Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Marble Museum in York, Nebrasaka, (Lees Marbles and Collectibles)

We left Wellington and headed north trying to drive out of the severe storm forecast area. It didn't work and so we found a nice park with an actual storm shelter, near York, Nebraska. Settling in for a few days, or until it warms up a bit, we did a search of things to do and found The Marble Museum.
The Marble Museum, reported to be the largest marble collection in the world, was started with the personal collection of Lee J. Butterfield. Opened in 2000 the museum is free and displays over one million dollars worth of marbles.
Having no idea what to expect, we entered the museum and saw containers of marbles from the floor to the ceiling. On the upper shelf were fifteen hundred one quart mason jars, all filled with marbles. Custom shelves were filled with labeled examples of the multitude of different size marbles made from just about every glass, rock, and pottery material available. The floor even had display of the cheaper more common marbles for sale.
One case held giant German hand made glass marbles called swirls, (there is actually an episode of these being made on the show, How Its Made). Another case held marbles made by combining minerals with molten glass and we admired the beautiful carnelian, mica, and agate marbles.
Asking if Lee had any marbles made with uranium, he pulled out a case filled with beautiful green and yellow marbles. He turned on his handheld uv light and showed us their beautiful fluorescence.
The carnotite uranium actually doesn't glow but another mineral in the marble, when excited by short wave light, gives off the green and yellow glow. The marbles were only made in the 1920's and 1930's and production stopped when the marble makers started to die from radiation sickness, (I still have my Grandpa Hubers watch from the same era and its numerals glow from radium paint). Of course we had to purchase one!
Lee's son Chuck, also addicted to marble collecting, showed us stunning marbles called the vortex. He also showed us a display of large marbles made entirely from minerals and we identified many of them, which of course led to us buying several for our collection.
Running out of money, or at least exhibiting a little restraint. we thanked Lee and Chuck for sharing their passion and love for marbles/ If you are ever in York, Nebraska we highly recommend you stop for a day and visit the Marble Museum. Clear skies

ps the violent storms missed us but the temperatures have dropped and we may delay our trip north for a few more days

Sunday, April 24, 2016

What Plan? From Livingston to Wellington, Kansas

The rains finally stopped and so we hitched up and drove a short hop to Mineola, Texas. There we found a nice but pricey Civic Center Park. As we walked Molly we were treated to the sight of two swallow tail flycatchers. Unfortunately we did't have a camera.
That night I heard several helicopters that sounded really close, and they were! Right next to the park is a emergency medical center and helicopters land there to fly patients to the nearest hospital. The plan was to stay there for two nights but the Weather Chanel was predicting big storms and high winds so we left the next day and drove to Ardmore, Oklahoma.
There we stayed at Hidden Lake Rv Park and again we planned to stay for two nights. However the weather forecast of a day of strong southerly winds would allow us to make a run to Wellington, Kansas, (that and a forecast of possible tornadoes and fifty plus winds on Sunday, oh my)!
After a easy days drive we reached Wellington and parked at a pricey park. Not a lot of choice here but oh well, its a big pull through. We decided to head into the city to check out the museums and downtown area, only to discover that most of the stores were closed and that the Museums weren't open till May, (ok the Depression Glass Museum was open till four but we didn't have enough time as it was after three pm when we got there).
The new forecast for today is for high winds, hail up to baseball size, and possible tornado's. It will be a busy day staying glued to the tv for weather updates and the radar images on our smart phones. The severe weather plan, if rotation is spotted on the radar, (we live in an rv), is to jump in the truck and drive north or south, avoiding any tornado or hail. We have done that before when we were in North Dakota and it worked out.
Tomorrow the wind is supposed to be somewhat calm and we will try to drive to York, Nebraska. The forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday is getting worse so again once there we will sit for a few nights and watch the weather. Clear skies

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Enough With the Rain Already!

We stopped at the  Livingston, Texas Escapee Park and planned on staying here for a week. Its a good place for us to get our mail, finish and mail taxes, and plan for our trip across the prairie. So we took care of all the business stuff, made some plans and got ready to leave last Monday.
Of course the heavy rains hit and changed all our plans. Today was the day we were supposed to start our drive to Rapid City but another front is passing through with heavy rains and flood warnings. So we are listening to the heavy rain pounding on the roof of our fifth wheel and planning on leaving tomorrow.
Our plan, which is still kind of intact is to make short drives of about 200 miles, stop at about two pm, and stay for two nights. That plan is an old rver plan called the 222 and is a great way to see the country, taking time to smell the flowers. It's a great plan when you are retired.
Clear skies

Friday, April 15, 2016

High Island, Texas 2016, Part 2

It’s not unusual to see a tricolored heron, (which was also called the Louisiana heron), they are often seen wading and feeding as we bird along the Coastal Bend. What is unusual is to see a whole flock and we both spotted the flock gliding in for a landing as evening approached. They alit on an empty flooded tree, next to the Rookery as there simply wasn’t room in the nursery.
Still they didn’t settle and one or two would take off and then land, or try to land. However they were apparently intimidated by the great egrets, double crested cormorants, and perhaps the rosette spoonbills which are all much larger birds.
Meanwhile the raucous noisy of the Rookery continued unabated. It was a constant calliope of different sounds as the busy business of nesting continued. The birds descended/evolved, from dinosaurs and it probably was about what it was like when herds of dinosaurs gathered together to make nests, and raise their young.
Anyone who loves dinosaurs should see and hear what is going on here, after all the dinosaurs are still with us, it’s just that we call them birds. There are other rookeries in other states, the one on Avery Island comes to mind, but none allow you to be as close as the one here.
The Rookery is part of the birding woods called the Smiths Oak Woods, and as we walked the other paths we spotted a flock of Cedar Waxwings, feeding on a Mulberry Tree. Such trees are great places to spot warblers but none were feeding as we watched.
We also walked the paths of the Boy Scout Woods, another great place to spot warblers, but we have never caught it when this area was as good as the warblers and Buntings on Grand Isle, Louisiana. Unfortunately we aren’t going there this spring as we need to reach Wyoming in early May.

So we have refreshed our minds with the images of the Rookery and are ready to leave Texas. Now we are waiting in Livingston for a break in the weather as we head north to Rapid City.  Oh and a reminder to everyone keep on looking up for the birds beautiful spring breeding colors! Perhaps you will spot a male painted bunting. Clear skies

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Last Birding Trip on the Coast, Stopping at High Island, Texas, Part 1: Great Egrets

This year we are concentrating on our daughters wedding in August so we are cutting short our time on the coast and heading back to Wyoming. However we had to stop at High Island, Texas for a day of watching the birds on the rookery. There the nesting is really being dominated by the great egrets.
Usually we catch the height of the rosette spoonbill and great egret nesting but this year the double crested cormorants have taken over the top of the trees. Its the first time we have seen them so close and their eggs have already hatched. If you look close you can see two chicks being fed from their mothers gullet.
The rosettes are also present but the rookery isas I said, now dominated by great egrets. One can see them gathering branches for the nest, displaying to attract a female, cuddling, sitting on eggs, and feeding their young. The rest of this post is composed of images of this activity. Enjoy
If you ever are near here in early to mid April this is a must see. Clear skies

Friday, April 8, 2016

Heading North with a First Stop at Matagorda, Texas

It was time to leave our winter camp at Fulton, so saying goodbye to our friends we drove north to Matagorda, Texas. There we stopped to fish for a few days and maybe enjoy the site of the cattle drive across the Colorado River.
The fishing has usually been great but this time we arrived to muddy waters, muddy not only from the high winds but also from the heavy rains that had brought down the flood waters of the Colorado.
Still we hoped to catch some red and black drum so baiting with dead shrimp and cut mullet we cast out our lines. 
Waiting patiently two hours went by before my reel screamed with the run of a big fish.
I picked up the pole and started to reel as the fish continued its run. As I started to wind the circle hook pulled free and the fish was gone. No matter as I cast out another piece of cut mullet. It was my only bite for the next three days.
Occasionally a whiting would hit, or a sheephead. Roy and I both caught keeper gaff top catfish. We did see a couple of black drum caught but that was it. Renita showed up and I rigged her a slip bobber with a piece of live shrimp.
She soon had a fish on and then another. Before the day was over she ended up catching her limit of sheephead. Adding those to the stringer we had enough to have a fish fry. Dave and Jane showed up and Dave cooked the fish in his turkey fryer, (I wish I had room for one in our rig as it also works for fish and crab boils, but we can only carry so much stuff). The last day the water got even muddier and so the only excitement was the cattle drive.
It wasn’t till five pm that the cowboys herded the cattle into the Colorado and guided by two boats they began the swim. Everyone held their breaths as the cows and calf swam the muddy waters. Unfortunately one cow broke its leg but the rest all made it. Having watched too many alligator and shark movies we were pleased to see that none showed up to chomp on fresh beef.
The next day was time to leave and our next stop, on the long drive to our summer camp in Wyoming,was a short one to High Island, Texas. So putting the fish poles away we hooked up and headed north. Hopefully the fish will be biting better next year. Clear skies

Monday, April 4, 2016

Another Day at the Port Aransas Birdng Centers, with an Unexpected Sight!

We took a break from fishing and headed over to Port Aransas. There we wanted to go to the three birding centers where we would hopefully be able to see a rosette spoonbill. The spoon bills are mostly in the rookeries now and we are not sure where of the locations of their nesting sites.
Crossing the ferry we turned right, just past the convenience store, Park Street, and headed to Charlies Pasture. As we drove along the shore we noticed two men filming dolphins. Now this is not unusual but these dolphins were leaping out of the water, chasing each other, and behaving unlike anything we had seen before.
As we got out, the two locals said that the dolphins were engaged in mating behavior and in dolphin world that means, well basically a group orgy. The dolphins couldn’t care less about us and raced by the seawall so close that we could reach out and touch them!
There were three groups/pods and everywhere we looked it was dolphin love! Amazed we watched for a while, tried to take numerous images, and basically talked about how lucky we were, (what a year tortoise and dolphin sex). Finally we decided we had seen enough and so we returned to the truck in search of spoonbills.
As we drove away a spoonbill rose from the road ditch and everyone saw it. It was dressed in its bright pink breeding plumage, with a darker red band along both wings. It was lucky we did spot it as we never saw another one that day.
We skipped stopping at Charley’s Pasture as the mosquitos were about as bad as they can get when birding in a salt marsh. Arriving at the Leona Turnball Center we walked along the cement sidewalk, enjoying the profusion of flowers and blooms, almost all identified by small signs. I knew Bob was a botanist and so the blooms were a special treat.
On the boardwalk, we were also able to check off alligator, one large, black necked stilts, and the ever present tricolored heron. Many species were gone however, besides the spoonbills, but still it was an enjoyable morning.
After eating lunch, where the fish were not local caught, boo, we drove to Paradise Pond. There we were able to see several birds, including a Louisiana water thrush, a night heron, and my favorite, a Northern Parula. The Parula’s flitted in the underbrush and actually lit several feet away giving me a great close up view.

As it was time to head back we returned to the ferry. No long wait now as spring break is over and we were able to drive right on. We all talked of the highlights of the day and everyone agreed that the three pods of dolphins topped the list! Clear skies