Borrego Springs, CA

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Winds of change

When I took Emma on her first outs this morning, it was 58* and calm.  Within an hour, the winds began to pick up and blow around 30mph all day, and the temperature began to drop.  What a blustery day it has been.  I spent most of the day inside the rig. 

_MG_7249As the front came through, the skies became cloudless, but the winds continued.  As usual, Emma and I sat outside (although I was really bundled up) in the late afternoon to watch the daily flight of snow geese towards sunset.

_MG_7253Tonight’s flight line was directly over the rigs.  That’s a first for this fall.  The flights have been to the west and south on previous evenings.  The high winds may have had something to do with this, and also kept the mosquitoes at bay.  As I sit writing this in the dark, there are still flocks going overhead.  I love the haunting sounds of their calls as they soar past.


One of the things I did inside today was to check the volunteer.gov site to see what opportunities were available in various states this coming summer.  Since my original plans to stay at an RV resort in Illinois for the summer have dissolved, I thought I’d do a little cruising on the site.  One thing I have to absolutely do this summer is return to South Dakota to renew my driver’s license.  So, I clicked on South Dakota, and found a possible position with the Fish and Wildlife Service in Madison, SD.  I normally plan 6-12 months in advance, so I need to get busy lining something up. 


I’m juggling this with the idea of staying at a campground for the summer season near my daughter’s house in Indiana.  Since both she and her husband work fulltime, I’m not sure how much I would see them or the granddaughters if I sat there for four months or so.  I wonder how bored I’d get doing that.  I spent two months in a campground last summer without volunteering, but had Yellowstone and the scenic byways of Idaho to keep me busy.  Tonight, I just don’t know which way to go.  :)


Well, tomorrow is the bird survey, and I’m thinking it’s going to be rather chilly!  It could get below freezing tonight.  I did speak to Nathan, the maintenance guy, tonight and he will help me set up my extend-a-stay propane tank tomorrow.  Of course, when I said I couldn’t get the valve on the propane tank to move he asked if I was turning it the right direction!  Sheesh!  Yes, I told him, I know which way to turn it.  I need to turn off the valve to the rig tank in order to open the valve to the auxiliary tank.  I just can’t get it to close.  I don’t know why.  I haven’t had any problems with it each time I turned it off to move on down the road.  We’ll see what happens tomorrow.


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

Monday, November 29, 2010

I gave a pint of blood

The water pressure at my site leaves a lot to be desired.  It’s a real challenge to take a shower.  The water barely comes out of the showerhead.  I’d do better if I used the rig’s water pump, but there’s a problem with that.  I really don’t want to fill my fresh water tank with the water here.  We don’t drink this water because of the high content of minerals and such.  It’s a little fragrant, also.  There is a reverse osmosis machine in the community building, and we all cart drinking water in containers from there to our rigs.  I haven’t had a water pressure problem in the past here, but then I’ve never stayed in this particular site.  I think I’m going to have to ask one of the maintenance guys about this.


Anyway, after my sort of shower this morning, I noticed that there was a cattle drive about to take place on the road adjacent to the volunteer village.

IMG_7236I grabbed my camera and dashed out the door to record this moving of cattle from one pasture to another.

IMG_7238The cowboys on horses really moved this herd out down FM1985 heading east.

IMG_7239Herds are gathered and moved quite often.  These are all cows, and they’ll start dropping their calves along about February.  They are quite a mix of different breeds.

IMG_7244One bunch of them headed off down through an open gate, and the cowboys had to dash after them and get them back to the main herd.  You can just imagine what the road looks like after they pass… cow pie heaven!


It was while I was recording this cattle drive that I donated at least a pint of blood to the local mosquito population.  I made the mistake of putting on a pair of shorts after my shower because of the warm temperatures, and at one point I slapped at least 15  mosquitoes that were dining on my legs!  Ugh!  I can’t remember those little buggers being so bad in broad daylight before.


That was the excitement for today.  While I did my laundry, I also worked on putting all new bar code stickers on the VIS inventory that is stored in the community building.  I’m hoping Stephanie, the volunteer coordinator, will have a work schedule for me tomorrow when she returns to work after her long holiday weekend.


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

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Short post

It’s been a rather blah day today with not much to report.  I was going to talk about how I became interested in birds, but it seems like I’ve done that before.  Although, I can’t seem to find a post about it.  I guess I’m just not in the mood to blog tonight. 

Maybe tomorrow I’ll be inspired??

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

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Frost on the pumpkin!

There are not many pumpkins in a marsh, but if there were they would have been covered with frost this morning.  My outside thermometer (located between the rear two tires on the passenger’s side of the rig) read 32*F when I got up this morning.  Everything outside was coated in white, and my furnace was working away to keep things comfortable inside.  I’m thinking I’d better get my extend-a-stay extra propane tank set up pretty soon.


After breakfast, Emma and I headed out on a birding road trip.  We drove through High Island, and headed down the Bolivar Peninsula.  This is the route you take if you want to take the ferry to Galveston.  I turned off just before the ferry to a shore bird sanctuary.  After about a mile, the road ends at the Gulf of Mexico.

_MG_7155Not much was happening, bird wise, at the shore except this great blue heron.  So, I turned around and headed back out.

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I did spot a few lesser yellowlegs and a dunlin along the side of the road on my way out.  I decided to head back to the refuge and take the road out to Frozen Point.  Frozen Point got it’s name before the refuge was in existence.  The story is there was a severe winter storm out of the north that descended down Texas.  As the freezing winds blew out of the north, the cattle on the ranches kept walking south trying to find refuge from the storm.  Eventually they reached Galveston Bay and could proceed no further.  As the storm continued, they froze to death… hence the name.


No one was freezing today, and quite a few folks spent the day either fishing from shore or wading out into the bay to fish.  I didn’t see anyone catch anything, but everyone seemed to be enjoying the holiday weekend.

_MG_7177As I drove along, this robin hopped up on one of the fence posts in the middle of the marsh.  That was a bit of a surprise.  :)  Not the usual place you would expect to see one of these guys. 

_MG_7186On the way back to the VIS, I caught a glimpse of this Virginia rail skulking it’s way amongst the marsh vegetation.

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I pulled the car over to the side of the road, and waited patiently to get these further shots of this elusive bird.  You’ve heard that saying “thin as a rail?”  Well, when these birds turn sideways they almost disappear before your very eyes into the vegetation.

_MG_7222This interesting RV was parked in the lot next to the VIS as I arrived.  The owners are from Homer, Alaska, and they are trying to visit all of the National Wildlife Refuges in Texas on this part of their trip.  I sure would have liked to see the inside of it.


That little road trip today lasted over five hours.  When I got back to the rig, I checked on the pot of chicken soup I had brewing in the crock pot, and then spent the remainder of the afternoon outside with Emma. 

_MG_7225About an hour before sunset, the geese started their flights to their evening roosting sites.  The skies to the south and west of the RV pads were just full of streaming flocks.  I’d estimate that I saw 10,000 geese in the air this evening.  Most of them were snow geese, but there were also flocks of white-fronted geese.  Clear skies and no wind this evening means the temps will plummet once again.  It’s not supposed to be as cold as last night, however.  Those freezing temperatures last night had absolutely no effect on the mosquito population, and Emma and I scrambled inside quickly as the hoard descended!


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

Friday, November 26, 2010

An abrupt change

Thanksgiving Day dawned hot and muggy, and the mosquitoes were out in full force.  For the first time in refuge history, one of the volunteers had to work in the VIS (visitor’s center) on a National Holiday.  So, that meant we would all wait to have our dinner until Colin returned from his tour of duty.  :)  Colin is a resident of England that has flown here each fall for the last eight years to volunteer on the refuge.  He took the VIS duty yesterday so the rest of us could get the dinner prepared.  Turns out he had never heard of the sweet potato dish topped with marshmallows, but loved the traditional green bean casserole that I prepared.  Neither of these dishes are normally served in England.  As usual, there was more food available than could be consumed, but it was an enjoyable and tasty repast.
 IMG_6682                                   Tonight’s photos are some from my recent cruise.

One of the things I really look forward to at a Thanksgiving Feast is savoring the taste of a large piece of crisp, brown turkey breast skin with a dash of salt sprinkled on it.  I know it’s not good for you to eat, but once a year I indulge and my mouth was watering at the thought of this culinary delight for me.  Boy, was I disappointed!  I don’t know what the carver of the turkey did with the skin, but none was to be found.  :(  I’m thinking I just may have to go buy one of those turkey breasts with the skin on so I can roast it and have my yearly treat.  (a whole turkey is just too big for me alone)

The wait staff put on quite a show the last night of the cruise as we dined.IMG_7071 IMG_7076
After the feasting, I came back to the rig and the air conditioner was still running pretty steadily.  Then about 9:00, the wind shifted, the rain began, and the temp dropped about 30 degrees in 30 minutes!  I was suddenly getting goose bumps, and even had to turn the heat on.  What an abrupt change of weather as the cold front from the north moved through.  It didn’t drop low enough to wipe out our massive supply of mosquitoes, but today’s northerly high winds did keep them at bay. 

It rained most of this morning, and I just hunkered down inside and played on the computer.  I did a little work in the afternoon taking inventory for the VIS, but all in all it was a relaxing day spent inside with the furnace on.  Each time I took Emma out, she was invigorated by the cooler temperatures and ran circles around me at the end of her 18’ lead.  She likes the colder temps more than I do.  :)

If the sun shines tomorrow, perhaps we’ll take a drive.  Maybe I’ll make a trip to the Bolivar Peninsula.  I think I’ll pack a lunch tonight just in case…
_MG_6977                                        Sunrise entering the port of Nassau, Bahamas.

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

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Bird survey time

Three of us hopped into the refuge Suburban vehicle this morning and headed out to do the weekly bird survey.  We travel to designated stops in the East Unit of the refuge to record bird usage of specified areas.  With over 100,000 waterfowl on the refuge at the present time, we saw lots of birds.  We saw the most birds on those sections that had been flooded for waterfowl use.  On the areas that had not yet been flooded, we didn’t see much of anything.

_MG_7119 _MG_7120 _MG_7124

On one of the units that hadn’t been flooded yet, this young Northern harrier gave us quite a display as it floated just above the vegetation looking for lunch.  At the flooded areas we counted literally thousands of ducks and geese.  Because the marsh areas are vast, it doesn’t make for a very interesting picture, but the multitude of ducks and geese sure filled the view through our binoculars!

53 Anahuac NWR 20101Along the way, we took a short detour along one of the levies to check out this tractor whose motor was pumping water from one of the bayous, over the levee, and into one of the moist soil units.  Colin and Travis kept their eyes glued to their binoculars in case anything interesting flew into the marsh.

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We survey 7 different units, so half way through, we stopped back at the hunter check station for a bathroom break.  We found these tree frogs clinging to the vertical wall of the check station just under the small eave.  They were all lined up like little soldiers in the shade.  I don’t know if they were sleeping or just waiting for their next meal to fly by.  :)

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At our last stop, we found this skull lying on top of the levee.  It had obviously been there for quite some time.  I don’t know what creature this was when it was alive…perhaps a muskrat or otter?  Any ideas out there?


We spent close to five hours doing the survey, and enjoying the outdoors.  It was hot and humid, but the brisk wind help keep most of the mosquitoes away.  I think I only got bitten about six times today.  :)


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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Training Tuesday

All of the volunteers and staff had to show up at the maintenance office this morning for a training video on safe driving.  Each month it’s something different, and I missed the October training on blood born pathogens.  Oh darn!  :)  I’ve about got that video memorized from all the years of viewing it back in my former life.

When that was over with, I headed back to the rig to relax until after lunch.  Then I headed to the Visitor’s Information Center (VIS) to get trained in on the new cash register for the nature store.  This year’s version even has a scanner for items that we sell.  Technology marches on even at our refuges!
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During a lull in the afternoon, I took a short drive down one of the refuge roads to see what birds were about.  This Loggerhead shrike posed on a couple of branches for me.  This bird has a common name of butcher bird because it catches small birds and insects and impales them on thorns to dine.  It’s talons and feet are not strong enough to squeeze the life out of its prey, so it’s not considered a raptor.  They are quite common on the refuge.
_MG_7109I also got a brief view of an Eastern phoebe on the barbed wire.  Notice the dragonfly zooming around at the top of the pic.  You can’t see much more than the silhouette of this bird because I was shooting into the sun, but I liked the effect.

I hustled back to the VIS to learn the closing procedures, but our only sale today was a bottle of water to a staff member.  :(  This isn’t exactly the busiest time of the year here for the VIS.  I’m really surprised the VIS is open every day at this time of the year, but originally the new VIS was supposed to be already built by this time.  There are plenty of volunteers to man it and the new second center closer to I-10, but neither facility has been completed.  I’m hoping to help set up the new visitor’s center before I leave, but I’m not sure it will be done by then.
_MG_7111After we closed up the building, I took a drive around Shoveler Pond.  This pic of a great blue heron was all I could come up with.  Since the hurricane, this wildlife drive has been miserably unproductive.  Before the hurricane, it was a fresh water oasis in the middle of brackish and salt water areas.  It will take more time to get it back to a fresh water haven. 

It’s not been a very exciting day today, but tomorrow I’m off on a bird survey assignment.  The weather has been muggy, windy, and hot; perfect for the hoards of mosquitoes that don’t seem to be blown off by the winds.  :(  When I lower the window on my vehicle to take a picture, dozens of those blood suckers rush inside and I’ve got lumps all over.  Even though it’s hot, I wear jeans and a sweatshirt to take Emma out so I won’t be a head to toe pincushion!  That’s the price I pay for this great location.

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

Monday, November 22, 2010

Back on solid ground

After two more days at sea after Nassau, we pulled into the port of Galveston early on Sunday morning.  Everything went smoothly with our disembarkation, and by noon we were back at Anahuac NWR.  I deployed the slides, turned on the water, and opened up the windows to air out the rig.  I was happy to be home.  While on the cruise, we spent quite a few morning breakfasts with folks that had sailed many times.  Only about 1/6 of the people onboard were on their first cruise.  I was surprised that so many people seem to cruise so often.  While I truly enjoyed myself, I’m thinking this will probably be my only cruise.  I guess I’m just one of those people that prefers my land yacht.  This foray into massive crowds of people makes me that much more appreciative of my more off the beaten path lifestyle.  :)

I had to set my alarm for 5:00 this morning (UGH!) so I could get Pam to George Bush International Airport in time for her flight to Chicago.  Having her travel with me on this cruise really enhanced my experience.  What a good time we had together!  I think I’ll even keep it a secret that she snores.  :)

On the way back from the airport, I picked Emma up from the kennel.  Boy, she was sure happy to be home, also.  She ran right up to the steps to get inside, and after sniffing everything out, collapsed with a great sigh.  With all that barking at the kennel, she probably hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in three weeks!
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After spending the afternoon catching up on three weeks of laundry, Emma and I headed out to get a bird fix on the refuge.  :)  It was late afternoon, and many red-tailed hawks were perched along the roadsides.
_MG_7082 As we drove the refuge roads, we stopped to enjoy the abundance of waterfowl that are feeding and loafing on the vast marshlands.  I think there are presently over 100,000 ducks and geese in residence. 
_MG_7092I even spotted two white-tailed kites along the drive.  I’m hoping to get a better picture of this raptor while I’m here.  They mostly feed on small rodents, and I’m very much in favor of that!  :)
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This young white Ibis took time to pose for me at one of the water level control devises.  Next year, this bird will be entirely white in color except for black tips on it’s wings.

It seems the mosquito population has been very busy repopulating while we’ve been away.  That means you had better seek refuge inside by 5:00 each evening or not have any exposed skin surface.  I was outside in shorts with Emma this evening when the hoard of blood suckers descended… eek!

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

Friday, November 19, 2010

Nassau, Bahamas

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As the sun began to rise this morning, we pulled into the port of Nassau, Bahamas.  Since our tour didn’t begin until 11:00, we took our time having breakfast and lounged on the deck until it was time to leave.
54 trans- Atlantic cruise 201015While we were waiting, our ship and another cruise ship in the harbor both practiced the abandon ship drill.  The lifeboats were all lowered, taken for a short ride, and then returned to the ship.  It was interesting to watch, and reassuring to see that the staff knew what to do in case of an emergency.
54 trans- Atlantic cruise 201016Our tour included a short drive past various sites in the city, and a boat ride out to a coral reef.  The boat that went over the reef had a ‘basement’ with windows where the passengers sat to view the fish on the reef.  This tour couldn’t compare to the sights we saw in our other tours in Spain and Portugal.  Nassau was a bit of a disappointment to us.
_MG_7024After buying a couple of tee shirts at the famous Straw Market, we headed back to the ship.
54 trans- Atlantic cruise 201017While sitting on our deck, we were treated to a display of hundreds of gulls flying around between the two cruise ships.  It felt like a scene out of the Hitchcock movie “The Birds.”  Some folks were tossing food scraps out of their staterooms, and the gulls were really battling with each other to catch the bits before they fell into the ocean.  We have two more days at sea before we arrive early Sunday morning in Galveston.  This little adventure is nearing it’s end.

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

Thursday, November 18, 2010

On board activities

_MG_6960The one activity that everyone participates in on board is using the hand sanitizer solution.  You cannot enter a dining room without using it.  Crew members are stationed at the entrance to personally give you a “squirt”.  You also must use the sanitizer every time you board the ship after going ashore.  Other automatic dispensers are located throughout the ship for your use.  Crew members are also constantly sanitizing all of the stair railings.  All of this is to stop the incidence of the flu that can strike cruise ships.  I’ve never had such sanitized hands in my life!

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The other thing that everyone must do at some point is sleep, so here is a picture of our state room and deck.  Having the deck added about $200 to the cost of the cruise, but we think it has been worth every penny to be able to sit outside without 3000 other people and enjoy the sights.  :)

54 trans- Atlantic cruise 201014You can also bask in the sun, swim in a pool, enjoy a hot tub, workout, gamble, shop, or walk the decks of the ship to keep yourself busy during the day.  I spend each early morning up on the 14th deck getting on-line (upper left pic).  That’s my view of the pools as I post the blog.


Internet access is an additional cost, as is most everything else except meals.  If you just use the wifi by the minute, it will cost $.65/minute!  I chose a package deal that brought the price down to $.30/minute, but I still think that is expensive.  I’ve had a couple of days where posting was a challenge, but all in all the reception has been good, but because of the cost it has really curtailed my blog reading and I have left no comments on anyone’s blog since I left Houston.  It’s going to take me some time to catch up with all of you.  :)


The excitement for today occurred just before dinner when the captain announced that the ship would be turning 90* off course.  This had to be done so that a Coast Guard helicopter could land to pick up a staff member that was ill enough to require a medical evacuation.  Because of the winds, the helicopter did not land, but deployed a basket down to the deck where the crew member was strapped inside and lifted to the waiting helicopter. 


Tomorrow we land in Nassau, Bahamas, for the day.  We’ll be taking another tour of this island.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  :)


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

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A quick shipboard romance


In all my wildest dreams, I never would have expected what happened to me today.  A man of Spanish decent got down on his knee and proposed marriage to me.  What could I say except “Si Senor!”  He then rose, we embraced, and he kissed me on the cheek.

IMG_6940That romantic moment far surpasses anything else that happened today!  Oh, by the way, the gentleman was participating in a shipboard video scavenger hunt, and one of the things he had to do was propose to a stranger and capture it on a video camera.  :)  What a hoot!

IMG_6949Tonight’s pictures are brought to you by Mother Nature.  The top two are Sunday’s sunrise, and the bottom one is tonight’s (Monday’s) sunset.


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