Tuesday, February 28, 2006

A Real Birder

February 23 to February 28

Thursday was one of those unexciting but necessary days — cleaning and laundry.

Friday was a bit more interesting as we attended the “First annual Titanium owners luncheon” in “the valley” (Our 5th wheel is a Titanium). The organizers were happy as approximately 60 people attended, most coming from Ontario (Titanium trailers are manufactured just outside of London, Ontario) though there were people from Michigan, Manitoba and New Brunswick. Ed and I had a fun time chatting to other Titanium owners.

Saturday was errand day and Sunday was lazy day — hanging around the trailer reading and then visiting with other people in the park.

Monday and Tuesday mornings were much more interesting as we attended a Bird Identification Workshop at the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge. The workshop was actually a 3 morning event, but we had to skip Wednesday as we were leaving the valley that morning. The workshop is giving by a volunteer who happens to be retired professor of Ornithology and boy does he know his birds. The first morning was in the classroom and Gene (the professor) kept us entertained with amusing stories, bird imitations and bird calls, as he imparted a lot of information. The second morning was spent walking some of the park’s trails. Gene was amazing — he could spot birds and identify them in a nanosecond, he could pick out individual bird calls from a melee of sounds and identify the birds. He was very excited and passed the excitement on when a number of hawks flew by giving us a show. I think we saw over 40 species of birds during our walk — at least 25 more than Ed and I would have noticed if we were on our own. I could have used a few professors like this when I was in university.

a Chachalaca (ortalis vetula) looks a bit large for this small feeding station at the NWR. These birds are only present in the USA in the Rio Grand valley area were we are, otherwise found only along Mexico's east side.

a couple of Least Sandpipers (calidris minutilla) the smallest of the peeps family, found along the trails of the Santa Ana NWR. See the birding workshop helps, you get to use some better names than "little brown birds"

Two turtles attack a Great Egret. These must be the "T-Rex turtles"

OK, according the professor, there is a: green winged teal, a blue winged teal, a cinnamon teal and perhaps a gadwall and something else, he talked faster than I could write, so forget asking me what the other ones are.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Another Wildlife Refuge

Today (Wednesday) we drove to the Santa Anna Wildlife Refuge — yup more birds. We took the 1 hour tram ride through the park and were entertained by a husband and wife volunteer team (he drove and she spoke) then we walked a couple of the trails. Unlike some of the weather of the last few days, today was hot and muggy.

A Great Kiskadee

Black-necked Stilt

a Long-billed Dowitcher

Black-necked Stilts

Red-naped Sapsucker

Great Egret

Maybe a Cinnamon Teal (female)

I think this is a Northern Shoveler

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

More Birds

February 16 to February 21

Thursday morning Sadie and Bill stopped by this morning to see if we wanted to go to Mexico, so off we went. It appears a lot of people has the same idea so it was pretty busy in Nuevo Progreso.

Friday we drove to the coast and visited the Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge. This refuge has a scenic drive along the coast as well as a number of hiking trails — more birds including a rare one. Driving back we were surprised to see the super structure of a military boat at a small airport. Ed thinks they might be making use of the radar unit, and perhaps it was a nice control tower

Bad weather and errands took up most of Saturday. We decided to try a local Mexican restaurant for supper. It was quite busy as there was a large group celebrating a birthday — there was at least 30 people plus a full Mariachi band and a clown. We were lucky enough to get a table in the room with the party so we enjoyed band for the hour that they played. Unfortunately we didn’t bring a camera.

The next two days were cold and miserable — OK it was still above freezing but barely and it drizzled all day. I know it was much colder at home in Ontario, but we’ve been spoiled with some really great weather. Except for the walks that Zaph demanded, we stayed in the trailer reading and Ed worked on a slide show. Ed wanted to finish the slide show so we hung out at the trailer on Tuesday as well even though the weather was much nicer.

Sadie and me checking things out.

Look carefully --- there is a bird in this picture. The Common Pauraque is a Nightjar. It hides in dense brushy cover during the day and flys at night eating insects.

A Greenjay having a bath.

One of the plants that have started to flower.

A Little Blue Heron

See I can spin my head around.

One of the many butterflies we've seen.

The ship parts at the small airport.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Bobcat Spotting

One of the birding places we went to early in our stay is only a couple of miles from the campground as the crow flies and about 5 miles by road. We decided to revisit it late in the afternoon. We met a pair of birders from Winnipeg at the one of the ponds and they helped us to identify a few birds and one of them spotted the Bobcat across the pond.

Vermilion Flycatcher

Bobcat across the pond.

Oh.... that feels good. A little blue heron.

Great Egret.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentines Day!

February 9 to February 14

Ed is slowly getting over his cold — hopefully only a couple more days till he is feeling like his old self again. I did drag him out a couple of times over the last week. On Saturday we drove into Harligen and went to the Chip-O-Tex show. The show wasn’t very big but there were some great carvings there (unfortunately we didn’t remember a camera). One fellow carves sheep horns and moose antlers — pretty amazing stuff. Monday afternoon we went to Nuevo Progresso in Mexico and walked around the tourist area. There were lots dentists, doctors and little shops and stalls selling prescription drugs, alcohol, silver, hats, t-shirts, cowboy boots and anything else a tourist might want.

Today, we decided to drive down to Brownsville and take Zaph to Boca Chica beach. This area is a wild life refuge and state park so there is no development at all — just a big open beach. The sand was quite firm so we were able to drive down the beach to the mouth of the Rio Grande. Zaph thought running around on the sand chasing his ball was a lot of fun (Zaph says Thanks Sadie and Bill for tell us about the beach!). We also spent some time walking around “historical Brownsville” — the old downtown area that they are trying to restore. By 5pm Ed and I were both hungry and tired and decided to stop at an IHOP (Internation House of Pancakes) for supper. When Ed was paying the bill the woman asked if he was a senior (55+) and he replied yes — turned out there was a deal for seniors. If you purchased one meal and 2 beverages then second (cheaper) meal was free — not bad eh. That certainly made him feel better.

The "Valentine Bandana Gang" --- Griffen, Gracie Mae, Splash and Zaph. That's Candace keeping Gracie in line.

The Mexican side of the Rio Grande.

One of the street corners in Nuevo Progresso.

Turkey Vultures with some road kill.

That's one happy dog.

A Great Blue Heron on the beach

Royal Tern

Sand is great for skidding --- Zaph putting the breaks on hard to grab his ball.

How far is it to China?

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

This is either the bus terminal or city hall.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Quiet Time

February 6 to February 8

The last few days have been pretty quiet. Monday morning Ed woke up feeling a little off. He managed to finish fiddling with the new invertor and we went out for real Texas barbeque. I’ve heard people talking about Texas barbeque and how good it was and now I believe them. The meat was very tender and had a real nice smokey taste..... mmmmm good. Tuesday morning didn’t exist for Ed, he finally managed to wake up about 4 pm and then dragged himself out of bed around 6 pm (I think that was because the tv in the bedroom started acting up). Yup, a cold hit him hard. He felt somewhat better today and managed to get up by 10 am but plans on being real lazy so he can continue to fight the cold. I just hope that I don’t get it!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Would You Believe We Watched the Super Bowl?

Ed spent most of the day installing the new invertor so I read a book. One of the reasons we picked this particular RV park was that some friends of Colin and Margaret (they met them the summer they spent on the Rideau Canal) were staying at the park. We were able to get sites across the road from them. The friends (Bob and Carol) had become friends with the people beside Colin and Margaret (Bob and Candace). Anyway Bob and Candace invited us all over to watch the Super Bowl. Their fifth wheel is larger (longer and has a double slide in the living room) so seven us fit without any problem (Carol was away on a cruise with her mom). Colin thinks it was the first football game he has ever watched and I know it was Ed’s first Super Bowl. We all enjoyed the commercials and the company.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Where’s the Wind When You Want It?

February 3 to February 4

Friday was a very quiet day, I cleaned and did laundry while Ed hung around the trailer waiting for the UPS truck to show up with a package. Our inverter/battery charger (has something to do with electricity) had been acting up for awhile and the company we purchased it from finally decided the only solution was sending us a new one. It finally arrived around 7pm.

A kite festival was being held on South Padre Island this weekend and we decided that we would go on the Saturday. It’s about a 1 hours drive to South Padre Island but it took us longer as we were held up by a parade — somehow I always manage to find parades to follow. This parade was for a county fair and rodeo. I was surprised that there were no kites in the air when we arrived at the beach where the kite festival was being held. Turns out you can’t fly a kite if there is no wind (according to some law of physics)— the festival was experiencing a “no wind delay”. Luckily the wind picked up after a half hour and the kites were in the air again. It’s amazing what the “pros” could make the kites do — one fellow could make his kite dance, another couple did their rendition of the Phantom of the Opera using kites, someone else flew 16 stacked kites, another fellow flew 2 kites at once. It was a lot of fun — Zaph enjoyed it as well as he managed to get everyone around us to pet him.

Lots of people were at the beach for the kite festival

Kites waiting to be flown

One man two kites

A team of 3 flyer their kites together.

This kite is trying to fly to the moon!

There were kites of all descriptions --- including octopusses, cats, lizards

I wonder what he's flying

Oh, he's flying 16 stacked kites --- good thing it isn't too windy

This kite has a 200 foot tail

The world's biggest spinner.

Zaph and Frances checking out the beach.

Ed and Zaph watching the kites.

The lighthouse in Port Isabel

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Beautiful Birds

One of the over 90 birding places in the Rio Grande Valley is the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. Zaph was allowed on the trails but not on the tram so we walked through the park — Zaph prefers to walk anyway. The park has several areas set up with bird feeders, pools and bird blinds. What a nice way to watch birds --- sit on a bench and wait for the birds to come to the feeders. We saw Green Jays, Ring-necked Ducks, American Coots, Gold-fronted Woodpeckers, Altamira Orioles, Plain Chachalacas, Inca Doves and many more. Of course there was a squirrel sitting in one of the bird feeds and a Javelina wandering around underneath the feeder looking for any seeds that had fallen to the ground. At one of the blinds, a Javelina cooled off by sitting in the pool.

Gold-fronted Woodpecker

Green Jay

Altamira Oriole and Green Jays

Ringed-necked Ducks

Great Kiskadee

Northern Cardinal

Plain Chachalaca

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Settling In

January 26 to February 1

It’s hard to believe that a week has gone. We dropped by a local information center and pick up a number of pamphlets. One of the them is a map with over 90 places to view birds. Some of the places are a distance away but at least half of them are easily within our reach We’ve been to three of the spots and plan on visiting many more. Hopefully that will mean lots of bird pictures. The weather has been hot and humid, a real change from the dry Arizona weather.

This large bird is believed to be the common "yellow-bellied crop duster" often seen flying over fields

Zaph showing off his Christmas ball to one of the neighbours.

Common Moorhen

Turtles enjoying the sun.

Neotropic Cormorant

American White Pelican

Bottoms Up.

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks (we think)

Little Blue Heron

Great Egret

Zaph and two new friends; Bear is looking at the camera, Patches is by me.

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