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

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Arriving at Grand Isle,The first day of Birding

High overhead, the bird wheeled in circles. It was riding thermals and had a long sleek body with long tail feathers. It also had a beak with the end tapering in a hook, somewhat like a pelican. The locals call them rain birds, as their appearance signals the approach of a strong cold front/storm. But their real name is a magnificent frigate bird.
It had taken us two days to drive from Rockport to Grand Isle. It’s about five hundred and seventy miles. We didn’t leave until ten forty-five am as it took us longer than planned to secure the fifth wheel for storage.
By the time we reached Lafayette, we were so tired that we pulled into a motel we thought we knew, but after registering we noticed the place was a dump. A woman parked in her truck saw how many bags we had. She warned us that we needed to be sure and lock our truck for the night.
We went out to our favorite restaurant and settled in for a troubled night, but everything was okay when we went out to the truck the next morning. After eating the free breakfast, we drove the final two hundred miles to Grand Isle.
After visiting with my sister and her husband, we met Jane and Dave, who had camped the night before in Palmetto State Park. We were all, staying at the Blue House, their rental property, as it was empty for the time we would be here. Everything else on the Island was rented as this weekend would be busy with the Birding Festival and the Blessing of the Fleet.
The first day of the birding festival arrived and after breakfast we rode to the state park. Seniors get in free but when we drove to the empty parking lot the campground hosts told us that we couldn’t park there as we would have to drive to the day use area and then walk about a mile to go birding.
I thought it was crazy for them to expect people in the upper seventies to walk that far to see the birds, but they insisted that we would be in trouble even if we only viewed the mulberry trees for a little bit. It turned out that the berries were not yet ripe, and the birds had not yet reached Grand Isle.
Walking out on the fishing pier boardwalk we watched a several hundred black skimmers flushed from their beach and flew to a secluded spot. Brown pelicans, and a huge flock of gulls stood in the distance unperturbed by some fisherman. The only brightly colored bird we saw was a cardinal.
Leaving the park, we drove down a road that separated the oil storage tanks from a large grassy field and we did get to see a flock of black necked stilts, a reddish egret, and several marbled godwits.
There was also lesser yellowlegs and Renita did spot a dolphin pod as it swam in a nearby channel.
So, the day turned out to be ok, bird wise. It was a far cry from last year as the timing was perfect and a huge fallout had occurred. In the evening we went to the carnival and venders both and I did ride the Ferris wheel with Dave and my sister Connie.
So today we plan on walking through the woods hoping flocks of birds have arrived during the night. They have had a tail wind, but things will change as the strong cold front will shift the wind to the north at twenty to thirty miles per hour, (the birds are migrating across the Gulf of Mexico). There is also rain in the forecast so we shall see. Clear skies

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Most of the snowbirds have left but there are still holdouts. We still have six inches of snow on the ground with another snow storm heading toward Wyoming. Still most have left and you can see it among our friends as there are only six left for the Saturday morning breakfast.
OF those four are leaving Monday and we plan on packing up and pulling out on Tuesday.  Our plans have changed, and we are going to leave our fifth wheel here for the summer. A rv repair and storage place, (away from the coast), is going to pull and park it, store and watch it, and finally wash it and haul it back to our spot next fall.
The reason for this is simple. We are tired of pulling a fifth wheel across mountain passes and through busy cities where we first must watch for snow and then watch out for idiot drivers that try to cut in ahead of us. They have no idea of our stopping distance required and if they slam on their brakes, we will end up going right over the top of their vehicle, (we have had two close calls in twelve years, we drive very defensively).
It will also give us more time up north as we can stay through October, instead of leaving on October first. We also plan on heading south in our pickup camper, as we still love camping at the many beautiful parks and Corp of Engineer parks. There are also special rv parks that we can enjoy the good times. First and foremost, of these, is Betty’s Rv park in Abbeville, Louisiana.
When we leave, we will return to Grand Isle, Louisiana, where we always enjoy Connie and Gary’s hospitality. We also are timing our visit to the Grand Isle Birding festival. Connie has already reported the return of Indigo buntings and several warblers.
From Grand Isle we will head back to Wyoming, staying at motels along the way. Our plans this year are to arrive in Wyoming around May 1st. By then the snow should be melted and the park should be open. Clear skies, and safe travels.