Sunday, December 31, 2017

Some birds just don't want to be found


Like that darned seedeater in Salineno along the Rio Grande.  We didn’t want to get there late and miss him, so we got up a little earlier than planned, 5am, and drove the hour and a half to Salineno in the dark.  We gave him two hours of daylight, walking up and down the river trail, but he wouldn’t make an appearance.  We saw so many cool birds we’ve already seen this year, but no seedeater.  The tropical parula at Bentsen State Park however, that could be a different story.


Off we went downstream to Bentsen.  Two hours of scouring the flocks of little perching birds.  We saw hummingbird, white-eyed vireo, house wren, blue-gray gnatcatcher, ruby-crowned kinglet, orange-crowned warbler; all little chirping chipping perching birds, but no parula.


But wait!  There is still hope!  The tropical parula at Estero Llano Grande State Park.  Off we went again.  And again, two hours of watching trees full of chirping birds, but no parula.  We gave up and headed back to the car.  When we got out to the parking lot, we ran into John, the ranger who runs all the birding there.  He commiserated with us about not being able to get that one last bird.  During the conversation, we mentioned that the only two birds we needed that had been seen in South Texas lately were the tropical parula and the barn owl.  “Barn Owl?” he said.  “We’ve got a barn owl!”  “Go back into the tropical zone and find two great big shaggy palm trees next to each other.  You’ll have to walk out into the grass and will probably get chiggers, but he will be in one tree or the other.  You won’t be able to see him, but when you get right up to the tree, he’ll flush.”


So back we went into the park in search of the palm trees and barn owl.  We located the trees, tucked our pant legs into our socks in an attempt to thwart the chiggers, and headed out into the grass.  Nothing.  We took a big stick and pounded on the trunk of each tree.  Still nothing.  We thought we had three shots at two birds and it turned out to be four shots at three birds, but even that wasn’t enough.  We finish the year with 474 birds.


Really, seeing that many birds in one year doesn’t totally suck, and it’s by far the most birds we’ve ever recorded in one year before; the best we’ve ever done.  So what if we didn’t make our target of 475.  A hundred years from now, who’ll care anyway!


Happy New Year everybody!


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Remember the Rack Monster?


Go on a trip in an RV and the Rack Monster(Sleep Monster) strikes.  Fall asleep early and wake up late.  I’m here to report that the Rack Monster lives!  Eleven hours last night.


Home by 1.  Got a text from Jon that a blue bunting had been spotted at Quinta Mazatlan in McAllen.  The bus was emptied and put away, and we were looking for the bird by 3.  A swing and a miss however.


CPE remaining:  0

Birds remaining:  still 1.


The year is not over though.  One more day remains.  The Tropical Parula is still around at Bentsen and Estero.  We leave tomorrow morning at 6am to start the day looking for a White-collared Seedeater on the trail along the river at Salineno.  If we don’t get that bird in the first couple hours after dawn, we can still make it to the other two places for one more try at the Parula.


I added these additional places to the map.


December 2017 Trip Map


Stay tuned…



Friday, December 29, 2017

CPE remaining: 0


Birds remaining:  still 1.


We left Houston and headed south.  Close to home and warmer weather.  We’re in Falfurrias for the night.


December 2017 Trip Map


It’ll be a short hop tomorrow morning and we’ll get to put everything away in the daylight.



Thursday, December 28, 2017

There is a word for missing a bird


It’s called dipping.  There was a tropical parula in the Valley before we left

We went to see it, but missed.  We dipped.


We came to Houston for better chances at more birds.  We looked for the Sabine’s gull at the Kemah Boardwalk, but missed it.  Now it hasn’t been seen for five days, so we were just a little late.  We went for the red-vented bulbul.  Now *it* hasn’t been reported for four days.  No greater pewee or rusty blackbird at Bear Creek Park.  But wait.  A great black-backed gull the other direction on the Dike Road outside Texas City.  Dip.


December 2017 Trip Map


We saw a lot of birds, but no new ones.  The weather is cold here.  Time to go home.


474 Seems like a pretty good count for the year.


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

We did it!


My continuing education is done for the year.  Birding……not so much.  Still one short.


A cool misty morning at Lake Texana.


We’ve moved on to southeast Houston.  There is a bird we’d like to get in the middle of town.  This is as close to the middle of Houston as we want to get in the coach.


December 2017 Trip Map


In the meantime, we took a look at the Kemah Boardwalk.  There is a gull there we haven’t seen yet.  Still haven’t seen it.


Consoled ourselves with some Bubba Gump shrimp.



There wasn’t much moving outside.  We’ve got wind-chill in the thirties.  The gull may have frozen and dropped into the sea.




Birds:              1

CPE hours:      0


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Lake Texana Park


We need one more bird.  It doesn’t seem to be happening in the Valley, so we loaded up the motorhome and headed north.  We have a plan.  We’ll drive around until we find one more bird.


December 2017 Trip Map


Here is what the park looks like on google earth.  Lake Texana Park


Love this park.  We got here in time to take a nice long walk around it.  We saw canvasback ducks, black vultures, a red-shouldered hawk, a red-bellied woodpecker, a Carolina chickadee, and a Carolina wren.


Nothing new for the year.


Henry saw an armadillo.


The armadillo snuffled around in the grass and dirt


Until he saw Henry.  Then he galloped off.



Really.  That’s a full-on armadillo gallop.



Birds:              1

CPE hours:      1


Almost there.  For both.


Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Skype Christmas



Warm and comfy at home, we got to start the day with a white Christmas at Becky and Brian’s house.






Henry got to visit with the parakeets.


Moved to the kitchen to visit with Becky while she got the morning monkey bread treat started.


Then we relocated to Arizona with a little warmer weather at Matt and Lindsay’s house.


The kids are younger, so it’s a little wilder there.


Got to chat with Steve, Lindsay’s Dad.


A Merry Christmas at our house.




Wishing a Merry Christmas to you and yours!



Birds:              1

CPE hours:      2


Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas


Our family dinner this Christmas Eve.


Got Tom and Kathy over for ham, scalloped potatoes au gratin, cranberries, green beans and bacon.  You know.  The usual.




Birds:              1

CPE hours:      2



Saturday, December 23, 2017

It's a little cooler


A cold front passed through.  No eighty degree weather today.  A high in the lower sixties.


The wind laid down by dark though, so it wasn’t too cold to sit out on the deck by the fire and have a visit with new friends.  A good day.  A good evening.



Birds:              1

CPE hours:      2



Friday, December 22, 2017

Thinking about anniversaries


The most obvious one is our wedding anniversary, but there are others.


There are birthdays.  We just reached 69 and 72 respectively.


We bought the house in Louisville in 1974.  After a few years we thought we would spend the rest of our lives there.  We lived there so long, we paid off the 30 year mortgage!  But plans change.  November 1, 2004, 13 years ago, we left home.  We had packed up the bus (2002 Bounder) in the weeks prior.  The morning of November 1st we took down the Halloween yard decorations, put them away, and drove off.  After 30 years of living in Louisville, we just left and never looked back.


August 5th, 2005, twelve years ago, we bought the Beaver coach, brand new.  We continued our full-time journey.  There wasn’t an end-game plan.  We didn’t know how long we were going to travel or what we would do when it seemed like time to stop.


We bought the Gulf Waters lot in 2004.  That was a good winter home base on the beach, but it wasn’t a house.  We sold the Gulf Waters lot in 2014.  Sometime in 2010 we decided to pick a place and settle down; buy a house somewhere for a home-base when we weren’t on trips.  We didn’t know where that was going to be.  We kept traveling, waiting and watching, then Sandpipers picked us.  We realized that’s where we wanted to be, where we were the most comfortable, and February 2011, bought the Sandpipers house (mobile home).  16 feet wide and 78 feet long, the house is almost exactly 4 times the square footage of the bus.  After 7 years of living solely in the motorhome, and now 6 years of living in the house, it still feels almost cavernous. 


Next year we will have been in the house as long as we were full-time in the motorhome.


Time flies.



Birds:              1

CPE hours:      2


Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Great Unconformity


We were watching a program on the Grand Canyon.  It surprised us with a reference to, and brief description of, the Great Unconformity.  We hadn’t heard of it before.


There is this possibly related problem of the Cambrian Explosion, a time when complex life seemed to suddenly develop from the simplest organisms like bacteria.  Suddenly there were complicated creatures, a sudden explosion of diversity that didn’t exist before.  A challenge to our understanding of evolution.


In several places on earth where the geologic record is exposed, one being the Grand Canyon, there is a puzzle.  There is a billion year gap.  The geologic strata are arranged in ages.  The newer ages are close to the surface.  Penetrate ever deeper and there is a progression back in time.  What they realized in the Grand Canyon is that there is a gap in our evidence.  There are two layers lying directly in contact with each other that are a billion years apart in their age.  We have no record of that billion years between the Pre-Cambrian and the Cambrian period.  (It’s greater than a billion years in some places, some places less.)  Maybe there was no explosion of life at all.  Maybe there was a continuous gradual evolution from the single-celled organisms for a billion years, into the more complex organisms we see today.  We don’t know.  We have no record of that part.


What happened to that billion years of geology all over the planet?  Don’t know.  Somehow that entire layer got washed away, or otherwise eroded.  It’s the Great Unconformity.


Is the Great Unconformity related to the Cambrian Explosion?  Maybe.  Another mystery.



Happy Holidays.



Birds:              1

CPE hours:      3


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Got a lot of work done


Got a little bit of CPE done.


A scat mystery from our last hike.  Who pooped here?



Consulting Dr. Google, I come up with examples of:








I don’t think it was coyote because there was no fur in it.  But I suppose it could have been a coyote snacking on nuts and berries.  Maybe a vegan coyote.


Raccoon works.  Javelina works.


I find scat like that on the steps of, or at the top of, remote birding towers.  That makes me think more raccoon than javelina climbing stairs.  But this sample was on the ground.  If the scat was on dirt instead of cement, I could have tried to make the call based on the tracks around it.


Don’t know.




Birds:              1

CPE hours:      5


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

We saw queen butterflies




And something sneaking around by that truck.


A bobcat.


Judy was even closer.  She was behind the truck.  He walked within 20 feet of her!


But no parula.  No new birds.



Birds:              1

CPE hours:      6


Back to work tomorrow.


Monday, December 18, 2017

We haven't gone back to Port Aransas since the Hurricane


We know the survivors have to deal with the destruction every day, and our hearts go out to them.  We contribute to the recovery, but not by going there and seeing it first-hand.  It’s just not something we want to do.


A few weeks ago we were in Corpus and drove out the beach to see a particular gull (lesser black-backed) that was there.  We went as far as that decaying billboard I send out pictures of occasionally over the years.


It’s still there!  I thought for sure the hurricane would blow down the last of it.  I suppose it doesn’t provide much wind resistance anymore though.  I guess the rust will have to get it in the end.



Birds:              1

CPE hours:      6


I’m giving myself tomorrow off for my birthday!  There has been a tropical parula in the neighborhood and we need that bird for the year.  We still don’t know which countdown number will go to zero first.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Brandt's Cormorants


Have a blue throat patch under their bill.  You can kind-of tell by looking at them.


Unless they’re displaying.


Then it *really* shows up.



There aren’t any Brandt’s Cormorants here in South Texas though.  They’re all in California.



Birds:              1

CPE hours:      14


Saturday, December 16, 2017

Still not thinking about birds


Except for that cute little Kestrel




And the Anna’s Hummingbird.





Birds:  1

CPE:     20


Friday, December 15, 2017

The weather cooled


In California the weather was comfortable for us every day.  While we were gone though, there was a weather front in South Texas that produced light snow.  *Any* snow in South Texas is a big deal, as illustrated by this FaceBook post:


It’s still cool and rainy.  It’s not expected to be back to 80 degrees until Monday!  Oh what weather we have to bear….


Birding is still on the back burner.  Here’s a white pelican from last week:


Making progress on work and education.



Birds:  1

CPE:     26


Thursday, December 14, 2017

As my brother Tom pointed out


The other great horned owl standing on the wire in the foliage is also visible…


When we were picking up our rental car in California, we got to walk down the row and select any one we wanted.  We got the Kia Soul.


It carried all our stuff and got us off the beaten path when we needed, but also was small enough to get around the tight streets of Belmont Shore, without feeling like it was the size of a bowling ball.  We liked it a lot.


Also, while we were in the neighborhood, we stopped by the Seal Beach house, 222 13th Street.


It is still there and holding up well.  We moved from there when I was eight.  As I recall, the living room is the first room on the right, the dining room, then the kitchen and back door are behind that.  Mom and Dad’s bedroom is the first room on the left, with the bathroom and David and my’s room behind that.  Bill and Tom’s room was between the rear bedroom and the kitchen.


As we were driving down the Pacific Coast Highway past Seal Beach, I also recalled when it was only developed on one side of the road.  To get across to the undeveloped side, and the “Trees”, required waiting for a break in traffic, then running across the road.  I remember being surprised by how soon the distant approaching traffic got there and how fast I had to run to make it across.  It was not like crossing a little city street at all!  I can’t imagine Mom or Dad being pleased if they knew that at eight years old, I was crossing that highway by myself.




Birds:  1

CPE:     31


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Can you find the


Great Horned Owl in this picture?


He found you!


We’re home.  The day gets used up pretty fast traveling east.  We got on the plane before breakfast and arrived home just in time for dinner.


Dona and Stanley watched Henry for us while we were gone.  He loves and cuddles them, but he was still pretty happy to see us too.  And happy to get back to his house!




Birds:  1

CPE:     36


Now my priorities have shifted.  I have work to catch up on for the more than a week that we were gone.  I need to finish my CPE by the end of the year.  My CPE countdown might go to zero before my one last bird number does!