Borrego Springs, CA

Friday, April 30, 2010

I'm ready to go!

Today was the day to finish up all the chores of getting ready to move, and I whittled through the long list I had.  I'm ready.  I have a few last minute things to finish up tomorrow like detaching the electric, washing the front windows that Emma has slobbered all over for three months, and packing up the Wilson antenna and amplifier.  I may pack up the antenna tonight after I finish this entry.  Don't know what kind of Internet reception I'll have on the way to Minnesota, but I'll try to keep you posted.

My plan is to leave between 8:00 and 9:00 tomorrow.  I'm not one of those folks who hits the rode by dawn!  I'll be driving about 280 miles to a Passport America park for the night that is on the border of Oklahoma, and is northeast of Dallas.  I'm hoping traffic will be a little less traveling through Dallas on a Saturday. 

It was hot and humid today as I worked on packing everything up, and it feels like I sweat off five pounds.  :)  If only that were true!  I'll do the inside packing tonight before I head off to bed. Traveling solo means there aren't any pink or blue jobs.  I have to do them all. :(   I know it won't be an excellent night of sleep.  I'm always restless the night before I hit the road.

There's still a little light outside, so I think I'll end now and haul down the antenna while I can do it without a flashlight....

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

Thursday, April 29, 2010

36 hours and counting

I only had six people for the bird tour this morning, and the winds were howling.  That's not a good thing.  We took more than the three allocated hours for the tour, but with patience were successful in seeing both endangered species.  What a great way to end my assignment here.

G & M commented on yesterday's post that she would like to see a picture of the area where I had the passenger's seat removed.  So, here it is.  The bottom two three drawer plastic units fit snugly into the space.  I hook bungee cords across the drawer fronts when traveling (I learned that the hard way  :) )  The smaller set of drawers sets on the floor with the drawer fronts braced against the back of the booth seat on the right.  That drawer space is a lot more useful to me than a passenger's seat.  I've made good use of the rechargeable lantern when the power has gone out after dark in my travels.  It also is put on the floor when traveling.  When we're not moving, Emma likes to perch on the dashboard and gaze out the window for rabbits, (on the left) so I got some indoor/outdoor carpet from Lowe's, and cut it to fit the dash area.  Besides protecting the dash, it also keeps most of the hair she sheds out of the windshield vents.

Perhaps you remember this picture of the Blue Bonnets that I posted a couple of weeks ago. (remember to double click if you want a larger picture)

Well, I was back to the same place a couple of days ago, and this is what it looks like now.  No more Blue Bonnets, but the blooms continue.

It's just a parade of changing colors here in the Texas Hill Country.

Thank you, Lady Bird Johnson!

Every drive down FM 1431 is a delight for the eyes!

I'm so happy I returned this spring to see this magnificent display!

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

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A purge, pictures, and procrastination

The problems last night with Blogger and pictures continued again this morning, but seems to be cleared up for tonight.  I have slowly been going through the multiple set of drawers that I have in the front of the rig instead of the passenger's seat.  I had that seat pulled out before I hit the road fulltime, and bought three plastic sets of drawers to fit perfectly in that space.  There's lots of stuff in those drawers that I haven't used much or at all, so I decided it was time for a purge.  If I haven't used it in the last four years, chances are I won't miss it!  I'll continue to work on another drawer or two this evening.

Following are the pictures that I hoped to post last night of visitors to the Hard Rock Bird Cafe...
A small flock of white-crowned sparrows moved in yesterday, and were still coming in tonight.

I enjoyed getting a few pics of the female black-chinned hummingbird at a location other than the feeder.

I guess she had an itch!  If you look closely, you can see her foot under her wing scratching away.

A male house finch showing off his vibrant colors.

I have really gotten to know and appreciate the lark sparrows this spring.  Around here, it's one of those species that once you see the first one, then you see them everywhere.  :)   Blogger is messing with my alignment tonight, but at least I can upload pictures...so far.  :( 

After heading to Marble Falls and Liberty Hill to run some errands late this afternoon, I stopped in the office early this afternoon to pick up the key for the van for tomorrow's tour.  I ran into Rob, and he had a list of things he wanted me to do.  I said I'd take care of a couple of them, but declined the whole list.  I told him that after tomorrow's tour, I'm essentially done with this tour of duty.  I need most of Friday to get everything in order for my departure on Saturday.  I'll be well over 3,000 hours of volunteer time put in at National Wildlife Refuges.  Enough is enough for now! 

Early this evening, I decided to quit procrastinating and take care of pre-departure chores of checking the water levels in the three batteries and getting all six tires up to proper pressure levels.  Emma was outside on her tie out as I gathered the needed tools for these jobs.  I grabbed the tire gauge, kitchen baster, my beverage, and funnel and headed out the door.  Emma was giving off that unusual bark again, so I dropped everything and looked around.  Sure enough, about five feet out of her reach in the driveway was a visitor...

another diamond backed rattlesnake!   Since she couldn't reach it, I dashed inside for my camera.

If you double click on this photo, you can see that it has it's tongue out testing the air.

At the non-business end, I counted 12 rattles on this rattler!  It was a little under three feet long, and was stretched out just to the right of my car.

A close up of it's body shows how it got it's name.  Beautiful diamonds....It didn't curl up and rattle at us, but remained stretched out for close to 30 minutes!  Of course, I didn't get close enough to threaten it, either.  :)

If you click on this photo, I hope you'll see the blue-ish scales on it's head.  I had no idea that it would have these blue tinges.

As I concentrated on putting distilled water into a few of the battery cells, he silently slithered away.  I'm thinking I've had enough experiences getting up close and personal with a rattler!  :)

After finishing with the batteries, I forced myself to check the air pressure in the tires, and found that five of them needed a little boost of air.  I got the compressor out of storage and tried to set everything up.  I get so frustrated when I can't do things for myself.  :(  For some reason, I couldn't get the air hose attached to the compressor after twenty minutes of trying.  I finally had to go next door and ask Adrian for some help.  Even he struggled to get the hose attached.  I just wish I had the strength that I used to have.  Together, we got all the tires taken care of, and that is a real relief to me.  I truly enjoyed crossing those two chores off of my list!

I had planned to show you the latest batch of wildflowers that are gracing the roadsides in the Hill Country, but I think I'll save that for tomorrow.  As I write this, I'm being serenaded by several Chuck-wills-widows outside my window.  What a fine way to end this day!

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

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Getting ready

Since the Songbird Festival took up my weekend, I had to do weekend chores today starting with some laundry.  There are 19 things on my checklist of getting ready to hit the road, and today I accomplished 5 of them.  Some things I can't do until the last minute, but today I put the Blue Ox hitch on the back of the motorhome so I can hook up the car when I pull out.  I also defrosted the frig and began packing up outside things like the tablecloth on the picnic table.  Normally I'd pack away the gas grill, but today I decided I'm just going to put it in the trash.  I've only had it a year, but it just won't warm up enough to cook anything on it.  I don't know if I'll replace it or not.  It's just as easy for me to cook inside.  If I'm in a state park, I can always cook over an open fire.  I really enjoy doing that.  I'm thinking it's just extra weight to carry along that I really haven't used that much.  Not sure what I'll do with the little ten pound gas ball that I have for it though.  That was a pricey little item that I bought in the fall of '08 so I wouldn't have to purchase those expensive one pound propane canisters.

I also took care of several other things that weren't on the list, but needed to be done before I leave.  As you can tell, I put off doing the two things that I really don't like doing...checking the air pressure in the tires and checking the water level in the batteries.  Ugh!  I'll force myself to do those two items tomorrow.  :(

Before you know it, it was time to sit outside with my camera to see the visitors at the Hard Rock Bird Cafe.  :)

EEK!!!  I tried to insert my photos, and suddenly tonight blogger won't let me do it!  What's up with that?  I can only do it for previous pictures on this blog or through Picassa.  I just want to upload photos from "my pictures" on my computer.  I don't get it.  I'm not happy.  :(

Can someone else using blogspot dot com please help me???

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

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Songbird Festival is over!

I had one last tour to lead for the Songbird Festival this morning.  Each of the tours for the festival are scheduled for 4.5 hours.  That's a long time if things aren't going well.  :)  The tour today was right on, and we had fantastic views of both endangered species within 2 hours!  The remainder of the tour was just gravy!  Some of the folks had come to the festival for three years without seeing the black-capped vireo, so I guess you can say everyone was thrilled.  My only regret is that I didn't notice until well into the tour that one of the participants was truly a beginning birder.  I wish I was aware of that earlier so I could have spent more time with her.

This afternoon, I went to pick up Emma from the kennel.  She had a bath and her nails trimmed, so when she saw me her sharp nails really left a gash on my leg.  She sure smelled good, but of course, once we got home she immediatley rubbed her neck and chest in the dirt to get rid of all the prettiness!  :(

We spent the evening outside even though the temps were close to 90.  I think she's glad to be home.  She's now collapsed on the dashboard and snoozing away.

While we were outside, I, of course, had to take a few more pics of the painted bunting...

I'll be leaving in a few days, and I'm thinking it will be quite a while before I see this colorful bird again.

I also couldn't pass up this male Northern cardinal.

When I got back to headquarters after the tour, Deborah told me to take the rest of the day off.  Ha Ha!  I told her that I also planned to take the next few days off.  My work here is about done.  I have one last tour left on Thursday morning, and that's it.  The rest of the time, I will be getting things organized to get back on the road.

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

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Songbird Festival - Day 2

It was my turn to lead the "Endangered Ones Tour" this morning, and the pressure was on!  We headed for the Russel tract first.  I wanted to find the black-capped vireo first, since it can be the hardest to see.  I decided to lead the group right down the middle of the road since I knew a male had a territory that straddled both sides of the road.  Within five minutes, I found a singing male, and unbelievably, he hopped into plain view numerous times so everyone got excellent views of him, and many folks even got pictures!  What a treat for them!  That sure put everyone in a very good mood.

We didn't have such an easy time finding the golden-cheeked warbler, but eventually we coaxed a singing male into view.  The views of that bird lasted about ten minutes!  What a relief that was for me.  A totally successful tour with 90 minutes left to spare!  We actually returned to headquarters a little early, and everyone had smiles on their faces.  :)

I went back to the rig to grab a little lunch before returning.  This afternoon was the free family day at the refuge.

There were all kinds of things for kids to do, like building a birdhouse...

make a wind chime...

or become a junior fire fighter!  Those were just a few of the many things for youngsters to do today.

This is Karen Kilfeather, the professional photographer that I've mentioned before.  She was displaying some of her outstanding wildlife photos.  If I had a sticks 'n bricks, I'd sure want some of her photos hanging on my walls.

A couple of times throughout the afternoon, there was the Last Chance Forever Raptor Show.

Last Chance Forever is a non-profit organization that takes in injured raptors.  The first bird in the program was a Harris' Hawk.  This bird was able to fly, so the speaker sent him on his way...

flying to his partner.

The bird flew right over the heads of the crowd.  That lady in the tan shirt in the middle of the crowd is Deborah Holle, the refuge manager.

Then the hawk flew back to the speaker's hand.  It was quite a show.

Afterwards, they brought the barn owl up to the registration area so the folks manning the booths had a chance to at least see one of the raptors.

Just before 4:00, I headed back to the rig to check on the pork roast I had simmering in the crock pot.  I put it in the pot this morning before I left to lead the tour, and slow cooked it all day.  I had invited fellow volunteers, John and Lynne, to dinner tonight.  They will be pulling out at dawn tomorrow and I wanted to thank them for helping me with my radiator hose problems and for sewing the new seats on my camp stools.  I served pulled pork with Russel's BBQ sauce (from Chicago) on fresh buns with potato salad, noodle salad, and creamed cucumbers.  We were able to eat outside at the picnic table, and it was very tasty, if I do say so myself.  :)  They have been a great couple to volunteer with, and are very talented.

Well, I've got one more Endangered Ones Tour tomorrow morning, and then I'm going to collapse for a few days while I start packing up to hit the road myself.  The festival is always a very busy three days for the staff and volunteers here, but lots of fun as well.

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

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Balcones Canyonlands NWR Songbird Festival

I didn't get much sleep last night.  :( The predicted storms began to roll through the area in the late evening.  Shortly after midnight, the rig began to rock and roll, and rain and light hail began to fall.  I got up and retracted the slides after moving things around so I could do so.  Storms rolled through all night.  When I looked out my window in the morning, the tree with my bird feeders in it was bent way over.  The tube with the seeds in it was only a couple of inches off the ground!  So now that tree grows horizontally instead of vertically.  The birds, however, were undeterred by this occurrence and were back feeding as soon as the sun rose.

The skies had cleared by dawn, so the early bird tours went out on schedule and had a good morning.  By the afternoon, the temps had risen along with the wind.  I co-led an afternoon tour on the breeding birds of Balcones.  I was able to show the participants nests of blue-grey gnatcatchers, barn swallows, Eastern phoebes, the hummingbirds, and a black vulture.  As those of you that are birders know, the middle of the afternoon is not the best time to go birdwatching....they're all taking their siestas!  We had a good group to work with, and I think everyone enjoyed themselves.  That's what's important.  I was pretty worn out by the time the tour ended and we returned to headquarters around 5:30.

There won't be many picks from this weekend as I'll be busy insuring that the participants enjoy their tours.  I'll be heading out early tomorrow morning to lead the only "Endangered Ones Tour" of the day.  Then in the afternoon, we have a big free program for families.  It will be a very busy day!

I need to just chill this evening so I'll be ready for tomorrow.  I'm sure glad Emma is at the kennel for the weekend.  She would just be raring to go, and my energy level is low right now.  :)

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

Friday, April 23, 2010

A bevy of buntings, and a bunny

The winds continued out of the south overnight, and the forecasted storms passed us by.  I had today off of work, so I was leisurely reading blogs on the computer when I noticed some exciting new visitors to the Hard Rock Bird Cafe!  All bird migration has been about a week to ten days behind this spring in Texas. 

How can you not be impressed by the colors of this male Painted Bunting?  I was beginning to wonder if they were ever going to show up!

I don't know of another bird in this country with such a mix of vibrant colors.

 He certainly seemed pleased with the menu after his long journey.

Later in the day, the not so conspicuous female showed up.  However, the painted buntings were just the beginning of the parade of new visitors.

Next to show up was a male Lazuli Bunting.  This was a new life bird for me, and has never been really documented on the refuge.  Woohoo!

That's the Lazuli bunting in the middle, with a painted bunting at the bottom, and a mourning dove at the top.  Lot's of business today.

And last, but not least, was an Indigo Bunting.  That's three bunting species in one day at the cafe.  Life is good!

After all that excitement, I took Emma to the kennel for her weekend stay.  I'm boarding her so I won't have to worry about her during this very busy Songbird Festival weekend.  After running several more errands, I returned to the rig.  I was planning to sit outside in the afternoon, but temps soared into the upper 80's with very high humidity, so I opted to enjoy my air conditioning instead.

Since Emma was gone, the rabbit made an afternoon to munch on the seeds.

My first tour of the weekend is tomorrow afternoon.  Wish me luck!  :)

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

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A walk in the rain

I awoke to the calls of the Chuck-Will's-Widows.  These birds are nocturnal insect eaters with large flat heads, small bills, and enormous mouths.  They catch insects on the wing, and their name comes from the call they make.  They have just arrived in the last two nights, and were calling from everywhere around the rig.  Since I set the alarm for six, I took Emma out in the dark and we were surrounded by their loud calling.  We were also pretty wet by the time we returned to the rig as clouds and light rain moved in overnight.

Everyone showed up for the bird tour this morning despite the overcast and wet conditions.  I took the folks to the Victoria tract, but we got skunked!  There wasn't one golden-cheeked even singing in the murky conditions.  Okay, so we drove the 25 miles or so to the Russel tract, and after using up almost all of our time, I finally found a black-capped vireo, and everyone was able to get a look at it.  :)  Phew!  I didn't want to end the trip totally skunked, so I was relieved that this bird cooperated.  The folks today were a happy group and especially friendly.  It made for an enjoyable morning.

Emma and I spent most of the afternoon and evening indoors since there seems to be a constant drizzle out doors.  More rain and possible T-storms are forecast for tomorrow as well.  I have several errands to run in Cedar Park tomorrow, so I won't be bothered much by the weather.  I just hope it clears out of here for the festival over the weekend.

I did start my "getting ready to move on" lists today.  I've got about eight days to get everything accomplished so it won't be overwhelming if I work on it a little at a time.  My most dreaded chore is checking the air pressure in the tires.  I have an air compressor, but it is really heavy for me to move around.  I also struggle with the pressure gauge.  I just can't seem to get it seated properly on the tire valves to get an accurate reading without numerous tries.  Ugh!  I guess that's the only thing that I really hate about this lifestyle.  I wish there was some one else to do that chore.  :(

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

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I've been counted!

Just as scheduled, the worker from the Census Bureau showed up at 9:00 this morning to count about four people that are living on the refuge.  I was first.  What a sour puss young lady she was!  I made the mistake of asking her how she liked her job.  She "counts" folks that are in group homes, nursing homes, homeless, and those of us presently living on the refuge.  She went into a tirade of how she felt this is such a colossal waste of the tax payer's money to seek out such people to just boost the economy.  I'm thinking it rather boosted her economy by providing her with a job.  I have a friend, Susan, in Minnesota, that I think is doing the same job, and I'm sure she wouldn't be so negative about it.  Sheesh!

Anyway, since I guess I'm an indigent (my home just happens to have wheels), I got to fill out the short form.  There were only 7 questions: Name, birth date, sex, race, home address, etc.  No more questions about whether or not I had a TV or computer.  It only took a couple of minutes.  I claimed South Dakota as my residence rather than Texas, even though I was in Texas on April 1.  Texas is huge and has enough people to claim residency.  Enough of that....

Once I was done with that rather unpleasant experience, I did some more Xeroxing for Rob.  Then I headed out to go to the Victoria Tract to see if it was better for finding golden-cheeked warblers for my tours.  Of course, I got a little lost and took the wrong path.  I don't understand why this always seems to happen to me.  :(  However, it was an enjoyable walk and I did find some warblers. 

My time was limited since I had to be in Jonestown by 11:30 for the thank you luncheon for John, Lynne, and myself.  We will all be finishing our volunteer stint here in the near future.  Deborah, the refuge manager, picks up the tab for our lunch, and we are recognized for our contributions.  It's a nice gesture that the folks in a couple of other refuges could learn from.  :)  It doesn't take too much to make us happy, and recognition for our work is the best way to do it!

Back at the ranch, Emma and I relaxed outside for the early evening.  I'll be setting my alarm again tonight for an early wake up for tomorrow's bird tour.  I'm going to take the folks to the Victoria Tract and hope not to get lost again.  :)

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

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Take a guess!

Remember back in the day when there would be contests to guess how many jellybeans, or pennies, or marbles, or whatever were in a jar?  If you guessed the right number, you would win a prize at your local grocery store, or church bazaar, or county fair.  Well tonight, dear readers, I have a challenge for you!  Your only prize will be a congratulations on the blog, or a diamond willow walking stick, if you are in need of one.  :)

Your challenge is to guess how many white pelicans are in this photo that I took last week looking up into the sky from my RV site.  (you may want to enlarge the picture)

Lest you think I'm so bored that I spend my time counting specks in the sky, I can assure you that I didn't.  However, Chuck, the refuge biologist did just that and told me how many birds there were.  You see, there is a picture that was taken a few years ago by Karen Kilfeather depicting a similar migration flight of pelicans over the refuge that is posted in headquarters.  Chuck wanted to know if I had broken the record for the number of pelicans in one picture.  So, guess away!  :)

When I went down to Hdqrs this morning to do some office work (yuck), Deborah, the refuge manager, informed me that the "census people" would be here tomorrow morning to talk to me.  Since my official address is a mail service in South Dakota, I did not receive a census form in the mail.  She had been in contact with the census bureau and informed them that she had volunteers on the refuge that were full time RVers, so they are sending someone out.  Hmmm...

Besides barking at every vulture that soars overhead, Emma also is very interested in....

all the cottontail rabbits that come out at dawn and dusk.  Oddly enough, she was busy chewing on a stick this evening when this guy made his way across our site. He didn't stick around long, though.

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

Monday, April 19, 2010

Happy Birth Day!

This morning, my fifth grandchild was born!  She weighed in at 8lbs 3oz, and is the third child for my youngest son, Andy, and his wife, Kelly.  They haven't decided on a name yet, so the whole family is anxiously awaiting their decision.  Whatever her name may be, we welcome her with open arms!  Now the two boys, Joseph and Seth, will have a little sister to protect, and I'll get to meet her in just a few weeks.  I can't wait!  Mother and daughter are doing fine.  Andy will have his hands full for the next week with the boys until they both come home.  :)

Back here in Texas, it was another gloomy day.  I mostly spent the day relaxing in preparation for the big Songbird Festival that will take place next weekend.  Of course, that didn't stop me from enjoying the birds in my "yard."  I saw a blue grosbeak this morning.  I couldn't get a picture, but at least that is a signal that the spring migration has begun.

Emma and I spent the afternoon outside enjoying the customers at the Hard Rock Bird Cafe.  :)  You know my passion right now is photographing hummingbirds, so here's a few more shots:

I had to refill the hummingbird feeder again today.  It was only moments after setting it out that this male black-chinned showed up.

 He was joined on the other side of the feeder by this female.

In case you're wondering what will happen once I pack up to leave and take down the feeder, this female will tell you.  Notice the yellow on her bill and those specks on her forehead?  (click on the photo to enlarge)That's pollen from all the flowers that she has visited.  They'll be just fine.  :)

Emma is learning to chill when I'm outside with her and watching "my birds."  However, I don't think I'll ever break her from barking at the the vultures that soar over our site. Of course, she is always successful in protecting us from these intruders, as long as we don't look and smell dead!  :)

I had three out of the four species of doves that are found on the refuge visit the cafe this afternoon.  First was the Inca dove...

then a pair of mourning doves stopped by...

and finally, a couple of white-winged doves flew in to check out the menu.  I hope I see a painted bunting soon.

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

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Another lesson learned

Sunday is laundry day for me.  I got that accomplished in the morning.  Skies were overcast all day once again, but at least there wasn't any rain.  I had a couple of interesting comments on my post yesterday.  It looks like I'll be meeting several people when I stay at Red Rock RV Park in Idaho when I'm there in June.  One of the comments was from RV Guy who is the webmaster for the campground.  After reading his comment, I spent a good share of the afternoon reading his nature blog about Red Rock.  Almost makes me want to extend my one month stay there.  :)  I could do that.  I guess I'll just see what happens.

In the afternoon, Emma and I headed out to see what wildflowers I could get pictures of.

This Antelope Horn may not look like much from afar, but...

...close up I just love the mathematical symmetry of the blossoms.  After columbines, this is about my favorite wildflower.

This bloom reminds me of morning glories.  I guess I should get a wildflower guide to go along with my bird and butterfly guides.  :)

After our walk, I sat outside with Emma and witnessed a real hummingbird war!  A dozen of these little might mites were buzzing all around the feeder.

The black-chinned hummingbirds have had pretty much unlimited use of the feeder, until a couple of ruby-throated hummers decided to visit this evening.  Then the skirmish erupted!  This male black-chinned posted himself just behind the feeder to keep watch for intruders.

It wasn't long before a male ruby-throated tried to come in for a sip.  That's when the acrobatics began!  It was a melee of tiny dive bombers chasing each other like a World War II  airplane fighter dogfight!
What a colossal display it was!  I took so many pictures that I filled my 1 GB memory stick on the camera!  (that's 333 pictures)

So, what was the lesson learned?  Out of 333 pictures taken today, only those that I've posted weren't deleted, and a couple of those are below my normal standards.    Heavily overcast skies means there is not enough light for me to get good pictures; especially with the fast moving hummingbirds.  Dang!  They looked perfect through the view finder.  :(  Oh well, I'll give it another try if the sun ever shines again.

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