Borrego Springs, CA

Friday, May 30, 2014

Almost no one fell asleep!

I put on my dancing shoes this morning and headed out early to drive to the Cormorant Lake Community Center to put on a bird power point program for about twenty some senior citizens.  Earlier in the week, I had looked over the power point program I had been given, and decided that about half of it was too dull for this audience, and eliminated those parts.  I changed it up, and added some of my bird photos from the refuge, and it seemed to work.


I wish I could have included this photo of a yellow-bellied sapsucker, but I found this beauty this morning as I dropped off my Netflix disc in the refuge mail box on the way there.  I also noticed that I guess I had missed painting this post last summer.  Sad smile

Anyway, I had a lot of audience participation in this presentation, and only one man briefly nodded off.  A great improvement from my bus tour at Anahuac.  There was a big pot of coffee flowing with some delicious cookies as well, so that surely helped.  One woman even said that Detroit Lakes should hire me to give a presentation at next year’s birding festival, as this one was so much better than some of the speakers they had two weeks ago.  I highly doubt that, but it was nice to hear she enjoyed herself.


Afterwards, I was given an envelope with this check inside.  I, of course, declined any remuneration.  The person in charge insisted I take it and do with it whatever I wanted.  I’ve decided to cash it and add the monies to my ‘tip’ pouch.  I’ve given quite a few talks, and many tours over the last eight years, and occasionally people have insisted on giving a tip.  Many times, I just put those monies in the donation box of whatever refuge I’m volunteering at, but sometimes I’ve just added it to this pouch.  This check would almost double the amount I’ve hidden away.  I’m saving this money for something special that can be contributed to some National Wildlife Refuge.  Early on, my friend Diana also put her tips into this pouch from tours we gave together.  I bet she thought I had already spent it.  Not so.  I make this public so that my daughter will know my intentions for this little nest egg, in case I should ‘kick the bucket’ before I find that special need.

Of course, I’m not the only RV person volunteering at Tamarac this year, and some of you may know my partners in crime. Winking smile


John and Bridget Hatch, arrived a week ago and last night we had a little tournament.  I can’t remember the name of this game (I think it’s golf something), but I’ve only played it once before.  They’re pretty good at it, and I got royally beaten.  I had a lot of fun.


And I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a picture of their pooch, Fred.  Doesn’t he just look disgusted with me trying to get his better side?  I like Fred.  He’s not the wild maniac that Emma is.  Oh for a calm and sedate dog…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A fox and dirty sox

Took Emma for her first outs before seven this morning, and she wasn’t interested in getting ‘busy’.  So, I hooked her on her tie out and went back inside to make the bed and get my breakfast ready.  As I was looking out the window above the sink, I saw the elusive fox making its way down the the newly created path outside the rig.  Emma spotted it as well, and set off her barking alarm.


The fox stopped dead in its tracks before backing off a bit and lying down in the path.  It seemed to know that Emma couldn’t get to it.  I grabbed my camera, but knew if I opened the door of the rig it would take off. 


So, I quietly opened a window and moved up the screen so I could get some pictures.  See that black lump in front of it?  It’s some kind of animal that the fox caught, and I think it was bringing it back to its kits.  It was bigger than a mouse, but I’m not sure what it was.  This is a red fox, but one of the brown shirt maintenance guys calls it our yellow fox.  It sure had a beautiful blonde coat on its back.


After a couple of minutes, it picked up its prey and headed for home through the tall grass.  What a way to start the morning off!  I think I’m going to name this fox Blondie.  I usually see it once or twice a day, and it always has something in its mouth.  Just like Dagwood and his sandwiches.  Open-mouthed smile  (do you remember Blondie and Dagwood?)


After that excitement, I headed down to the maintenance area to get my safety training on the mower for this year.  It sure was nice to wear a pair of steel toed boots that actually fit.  Five hours of mowing ensued after the training, and the maintenance and residential area here looks all spiffed up.  I like mowing.  You can certainly see the fruits of your labor, and it sure beats sitting inside.

We haven’t had rain in a while, and it’s been rather dusty on the gravel roads.  That resulted in the dirtiest socks I’ve had since I was a kid.  That mower sure did kick up the dust and dirt as I edged the areas around the roads.  I’m sure glad I didn’t wear my expensive socks today.  Because of the warm temps, I wore shorts today and really sprayed down with bug juice before I began.  With all the dust and dirt, my legs were as filthy as my socks.  It was one of those down and dirty days.  Good thing I’m not a girly girl.  Winking smile

Well, I’m off early tomorrow to do my power point presentation for the seniors.  I’ll let you know whether or not anyone stayed awake to hear it…


                                                                                THE END!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

We’re having a heat wave

The last five or six days or so, we’ve been having an early heat wave here in upper Minnesota.  The weather has gone from cold rainy days in the 40’s to hot sunny days in the middle 80’s seemingly overnight.  It was like going to bed in March and waking up in August.  I’m not complaining, mind you, but what extremes.  Along with the hot weather has come a more than abundant hatch of mosquitoes.  About that, I’m going to complain. 


                                         It seems ruby-throated hummingbirds like grape jelly too.

My entire summer here last year I could sit outside with Emma until just before sunset.  Not so this year.  Even in the middle of the day, I’m being attacked by hordes of mosquitoes.  I hate putting all that spray on, but I’ve had no choice.  I expect plenty of the little devils if I’m working in the woods or near the water, but not in the open area around my rig.  I’m thinking this is going to be a pretty buggy summer.


Things have slowed down a bit at the Hard Rock Bird Café as nesting season has begun.  This robin obviously has young as it flew off with its mouthful of food to feed the youngsters.

The awful tasting water situation has been solved.  Although there was plenty of salt in the softener, apparently it got jammed up in the big salt bin over the winter from lack of use.  That means the water was coming from the well, and not encountering any softening effects from the salt as it flowed through.  That was fixed yesterday, and I’m back with tasty water once again.  I’m glad it was an easy fix, as that was a deal breaker for me.


The old woodchuck is back once again to torment Emma.  I have also seen the fox almost daily making its rounds shortly after dawn and just before sunset.  They’re both crafty enough to know the length of Emma’s tie out, and take full advantage of it.

I’ve spent the last couple of days doing mundane chores, and getting a power point program ready for a group of about 30 seniors in a local town.  My presentation on beginning birding will be on Friday in the morning.  I chose the morning since some of you may remember my last experience giving a tour to seniors right after lunch in a nice warm bus on Anahuac NWR.  ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ….  I’m hoping this group will be pumped up with lots of morning coffee.  Winking smile

I leave you tonight with a view of a gorgeous sunset outside my rig on Monday.  I made the mistake of stepping out to take this pic in a t-shirt and shorts.  I was eaten alive, and the picture didn’t even come close to showing the striking colors.  Sad smile


Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Too bad I’m not anemic

When I got up this morning, the first thing I noticed was that I had a huge rusty stain in my toilet bowl.  Since it wasn’t there when I went to bed, it really woke me up.  What’s up with that?  There are two water hookups at each of the volunteer sites here at Tamarac.  One is for soft water for the rig, and the other is hard water for outdoor use.  It seemed like someone had switched my hose over during the middle of the night.


                 Scarlet tanager.  Tonight’s pics are from a drive on the refuge a couple of nights ago.

I drink a lot of ice water during the day, and my first mugful tasted just awful.  I know the water here is high in iron, but the soft water spigot has never been a problem before.  If a person were anemic, they might be cured by just drinking this water (if they could stand the taste),  Smile with tongue out

IMG_7214                                                                       Blackpoll warbler.

There wasn’t much I could do about it since I had to work all day in the Visitors Center, but I did turn off my ice maker before I left.  As soon as I got to work, I reported the problem.  That didn’t do a whole lot of good since it is a weekend.  The only brown shirt around was the young administrative person who knows less than I do about the water softener system.  I thought perhaps they had run out of softener salt or something.


                                                                   Golden-winged warbler.

She said she’d try to look into it, but it’s not only a weekend, but the Memorial Day Weekend.  You know what that means.  It turned out there was salt in the softener machine, so it was suggested that I let the water run out of the spigot when I got back to the rig for several hours to see if that would help.  Nothing further can be done until after the holiday.  I was also told to use the residence building to get water or take showers and such until next week.


                                                                       Cape May warbler.

Normally, I would just operate off of my fresh water tank for a couple of days, but I’ve got a little problem with that.  When I arrived here, that tank was half full.  Certainly enough for three days.  However, I also noticed water dripping under the rig the second night I was here.  It seems I have a leak of some sort in the tank, and it is totally empty now.  Sad smile


                                                 Proud goose parents and their seven goslings.

John and Bridget Hatch (FD5, retired) arrived to volunteer here for the summer yesterday, so I went over to ask them how their water was when I got home from work.  Seems their water was just fine, but they have an onboard reverse osmosis system.  John and I went outside to check their water source, and it tasted just as awful as mine.  That was at least a little reassuring to me. 

John suggested I tap into his water system until the issue can be resolved after the holiday.  So, we’ve got about 100’ of hoses connecting our two sites, and I’ve got drinkable water again tonight.  Thanks, John! 

The refuge vehicle I drive also crapped out on me just as I was pulling into my driveway for the night.  It was just one of those days today.


                                                                       Sh?t happens, I guess…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Thursday, May 22, 2014

One of those ‘diamond’ days

It was a bit foggy when I awoke today, but there were no clouds and soon the sun was beaming down.  Yahoo!  First up on the agenda was to bid Paul and Carolyn Cardile adios.  They were RV volunteers here for two and a half weeks.  It was their first venture into volunteering for the Fish and Wildlife Service.  It turned out I knew Paul from my time at Laguna Atascosa NWR back in 2008.  At the time, he was the new Visitors Center manager there, and he’s been doing it ever since.  Small world, as they say.

After fixing a hearty brunch, I was ready to get outdoors and enjoy my day off.  Tom, one of the brown shirts, hopped off his big tractor type thing to talk to me.  He had heard I was looking to find some morel mushrooms (thanks to the refuge grapevine).  Actually, I’ve been looking to find some morel mushrooms for years.  I’ve just never been able to find any.  It’s been on my bucket list of things I’ve wanted to do.  Unlike most morel mushroom people, he was actually willing to give me some pointers. 

People who hunt morel mushrooms don’t like to give away any of their secrets or favorite places to go.  Tom, on the other hand, told me to look in quaking aspen groves, and even told me where on the refuge I might find some.  I like Tom.  He’s also the guy that makes wonderful maple syrup each year on his homestead.  I’m going to have to buy some of this year’s run from him.


After teaching the tree identification class to the school kids last week, I certainly knew how to identify quaking aspens.  Winking smile  Notice the lovely blue sky.  I was off to the woods.


I tromped around for a couple of hours, and all I found was another sleeping porcupine.  It was the right kind of tree, though.


                                               I guess my scrounging around woke him up.  Sorry.

77 Tamarac NWR 20142

I did finally find some mushrooms, but they just didn’t look right to me.  I remember talking to a woman last year that had a whole bag of these kinds of mushrooms that she said she fried up for a breakfast with eggs.  I could have picked a couple of dozen of these, but I didn’t.  I’ll have to Google them later to find out if they’re edible.  After all, I don’t know if that woman lived to pick more shrooms.  Thinking smile

77 Tamarac NWR 20141

Along the way, I also saw a ruffed grouse, a broad-winged hawk, and these little interesting pot like growths.  I have no idea what they are, and don’t even know where to look to begin to identify them.  They weren’t just lying on the forest floor, they had grown there and were attached to the ground.

After about three and a half hours of bushwhacking through the forest, without a bushwhacker, I was about to pack it in.  Then, as I stepped over a downed log, I almost fainted…

_MG_0118Hidden amongst the leaves were two morel mushrooms!  I shouted out in joy, “FINALLY!” _MG_0120

I knew instantly that I had found the treasure I’ve been seeking for many years.  Check that one off my bucket list!  I was one happy camper, and did a little dance in the forest.


                                                                     Aren’t they beauties?

I’m thinking that shrooming is something like birding.  Once you find a few, you’re hooked.  I ended up spending over five hours searching up and down the hillsides for more morels.  I only found two more, but the call to find a ‘mother load’ is strong. 

I stopped at a couple of more locations, and have to admit that I panicked a little at one of them when I felt totally lost in the woods.  I had no idea which way the car was.  I eventually found my way out, but learned a lesson.  Since my sense of directions isn’t the best, I’d better only hike up hill with the car below me.


On the drive back to home there was, what I thought, the perfect ending to the day.  A majestic bald eagle perched in a dead tree.  Little did I know that as I sat outside with Emma, a red fox would come waltzing (or maybe fox-trotting) along the gravel road in front of my site with something in it’s mouth.  My guess is she had snatched up one of the young ground hogs to take home to her kits.  Sorry to say, my camera was inside the rig.  Sad smile

Anyway, this was one diamond of a day.  I found my first ever morel mushrooms, and even though I only found four, I’d wager that they’ll be the sweetest mushrooms I’ve ever tasted! 

The tick count for today after wandering around in the woods for over five hours??  Six dog (wood) ticks, and four deer ticks removed.  Diamonds don’t come for nothing you know.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Oh fiddlesticks!

A couple of posts ago, some folks asked to see some pictures of my oriole feeder, so tonight that’s what you’re going to see along with a couple of other patrons of the Hard Rock Bird Café.


I’ve already gone through two 32 oz. jars of the grape jelly.  With the chilly and rainy weather we’ve been having, there aren’t many insects around yet for the orioles and warblers to eat.  If I run out of orange halves, I just leave the peel on the feeder and fill it with jelly.


There are four Baltimore orioles in this picture, but I’ve had as many as seven at a time trying to get to my one feeder.  They don’t always get along with each other, and a lot of hollering and fighting goes on.  When I worked the visitors center on Monday, I counted as many as twenty orioles at a time there.  What delight to see so many bright splashes of orange!


Today, we were invaded by almost 100 kindergarteners.  What a hoot these little ones are.  My job was to take groups of them on a photo hike.  We provide the digital cameras, and they take pictures of the wonders of nature that they discover.  Due to the privacy thing, I really can’t show any pictures of them, but I know Sherry would have appreciated what I had each small group do.  They had to find a tree they all liked and hug it.  You have never seen a more enthusiastic bunch of tree huggers in your life.

As usual, I had my diamond willow walking stick with me.  This always intrigues the kids.  With one group, the conversation went something like this:  “Why do you walk with that stick?”  “Because, I’m old, and need a little help walking.”  “How old are you?”  “I’m almost 67.”  “Wow! That is old!”  “I thought you were 100.”  “No, I have a few years to go to be that old.”  “How many?”  “Oh, about 33 more years.”  “My mom’s 32, and she’s old…”  Laughing out loud


Late this afternoon, Emma and I were sitting outside and we even had a yellow-rumped warbler stop by briefly.  He gave the oriole feeder the once over, but then went on his way. 

On nice days, like today, Emma has her supper outside, and then I collect her deposits for the day.  Things went smoothly until I was on my way back to the patio with her ‘scat’ bag.  Somehow, I got my foot tangled in her tie out line, and down I went.  Of course it wasn’t in the softer lawn, but right on the patio.  My right knee took the brunt of it as my hand with the bag reached out to cushion my fall.  It wasn’t pretty.  I should have said, “Oh, poo!” as my hand ripped the bag open and mushed the contents all over the patio.  Smile with tongue out  All I could say was, “That hurts! That hurts! That hurts!” 

Emma ran right over to lick my face as I was writhing on the cement.  Yuck!  I appreciate the thought, but I don’t like the licking!  So, as I write this entry tonight, my right leg is propped up with an ice pack on my knee.  There’s a bit of a gash on it, and I just wish I had a bigger Band-Aid than the ones I have for my split finger tips.  Oh, fiddlesticks!


                                                                               THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Saturday, May 17, 2014

This could be an interesting summer

With the Festival of Birds going on in Detroit Lakes since Thursday, a number of staff and all the volunteers have been very busy.  Thursday morning I helped get things set up at the local junior college where all the registration and such would be going on.  In the afternoon, it was my mission to fill the nine kiosks located at various locations around the refuge with pamphlets, and get the refuge spiffy looking by picking up beer cans and other trash that unthinking people throw out of their vehicles.


                   Mr. Porcupine was way up high again in the quaking aspen at my site munching away.

Friday, I was one of the leaders for a group of about 50 alternative school teenagers visiting the refuge to learn about bird watching.  That was certainly interesting.  Not surprisingly, four of the youngsters disappeared from under the teacher’s nose.  My guess is they went for a smoke, or to experience their ‘natural’ tendencies in the woods.  Winking smile  Spring fever and all, don’t-cha know…

clay-colored sparrow

                                  A new bird for the Hard Rock Bird Café…the clay-colored sparrow.

This morning, I was at the Visitors Center by 6:30 in the morning to fill all the bird feeders and hang them out.  There are bears in these here woods, and the numerous feeders are taken in every evening.  Getting them all set up take’s about 45 minutes, and staff wanted them ready to go early.  One of the tours of the Festival was of the refuge, and all the birders would be stopping by early.  The birds cooperated, and put on a great show for all the visitors.

I had a real surprise when the mail was delivered today.  There was a package for me from Sharon of The Odd Essay fame. 


Inside were three boxes of Trader Joe’s Triple Ginger Cookie Thins.  Apparently Sharon remembered the Swedish ginger thins that I took a real liking to last summer when I was here, and sent me the Trader Joe’s version.  Thanks, Sharon!


When I wrote about Anna’s cookies last year, I told the story of how they are Swedish wish cookies.  You make a wish, put a cookie in the palm of your hand, and tap it lightly with your other index finger.  If the cookie breaks into three pieces, your wish will come true!  There are no such instructions on the Trader Joe’s cookies.

However, Trader Joe’s box does say that ginger has been considered an aphrodisiac for almost forever.  Hmm… With four boxes of wishes and aphrodisiacs, this summer could be a lollapalooza!!  Surprised smileFingers crossedLeft hugRight hug  Oh my goodness, Sharon, I hope I’m up for it!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy