‘Tis the season of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count! I met up with Doray and a team of birders at Reimer Ranch yesterday. We hiked all day and saw so many birds. The first half of the day was cold, but by 4:30pm I had shed 3 layers. The former ranch, now a park, overlooks the Pedernales River. It’s a beautiful place to spend the day.
I went birding at Hornsby Bend Bird Observatory in southeast Austin yesterday with Doray. We walked around for over 5 hours and saw more than 30 species of birds. It was nice to be out and about. I didn’t get many photos, though. Most of the water birds fly away when you get close. And the fog was persistent most of the morning. About the only cooperative birds were this family of mom, dad, and nine baby Black Bellied Whistling Ducks – making for a classic “ducks in a row” shot. 🙂
It was a lovely day to take the family out for a swim.
After a hard afternoon of yard work on Friday, Monte and I were sitting on the back patio enjoying a brewski. Keeto was out there with us in his cage (sans brewski). I caught a flash of blue at the bird feeder. It was a budgie! And a blue one at that.
It appears to be a young male. I didn’t see a band, and the wings don’t appear to be clipped, so I don’t know if it is wild or escaped. He didn’t stay long, but I saw him again Friday, several times on Saturday, and again this morning. I have named him Niño. 🙂 I will put a cage out to see if he wants to take shelter.
What a sweet treat!
I enjoyed my Saturday to the fullest. I got up early to go birding for a few hours at one of my favorite spots – Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park. I watched the sun rise above the prairie.
I headed down the path to the river, as the mist lifted. Everything was very dewy.
It was nice to be out looking for the birdies.
After returning home, I cleaned up and we headed to the lake. Monte and I enjoyed a long sail in mild-ish winds. As soon as we got into the slip the winds really picked up (of course). So, when Kurt and Kevin stopped by a little bit later, we all went back out, in more sporting wind. It was another great sail, though with 4 people in the cockpit, we wore masks.
We were tied back up in the slip in time to watch the sun set on a very nice day.
During this prolonged shelter-in-place, when people ask me “what did you do today?” I usually go blank. But I have been busy! Aside from the household chores, cooking, and yard work, I have found contentment in these online diversions, which fill my day.
Nikon is offering their curriculum of 10 online photography classes to be streamed for free until the end of April. How cool is that? Link here.
High Island on the Texas Gulf Coast is one of my very favorite birding destinations during migration in April. But not only is travel not in line with the current stay-at-home order, but the sanctuaries are also closed. Thankfully, Houston Audubon, who owns and runs the High Island sanctuaries, is live streaming video footage from their Facebook page at 8AM and 3:30PM every Thursday through Monday. Their Facebook link here.
Fender is offering a 90-day free trial of their online guitar, bass, and ukelele lessons. I’m a poorly self-taught guitar player of nearly 30 years and I’m learning new things by following their lesson progression, and more importantly, practicing again. Link here.
Lori recommended some beginner yoga sessions on YouTube, from “Yoga with Adriene.” I’m a yoga-newbie and am enjoying them very much. Link here.
I use an app called “30Days” to help me to do higher and higher reps of traditional strength exercises like plank, situps, pushups, etc. You pick the exercises, set your starting point, and for 30 days the app will gradually increase the reps, giving you days-off every few days. I’ve used their app for years, on and off. I’m 27 days into my latest 30-day stint and am back up to planking for 3 minutes. 🙂 The app isn’t fancy, there are prettier ones out there, but it’s free and it works for me when I use it. Link here.
Amy recommended an app she used to train herself from couch-surfer to running a 5K over the course of 8 weeks. They also have a 10K version which takes you from couch to 10K in 14 weeks, which is the one I’m using. I’m on week 4 and am still enjoying it. They are both free to try for 7 days, and then you have to pay to upgrade to unlimited access. The provider, Fitness22, actually has an entire collection of fitness apps. Link here.
Things to listen to
Amazon Music, one of the perks of Prime membership, has a great selection of music; 2 million songs from their 50 million song library are free to listen to for Prime members. You can search by song, album, artist, or listen to existing playlists and curated stations for something that floats your boat. Keeto enjoys George Winston. Link here.
Amazon Music has a channel on twitch.tv where they are hosting live-streamed webcasts. Look for #togetherathome hashtag. I listened to Hayes Carll play live for an hour on his patio last night. The audio was very well done. Link here.
Foreign Language Learning
Things to watch
The British National Theatre is streaming previously recorded theater performances every Thursday in April, on their YouTube channel. We watched the first one, a comedy called One Man, Two Guvnors, last week and really enjoyed it. Link here.
The Metropolitan Opera is streaming videos of previously recorded opera performances, a new one every day. Link here.
Acorn.tv is offering a 30-day free trial of their British TV shows’ episodes (which we enjoy very much) for new subscribers, instead of their normal 7-day free trial. Use the code FREE30 when signing up. Link here.
Online multiplayer games
Food & Drink
Virtual wine tasting from Becker Vineyards. What’s a virtual wine tasting? Well, Becker is selling different 3 pack bottles of different varietals each week, which you can order to be shipped to your home. And then a few days later, you tune into their Facebook Live sessions to participate in a group tasting of each bottle with experts from the vineyard. I just bought the 3rd tasting pack. It should be good! Link here.
I posted previously about my ongoing on-line grocery shopping adventures for delivery and/or curbside pickup. I’ve been pretty good at keeping an order scheduled a week to 10 days ahead of time, to keep fresh food in the house. Let me say, again, HEB is awesome! Link to my previous post here.
I ventured out to get my first real birding of the year in. Oh, I’m always looking for birds, but “real birding” means that I bring my binoculars and my camera. The Golden-cheeked warbler nests exclusively in Central Texas, and there are preserves that are closed to the general public during their breeding season of Feb-July, during which they are only accessible to those with permits. Welllllll. I have had a permit for several years and took advantage of it today to get away from people and find me some birdies.
I was treated to my first of season golden-cheeked warbler:
A very vocal, but elusive white-eyed vireo. I caught him here mid-song:
And one of many blue-grey gnatcatchers. They are so tiny, vocal, and always moving! This one stopped long enough for me to get a blurry picture:
Nice. Very nice. 🙂
This year sped by, but it was jam-packed with short adventures, wonderful visits with friends and family, lots of good food & wine, and a few projects squeezed in.
A quick breakdown:
- States traveled to/within: Texas, Florida, Washington, Colorado, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia
- Countries traveled to/within: US, Bahamas
- Siblings visited: Noreen & David, Brian, Colleen, Fran & Art, Susanne, Gene & Jo
- Nieces & nephews visited: Rachel, Julie, Neil & Miranda, Jared, Rebecca, Aaron, Jacob, Pat & Nga, Dan & Erin, Patricia & Florian, Michelle, Amy Lee & Chris
- Great nieces & nephews visited: Diego, Tionna & Alex, Will, Nick, Grace, Aly, Mae, Austin, Copeland, Anna Sutton
- Great-great nephew visited: X’ander
- Births celebrated: great-great-niece Aubrielle
- Iron-men cheered on: Jamie
- Weddings celebrated: Neil & Miranda, Dan & Erin
- Friend & family visits to Austin: Noreen & David, Susanne, Rob & Owen, Asha, Fran & Aaron, Rachel & Becky, Irene & Liz & Keith, and Noreen (one more time) 🙂
I’ve picked one photo from so many enjoyable moments of each month below:
January: Sailing from Venice, FL through the Florida Keys, to Biscayne Bay; on a mooring ball at Garrison Bight Mooring Field off of Key West. This was a magnificent trip. The Keys are amazing. We had enough time to really enjoy Key West and see the sights and maybe have one too many cocktails. We hopped up the outside of the Keys, anchoring a few nights. If I did this again I’d spend many more days in the Keys. We ended anchored outside of No Name Harbor near Miami for two weeks, which sounds like a long time but I thought it was a really nice place to be stuck, waiting for a weather window to go east to the Bahamas.
February: Sailing from Florida to Great Bahama Island and through the Abacos; dolphins in the Great Bahama Banks. We enjoyed a really tame crossing to the West End from Miami, then spent several days making way through the bank and through the Abacos to get to Marsh Harbour. It was a real treat to be back there for a while. Sadly, Hurricane Dorian devastated the Abacos this hurricane season, and they will rebuilding for the foreseeable future.
March: Springtime in the Hill Country means wildflowers. I simply LOVE spring in the Hill Country. Monte has cultivated an amazing bluebonnet patch at the chez. I can’t wait to enjoy next year’s bloom, only 3 short months away.
April: Spring migration means birding trips; a visit to the bird blind at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. I spent much less time birding this year than I would have liked. But I did make several trips to the coast at the peak of migration, and will definitely do it again this coming year.
May: A visit to the Pacific Northwest; a view from Mount Rainier National Park. I have always loved Mount Rainier. We picked a nice, though not an absolutely perfect day, to go up to the mountain. The views on the way up and down are almost as stunning as the views from Paradise Visitor’s Center. I also made it back to the Bahamas for a week in May, but this trip to Washington was the highlight.
June: Roadtrip to Colorado and back; one stop was Cadillac Ranch outside Amarillo. We had fun on our trip to Estes Park. And on the way home.
July: A two week trip up the ICW from Charleston, SC to Portsmouth, NC; the full moon rising just as we anchored near the Neuse River in North Carolina. It was an amazing experience to take this trip up the Intracoastal Waterway. I learned much, saw many birds, enjoyed the changing scenery along the trip, and never tired of the company. If you ever have a chance to do something similar, just say Yes.
August: Summer heats up in Austin, lots of fun times on the lake, including enjoying Cupholder back in the water. We enjoyed having both Nirvana and Cupholder on the lake this summer. We love having boat guests for the day and / or night. We enjoy our boat friends immensely. And we really need to spend more time out on the lake next year.
September: One of several visits with out-of-towners to Barton Springs Pool to cool off. I have my own custom tour of Austin for friends that are visiting. Sometimes we walk around doing it. Sometimes we do an express version by car. But I love sharing my town with my friends and family when they come for a visit. If the temps are anywhere near 100 degrees F, then we must visit Barton Springs Pool.
October: Let the boat canvas and sail projects commence! I finally organized my various and sundry craft/project supplies in my new, amazing closet workspace. Looking forward to knocking another couple dozen projects of my to-do list next year.
November: Enjoying the Christmas decorations going up at Donn’s Depot. You can walk in the door a Grinch, but as soon as you enter Donn’s Depot after Thanksgiving, you can’t help but feel the Christmas Spirit warm your heart.
December: A trip south along the coast from Charleston, SC (Rainbow Row, below) to Brunswick, GA, via Beaufort, SC and Savannah, SC. Our last trip of the year took me to a place I used to live MANY moons ago, and a few places I’ve never been. I would like to make a followup visit to these parts again.
So many great moments! I’m looking forward to the ones 2020 brings.
Noreen is here for a visit. She brought me another beautiful stained glass panel that she made. I love it! She’s so talented at making them. Lucky me!
Day 12 – 5 bridges. 37 miles. So close, but yet so far. Lori and I got up this morning at 5AM and were off the dock by sunrise.
We knew it would be a challenge today: maintaining a good average speed, the number of bridges, one lock, and some of them only open on the hour. But as of 2pm, we were ahead of schedule! We had worked so hard today to eek every tenth of a knot of speed from the sails. Then, just 12 miles from our destination of MM 0, we learned over VHF from a benevolent bridge tender that the last bridge up ahead that we needed to pass through today, at MM2.5, was stuck in the down position since yesterday. ETA for opening: 0700 Monday morning. Ack! Today is Saturday.
Luckily we were right next to one of only two dockage options for the night, so we hailed them on the radio and asked if they had room, and they did.
So, here we sit, VERY close to ground zero, but having to wait it out. We have electricity, food, and wine, so all is good.
But MAN we were so close!!!
On a positive note, I saw lots of flying things! 🙂
A bald eagle on watch at dawn…
And a bi-plane…
The next post in our ICW journey: https://sheila365.com/2019/07/21/virginia/
(Note: If you’d like to read the entire 2-week adventure from the beginning, THIS LINK will take you to the first post in the series.)
Day 2 – 2 bridges. 47 miles. We had storms all around us today but were only hit by a few sprinkles. Still, we moved along at about 6 mph, looking at tide tables, currents and the waterway guide to time arrivals along the way. We just keep following the magenta line on the charts.
We hit some of our shallowest water today, only about 6 feet deep, which is a little close for our 5-foot deep keel.
The ICW scenery changed for us today from a narrow ditch surrounded by low, grassy marshes, to a very wide and winding river surrounded by tall moss-covered cypresses and pines.
We are staying the night at Osprey Marina, which is fitting because we saw about a hundred ospreys today!
The next post on our ICW journey: https://sheila365.com/2019/07/11/mm315/
(Note: If you’d like to read the entire 2-week adventure from the beginning, THIS LINK will take you to the first post in the series.)
Commons Ford Park is one of my happy places. I haven’t been out here in a while, though. The prairie is breaking out in color and teeming with songbirds.
A painted bunting singing atop a mesquite shrub:
One scissor-tailed flycatcher posing in the foreground, and another flying away in the background:
A dickcissel pausing his constant singing to give me the once over:
Memories of most birds that I identify through binoculars reside only in my mind’s eye. Though, occasionally, I am able to capture a clear photo. These are a few of the 100+ species logged on my trip to High Island and Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge over the weekend.
Mom and Dad Great Egret at the nest with their babies:
This is the weekend of the MS-150 bike ride from Houston to Austin. I served as sherpa again with Doray and drove Laura and her friend Patty to Houston on Friday night.
This morning we helped her get to the start and then we drove east, instead of west, so we could do some birding on the coast.
We had a great day, logging over 80 species, and turned in at the hotel late and a tad tired. Tomorrow is another day!
Over the weekend I made a trip to the coast. The Spring migration is underway, and I wanted to see some colorful birds arriving after their Gulf crossing. I thought the cold front headed for the coast might make for favorable chances of a fallout. As it turned out, the front passed north of where I was, so weather conditions were not exceptional. I did end up seeing lots of birds – almost 70 species. But, I had to work at it.
Scarlet tanager eating a juicy mulberry…
Painted bunting and common yellowthroat…
Black-necked stilt, standing daringly close to an alligator…