Friday, May 17, 2019

Water, Water, Water, Fixing Water Damage in our Slide in Camper

To paraphrase an old saying, is that man plans, and God laughs. We had plans to go to Yellowstone, search for bears, and move our boat from Flaming Gorge to Star Valley. After settling in here, our fifth wheel was fine, but when we opened the door of our slide in camper we found substantial water damage. The heavy snows had partially collapsed the roof, broke open the roof vent, and warped the floor and table surface.
So, after many google searches, we decided to make the repairs ourselves. That’s’ why we have been so silent with no new blog posts for the last nine days. Each day I have been inside the camper wielding a trust scraper as I remove the soaked ceiling material, both foam and thin wood paneling.
Because of the mold I purchased a safety mask. Wearing it makes me sound like a deep-sea diver, but it has worked in keeping me safe and I was going to buy one anyway for use in our lapidary. Removing the inside of the roof showed old leaks that we didn’t know existed.
Yesterday we patched the many roof holes, installed a new roof vent cover, and today we have more demolishing quality time before the rebuild starts. It started raining last night and the forecast is for rain, (snow), for the next fifteen days. Today, I hope to finish the odds and ends of tear down and then it’s the rebuild!
In the grand scheme of life, nothing serious just fixing stuff.
Clear skies

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

The snow stopped in Dubois and the sky cleared. Still we waited a bit for the sun to melt the ice on the road before we headed up Togetee Pass. The pass is over 9500 above sea level and so we knew we would run into ice covered roads. It had been a while since I had driven them, but we took it slow and we only had to use four-wheel drive for a few spots.
Watching, as we traveled over the pass, we did not see a single animal track. It wasn’t really any surprise as the snow was deep and cornices stood prominent on many ridges. There wasn’t anything for the animals to eat. They all had to be down in the valleys.
We saw our first elk just before we entered Grand Teton National Park. They were in a small herd of about twenty animals and we didn’t stop as we were really hoping to see grizzly bears. Arriving in the park we turned north at Moran Junction and continued past some of our favorite places.
The Oxbow on the Snake River, had a few American White Pelicans, but no elk were in the nearby meadows. Further up we passed Willow flats, another great bear spot, but the elk hadn’t yet reached there. The cow elk use the flats to have their calves and so when they are there, so are the grizzlies, as the calves are one of their main protein sources. While there were no elk at Pilgrim Creek there were a few cars parked and waiting for the appearance of bear 399 and her cubs.
No one had seen her yet today and after waiting a little bit we decided to head to our summer base camp, (home), at Star Valley Rv Resort. We saw a few buffalo grazing across from the Cunningham Homestead, but we finally spotted large herds of elk at Antelope Flats.
We have been coming to the park for over thirty years and in all that time had never seen the elk migration. In the fall and spring many of the elk come out of Yellowstone and head south to their winter range, which is the refuge just outside of Jackson, (They used to winter in Jackson before the town was built).
This year we stopped as we saw elk everywhere, and some of the elk herds were moving across Antelope Flats, One was a bull elk that had not lost his antlers.
During the migration the elk move about twelve miles a day, meaning it takes them about ten days to reach Yellowstone, ( they don’t travel in a straight line but follow the route taught to them by their mothers.
Many other tourists were at the same spot we were, but they were taking pictures of the Teton’s, not realizing that they were missing part of the third largest migration of ungulates in the world, (the largest is the African migration on the Serengeti, and the second largest is the caribou migration in Alaska).
We were tired and finally left the National Park to drive the fifty miles to Star Valley RV Park. Arriving we were happy to see that our Bighorn Fifth Wheel had survived the historic snow fall. We set up, hooked up the water, and sewer lines, slid the slides and turned on the furnace. Home at last!  Clear skies

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Tulips and Pansies, A Nice Respite in Newton, Kansas

We left Grand Isle and drove for three straight days finally reaching our friends house, in Newton Kansas.
As we are not pulling our fifth wheel we stayed in motels and ate out so it was so nice of Bob and Nancy to invite us to stay with them, (and to enjoy thier home cooked meals)!
They suggested we might like to visit the arboretum in Wichita as the tulips were still blooming and so we loaded up and Bob drove us there.
The arboretum is a beautiful place of flowers and trees and you might remember our post from last fall.

Then the flower beds were full of fall flowers and also full of migrating monarch butterflies. The only butterfly we saw this time was a swallowtail feeding on a white hibiscus.
The tulips were past their a little tattered, but still showed their gorgeous colors and the pansies were  perfect.
It was so nice to see the colors and to walk down fragrant paths, it was just what we needed.
With any further ado here are more of the blooms we enjoyed, (we took over two hundred and fifty images)

Thank you Bob and Nancy!

Clear skies

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Renita and I would like to wish you all a Blessed Easter! Instead of Easter Eggs we would like to share with you some of the Easter birds we saw yesterday!
Baltimore Oriole
Two Male Painted Buntings
Indigo Buntings
Rose Breasted Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak
Summer Tanager
Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
Black-Throated Green Warbler

As always, Love and Clear skies

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Birding on Grand Isle, Louisiana 2019

Last year we attended the annual Grand Isle Birding Festival and it had been timed just right. The trees were full of the migrating birds. A fall out had just occurred and they were so plentiful that the fruit trees looked like a Christmas tree with the colorful birds. They were all feeding voraciously after surviving their long flight across the Gulf of Mexico.
This year the winds were steady and strong, from the south. It was good news for the birds as they could ride a tail wind across the gulf, rest a bit and then ride the strong south winds express further north. A minor fallout occurred, and we did see quite a few birds, including a Baltimore and an orchard orioles, summer and scarlet tanagers and American redstarts, to name a few.
Our friends Dave and Jane were with us and the day after the festival was over, they got to see a blue grosbeak. It was another new bird on their life list! We had heard of reports of a painted bunting but we missed it and so we pinned our hopes on the next strong cold front.
During migration the birds fly across the Gulf and it normally takes them 18-20 hours to make the trip. They leave at dusk and arrive the next late afternoon, unless they run into a cold front. The cold front shifts the wind to the north and so they must fight the wind or drown. The birds that survive the trip are exhausted and hungry. That’s when a fallout occurs and they stop to feed on the ripe blackberries and mulberries, recovering their strength before continuing their northward migration.
Jane and Dave had left and three days later, the high winds abated, for a while. Renita and I decided to head to Grand Isle State Park. We could no longer drive to the western parking lot as only tent campers are permitted to park there so we parked further away and walked to our favorite mulberry tree. On the way to our favorite spot we spied a yellow headed blackbird. It’s a common bird where we live in Wyoming but rarely seen here. As soon as we got to the tree, we saw two birds that we identified as summer tanagers.
Renita next spotted a rose breasted grosbeak
and an orchard oriole! An indigo bunting flew by before we could get a picture of it and so we stayed put, looking for more colorful birds.
Renita saw a reddish bird back in the tree and I was able to get a shot of it with our canon camera using the 300 mm lens, (I am now taking most of our wildlife photos using manual focus, which was critical).
The wind returned with strength and we walked back to the truck getting a nice image of a little blue heron wading in a small pond along the two-wheel track. Returning to the house, we met my sister Connie who had come over to invite Renita to go shopping with her.
I stayed home and uploaded the images, hoping that they had been recorded and that I would have one or two good ones, (I have been struggling with computer issues and had just lost two days of bird images).
When I got to the reddish bird, I blew it up and noticed something strange, it had a blue head. Being somewhat slow on the uptake I thought a bit before going to the bird book. It was a male painted bunting!
Another image taken below the bird showed a light greenish yellow bird and it was a female painted bunting! I texted the shoppers and Renita lost all interest in the store texting me back that she was returning home and telling me to keep the images up on the computer!
High winds have returned, and we are both impatient to get a good night’s rest and return in the morning to the state park. Hopefully more birds have survived the journey and the trees will look like a decorated Christmas tree. Clear skies

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Grand Isle, The Blessing of the Fleet, 2019

Just like last year, a strong wind was blowing from the north and the shrimp boats were having to jockey past one another as they lined up for the blessing. Some captains were not as adept as the others and several gently bumped the dock, but the better captains didn’t have any problems as they passed by.
It was the second year in a row that we had been able to attend the Blessing of the Fleet. It used to happen in August but had been moved to celebrate the spring season. This year our friends Dave and Jane had joined us as the Blessing coincided with the Grand Isle Birding Festival.
The priest and deacon had arrived, along with the Admiral in charge and his wife who had been selected as this years Queen. The other royalty was in attendance as the Teen Queen wore her banner and tierra.
The first boat to pass was a Coast Guard Boat and it proudly led the small fleet. The Coasties didn’t smile or wave but simply stood at parade rest as the crowd cheered the brave men and women that protect them and the fleet each year. Thank you Coasties!
A large crowd had gathered to watch the event and after the shrimp boats lined up, began to pass in front of the dock. Father Joe first read from a book of prayers, asking God to protect the men and women who go out into the sea. Then as each boat passed, he would sprinkle the vessel with Holy Water, (the priest blesses water each year for baptisms and special blessings).
As the ship passed by, a deck hand would make an offering which was placed in a small fishing net. The crowd had gone silent and many were also in prayer as we were all moved by the solemnity of the event. The shrimpers were also moved and most had family and friends riding with them during the event.
There were other events taking place, a carnival had set up, and Connie talked Dave and I into riding with her on the Ferris wheel .She mentioned that it was probably pretty tame after the many times I had climbed Devils tower, but in reality I am not crazy about riding man made contraptions,
(At least when I climbed I could trust my knots and my fellow climbers).
There was also an auction of donated items and Gary had donated pieces of the lawn furniture he makes and sells.
After the auction a band played, and we all danced the afternoon away. The event ended and the venders and organizers started to tear down. If you are ever at a fishing port that holds a blessing of the Fleet, take the time to watch! Clear skies