extenders.  When they’re attached to the sensors, they look like this.

There are three little set-screws to lock each one in place.


The motorhome wheels look just right.




The Jeep wheels work too.


The Jeep already has a tire pressure sensor system.  The sensors for the Jeep system are located inside the rim, before the valve stem, so for the Jeep, we’re attaching sensors on top of sensors so we can also see the tire pressure when we’re in the motorhome.  When we’re not towing the Jeep, we’ll probably just remove the external sensors.


We haven’t actually hooked up and towed anything yet, so we don’t know how this will all work in the real world, but at this point, what could possibly go wrong?


Tuesday, July 24, 2012



That’s a Tire Pressure Monitoring System.


They were never on our radar before, but after losing a tire on the Jeep, we bought a 10 wheel TPMS system.  It cost about the same amount we spent replacing the Jeep wheel and tire we tore up without even knowing it.  And with the TPMS, there is less chance we’ll find ourselves towing a fireball down the freeway someday.


So we open the box and here are all the parts.


10 sensors, a sending unit, and a monitor.


This is what it looks like with the sensor unit threaded on to the valve stem of a front wheel of the coach.  There is just the right amount of room to rotate the sensor onto the stem.


That’s as far as we’ve been able to get.  Two sensors out of 10.  For the rear wheels, both valves have already been routed out next to the hub.  Problem is the valve stems are so close to the hub there is not enough room to rotate the sensor.


On to the Jeep.  Nice exposed straight valve stems.


Screw the sensor on……  didn’t work.  Before the sensor screws all the way down tight, it conflicts with the rim.

We need extenders.  We have to be careful with them, though.  We can’t just extend straight out.  If we stick the sensor out too far, it will get knocked off by a curb or a rock and we’ll be screwed.


I called tech support.  They suggested a source for valve stem extenders online and I found my choice of straight, 45 degree, 90 degree, or 135 degree extenders.  I don’t know which will work best.  I think 90 degree has the best chance of working, but it’s going to be tight.  I ordered four 90 degree extenders for a start.  They should arrive tomorrow.  In the meantime, here is what the display looks like with the right front wheel selected.  102 psi.  71 degrees.  Audio and visual alarms go off if the pressure or temperature goes out of range.



Monday, July 23, 2012

Groove-billed Anis



How would we best describe their appearance; disheveled?



Then that would make this nice neat Harris’s Hawk *sheveled*?



Sunday, July 22, 2012



I get to drive the bus again!  Here we are, out back of the Gulf Waters office all hooked up ready to go.

All our driving back and forth to the Valley has been in the Jeep.  The bus hasn’t moved in months.


Here is a sight we don’t see very often, our spot at Gulf Waters without the motorhome in it.  It looks so open this way.


We’ve brought the rig down to Sandpipers to get ready for a trip.  We get to park it right out in sight of our morning coffee on the deck.


We’ll leave here in less than a week.  We’re not going very far right away, but it’s exciting to get on the move again.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

A morning visitor


To our motorhome.


A Black Witch moth



Meanwhile, Oscar the Great Blue Heron


Does his morning yoga.

I think this position is called Emerging Lotus Blossom.



Friday, July 20, 2012

Far away birds


Sometimes when I walk at Charlie’s Pasture the birds are far away.  I have binoculars, but I can’t identify shorebirds out on the mudflats that far away with 8 power magnification.  The scope is bulky to carry very far, so I don’t carry it out there.  No problem.  I have my time-lapse scope with me.  My camera.  It fits in my pocket.  I can’t make any identification through the viewfinder of the camera, so I still don’t know what I’m looking at when I take the pictures, but it’s a 20 power lens.  When I get home and transfer the pictures to the computer I get to see what I saw.


From far away, I saw a Least Sandpiper.


A Semi-palmated Plover.


This one looks like a Piping Plover.


And I found a couple Short-billed Dowitchers in front of some Black-necked Stilts.  One is really letting the other have it!


Thursday, July 19, 2012



We started the day at the dermatologist.  He thinks he’s a cowboy.  He carries the liquid nitrogen canister in a holster.  Judy and I each got shot at least 20 times.  Well, one of the three of us had a good time anyway.


Stopped by the Nursery and picked up a couple more Mediterranean Fan Palms.  Got them all wrapped up and stuck in the back of the Jeep.  Went back to the house, packed up, loaded up the computers, dogs, and drugs, and drove back to the beach.


We’re at Port Aransas again, but only for a few days.  We’ll take the motorhome back to the Valley with us this weekend.  No more motorhome at the beach until next October.


It’s good to be here.


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

TV Ears


We went to the Audiologist.  I thought I couldn’t hear high pitches anymore but that’s not true.  I can hear them, but not at realistic levels.  That’s why I can hear the sound of a squeaky little bird on my Ipad, but can’t hear it when it happens in the wild.  Squeaky little birds don’t make the sound as loud as I can turn up my Ipad!


Judy is different.  One ear hears and the other tapers off.  Now I know which is the “good ear” to talk into.


Neither one of us can sort out dialog on the television anymore.  The audiologist could have prescribed hearing aids for each of us, but said if our only day-to-day problem was understanding what was said on television, we should just buy some TV Ears, as seen on the infomercials.  She says that will work as well as hearing aids.


I guess we’ll sit in our recliner chairs wearing our TV Ears, smiling at the television, and clapping for the lights to go on and off.



Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Illegal encounter


I had one over the weekend.  I didn’t mean to.  I was just out for a walk.  I walk every day.  We’re in Way South Texas so I’m often near the border.


I was walking in the Chihuahua Forest Preserve west of Mission:




It was quiet and birdy until the helicopter came, then it got hard to hear if there were any birds there or not.  It’s not unusual for helicopters to fly over but it is unusual for them to fly so low for so long.  I don’t usually see Border Patrol agents on foot either, but I did this time.  Two of them, separately, charging down the path, each briefly wishing me a good morning as they passed, one of them asking if I had seen anyone else on the trail.  Someone else, the target of their attention, clearly was *not* having a good morning.


I continued my walk.  Eventually, all quieted down and I was alone with my thoughts and birds again.  My thoughts stayed with illegal immigration.  We tend to address illegal immigration as a one dimensional issue, but I think there is more to it than that.  We have criminals crossing the border to smuggle drugs, but we also have people who aren’t criminals until they cross.  Some just want find a job so they can work and support their families.  Try to imagine having a hungry family, there are no jobs where you are, but there are jobs just across the border.  What would you do?

Our border patrol controls the U.S. side.  The drug cartels control the Mexican side of the border.  You have to get permission from the local cartel to cross.  If you are carrying drugs for the cartel, you have permission.  If you want to cross the river to find work, first you have to pay the Cartel for the privilege.  If the Border Patrol catches you on our side, they send you home.  If the Drug Cartel catches you crossing without their “permission”, you’re subject to beheading.  It’s not a casual thing to cross the border.


If there was no demand for illegal workers in the United States, there would be no incentive for them to cross.  They don’t usually cross as individuals.  They need a structure to get across safely.  They need guides and rides.  They need a way to get past the agents on the border and the checkpoints on the highway.  They might be able to walk alone in the woods, but they can’t just walk down the highway to the city or they will get picked up.

I walked and thought my way to the southern boundary of the preserve then zig-zagged my way back north, making sure I walked every trail on the way.  Half the way back I met a man walking alone the other direction on the trail.  We both stopped.  He asked if I was there to help.  I said no.  He asked if I knew which way McAllen was.  I pointed.  He said “how far”.  I said “10 or 15 miles.”  He said “How far in minutes?”






“Maybe 6 hours”


He looked forlorn.  He asked again if I would help.  Again, I said “no”.  There were Border Patrol agents looking for him.  I didn’t want them looking for me as well.


We continued to talk.  I asked how he got across the border; did he come with a group?  He said he came with a group, but they went very fast and he got separated.  The helicopter I’d seen earlier must have broken up the group.  He said he was trying to get back to work.  He has worked in the U.S. for the last 15 years.  He went home to see his family, but now he needed to get back to work.


We talked for twenty minutes.  I let him use my cellphone to try to find someone who could help.  He couldn’t.  I gave him my water.  I feel for his plight, but I didn’t drive him to McAllen.


He wanted to know if it was like this, a forest trail, all the way to McAllen.


“No.” I told him.  “This is a small preserve.  It is all open road and city from here to McAllen.”


Ultimately, he decided to walk south.  He said “I guess I’ll go back.  Maybe I can try again another time”  I think that meant he had to try to get more money to pay for another crossing and hope for a successful one the next time.


I respect the Border Patrol agents for doing their jobs.  I want them to be safe.  I also sympathize with people desperate to work and support their families.  I don’t think our immigration policies are quite right.  I don’t know what needs to happen, but it doesn’t make sense to create a demand, then arrest people when they try to satisfy it.


I certainly don’t feel good about not helping that guy who just wanted to get back to work.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Wildlife photography


Time-lapse sequence of the Texas Pottery Turtle emerging from the underbrush.






Sunday, July 15, 2012



…our way south.  Nueces County, where Port Aransas is, Kleberg, Kenedy, then Willacy.  Willacy County where we have 99 birds.  All we need is a Black-bellied Whistling Duck.  A Killdeer would do it.  We don’t have that bird in the county either.  How hard could it be?


I had a couple new places in Willacy County to try on the way back to Sandpipers; places we hadn’t been before.  A pond right off Farm Road 490 I didn’t know was there before.  Gulls, Snowy Egrets, a Least Tern, and some sandpipers.  No whistling ducks.  We drove the back roads past agricultural fields.  Surely we could spot a Killdeer in the open fields.  We got herons egrets, doves, flycatchers, Lark Sparrow; even Horned Larks.  No whistling ducks.


We drove west until we crossed into Hidalgo County.  That’s it, the end of the search for this trip.  Then I remembered the shape of Willacy County.  It’s odd; kind of like Nebraska.  It sticks out on top.  We turned north and crossed right back into Willacy.  One more pond to try; just north of Delta Lake.  We’d been there before, but it was dry.  Maybe it had rained since.  Maybe there was water in it for ducks.  We got there and it still looked dry.  We cruised it anyway, and there, standing in a tree, four whistling ducks.  Black-bellied Whistling Ducks.


Willacy County.  100 Birds!


Now we’re settled back in at Sandpipers.



Saturday, July 14, 2012

Gulf Waters


We’re not the only ones working on our lot at Gulf Waters.  There are lots of nice places being developed.







This is the newest place going in.  It’s going to be great!