Monday, May 20, 2013

Flower Power Alaska 2013 - Crossing the Great Plains

Now that the container is on its way to Alaska, we were ready to pack up the truck and head on up ourselves.

We said goodbye to Taylor
and waved goodbye to Rafael, who will be staying at the house and taking care of the dogs and cats for us.

On the first week of our journey to Alaska we crossed the great plains of the US.  First stop was in St. Louis to see the Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

Then we shot over to Kansas City for dinner at my favorite steak house,The Golden Ox. The steak house is in the old cattle stockyards and has a rustic, old west atmosphere and the best steaks I've ever had!  I took this photo of Dave with my cell phone, and I know he looks really stoned, but he was just smiling!

The next day we turned north and headed up to Sioux City, IA,

where we saw a Hudsonian Godwit

in a puddle along the side of the interstate.
We stopped at a lake on the side of the road that had a little park and pond
and stretched our legs a bit.

We found a tree full of Cedar Waxwings eating apple blossoms.  So cool!

At Sioux City, we turned West and headed toward the Badlands of South Dakota. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

FLOWER POWER ALASKA 2013 - Loading Up Gear

Today begins the first day of heading up to Alaska for the Summer 2013.  The 40ft container arrived at our farm in Liberty, Indiana and we will be shipping our large equipment for the Alaska farm in the container.   It will leave Indiana on a tractor trailer on Friday, May 3rd, go to Chicago, be put on a train to Seattle, then barged to Anchorage, back on a train to Fairbanks, and by truck out to the farm in Two Rivers.  It should arrive on May 24th. Amanda looks small inside it.

Michael and Dave spent most of Wednesday afternoon loading fenceposts and equipment.

A neighbor came over with his forklift and helped out a lot!

The new plow we got to build our raised beds arrived and it just fit inside the container.

I can't believe how much stuff we have!  Loading the trailer was like playing a game of Tetrus, lots of contemplation and re-arranging.

Neighbor Marc came over and helped us quite a bit with his little loader!
Dave and Marc loaded the posts that will be part of the fencing around the farm as well as boards used in building a shed.

Here's Jay helping load the mower

Cooperi, Rafael, Dylan and Jay stopped over later in the day and did most of the heavy work moving equipment and supplies into and around inside the trailer. Loading continued well into the dark, and we had to pull out some flood lights and light up the place to see what we were doing!

After two exhausting days, we got her filled, sealed and she is on her way.  38K pounds of stuff!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Birding the Rio Grande Valley - Spring Break 2013 - Day 4

This morning we decided to start our day at the Bentsen Rio Grande State Park and World Birding Center.
It was a beautiful morning, and the forecast was for temperatures to be in the lower 80's F by 5pm.  We got great looks at Altimura Oriole at the Nature Center (old Visitor's Center for you old guys).
We also saw a few Clay-colored Thrushes (Robins) hanging out at the feeder along with Plain Chachalacas and Great Kiskadees.  We wandered down to the boat ramp looking for the Red-naped Sapsucker,
but, no luck.  At the Hawk Tower, we got good looks at Verdin, Gray Hawk, hundreds of Turkey Vultures (probably thousands) and one Swainson's Hawk.  After lunch we went next door to the National Butterfly Center where I got this photo of the robin, kiskadee and a Green Jay.
Jan has really surprised me on this trip.  She has only been birding seriously for about a year, and her ID skills are spectacular.  You go girl!
After not seeing anything new at the Butterfly center, we headed over to Anzadoulas City Park and that is where we saw the woodpecker.  Both Dave and Bob got really good photos of the bird, and I'll post them later.  Another looooong day of birding.  I think I crashed at 7:30pm.  LOL

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Birding the Rio Grande Valley - Spring Break 2013 - Day 3

So, for the past 3 nights we got back at the hotel at 9pm and I was asleep by 9:30pm.  I didn't download any of the photos from the day because I was just too pooped!  For those of you who know my birder husband, you know that we will bird from before sun-up to after sun-down - and that is exactly what this week has been like.

We started Day 3 of Spring Break by picking Jan and Bob up at their camper at 7am. First stop was Santa Ana National Wildlife Reserve where we saw Fulvous Whistling-Ducks
among many other ducks, herons, egrets and of course, Red-winged Blackbirds.  They're everywhere - especially at the bird feeders! Jan caught sight of this little guy landing in the reeds - an American Bittern.

It was a three kingfisher day with Belted, Green

and Ringed

all on the same pond.We all climbed up and crossed the canopy walk (which ALWAYS makes me a nervous wreck!). But, we did hear the Northern Beardless Tyrannulet and were able to track it down just past the canopy towers!  Yeah!!!

 At noon, we stopped to have lunch at the visitors center and buy some books
and then headed out to try to find the Aplomato Falcon on Old Port Isabel Road.  We were in luck, and found it perching on a pole.
Then we headed to Estero Grande State Park in Weslaco, where we saw a ton of ducks, both Night-Herons and this Pauraque.
We closed the place exhausted and starving, so we decided to go have some Texas BBQ.  Another birder recommended Fat Daddy's BBQ, and it was delicious!
We got home full, sunburnt and sleepy.  End of Day 3.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Birding the Rio Grande Valley - Spring Break 2013 - Day 2

Our luggage was waiting for us at the hotel last night when we got back from a full day of birding, and I was SO relieved to take a shower and use deodorant!  Dave and I both slept like logs last night, and were up at 6am to start another day.  Today, we are heading to Sable Palm Sanctuary just southeast of Brownsville.
Jan and Bob picked us up at 7am and we headed out.  As we approached Sable Palm we saw an unusual looking structure and at first I couldn't figure out what it was.  It looked like an unfinished wall on a really large warehouse.
But, as we got closer, we realized that it was the new border wall.  What an incredible structure and what an eyesore.
You really have no concept of how big it is until you walk up to it.  Here is Dave standing next to it and he's 6'5".
He doesn't even come up half way to the full height of the wall.  It is just mind-blowing that we need to have such a structure.  We had to drive through it to get to Sable Palm.
Once inside the bird sanctuary, we immediately went to the bird feeders behind the visitor's center to look for the Crimson-collared Grossbeak.  We saw Plain Chachalacas
Black-crested Titmouse
Golden-fronted Woodpecker
and thankfully, the Crimson-collared Grossbeak!

After leaving Sable Palm, we drove out to Boca Chica Beach.  It is about 18 miles out Boca Chica Avenue to the beach, and along the way we went through scrub forest, coastal plain, and shoreline.  Normally, I drive when we are on vacation (birding, that is, because I don't think we've ever taken a vacation that wasn't centered around birding), but for some reason Dave has decided that he MUST drive all the time.  So, we have tipped all of our backpacks over - more than once - as he swerved to come to an abrupt halt because he heard a bird out the window or caught a glimpse of something flying that just wasn't right.  Bob and Jan have been great sports, and I think they are enjoying themselves despite the frenetic pace!  Here's Bob scoping some shorebirds.
Along the way we saw a covey of Northern Bobwhites which has been the highlight of the trip for me.  We used to hear them all the time when I was a child, but not only do you not hear them, but you don't see them either.  So, we took advantage of the opportunity to watch the entire family group until they wandered away into the scrub.
At one point along the road, Dave thought he heard a Cactus Wren calling, so we played the call and sure enough this beautiful fellow called back!
A White-tailed Hawk flew overhead
and as we neared the shoreline, we got great looks at several shorebirds, including; Red Knot, Wilson's Plover, Western, Stilt, Semi-palmated, and Least Sandpipers, Willets and Dunlin, Lesser Yellow-legs, Sanderling, Black-bellied and American Golden Plovers, Caspian Tern and Long-billed Curlew.
We finished the day with Red-crowned Parrots at the Valley Nature Center at dusk.  What a fabulous day!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Birding the Rio Grande Valley - Spring Break 2013 - Day 1

10am and Papa and Tessa are reviewing the different kingbirds we will be seeing in South Texas this week.

We kiss our princess goodbye and head to the airport to spend Spring Break birding the Rio Grande Valley. After a 1 hr delay in Chicago, and having to run through the Houston airport to catch our connecting flight, we finally arrived late Saturday evening - without our luggage.

So, still wearing the same clothes we wore the day before we got up on Sunday and grabbed breakfast in the hotel.  Lilly, who was setting up the breakfast foods noticed me fussing with my hair and offered to braid it for me.
  Took her less than 2 minutes!  Fabulous!    Jan and Bob picked us up at 7am and off we headed to bird South Padre Island.  Jan and I reviewed orioles in the backseat as Dave yelled out every bird he spotted - as he was driving on the freeway!
First stop was a pond in Weslaco where we saw Golden-fronted Woodpeckers,
Loggerhead Shrike,
and Green Parakeets in Brownsville.
Then it was on toward S. Padre Island.  We pulled off at a fisherman's parking lot at Laguna Madre and found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!  Tons of birds!  I picked up a life bird, Wilson's Plover.
We also got to watch an American Oystercatcher feeding along the edge of the water.
We saw several terns including: Caspian, Royal, Sandwich, Gull-billed and Forrester's. We also saw, Black-bellied and American Golden Plovers, Least Sandpipers, Greater Yellowlegs and Willets, Ruddy Turnstones, Brown Pelicans, Double-crested Cormorants, Yellow-crowned Nightherons, White Ibis, Snowy, Reddish and Great Egrets, Long-billed Curlew, Herring and Laughing Gulls, Harris' Hawk, and American Pipit.  The spot was great!

Back in the car, we marked birds off our checklist and headed on to S. Padre.
The sun was up now, and we were hoping to see the Flamulated Owl that has been hanging out at the Convention Center.  At the parking lot, we saw this beautiful flowering bush - not sure what it is.

We hunted for the owl for about an hour, but no luck, so we decided to bird the boardwalk at the Nature Center. Sunning himself on one of the grassy areas, was this handsome alligator - sort of reminds me of our son Paul in the mornings.
We saw lots of Redheads and Lesser Scaup, Coots and Common Gallinules,

but the most stunning birds of the day were the Roseate Spoonbills.