Galveston Beach at Dawn

Galveston Beach at Dawn
Galveston Beach at Dawn

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Let The Adventures Begin

First Adventure, 2015

Saturday, January 16, I woke to the multiple roars of airboats departing to go duck hunting from Goose Island State Park.  Nature was calling, so I quickly dressed and stepped out of my tent to find the dark sky awash in dark pink clouds. I quickly grabbed my camera and set off on a route to the island that would take me past a restroom.

I hurried down past the Entrance to the day use area and walked back to the junction of land and water to enjoy the pink sky and the birds. Then I continued across the bridge to the island and walked along the beach and the marshy backside of the island.

The fishing pier at dawn

Earth, water, air and fire

Spotted sandpiper I think - sun is making it look browner but it bobbed about like one

That afternoon,  my friend, Pat arrived to camp next to my site.  He had never been to Goose Island State Park and wanted to tour it instead of going on the afternoon paddle.  So we hiked most of the trails and went down to the beach on the actual Goose island and walked the fishing pier.

Three pintail guys were hanging out and feeding

A willet multitasking

The only pair of dowitchers - think they are short-billed

View walking back from the end of the fishing pier

Sheepshead were running and people were catching a lot of them

We chatted with this man and his wife while they filleted their catch

The laughing gulls waited to get the rest of the carcass

Pelicans waiting for fishermen in the boat trailer parking lot

No visit to Lamar, the town by Goose Island, is complete without a visit to  Big Tree.  It is over 1000 years old and is the champion Texas Coastal Live Oak. I find it a spiritual experience to sit quietly with it and contemplate the things it has seen in its life.

Big Tree

In the field just before big tree, the landowner is putting out corn which attracts sandhills and whooping cranes. This is not a natural food for the whooping cranes, but some of them started eating it a few years ago when this area was in a bad drought.  There is also a problem with getting enough water assigned from the Colorado River Authority to keep the bay at the salt levels needed for little blue crabs to grow.  It got too salty during the drought, and also the wolfberries didn't produce fruit that year.  The birds had to live on corn or die, which some did. So these birds are very vulnerable.  So far, Fish and Wildlife, has not released the current numbers.  I even checked at the Aransas Visitor Center but could get no current data.

Sandhill and whooper from about 200 yards away

We caught these redheads close to shore on the way to Big Tree

We also had to make several visits to the feeding station, the reason a trip to the bathroom takes an average of one hour.  This trip, we only found cardinals, titmice, a few species of sparrows, and one hermit thrush, but it will soon be alive with migrating birds using the water feature and coming to oranges, as well as the seed feeders. The last time I was here, I also couldn't paddle and got to watch a female sharp shinned hawk take a long bath.

One of several cardinals visiting the feeders

Immature white-crowned sparrow

Catching Up:

I spent a quiet December in mostly cloudy or rainy weather. My friend, Natalie, dropped me off in Pittsburgh, Pa on her way to Lancaster, Pa to spend Christmas with her family.  My only job while traveling was cat herding.  I was still in my sling from having my left rotator cuff repaired.  We had warm cloudy weather the whole time and I mostly stayed inside. My camera was also sick and has been replaced twice, the last time with the wrong model.  I ended up having to buy another camera.

January started off with our southern edition of winter - a little cold, a lot cloudy, and quite rainy.  I mostly hung around the house and played or worked on the computer. I got to start physical therapy for my rotator cuff rehabilitation and am currently healing very fast.  I can already move through the paddling stroke with a broom handle, but need to gain a lot of strength and get my arm to rotate.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Looking Back at 2014: Some Memorial Views

From my canoe on a water trail in Okefenokee Swamp

Early morning swamp view

The best views are from a boat
The view Pat and I woke to on the St. Mary River

I love paddling under clouds - feels like I'm between worlds

I moved from a watery world to one of hills and wetlands, and big skies at Red Rock Lakes NWR. 

The ever-changing view I was forced to look at every day from my various living quarters at Red Rock Lakes

Perhaps my favorite picture taken on the north side of Red Rock Lakes

The look of the hills near the end of the summer

View down Red Rock Creek to the Centennial Mountains  in late May with the Fish Guys

Lower Mesa Falls on Henry Fork - we didn't paddle this part

My daughter introduced me to Ottawa on a several day visit.   I traveled by bus and foot, and also took one boat tour on the Ottawa River.

View from inside the Canadian Museum of Nature

Maman the spider- built by the artist in honor of his mother, a weaver

View of the large hall in the Museum of History

The Locks on Rideau Canal
 My oldest daughter and son-in-law also took me to the Montreal Botanical Garden. It is one of the most fabulous gardens I've visited.

The best place to watch time pass

The Olympic Tower next to the garden

I spent the last six weeks of summer at National Bison Range. Last year the government shutdown caused the bison roundup to be postponed and I didn't get to see it.  So I went back for another try at helping with it.  And I got to do my favorite job - closing down the nineteen mile auto tour - a lot  This is where most of the next pictures were taken from. 

View of the Jocko River Valley from the first high point of the tour

The cars were stopped to watch the elk in rut but the light is what stopped me

My National Bison View of the Mission Mountains from my bedroom and
kitchen - here with first snow

View near Lost Trails NWR, a little refuge managed by National Bison Range

On the way home I was overwhelmed by the fantastic formations at Dinosaur National Park.

A selfie I took on a hike up to see pictographs at Dinosaur

Looking down the Yampa River in Harpers Corner section of Dinosaur NP

A view from a high trail looking down on the green River.  You can see the Yampa River in the background. 

A view into a box canyon at the end of the tour road in Dinosaur NP

A view of the Green River at one of the campgrounds at Dinosaur

 I drove from Dinosaur NP to Arches NP.  And then spent a day there the following day, after traveling a little further to find a vacant camp site.

Delicate Arch in Arches NP
 My last stop was the Needle Section of Canyonlands NP. The last part of the drive - which was not the most direct route - was also breathtakingly beautiful.

Along the Pot Hole Trail in Canyonlands

Strange formations in Canyonlands

My trip home from Utah often had overwhelming scenery.   I  stopped for the first night just before a high pass.  It snowed and, the next morning, I was driving - with a lot of stopping - through scenes like this.

The best kind of snow - look at it but no shoveling

I must say getting to see all these beautiful views of spectacular lands is yet another great reason to be homeless.

I'm riding up with my friend, Natalie to visit my daughter in Pittsburg, Pa.  So I'll take a Christmas week break when this comes out.  Then I'll have a few more weeks until I start physical therapy on my shoulder.

Happy Holidays to all of you.  And may  you design and produce your best lives of all in 2015.  And may Joy be with you always. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Looking Back Over 2014: Memorable Animals

Since I work at National Wildlife Refuges, knowing at least some of the names and life histories of the animals on the refuge is mandatory.  But I probably work on the refuges because of the animals, so I spend a lot of time looking at them and being awed, amused and amazed by them, when working or not.

Okefenokee was all about the birds and alligators. There were a lot of waders on the refuge as well as lots of other birds, but there were few ducks.

Bathing hooded merganser

I never realized how beautiful anoles are until I took this closeup on the observation tower

Red-shouldered hawks were very common

Sometimes we had over 500 robins near the Visitor Center area

This blond racoon was often seen along the boardwalk

I don't often give yellow-rumped warblers much respect but they are pretty. 

American Tree Sparrow - love that sweet face

Baby alligators are really cute

Palm warblers were everywhere - I saw my first one here

I was at Okefenokee for the beginning of breeding season - here
a Carolina wren is singing his heart out

Bachman's sparrows are very hard to find until they start singing

I got my second snowy owl - this one in Florida

This was the rare Sherman's fox squirrel - I spent months trying to bag one

The pig frog - often heard but seldom seen

At Red Rock Lakes, one of the projects is to learn more about the Arctic grayling.  One of only two populations in the lower forty live here.  The refuge is working to restore more traditional habitat for them.

A beautiful fish I got to see when I  photographed the Fish Guys tagging these grayling fish. 

I got to see the breeding pelican's horn

Got a rare pose of a common bird at Elk Lake

A lot more antelope calves survived at Red Rock Lakes

Moma, last year's son and this years infant - taken past sunset and camera could not shoot fast enough

Carole showed me a lot of wonderful animals when I visited her in the Rocky Mountains.  A few of them I only saw here.

Pine Grosbeak

A pica, one of the species severely impacted by global warming

The National Bison Range was established to save the Bison.  Last year I got to see them in the rut but this year I got my first picture of them in Mission Creek looking like water buffalo.  And I was able to enjoy weeks of the elk rut.  In fact, the morning I left, I photographed a really tired elk walking towards  a little grove of trees next to the bunkhouse. 

Bison in Mission Creek

Some of the cows - and calves - of the most dominant bull elk

Top bull running off a challenger

A little lagniappe found on my search for fall color

An engaging beggar/robber responsible for dragging my jacket out of my car in Canyonlands NP

I'm thankful I get to spend so much time observing animals.

Merry Christmas.  Hope you get to help with one or more Christmas counts.