Thursday, March 29, 2012

Texas in Rear View Mirror

Wildflower at Pedernales Falls State Park
Actually the RV, Charlie, doesn't have a rear view mirror. Only very good side view mirrors. But you get the drift.

We departed Austin area at O'dark early this morning and will have driven about 800 miles today across west Texas, southern New Mexico and into Arizona. Long 16+ hours but taking turns it has been worth it. We now will spend leisurely weekend in one of our favorite haunts, Catalina State Park.

I currently riding shotgun while Sraddha drives. She is a good driver.

Time to clean up Charlie from all the Texas dust, port Aransas sea salt, and effect a couple minor repairs. The exhaust fans stopped working. After tearing one apart yesterday I found as suspected, a corroded clogged micro switch that won't go up and down when we open the vent. On both fans. Think it is due to the salty air of Part Aransas. Very sticky if any of you have spent time on an ocean beach know.

Mr & Mrs Cardinal sharing a Moth at Pedernales
Hope to clean them out and nurse th back to health until the manufacturer can send replacement to our home.

Also going photo shooting with a friend from Bosque del Apache workshop who lives in Tucson.

I have bird pics to show you but haven't had Internet bandwidth or time to upload. Hope this weekend.  Here are a couple pics

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Austin Texas

Is beautiful area. Hill country it's called. By California standards more like speed bumps

We are staying at Pedernales Falls state park about 35 miles west of downtown. Quiet. And one of the best places to see the Golden Cheeked Warbler whose only north American home is around this area of Austin.

Yesterday we drive into Austin to see the Capital building and Mellow Johnnies bike shop owned by Lance Armstrong.

I am typing on iPhone so pardon the brevity. And the photos might not be correct size.

Oh yes, Sraddha saw the warbler this
Morning as we hiked around.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Help, Blood on the Curtain(s)

Got your attention?
We pulled into High Island, north of Galveston after a long day driving, the last 4 hours through Galveston and waiting for the ferry across to Bolivar Peninsula.  The RV park is nice with one major issue.

MOSQUITOES!!  Ugh.  Sraddha was eaten up while outside hooking up the electrical and water.  We drove around a little to recon the area where there are several bird sanctuaries.  High Island is so named because it is actually higher (by 40 feet) than the coastline.  Lots of forests and swamp land.  Duh!

After our dinner, I started to review the photos from yesterday and today when we noticed that mosquitoes were all over the inside of the RV.  Yikes,  get out the fly swatter and, wack,  oops. I smashed one on the curtain and blood spurted out.  Sigh.  Get the carpet cleaner out and Sraddha spent several minutes cleaning.  Whew.  Then more.  We had left all the windows open to help cool off interior but had closed up the screens. Or so we thought.

Now I believe in non violence, in most situations, however this was self defense!  They were everywhere.  Reminded me a little of that old Alfred Hitchcock movie, "The Birds". They just kept coming out of the woodwork.  Sraddha is especially susceptible to bites. I am less.  We closed all the windows tight and turned on the AC (for the first time since last August).  Still the mosquitoes appeared.  We found one of the windows not totally closed.

Well, we spent the better part of an hour removing the mosquitoes. I finally reviewed yesterdays photos and found 3 worth showing you out of 150.  Some birds seen late in the day.  Really cute.  Not great photos, but these birds all showed their personality.

Roseated Spoonbill yawning.

Nashville Warbler

Ruby Crowned Kinglet.  He really moves around fast.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Made It To Texas

Corpus Christi approach shot with ipad camera
Posting this from my iPad so not sure how the photos will be arranged.

Front Facing iPad camera  in airplane
Used the iPad camera several times during the flight. One photo was of me in the seat looking towards back of plane. Other one was out the window towards Corpus Christi as we were landing. Oops. Was supposed to have turn off iPad but couldn't resist snapping photo first. Note all the refineries.

Glad to see Sraddha and we went put birding after unloading. Had fun and got a couple photos but no time to process yet. It is the warmest day of the trip on the coast, up to 76. and a bit muggy. Very different from ice on the windshield when I departed home this morning.

Off to bed now. Tomorrow morning we head up the coast to High Island north of Galveston. About 250 miles.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Off to Texas!

Early morning wakeup call to head to Sacto Airport.  New Terminal should be fun and I hope to get a couple pics in there.
Brown Pelican in Port Aransas Texas
Nope, not flying like this guy but am flying on an airplane.  late afternoon arrival, then hit Paradise Pond to see if we can catch a couple little birds with new lens. Or maybe a bee, too.

Bee on a willow tree bloom

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Late Afternoon at Ananda Village

Wednesday afternoon at Ananda Village.  Just returned from errands in town,  pick up some dinner groceries, prescriptions, and get a haircut.  The new 100-400mm lens came today which has been recommended by some birding freinds.  I hope this will be a useful lens for birds.  The light is low and a bit dark.

Chuckles and Chuckles, the Yogoata Diary Runner Ducks

As I drive by the Yogoata dairy, I spot the Runner Ducks.  What an odd pair running around the grass.


Looking for some smaller birds I spot a little junko picking up seeds on the ground near an oak tree

Driving home, I noticed the dozens of Daffodils lining the driveway.

Nice photographic afternoon.  Will see how the lens does.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

New iPad and Snow

What up with this, oh,  it is still winter technically
Still in village for a couple more days attending to business, enjoying the cold weather and planning for later in spring.  The snow last weekend was really fun and I just hibernated most of weekend.  Wasn't sure I could get out of driveway Monday morning but the sun came out just long enough to thaw out the the road but I had to spend half hour scraping off the snow and ice from the car before I could see to drive.

Sraddha remained down in Texas gulf coast birding and drove down to the Texican border near MacAllen for a couple days of birding with one of her mentors. Saw some new birds and had a great time.  The winds were quite high but she had closed the slide-outs so everything was fine when she returned.

2 new iPads
Other highlight of the weekend was the arrival of the new iPad.  My friend, Barbara got one also.

We had fun opening them at the same time, setting them up and facetiming.  What a bunch of geek fun.  And the screen is everything Apple claimed it is.

Taking Pictures of taking pictures
We took pictures of each other taking pictures of each other.  Pretty cool.

Oh, yes,  who gets the old iPad?  Well, don't tell anyone but it is all set up for Sraddha and I think she will enjoy it.

Friday will come soon.  So will the next blog post.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Winter not yet gone?

Small Waterfall near Yuba River
As ye followers of this blog know, I am back home for a few days whilst Sraddha enjoys the warm moist sometimes sunny climes of the gulf coast. Well here in Ananda village it is c.c.c.ccccccold!!  yes. Winter is still here.

I am always in awe of Mother Nature, aka Divine Mother, when the weather shifts.  Earlier last week it was mild enough.  Still wear a coat but not too bad.  some sun, etc.  I was hearing the drums of a storm coming in when I received photos from freinds in Seattle and Portland showing me snow on the Oregon coast and in south Puget Sound, but didn't put it together here since it had been such a mild winter.  Woah!!

Misty Yuba Friday morning
Think it dumped at least 4-5 inches of rain then Sunday we got about 5 inches of snow.  Yes it is technically not spring as that is 3 days away but really?  Talked with Sraddha and it is mid 70's and mild in texas at moment.  I am keeping fire burning here to stay warm and hibernating.  DSL working so have internet.

Here are some photos from under the bridge

Yuba River Friday evening.  Heavy Rain (iphone)
 So Saturday morning I drove back down to Yuba River Canyon to see how the river flow was comparing to previous night.  It was down a bit.

Yuba River Saturday Morning.  Sun coming out for a while

Some friends here at village were moving into their newly built home and were concerned the storm would interfere.  The rain gods blessed them with dry weather and about 15 of fellow village residents  spent 3 hours moving them from their temp home to their permanent home.

The next morning, Sunday I awoke to this.  Good day to remain home and get to know new iPad.
Out our back yard this morning

it snowed a bit more as expected then sun came out then more snow.  Since it is springtime (well almost) and the snow doesn't last, I decided it wasn't worth shoveling out the walkway and driveway.  If snow still persists Monday, I can always walk to work! the exercise would do me good!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The new iPad unveiled!! (warning movie)

It's here.  I have it.  the new ipad.  Black was the choice.
Arrived Friday during the day and when I returned from clinic conference in Redding, it was waiting for me.  Actually 2 of them because I couldn't decide which one to get.  Black or White so ordered both figuring I could return one easily and it was hard to pre-order the first day.  So....Friday morning, a friend texted me to say she wanted the other one so we gathered together in my office at  6 PM for the unvieling.  She shot this 15 second video of me with her iPad.

It is as cool as you are hearing.  the screen is amazing.  Now I just have to figure out which case to buy.  I have the Apple magnetic cover which is pretty neat but want something else a little more protective.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The new ipad arrives tomorrow

Black or White?  can't decide.  Ordered both.  will ship one back.  which one to keep?  And I have to drive to Redding in the morning for a conference so won't be home til after dinner...  help me.  comment below on which one I should keep

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Boquillas Canyon bike and hike

At the very southeast corner where the Rio Grande River exits Big Bend National Park, lies Boquillas Canyon.  As with the southwest corner of Santa Elena Canyon, these cliffs rise high to 1400 feet and the Sierra del Carmen mountains rise up on the Mexico side of the river to about 7000+ feet.
The weather was mild so we decided to bike the 6 miles over to the canyon trail then hike the 1.5 miles up the canyon.

We started late in the day and were the last ones on the trail, meeting many hikers on their way out.    We noticed several donation jars for the singers across the river (in Mexico) but they had the day off, so we had the canyon all alone. talk about quiet. I shot this pic with the iphone camera

Sraddha in Boquillas Canyon Bliss
En route we had noticed this little exhibit about a past pre WW1 tramway that ran 7 miles from Mexico, across the river up north to a spot where the ore from the Mexican mines were then loaded into trucks and carts and then transported by truck or cart another 60 miles to the Southern Pacific railhead.
7 mile long Aerial Tramway over the Rio Grande? Woah!
I sat in one of the ore cars used in the tramway to give you a perspective of the size.  Ore probably weighed more.
Me sitting in Ore Car
Not many birds though. We then faced the 6 mile bike ride back to campground over several little hills but we made it before dusk. Really fun day.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Some Little Birds of Big Bend

Catching up on a few photos today while it rains and storms on the gulf coast.  The weather reminds me a lot of Seattle actually or home.  Cold in the high 50's, windy, drizzly.  We did take the RV out for exercise, to wash off salt spray, refill propane tank, and drain the wastewater tanks.  Sraddha did the whole thing while I sat in the co-pilot seat so she could get familiar with everything in case she needs to do it herself.  She did great.

While reviewing photos last night i uncovered a whole unedited album from our next to last day in Big Bend Park.  150 photos which I narrowed down to 6 or 7 and then worked them over.  We had driven down to our favorite riverside spot along the Rio Grande river, the hot springs, for a little meditation and soak. We then hiked about 1/2 mile to the springs.

Along the way and return, we saw several birds. The day was overcast and light was bland, however, with a little effort I was able to get some of the pictures to look ok.  Not great but ok. All photos shot with 300mm telephoto (200 and 1.4 extender). Notice that the markings of all these birds really blend in with their surroundings so their enemies have a harder time seeing them.

As we walked back to parking lot we heard this warbler deep in the reeds and finally spotted him peeking out from the reeds 
Orange Crowned Warbler 
Above the hot springs this Phoebe would sit on a bare branch looking for insects, then quickly dart out to grab it and zoom back to his perch
Say's Phoebe looking for insects
 While lounging in the hot springs,  I spotted this Sandpiper cruising the shallow river bank seeking out little morsels like snails, insects, tadpoles, etc.  He was quick but I managed to get this photo
Spotted Sandpiper catching a morsel in the river
 We could hear this little Canyon Wren with its distinctive call.  Took me a while to find him and then he darts up and down the cliffside rocks.
Elusive Canyon Wren up on cliffs
On the way home Sraddha spotted a coyote, so we stopped by the side of the road whereupon we also spotted this hawk perched on a dead mesquite branch about 5 feet off the ground but 50 yards away from the road
Cooper's Hawk looking for somebody to make a mistake so he can have lunch
 As we watched, the coyote moved through the bushes towards the road and then crossed behind us.  I got this photo from the car as he passed maybe 20 feet from car.  We could hear the coyotes all night from the campground but this was first one we saw.
Coyote lurking around in middle of the morning
I fly back home tomorrow for 2 weeks to do some work in the office while Sraddha remains in one of her favorite birding spots.  Spring migration is just beginning and she hopes to see lots of birds. I hope to post a couple more times

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Whooping Cranes...and an alligator

Today we drove up north to Aransas Nat'l Wildlife Refuge because we wanted to see Whooping Cranes and Alligators.  We were not dissapointed.  The weather was crummy and overcast all day so the photos are not very good but we saw them.
Whooping crane almost 5 ft tall

Whooping cranes are the largest bird in North America, weighing in around 15 lb and standing almost 5 feet tall.  They winter in this section of the gulf coast and migrate up north of the Arctic Circle to nest.  Almost extinct a few years ago, their population now counts as about 245 birds.  They mate for life.

Mr & Mrs. Crane in flight

After departing the visitor center we went across the street to have a picnic lunch under some oak trees.  Nearby we saw a fence with a sign that said Alligators - stay behind fence.  Ok.  This sounds like a good idea.

Serious Teeth
 After lunch we peeked over the fence and saw this fella.   He did remind me a lot of the crocadile in Peter Pan movie but he is an alligator not a croc.  Still...can't you just see Captain Hook scrambling for his life?

We started a little hike and saw this cardinal eating late lunch in an oak tree.  I started to shoot some pics and Sraddha grabbed me and escorted me back to car so this is the best photo I had.  not great but he is cute.  Turns out I had 50 mosquitoes on my shirt and pants.

If the Alligators don't eat you in Texas, the mosquitoes will!

Chisos Mountains and Lost Mine trail

Yes, we are now in Texas.  I didn't get to post much while in Big Bend because I didn't want to go over to the store every day and spend hours in hot sun.  (excuse?).  Sooooo.. am getting back to a couple of our hikes.
We hiked the Lost mine trail high up in Chisos Mountains which sit right in the middle of the park sticking up about 8,000 feet.
The most popular trail is the Lost Mine trail.  2.4 miles with 1100 ft elevation gain.  Switches back over it self over and over again.  Top was a point about 7200 feet.  Really fun.  Wind was blowing which was real nice because it kept the flies away mostly.

At the top we sat for an hour and munched snacks.  We were visited by a little Rufus headed sparrow.  Sraddha had glimpsed one before but this one came right up and was looking for food.  We watched him for a long time 

Walking down, we were the next to the last people off the mountain arriving back to car late in day.  saw some cool birds. 

 We returned to Chisos Basin for our picnic dinner and to try to see some more birds. Casa Grande Peak beckoned on the other side

Oh yes,  we did score some fresh shrimp today off a boat in the harbor.  They were not frozen.  We took them back, cleaned them and fired up the BBQ.  Shrimp on the barbie.  Yum.  I can see why the Australian's really like this.  We are vegetarian in our eating habits for various reasons however, everyonce in a while we eat a little seafood like shrimp.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


Got your attention?

Am going to post little snippets. Here is one. We are out for the weekly wednesday expedition at the port aransas birding center.
Lots of migratory water fowl, pelicans, stilts, heron.
And then the 12 ft alligator appears. Real fun. He has lives here many years. Eery!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Notes and photos of Big Bend

Chisos Mountains greeted us
Vast desert plains with high mountains in the distance greet us as we enter the park .  While not the majesty of a Mt Rainier, the Chisos mountains stand tall amidst the rolling barren hills.  We are used to forests in the far west so this is more like Nevada deserts yet much different.

The first full day in Big Bend National Park, it was really cold and windy so we drove from one end of the park to the other. About 65 miles one way.

Chisos Mountains at Sunrise

Sunset near Rio Grande Village
A nearby nature trail near the Rio Grande river offered some interesting birding and a beautiful sunset.

Big Bend is a fascinating place.  Designated a national park in 1944 not just to preserve a wilderness, rather to blend cultural, historical and wilderness areas together.

Old Steam Engine in Castolon
As we travel around the park, we see remnants of old towns, long abandoned indigenous encampments, settlements, agriculture amidst wild and desolate areas.

Purple Prickly Pear Cactus
Over 20 species of cactus grow in the park.  No Sonoran desert yet Ocatillo and Prickly Pear abound.  Apparently the area receives an average of over 15 inches of annual rainfall, mostly in summer months, however a 19 month drought was finally broken last week with over one inch of rain over several days.  We can see the dried up muddy tracks where vehicles roamed through the dirt roads.

Big Bend Lupine

This rain enabled many wildflowers to sprout up.  We saw these near Panther Junction, the main park headquarters,  about 20 miles drive from our camp at Rio Grande village.  I laid down on the highway to take this photo while Sraddha stood guard.  Not many people visit the park due to its remote location, therefore not much traffic.  I was grateful.

Been off line for a while

In Port Aransas at county beach campground. I not been blogging regularly due to lack of internet in Big Bend, then driving to gulf coast, then finding our Mifi doesn't get reliable signal where we are camping. Sigh. I am now writing this with my iPhone so will keep it short.

We drove 500 miles to Lake Corpus Christi state park. First 300 miles SE through desert along the Texican border then east through ranch and then farm country to interstate then south to Gulf.

As we passed through pearsall, Texas, I noticed a sign that said this town produces 55,000,000 lbs per year of peanuts! Wow. That's a lot of shells. And I love peanuts and peanut butter.
We mailed some letters at the Pearsall post office and headed east out of town on a farm road. Speed limit 70 mph. On a farm road? Ok. The wild flowers in full bloom in the fields. We stopped to take this picture and the astral fragrance of the flowers hit us. Unlike anything I have experienced. Maybe this is one of the top Texas attractions.

As you may recall, we were dry camping in Big Bend so relying on our water tanks and batteries. It worked well and we found that with careful use of water and lights we lasted 7 days with only a 2 hour generator session to replenish house batteries. Of course it was moderate temps and we didn't have to run the heater or the AC.

But we did run short of water the last day of the drive so getting to the stare park allowed us to hook up and replenish water tanks and take a very long luxurious shower.

We had less than 100 miles to drive yesterday to our campsite in Port A as Locals call Port Aransas. More on that later. We arrived early at IB Magee county park. We had our choice of about 6 campsites so we drove around and decided on a spot. Good thing as it was Friday and the other campsites filled up by mid afternoon with weekend fishermen.

We headed off to tour the area. Sraddha had stayed in Port A 3 years ago do she showed me all her birding haunts. Last night was restful and quiet as the fishermen all went to bed early.

Today we are off to Farmers market for fresh veggies, etc and to shop for a few other things. I will be posting more regularly about current activities and will catch up on past.

Might be from iPhone. Yikes.