Saturday, June 21, 2014

Almost Home

Just racking up the miles as we home.

Yesterday morning (Friday...I think) we were just inside Louisiana's southwest border in the town of Sulfur. That night we were in the northern Alabama town of Fort Payne. Tonight we are in Woodstock, Virginia just south of Winchester and seventy miles away from Pennsylvania. But first we will have to complete forty miles in Virginia and around fifteen miles each in West Virginia and Maryland. (Don't blink!) The total distance to home is about 280 miles (just about five hours since it involves travel on Route 15 north of Harrisburg to I-80).  We've been doing close to 600 miles a day since we left Corpus Christi, Texas. (Maybe a little less that first day since we did stop at the Aransas Wildlife Refuge to do some birding. Maybe a little more the second between Sulphur and Fort Payne.)

We'll be home a couple of days early but that's fine. I've lots to do before I pack for a fishing trip at Caesar's Outpost in northern Quebec. (You can find a link to the outfitter on the sidebar.)


For the first time since we left the Omaha, Nebraska region after the torrential rains of the 3rd of June that we had serious rain. (Actually, just about the first rain period.) Visibility dropped to maybe fifty feet and traffic slowed from 75-80 all the way down to *gasp* 55 miles per hour! Yet even that lasted just long enough to wash the road grime off the Tundra and drop the temperature fifteen degrees from 79 to 64 degrees. (It had been as high as 93 when we were crossing the Alabama-Georgia-Tennessee portion of I-59 this morning.


I had no luck getting online last evening because I could never get a sign in screen. I finally figured out why. I had inadvertently changed my default browser to AOL when I installed updates two days ago. AOL requires I enter a password to sign in. I can't sign in until I agree to terms and enter the network password. It's a catch-22 situation. Tonight I went and (temporarily) made Internet Explorer my default browser. Got signed on in no time. I should have played with the photos but wasted too many minutes trying to get on line that I was too frustrated with the computer. Instead, I used the iPhone to get my email done and look at Facebook and then went to sleep with a headache.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Still More Texas? There's a lot of it!

Stopped just across the Texas-Louisiana line in the town of Sulphur. (Appealing, no?)

We left Corpus Christi a little after 7:30 this morning and headed north along the Texas Gulf coast toward Houston. Along the way we stopped at the Aransas Wildlife Refuge to do a little birding. Very little as it turned out. Being the heat of summer, most of the birds have long since moved north. The best times would be the fall, winter and spring. Fall and spring bring the migrants moving along the central corridor, and winter brings some birds that stop here rather than move further the whooping cranes.

We did get to view some of the mammals that inhabit the place. Lots of white-tailed deer wandered about in the late morning and some had their spotted fawns in tow. Three wild hogs (feral crosses between Russian boars and domestic pigs) were feeding on the marsh grasses along the gulf and two javalina or peccaries briefly popped out of the brush. Terry was very happy not to see any of the snakes and the only alligator I wanted to see was on a platter.

We did see plenty of Northern Cardinals, Mourning Doves, Great Blue Herons, Red-winged Blackbirds, Wild Turkey, Turkey Vultures and Black Vultures and one Red-tailed Hawk--all species we can see back home in Pennsylvania. Snowy Egrets, Great Egrets and Cattle Egrets were also abundant, The first two we can see on the New Jersey coast. Other species that we won't see back home appeared in just one or two individuals and included Painted Bunting, Bob-white Quail, and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Terry also claims to have seen a Roseatte Spoonbill while we were driving along. "Had to be," she says. "Big pink bird with a weird, flat bill." I was busy paying attention to the road *ahem* so I didn't see it.


We skirted southeast of Houston before reconnecting with I-10 and heading east toward Louisiana.

I will never complain about the 312 miles of I-80 in Pennsylvania again. Used to be you'd hit the western end of that highway and think you were almost home to New Jersey but three hours later you were still only at mile post 300 and hadn't yet reached the Delaware Water Gap. Well, I10 in Texas is 880 miles long! Granted, it crosses the state by making a V, but still...! We didn't travel the whole thing having dipped northward to New Mexico for Carlsbad and then southward from San Antonio to go to Corpus Christi, but we were on a good deal of it over three days. (I-5 in California is about 790 miles from the northern border to southern and is nearly straight.)


We got our fix of birding and cajun food today so all is right with the world. Tomorrow we head east on I-10 for just a little longer and then we'll turn north on I-59 to head homeward.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Rolling, rolling, rolling....

Drove from Benson, NM to Carlsbad Caverns, NM via El Paso and a bit of Texas on Tuesday.

We stopped to enter the Caverns before looking for a motel room and it's a good thing we did...but more about that in a bit.

If you've never been, you've got to go! Even if, like us, you don't take a guided tour or stick around for the famous bat flight at twilight, the self-guided loops are easy to follow and highlight the major features of these limestone caves. There's even an elevator to take you down the 600 feet to get to the Big Room. The sheer volume of open space is amazing. The walking loop around the Big Room is 1-1/2 miles long. We missed a few things by not walking down, but my knees are very thankful for that decision!

I've tons of pictures, but I'll spare you until I get them all downloaded and run them through Photoshop.


Leaving the Caverns about four in the afternoon, we started searching for a motel room for the night.
None in the immediate vicinity of the caverns and none in the town of Carlsbad to the north.
None in Pecos either. (None in Midland or Odessa should we think of going that way.)
Did I mention there's a oil and gas boom in Texas?

Makes the play for natural gas in Pennsylvania look tiny in comparison, let me tell you! Every motel was filled with oil workers. White trucks (the preferred color of the petroleum industry) were everywhere. We headed south toward San Antonio.

On a two-lane, undivided road with a posted speed limit of 75 mph...and lots of water trucks hauling fluids to and from oil rigs...semi-tractor trailers hauling lengths of pipe and God knows what else, and lots of white pick-up trucks that laughed a 75 mph. As night fall approached.

Eighty plus mile later we were in Fort Stockton refilling the Tundra and making phone calls to find a room for the night. The third call (Comfort Inn & Suites) said, "Why, yes we do." We rushed right over and checked into a beautiful suite at a more than reasonable price.

And nothing but the Dairy Queen was still open and serving food.


Wednesday we started a great deal closer to (and a whole day earlier than expected for) San Antonio, Texas. The high desert of Texas slowly gave way to more and more greenery and the drilling rigs seemed to decrease. Or, at least the became less visible in the more butte and mesa table lands. (Unfortunately, there was a stretch where those mesas were studded with windmills.)

We approached San Antonio around 11 AM and the traffic unsettled me. The downtown setting of the Alamo was not what I envisioned. I prefer to Remember The Alamo as sitting in a small village with wide open plains in front of it. Terry said she could pass on the River Walk as she'll be returning in two years with the Embroiderer's Guild of America. (And now I learn that tonight, Wednesday the 18th, there was to be a Championship Parade along the River Walk to celebrate the Spurs winning their 5th NBA Championship. Might not have been able to find a motel room there, either!)

And so we rolled on southeast toward Corpus Christi and Padre Island. We too I-37 all the way to the water and turned right. Drove along the shore road and drooled over the multimillion dollar homes erected there for the next major hurricane to sweep away. Then we went looking for a motel room at three in the afternoon. Just in case.

Got a nice room and a seafood recommendation for a place called Doc's Steaks and Seafood under the bridge going to Padre Island.

Drove south onto Padre Island and kept driving south until we reached the Padre Island National Sea Shore. Got to the visitor's center just 15 minutes before it was to close for the day. Had a lovely talk with a ranger about the best time to come to do some birding. Then Terry went to dip her toes in the Gulf of Mexico.

On the way back to the motel we stopped at Doc's and had a wonderful meal while watching the sun over the Intracoastal Waterway.


We're several days ahead of schedule and a few hundred miles further south than here I thought we were going to hit the Gulf shore, but that just means we get to see more of it as we drive north starting tomorrow. Then again, the USS Lexington is docked in town and there's the Texas State Aquarium, and the Port Aransas Birding Center is just up the road....


Speaking of birds, we have seen quite a few different species along the way. Great-tailed Grackles (the look like little black roosters and sound worse), White-winged Doves, Eurasion Collared Dove, Black Vultures, Little Blue Heron.... (Birding at 75-80 mph is tough! Most of these were seen from parking lots at motels, gas stations and rest areas.)

How I Spent My Father's Day Weekend.

Good grief! I just now realized that I didn't tell about what we did in Anaheim beyond that we delivered Jess' stuff to her.This should also explain the reference to "kidney stone" I made in the previous post.

Well, Terry and I spent Friday with Jess at the Discovery Hall in Santa Ana. Jess thought they were going to have an "explosive" exhibit from the Myth Busters, but that didn't start until Saturday. Still, it's a very interesting, kids' oriented, hands-on place that was very entertaining...until the kids showed up. Then it got loud. As loud as four or five school bus loads of sixth graders can make it. And trust me, that's LOUD!

We beat feet and traveled over to the Bower Art/History Museum. Much quieter. They had a gallery dedicated to the works of Chuck Jones. But "that's [not] all folks!" They also had a special display on the mummification of animals as votives to the gods. There was also a presentation about blood sacrifice made by the Mayans and other cultures. And another about the early history of Upper California. And no little humans making lots of noise.


Saturday, Terry and I traveled south to Carlsbad, CA just north of San Diego to visit with old friends Ellie and Wayne whom we had not seen in over 30 years. (Thank goodness for the internet and Christmas card letters!) It was like we had never parted.

I wasn't feeling well, however, and felt worse as the day went on. We went to take a walk around one of the lagoons that's been set aside as a nature preserve and then to a mexican restaurant for lunch. By then I ws nearly doubled over with pain in my lower back and nausea, too boot.

I ordered a bowl of tortilla soup ("guaranteed to cure all that ills you" according to the menu) but got only two spoonfuls of broth before it was decided that I needed to get to the hospital ASAP. Lunch was bagged up and off we rushed to the ER at Scripps.

I was in the door less than two minutes before I was swept into a bed, had my vitals examined and had blood drawn. I was administered a shot of morphine and whisked off for a Cat Scan.

The first dose of pain killer didn't work and my pain went from 8-9 on a scale of 10 to 11. A second shot of morphine was given and a diagnosis came back that I had a 4 mm diameter kidney stone that had (at the time of the Cat Scan) almost passed into my bladder but was hung up in the area of the sphincter muscle that prevents urine from flowing the wrong way. The ER Doc was amazed I wasn't complaining of even more pain than I was. (They consider a 5 mm stone the maximum passable size.) "Most people with a stone that size," he said, "come in to the ER saying it feels like they've been shot."

In any case, the second shot of morphine--or the quick ride back from radiology--jarred that sucker lose. Soon after I was feeling fine. (Maybe that was the morphine too, but by then I didn't care.)

Scrips in hand, Wayne took me to a local CVS where I got more pain killer and a generic form of Flowmax. Now I felt no pain, but had to pee every two hours.

Being under the influence of prescription narcotics, Ellie and Wayne insisted we stay with them for the night. (Did I mention that Wayne is an attorney?) So we went to their home and finished the doggy-bagged meal we had started seven hours earlier. (Maybe the tortilla soup did do me some good after all.)

By Sunday morning, I was feeling fine and, after breakfast, Terry and I bid farewell to Ellie and Wayne and headed back to our motel room in Anaheim.


Sunday we had a lovely lunch/dinner with Jessica before she had to go to work. Terry and I then sat in the motel spa for half an hour and then packed the truck for an early Monday departure. I was feeling fine with no after effects from the kidney stone and had stopped taking the prescribed pain pills.

Monday, June 16, 2014

On The Road Again (Monday)

Drove nearly 600 miles east ( mostly) on I-10 today. All of it through desert. The temperature did get up to 106 briefly but the AC made that a moot point.

Passed south of Phoenix on the by-pass then through Tucson to halt in Benson.

Tomorrow will be a shorter day as we 're heading to the Carlsbad Caverns.

PS What kidney stone? Everything is copacetic! (Good grief! What a difference a couple of days -- and a double dose of morphine!-- makes!)

Friday, June 13, 2014

Wednesday and Thursday in California

After a brief visit with Laura and Matt in American Canyon, Terry and I made our way down to the Oakland Bay Bridge, through the southern end of San Francisco and back on to CA-1 on the coast. We drove through Half Moon Bay (former home of Terry's sister and her family and home to The Mavericks, an annual surfing competition) and made our first stop at Pigeon Point Lighthouse.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

Brandt's Cormorant
(The water wasn't quite that color, but close.) 

Brown Pelican

Brown Pelican

Pigeon Guillemont

Harbor Seal doing some body surfing

Harbor Seals on the rocks

Kelp on the rocks. Look like truffula trees from The Lorax

The wind was really howling out on the point and it was a very chill 55 degrees. I was glad I left my hat in the truck, however, or it would have been blown away.Sometimes, Mostly in the winter months, you can see gray whales out at sea. A few stay around during the summer, but the wind makes it difficult to see their spew when they breath.

We drove on. South along the coast to Santa Cruz, and past Monterey Bay. The scenery continued to be magnificent but the road required a lot of attention as the switchbacks and tight turns were matched by a steep drop on the ocean side. And yet there were houses down there!

When we got down to some flatter ground, just past Big Sur, we stopped at the second place (the first was crowded and touristy) for lunch.

The Roadhouse did look like much from the outside and it had a very small parking lot that was mostly empty but it held the promise of food in a quiet atmosphere. It more than delivered. There were just two couples there on the patio when we arrived at noon. No one was inside in a craftsman style dining room awash with 40s and 50s big band and crooner music. (Satchmo, Tommy James, Bing, Peggy Lee...what's not to like!) They had a limited menu which usually means the chef knows what he/she's best at and does it well. We both jumped at the chance of a bowl of gumbo and it was excellent. So were the coconut upside down cake and panna cotta. If you're ever driving along the coast I would highly recommend you stop at the Big Sur Roadhouse.

Refreshed and ready to continue, we drove on south. Realizing we were going to be getting into Anaheim very late, Terry tried to call ahead for reservations but the phone service was non-existant. As I drove, she kept an eye on the bars on her phone. We waved at the Hearst Castle as we went by and still had just one bar...sometimes.

She finally reported that she had a steady two and even three bars so I pulled into a huge parking lot labeled "Sea Elephant Vista" along with another hundred vehicles. While she made her phone calls, I went out to see what all the fuss was about.

The largest sea elephant rookery on the coast is what it was about. And the juvenile males were hauled out on the beach sunning themselves and molting. These were the youngsters weighing "only" 6-800 pounds or so. The big ones were--going up to a ton--were still out to sea gorging themselves. And the females were up near the Aleutian Islands doing the same. They would return in late summer and fall to reclaim the beach from the "teenagers." (Not much different than the human population when you think about it.)

Hundreds of elephant seals on the beach

A couple of males argue over a place on the beach

No one seems impressed with his sales pitch

This was our last stop of the day as we again headed inland to pick up US-101 and deadhead through Los Angeles (horrible traffic even at 7 PM) and on to Anaheim and our motel just two blocks from Disneyland and a block from Jess' apartment.

We delivered our "presents" to Jess on Thursday and it was like Christmas. She "oohed" and "aahed" over the stuff we had brought--as did her roommate, Shandi. After she had gone through all the yarn, knitting books, electronics (some collectors items there!), DVDs (movies and games) and miscellany, we went out to Bubba Gumps for lunch. And it was good.

Jess went off to work and Terry and I went back to the motel to veg in the hot tub spa for an hour or so.

Tuesday Along the Northern California Coast and CA-1

Tuesday morning we continued heading south along the Pacific Coast. We were now in to California and the rocks slowly gave way to more and more sand. We followed US-101 down to Humboldt where it edged away from the coast and into Redwood territory near Fortuna. We got off US-101 for a time to follow the Avenue of the Giants through Humboldt Redwoods State Park. The Coastal Redwoods are slightly slimmer than their cousins down in Sequoia and Kings Canyon, but they grow taller. Magnificent trees! I was too busy admiring the trees to take pictures. (And couldn't step back far enough to get a shot of one in any case!)

When we reached Leggett we turned on to CA-1 and headed back to the coast. WOW! What a ride! The signs on each end of this stretch of CA-1 strongly suggest that now long trailers, RVs or semis attempt the road. Not just because of the steep grade, but also because of the tight hairpin curves and switch backs. Even so, halfway through, a pickup with a (long) fifth wheel trail and I met on one hairpin curve. I steered to the inside and slammed on my brakes avoiding a collision as the rear of the fifth wheel came more than halfway onto my lane. Close!

I was too busy concentrating on my driving to do any picture taking! The California coast was just as beautiful as the Oregon coast had been. But, as I said, the rocks slowly gave way to sand and sand dunes. Very extensive and tall sand dunes! Signs for dune buggy tours and buggy and sand board rentals appeared along the road.

We found ourselves running late--again--so south of Fort Bragg, we turned southeast on to CA-128 so as to angle over to Cloverdale. This took us through the Navarro River Redwoods State Park and into wine country.

The Redwoods may be massive, but they are far outnumbered by grape vines!

In Cloverdale we picked up US-101 again and went south through Santa Rosa, Petaluma and Novato to CA-37 then it was east to American Canyon and Laura's house for the night. There we got to have a nice visit with Laura and her son, Matthew. And get some laundry done to boot.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Monday on the Oregon Coast.

Jeez! Time flies when you're busy driving.

Monday we left Rick and Sandy and drove west northwest out of Portland on Route 26 until we intersected US-101 just north of Cannon Beach. We then turned south. It was either that or get wet.

We followed US-101 along the coast hoping to get to Eureka, CA before we stopped for the night. Didn't happen.

Too many places to pull out and view the coast. Surf, rocks, sand, rocks, a whale or two, a few interesting birds all caused delays. So did our lunch in Newport at Georgies where we had a fine meal (razor clam for Terry and halibut fish and chips for me) and got a tip from our waitress. "Don't miss Shore Acres Gardens outside of Coos Bay," she said.

The coast was beautiful; the whale sighting unexpected; the Bald Eagle an extra; and the gardens a treasure.

Here's just a view of the sights we had along the coast on Monday. I'm pretty sure they are out of order, but...Hey!...YOU weren't there so how would you know?

The D River. Shortest in the world! You're looking at the whole thing 
as it runs from the pond to the ocean. 

It was running late when we got to Coos Bay but we decided to visit Shore Acres any way.

It was nearly 4:30 PM (PDT) when we walked through the gates and began to stroll around to look at what they had. Roses is what they had. Lots of roses. Roses of every hue and age. There were other flowers too, and a few beds were being prepped for summer bloomers after having had tulips and daffodils. Our lunchtime waitress was right: This little state park is not to be missed.

As I said, there were some other flowers out in the beds but there were also a few beauties in the two small greenhouses on the property. These begonias for example.

We never did make Eureka, CA. Ended our day just north of the border still in Oregon and still on US-101.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Happy Birthday to Rick!

It was Rick's birthday today and we (Terry and I) took him and Sandy and Jackie (Sandy's sister) to The Chart House for lunch. Like all Chart Houses (or so they say) they are perched in a location that provides spectacular views. The one in Portland is High above the Willamette River in the southwest quadrant. You get great views back to the east of Mt. Hood, to the northeast of Mt. St. Helens and, occasionally, Mt. Adams.

Sandy, Rick, Jackie, Me and Terry at The Chart House

Mt. Hood viewed from The Chart House, Rick and Sandy live just over 
that first fold in the landscape in the SE section (Woodstock) of Portland.

Mt. St. Helens (and downtown Portland) from The Chart House. 
Mt. Adams would be to the right where those clouds are.

From The Chart House we made our way to The Garden at Elk Rock. An interesting place with an interesting history that no serves as the offices of the Episcopal Bishop of Oregon but is open for the public to enjoy.

Jackie and Sandy at The Garden at Elk Rock

Sandy and Rick at The Garden at Elk Rock

Sandy managed to find a four-leaf clover on the south lawn! And Rick found a leav where all the soft tissue was eaten away and only the veins remained. Sandy is holding that leaf in the photo.

We bid adieu and made our way back the the motel with a case of Faber Honey ("It's from our bees!") to be shared as we see fit--so be nice!

Tomorrow morning after breakfast, Terry and I will be heading west to join up with US Highway 101 and head on down the coast toward California.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Saturday in Portland

Today there was a lot of activity on the waterfront. Fairs, markets, food courts, tall ships, Navy ships, and Dragon Boat Races. Rick and Sandy took us down to the Willamette River to see (some of) it.

We watched a couple of heats (#18 and 19?) of the Dragon Boat Races. Short sprints by teams of about a quarter mile.
And the winner of heat 18 is... 

...the Civil Serpents!

We ate lunch along the waterfront at the food vendors. There were plenty to choose from! Then strolled past the one tall ship from the Canadian Navy, two vessels from the US Coast Guard, and two ships from the US Navy. There were tours on most but the lines were ridiculously long.

We finished our walk back a block away from where we parked at Ira's Fountain just west of the Federal Building and town hall.

Ira's Fountain

In Portland Friday Evening

We arrived in Portland around 2 PM (PDT) and checked into our motel to rest a bit before going over to Rick & Sandy's house in the Woodstock area in SE Portland.

After meeting up with the kids (and Penny, the Wonder Dog) we unloaded Rick's stuff from the Tundra and then drove over to the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Gardens to see Aisley's commemorative plaque. We were abit too late to see the azelas in flower but there were still plenty of blooms of other sorts.

Rick & Sandy near Aisley's plaque. 

A small plaque on a bench commemorates the memory of Aisley Cecilia, September 19, 2013. The bench overlooks a quiet pool fed by a bubbling waterfall and surrounded by a variety of flowering shrubs and trees.

The waterfall and pool. 

Aisley's ashes are beneath the rhododendron at the base of the falls to the right.

We walked along the trails a bit and visited with the friendliest ducks, geese and squirrels you'll ever meet. Saw some baby wood ducks being escorted by their mom, too. Then we went off to have dinner at Pastini Pastaria.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Bear River Refuge Photos

As promised, here are some pictures from today's visit to Bear River Wildlife Refuge outside of Brigham City, Utah.

As you approach the auto loop after a 12 mile drive from the headquarters, there's usually a couple of these old boys waiting around on the Bear River to greet you. We got to watch one feeding just outside the refuge headquarters on our way out. (He was ignoring the huge carp--24 inches or more--that were spawning along the edge of the water and scooping up frogs and small fish the carp were disturbing.)

American White Pelicans

Two birds I will always associate with the Bear River Refuge are the Western Grebe and the Clark's Grebe.
Western Grebe

Clark's Grebe

See the difference? If not, that's okay, apparently they have a difficult time too. There is a cross between the two species on occasion. That's not why they remind me of Bear River, however. The first time we visited they were going through their full mating ritual consisting of a pair performing a side-by-side head bobbing and weaving that was better than any program performed by a synchronized swimming team ending with a foot race across the surface of the water. Amazing!

(BTW, if you didn't notice, the Western's black on the head extends BELOW the bright red eye while the Clark's Grebe's does not. It's eye is surrounded by white.)

Snowy Egrets are common along the Jersey shore so this is not an unusual bird for me. I saw dozens and dozens last April in Cape May. Still, it's a beautiful bird in the reeds with the blue water behind it. And a photobombing White-faced Ibis, too!

Snow Egret

White-faced are rare in the east and Glossy are rare in the west. For years I didn't realize that and spent wasted time trying to figure out if I was seeing a white-faced or glossy when visiting Bear River (There's a 99.5% chance that it would be a White-faced.) And vice-versa for the east coast.

Here's a photo of the White-faced Ibis with it's obvious white spectacles. Note the long curved bill to probe the mud with.

White-faced Ibis

Loud, brilliantly colored and numerous, that's the Yellow-headed Blackbird. It occupies the same niche as the Red-winged Blackbird of the east and, in fact, is slipping eastward a little more each year. It's "song" is not nearly as pretty as the Red-wings but what it lacks in musicality, it more than makes up for in volume. (Kind of like the drunk leaning against the piano.)

And numbers. It seemed like every 10 square yards (that's a little over 3 x 3) contained a nesting pair with one very loud male advertising his claim to territory and female.

Yellow-headed Blackbird

One of the few teal that doesn't migrate to the far north to breed, the Cinnamon Teal is also one of the more brightly colored of the ducks. There were hundreds of pairs of them on the waters of the refuge.

Cinnamon Teal

I try not to take pictures through the windshield of the Tundra, curvature of the glass, glare, reflection, bug bodies, etc, usually spoil the picture. But these American Avocets just wouldn't get to the side of the road and stay in camera distance, so I gave it a try. Sigh. Add the heat off the road and a few million midges flying about.

American Avocet

Black-necked Stilts and their long, bony, very pink legs. 'Nough said. (BTW, I just noticed the blue legs on the Avocet above. Weird.)

Black-necked Stilt

This was the first time in a long time I saw some Wilson's Phalaropes. These small birds just slightly larger than a robin will swim rapidly in circles stirring up the mud on the bottom of shallow pools and ponds and then snatch out any insects or worms they kick up. Their color is very subtle with a reddish blush on the neck and upper chest to go with the red on the sides of the neck. They also have a white stripe that runs from the top of their head down to their back which you can almost see in the second photo.
Wilson's Phalarope

Wilson's Phalarope

Well, that's about it for now. Tomorrow we head west--again. We plan one stop at Hood River Winery on the Columbia but that's it. We should be getting to our motel early in the afternoon and then will go over to Rick and Sandy's house.

On the Oregon Trail (Sorta)

We made it to Ontario, Oregon this afternoon.

After three hectic days of driving, today was a piece of cake. (Except for Boise, ID which is always an adventure.) Monday we hurried to depart in the afternoon when we just couldn't wait any longer and traveled 300 miles to Ohio. Tuesday we boogied another 900 miles to reach Omaha, NE. (The final 75 miles or so was in torrential rains that spawned baseball-sized hailstones a little to our west and south. Thank goodness!) Wednesday we drove 1200 miles to reach Brigham City, Utah.

Today, Thursday, we drove a bout 10 miles to reach the Bear River National Wildlife Refuge and do some birding. It was magnificent as always! We "only" identified 41 different species of birds but didn't spend a lot of time trying to ID many of the little brown jobs (sparrows) that flitted in and out of the reeds. Nor did we spend time in any one spot on the 12 mile drive from the refuge's headquarters to the auto loop or back. Nor did we spend undue amounts of time at any one spot along the 12 mile loop. (That's 36 miles of productive birding from the car for those of you keeping track.) Millions of mosquitoes (biting) and billions of midges (no-biting, thank God!) kept us in the car. All the swallows in the world couldn't put a dent in the midge population!

Although the 41 species is just a fifth of those recorded at the refuge--not all on the same day!--the shear number of birds in around three dozen of those species was amazing. There were thousands of cliff swallows, hundreds of coots, white-faced ibises, avocets, stilts, killdeer, cinnamon teal, western grebes and Clark's grebes. And this is a relatively slow time in the refuge's year!

Here's the list of species we did identify:

Canada Goose
Cinnamon Teal
Northern Shoveler
Ring-necked Pheasant
Pied-billed Grebe
Western Grebe
Clark's Grebe
Double-crested Cormorant
American White Pelican
Great Blue Heron
Great Egret
Snowy Egret
Black-crowned Night-Heron
White-faced Ibis
Turkey Vulture
Red-tailed Hawk
American Coot
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Long-billed Curlew
Wilson's Phalarope
Franklin's Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Forster's Tern
Mourning Dove
Willow Flycatcher
Western Kingbird
Eastern Kingbird
Black-billed Magpie
Common Raven
Bank Swallow
Cliff Swallow
Marsh Wren
Red-winged Blackbird
Western Meadowlark
Yellow-headed Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird

We took four hours to do the 36 miles from headquarters-to-headquarters. Most of that time was spent on the 12 mile auto loop through the marsh itself. Quite a difference from the 75-80 mph speed limit on the interstate though Utah!

After birding we headed west on I-84 and eventually reached Ontario, Oregon some 330 miles from the refuge around 4:30 PM local (meaning Mountain) time. The only difficulty we had was through Boise where the gods of perpetual construction were busy reducing four lanes to two and then, miraculously opening them up for rush hour. (We were unfortunate enough to get there j-u-s-t before they reopened the lanes and so got stuck in some bumper-to-bumper traffic for 30-45 minutes.

We spent the time discussing the merits of various vehicles to be towed behind the RV on a solid bar instead of a dolly should the Jeep Compass not make the cut. (While the Jeep Wrangler seems to be a favorite of many RVers based upon personal observation over 2000 miles of travel since Monday, we agreed that it was too small and cramped for a day-to-day vehicle. Perhaps a Honda CRV?

I'll be posting pictures of birds (hopefully!) as soon as I download them from the camera and do some editing.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

The Weekend of the Bear


Friday evening I chased a large bear out of the yard...twice. I think it wanted to come up on the deck to get some sunflower seeds. Easy pickings for a hungry bruin. I just happened to be on the deck when it came down the hill heading for the staris. I yelled. It stopped...and sat down like a good doggy.

Saturday, while on our bird walk at Hills Creek State Park, we had a 1-1/2 year old run across the road just 15 yards ahead of us. We made some noise and waited for a bit to see if Mom was still following him. She didn't follow so either she wasn't around or she had crossed the road before we turned the corner.

Late this afternoon--around 4:00 o'clock, back at the Aerie, a bear did come up on the deck, emptied the bird feeders and pulled down the hummingbird feeder spilling sugar water on the deck. The sugar water left some nice foot prints on the deck.

Later, around 8 o'clock, a 1-1/2 year old appeared in the yard. I went out to shout at it and heard Mom in the brush down the hill. The youngster was reluctant to leave and eventually ambled off down the hill toward Momma. I brought the bird feeders in so there wouldn't be any attractant on the deck.

So three days and at least four bears. Busy weekend.


Terry and I are busy getting the house ready for our Tuesday departure. I did some weeding of the gardens while she did some cleaning up inside. Tomorrow I'll be mowing the lawn (Hopefully the sound of the mower will keep the bears away!) and packing all of Jessica's and Rick's stuff into the Tundra. Our suitcases are packed and it will be a matter of minutes to throw them into the back seat. Terry has a luncheon and I've a couple of errands to be run down in Mansfield and we'll be all set to hit the road west.