Nightfall.

Rachel and her friend Becky are visiting this weekend. We didn’t think we could keep up with a couple of vivacious 30-something’s in downtown Austin on a Friday night, so I dropped them downtown tonight for an evening of fun. I was treated to a view of tonight’s lovely sunset on the way home.

Fun in the sun.

We enjoyed floating and fishing with Lori and Mike and four of his grandkids today on Nirvana, anchored in our favorite cove on Lake Travis. It was a fun time. The kids were great, and they caught 4 fish between them!

We checked out Brick Oven’s Jazz night for dinner. The patio was full, though, so we had to sit inside.

Another good day!

Nice.

It was a good day on the lake. No wind. But lots of sun, it almost reached 100 degrees. Lake water temps are perfect right now, 83 degrees. We floated all day to beat the heat. Air conditioning at the slip sure helps, too.

First raft-up.

Camelot and Nirvana rafted up last night after going for a nice long sail.  It was the first raft-up of 2019, and the first one in quite a long time before that.  It’s nice to be at anchor, and we were tucked way up in a creek where the only wakes being thrown at us came from kayaks.  Perfect.

The lake is rising and is above full, due to recent rains.  We’ll see how high it goes in the next week or so.

I kayaked up to the end of the creek that we anchored in.  Lake sailing in the Texas Hill Country doesn’t suck.

A mallard duck came out to greet me.

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Pretty view of a lovely anchorage.IMG_0321

My Hill Country happy places.

We took a drive out through the Hill Country this week; out Highway 290 towards Fredericksburg.   It was a beautiful day.  We left early to beat the morning rush hour and stopped at Pedernales Falls State Park to visit their bird blinds.  We stayed for less than an hour, but saw canyon wrens, ladderback woodpeckers, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, lincoln and field sparrows, ruby-crowned kinglets, black-crested titmice, cardinals, spotted towhees, and more.

Field sparrow…

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Lincoln sparrow…

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Along the way we stopped at the Pedernales River several times and saw wild turkeys, buffalo and longhorn cattle.

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Then we stopped at Wildseed Farms to buy fresh flower seed to plant after the last freeze.

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After lunch in Fredericksburg, we headed back east, making stops at the tasting rooms of Grape Creek Winery, and Becker Vineyards.

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Our last stop, Hye Rum, was a new one for us, having opened only a few years ago.  Monte especially enjoyed their barrel-aged dark rum.  Check them out.

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We made it back home before the afternoon rush hour.

All good!

 

Sunny Sunday sail.

On Sunday, we went to the lake to sail in the weekly regatta – the “beercan” race.  We crewed for Kurt & Kevin on Camelot, and we came in first!  It was a beautiful day on Lake Travis.

A view forward…

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and a view aft…IMG_7157

 

Nature’s stained glass.

I’ve been home for two weeks, catching up on the homefront.   Noreen and David visited for a week, and we got out for a sail on Lake Travis with them.  I’m enjoying watching the last few weeks of Winter happen in the Hill Country.  This is the tail end of last night’s sunset, through the trees in my back yard.

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Counting birds.

I participated in my 3rd Christmas Bird Count today.  Our small group of four birders hiked for over 6 hours and logged 45 species.  Our counts will be rolled up with the other teams’ results.

A foggy morning over the Pedernales River….

turned into a beautiful day above the Pedernales River.

What a lovely day!

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.

Easter day trip.

With no commitments until Easter dinner with Julie later in the day, we headed out to visit Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.   It is a beautiful place to see in the spring, full of gardens teeming with wildflowers, and several miles of lovely trails to explore.

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I don’t think the wildflowers have peaked yet in south Austin, based on what we saw here, so there’s still time to get out there and see them!

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The view from the top of the cistern tower, overlooking the surrounding meadow trails.

There is a great-horned owl family roosting in a wall ledge just inside the entrance.  There are two owlets, but they are not sticking their heads up in this shot.

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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.

CBC 2018.

Yesterday, I participated in the 118th annual Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count (CBC) for an area around the Pedernales River out in the Texas Hill Country.   This was my second time doing it.   The first time, last year, was my first real birding experience and I enjoyed it immensely.   In the year since, I must admit that I have officially caught the birding bug and have many hiked many miles and logged hundreds of hours seeking out and identifying birds.

So, yesterday,  I was a much better birder.  And because of that, I enjoyed it more, and saw some new (for me) birds – aka “lifers.”   Thankfully, while the collective consensus weather forecast was for downpours all day long, it only rained a bit in the morning, and we were left with just fog and humidity for the rest of the day.  We hiked through woods, canyons, river and creek-side trails from about 8AM to 4PM.   Our group logged 40-50 species, most of which I was able to spot in my binoculars.

Yes, the birding was nice, but it is just good for my soul to get out and experience places like this…

A damp and foggy overlook above the Pedernales River:

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A sparrow-laden native prairie on an uplands section:

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There is still time to join in on a CBC in your area – going on through January 5th.  Check out the Audubon website to look for sign ups in your area.

Hiking Bull Creek.

Last weekend, I went for a 3-hour group hike with one of the biologists that does research for the City-of-Austin-managed Balcones Canyonlands Preserve.  It was really interesting.   We hiked a short loop along the preserve at Bull Creek.  Along the way, I learned much about the native Ashe junipers throughout the hill country that I had previously come to detest, due to my annual cedar fever allergy symptoms.   But I came away with a new appreciation for the tree and the role it plays in the ecosystem of the Balcones Canyonlands.   I also learned about the other native grasses and shrubs that make up the understory of the woodland.  And about the endangered golden-cheeked warbler that will soon make its annual trek from Central America in early March to nest in the woodlands of the preserve until returning south in July.   I’m looking forward to more hikes out there.  Stay tuned.

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Bull Creek  is flowing nicely since the drought has broken.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And, I caught a tiger swallowtail butterfly taking a break along the creek.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Very nice!