Saturday, September 30, 2017



We just hit 450 birds for the year.  The last four found were:


Groove-billed Ani

Mourning Warbler

Alder Flycatcher

And today, Yellow-throated Warbler


I was thrilled to stumble into the Yellow-throated Warbler, but it’s September 30th.  If we happen to see another new bird in the next three months, there goes our nice round number.



Friday, September 29, 2017

My angry tweet of the day


In Florida, the owners of a nursing home are being held criminally responsible for the deaths of their residents, because they didn’t exercise sufficient care and concern to protect them during and after a hurricane.  Who will be held criminally responsible for the deaths in Puerto Rico, not for those who died directly during the hurricane, but for the lack of care and concern afterwards?



Thursday, September 28, 2017

Puerto Rico


Puerto Ricans are U.S citizens.  It doesn’t require a passport or visa to travel to Puerto Rico from the mainland U.S.  As a Territory, they’re not a State, but they are part of the United States. 


A week after the hurricane, our federal government is telling us Puerto Rico is an island, so it’s difficult to get aid there and distribute it because the infrastructure is ruined.  Wouldn’t that be part of any disaster plan; realizing that it would take extra effort to get aid to an island, and maybe even expect that the infrastructure would be ruined if the island takes a direct hit from a hurricane?  Meanwhile, we all see on the news what they’re going though.  They’re running out of food and water.  They have no sanitation; no communications.  In the heat and humidity of a tropical environment, they have no prospects for electric power for months. 


People in Puerto Rico are helping each other as they can, but this is not a situation where they can just pull themselves up and restore a normal life.  The entire island was devastated.  The island can’t help itself.  Help has to come from somewhere else; like maybe their own federal government.  Fifty years ago, it didn’t matter where I was in the jungle, the Army got food and water to me every day.  It didn’t matter if there were roads and bridges, it didn’t matter if it was hard, they did what they needed to do and got it done.


This doesn’t look like disaster recovery in Texas, Florida, or New York, but it looks a lot like Katrina.  It doesn’t look good.



Wednesday, September 27, 2017

We've moved on


From the soft cast.


To the hard cast.


The recovery is going well.  Getting the old cast cut and pulled off was traumatizing, but after that, Judy got to spend a few minutes with her hand not in a cast at all.  They even gave her time to sooth and wash her hand under warm water.  The new cast is lighter and less painful.  She is free to move her fingers, but not her thumb.  Who need opposing thumbs anyway.


Four weeks in the hard cast now; still keeping from doing anything that will make her arm sweat under the cast.  The calendar has turned to fall, but the weather is still hot in The Valley.  That means morning coffee on the deck while it’s only eighty outside, but back inside to the air conditioning by the time it hits ninety for the rest of the day; living her life one-handed, but not to worry, she has me; her left-hand man.


Tuesday, September 26, 2017



…we get rain showers



Barely deterring the hummingbirds however.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Hand surgery follow-up



Yes, it is serious surgery, but it is also a very common surgery.  Thumb joints tend to wear out after 60 or 70 years of use.  This surgery replaces the joint.  The hand still hurts, especially if she moves it, and it seems she’s always moving it.  There is a lot of healing going on in there.


It’s the same surgery she had last year on her right hand.  Now that hand works just fine, so we feel like the recovery time on this one is a good investment.  We get a follow-up visit to the doctor on Wednesday.  Judy will get to trade out the soft cast for a hard one.


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Morning view the other direction



It’s a little shaggy since we were gone all summer.  I’ll get a couple bushes trimmed and we’ll be right back in shape.


The hummingbirds continue their swarm.


And Judy’s hand rests (relatively) comfortably.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

The morning view



The day starts at 80 degrees.  There is humidity.  The high will be 95.  I try to take my lunch-time walk earlier in the day but that doesn’t always work out.  Sometimes I walk at a hundred.  It’s very tropical this time of year.


We drink morning coffee at our peril.  We’re in the path of the ruby-throated hummingbird fall migration.  All four feeders are busy.  Buzzing, battling, high-speed hummingbirds with those long sharp bills resemble small darts.  Sitting on the deck involves involuntary ducking.


Friday, September 22, 2017

I have some thoughts about the accelerating pace of change today


In that context though, I think about our ancient ancestors and I’m struck not by the accelerating pace of change today, but by the incredibly slow pace of change throughout all of our human history up to now.  Imagine homo-sapiens or Neanderthals on a sparsely populated planet.  Every day they get up in the morning and it is the same as the day before.  For years, decades, and generations, nothing changes.  If they didn’t know how to make fire the day before, they weren’t going to know how to make fire the next day either.  Stories could be passed down from generation to generation to generation about how the world was and how it had always been.


Change was imperceptible.  Technical breakthroughs, changes in climate, changes in social norms; nothing changed at a detectable rate.  For each generation it had to seem like nothing would ever change.  There was no reason to think it ever would.



Thursday, September 21, 2017

It's hard to cheer for the Chiefs


I like the team, I like to watch them play, but that awful tomahawk chop chant.  My head is so susceptible to earworms, I can’t listen to it without replaying it in my head for the next several days.  (Oh shit, it’s started already just by saying it.)  So when I watch the Kansas City Chiefs, I have to watch with the sound off.


And by the way, if I was standing in front of a Native American, and I was doing the tomahawk chop, I would be beyond embarrassed and I would stop.


So GO CHIEFS!  And please, lose the tomahawk chop.



Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Roseate Spoonbills



They’re so photogenic I just can’t stop myself!



Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Yard Bird


Here is an unusual yard bird for the United States.


A groove-billed Ani.  We hear or see it from the deck almost every day in the summer!

Not the best photo from the deck, but the bird doesn’t give us many chances.


Here is a better photo from another time.


It’s a tropical member of the cuckoo family.  It only migrates this far north in the summer for a few months, then disappears south all winter.  They live in small groups and all lay their eggs in one communal nest.  Everybody participates with incubating the eggs and caring for the young.


Monday, September 18, 2017

Prickly pear cactus


Prickly pear fruit (also called “apple” or “tuna”) really is a food.  It’s tricky to handle.  There are sharp spines, which are obvious, but there are also thin soft spines that will torment the unwary.  Heavy gloves are required for handling until the skins have been rubbed smooth.


Native Americans traditionally eat them whole (after preparation).  They can be squeezed for juice, or used to flavor drinks, or as jams and jellies, or even as salad dressing.  They taste like sweet watermelon (even though they look like radishes to everybody).


How do you cut and prepare prickly pear cactus fruit?  I got directions from the internet:  (You don’t want to just knock off the sharp spines then peel them with your teeth.  You can ask our son Matt how that works out.)


1 Slice both ends of the prickly pear off. Discard them.

2 Make one long vertical slice down the body of the prickly pear.

3 Slip your finger into the slice and grab a hold of the skin.

4 Begin to peel back the thick fleshy skin that's wrapped around the prickly pear.  Discard the skin. You'll be left with the prickly pear itself.


The flesh is studded with tons of little edible seeds, if you like them, feel free to just chop the prickly pear up and eat, seeds and all.


To extract the juice, place the "husked" prickly pears into a blender or food processor and pulse until liquefied. Place the juice into a fine mesh sieve and push out the juice into a pitcher or bowl. Discard the remaining pulp and seeds.


Use the juice as you like. Depending on the size of the prickly pears, 6 to 12 prickly pears will get you about 1 cup of juice. It's great mixed in with some fresh lemonade, just use equal parts of prickly pear juice to lemonade.


It sounds like a lot of work for small reward, but I guess in a desert environment, you take what treats you can get.  (You can also eat the pads.)


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Here is a cool cactus we saw in New Mexico



I think it’s a variety of prickly pear.


Doesn’t that red fruit look yummy?



Saturday, September 16, 2017

I don't get out much


…since we’ve been home.  But when I do, I see roseate spoonbills.




Judy is recovering well from her hand surgery.  She’s through taking narcotics and is getting the rest of the way with Advil.  She has been sleeping a lot these last three days, but I think that’s only natural after surgery.


She has already said that as much as her hand hurts now from the surgery, it’s already the best it has felt in months.


Friday, September 15, 2017

We're that close!


446 bird species seen for the year.  Wouldn’t it be good to get to 450.  A nice round number.


If we figure out how to get to 450 though, we have to be careful not to get to 451!



Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Jeep parks itself


Really.  It has park assist for both parallel parking and perpendicular parking.  Tell it you want to find a space and drive down the row.  When it locates a space it likes, it tells you what to do from there:


“Take your hands off the wheel and back up.”


“Pull forward.”


“Back up.”


“Parking complete.”


It always backs in.


We’ve tried it when there are clear parking lines to follow.  It works.  I tried it in an old parking lot where the lines are faded, but there were cars to park between.  Here’s how it looked when it was done.


It nails it every time.  Self-driving cars.  Baby steps.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Home again


We were up and gone from the hotel room by 5:30 for a 6:00am start.  She wasn’t first on the doctor’s schedule, so it took a while in the waiting room.  The doctor marked up her hand

… and took her in a little after 8.


From right to left, carpal tunnel, joint replacement, and trigger finger.  There is a mark farther up her arm to mark where to sever the tendon he’ll then fold back and use to build the new thumb joint.


They posted her progress on a digital board.  She was patient number 60.



When they did her right hand a year ago, they accidentally shut down her right lung when they gave her the arm-block.  This time they gave her a block a little farther away from the phrenic nerve so that wouldn’t happen again (and it didn’t).  The surgery took less than an hour and went well.  The doctor said that was a lot of arthritis at the thumb joint he just fixed.


Recovery took longer than expected, but by 2:00 we made good our escape and headed home.  She slept most of the way, and by the time we stopped for something to eat in Riviera, halfway home, she was pretty out of it again.  …but she had a little Blizzard anyway.


Happy to be home.


We both took a nap.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

"People must learn to hate."


Barack Obama said this in response to the alt-right, neo-nazi, white supremacist rally in North Carolina a while back.  He was quoting Nelson Mandela.  “People must learn to hate.”  It’s a nice thought, comforting because it suggests that not-hating is the default position; that all we have to do is not teach children/people to hate, and everything will be okay.  But I think they’re both wrong.


Babies may not be born hating other people, but I observe that it’s part of our human condition to discriminate.  It’s coded into our DNA.  We continually choose up sides.  We pride our country above others.  We’ll go to war with another to resist them, or to make them more like us.  Our religion is right; theirs is wrong.  We’re proud of our state, even to the detriment of others.  “ABC.  Always buy Colorado.”  That’s a real thing.  Buy locally.  If you live in Colorado, the economy of Colorado is more important than the economy of other states.  Jobs in Colorado are more important than jobs in other states.  Jobs in our country are more important than jobs in Indonesia.  Black versus white.  Small town rivalries.  High school rivalries.  Our football team versus yours.  At some level it always comes down to us versus them.  We just fill in the blank for how we determine who is “us”, and who is “them”.  That discrimination, unchecked by more civilized impulses can lead to hate.


This discriminatory predilection has likely been a key survival tool over the last few hundred thousand years and has served us well (unless our evolution flourished in spite of it, not because of it).  Families that were inclined to stand by and protect each other no matter what, likely out-competed and out-survived families that only had a loose connection.  Tribes that fostered loyalty to the group probably out-survived other less-invested tribes.  Religion probably played a great part as well.  An attack on a person of our religion is an attack on all.  And how much more obvious could it be than if your rival for resources happened to be a different color than everyone in your tribe?  In the early days of hominids, there were multiple human species living simultaneously and with ranges that sometimes overlapped.  Isn’t it interesting that only one species survived to this day and none of the others did?


But it seems that as well as that natural selection process worked then, our world is now changing faster than our DNA can adapt.  Our wiring is antiquated.  Today we interact with people all over the planet in one way or another.  Our economies are tied together; it’s a world economy.  We can’t succeed if only our country’s economy thrives and no one else’s does.  Our national economies feed off each other.  Our state needs other states to do well so it can, and our nation can.  Our family can’t be the only family that succeeds; it needs to be surrounded by other successful families.  We’re all in this together.  (OMG, I think I might be a “globalist”.  I don’t know what a globalist is, but it’s not a word being used as a compliment right now.  It seems to be an insult; a slur.  When people ask us where we’re from, I like to respond that we’re citizens of the universe.  Maybe I’m a universalist.  That’s probably even worse!)


I believe it’s time to be open to a wider range of experiences and a greater group of people than just our own family, own town, own state and country, and that puts us at odds with our innate impulses; us versus them.  Luckily for us though, we don’t have to simply be slaves to our hardwiring.  We have another weapon at our disposal; our intellect.  If we can be perceptive about what’s going on around us, we can recognize our now destructive impulses and choose how we act on them.  We can see the futility of clinging to our racist, xenophobic past while the world changes.  Is the life of a child in another neighborhood really less valuable than one in our own neighborhood?  Is a job in Indonesia really less valuable to the world than a job in our own country?  Are we really so special that no-one else is special compared to us?  Can we recognize our reactionary discrimination and override it when it doesn’t make sense?  We’re driven by our impulses, but don’t need to be controlled by them.


I think we have to learn not to hate, and teach not to hate; not allow our natural tendency to discriminate lead us to less charitable thoughts and actions.  I think we’re doing well.  Hate makes the news, but I think it’s a vocal minority.  In our lives, and those around us, we see mostly love and support.  Of course I write all this firmly rooted in a lack of knowledge about such things.  It’s just what I think.


Monday, September 11, 2017

A round-trip to Corpus


A visit to Judy’s hand doctor.  He agrees her left thumb is shot and it’s time for surgery.  While he’s in there he’ll take care of the carpal tunnel issue and an early trigger finger (didn’t even know that was an issue).  We’re scheduled for dark and early Wednesday morning.  Yeaa.  It will be a slow painful recovery, but it’s good to get started on the process.  I’ll be Judy’s left hand until she can use her own again.


We’ll drive up the night before (tomorrow) and stay in a hotel.  We couldn’t get very close to the hospital.  All the rooms in Corpus are taken up with Hurricane Harvey evacuees and crews showing up to work on the restoration of Rockport, Fulton, Ingleside, Port Aransas, and so on, and on.  We’ve got a room in Robstown, about a half hour away from the hospital.  We’ll only have to get up at 5am for a 6am appointment instead of 2am to get there from the Rio Grande Valley.


Once we got Judy squared away today, we still had time for a follow-up appointment we had scheduled for my neck.  Everything looks just right.  I think the doctor said I was awesome (or words to that effect).  J


Back home in time to watch the Broncos tonight, we’ll be up north again tomorrow night (Tuesday), and with any luck, home recuperating the following night (Wednesday).


Henry got a play-day all day with Stanley and Dona today.  Tomorrow night he gets a sleep-over!  Thank you very much Stanley and Dona.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The New England Patriots


Current owners of the worst record in professional football.”  It sucks to be them; for a while anyway.  Maybe it really sucks to be the next team they play though!


Meanwhile, the Broncos remain undefeated.  Go Broncos!



Friday, September 8, 2017

It has been warm here in the Rio Grande Valley,


…as it should be, but today was cool (80 degrees) and rainy.  A little rainy weather seems right in tune with all the Florida hurricane coverage we’ve been watching.


Our weather cleared in time for a sunset.


A brief respite from the heat; our weather should be back to normal tomorrow (in the 90s).  The weather will get a lot worse for Florida before it gets back to normal.


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Remember those pictures I sent out last year?


… of the gator in the pond at the Birding Center in Port Aransas?


The really really big gator?


Port Aransas has a lot to do recovering from Hurricane Harvey.  At some point though, they’re going to have to wonder where that big gator ended up.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Home again


We’re back in South Texas.


Final 2017 Summer Trip Map


With a celebratory stop at Whataburger.


We’re back to our comfy little house


…after a grand adventure.  We were on the road for four months.  We traveled a lot of states (I tried to count them but I got confused).  Five Canadian Provinces (two we had never been to before).  Every U.S. time zone (four)(not counting Alaska and Hawaii).  Ten thousand miles.  We stayed in sixty-six different campgrounds.  Got visits with family and friends we don’t get to see very often.  We witnessed four full moons and a solar eclipse.  We got turned around by forest fires and smoke.  Our return to Texas travel plans got changed by the hurricane.  And some of us gained less than a pound a month. 


It’s good to be home.


Maybe I like this view of our trip the best.  J


A wider view of the 2017 Summer Trip Map


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Buckhorn Lake Resort



2017 Summer Trip Map







We got here after the Memorial Day/Labor Day rush.



Monday, September 4, 2017

Highway 285


Between Carlsbad, NM and Pecos, TX.  The landscape has been totally raped by energy production.  It’s one thing to sit in a city and say we need more energy.  To drive through the countryside, viewing the cost of producing that energy is another thing entirely; the previously wild landscape transformed into a hundred mile sprawling city of oil and gas patches, drilling rigs and dusty roads, pumps, pipelines, gas flares, outbuildings, and sterile man-camps; roads clogged with, and ruined by, oil and gas trucks that outnumber passenger cars two to one, as if this West Texas high desert had no other purpose.  You can see from the sky on Google Maps:



It is awful. 


The occasional desert resident has an impact on this land.  They put down roots, however shallow, in the dry desert soil.  They join the land in a battle with the elements; a struggle to survive.  Man camps sit on cement blocks above the bulldozed lifeless ground, with no commitment to staying, and no investment in the landscape or the damage done.


My inner Edward Abbey is outraged.



We’re at the Fort Stockton RV Park tonight, an oasis.


2017 Summer Trip Map







It’s 90 degrees and clear.  We’re back in Texas and out of the smoke.


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Port Aransas


Has a special place in our hearts.  It was home base for years.  We wore out on Gulf Waters, the RV Park on Mustang Island, but not the little town on the north end.


Port A is suffering hard times right now.  We’ve seen photos.  A lot of it blew down in the hurricane.  It got hit with 130 mph winds.  There still are no city services, water, sewer, and electric, restored yet.  Residents, with proper I.D. are being allowed in during daylight hours to sort through the rubble.  Pit barbecue teams, that’s a real thing in the South, have set up stands to feed everyone for free.  Judy just read a notice that there will be free gasoline distributed at Roberts Point Park tomorrow.  The outpouring of support is heartening.  People from all over the state, and beyond, are showing up to help.  In times of crisis we don’t live in the divided world we hear so much about recently.  The outpouring of support is heartening, but still….  The damage looks like so much deal with.


We’ve been giving a lot of thought and conversation to our trip home to the Valley.  Judy’s doctor’s appointment is a week from Monday.  We could slow down the pace and arrive in Corpus the night before.  We could keep up our current pace, go straight home by the end of this week, then drive back up to Corpus for her Monday appointment.   Calling ahead to RV Parks and State Parks close to Corpus though, most of the places we might stay are busy hosting storm evacuees from the coast, so we’ll probably try to stay out of the way and go straight home.


Tonight we’re in Carlsbad, NM RV Park for the night.


2017 Summer Trip Map






It’s still smoky out, but there are a lot of hotspots just in New Mexico, so we’ll have to wait a little longer for clear air.