Sunday, May 31, 2015

It's amazing

 

…that campfires are allowed here in California.

 

It has been so dry, and the fire ring is surrounded by kindling.

We use the pine needles and pinecones to ignite the firewood.

 

The fire ring is well designed; double walled and not very hot to the touch on the outside.

Still scary though.

 

Anyway, it’s still beautiful here.

 

 

Good place for a nice long weekend walk.

 

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Eagle Lake

 

We spotted a guy fishing…

 

…and catching.

 

Lake Trout.

 

Pygmy nuthatch, tree swallow, and mountain bluebird.

 

 

 

 

The pinecones look like Christmas.

 

 

The wilderness camping continues.

 

Friday, May 29, 2015

Annie hasn't adjusted to the time change

 

She went off at 5:45 so Judy could take her out for her morning constitutional.  Henry goes where Annie goes.

 

A long level drive from Winnemucca to Sparks.  We didn’t have to downshift out of 5th gear or use the exhaust brake even once.  That is level driving for sure.  Not so from Sparks to Susanville.  Lots of ups and downs.

 

When we cross into California the speed limit sign says 65mph.  The next speed limit sign says 55mph for trucks or any vehicle towing.  The highway goes to two lanes.  That’s an interesting set-up.  They tell all the cars to go 65mph and all the trucks to go 55mph.  What could possibly go wrong with that plan?  I set the cruise on 60.

 

Check this out.  We found a forest service campground that is big-rig friendly with 50 amp full hook-ups.  We’re parked in a pine forest.

 

Merrill Campground on Eagle Lake north of Susanville.

 

 

 

 

Golden mantled ground squirrels and white-headed woodpeckers.

 

 

 

2015 summer trip map

 

We seem to finally be out of miller time.

 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Leaving the rugged snow-capped mountains of Utah behind,

 

…we head west on Interstate 80, past wind-blown mudflats, then the Great Salt Lake.  Ring-billed gulls and California gulls.  American avocets and black-necked stilts.  Cormorants.

 

Saltair Pavilion perched precariously at the edge of the water.  It has seen better days.

 

A marina and a boatyard.  Mallards.  White pelicans.  Teal.  Great egrets.  Crows and ravens.  Railroad tracks alongside the highway.  Gleaming white mountains of harvested salt.

 

The construction truck with a sign on the back that says “We don’t pay for windshield chips.  Stay back 150 feet.” passes on the left then cuts back close in front of us.  I punch off cruise control and coast until he is safely ahead.

 

Annie on Judy’s lap.  The road rises over rolling hills and leaves the lake behind.  We descend to the flats that go on for another 50 miles.  It appears there will be no racing today on the Bonneville Salt Flats.  They’re submerged under standing water.

 

We reach Wendover, Nevada at 10:30am.  Then we cross into the Pacific Time Zone, making it 9:30am.  We’re making great time.

 

Crossing sky-islands of north/south ridges all across Nevada, we come to the rugged snow-capped mountains south of Wells.

 

This is where the himalayan snowcocks were released in the 1960s for hunting.  They proved too difficult as a game bird, and the isolated flock persists.  We won’t see any from where we are.

 

We end the day at the New Frontier RV Park in Winnemucca.  Sunny and warm.  We’ve done it.  We’ve left the cold wet weather behind.

 

2015 summer trip map

 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Know what day it is?

 

It’s Hump Day!  Already!

 

We don’t stop working just because we’re traveling.  We just work with a different view out the window each day.  This is a nice comfortable KOA here in Salt Lake City; a good place to spend the day and catch-up on work.  I say “catch-up” like that’s something that’s actually possible.  I at least need to make sure I’m current each day with everyone I’m corresponding with.

 

My job is to get new clients.  Most of our new clients come by referral, but I look for ways to offer our services to nonprofit organizations that haven’t heard of us before.  I solicit inquiries.  They send me information about themselves.  I send them information about us and what our fees are.  Sometimes we connect.

 

I don’t actually do any accounting work anymore, I just help the people who are doing the work stay busy.

 

 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Wild Wonderful Wyoming

Sagebrush and pronghorns; Judy calling out the herds.  Crows and ravens.  Snowfence stacked in layers to the south.  A thousand miles of snowfence for a hundred miles of road.  A red-tailed hawk.

 

It’s fairly flat.  The Continental Divide is at 7,000 feet.  We cross it twice.  Between the two high points is a huge plateau with no drainage east or west; recent rains leaving water on any low-lying land.

 

The speed limit is 80.  We maintain our 68.  A dog in my lap.  Blue sky crisscrossed by vapor trails.  A few cattle.  Long slow-moving freights.  A lone dead cow bloating in the morning sun.

 

Point of Rocks, and down to Rock Springs.  Past the turn to Flaming Gorge we’ve never taken in all these years on the road.  A magpie flaps slowly across the road.

 

Little America, Fort Bridger, and Evanston.  A rest stop in Utah for lunch.  Sheep country.  Echo Reservoir.  Downhills.  Salt Lake City.  Our first traffic light in 500 miles.

 

We’re at the Salt Lake City KOA.  2015 summer trip map

 

 

Monday, May 25, 2015

What a glorious morning

 

 

By far the brightest and warmest we’ve had.

 

 

We moved on.

 

2015 summer trip map

 

Wyoming.  Big Sky Country, Big Cloudy Sky Country today.  Stopped for the night at the Rawlins KOA.

 

Sunday, May 24, 2015

I was just thinking

 

We get video from space and watch the astronauts floating around weightless.  They’re out in space weightless.

 

But what are they weightless in?  They’re in a space station that is on earth would weigh over 900,000 pounds.  900,000 pounds.  And what keeps this 900,000 pound space station in orbit around the earth and not zooming off into space?  Gravity.  Gravity is what holds satellites in orbit around the earth.  Gravity holds the earth in orbit around the sun.  There is gravity in space, yet our astronauts are floating around upside down weightless.  What’s up with that?

 

 

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Friday, May 22, 2015

Our office

 

This is what it looks like during busy season.

 

It’s pretty much empty.

 

 

It’s supposed to look like this.  Most of us are out working with clients.

 

We did get to visit with Warren, Diane, Jess, Katya, and Becky.  They stopped and had lunch with us, but it wasn’t long before they all wandered back to work.  Plenty of projects left to finish.

 

 

 

 

This is where Ken would be if he were here.

 

 

Meanwhile, our reservation at our site at Chatfield ran out, but we got to move to another site for the Memorial Day Weekend.  We don’t have full hookups, but it’s nice and we’re happy to have anything.

 

2015 summer trip map

 

 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

American white pelican

 

 

 

That keel on their bill develops during breeding season and goes away the rest of the year.

 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bicycle Big Day

 

Some people might think Jon and I are a little crazy for doing the Big Day, where we bird day and night for 24 hours to see how many species we can identify.  Well, this should put it all in perspective; an article about a 2015 BICYCLE Big Day birding adventure.  How many birds can you identify in a 24 hour period TRAVELING ONLY BY BICYCLE!  At least Jon and I ride in a car.

 

Here is an account, taken from their blog at:

 

http://thespeckledhatchback.blogspot.com/2015/05/post-23-national-bike-big-day-record_23.html

 

 

Recap from Team Texas - Ron Weeks and John Hale 
John Hale and I began our 2015 Bicycle Big Day effort near the town of Orange Grove, Texas just before 0500 hours on April 18.  I had spent the past few weeks scouting the new route – one used annually by Jon McIntyre and Steve Taylor for Car Big Days.  We would not be able to move as fast as a car team, but we would have the advantage of listening for birds during the entire day.  I felt it had an excellent shot at breaking the current national record for bicycles of 181 species – ironically set by us in Texas and a team of Bay Area birders in California on the very dame date two springs ago.  Our first bird of the day was a Great Horned Owl.  We would add Eastern Screech-Owl, and Common Pauraque before mounting our bikes for the first time.  It was just less than 3 miles to our dawn starting spot.  But before the sun began to rise, we added Common Poorwill and both Lesser and Common Nighthawks.  The dawn chorus - a bit retarded due to the heavy overcast - began in earnest at 0620 hours with the addition of two key birds we could get nowhere else on the route, Black-throated Sparrow and Ash-throated Flycatcher.  We then coasted down to the bottom of the hill and waited for Audubon’s Oriole to sing.  It did at 0640 hours and we raced off.  A Blue-gray Gnatcatcher mewed and a Cactus Wren growled as we clicked off our brush country birds.  The White-crowned Sparrows were still hanging in and that allowed us to pick up speed planning to get most all the other area residents “on the fly”.  Vermilion Flycatcher, Lincoln’s, Chipping, and Grasshopper Sparrows, Bullock’s Oriole and more fell into place.  As we neared SH281, we were only missing Verdin, our “staked” Bell’s Vireo (which failed us) and American Kestrel.  An unscouted Bell’s sang as we wheeled our way east and a Verdin finally sang in the last possible patch of suitable habitat.  The kestrel would be one of the surprise misses for the day.  By the time we left the town of Orange Grove just before 0900 hours, we had tallied a very respectable 80 species.  The interesting thing about a Bicycle Big Day of this length is one has no time to stop and tally the birds.  We knew we had done well on the brush country run.  But, we had no idea of how many we had seen at the time.

 

 John (Yellow) and Ron (White)

 

We were averaging around 20 mph during the first stretch of the 20 mile ride to Calallen.  But as the rolling hills gradually wore us down and the light winds turned towards our direction of travel, we slowed to a lower pace.  The weather began looking more dismal with an intermittent mist and the threat of real rain apparent ahead.  We made our only stop at the Wright Ranch Pond where we added Anhinga, Roseate Spoonbill, and Double-crested Cormorant.  We had decided before we even began the day to bypass Hazel Bazemore County Park and check the sod farms for grasspipers.  We got our first hit of shorebirds there along with very pink Franklin’s Gulls, but would add only one bird we would not see later, Pectoral Sandpiper.  Pollywog Pond was our next stop and our last hope for Carolina Wren.  No wren, but we did add both Belted and Green (lucky bonus) Kingfishers, and our first warblers – Northern Parula, Yellow-breasted Chat, and Common Yellowthroat.  Our next major stop, Rose Hill Cemetery, would tell us what potential this day would have.  If Rose Hill did not have migrants our day would likely not be a record breaker.

 

 

Fortunately, Rose Hill was very birdy.  In a single tree, we had 10 Chuck-will’s-widows fly out as we approached it and Great Crested Flycatchers seemed to be in every tree.  We found a nice roving flock of warblers adding 7 new species including Golden-winged and with them were some other goodies including Acadian Flycatcher and a late Ruby-crowned Kinglet.  Unfortunately, the Lesser Goldfinches that had been frequenting the park were nowhere to be seen or heard.  We zipped over to nearby Blucher Park to get our understory warblers and were not disappointed adding Kentucky and Hooded straight away.  We also added both migrant orioles, Baltimore and Orchard, Scarlet Tanager, and a Least Flycatcher among others.  We left for the bays and beaches with 145 species already in the bag.  After a 9 mile ride along Ocean Drive in Corpus Christi we arrived at the Texas A&M Corpus Christi campus where the closed road to the adjacent Naval Air Station was filled with hundreds of people watching an air show.  The bay was filled to the gills with water pushing all the shorebirds and terns into a small area where we could view them.  There we added all 4 small plovers (Piping, Snowy, Wilson’s and Semipalmated), several terns including our only Black of the day, Whimbrel, and Marbled Godwit while fighter jets roared upon takeoff just a few hundred yards away!  We next rode over to South Padre Island Drive (SPID – SH358) which gave us more ducks and most importantly American Oystercatcher and Long-billed Curlew at its Oso Bay crossing.


As we rode towards Mustang Island on the SPID, our first major obstacle of the day became evident.  We felt cold air overtake us with the temperature easily dropping 15 degrees in a matter of seconds.  An ominous wall cloud was immediately behind us.  We hurried onward hoping to take the JFK causeway bridge before the heavy rains drenched us and made that high arching bridge with a shoulder of only 18 inches even more of a safety concern.  We no sooner crested the bridge than the rains came thundering down.  We zipped into Packery Channel and found cover.  It looked like a hurricane scene with sheets of rain seemingly “falling” horizontally.  The good news was the violent part of the storm front passed within 10 minutes.  It allowed us a quick break and the chance to catch up on eating and drinking.  One of the greatest challenges of a day such as this is keeping hydrated and fueled as we push the pace all day long.  The amount of calories one has to ingest (mostly simple sugars for quick return) is obscene and must be done without wasting time – my triathlon gels came in very handy.  As we waited it out, I knew the frontal passage might prevent us making our final destination, Port Aransas.  The problem was we had already biked over 100 miles and the next 15 would into the teeth of a 15 to 20 mph wind.

 

We took frequent mini-breaks as we struggled to maintain an 11 mph pace.  Mustang Island did have tremendous freshwater habitat due to the abundant rains that had poured down all spring.  The ponds yielded us some bonus birds like American Wigeon and Ring-necked Duck.  About half way down the island, I told John we would take a longer break and check a small stand of willows for migrants.  That paid off handsomely as we added our most unexpected bird of the day, a late Yellow-bellied Sapsucker along with Yellow Warbler, Warbling and Red-eyed Vireos, and Swainson’s Thrush.  We left not knowing we had pushed our total to 175 species.  By virtue of cutting our beach check – we never saw the Gulf of Mexico even though it was only a ¼-mile away – we had managed to be on schedule!  This meant we would have almost two hours of light to bird Port Aransas.  Then we were given another break.  As we moved back onto the highway we discovered the winds had swung around so that it was hitting us from the side instead of head on!  This made the remaining ride downright pleasant.  Even though our staked Lesser Scaup had left their pond, we hit Port Aransas proper with 179 species adding Snowy Egret, Sora, Mottled Ducks and Spotted Sandpiper on the ride in.  Our first major stop was the Turnbull Wetlands Center.  Number 180 was a Western Sandpiper on some wetlands on the way in.  We were in luck – the long staying male Cape May Warbler was still there and allowed us to tie the current record at 181.  A minute later we added an American Redstart to set a new standard.  In at the tower we added our only Tree Swallow of the day along with another bonus duck, a female Northern Pintail.  Marsh Wrens also began singing.  But where were the Common Gallinules?  After some tense moments, John spotted one along the marsh edge and we headed off for Paradise Pond.  Unfortunately, it was dead and we quickly moved to our last location, Charlie’s Pasture.  This brackish flats area is an amazing birding location for water birds.  We added a singing Sedge Wren as we started down the trail and our Horned Lark was right where it was supposed to be.  Semipalmated Sandpiper was further out the boardwalk and we settled in at sundown on the tower overlooking the marshes.  Even though it was not a new species for the day, the group feeding flock of 30 Reddish Egrets (both color phases) was an amazing spectacle that has to be mentioned.  We searched in vain for White-faced Ibis and Little Blue Heron, but did add some Lesser Scaup for species 190.  On the way back in after sunset, we heard Solitary Sandpiper and Black-crowned Night-Heron and flushed some Wilson’s Snipe for our last bird of the day.  We tried in vain to add Virginia Rail back at the Birding Center, but our clapping (no tapes allowed for the Birding Classic) could not even tease a Sora into calling.  We stopped and counted up the birds before quitting.  We knew we could potentially add Clapper Rail, but that would be a 7-mile ride in the dark.  After logging 122 miles on our bikes, we were tired and decide to call it a day at 2100 hours.

 

What a day it had been.  We logged 193 species by ABA Big Day rules without the aid of fossil fuels, bird recordings, or lights to illuminate birds.  188 were seen or heard by both John and myself.  Before the day began, I was unsure whether we could complete the full route given the length and the unknowns of weather, flat tires, etc.  For those who might be interested, we rode the entire day on standard road bikes equipped with 23 mm-wide Kevlar fiber re-inforced tires.  So, is 200 possible?  Yes, if we can maintain the enthusiasm for such a physically taxing endeavor.  I am 52 and not going to get any younger.  John is only 19, but has college as a first priority.  But the potential is certainly there.  I listed 40 species that I thought we had a reasonable chance of getting but missed on the day.  These included  such obvious additions as Clapper Rail, Ring-billed Gull, Eastern Kingbird, Carolina Wren, Cedar Waxwing, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.  One will always have many misses with such a tight schedule, but some day 200 will happen on the Texas coast.

 

They got 193 birds AND bicycled 122 miles!  I’m amazed and impressed.

 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

It is so cool being in Colorado

 

There is something to say about the Broncos on every newscast!  There is a half-hour Broncos program every week!

 

It rained hard last night.  It continued to rain lightly all day.  The lake is high.  The marina area is underwater.  Good thing most of it floats.  The boat ramp is underwater; the road to get there is underwater.  Here is a parking lot by the lake.

It has become the lake.

 

This is the road to the swim beach parking.

 

The water is so high; why don’t they just let some of the water out?  Then we look down the South Platte below the dam and it’s cresting its banks.  The South Platte goes right through Denver.  Chatfield Reservoir is here to protect Denver from flooding.  Who cares about a little lost landscape along the lake.  There is a balancing act with all the streams and dams upstream from Denver; storing water to release it slowly, yet releasing enough to make room to contain the June snowmelt.