Borrego Springs, CA

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wingless Wednesday

My plans for this morning included Emma and I driving over to the Bolivar Peninsula.  I was going to dazzle my readers with all sorts of shorebird pictures from the beaches.  As it turned out, I could hardly find a bird, the shoreline was birdless, and the skies were full of mosquitoes.  Oh well, it was a beautiful day and the skies were blue.

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There’s still evidence of the devastation of hurricane Ike from three years ago. (click to enlarge and see details)

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But there are also a lot of new homes that have been rebuilt on the peninsula.  There  is even a new laundromat located in a mobile home elevated 18’ off the ground.  I’m not sure I’d want to carry my bags of dirty laundry up that many stairs, but I guess you do what you have to do.  I think these houses look funny way up in the air, but I can understand why it is done.  I enjoy all the vibrant colors of houses that can be found in the beach communities. 

As I returned through High Island, I finally stopped to read the historical marker that is located along SR 124.

IMG_4294I’ve driven past this marker many times in the five times I’ve volunteered at Anahuac.  It’s about time I learned some of the history behind this now famous birding location, and why it has its name.


That marker also explained why I’ve seen all these oil pumps on the outskirts of the town, and most are still pumping away.


Just to the south of High Island is a tall bridge that goes over the intracoastal waterway.  I believe this waterway goes all the way from Texas to Florida, and has lots of barge traffic.  So much so that the border going through Anahuac NWR has had to be reinforced to prevent erosion.  This view, from the top of the bridge, is to the east as it wanders its way through McFadden NWR.

IMG_4296On the west side of the bridge you can see the 35,000 acres of Anahuac’s marshlands.  You can just make out the new reinforcements along the northern edge of the canal.

On the battlefront at home, here’s the score:  Mouse 2  Me 0!  That little bugger licked another trap clean of its peanut butter last night.  Sad smile  One of my readers suggested I tie some dental floss around the peanut butter so the mouse would get its teeth caught on it.  That sounded a little hokey to me, but I’m willing to give it a try.  Have you ever tried to lace dental floss through a glob of peanut butter while trying to keep the trap open but not snapping on you with one hand?  Good grief!  I sure hope old age and cunning will outwit youth and dexterity.  If not, peanut butter coated dental floss is an interesting concept.  Confused smile

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A little hike, a little disaster, and a little battle begins.

It was a day filled with minor defugalties.  (spell check has no suggestions for that spelling, but it’s a word I’ve used forever to describe small problems)  Yesterday afternoon I set out to do my laundry, but another volunteer was using the washer and dryer.  So I went back again this morning at 8:30, and yet a different volunteer had beat me to the laundry room.  So, I packed up my cameras and Emma and headed for the Skillern Tract for a little hike.

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The Skillern Tract is one of the few areas open to the public on the refuge that has water in it, and it is handicapped accessible.  Because of the drought, most of the moist soil units are bone dry.  When working at the VIS, we suggest to all birders that they drive a further 10 miles to visit this area.

_MG_4282It’s a very nice walk through riparian habitat along East Bay Bayou.  This morning, the trees along the bayou were just bubbling with American goldfinches and sparrows.  I also saw blue-gray gnatcatchers and an orange-crowned warbler, but they were reluctant to pose for a picture. 

_MG_4254The paved trail culminates in a wooden overlook (pictured above in the collage).  The marsh surrounding the overlook was loaded with feeding blue-winged teal and northern shovelers. 


There were also several good sized groups of black-bellied whistling ducks.  They were more interested in resting than whistling while Emma and I were there.  Winking smile It was at this point that I decided to change lenses on the camera, and was shocked to see that my telephoto lens had four huge cracks across the lens.  Disaster!  It took me a moment to calm down and remember that I always use some kind of filter to help protect my lenses.  Phew!  The lens itself was fine, just the filter was cracked.


This noisy little marsh wren was chattering away at us as we left the overlook.  Now Emma is no bird watcher, but she finds enough other things along the way to sniff and investigate.  Today was no exception.


Being a true dog, her first reaction to this scat (probably from a raccoon) was to roll in it.  When I dissuaded her from doing that, her next step was to try to eat it!  Yuck!  Dogs are so disgusting sometimes.

Back at the ranch, I decided to check on the five mousetraps I set yesterday in various places around the rig.  I had discovered evidence of an unwanted guest the other day so bought some more armament yesterday.  That crafty little mouse had managed to eat the peanut butter clean off of two of the traps without setting them off.  So, the battle begins.  Mouse 1, me 0.  This is just the first inning, and I’m determined to be victorious. 

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The wind, she’s been a blowin’

The latest cold front came blasting through early yesterday afternoon, and what a wind came with it.  The rain was pouring down horizontally across the RV pads, and anything not secured went flying.  The winds have just now finally abated a bit.  I struggled to open the door, and then had to hang onto it for dear life so it wouldn’t be ripped out of my hands.


I was scheduled to work the afternoon in the VIS today, but I left early to take a drive around the refuge roads.  I made my way down to Frozen Point where there were plenty of whitecaps on Galveston Bay, and the birds were hugging the shoreline.


                                           That wind was making their feathers stand on end! 


Frozen Point got its name back in the day before this was a refuge. A horrible storm from the north blew in with very high winds and sleet and snow. The northerly winds sent the grazing cattle on the ranch south to seek relief. The temperatures plummeted, and some of the cattle actually stepped into the bay. As they huddled against the storm, many of them froze to death; hence the name.


This great blue heron kept trying to stay ahead of me as I retraced the road back to the VIS.


I also took a drive down to the boat launch where there were no boat trailers due to the gale force winds on the bay.  It was also low tide while I was there so this snowy egret was working the boat ramp inlet.


I imagine with the colder temperatures and biting wind the birds needed extra energy.  Good thing the marsh is such an estuary for fish, shrimp, and crabs.  Too soon, it was time to head into work.  I had encountered only two other people as I drove the refuge roads.

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I thought I’d give you an idea of what the temporary VIS looks like.  (sorry to say it’s been temporary for three years now)  While just a small shed, it is jam packed with items to purchase in the nature store.  Only had 16 visitors on this chilly breezy day, but we did have about $111 in sales.  I guess that makes the volunteer time there worthwhile.  Most of the folks today were local, but three people did visit from Maryland.

When I got back to the rig, I took Emma out to play in my ‘front yard’.  As she was shaking her toy, somehow the tie out released her collar, and off she went at about 40 mph!  She runs like the wind, and in short order had covered about a half a mile in several grand circles around the area.  Luckily, she is afraid of the road, and returns for a drink of water after her runs and investigations.  Does she listen to me and come when I call her?  Absolutely not!  She’s the only dog I’ve ever had that is so recalcitrant. 


                                                                                   THE END!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Friday, November 25, 2011

It’s safe to park next to me now :)

I was hoping to post pictures of how I do the salinity testing on the refuge tonight, but there was a fly in the ointment with that plan.  I’ll have to do that next week. 


I picked up fellow volunteer, Jim, to take him along with me since I would be doing a back road that hadn’t had much use since hurricane Ike hit.  It turned out that the only pictures I could take were from the safety of the refuge vehicle.  We’ve got several white-tailed kites on the refuge right now.


We did one test on the back road, but were accosted by thousands of mosquitoes.  I was wearing a hooded sweatshirt, and had to put the hood up and pull the strings to only leave a small area open on my face.  My only other exposed skin was my hands.  After that one trip out of the suburban, we decided to forget about the rest of the tests.  I’ve never seen the mosquitoes that bad.  Sitting in the car, the windows were covered with them!  We itched our way down the road and could only take pictures through the window.  (white pelicans)


                                                                                Great egret.

Last night I posted about the woes I’m having with water pressure in the rig.  Many people responded with suggestions.  That was just what I was hoping for.  All of us here had tried everything we could think of.  I had already changed hoses, removed the water pressure regulator, and cleaned the new water filter.


The other guys had checked all the connections, filters, and washers.  We remained stymied.  I was still reluctant to fill the fresh water tank and just use the on board water pump for showers.  I really don’t want the water from here in that tank.  I know it has gone through all of my pipes, but I can’t think of any way of getting that kind of crud out of the tank after I leave.  I use that tank for drinking water when I am not here.

As Emma and I sat outside this afternoon with no one around, I decided to try the one suggestion I hadn’t done yet.  Several of you had commented on it, so it certainly couldn’t hurt to give it a try.  I told Emma to cross her toenails as I removed the water filter from the holder.  I put the holder back on without the filter and turned the water back on.  I then held my breath as I went inside, stepped on the toilet pedal, and pushed down the sprayer lever.  Viola!!  That little sprayer just came to life!

So now it’s safe to park next to me because I’ll finally be able to take a shower.  Smile  Isn’t is amazing how some of the littlest things in life can make your day?  The toilet bowl sprayer works once again today, and yesterday I got to have two pieces of turkey breast skin with a little salt on them.  (a once a year treat for me)  Life doesn’t get much better than that!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, November 24, 2011

When did you take your first shower?

Growing up in Chicago, we didn’t have a shower in our house.  We had a footed tub in the bathroom that was filled half way on Saturday night.  If I was lucky, I got to take my bath first before my younger brother.  The water was used for both baths, don’t you know.  I remember, especially in summer, scrubbing away at the grey ring around my ankles.  Now you can understand the importance in being first.  I don’t think I took my first shower until I went away to college.


                      (Tonight’s photos are of the little birds sharing our RV pads.   Eastern phoebe.)

So what brought this memory back to my mind, you might ask?  Well, I’m having an issue with water pressure in the rig.  The water out of the pipe has plenty of pressure.  If I use my water pump, I have plenty of pressure.  But if I use the water hook-up to the rig, the water fairly trickles out of the faucets.  There is enough pressure to wash dishes and brush my teeth, but take a shower?  Not hardly!

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                                                     Loggerhead shrike.

A nice feature of many rigs is a spray nozzle next to the toilet to help clean the bowl.  I really like this nozzle.  Now, all it does is drip when I press down the lever. When I was in the throws of my worst back problems, I couldn’t stand long enough to take a shower anyway, so it wasn’t as great an issue.  I resorted to a sponge bath each night by waiting for the bathroom sink to fill.  Now that I’m more mobile, I really would like to take a shower.  That’s what reminded me of my once a week bath when I was growing up.  Thinking smile  I don’t have any grey rings around my ankles because of my nightly bowl of water bath, but my nice shower stands unused.

The other volunteers and I have tried everything we can think of to figure out this dilemma, but nothing has worked.  At this point, I have two options to get a real shower.  I can go up to the community building to take one there, or I can fill the fresh water tank and use the water pump.  I hesitate to do the second option because I’m not crazy about putting that water in the tank.  It is not drinkable because of all the minerals and iron in it, and I’m really not wanting to put that in my tank.  I’m thinking I’ll be calling Thibodeaux’s in Louisiana after the holiday weekend to see if they have any suggestions.


                                       Wish I could preen and clean up as easily as this mockingbird!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nearly Wordless Wednesday

One of the things that I do as a volunteer on the refuge is pick up trash that the fishermen and general public throw out their windows on the refuge.  Perhaps by the end of this post you will understand why I don’t find this assignment distasteful.  Although, I do find the fact, that it is necessary to pick up after thoughtless people, is disgusting.





                                                       Great blue heron about to take off.



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                                                       Little blue heron



                                                                       Immature bald eagle

I would like to wish all of my readers a very Happy Thanksgiving holiday.  May it be tasty and trashless.


                                                                              THE END!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Poop Bag Caper (and other thoughts of similar magnitude)

Welcome rain arrived today, so I decided to head to Beaumont on a few errands.  Last Saturday, I posted that I was having trouble finding the doggie poop bags that I’ve bought in the past.  Dollar stores have been the best places to find this item at an affordable price.  However, lately I’ve struck out on this quest at every dollar store.  On the way back to the rig, I stopped at the Family Dollar store in Winnie to inquire if they had what I was looking for. (I found them there last year)  My response when they said they no longer carried them was to say, “Awe shucks!”  A reader had suggested I use diaper refuse bags, but I couldn’t find any of those at Target today either.  It’s been a long time since I’ve perused the diaper aisle at any store!


After I left Family Dollar, an employee came running after me asking if these small bags would work.  He said they no longer use these small item bags and I was welcome to them.  They’re only 8”X8” so they’ll work perfectly.  I know Emma’s full of it, but bags from the grocery store or Wal-mart are really over kill.  Now I’m set for a couple of months.  Don't tell anyone smile

I was hoping to take JIM AND GAYLE, fellow fulltimers and bloggers, on a tour of the refuge yesterday, but the threat of mosquitoes and severe storms sent them leaving for a more southern location in the morning.  Too bad.  Maybe we’ll cross paths again sometime.  The funny part of their departure was that I noticed their rig go flying by the volunteer rigs about 10:00 yesterday.  Who would of thought they’d take the very rural FM 1985 on their way out of Anahuac?


On my way back to the rig this afternoon, I noticed three crested caracaras in one of the pastures near my site. 

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I think the three of them are a family group.  The bird on the left is a juvenile, and the adult is on the right.  This is not the first time I’ve seen them traveling together.

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They’re a distinctive looking bird of south Texas, and are mainly eaters of carrion that they find by cruising low over fields and pastures.

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Another cattle drive occurred yesterday, and the cattle were moved into the area of the refuge just 15’ to the left of my rig.  Can you guess how this effects Emma?


Now she’s on constant patrol whenever she’s on her tie out.  Obviously the rig needs protecting from those marauding bovines behind the barbed wire fence.  Smile


                                                                             THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy