Close encounter.

Apologies for all the bird pictures of late.   But I’ve had a lot of birding moments since the new year began, so they dominate my thoughts.

This one was sweet.  I visited Pedernales Falls State Park today, which has a wonderful pair of bird blinds.  While I was inside one of the bird blinds, a little ruby-crowned kinglet hit the roof and fell inside the bird blind.  He was stunned, and stuck in a narrow opening in the wall.   I picked him up and set him on the floor.  He eventually got his wits about him again and flew off.

It is rare that I can even lay eyes on these guys long enough to identify them.  So I enjoyed getting an up close look at this little one.  I had my telephoto lens on my Olympus, so I had to take this macro shot with my iphone.  So tiny!

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Friends and flan.

A friend of mine from high school, Pilar, was in town for business this week. She stayed over an extra night and we got to have dinner together and catch each other up on several decades of our lives.

I loved it. Reconnecting with an old friend was a great way to start off the new year.

I also loved the flan that Monte made for dessert. Mmmmmmm delicious!

First lifer of 2018.

I went for a hike today around our neighborhood greenbelt and pond.  I came across this white-throated sparrow, who posed just long enough for me to raise the camera, focus and press the shutter.   It’s a rare thing for me to have the sun at my back when I try to get an unexpected shot off.

It’s a pretty bird, with an even prettier song.

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By the way, “lifer” just means it is a first in my lifetime sighting of the species.

My modest year.

Birder’s track the number of bird species seen in their lifetime (a life list), and also keep track of those seen in a given year.  Sometimes, a birder sees an incredibly large number of species in a year, which is lauded as a “big year.”  This past year, 2017, was my first year of really paying attention to birds.  I have sought them out, listened to them, tried to lay eyes on them, and have learned much.  And…I am happy to tally 167 species that I have seen in 2017.  Not a big year, really, but a fantastic one in my book.  I can recall where I saw each of these birds this year; some, but not all, captured on film.  I look forward to more birding in 2018.

Here is a pic of a some of my common backyard birds on the fountain today.  Temperatures have been in the 20s for a couple of days.  Since the pump keeps the water moving, it is the only unfrozen source of water in the yard.  I see two female house finches, three male lesser goldfinches, and a female northern cardinal.

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And, there they go.  You have to be quick to capture the birdies.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We got game.

Last night we enjoyed a fun New Year’s Eve celebration at our house, clocking in at 3AM by the time we went to bed.   Temperatures have dipped into the 20s, for the next few days.   We even got some snow last night, so the merrymaking  was pretty much restricted to indoors.    Nonetheless, a good time was had by all.

The day after New Year’s Eve has come to mean spending the afternoon at Ann & Dave’s house, playing games with friends and friends-of-friends.  It is a very-low-key, come-as-you-are, and bring-your-leftovers-and-libations kind of affair.  Some people creep in, looking a little worse for wear after a fun night of celebrating.  Other regulars are missing in action.  But, eventually, everyone perks up, ends up laughing, telling stories, and making plans for the new year that has just begun.

One of the New Year’s Day games that has become a regular is a home-made version of Jeopardy.  The mistress-of-ceremonies for the last several years has been Doray.  This year she, again, painstakingly prepared the categories, questions and answers.   Very fun!

Some Christmas Eve eve lights.

After dinner last night we cruised by some Austin neighborhoods that light it up during the holidays…37th street, Clarksville, and a few in between.

Enjoy a bit of Austin weirdness:

An homage to a scene from the movie Stranger Things:

Now, THIS is weird:

R2D2 lights:

Sock-monkey nativity scene:

Just a mess-o-lights:

Not weird:

Merry Christmas!

An open letter to Google.

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December 21, 2017 Dear Google, I think it would be amazing if you sent your google maps camera cars around at night at Christmas time to take pictures of homes decorated with lights and lawn displays, and show THAT on Street View. Sincerely, – sheila365.com P.S. Merry Christmas!

Who’s with me?!?! 🙂

Wow.

Ok, now I have seen everything. YETI-brand 5-gallon buckets. $40 a piece! 😮 If you want a lid, that’s $20 more dollars. Wow.

After the sales clerk told me how much they were, he smiled and added, “Yeah, I know, you may as well just get one at Home Depot.”

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.