All in a day’s work.

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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.

Photography

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.

Birding

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.

Guitar

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.

Exercise

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.

After 6 years, I am still wearing my fitbit One tracker every day.  I need to upgrade to a watch soon.  Either way, I use their app daily to track my activity and food.   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.

I’ve gone overboard subscribing to and listening to podcasts, true crime is my addiction.  I have new content to listen to each day.  I use the Stitcher app to listen.   Link here.

Foreign Language Learning

I still use the free app Duolingo to practice my Spanish every day or so.  Link here.

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.

Videochat

Ok, hands down, I’ve adopted Zoom for video chat.  The free version allows unlimited video meetings with a 40-minute time limit on each, which works for me.   Link here.

Online multiplayer games

We have spent many hours playing online games with friends and family.  I think that trickstercards.com and boardgamearena.com are both well done for this.  We combine them with a zoom video chat.

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.

 

 

 

 

Pretty birds.

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.

Chestnut-sided warbler:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Golden-winged warbler:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mom and Dad Great Egret at the nest with their babies:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Yellow-billed cuckoo:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Eastern kingbird:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Neotropic cormorant:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Bikes and birds.

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!

Migrants.

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…

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Painted bunting and common yellowthroat…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Black-necked stilt, standing daringly close to an alligator…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

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!