Borrego Springs, CA

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Name that bird!

Okay friendly readers, birdwatching doesn't always involve seeing birds up close and personal with all their attributes obvious to the casual observer. I took some rather poor shots of a bird today out my window and want you to guess what bird it is. There are enough clues available in the blurry pictures to positively identify this bird. You see, I'm trying to make every citizen a birder before I leave this life. :)

Sometimes, you only get a fleeting glance of a bird. Or, you can't get your binoculars focused in time. That's the challenge of the hobby. So, go for it....what do you think and why???

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The end of festivities

Yesterday marked the last day of the Songbird Festival with one last round of bird tours. I helped Chuck, the refuge biologist, with his tour to find the two endangered species. Weather wise it was an iffy day. It rained off and on through the whole tour and the wind was pretty strong. I had to take a woman back to the van during the middle of the vireo hunt as she was not prepared for inclement weather. It turned out that the remaining group heard several black-capped vireos, but didn't get a chance to see any of them. That's the way it goes with these birds that inhabit very dense shrubby growth.

We headed back to the Flying X for a bathroom break and to check the weather forecast. There appeared to be about a half hour break in the rain, so the group hiked down the driveway to appropriate habitat and were successful in viewing the golden-cheeked warbler. We stopped at a few more places on the way back to headquarters and were able to find a white-eyed vireo's nest and a common raven's nest with young. All of the participants enjoyed the tour even though we were skunked with the vireo.
After the last tour, a group of us headed out to Jonestown for lunch. We went to the True Grit Grill, and sure enough, there was a big picture of the "Duke" (John Wayne) prominently displayed inside. This was a lunch to honor the volunteers that would be leaving soon. Chris and Connie pulled out this morning, and I'll be on my way in a week. The gathering was enjoyable, but the food was mediocre.
I was pooped after four days of tours and programs, so I just collapsed in my rocker outside for the remainder of the afternoon. Of course, I had my camera at the ready and had fun taking the following shots. I don't know what's up with my connection tonight....sometimes it double uploads and even uploads pictures that I haven't chosen (those bloops are at the end of the entry).
A female cardinal posed for a picture...

Then I couldn't resist a few pics of the male blue grosbeak...

After a while, a pair of dicksissels showed up...

The female hopped up on a branch, but the male was uncooperative.

And finally, a female blue grosbeak came along. This beauty is what all the males are thirsting after... ;)
After sleeping in until 6:45 this morning, I had domestic chores to attend to. I finally got a chance to do the laundry and headed into Marble Falls for grocery shopping. It was overcast all day, and rained again throughout the morning. Along about 4:00, we went outside and were treated to a Mississippi kite migration up in the sky. These kites are migrating to the prairies and what a show they put on this afternoon! Kettles of these birds would spiral upwards on the thermals and then head to the north. I didn't have too many birds under the tree this afternoon due to all the raptors in the sky. Just at sunset, fifty kites came down to roost in the valley to the east. I'm sure they will be up and on their way again tomorrow once the skies warm.
The Flying X is a great place from which to watch this natural cycle...
Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A long day at the festival

I was on the road shortly after 6:30 this morning on my way to headquarters to get ready to help with one of the early morning tours. It was overcast, windy, and there were showers. We headed out anyway, but had a difficult time finding the two endangered species mostly due to the high winds. We "beat the bushes" for over four hours, but never found a golden-cheeked warbler and only had fleeting views of the black-capped vireo.

Once we returned, I was asked to lead a bird hike for beginning birders around Post Oak Trail. This was the same group that I was told I wouldn't be leading earlier in the week, but the person that was going to do the program never showed up. So, it was four o'clock before I finally made it back to the rig and let Emma out of her crate. I was tired and hungry, and Emma was raring to go! We went on a not so long walk and I collapsed into my rocker while Emma enjoyed our front yard.

I think the festival has been a great success and the attendees seemed to really enjoy themselves and that's what's important. There is one more bird tour tomorrow morning, so there's just one more morning I'll have to set my alarm. ;) I've grown accustomed to not setting the alarm and just wakening when I'm ready. I'll be happy to get back to that routine.

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Balcones Songbird Festival

Today was the day for all the early morning tours to begin at the Songbird Festival. At the last minute, I was asked to drive the second vehicle for the Texas Hill Country Bird Tour. What a surprise it was when I got in the vehicle and two of the participants called me by name and asked if I remembered them. It turns out they were on one of the bird tours that I led at Laguna Atascosa NWR during the winter. Once we were under way, I did remember them and we proceeded to have an enjoyable tour. We saw a lot of different birds, and the ladies from Dallas where happy campers!
It was a four hour tour and I was hungry when we got back to headquarters. I decided to get something to eat from the one food vendor at the festival. I chose a beef sandwich, and of course, since this is Texas it was BBQ. Not my favorite thing, but it was nice and tender. Eventually I headed back to the Flying X and took Emma for a walk.
On today's tour I noticed that the prickly pear cacti were beginning to bloom, so I got my camera out and went in pursuit of some pictures. These cacti are everywhere in this area.

This is one of the flower buds...

And this is what the blooms look like. The blooms are about four inches across.
Emma certainly needed some outside time, so we enjoyed the remainder of the afternoon outdoors. I decided to try to get some pictures of the blue grosbeak that has been hanging around the ranch.
Notice the large (gross) beak and the distinctive rusty wing bars. It has taken several days for this bird to come to the feeder area while I am outside. He has been rather skittish, but finally was comfortable enough to pose.
While I was waiting for the "perfect" shot, a Western kingbird landed on the electrical wire next to the tree.

It was another good day on the refuge! I'll be up again at 5:30 tomorrow so I can get to headquarters for the next round of tours. I'm not crazy about having to get up so early, but it's only for three days in a row.
Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sierra Club hike??

After spending a good portion of the morning helping to set things up at headquarters for the Songbird Festival weekend, I headed back to the rig to relax for a while before getting ready for the evening hike. I was to be the birding expert for the hike that was lead by a member of the local Sierra Club.
We would be hiking the trails at Warbler Vista. When I do my weekly bird census there, it takes me three hours to do the three+ mile hike, and this hike was scheduled for three hours. So I figured that was about right.

Many of the people that had showed up for the hike had binoculars and one gentleman had a camera with a huge lens. Obviously they were hoping to see some birds and a golden-cheeked warbler or two. I told the leader that I would bring up the rear, and we headed out. It became very obvious in short order that this hike leader was not interested in birding. He was definitely on a mission! I think that mission was to cover as much territory in the shortest amount of time possible. That doesn't make for very good birding in a habitat where frequent stops to listen for bird songs is mandatory.

Now, I have lead quite a few hikes, and to me rule number one is that you don't leave anyone behind. As I was bringing up the rear, the couple ahead of me was unable to keep up and worried about it. I told them not to worry, and we took a pace that they were comfortable with. The leader kept on going and soon we were out of sight and sound of them. This couple was most interested in birds and we were able to identify, by sound, a few warblers. We continued on the route I take for my census. We arrived at the end of the trail at the Sunset Overlook without finding the main group. It turns out, they added an extra trail to the hike and arrived only a few minutes after we did at the overlook. I can't imagine that they got to really see and enjoy much at the pace they were taking.

We still had a one mile hike back to the vehicles, and once again the main body of the group took off in hot pursuit of the leader. By the time we all made it back to the parking lot, only two hours had passed and everyone was really ready for a chilled bottle of water that was in the back of the pickup I was driving. I must say that it was the quickest hike I've ever taken down these trails and the least productive bird wise.

I'm thinking this was more like a forced march rather than a leisurely hike. ;)

I'll be up very early tomorrow and heading out to headquarters to see if I'll be involved in some strictly birding tours.

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Brown-Headed Cowbirds and Chuck-Will's-Widow

This morning, I went with Chris and Connie to check on the brown-headed cowbird traps. These traps are located at three places throughout the black-capped vireo's habitat. If you don't know about brown-headed cowbirds, I'll be happy to enlighten you. ;) I think these birds should really be called brown-headed buffalo birds since they historically followed the buffalo herds of North America. If a bird is following a constantly moving buffalo herd, it is impossible to establish a breeding territory for a long enough time to raise young. So, what's a bird to do? Well, the female cowbird developed the strategy of laying their eggs in the nests of smaller more sedentary birds that stayed on a breeding territory to raise their young. Upon hatching, the young cowbirds are larger than the other nestlings and get more food and kick the other young out of the nest. A great strategy for the cowbirds, but especially disastrous for vireo and warbler species that are on the edge of extinction! Hence, the traps at this refuge that harbors two endangered species. This trapping is not without controversy, but it is the present policy.

Later, in the afternoon, I headed into the office to continue work on the Songbird Festival preparations. Tomorrow morning will be the set up of all the stations for visitors and tents.

When I got back to the rig, Emma and I spent time outside enjoying the birds at the feeders and playing fetch. The winds have been very high again today, so I secured things outside before coming in for the evening. Emma drinks a lot of water during our fetch game, so it wasn't long after coming in that she needed to go outside again. We had a real serenade from the Chuck-Will's-Widows. This is a bird that sings it's name loudly after dark, and is classified as a goatsucker. I'm not sure where that designation comes from, but they are birds that are nocturnal insect eaters that have flat heads and enormous mouths. Unless you are very lucky, it's very difficult to see them during the day, and you'll probably only see them at night in the headlights of your car. Since my night vision has deteriorated, I don't drive much after dark, so I'm not sure I'll ever see this bird. I do get a thrill from hearing them, though.

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I switched my attention this afternoon from birds to some of the wildflowers around the RV. I even know the names of them this time!

I started out with this water lily that was blooming in the pond (made from the former swimming pool).

The verbina has been blooming for several weeks and the butterflies have taken advantage of that fact.

The plainsmen have just begun to bloom.

I've posted a picture of this wildflower before, but now I can tell you that it is called antelope horn. Apparantly the seed pod that forms after it is done blooming resembles an antelope horn.

I spent most of the day yesterday working at the office to get things ready for the upcoming Songbird Festival. This morning I opted to go birding and find reliable spots to find the golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo. The wind really picked up early this morning, and that makes it especially difficult to spot the vireo. The temperatures have also soared during the day, so I've spent most of the afternoon inside enjoying the air conditioning. 92* is hot even with a strong wind!

Obviously this last pic isn't a wildflower, but one of the two tomato plants that I am raising in pots. Fresh homegrown tomatoes are the one thing that I really miss since hitting the road. Looks like I'll have a treat before too long. I can't wait. ;)

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

Monday, April 20, 2009

Some more bird pics

After doing laundry and cleaning the rig, I worked on taking some more pictures of my feathered friends. I'll see if I can upload them. ;) Holy Moses! I was able to upload seven pictures in thirty minutes! That's a first, and included getting kicked off my connection three times. Wonders will never cease...
So, here's your latest avian tutorial...
These are two pine siskins battling over the thistle (nijer) seed.

A female black-chinned hummingbird approaching the feeder.

The Northern mockingbird is the Texas state bird and aptly holds this position. It can be seen in abundance throughout the state.

The lark sparrow has a distinctive cheek pattern and a breast spot that is not as distinctive.

A cliff swallow rested on the electical wire. Usually the wire is the resting spot for barn swallows which are nesting under the ranch house carport.

We do have wildlife other than birds on the refuge. :) Here's a swallow-tailed butterfly approaching the hummingbird feeder...

And taking some refreshment! How cool is that? What fun I had getting these shots. Life is good...
Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

Elephants don't bite

Recently, I was reading an article in the Escapees magazine written by Kay Peterson, one of the founders of the Escapee RV Club. She suggested that elephants don't bite, but it's the little things in life that get in our way and can prevent us from getting all the joy we should out of living. I really liked that article and have been endeavoring to not let the little difficulties in life get in my way.
I think I'm doing a pretty good job of it in general. However, I admit that I need to try harder in the area of my internet connection. :) I need to remind myself that it wasn't that long ago that none of us could even conceive of the internet let alone be upset by an iffy connection.
So, moving on.... this week we will be preparing for the Balcones Canyonlands NWR Annual Songbird Festival. Next Friday through Monday, we will have many folks visiting to enjoy the migrating birds. So far, I'm scheduled to lead a couple of bird walks. I'll spend a couple of days this week making sure I have my hand on the pulse of where to find those species that most folks will be interested in. It's hard work, but someone has to do it... ;)
The weather forecast for this week is outstanding. It's interesting that I have the furnace on first thing in the morning with the temps in the 40's and by mid-afternoon, I have turned on the AC as the temps rise to the middle 80's.
I'm still enjoying the avian view outside my window!

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The storm abates

After a day and a half of rain, the sky finally cleared and the sun came out. I headed for Marble Falls to do my grocery shopping and decided to take a rather circuitous route to get home. There is a small grocery store in Liberty Hill that has a terrific selection of meats. I wanted to stop there to get some more ground chuck and a rib-eye steak. Eventually I made it back to the RV and the temps had soured to 80* by then. I took Emma out for a walk and then got my chairs out from storage again and enjoyed the afternoon. There wasn't any wind for a change, but that resulted in many gnat type insects flying around my face. They were just storming Emma, and she tried to get away from them under the RV. Eventually, I just took her inside and turned the AC on so she would be comfortable.

This is not a good night for uploading pictures, as usual, so I guess I'll sign off for the day.

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

Friday, April 17, 2009

A rainbow with wings

For some unknown reason, I've been able to upload a few pictures tonight! First and foremost was to show you a Painted Bunting...

Can you believe these beautiful colors?

It IS almost like a rainbow!

The Indigo Bunting isn't exactly bland either... This evening, in between showers, there were six Indigos and two Painted Buntings outside my window. Despite all the rain, today was definitely a diamond of a day!

This is one of the clay-colored sparrows that seem to be quite numerous here. They have a most interesting song (?). Think of someone giving you the "raspberries" and you'll be able to identify this song. If I were a female sparrow, I'm not sure I'd be interested! :) Different strokes for different folks...

Last, but not least, for this evening is a Lincoln's sparrow. Balcones Canyonlands NWR is noted for it's sparrows as well as the Golden-cheeked warblers and Black-capped vireos. My stint here has been a real tutorial for me on those confusing sparrows. In the past, I've banded quite a few Lincoln's sparrows, but now I get to see where they live.

Who knows why I can add some pictures tonight after being unable to do so for over a week. Life does have it's mysteries. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I did taking them.

Thanks for stopping by.... talk to you later, Judy

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Raindrops keep falling on my head...

I saw my first painted bunting of the season yesterday near headquarters, and then this morning I looked out at the tree with my bird feeders and found another one there. I jumped up to get my camera and was able to get a few shots before he moved on. I'm going to try uploading in the afternoon as opposed to the evening and see if that makes any difference.

It didn't make any difference, and it's now Friday afternoon. My guess is we have had a couple of inches of rain so far today. It's certainly needed, but does make for a rather dull day. I've stayed inside the RV instead of going to town for groceries because of the predicted possibility of severe thunderstorms including more hail. I did pull in the slide-outs this morning just before one of the downpours that had some hail. I also parked the car under the ranch house carport. Just precautions, but I feel better about it.

The painted bunting has been hanging around the tree with my feeders in it and has been joined by a number of Indigo buntings along with the cardinals, pine siskins, lesser goldfinches, lark sparrows, Lincoln's sparrows, white-crowned sparrows, field sparrows, clay-colored sparrows, and the occasional savannah sparrow. The black-chinned hummingbirds have really made use of the feeders as well. Any port in a storm???? For those readers that aren't into birds.... you ought to be! ;)

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

P.S. PetDoc, I tried to email you, but it kept coming back.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Another storm on the horizon

The forecast for the next several days is for rain and the possibility of severe storms, so Rob cancelled the school programs for tomorrow and Friday. That's too bad, as I was looking forward to doing the bird banding station. We don't actually capture live birds (we use those Audubon stuffed animal birds), but the kids voted it their favorite station at the last presentation. Obviously, I rock when it comes to presenting bird banding programs! ;)

I thought I'd try uploading some pictures again, and that appears to be a mistake. I just don't get it.

I did the bird survey at Warbler Vista this morning after a little bit of a late start. I found several golden-cheeked warblers, but only one black-and -white warbler and one black-throated green warbler. I then went back to headquarters and did the Post Oak Creek Trail. Besides the first painted bunting of the season and a summer tananger, it was just the usual cast of characters. I did enjoy seeing two rock squirrels, though. They are black in color which catches your eye.

If the rain holds off, I'll survey Doe Skin Ranch in the morning.

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Back before I hit the road fulltime in my RV, my oldest son, Daniel, put me on his cell phone service and ordered a phone for me. It was delivered to him, and he set it up for my use and then sent it to me. I was surprised when I received my first phone call to find the ring tone was a rooster crowing. It was a very realistic rendition. As it turned out, I liked this ring better than any other choices, so I continue to use it.

Fast forward to yesterday when I went to the Social Security Office in Georgetown. There was a sign on the entry door to turn off all cell phones and I fully intended to do so once I got inside. However, I was distracted by the electronic sign-in procedure and totally forgot about the phone. (can you see where this is going?) Let me tell you that Social Security Offices must be rough places as there was an armed guard just inside the door. Picture this....I've been dutifully sitting in my chair waiting for my number to be called for about 45 minutes, when suddenly my phone starts ringing. Now I must say that on the average day, I never get a phone call during the day. Well, Cock-A-Doodle-Do sounded shrilly in the very quiet waiting room. Heads turned, and the guard stood up and gave me the "evil eye"! I could just see the headlines...Aging grandmother arrested while applying for benefits at the Social Security Office for bringing a live crowing rooster inside a federal building....certainly a threat to national security!!! I immediately apologized and stopped that bird in mid crow. Thank goodness my kids won't have to bail me out of jail!

So, today there were 130 fifth graders that came for the Going Buggy program that the volunteers presented at Doe Skin Ranch. The weather was gorgeous and we all enjoyed our presentations to these youngsters. Chris and I did the Studying Insects station, and educated them on the migration of Monarch butterflies and helped them do a line sector study. We have two more school groups later this week and I will man the bird banding station for those groups. The weather is pretty iffy for the Friday group, so we'll have to see if they come.

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

Monday, April 13, 2009

Some days are diamonds, others are stone...

That was a song that John Denver recorded that I like. Well, today was kind of a stone day. I tried calling the Social Security Office again today to try to make an appointment, and once again, all I got was a busy signal. So, I decided to drive the 50 miles to Georgetown and visit the office in person. I took along all of the information and documents that I thought I would need to apply for SS benefits.

Along the way I stopped at a Wells Fargo Bank to cash a personal check that I had been sent as a payment to me. First stone of the day came when I was told that they could not cash the check because of insufficient funds from the sender. Bummer...but I continued on.

After waiting in line for an hour and a half, I was finally able to talk to someone at the Social Security Office. I told her that I wanted to apply for benefits since I would be turning 62 in July. Their website says to apply three months in advance of your eligibility. I had also been told to apply in April by a representative of SS at the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque last October. So, I was shocked when the woman said that she would not process my application! She said I had come in way too early, and that I shouldn't apply until June. When I pointed out what I had been told and the info on their website, she just said that it hasn't been updated and it now only takes about two weeks to process the application. GRRRRR..... that was a 100 mile trip that could have been avoided if they would have answered their phone! Stone #2...

The rest of the day went very well, and I was thrilled to hear that my daughter, son-in-law, and grandaughter will be visiting me here at Balcones at the end of the month. One diamond...

I'm thinking I probably won't get any more pictures posted at this location. I'm getting too frustrated trying to get them uploaded.

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Two new birds for my life list!

Chuck Sexton, the refuge biologist, picked me up today shortly before eight and we headed out to try to find some black-capped vireos. We drove to an area with the correct habitat, which is shin oak stands. Shin oak is quite bushy and dense which is what the vireo needs. They build their nests at a fork in the branches and usually at just about waist height. It's a bit early to find many nests, but the males are quite vocal in defining their territories.

After walking a bit, we began to hear a male singing. Hearing them at this time of the year isn't too difficult in the correct habitat, but actually seeing one is another story. They love that dense growth and they're hard to spot. Eventually I was able to get a brief view of the bird. His black cap and big white eye ring were very distinctive.

We circled back around the brushy field and began to hear another male singing. We thought we had the clump of shin oak he was singing in pegged, and after about five minutes, he conveniently hopped out on some branches lacking leaves and showed off for us. What a thrill that was!!! We had a long enough look at him to determine that he was not banded. That means we'll let Juan Pablo, a researcher staying at the Flying X, know where we found him. He is involved in a banding study of this endangered species.

I was back to the rig shortly after nine and very pleased with the morning's trip. After making a late breadfast, I headed into Marble Falls to get some more birdseed, a new water bowl for Emma to replace the one shattered in the hail storm, and some rawhide chews for her.

When I got back, I refilled the nijer feeder. The pine siskins went through all my seeds in very short order. They may have moved on in the few days I've been out of seed, but we'll see. I also spread some seed on the ground to attract the ground feeders, and because the winds around here knock all of the seeds out of the feeder.

While viewing the variety of sparrows that came in to feed, I found one clay-colored sparrow. That was the second new species for the day for me. I later took a picture of it, but as usual, my connection is giving me fits. I tried for several hours to upload a picture, but no luck. I'll try again tomorrow.

The forecast for tonight is for another round of severe storms. I moved my car under the ranch house carport in case there is hail. These storms will arrive late tonight or early Easter morning. I hope they take a different route. That hail storm two weeks ago was more than I want to experience again.

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

Thursday, April 9, 2009

90 degrees!

The weather around here changes rather rapidly. I have noticed in my travels, that most everywhere I've been, the local weatherman says "if you don't like the weather, wait five minutes!" Every area of the country thinks they have very changeable weather. Well, today the temps reached 90*. The winds were all over the place and the sun was shining. By Saturday, we're supposed to have severe thunderstorms and possible hail again. I'm thinking the local weatherman around here may actually be right.

I also think my internet connection is as variable as the weather. I don't understand why it takes 45 minutes to upload a picture when I have an indication of full bars of connection. Maybe I'll stop at a Sprint place tomorrow and ask them about that.

I've uploaded a couple of pictures tonight that I wasn't able to do in the last few nights.
Another wildflower....

And another sunset...

I'd post more, but it's close to midnight, so good night to you...

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Springtime Wildflowers

The bluebonnets are not as plentiful as in past years because of the severe draught, but some wildflowers are still blooming.

The butterflies really like these flowers.

As you know, I'm really into birds, not flowers, but I do appreciate their beauty. I don't know their names, but I do enyoy seeing them.

Isn't this a cool bloom? There are many more flowers blooming, but my connection won't let me upload them.

It's after 11:00, so I'd better hit the hay!

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hummingbird Wars!!!

What entertainment I had early this evening at the hummingbird feeder! There were five or six (hard to count) black-chinned hummingbirds fighting over the two feeders. Their antics reminded me of WWII P-40 fighter pilots going at it. What acrobatics! Emma could hardly keep track of all the goings on. ;) They were buzzing all over for two hours. Of course, we were only able to watch this spectacle because the winds were finally reasonable.
The above picture was taken last summer at Dinosaur National Monument, but it gives you an idea of the feeding frenzies that can occur. I don't expect to have forty hummers at my feeder here, but tonight did bring back some fond memories.
I did the bird survey at Warbler Vista today and spring migration is definitely on the way. I found a nice group of black-throated green warblers on today's hike along with several golden-cheeked warblers on their territories. It was not as exciting as two weeks ago when the golden-cheeks were everywhere, but it was more typical for breeding season.
In the afternoon, I went to Marble Falls for my tax preparation and learned a lesson. I was certainly more pro-active in my tax filing last year. I had them done while I was visiting my daughter near Chicago and had AARP file them for me for free. I put things off this year, and the result was that I had to pay a sizable fee to have them submitted. What I owe Uncle Sam is less than last year, but that's because of the current economic situation. So, next year I shall endeavor to get organized earlier and again take advantage of the AARP filing.
Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Taxing situation

April 15 is fast approaching, and I still haven't done my taxes. Last year, while I visited my daughter and new granddaughter, I had AARP do my taxes in Indiana. It was free and only required waiting in line about five hours. Being in a more rural location right now, my chances of getting to an AARP location are slim. So, on Sunday I called H & R Block in Marble Falls. There was a deal going on for $50 off for the weekend if you brought in your last year's tax forms. Of course, when I called, the answering machine said they were closed. :(

I called this morning and the secretary said they were open yesterday, but forgot to change the phone message. Anyway, I made an appointment for tomorrow and I hope to persuade them to give me the weekend discount. I really should work on filing them myself, but I like to use the excuse that my internet connection is not very reliable. (that is true, but I should find a way to overcome that issue) I'm hoping to break even, but we'll see what happens.

The wind has been howling, once again, today. A little while ago I had to take down my trucker's antennae and tighten up the connections. It was showing the effects of the wind over the last week and really listing to one side. I was afraid it might take flight! I've got it upright again so I hope it improves my connection.

Temps tonight are supposed to drop to freezing, so I moved my tomato plants into the ranch house late this afternoon. It's supposed to get warmer for the rest of the week. Tonight's low temperatures are predicted to break some records. I'll be happy if the wind just tempers. :)

I've been trying to add some pictures, but am not having much luck. I'll try a few more times....Well, it didn't work.

I spoke to my daughter, Robyn, today and she and Dennis, and my granddaughter, Avery, may take a flight down here to visit some time this month. That would be fantastic! There is room in the ranch house for them to stay and it would give them a break from winter. Of course, I'd be happy to see all of them. Avery is taking her first steps and I haven't seen them since she was a newborn. I'm pumped at the possibility. :)

I'll be heading out for Warbler Vista tomorrow morning. Strong winds from the north have knocked down some migrating birds, so I'm hoping for a good birding day.

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

p.s. PetDoc...check the comments on the entry from two/three days ago...

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A late St. Patrick's Day Dinner

I really enjoyed having a regular kitchen today so I could prepare the corned beef. The corned beef, cabbage, and potato were delicious if I do say so myself! I could prepare this dinner in the RV, but I really don't want to do three hours of boiling inside the rig with all that moisture.

It was a good day for domestic chores. The wind was blowing so hard again, that I didn't mind staying indoors and doing laundry and housecleaning. Emma did get her excercise outside, however, chasing the exercise ball I purchased.

Yesterday, I helped out with the Brownie program at Doe Skin Ranch, and enjoyed a relatively windless late afternoon sitting outside and appreciating the scenery. Unlike today, it was 85* outside.

The clouds at sunset tonight made me think of the geese migrating north. Do you see that honker winging his way northward?

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Flying X and the Prize Winners!

I'm hoping to upload some more photos of the Flying X Ranch so that you have a better feel for where I am presently located. The Flying X Ranch was established in the sixties and about ten years ago became refuge property to preserve the habitat for the nesting endangered Golden-Cheeked Warbler. There is a long and steep driveway up to the residence. The residence (house) is the first thing you see as you reach the summit of the hill. The volunteer full hook-up sites are located next to the house. The bedrooms in the residence are used to house interns and visiting researchers. Volunteers have access to the house for laundry, showers, and a full kitchen. That is a real bonus for cooking and extra freezer and refrigerator space. The fridge in most RVs is not very large, and it's nice to be able to buy things that won't fit in the RV fridge. I'm planning to boil up a nice corned beef brisket in the kitchen on Sunday. :) My St. Patrick's Day dinner will be a little late, but I'm going to enjoy it!

Well, it looks like I'm only going to be able to upload one picture, so here it is. This is the ranch house with the RV pads on the left. I had hoped to show the views from the back and the pool that was converted into a pond. There is also a nice fire ring for campfires. Of course, this whole area is on a burn ban because of the severe draught, so campfires aren't possible at this time.

On March 23, I posted the picture of a skull and asked readers to guess what kind of skull it was. Now I will announce the winners! (Taa Daa...trumpets!!) There were three winners (four, if you count my 91 year old mother who said "it looks like an old dead animal"...you can't argue with that!). So, the winners are: Wautaush (I will dismiss your second guess of a camel), Robyn, and PetDoc. All of these contestants guessed the correct answer of a ferral hog. All will receive a diamond willow walking stick. I just don't know how to get the prize to PetDoc since I don't know who that is. So, contact me!

I spent the morning doing a bird survey of Doe Skin Ranch and had a good count. I talked to about ten visitors along the way and added the canyon towhee to my life list. It was a good morning.

Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy

PS...I got one more picture loaded of the back side of the ranch house. The pond is on the right. And to think this only took me four hours!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

What a wind!

Along about 3:00 this morning, a front with thunder, lightening, and rain rolled through the hills. It was enough to keep me awake for some time. Upon arising, I was supposed to do a bird survey. I couldn't believe the intense winds out of the northwest. These were the strongest winds I've experienced here (although they were no where near the winds on the Puget Sound of Washington). The chances of seeing or hearing birds this morning were slim to none, so I opted to do errands in Marble Falls instead. I had some grocery shopping to do and I definitely needed a hair cut. I accomplished both duties, returned to the rig, and basically spent the afternoon hunkered down inside.
The winds didn't stop until sunset, but I was able to take a few shots out the window at the birds that are coming to the feeders.

This is a white-crowned sparrow. There are about a half dozen of them at the feeder, and they will be leaving soon for the north.

The bird in the foreground is a field sparrow. The males are already setting up territories and singing their hearts out to attract a mate.

Last, but not least, is a male house finch. They have pretty much populated the entire United States. They were formally a western species, but have managed to work their way into everywhere after a pair was released in New York some thirty or forty years ago.
I know you've all missed not seeing bird pictures, ;) so I've saved a few more for later posts. I tried to post some pics last night, unsuccessfully, so I'll include some of them tonight since things seem to be in a better state with the internet.
This is my new home at the Flying X. It's hard to get a true perspective in a photo, but I am perched at the top of a high hill.

This is the view out the window next to my dinner table. Notice that stone fences were built by the ranchers many times rather than barbed wire. There is no lack of stones to build these fences! If I have good reception tomorrow, I'll post a few more pictures.
Thanks for stopping by....talk to you later, Judy