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Borrego Springs, CA

Monday, June 30, 2014

Let the loony-ness begin!

Today was my first day this year working on the Minnesota Loon Count.  I set my alarm early (ugh) so I’d be ready to pick up Bridget at 7:00.  These days I’m pretty much a fair weather birder.  It’s rare that you’ll find me up before dawn preparing to go find birds.  I’ve mellowed in that respect over the years.

Goat's Beard

                                                                            Goat’s Beard

Anyway, we headed out in the not so ideal conditions.  The wind was still blowing hard, and the rules of the Loon Count are not to survey lakes if there is enough wind to produce whitecaps.  Believe me, the big lakes had whitecaps on them today.  I’ve been assigned eight lakes and ponds to survey.

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The state of Minnesota has six areas in it that have been designated loon count areas.  In each of these six areas, 100 lakes are surveyed.  You know that Minnesota is ‘The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes’, but each of the chosen survey lakes must be large enough to support at least one pair of nesting loons.  Volunteers go out each year to survey the same lakes and ponds.  The data collected helps determine the health of the breeding population in the state.  I don’t think anyone would want the haunting call of the loon to disappear from Minnesota.  To me, the loon’s call evokes the same feelings of natural wilderness that a howling of a pack of wolves does. 

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   Harebell?? – That’s the nearest ID I could find in my wildflower book, but I’m not confident it is correct.

So, today there were only two of the eight lakes/ponds that we could survey that didn’t have whitecaps on them.  As we pulled up along side the first lake on Teacracker Trail, I spotted one adult loon on the water.  Yahoo!  We got out the scopes and binoculars and spent the next half hour scanning the lake. (the amount of time spent at each lake is determined by its size)  We also count trumpeter swans, grebes, terns, herons, and egrets.  That one lone loon was all that we saw.

Birds-Foot Trefoil

                                                                         Birds-Foot Trefoil

We moved on to the next small lake, and had to bushwhack our way through the woods to find it.  You can bet we loaded up on bug spray before doing that little trek!  Wind or no wind, the mosquitoes were waiting for us along with the deer flies.

I got all excited as we got to a point where we could see the whole lake.  I saw white dots on the water on the far side.  Ha!  When I got my binoculars on them, it turned out they were just the square bobbers used by the Chippewa for catching leeches.  Sad smile  I guess that’s why this is called Teacracker Leech Pond…

We checked out the other six lakes for best locations to do the survey at each one, and noted that we’ll need a pair of loppers to get to one of them.  We need to have all eight places surveyed by next Monday.  That may be a challenge considering the weather forecast and the fact that family starts arriving tomorrow to visit for the holiday weekend.  Maybe I can get my son, Daniel, to do the shrub cutting to get to the one site.  Wouldn’t anyone jump at the chance to help with the Minnesota Loon Count?? 

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A few of life’s little defugalties

The last couple of days, I’ve had some challenges to deal with.  They were not overwhelming, but life for me isn’t one long vacation.  Every fulltime RVer knows that.  Late Friday night, I noticed another brown tinge to the water here.  I’ve had great water for the last two weeks, and staff felt the problem had been solved. 

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A wild rose bloom with some pollinators.  Tonight’s pics are from one of the trail checks I did last week.

I don’t know why the water always seems to go bad on a weekend when no staff are around.  I’ve asked that I be taught how to get the softener machine to recharge.  No ice or drinking water is a real pain in the neck.

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I wrote a post a while back on Petco vs. PetMeds.com.  Well, I’ve had nothing but problems with getting Emma’s flea and tick stuff shipped.  It’s been about 12 days now, with four calls by me to get it straightened out.  Each time I’m assured things are taken care of.  Ha!  My latest call on Friday resulted in my order being sent to accounting for a decision.  They’ll supposedly get back to me tomorrow.  They don’t work weekends you know. 

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In the meantime, July 1 is fast approaching, and the first of the month is when I always put the medication on Emma.  I’ve got a six month supply from Petco for a large dog, but I hesitate to use that.  I’m frustrated with both companies.

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I had today off, so I had time to take care of some routine chores in between the rain showers and blasting high winds.  It was time to exercise the generator.  I shut everything electrical down inside the rig, and then disconnected the power.  Came back inside to start the generator, and got nothing.  None of the 12 volt lights worked either.  Absolutely no power inside the rig.  Before disconnecting, the power pad showed that the house batteries were fully charged.  What the heck?

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I tried turning on the engine of the motorhome, and it worked fine.  I just didn’t have any power inside.  I was stymied. 

I waited until Bridget and John got home from working the VC today, and posed the problem to John.  He came over with his volt meter measurer thingy, and checked out the house batteries.  They were fine.  Then he checked every electrical panel in the rig, both inside and out.  Everything was good to go.  He asked for my Winnebago owners manuals, and I sent them home with him to study.

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A few minutes later he returned and asked if I had a 12 volt power switch somewhere.  That’s when I thought of the auxiliary battery switch by the entrance door.  He asked if I could have bumped into it by accident, and a light went off in my head.  Yep, I had bumped that switch about a week ago when coming into the rig trying to escape another sudden downpour.  I was so thankful for an easy fix to this problem.  (so was he)  Thanks, John, for teaching me a lesson I won’t soon forget.

With any luck, the brown water and flea/tick solutions will be resolved tomorrow.  Minor defugalties, but a pain in the neck never the less. 

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, June 28, 2014

A humdinger of a storm

It seems like for over a week, everyday we have rain storms roll through.  That sort of thing is kind of expected if you’re living in the mountains of Colorado, but it’s getting rather tiring here in Minnesota. 

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I’ve worked the VC the last two days, and this is what the normal view out the windows should look like.  The VC sits up on a hill with Jim’s Marsh out the back.  This is where the pair of swans nested that we kept our eyes on this spring.  The adults are still hanging around even though they’ve lost all the signets.  Oftentimes a pair of loons stop by as well as some ring-necked ducks.

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Along about 2:00 this afternoon the skies got all dark and a terrific wind developed before the skies opened up.  You couldn’t even see the marsh out of the windows.

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All of the birds at the feeders left for cover. It was literally a torrential downpour, and some of the bird feeders were swinging so violently that I thought they might come loose and crash into the windows.  It was a wonder to behold.

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                    This is the walkway to the front door, and that’s not fog out there.  It was the rain.

It only lasted about 15 minutes, but it sure had Michelle, the intern, and myself staring out the windows!  So what effects did this storm have?  Quite a few.  When folks could finally get out of their cars to come in, they told us that a tree had been blown down right across the entrance road to the VC.  It was a big old white birch, and they were barely able to get around it.

Inside the VC, several leaks developed.  One came from the top of the handicapped door.  I put a bucket under that one.  Then we noticed the floor in the nature store area was all wet.  Water was coming in under the low solid wood cabinets.  Michelle and I were able to move one of the six foot cabinets across the room so we could mop up all the water.  Both of these are in a newly refurbished building!  What a mess.

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By the time I got home around 5:00, the sun was shining again and the red squirrels were out harassing Emma.  Of course my rocker and three small tables that I have on the patio outside were blown around the site.  That was one dilly of a windy storm!

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                                               THE END!!  (this little guy sure has some cajones!)

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, June 26, 2014

I surely got my money’s worth today

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Yesterday, Bridget and I spent the morning checking the Egg Lake Trail.  It was another dreary overcast day with occasional sprinkles.  We sure have had enough rain lately to suit my tastes.

_MG_0269 Indian Paintbrush                                Indian Paintbrush

With no sun peeking out, Wednesday was more of a flower day than a dragonfly day.  We found the first Indian Paintbrushes of the year.  They are so bright in color that it’s hard to miss them.  Legend has it that they first appeared where an Indian discarded his brushes after painting a scarlet sunset. 

Canada Anemone

There were also lots of Canada Anemones along this very muddy trail.  I was especially glad that I had a four wheel drive truck so we could sashay through the muck and mire.  The Egg Lake Trail is one of my favorites.  I had hoped to spot another bear along the way, but that didn’t happen.  This trail is in the sanctuary area of the refuge, and public access is denied until September first so that the breeding wildlife remains undisturbed.

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                                                                       Some kind of clover?

We made it all the way through Egg Lake Trail with no large fallen trees stopping us, so it will be good for the up coming loon count.

Have you ever gotten up in the morning and decided that you couldn’t go one more day without a haircut?  Well that’s how I felt this morning.  So, I headed off to Walmart for their $15.50 shampoo and cut deal.  I forgot to bring the coupon I had that would have made it only $9.99.  Sad smile  Sometimes I get a good cut at Walmart, and sometimes there are days like today.  I surely got my money’s worth as the hairdresser must have felt pressed for time.  After waiting over an hour, I was only in the chair about ten minutes, and she didn’t waste any time.  Picture a 50’s Crew Cut if you will.  I swear the longest hairs on my head have to be stretched to measure one inch!  I like short hair, but I’m thinking I may not need another cut until I leave in September.

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On the way home, I checked on the pair of swans and their signets in a pond close to the VC.  Last week there were four babies.  Today, I finally saw two left. 

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They stick pretty close to their mom, and I could only get a picture of one at a time.  I sure hope these two little ones make it.  Nature can be pretty ruthless.  Dad was on guard while mom dipped her head under the water for some tasty greens.  That didn’t stop him from grabbing some greens above ground though.

I’ll be working the next two days in the VC.  One of the first things I’ll do is roll out a chair with a back!  No more stool perching for me.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

More trail checking

After loading up the truck with all of the recyclables from the refuge this morning, Bridget and I were off to the recycling plant in Detroit Lakes.  We had quite the truckload of paper, cardboard, plastic, and glass.  You have to drive rather slowly so you don’t lose your cargo along the highway, but it sure beats working inside.  I’ve found a kindred spirit in Bridget.  We both willingly work the VC when we have to, but would sure rather be outside doing something else.  I nearly bust a gut yesterday when she told me she might have to work the VC three days next week.  Her comment about it was, “Just shoot me!”  I like that woman!

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Once we finished that chore, we were free to do some more trail checking for downed trees.  We also wanted to find any other places where the pink lady slippers might be blooming so we can tell visitors where to look for them.  We found several other spots, but none quite so good as right along County Road 29.

Mourning Cloak, White Admiral, and Northern Crescent

I decided we should check Teacracker Trail once again since there had been several storms since our last drive along it.  I’ve tried to find out how it got it’s name, but so far nobody can tell me.  We came upon a nice bunch of butterflies dining on what I think was some fresh wolf scat.  (Northern Crescents, White Admirals, and a Mourning Cloak.)

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I think that’s a Silvery Checkerspot dining along with two kinds of dung beetles.  Sure wouldn’t be my cup of tea for lunch, but I guess there are needed nutrients there for things with more refined tastes than myself.  Yuck!

We didn’t make it all the way through Teacracker, as another big tree had fallen across the trail.  We’ll all be working on the loon survey next week, and that tree will have to be cut up so surveyors can get through to count the loons.  That meant another half mile back up routine before we could turn around.

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We checked a couple of other short trails and refilled pamphlets at several of the kiosks before heading home.  The first False Sunflowers were blooming, and the Northern Crescents were taking advantage of them.

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                             When we got back to the compound, a mother killdeer was on high alert.

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Seems she had four little ones up and running to protect.  Such knobby knees!  No wings to speak of to fly yet, but isn’t this one just too fluffy and cute?  I took lots of other photos today of dragonflies, but I’ll have to post those another time.  We also saw a bear first thing this morning before heading out, but all I got was a nice picture of grass.  Eye rolling smile  I think maybe Bridget got a picture of its ears.  We just weren’t ready for it…

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                                                                               THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Monday, June 23, 2014

Did you ever sit on a stool for seven hours?

Well I did on Saturday, and let me tell you that for a person with a bad back that is a killer.  I had to work the VC all day, and one of the brown shirts decided the rolling chair with a back didn’t look professional enough.  Ugh!  I got to the point where I had to lie down on one of the benches for folks to view the bird feeders just to get some relief.  Not the best thing for a visitors center host to be doing when someone arrives…

Anyway, I made sure to go in on Sunday and talk to Janice, the volunteer coordinator, about it.  She agreed that I could roll out the chair with a back on the days I work there, and roll it back at night.  Apparently a stool with a back is being ordered, but who knows when that will arrive.

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We’re finding lots of turtles digging holes and laying their eggs on the refuge.  Sorry to say, most of these nests get dug up and the eggs eaten by raccoons and skunks overnight.  It’s uncanny how they find those nests.  I guess they sniff them out. 

Northern Crescent

It’s also surprising that any turtles actually hatch, but I guess enough do.  At a couple of the destroyed nests there were dozens of Northern Crescent butterflies feasting on the moisture and minerals that were left in the empty eggshells.  It’s that natural circle of life again.

I’ve had the last two days off, and have been busy with various chores.  Yesterday I had to go to town to get some more birdseed.  Those purple finches and goldfinches are really eating up a storm at the Hard Rock Bird Caf√©.

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         Then last evening, Emma brought me a present.  You know she’s always on guard for marauders.

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After ten thousand tries, she finally caught a chipmunk.  Sad smile  I was sorry its life ended.  I suppose if I didn’t feed the birds, this wouldn’t have happened.  Seems everything in life has consequences.

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Today, I had to drive into Detroit Lakes to get my extend-a-stay propane tank filled, and next door was the Lakes Processing store.  I’ve often driven past this place the last two summers, but not being a jerky eater I never stopped in.

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I asked the lady at the propane place about it and she said they had good meat there.  So, I stopped in.  My oldest son, Daniel, and his wife Crystal, will be visiting over the July 4th weekend.   My daughter, Robyn, and two grandgirls, Avery and Phoebe, will be staying with me as well.  That amount of visitors calls for lots of food! 

I was hoping to find some smoked pork chops to use for one meal while they all are here.  There was a very helpful young man inside, and he helped me to choose a smoked pork loin that I can slice for chops, and also recommended the butter garlic chicken bratwurst links.  If they taste as good as they look, I’ll be stopping by here again.  I do like to support local businesses as opposed to the mass marketing of Wal Mart type places.  I’ve got my fingers crossed.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Friday, June 20, 2014

Where’s Waldo (the white pelican)?

When each Friday morning dawns, I know what I have to do.  It’s time to work the morning in the visitors center (VC).  It’s not that I really dislike working the VC, it’s just that I’d rather be outside doing other things.  A half a day isn’t so bad though, and at least today 16 people stopped in.  When no one shows up, it’s more than a little boring.  Early on, a lady came in and announced, “They’re blooming!”

_MG_0248Lots of folks have been waiting for this day this spring.  Notice those flowers at the bottom of the sign?  Those are pink lady slippers.  They don’t look very pink in this photo, but just wait.  We’ll probably have as many or more people visiting the refuge to see these flowers as we do morel mushroom hunters.  I was chomping at the bit to get out there and see them.  I’ve been checking one of the best spots on the refuge just about every day with no luck.

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Once I got home for lunch, there was this good sized snapping turtle in John and Bridgett’s driveway.  Probably a female looking for a place to lay its eggs.

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Eventually, she moved on and made her way along the mowed grass line.  Do you see those two black round things on its shell?  I thought they might be snails hitchhiking a ride.  It turned out they were leeches (ick!) as you’ll see in my last pic of this post.  She sauntered along the grass edge about 50’, and then made a 90 degree turn to go right under John and Bridgett’s rig.  Then she stopped.  I banged on their door to let them know they had a visitor.  Guess she wasn’t going to do anything while we all watched, so I asked John and Bridgett if they’d like to go see the lady slippers.

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We piled into the truck and headed down County 29.  Sure enough, overnight the blossoms had appeared.

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These beauties will only be here for the next week or two, so I’m sure I’ll be posting more pictures of them.  Some of the blooms are darker than others.  I like the deeper colored ones best.  As we stopped for photos, three more cars pulled over to join us.  I guess it’s kind of like folks stopping for pictures of blue bonnets in the Hill Country of Texas.  You just have to marvel at them while they’re here for a brief time.

Do you remember those Where’s Waldo books back in the 90’s?  I had several of them that I used when I worked in juvenile corrections in New York.  The boys always enjoyed trying to find Waldo, and everything else that was hidden in those pictures.  Today I took a picture that kind of reminded me of those books.

_MG_0228You’ll probably have to click on it to enlarge it, but can you find at least 14 dragonflies, 34 trumpeter swans, and one “Waldo” the white pelican?  I hope you enjoy this little challenge.

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                                 THE END!!  (notice the uncurled leech on the right side of the shell.)

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy