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Sunrise fog in the Colorado River basin, Imperial NWR

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Some stuff that’s happened

I’m still working on getting my blogging mojo back, so thought I’d post some things that I’ve found interesting to me.

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One of the things that I forgot to mention about Robyn and Phoebe’s visit is that I had asked fellow volunteer Linda to crochet two dolls… one with brown curly hair, and one with straight blonde hair.  Linda is always keeping herself busy, and had a big selection of dolls for Phoebe to pick from for herself and her sister Avery.  I was thrilled when Phoebe picked out the two dolls I had thought matched them.  Can’t imagine being able to make these cute things.  They even had underwear!

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After the girls took off from the Yuma airport on Saturday, I got things ready for my Sunday morning bird tour.  Most of the wintering waterfowl have left to make their way slowly north, but this young red-tailed hawk was still around.  It was a good tour despite the lack of ducks, but I did encounter an interesting situation with one of the tour participants.  It was a first for me.  Before we left on the tour, one of the gentlemen approached me with a question.  He told me he was very ‘regular’, and had brought his own roll of toilet paper so could he make a dash to the woods during the middle of the tour?  What??  I told him that we only had one small woodlot at the beginning of the tour, and I didn’t think it would be appropriate for him to relieve himself.  He then said, “Oh, that’s okay, I’ll just hide behind a cactus.”  Ha!  There aren’t any cactus either… it’s just open fields.  OMG!  I almost burst out laughing.  I suggested he try to take care of business before we left at the public bathrooms.  That seemed to work.  Confused smile Can you believe that?

I then spent the rest of the day and Monday and today working the VC.  Not very interesting.  The wind really blasted all day today, and I came home tonight to things being blown around my site.

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Emma and I sat outside as the sun was slowly sinking in the west.  She’s been inside the last three days while I worked so we took advantage of the time outside despite the high winds.

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It wasn’t long before hundreds of turkey vultures were overhead.  I’ve never had a dog before that watched the sky so much.  She usually ignores birds, but turkey vultures just set her off.  What’s with that?  Bark, bark, bark!

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Throughout the winter, I’ve seen an occasional turkey vulture working the sky, but lately they’re moving through in droves.

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                              Very interesting.  Maybe they’re all making their way to Hinckley, Ohio?

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Since there aren’t any squirrels around my site, I guess Emma is guarding us in case I pass out on the patio. Thinking smile

I’ve got a few days off, and I’ve got to take care of taxes and changing my address.  I’m thinking of going to the Lettuce Days Festival if I can force myself into getting the bookwork stuff done by Saturday.  We’ll see if that happens.

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                                                                                THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Time out for family

Don’t think I’ve ever gone this long without doing a blog post, but sometimes life gets in the way of the blogger thing.  I’ve kind of enjoyed the respite, and especially enjoyed the reason for it this week.  Last Tuesday my daughter Robyn and grandgirl Phoebe flew in to Yuma to spend the rest of the week with me.

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They left below zero temperatures in Chicago behind to don some shorts and soak up the sun in our 80* temps this week.  Besides not blogging, I also took very few pictures.  I just wanted to enjoy our time together, so most of the pics are from our hike on Wednesday along the Painted Desert Trail.

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I had promised Phoebe a ‘date shake’ if she came to visit, so that was one of the first things we did.  We stopped at “From the Farm” on our way back to the rig from the airport to have the shakes and some tasty tacos.  Phoebe is an Olympic style eater for a five year old; willing to try most everything and making it easy on me for meals.  She’s not picky at all when it comes to food.  Very refreshing!

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Both of them liked the food there so much that we made a return trip on another day.  I’ve got one of those small Bullet blenders, and Robyn even made fresh chocolate date malts one afternoon. 

_MG_1570 _MG_1568Seems there’s a budding photographer following in her mother’s and grandmother’s footsteps.  Winking smile

A five year old can definitely wear a person out each day!  This year she wasn’t afraid of Emma, and they got along just fabulously.  Phoebe figured out early on Emma’s favorite ‘sweet spots’ for scratching, and that’s all it took.

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As we made our way through the Yuma Proving Grounds (YPG) one day, the paratroopers were falling out of the sky.  How can you not take pictures of our warriors?  Robyn was thrilled to watch, and so was I.

Phoebe and I snuck off yesterday afternoon while Robyn was taking a nap for a ‘secret’ mission.  We had a plan to make some chocolate chip cookies in the volunteer building that has a full sized oven.  As we were sneaking away, Phoebe looked at me and said, “ I know why we’re doing this.  It’s because you love my mom.”  I told her she was exactly right!

As we waited for the oven to preheat, and the batches of cookies to cook, there wasn’t much to do.  The only book with pictures in it in the volunteer library was an old edition of a National Geographic magazine, so that’s what we looked at.  This issue was all about the ‘Brain’.  Oh my goodness, what graphic pictures there were!  Phoebe squealed a lot, but kept wanting to see more. Surprised smile  And of course there were pictures of naked folks in Africa.  You can just imagine her comments about that.  What a hoot!

It was a wonderful visit, and I sadly took them back to the airport this morning for their return to the cold north.

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Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Muddling through

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, and I suppose that’s because my excitement about this place has been squashed.  I’m trying not to dwell on that as I finish up the next six weeks or so.  There are some good things on my horizon, and I’m centering on those.

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Had an interesting encounter with this coyote on the bird tour last Sunday.  It seems we interrupted this guy’s normal routine, and he wasn’t thrilled about it.  He ran away from us, and then returned.  My tour path seemed to be the same as his early morning wanderings.  For more than half the tour, he could have been the guide.  We gave him plenty of room, but he led the way down my looping path through the land management areas.  What a treat.

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In case you haven’t noticed, spring migration has begun.  This huge batch of turkey vultures caught some thermals above my RV site yesterday afternoon, and followed the slip-stream north. 

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A pair of osprey have also been working the pond in front of my site.  I’ve noticed there are less and less waterfowl visible on the ponds during my bird tours.  It’s a little too early for me to migrate, but my heart is with those avian friends winging their way north.

I sat outside for a while with Emma this morning, and then went in to fix my breakfast.  Emma began her alarm barking, so I ran outside to bring her in.  I figured it was the coyotes again, but I was wrong.

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Seems there was a little bandit clinging to the side of the bunk house next door.  I figured these guys were eating up the empty orange peels from the mesquite tree each night, but I was surprised to see one so close during daylight hours.

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                            I put two orange halves out each morning for the little verdin to snack on.

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Between the verdin and the Gila woodpeckers, the orange halves are totally emptied by nightfall.  Each morning the tree is bare of oranges, and there’s not a scrap left behind.  Fellow volunteer Gail watched three of the raccoons out her rig’s window this morning before one of them came over toward my site.  Due to Emma, that little bandit will have to wait until tonight to snack on the bitter peels.

Next Tuesday, my daughter Robyn and grandgirl Phoebe arrive for a four night stay with me.  I’m very excited about that.  It’s one of the good things that is helping me ‘muddle through’.  If anything interesting happens before their arrival, I’ll let you know. 

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                                                                               THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Sunday afternoon drive

Back before 1956, when my Dad died, I remember him taking us on Sunday afternoon drives to get out of the city of Chicago.  That was before those suburbs like Rolling Meadows even existed.  We’d drive out to see the farm fields, and occasionally end up at Russell’s for a BBQ pulled pork sandwich.  My brother Kurt, aka Nurse Ratchet, and I were small enough that we’d split a sandwich and fries.  I can still conjure up the taste of that pork in my mind. 

Anyway, seeing as my work week starts tomorrow, I thought I’d take Emma on a ‘Sunday afternoon drive’ on Saturday.  I’m just about out of those ‘bargain’ shriveled oranges that I bought a month ago, and the Gila woodpecker screams at me each morning for his orange halves stuck on the mesquite tree. 

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After picking up a month’s supply of ‘bird’ oranges for four bucks, I decided to take a side road south of the Imperial Dam LTVA area to Mittry Lake.  I hadn’t been there before, and wanted to check it out.

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With no wind today, the lake was as smooth as glass and would have been perfect for kayaking.  Only problem is I don’t have a kayak.  Thinking smile  I also noticed that the shoreline was becoming choked with phragmites, an invasive species.  That’s the tall stuff with the puffs on top.  It’s a problem along many waterways in the south.

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The boondock camping places here have a ten day limit per calendar year.  Most spots today seemed to be taken by weekend campers.

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I did find one empty spot though with a wonderful view.  If I were a boondocker, I’d like this one.  See that white dot at the top right?  It’s the radar blimp put up by the Army on the Yuma Proving Grounds.  I can see that blimp from the refuge.  And that bump in the mountains on the far right is Castle Dome.  I can see that from my rig also, and it’s about twenty miles away as the crow flies from this spot.  You sure can see a long way here in the desert.

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Some of you may remember this pic I took from the VC on Christmas Eve of the fire south of us near Mittry Lake.

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Well, I saw the burnt results of that fire today.  In areas with water, the green is quickly coming back.  Fire is a natural occurrence, and Mother Nature knows how to deal with it.  Not sure this fire started naturally, but things will grow back.  There’s that seed bank buried underneath you know.

It was a great day for a drive.  Tomorrow it’s back to work in the VC.  Thankfully, I have all seats reserved for the bird tour.  It’s the highlight of my week.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A day that went from stones to diamonds

I had an agenda today.  I left the rig at 8:00 to drive about 30 some miles to pick up Kevin and Ruth in the Imperial Dam LTVA BLM (Long Term Visitors Area  in the Bureau of Land Management).  I had reserved two spots for them on the 10:00 am guided hike of the Painted Desert Trail on the refuge.  Well, I got about five miles down the road when the low tire pressure light came on in the car.  Ugh!

The last time this had happened, a bolt had punctured one of the tires.  I could drive five miles back to the refuge, or try to limp my way 35 miles to Yuma.  I decided to go back to the refuge.  Not a good way to start the day.  Kevin and Ruth were to meet me at the Christian Center after riding their bikes two miles from their rig.  Uf-dah!  They have no phone, and my AT&T phone doesn’t work here anyway.

A couple of the guy volunteers helped me pump up the pressure on all the tires, and it turned out that was all that was needed.  No flat tire, but it put me an hour behind time.  Luckily, Kevin and Ruth were still waiting when I finally arrived, and we were off for a day on the refuge.

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I headed straight for the Painted Desert Trail, and they were able to catch up with the hiking tour.  I chose not to go since I wasn’t sure I could keep up with them.  That’s Kevin in the lead, and Ruth behind him as the group came out at the end of the hike.  We enjoyed a picnic lunch before heading out to ‘do’ the overlooks.

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Weather wise, it was a glorious sunny day.  Lots of ducks and geese on the lakes and ponds.  I brought the scope along so we could get some closer views from above.  Lots of chit-chatting going along as well.

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Had to have the blog photo as well with the lake, mountains, and painted desert in the background.  Before you know it, the afternoon had marched on, and we headed back to the VC.

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On the way back we found a couple of Harris’s Antelope Squirrels running in and out of a dead tree.  First time I’ve seen this critter.  Cute little things.  They’re one of the few desert animals that is very active during the heat of the day.  When they get overheated, they just lay spread eagled on the ground in the shade to lower their body temperature. 

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While they went through the VC, I went back to the rig to let Emma out for a bit.  Digger, one of the desert tortoises, came out of his six week hibernation(?) in his burrow today.  That was an occasion to finally see him again.  Then it was time to take Kevin and Ruth back to the LTVA since I don’t drive after dark.  We had to drive through the Yuma Proving Grounds (YPG), and the Army was training their paratroopers.

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Finally got to see ‘our’ boys dropping out of the sky.  My oldest son, Daniel, was in the 82nd Airborne, and I could never imagine jumping out of a perfectly good airplane.  The YPG is all about the sounds of Freedom, but this was a very silent tribute to those that defend us.  Wish I could have thanked them all for their service.

So even though the day started on a sour note, it turned out to be one of those diamond days… a great time with friends and America’s finest.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Restoring habitat

Back in the day before the white man came to this area of Arizona desert along the lower Colorado River, the river was controlled by Mother Nature, had yearly floods, and was lined with cottonwood and willow trees.  That isn’t the way it is today.  With the advent of steamboats, and later dams, the cottonwood and willow forests disappeared.

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One of the objectives of this refuge is to restore some of that riparian habitat.  A little over 2000 cottonwood and willow seedlings arrived in these big boxes yesterday.  That meant they had to be planted pretty quickly.

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I was able to escape the VC long enough yesterday afternoon to document the first part of this restoration.  Over 1000 cottonwood seedlings were in this huge crate.

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A field had been prepared for planting.  So, how do you plant 2000 tree seedlings quickly?  I’m going to show you.

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See those two seats behind the tractor?  Two people sit in those seats and drop the seedlings one at a time down under them.  Flats of the two kinds of seedlings are on the sides of each of the seats.

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As the tractor slowly moves along, other attachments dig a trough, then after the seedling is dropped, cover the roots with dirt.  The smaller vehicle on the left follows behind with additional seedlings.

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When needed, the staff member in the green vehicle jumps out and makes sure each seedling is seated in the dirt properly. 

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The ‘planters’ behind the tractor were fellow volunteers Norma and Doug.  Seems they’re enjoying their work!  I was jealous.  Sure beats working the VC in my book.

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                                  And driving the tractor?  None other than fellow volunteer Chef Jay!

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At the end of each row, the planter platform is lifted up, and Norma and Doug climbed out.  This puzzled me. I couldn’t figure out why they didn’t just ride back to the beginning of the next row.  Turns out they tried that the first time, but because the tractor travels much faster back to the beginning, they were choking in the dust.  So, at the end of each row they got out and walked back.

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This is what each planted seedling looks like.  I think it is a much better method than using a shovel to dig each hole to plant a tree.

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Ten rows of 61 seedlings each were planted yesterday afternoon.  That’s 610 possible trees.  A checkerboard pattern was designed by the Wildlife Specialist, Vance, for the plantings.  So there will be a more natural diversity in the woodlot.  Today, an additional 20 rows were planted, and the plot is done.  I’ll be long gone before this woodland comes to maturation, but I’m glad I could be a small part of the goings on.  I wish I could have been out there helping rather than just recording, but at least one female got to do something outside of the VC for a change on this refuge.

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                                                                              THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy