Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Making jewelry when the wind blows…...

During the summer, we sell our jewelry at shows and then make new cabochons to replace the ones we have sold, (a cabochon is a stone that has been shaped and polished). Our goal each year is too make a few more than we sell as some end up not being used, migrate to my dear wife’s jewelry collection, or contain flaws (called anything but a flaw/weakness, often described as having a unique event). When we reach our winter home, we start to make jewelry and it takes us most of the winter to shape stones and wire into pendants, bracelets, chains and kumihimo necklaces, and rings. For metals we use sterling silver, untreated copper, (which has antimicrobial properties), 14 K gold filled wire, (different from plate as it does not wear off due to its thickness), that lasts for twenty to one hundred years. This year we traveled to a rock show in Clear Lake, Texas and purchased Coober Pedy fossil opal shells, and a collection of malachite/ chrysocolla cabochons, (see photo above), that were cut and shaped by a miner in the southwest USA. This person was one of two people who were allowed to collect in the Morenci Mine. We also made a few pieces using Wyoming heliotrope/bloodstone,
It is said that wearing such a material will cause you to disappear in a crowd. We were very excited to get our hands on the Morenci malachite cabochons,(we sawed and ground the rest). Now we have enough of the Morenci mine material to have a seperate display case. We make the jewelry when the weather is cold, the fishing is slow, or its raining and windy. When you do not see a new blog in a while it’s because of a combination of the three things listed. Our goal this winter is to make two hundred new pieces and we have gotten off to a good start having completed sixty-nine.
The next image shows another material one of which is brand new named Yellowstone Variscite. We met a claim owner and miner at the Cody Wyoming show last July. Purchasing five pounds of the rock we started working it into finished pieces. Variscite is a soft mineral, tends to have flaws/lines of weakness but can be worked into pieces with a variety of green coloration. In the same image you can also see rubies in zoisite.
The rubied are lesser quality than gem material but glow a brilliant red under a long wave ultraviolet light, (we usually sell out of these pieces). Finally, you will note a blue stone which is the rarest stone we own, (said tto be the third rarest stone in the world). It is named Ellensburg Blue and is found in Washington State. We have searched for it for years and finally acquired a small piece of the rough in a Wyoming rock shop.
There will be more but for now the rocks are calling to me. Time to get back to having fun! Clear skies

Saturday, December 11, 2021

The Whooping Crane Twins in Lamar, Texas

Renita turned the car and slowly drove east on eighth street. If the whooper cranes were in the large field, the sun would be at our backs. We had both cameras ready. Emerging from the stand of live oak trees that lined both sides of the road, we saw the open field and spotted the whooping cranes. Two adults stood with one standing guard while the other fed. Between them a third whooping crane fed, it was a mottled brown, a juvenile also called a colt. To the right of the adults a brown head peeked out from a depression in the field. It was acting like it was in a nest and hiding from any predators. It was the whooping crane family with the twins! We had planned to stay home and resting but Renita got a text message from her friend Barb. Barb and Dan had decided to go over to Lamar and look for the whoopers and had spotted them immediately! As Dan set up his camera, (he has the same camera and lens as we do), Barb sent us a message.
We saw them from the side of the road and drove close as we dared before parking. The whoopers were watching as we exited the car. I quickly found the birds as did Renita, and both of our cameras were on the birds. Renita got a great picture of all four birds, as I started to concentrate on the twins. The one was hiding and disappeared from sight as it lowered its head but the other continued to feed.
The male kept a close watch on the photographers and birders, as two cara caras landed behind the majestic birds. Whooping cranes stand over five feet tall and have a seven-foot wingspan and are taller than their cousins the sandhill cranes
. Sometimes the sandhills are also in the field and even approach the whooping cranes but not this day.
We could not see what they were feeding on but one of the juveniles lifted a clump of vegetation and carried it past both parents. It reminded us of when we had seen a grizzly bear cub that had a stick in its mouth, kind of like a pacifier.
The other mottled juvenile/colt stood up, spread it swings and started to gallop, (that is why the young birds are called colts). The other bird laid down in the depression and disappeared while its sibling fed.
Sometimes people will comment on the large number of pictures we take, (Renita and I took a combined total of about five hundred and seventy). They do not understand that we are trying to get the perfect picture and we are also hoping to get a shot of something unique, like the one galloping and the other with its clump of vegetation.
I thought I saw that the one adult had a snake, a common food along with blue crab, fish, and mast, (seeds and nuts on the ground), but I did not get a picture. Stuff happens fast! A herd of cattle approached the birds, one was a large bull and the whoopers became agitated. They stretched their wings and the male leapt into the air as if he were showing the twins the proper take off.
He landed and then all four birds next leapt up and started to fly south towards a deer feeder by one of the houses.
As you can see the top of the juvenile’s wings do have a small amount of brown, but their underside is the same as an adult. Several years back a duck hunter shot one and stated that he claimed he thought it was a sandhill.
There is no way one could not see the difference. The juveniles always fly with their parents and the area near the wildlife refuge is closed to all crane hunting. The hunter should have gotten a bigger fine and spent some quality time in jail, but the judge gave him a break.
Let us hope the duck hunters this year are careful as the family of four whoopers allows everyone the chance to see such a rare sight. There are about five hundred whooping cranes total, and the endangered birds need all the help they can get, (at one time there were only twenty-nine birds).
The birding here is great and having the chance to see such beautiful and endangered birds is one of the reasons we return each year. This is the year to see the birds as the field is being subdivided into one acre lots for homes. Clear skies

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Kayaking Port Bay and searching for the Whooping Crane Twins

The weather here has been warm and humid, (until last night). Th wind had been light and so Renita and I loaded up the kayaks and headed to a spot we have always wanted to fish Port Bay. An acquaintance of ours fishes, in his kayak most everyday, and had talked about all the fish he was catching. Before we launched, we had talked about the fishing with another kayaker who told us he had caught three keeper reds, three days before. He headed out into the heavy fog and so we couldn’t see where he had gone. There were five other vehicles parked at the launch site but so we waited a bit for the fog to lift before we started fishing.
The launch was really shallow, as is the whole bay, and as we paddled out, I grounded on a cement block. It was part of an old dock that had crossed one of the bays arms. Stopping at the end we cast out live shrimp and soon caught a hardhead catfish. Releasing it we moved to anther spot and caught more hardheads.
Looking around, we did not see any of the others and so we paddled around the bay looking for their spots. We didn’t see them anywhere, so we stopped at a likely looking place and cast out our poles. Catching several hard heads, I recast again, and my bobber started to slowly move. Setting the hook, I quickly realized it was not another hard head and as it fought it pulled my kayak before the anchor dug into the sand. It took a bit before I was able to net a beautiful twenty-five inch black drum.
Another cast resulted in another nice black drum. Meanwhile Renita’s shrimp remained untouched. I suggested she cast to my spot and after rebaiting I cast to where she had been fishing. My bobber started to move, and I caught a third black drum, this one was seventeen inches.The wind came up and so we decided to call it a day. We had enough fish for two meals, (sometimes we eat the bait shrimp when we don’t catch anything as shrimp goes good with cornbread).
At happy hour our friend Jimmy told us that there were two whooping crane twins and their parents feeding at the field at Lamar. We decided to go there the next morning, but we didn’t see any whooping cranes.
Still, we got some great shots of a ladderback woodpecker, an eastern bluebird, and two cara cara, and a carolina wren.(they are listed with falcons in our bird book).
A little further on a juvenile vermillion flycatcher perched on a power line. A cardinal next posed for us with his mate, (or at least a female cardinal), and finally we spotted a female magnolia warbler.
It had been a good two days and we decided to come back another time when hopefully the whooper twins would be there. Clear skies

Friday, December 3, 2021

A Fun Day at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, November 26th


Hmm, I just added them up and counting our two phones, we have five cameras…. So now Renita is using the T7Rebel with a 75-300mm lens while I am using the new EOS 90d with the 150-600 mm telephoto, (its too heavy for Renita to carry and hold steady).

Our dual camera system worked well on or recent trip to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. On the way there Renita took images of birds perched on power lines along the roadside. The light was not great, cloudy and hazy, but she got a great shot of a juvenile redtail hawk. You can identify it because it has a stomach band and dark bands along the patagial, (the front edge of the wings, I had to look it up).

She also got a good image of a cara cara. It is listed as a type of falcon and if not hunting it also can be seen on road kills. Entering the park, she pulled over and we switched positions and I got out the EOS 90D. On this trip we were also traveling with another couple, Fred and Becky, our friends from Wyoming. They have purchased a new camper van, their first, and were on their inaugural camping trip.

Our first stop was at the Heron Flats trail. We were looking for the whooping crane pair and easily found them along the Heron Flats Trail. Another birder told us that a long-tailed duck had been spotted, and so we hurried to Jones Lake.

Unfortunately, we did not see that bird, but Becky spotted a huge alligator looking for a duck breakfast. We also saw numerous lesser scaup and buffalo head ducks.

Buffalo head ducks are also in Wyoming and I had taken a picture of one there in October at Grand Teton National Park.

Next, we drove to the viewing tower. On the way a pair of black belied whistling ducks guarded their brood and a pied billed grebe watched the family.

The three whoopers there were a mile away, next to the Intracoastal, but we could make them out and their one new addition a brown and white mottled juvenile,

The young are called chicks and then colts as they seem to gallop while running. They can fly at three months and are then called juveniles.

We took a short walk on the boardwalk there and were rewarded, with a kestrel perching on a tall reed. Renita spotted a green heron,

and a reddish egret flew in front of us and landed.

A tricolored heron was fishing and quickly caught its breakfast!

We also got some pictures of a greater yellowlegs, which has a longer bill then the lesser yellowlegs.

The drive along the one way eleven-mile road did not produce much, but after lunch we stopped at the Heron Flats Trail and hit the jackpot!

The cranes had moved nearer and as we walked the trail we first stood in silence as we photographed a congregation of alligators.

They were huge ones and luckily on the other side of the narrow pond.

As we continued on our hike, a reddish egret was fishing and a group of Neotropic cormorants perched on some old posts.

Reaching an opening near the cranes we took quite a few images as they waded a shallow pond. One got a meal that was a piece of blue crab but we both missed the shot.

A flock of rosette spoonbills flew and landed next to the whoopers and Renita got another great shot!

It was a great hike and returning to the cars, they had driven their new camper, we headed back home.

After we left the refuge Renita spotted a possum, which quickly ducked into the brush. Next, she spotted an armadillo.

Normally slow moving this one ran so fast, it must have been camera shy, that I only got a hurried image that was slightly out of focus.

It had been a great day, birding with friends. The next day we learned that a pair of whoopers had showed up in Lamar with twins! We are heading there today!  Clear skies