Borrego Springs, CA

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bird Lady of Blog Land?

There was a comment left on my last post, by Rick, that I was certainly the Bird Lady of Blog Land.  What memories that brought back.  In a couple of my former lives, similar titles have been bestowed upon me.  (Titles sounds rather presumptuous, but I couldn’t think of a better word.)   When the kids were growing up, and we lived in Upstate New York, besides raising pigs for 4-H, I was a federally licensed bird bander, and became known as the Bird Lady of Newark Valley. 

It was a small town, and everyone knew that I ran an Atlantic Flyway migration bird banding station on ten acres on the outskirts of town.  What that meant to the folks of that rural area was that any injured birds were brought to me in various containers.  I remember a green heron in a hamster cage from two little old ladies, a crow in a pillowcase on Christmas Eve, and a great horned owl in a small shoebox from a local farmer!  I also got a call to get a kestrel out of a police station, a starling out of a chimney, and a great horned owl out of the high school soccer net.  I was not a bird rehabilitator, but I could never turn those folks down when they came calling.  :)  Many of these folks I didn’t know, but they knew that the ‘bird lady’ lived on Bridge Street!

Time marched on, all of the kids were in school; I gave up my tax collector job; and went back to teaching in a juvenile corrections facility (high security prison).  Most of the young men in that facility were from Brooklyn and the Bronx, and had no idea what a bird was.  That’s when I first became known as the ‘Bird Lady of Alcatraz.’   Several years later, I moved to Minnesota and worked at a medium security men’s prison where the aka moniker followed me.  So I guess I’ve been known as the bird lady of ‘something’ for close to 30 years.  I just hope I don’t start sprouting feathers!  :)  Thanks, Rick, for giving me a stroll down memory lane!
_MG_4476Since I’m on the subject of birds, I was outside this afternoon in my ongoing quest for the perfect hummingbird picture. 
IMG_4537I’m not there yet, but the journey to get there is sure a lot of fun.  :)  I tried to edit out the red feeder perch using Picasa 3, but my oh my what a time I had with that!  I think something was going haywire with my Picasa tonight as it started putting pieces of the perch around in different places in the picture, so I just quit trying. 
IMG_4522 IMG_4529
These two photos aren’t very sharp, but I wanted to show you how territorial and feisty these little hummingbirds can be.  What I wouldn’t give to have these photos in focus!  That’s the challenge with these fast moving aerial acrobats.

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

Monday, August 30, 2010

It isn't easy being a mom (the tale of a yellow-headed blackbird)

When I take the auto tour routes on the various refuges that I’ve visited, I’ve found that using the car as a blind is one of the easiest ways of getting a peek into the lives of the creatures around me.  Such was the case yesterday.  I had been hearing the piping of many Soras (a type of rail) as I drove along the marsh.  Rails can be very elusive for a person to see, let alone photograph.  So, I pulled the car over, shut off the engine, and rolled down the windows.  I was prepared to wait a while and see if a sora came to the edge of the marsh.  As I waited, a different story unfolded before me.
_MG_4242There was such a raucous cacophony going on across from my window that I searched the reeds and found this female yellow-headed blackbird peeking out.
_MG_4233And right behind her, a youngster screaming bloody murder!  Isn’t it amazing how much bigger the baby looks than it’s mother?  It doesn’t look like it’s starving to me!  So, off she went to shop for some food.  :)  (the marsh is a veritable grocery store of insects)
_MG_4271Soon she was back with a bite for the screamer, but what’s this above her in the corner?
_MG_4272Another youngster appeared and sounded just as insistent as the first one!  What’s a mother to do?
_MG_4268 _MG_4273
She made numerous trips back and forth while the youngsters impatiently waited.  What a racket ensued whenever she got close!
_MG_4248At one point, I thought she was pursuing an insect down one of the reeds, but it turned out…
_MG_4256she was just looking for the perfect spot to take a little refreshing bath!  A lady deserves a nice soak after a morning of taking care of the kids.  :)  (I guess dad was off playing golf on a Sunday morning :))

With all that noise, no soras came poking out of the marsh, so I moved on down the road a ways.  It almost always pays off when I stop and take the time to look and listen.

Today was another drizzly, overcast day, so I hung around at home and did the laundry.  With temps only reaching the 50’s today, my hummingbird feeder has been seeing some action.  It’s giving those little birds a little boost for their high metabolisms.  Skies are supposed to clear tomorrow, so I think I’ll go investigate the town of Burn, Oregon.

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

Sunday, August 29, 2010

306,000 words

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so today, I guess my photo trip was worth 306,000 words!  (that’s 306 pictures for those mathematically challenged  :))  But, not to worry, after an afternoon editing, I whittled it down to 59.  No, I’m not posting all 59 tonight either, but will choose a few to pepper my post with.  I had to save some for those rainy days, don’t you know.
_MG_4079As Emma and I headed down Sodhouse Lane to Oregon 205, I noticed something in the middle of the road that flew up into the rocks.  It turned out to be a rough-legged hawk.  What an auspicious beginning to a morning’s drive.  :)
_MG_4096To begin with, I was headed for the Narrows pullout where Malheur and Harney lakes meet.  It’s hard to consider them lakes as we normally think of them.  They are really two vast marshes that meet at a narrows.  There were quite a few black-necked stilts at the narrows.  The youngster is in the foreground, with the adult at the top.  The adult was really making a lot of noise!
_MG_4127Lots of white-faced ibis were flying over as well.  Gangly looking things, aren’t they?
IMG_4130 I then back tracked about ten miles to Buena Vista Overlook to take the first half of the auto tour route in reverse order.  It was a nicely paved OR 205 to get there, and then a gravelly drive back to the rig.  You always see things in a different perspective when you reverse your normal route.  :)
_MG_4193What a nice ten point mule deer buck we saw as we drove the gravel road!  It looked like he was starting to rub off some of that velvet from his antlers.  I guess fall is on the way.  Be careful, buddy, it won’t be long before the hunters will be looking for you!
IMG_4138Another sign that summer is on the wane is the rusty color of the marsh grasses.  Just a short time ago they were a lush green.  What a striking contrast it provided…eye candy for sure. 
_MG_4210I’ll try not to overwhelm you with bird photos while I’m here, but I can’t promise.  This refuge is all about the birds, you know.  :)   These are two Northern shovelers.  Can you guess where they get their name?  They use that massive bill to strain plankton and seeds from the water.  I guess the one in the back wasn’t too happy about having her picture taken, and let me know about it.
_MG_4283There was also a young Ruddy duck on one of the ponds.  Those white dots on him are water droplets.  Ruddy’s are diving ducks, and this young one was already good at under water swimming.  If this is a male, next spring his body will be a very rusty red color with a great white patch on his cheek, and a blue bill!  I’ll save the other bird pictures for a later post, so please stay tuned.  :)

As we arrived back at the RV pads, I had to make a sudden swerve with the car.
_MG_4369This charming three foot long reptile was making it’s way across the road.
_MG_4379I don’t know what kind of snake this is, but I’m glad I didn’t run it over!  I’d much rather have snakes around the RV pads, than miserable rodents in the rig!  :)

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

Saturday, August 28, 2010

It’s a given…

…that when you wash your rig and all the windows, it has to rain the next day!  :) (even if you're in the desert in summer)  So it was one of those overcast, dreary days where I don’t feel bad at all about doing absolutely nothing productive. 
_MG_4017It’s been a good day for ducks!  The pictures tonight are from my trip on the auto tour route on Thursday.  These young mallards with mom in the back (with the darker beak) were leisurely dabbling around for goodies in one of the ponds. 
_MG_4040As I made my way down the gravel road, I was surprised to come upon this cowpoke moving the doggies along.  I had to stop and watch for a few moments.  Funny thing was, they never moved!  Turns out they were life size silhouettes placed in a field across one of the marshy lakes.  All of those black dots in the water are ducks.  I had a little fun working with this photo in Picasa 3 using the retouch button.  There was an electric pole on the left that went right through the first cow’s head.  Thanks to RICK, I was able to give this a try.  I still need a little practice, but I’m getting there.  :)
_MG_3973To me, this looked like snow covered fir trees on a mountain.  What it really is, though, is the early morning light reflecting off the water onto 8” high marsh vegetation.
_MG_3972If you look closely, you can see a juvenile common moorhen skulking through the marsh.  I’m thinking I’m going to find a lot of little treasures like this on this refuge.  :)

Tom and Sue are the other volunteers that are here right now, and they work the weekends.  When they returned, in the rain, this afternoon, they had a surprise for me.  How nice of them to deliver my mail.  No, it was not the long awaited license plates from South Dakota.  It was something better than that.  A new friend of mine, who wishes to remain anonymous, had hand made me a cover for my Blue Ox toad hitch arms.  Some of you might not understand why I would be so excited about that.  :)  Well, let me tell you all about it.  Since I’ve had a toad for the last three years, every time I arrive somewhere, I have to take off the tow hitch and store it somewhere (trunk of the car) to keep it out of the weather.  That sucker is not light, and I have occasionally wrenched my back removing it and moving it.  Now, with this lovely weatherproof “sock”, I don’t have to remove the hitch and arms!  Hallelujah!  It sure did seem to get heavier as the years have rolled by.  :)  Thanks, friend, you really perked up a dreary day!!

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

Friday, August 27, 2010

Shedding the dirt and grime

The winds finally calmed last night as the cold front moved through.  It was a chilly 41* as I took Emma for her first outs this morning.  As usual, there was not a cloud in the sky, and the temps slowly crept up through the morning.  I went up to the visitor’s center, but the volunteer coordinator won’t return until next Monday.  Every one seems to think I’ll just be working the visitor’s center while I’m here, but I’ll wait until Monday to see if maybe there can be a little more variety to my assignment.  One of the staff mentioned that she had a lot of filing that she couldn’t seem to get to.  That, absolutely didn’t appeal to me!

_MG_4061Just before I headed up to the visitor’s center, this little buck came casually walking through RV pads.

_MG_4069He was looking to nibble some sweet morsels from the protected trees outside the laundry building.  Don’t know how she does it, but Emma some how knew something was outside even with all the windows closed.  She gave a little bark which caused me to look out the windows, and that’s how I spotted this deer.  She couldn’t look out the windows or hear anything, so that’s why it amazes me when she knows some animal is passing.


After lunch, I decided this was the perfect afternoon to wash the rig.  I had a couple of thousand miles of bugs, and dirt, and grime to remove.  It took most of the afternoon, but the rig is now sparkling clean on the outside, and so is the little car.  I’m thinking I’m going to sleep good tonight.  :)  You know, I’m not crazy about these “blue” chores, but I always have a great feeling of accomplishment as I sit and admire the results of my efforts.  I’d just prefer to admire someone else's efforts to make my rig spick and span.  :)

_MG_4077                                                                      THE END!


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

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge

_MG_4057Today, I decided to do the 42 mile (one way) auto tour route of the refuge.  Emma and I left a little before 8:00, and it took us slightly over five hours to travel those 42 miles, and then we took a paved highway back to the rig.  This refuge is known for it’s spectacular spring migration of birds, so I didn’t have terribly high expectations for the last week of August.  :)  Of course, I enjoy looking at and for birds no matter what the season.
_MG_3963 _MG_3957
First up was a small flock of white-faced ibis in a ditch beside the gravel road.  Most birds go through an annual molt of their feathers in the late summer, so they can be quite mottled looking.  It’s amazing how worn their feathers become in a year.  I guess it would be like us wearing the same clothes for a year straight.  (Yuck!)

Since this was my maiden run of the tour route, and I hadn’t packed a lunch, I didn’t spend much time looking for birds.  I just wanted to familiarize myself with the road.  I can do a more in depth drive at a later date, and with a refuge vehicle.  :)  What a very dusty road this is!  Since it is the end of summer, and this is the high desert, the water levels are quite low.  I also didn’t take any of the hiking trails as the temperatures quickly rose into the 90’s.  At least on refuges, I can take Emma on the trails with me when the weather cools down a bit.
IMG_4030 IMG_4032
We did stop and get out at the Buena Vista overlook.  This view gave me a better idea of the nature of Malheur.  It is certainly an oasis in the dry environment of the Oregon high desert.  I think it helps to click to enlarge these pics.  Those dots in the photo on the right are round hay bales.  In Idaho, all the hay was in huge rectangular bales.
IMG_4023 But here, the bales are round, or they don’t bale them at all.  Some farmers/ranchers just leave the hay in clumps (like miniature haystacks) for the cattle to graze on.  I suppose they’re baled on the refuge so they can be moved off.

I did see lots of coots and common moorhens in the few ponds that were visible from the road, and most of those were juvenile birds._MG_3987My best treat of the day was coming upon this adult eared grebe with it’s youngster.  Talk about red eye in your photos!  This time it’s natural, though.
_MG_4009 _MG_3994
I spent considerable time watching this adult grebe dive underwater for delectable tidbits for it’s offspring.  I was really surprised to see such a young little grebette (?) so late in the season.  Good luck little fella, you’ve got a lot of growing up to do in a very short time.

By the time I got back to the rig, the wind was howling and the temperature had risen to 96*.  Guess I should have put the AC on before I left this morning.  :(  A strong cold front is supposed to move through the area and drop daytime highs into the sixties.  It’s going to dip into the 30’s tonight.  That’s a pretty extreme fluctuation that’s predicted!  Yowzers!

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

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Coming home

IMG_3952As some of my long time readers know, my friend and fellow volunteer, Peggy, quilted this wall hanging for me last winter.  It is her rendition of a picture hanging in the laundry room of the Loners on Wheels (LoWs) park in Deming, New Mexico.  I had posted a picture of it last November while I was staying at the LoWs park, and she presented this to me while we were both volunteering at Balcones Canyonlands NWR in February.  It has a prominent place in my motorhome.  Anyway, I show it again tonight to emphasize how I feel about arriving to volunteer at one of the nation’s more than 500 National Wildlife Refuges…it’s like coming home. (and this refuge certainly feels like it’s a thousand miles from nowhere!  :))
IMG_3948By noon, today, I had the basic set up chores done.  I’m sure glad I made a trial run to the refuge in my car yesterday.  The shortest route (20 miles) turned out to be not so good for a rig pulling a toad, so I took the longer (50 mile) route this morning.  I’m happy to say I got the rig backed in on the first try, and, as you can see, the awning cooperated today!
IMG_3949There are six volunteer pads here, and across the way from my site are the two volunteer buildings.  The one on the right has two showers, and the one on the left has a common area, laundry, and full kitchen.  I’m thinking they know how to take care of their volunteers here.  :)

As the temperatures rose to the 90’s this afternoon, I did ten days worth of laundry and continued the finer points of setting up for an extended stay.  I also did battle with the mosquitoes and horse flies…this is a huge marsh area, you know.
_MG_3929There are only about six trees in the area, and I’m finding that they are prime daytime roosting sites for some nocturnal birds.  Mrs. J  was correct in her guess that these are Common Nighthawks.  They usually ply the skies for insects during the night, and sleep during the day.  I never thought I’d ever get a picture of them roosting.  I’ve only seen them before coursing through the skies at dusk.
_MG_3933 _MG_3932
I’m guessing that the adult is on the left, and the young of the year on the right.  I always thought they were a solid dark color with a white wing bar on each wing.  Their plumage is really quite striped and mottled.  All my banging around getting set up today didn’t bother them one bit!
IMG_3945There are also multitudes of these white butterflies skipping around from flower to flower around the RV sites.  I’m feeling pretty good about my stay here after only nine hours.  I think I’ll head out and take a better look at this refuge tomorrow.
_MG_3935                                                                      THE END! 

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

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Crystal Crane Hot Springs, Oregon

Crystal Crane Hot Springs is a virtual oasis in the high desert of eastern Oregon.  It’s located in Harney County, the ninth largest county in the country, and the area is known as Oregon’s Outback.  In my opinion, it’s a great place to have as a home base for everything to see in the surrounding area.  It’s billed as being a rustic get away, and that it is.
IMG_3921There are only seven RV sites, two with full hook-ups, and five with 30 amp electric and water.  There is no dump site here, so come with your tanks empty unless you stay in one of the two full hook-up sites.  The five water/electric sites are $18/night, and the full hook-ups are $20.  The rates are based upon two people/rig.  If you have pets, expect to pay $3/night extra for each pet.  This is the first time I’ve ever had to pay an extra fee for Emma since I’ve had her!  Since I travel solo, I asked if she could count as the second person, but it was a no go.  :(  If you have cats that stay inside the rig, there is no extra charge.  They also accept Passport America for the first night of your stay, so two nights here cost me $33.
IMG_3918 IMG_3919
There are also small cabins available with a camp kitchen across the driveway for fixing your own meals, and rest rooms a short walk away.
IMG_3875The best part, of course, is the hot springs.  Soaking rights are included in the nightly fees.  You can also soak in the springs for a $3.50 day use fee.  They even have a frequent soaker plan for local folks!
IMG_3876When I went to soak last night, I had the whole pond to myself.  What a relaxing way to end a long day!  The scenery is not bad either!
IMG_3914If you’re so inclined, you can do a private soak in a cedar lined tub enclosure (clothing optional  :)), for $7.50/hour.  They say that’s it’s for up to seven people, but I’m not sure how seven bodies could fit in that tub unless they were really, really good friends!  :)  I’m thinking it would kind of be like a can of cooking sardines!
IMG_3890I almost forgot.  You can also choose to sleep in a teepee overnight, or pitch a tent in the no hook-up area.  Seems like they have all their bases covered for rustic accommodations!  The staff is friendly and they give a run down on the best places to enter the hot springs for soaking, depending on your ability to handle the temperatures.  The water entering the spring is 160*!  Way too hot for me!  I walked in from a much cooler spot.  The average temp today was 99*… just perfect.  The gal in the office tonight said she was going to check out my post, since I had to stop there to get a key to take a pic of the private soaking tub.   I know if I’m ever in this area in the future, I’d stop here again.  So, it’s a thumbs up for this little “hot” spot.  :)
_MG_3905I did take a drive over to Malheur NWR this morning to see where and how I’ll move the rig tomorrow.  That’s another interesting tale that I’ll save for later, but I’ll leave you with this picture that I took while I was there.  Any guesses as to what bird this is?  It really did blend in to it’s surroundings.

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