Brrr-ski.

Last night a cold front settled down in central Texas. The high yesterday was 92 degrees. The temps today have dropped nearly 50 degrees. A rude awakening.

All but one of my hummingbirds have moved on. This one has spent the day under the eaves out of the rain, sheltered from the north wind, and with its personal supply of nectar. I named her Ellie. I hope she makes it.

Simple pleasures.

This is a picture of the Pride of Barbados (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) shrub in our yard, finally in bloom!

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I have nurtured this for several years.  Though the brutally cold temperature dips appeared to kill it to the ground every winter, it popped up green shoots each spring.  But, this is the first year it has flowered for me.   While we were out of town for the month of August, I hoped I could keep it and some of our other flowering plants alive with an automated sprinkler.   Upon our return, I was so pleased to see that not only did they all survive, but this plant had 2 flower heads ready to bloom.   A happy gardener, here.  🙂

FWIW, I would recommend the low-tech sprinkler controller I picked up at Home Depot, since our underground sprinkler system is out of commission.   But I’m also overjoyed by the unending rain we’ve had since we returned at the end of August.  I’ll happily take every drop.

 

Little helper.

We spent the morning working on the flower beds along the front of the house. This little guy hung around, feasting on bugs in the dirt – flirting less than a foot away most of the time – an adorable Eastern Phoebe.

Table delivery.

Tom and Doray hired Monte to build a dining room table for their new home.   We delivered it yesterday, and since it’s about an hour away, we stayed overnight to play a bit, too.

The table is beautiful, a live-edge walnut table.

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After setting it up, we made stops at Real Ale Brewery and Cypress Creek Reserve Rum Distillery for some celebratory libations.

So many good brews to choose from.

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Pretty good rum at Cypress Creek Reserve Rum.  Doray and I enjoyed their White Texan, while Monte sipped on a pour of their aged rum.

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Lazy, hazy weekend.

It’s hard to believe that 2018 is half-lived already, this first day of July.

The Saharan dust has arrived, making the Hill Country very hazy, this is one view from FM 620 looking out over Steiner Ranch.

And it is HOT! Lake Travis water temp is 83 degrees F, and the air temp is 20 degrees hotter. The only way to beat the heat is to get out on and in the water.

We enjoyed a fun weekend on the lake. Saturday, we floated and visited with Sue, Marty, Kurt, Gordon, and Margaret, and slept on the boat. This morning we gathered below to watch Spain’s loss to Russia in the knock-out round of the World Cup, and then went for a sail in nice winds.

We’re back home and worn out. I’m looking forward to more Fourth of July lake fun next week.

Birding outing.

Doray and I visited Warbler Woods and Crescent Bend Nature Park today.  We saw many more species than I was able to capture on camera, but here are my only keepers.  I love the variety of migrant birds we get to see here.

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Common Yellowthroat female
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Painted Bunting male
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White-eyed Vireo
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Bronzed Cowbird

 

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Black & White Warbler
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Louisiana Waterthrush
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Blackburnian Warbler female
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Inca Doves

Messing about.

We took a boatload of people out on the lake yesterday. We enjoyed a nice long sail down the lake and back, then anchored for a couple hours. We even had a few floaters, though I’m waiting a couple more weeks for the lake to warm up a tad. The sun was out, wind was up. Another great day on the lake!

Lake fatigue.

We had a great weekend on the lake! We are now back home and I am wiped out. I think it’s the heat, the sun, the fun that takes it out of me. This was the first raft-up of the year. I clearly need to get my party muscles in shape.

There was little to no wind today. We motored over to Cow Creek to give Michael and Amber a glimpse at one of our favorite spots on the lake.

Then we turned back downriver towards our marina. We passed the racers. It was going to be a very long day for them with these light winds.

Home maker.

A pair of red-bellied woodpeckers have consistently made appearances at my feeders for at least two years.   The male has chosen a tree in the front yard to make a hollow for their nest.   I will be keeping an eye on them!

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Back on the water.

There were good winds today, pretty steady at 20 knots, so we headed to the lake. We washed a thick layer of pollen off the boat and then we were good to go. We sailed for a couple hours and then picked up Michael and Amber for more sailing and then enjoyed sunset back in the slip.

A good day…

Birding trip extraordinaire.

I finished our tax return today, with 2 days to spare!

Now I’m finally getting the opportunity to look back through the notebook that I took with me on a birding trip last weekend.   I enjoyed two wonderful days on High Island on the Texas Gulf coast.   A cold front was predicted to sweep through southeast Texas last Saturday morning, and I got up early so that I could get to the coast about the same time the Norther did.   The hope was that the cold air and strong northerlies would persuade the wave of birds migrating north from Central and South America to land in the woods on High Island for cover, rest, and stay there for a day or so.   I left Austin at 3:30AM, drove through the advancing cold front and made it to Boy Scout Woods bird sanctuary right after sunrise.

It was drizzly, not pouring rain, but because of that, I didn’t take my camera out all day on Saturday.  But WOW was I treated to a diverse collection of birds.   It turns out that the front stalled a bit and took its time getting to the coast.  But it eventually did.  And though it wasn’t a fallout of colossal proportions, the birds were happy to stop for a break and birding was fantastic, giving me the opportunity to see nearly 100 different species, many of them lifers for me.

We southeastern and central Texas residents are incredibly fortunate to live right on the superhighway that is the twice-a-year-traveled pan-American bird migration path.  So, let me share with you a bit of my experience.  High Island is a small coastal island on the Gulf of Mexico, southeast of Houston; and it is unique in that it sits on a salt dome foundation, rising over 30′ above sea level, providing a habitat in which shrubs and forests thrive where they are not usually encountered until well inland.   The beach along Bolivar Peninsular and the trees in the sanctuaries on High Island are often the first thing migrating birds see after completing their 600 mile (and 15-24 hour) non-stop flight across the Gulf of Mexico.

My trip to High Island was quickly-planned, but I had an amazing experience.  First of all, High Island is home to a number of lovely birding sanctuaries/locations that are beautifully owned and managed by the Houston Audubon Society and/or the Texas Ornithological Society.   On my trip I visited Boy Scout Woods, Bolivar Flats, Smith Oaks woods & rookery, and Hooks Woods.  And since I was in the neighborhood, I spent time at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge on my northwest trek back to Austin.

The Houston Audubon Society charges admission of $8/daily visit to their sanctuaries.  Or you can buy a (lovely) patch for $30 which is good for admission to all their High Island sanctuaries for the entire year.   I opted for the patch.  Because I WILL be back.

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A Prairie Warbler graces the 2018 High Island patch from Houston Audubon Society.

Around lunchtime on Saturday I got mighty hungry.  So you can imagine how pleased I was to see a sign outside the Boy Scout Woods entrance advertising the local St. Matthews United Methodist church BBQ lunch.  Every Saturday during Spring migration.  $12 a plate.  Delicious.  Also, I simply must encourage you to make sure you take advantage of the FREE, 3-times a day each Saturday during Spring Migration guided walks hosted by the fantastic group Tropical Birding.  Tropical Birding have been partners of Houston Audubon Society for many years.   Three expert guides walked us around the island with sharp eyes, ears, and spotting scopes, making it easy to see the birds that are usually so invisible.  I spent at least 8 hours with these guys and enjoyed every minute of it.

I didn’t have a plan to stay on the coast overnight, but I knew I would.  It was very easy to find an inexpensive place to stay in Winnie, Texas, just 20 miles north of High Island, right off I-10.

I did eventually get my camera out on Sunday, which was quite chilly, but at least it wasn’t raining.  I may post a picture or two from that set of photos in the future.  But, for now, if you are even mildly interested in birding, you must get down there soon!

Spring in the Hill Country.

I love this time of year in Austin.  The hills look like broccoli.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And the golden-cheeked warbler returns for nesting season.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I wish it lasted longer, but I’ll enjoy it while I can.