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Roseate Spoonbills, High Island, TX

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Another first for me today

Well, I sure am enjoying that automatic DISH satellite locator.  For almost eight years I’ve been dragging my portable and its heavy holder out every time I’m some place for more than a day or two.  It’s hard on my back and can be more than a little frustrating at times to find the signals; especially if I’m in an area with a lot of sounds that interfere with my hearing the different pitched hums from the receiver.  Just punch a button, wait about five minutes, and everything is ready to go.  Today I love advances in technology.

After lunch, the knock on the door let me know that I had to pack things up for Thibodeaux’s to move the rig back into the building to have my routine maintenance done.  I unhooked the water and electric, and brought in the slides.  That’s when it dawned on me that I hadn’t had the DISH automatically turn off and fold up for travel.  You need electricity to do that.  Rats!  So, I turned on the generator and got it done.  I have to figure out a way to remind myself to put the dish down before I unplug from electrical power. 

I thought of tying  a bright piece of fabric to the steering wheel, but by the time I get to the steering wheel I’ve generally already disconnected from power.  A reader suggested that I hang my keys on the handle of the cabinet where the disconnect button is located, but that just won’t work for me for several reasons.  I’m now thinking I’ll tie something on the electrical cable to remind myself not to pull the plug until I fold up the DISH.  That might work best for me.

Anyway, I had several hours to kill before the rig would be out of the shop, and I just didn’t want to sit around in the heat.  So, I drove around the area instead. 

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I put off stopping at Don’s Specialty Meats for as long as I could, but I knew I wanted to stop here and pick up a few things.  Don’s has lots of Cajun meat type things as well as a limited butcher counter.  They are most known for their Boudin and Cracklins. 

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I really like their pork chops from the butcher’s case, and usually pick up a small tray of Cajun chicken patties.  Remember that I’m from the Midwest, and my pallet prefers meat, potatoes, gravy, and a vegetable.  I’m not into spicy foods, and the last thing on earth I’d eat is something with jalapeños in it! Smile with tongue out  But the coarsely ground chicken patties have no jalapeños…  Only salt, red pepper, black pepper, and green onions in them.  They’re a spicy enough burger type thing for me.

As I went to check out, I asked the cashier what those things were in a container under a heating lamp.  She said they were ‘Cracklins’.  It seems like every time I visit Louisiana I have some kind of minor stomach ailment, so I’ve never tried Cracklins before.  My stomach was fine today, so I told her I’d never tasted them, and she gave me a sample.  Then she asked me, with an incredulous look on her face, “Where are you from?”  To make things simple, I just said South Dakota.  She just shook her head. 

As I left the store, I had my first bite of a Cracklin.   Oh my goodness!  It was hot!  I crunched down on one bite and it was also a little spicy, but…what a delicious artery clogging taste!  I think I could get addicted to Cracklins.  I wonder if you can buy a little bag and then reheat them in the microwave for that hot and spicy taste?  Would they get soggy?  I’m going to find out.  Don’s has a big gravel pullout for trucks and big rigs, so I’m going to get a small bag to snack on when I leave here on Friday.  I’ll be ‘cracklin’ down the highway!  Winking smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Po’ Boy Pilgrimage

Well, I’m happy to report that the trip to Billy Thibodeaux's Premiere RV yesterday was uneventful.  Thank goodness!  By 1:30 I was ensconced with full hookups under the repair area. 

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First thing this morning, Billy and a helper were up on the roof of the rig to figure out where to put the Winegard automatic DISH satellite receiver.  At first they thought to put it up front, but that didn’t work out.  In order to get the wiring to the entertainment center and TV, it was placed about halfway back.  I put Emma in her crate because they were in and out of the rig so much.  After a bit, I decided that it was probably best if Emma and I got the heck out of there and let them do their work.

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Each time I’ve been at Billy’s in the last four years, I’ve made a trip down to Kaplan, LA.  It’s sort of a pilgrimage to visit this unique Cajun Restaurant and Grocery pretty much out in the middle of nowhere.  I always order a shrimp Po’ Boy and a root beer at Suire’s.  It’s about the only time I drink pop.  Of course I have the Po’ Boy ‘dressed’ with lettuce, tomatoes, and mayo; hold the ketchup.  Very tasty!

_MG_9999It was a bit of a surprise for me today to see ten cop cars from many surrounding communities in the parking lot.  It would certainly be safe to have lunch here today!

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The surrounding countryside is a prime area for raising rice and crawfish.  I saw both kinds of fields as I drove around, but I’m not sure what this farmer was doing.  That tractor was sure kicking up a lot of dirt.  Perhaps he was preparing the field for rice?  I just don’t know.

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After lunch, on the way back to the rig, I spent some time in Rayne, LA.  It’s known as frog city.

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                                                         Lots of frog statues all over, and…

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                                                            …murals on the sides of buildings.

When I got back to Billy’s, I pulled the rig out from under the roofing to check out the new DISH and how it worked.  It worked like a charm, and I kind of regretted that I’d have to move back under the cover tonight.  So, Billy maneuvered the rig to the full hookup site out in the back so I could put the DISH through it’s paces tonight.  I think I’m going to like this upgrade to my rig.  Tomorrow they’re going to install a couple of switches so I can still use the portable dish I have in case I’m under tree cover in my travels.  Most of the refuges I stay at for extended periods have pretty open sites for volunteers, so it will make my life a little easier. It’s a wonder just to watch this dish scan the skies until it locks in at the exact right spot for outstanding reception.  I’m happy as a clam!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Sunday, April 20, 2014

I think I’ve figured it out

For the last several years, I have dreaded driving the rig to a new location.  It didn’t start out that way, but as time has gone by the dread crept in.  I think I’ve figured out why.  For the last three or four years, every time I head out it’s like the Trials and Travails of Pauline! 

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                        Finally saw a least bittern on my last drive around Shoveler Pond last Thursday.

I read a lot of blogs about RVers, and they seem to travel all around the country with very few traumas or mishaps.  I, on the other hand, don’t ever seem to go anywhere without Murphy following me.  I’ve had to have the rig towed three times, had three windshield wipers fly off, had the fridge break down twice, had the awning unfurl while traveling several times, and have had the computer mother board that controls all driving of the rig go kaput.  Why am I so plagued?  I keep the maintenance on the rig up to date, but that doesn’t seem to help.

IMG_6777Anyway, I’ve decided that I will have a trouble free journey this time.  I sure hope I’m right.  I’ve got just about all my packing up taken care of for my departure tomorrow.  All I have to do is unhook the utilities, hook up the toad, and blow this popsicle stand!

I was going to wait until tomorrow to pack away the DISH, as there were a few programs I was going to record tonight.  I thought better of that idea.  I keep the DISH stuff in the trunk of the car when I’m traveling, and have my bicycle hooked onto the back of the trunk.  I decided to get it all done tonight.  I was surprised that I was able to lift the bike up above my shoulders to get it on the holder, but I muscled it up there.  I thought sure I’d have to ask someone for help tomorrow. 

I’ve only got a little over 150 miles to go tomorrow to get to Thibodeaux’s to get the new automatic satellite dish installed and some maintenance issues taken care of.  I’ve pretty much plotted out my course to Minnesota, and I’ll be taking some different roads this time.  I’m not going to push it too hard at the beginning of the journey because I’m hoping for it to warm up some in the north woods.  Ever optimistic…

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                                                                               THE END!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Pingo’s tale

Back in June of 2012, a female whimbrel was banded and outfitted with a small satellite transmitter.  This happened in the far northern reaches of the Mackenzie River Delta on her breeding grounds.  As near as I can figure, that places her as an adult female at the very northern tip of either the Northwest Territories or the Yukon in Canada above the Arctic Circle.  Must have been some very intrepid researchers to accomplish that feat!   They named her Pingo (which is what a mound of earth covered ice in the Arctic is called). 

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                                       One of the migrating whimbrels I spotted last week…Not Pingo.

Not long after that, she began her long migration south for the winter.  She winters in Brazil, by the way.  She didn’t exactly take a direct route.  She first went to Labrador on the east coast, and then headed out over the Atlantic.  Much to her dismay, I assume, she encountered hurricane Isaac along the way in September of that year.  Can you believe that without stopping to rest, she flew around the hurricane and made her way to Brazil?  Thanks to the satellite chip, we know that she flew 76 hours straight before making landfall.  Isn’t that amazing?  [I think she should be the mascot for the newly formed Paul Dahl Disorder Driving Club (PDDDC?).]

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On April 17, 2013, Pingo arrived at Anahuac NWR to stop for a while to refuel for her migration back above the Arctic Circle.  Everyone here was very excited to learn about this, but she eventually left.  Would she make it through another year of getting to the Mackenzie Delta and then back down to Brazil?  She sure did.

After spending the winter there she headed for Cuba for a while, and then just a week ago returned to Anahuac!  So Pingo is back!  These fairly recent advances in satellite technology have enabled researchers to learn so much about migration, and to realize there is so much that they don’t yet know.  It once again points to the very importance of maintaining our National Wildlife Refuges and protecting our wild places for future generations.  I’m humbled to be able to be a very small part of this.  I thought you might enjoy this true to life tale of one of my avian friends. Smile I’d sure like to see her in person, but she’s busy refueling in the far reaches of the East Unit, I believe.  Maybe we’ll pass each other along the way as we both head north for the summer…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What a difference a day makes

When I posted my little tirade last night, I was not implying that all teachers these days are irresponsible and disrespectful.  It was just the group of five that I encountered yesterday.  Stephanie’s call to the school yesterday had some very positive results.

Before the next batch of fifth graders arrived today, we received an email from Stephanie that she had forwarded from one of yesterday’s teachers.  It was an apology for the behavior of the students yesterday.  It seems she didn’t quite get that we were upset with the teachers, not the students.  Eventually, she did admit that she should have set an example for the other teachers by moving along through the stations with her students.  Do you think so??  Anyway, she assured us that things would be different today and tomorrow.

And they were.  Astoundingly different!  Apparently both the students and the teachers had been read the riot act before coming today.  Each class shouted ‘Thank you!’ at the end of each session, and there was always a teacher with the group.  They even participated with the kids.  These teachers said they were very embarrassed by what had happened yesterday, and hoped they could return next year.

Those kids must have had quite a lecture on the bus coming here, as the first group or two seemed almost scared to say anything.  It was a little comical to see.  There were no lost students, no students squirming to visit the restroom, and everyone left with a smile on their face; us included!  Today was the way these programs should go.

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Since this is my last week here, I have to admit that I’ve got a bit of a short timers attitude.  So each afternoon after the kids leave, instead of working, I’m just taking time to enjoy my favorite places on Anahuac.  I did a slow roll around Shoveler Pond on Monday, and yesterday and today I spent some time at Jackson’s Woodlot.  I just relax in the photo blind, and wait for the birds to come to me.  Every time I’ve been there this mockingbird has sat on this exact tree branch and given me the stink eye.  I’ll be gone pretty soon you little opera singer!

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Time for a little bird quiz. Nerd smile  Can you guess the name of this bird?  I’ll let you know at the end of this post.  The photo blind is a great place to let all the excitement and challenges of the day drain away.  This is our busiest visitor week at the refuge, and birders were trudging around all over the woods today.  I’m not so good at trudging any more, so I prefer to sit and wait.  No one joined me in the blind even though there was plenty of room to do so.  Maybe I was exuding vibes that told of my need for some personal space?  Who knows… This little guy came skulking through the reeds singing his heart out.

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After all the birders went on their way, I had a brief glimpse of a second year male summer tanager.  Older males are solid red, but this guy has a mixture of red and yellow feathers.  Photos of my feathered friends are a challenge in the dense greenery. 

When I got back to the rig, I had an email from my older brother Carl with this link: http://marcbrecy.perso.neuf.fr/history.html    I don’t usually include these kinds of links in my posts, but I found this one worth watching.  You’ll have to pay close attention if you view it.  It is only two minutes long for those of you that have GB limits.  I have a 5 GB limit too, but I’m glad I watched it.

Have you got your guesses in mind for the mystery bird?  Since I had heard its song, I already knew what it was, but when he turned his head around it clinched the ID!

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                                                            A Common Yellowthroat!

Tomorrow the last batch of fifth graders will be upon us in the morning.  I hope it goes as well as it did today.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I got a little PO’d today

The storm blasted through yesterday, but the high winds continued through today.  Along with the very stiff north wind, the temperature dropped like a rock and it was barely 40* when I got up this morning.  I’m sure the wind chill was around freezing as there was frost on the windshield.  The hoped for bird fallout didn’t happen here, but some birds straggled in.  Tonight’s pics are some of those birds (all black-throated green warblers).

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The next batch of fifth graders from the Barber Hill School were slated to arrive this morning around 9:00.  We volunteers were all bundled up and ready for them.  We had to change the location of some of the stations due to the cold high winds, and the handiwork of a bunch of feral hogs overnight.

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When they arrived, the teachers lined them up in six groups of 14 or 15 for each of us to lead to our stations.  I was a little surprised that no teacher came along with my group, but wrongly assumed that maybe there weren’t enough of them to go with each group.

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As each of us finished with each group and the next one arrived, it became evident that the teachers had disappeared.  Seems they were a little cold and all huddled together out of the wind kibitzing together.  Baring teeth smile  As a former principal, that made my hair stand on end a bit.  They had a total disregard and lack of respect for their students and us volunteers. 

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I’m pretty confident in handling a group of raucous 11 year olds that I don’t know from Adam, but really, those teachers should have been there to help with discipline so we could focus on what we were trying to teach the kids.  As volunteers, discipline shouldn’t be our job.  The teachers are the ones getting paid and they’re the ones that are responsible for the welfare of their students.

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Fellow volunteer Cindy picked up on my intent when I shouted to her, “Are there any teachers to give us a hand?”  Her loud answer, “They seem to be having a meeting.”  The teachers heard us, and turned their backs.  By this time, I was livid! 

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Lots of kids were cold, many needed to use the rest room, and one girl ran off from her group.  Where were the teachers to help with these issues?  Nowhere to be seen!  We can’t leave our group to take kids to the restroom, nor can we leave to find a recalcitrant student.  Not a safe situation.  What were these teachers thinking?  I guess they weren’t.

Once they all left, all of us fairly pounced upon Stephanie and let her know of our anger over what had transpired.  To her credit, she called the principal of the school and let her know the situation.  We have two more days of fifth grade students from this school tomorrow and Thursday.  I expect that things will change tomorrow, but if they don’t Thursday may not be an option for that school.  I, for one, will not work under those circumstances.  If I was the principal of that school, I would have ripped each of those teachers a new one upon their return!

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                                                                THE END OF MY TIRADE!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Monday, April 14, 2014

It never fails…

Since I’ll be heading out of here in a week, I’ve been slowly starting the process of packing up.  Over the weekend I collapsed my ‘suitcase’ picnic table and stored it away.  That also meant taking apart my outdoor gas grill which ended up in the dumpster.  It was an el-cheapo, and had rusted apart after two years.  I’m not sure I’ll replace it.  Maybe I’d be more inclined to grill out if I had one of those popular Weber-Q things.

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                   Female boat-tailed grackle.  Thought I’d include some photos of common birds tonight.

Then the other day, I packed away the small electric heater that I use in winter.  It’s been close to 80* lately with lows in the 60’s.  I should have known better.  It never fails.  Pack the heater away, and today a wintry like cold front blows in.

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                                        Male boat-tailed grackle making its squeaky door hinge call.

It was hot and muggy this morning as close to 90 fifth grade students came to partake in our Bridges to Birding programs.  I was sweating bullets as I ran the stuffed bird banding station.  These education days are never dull, and today the table I was using had the one leg rust out and collapse the table in the middle of a session.  Bands, record sheets, measuring devices, and stuffed birds went flying everywhere!  I asked which young man in my group was strongest, and had several volunteers to haul over a cement block to brace up the rotted side. Winking smile Just can’t wait to see what’s going to happen over the next three mornings as the rest of the fifth graders from this school district come to visit our six stations…

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     Female red-winged blackbird.  The identification of this bird stumps many beginning birders.

We were all surprised that this group didn’t cancel today as the forecast was for severe thunderstorms.   I’m glad they didn’t cave in to the weather guessers, but almost as soon as they were done the front was upon us.

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                                                                 Male red-winged blackbird.

I made it back to the rig just in the knick of time to get Emma into her Thunder Shirt before the fireworks started.  No lightening, but lots of thunder and torrential downpours.  Along with that came a quick plummet in the temperatures.  I’d like to hope this might cause a spectacular fall out of migrant birds tomorrow, but we’ll see.  It’s supposed to get down into the upper 30’s tonight, so it looks like I’ll be wearing a coat for tomorrow’s classes.  What a change from today.  Guess I jumped the gun by packing up the heater.

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Double-crested cormorant.  These birds aren’t very common here, and the picture is fuzzy, but it shows the difference between this bird and the more common (here) neotropic cormorant.  Notice the orange lores and lower mandible.

Before I headed back to the rig, I took a quick drive around Shoveler Pond.  That’s where I found both species of Cormorant.

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                        Neotropic cormorant.  See the lack of orange and the white ‘V’ around its beak?

Now I’ve got a question for you fishermen.  I thought what this bird caught for lunch was an ordinary bullhead.

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But it seems to have a second tail or an extra long stinger type thing.  See it hanging down on the right?

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I’ve never seen a fish like this.  What do you think?  (I also thought Sherry might like this picture of the cormorants eye.)

Well, I’ve got to get busy and pack a lunch for tomorrow and its continuing onslaught of fifth graders.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy