For the Birds

I’ve discovered traveling by RV adds a whole new dimension to my overall travel experience, and it has exposed me to experiences well beyond my wildest dreams….

Brown Pelican

…. dreams I never imagined. I never thought that traveling to the Texas Gulf Coast would stir a passion within me … a joy I couldn’t have fathomed … the joy of photographing birds. Bird photography!

Roseate SpoonbillThe first time I glimpsed the stunning pink hue of the Roseate Spoonbill had me yelling at Al to stop the truck. We were driving along Fulton Beach Road along the Gulf Coast in Texas when a shimmer of pink in shallow pond water caught my attention. I had never seen such a beautiful, yet weird, bird in my entire life. That was just the beginning of my journey into photographing birds …. the beginning of my interest in birds as a photographic subject.

Turkey VultureIt was during that visit when I became fascinated with all large birds, including the beautiful Turkey Vulture, and yes, I said beautiful. Okay, I’ll admit beautiful wasn’t the first word that came to mind when I began photographing vultures. No, that took time, and over time, an admiration for this unique creature grew, and the more I observed them, the more my admiration grew.

Did you know turkey vultures are very social and don’t kill? Fascinating! I also felt a kindred spirit with the turkey vulture. If you’d like to know more about our similar tune carrying talents, click here.

bird photography

And then there were the cranes I discovered. I think we can all agree, they are magnificent and beautiful birds. I became obsessed with cranes, so much so, that Al and I made a special trip to the International Crane Foundation located in Baraboo, Wisconsin. I was officially a Craniac!

One of my more memorable RV excursions was camping amongst 20,000 roosting sandhill cranes. That was an unbelievable experience and just one of many reasons why I love RVing. It’s the only way to travel in my book. I’ve enjoyed adventures that can only be experienced by RVing. You can read my post about sleeping with sandhill cranes here.

Sandhill Cranes
Sandhill Cranes

Yeah, I never thought I’d develop such a passion for photographing birds, but I find that they make such an interesting subject to photograph that it’s almost impossible for me to pass up the opportunity to make at least a few images …. or maybe a thousand or two when I encounter these entertaining characters.

Grebe

Wandering Wednesday theme – birds

For this weeks photo inspiration I’ve chosen the prompt birds. Do you enjoy taking photographs of birds?  We’d love to see your images. Leave a comment below with a link back to your blog or link back to this post in your blog. Share and connect!

Brown Pelicans

Wandering Wednesday – Ingrid’s Inspirations

Each Wednesday I post a different photo theme as a way for bloggers to share their love of photography and engage with other like minded bloggers. Perhaps this prompt will serve as a little inspiration to pick up the camera in search of a composition or a reason to go through your archives. Whether you shoot with your phone, a DSLR or something in-between, don’t be shy 🤗 share your photos!

Egyptian Duck

I wrote a post awhile back about the lessons I’ve learned regarding bird photography. If you’d like to see my failures and successes, click here to read that post.

hummingbird

Upcoming prompts – Black & White, Reflections, Sunrise …. get out and shoot or peruse those archives!

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Vibrant Pink Beauty

When traveling by RV, weather always plays an import role, and flexibility is the name of the game.  After all, the number one priority is arriving at our next destination safely.roseate spoonbill

We pulled out of Rockport, Texas, early Sunday morning and arrived at the Elks Lodge in San Antonio, Texas, three hours later.  The original plan was to spend only one night here, and continue our trek toward Phoenix, Arizona, but with high wind predictions in west Texas along Interstate 10, we’ve decided to sit tight for another night or two.  bird photography

We’ve been to San Antonio several times and really enjoy the city, but we probably won’t be venturing out and about too much which has given me the perfect opportunity to go through my hundreds (more like thousands) of photographs I took over the past month.Birding

I don’t think I’ll ever get bored running into the vibrant pink of the roseate spoonbill.  I don’t know what it is about these birds that is so intriguing.  Could it be those gorgeous pink feathers?  Or maybe it’s their entertaining personality.Birding

I’ve been lucky to have enjoyed some rather close encounters with these pink beauties and I swear they like being photographed.  Or at least, they don’t mind my presence.Bird photography

Hope you enjoy these photographs of this vibrant and vivacious bird as much as I do.Birding

Birding

Birding

Roseate Spoonbill

Birding2 247

Third Times a Charm

Today is our last day along the Texas Gulf Coast.  We’ll be working our way back to Phoenix Sunday morning, and although we did contemplate extending our stay, the pull of appointments, seeing our children, and the anticipation of the desert blooming can’t be ignored.  This was our third January camped near Rockport, Texas, and was our best visit yet.  Perhaps the saying third times a charm is true, because this visit certainly was a charmer.

a birders delight!
a birders delight!

Last year’s visit found us dealing with the Polar Vortex meaning lots of cold, wet weather.  I also contracted pink eye aka conjunctivitis which put a real damper on my photography.  This year with all the talk of El Nino along with the fall flooding in Texas, Al and I actually thought about canceling this trip to the coast, but since we already had the RV park reservation lined up, as well as friends waiting for us, we hit the road and arrived New Year’s Eve.  And boy, am I ever glad we decided not to cancel.

This kind of water is a kayakers dream
This kind of water is a kayakers dream

Al and his buddy had a fun month of taking the boat out into the St. Charles Bay every morning doing what guys do best; hunt, fish and BS.  I had a fantastic time playing with my camera(s) but when new neighbors pulled in next door my fun was taken to another level.  During a casual get to know the neighbor conversation, Mary Ann informed me she enjoys photography.  Well, she didn’t have to tell me twice.  Next thing she knew, I was getting her out of bed early, loading her in the truck, and sharing all my favorite (and not so favorite) photography spots with her.

The vibrant pink of the rosette spoonbill is easy to spot.
The vibrant pink of the rosette spoonbill is easy to spot.

Our first full-day outing was up to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.  I skipped a trip here last year because of my eye illness, and therefore, I was looking forward to a visit this go around.  And just like my first visit, I was somewhat disappointed with the refuge.Aransas Wildlife Refuge

There were very few birds to be seen with the exception of the vultures, but we did spot a javelina in the far, far distance.  We even saw one cross the road, but quickly disappear into the brush.  Looking at the photo, I do wonder if this is a hog and not a javelina.  Regardless, I’m telling my friend, Mona Liza, I finally saw my Javelina 😆

Took my digital zoom to spot that javelina or is it a hog?
it took my digital zoom to spot that javelina or could that be a hog?

VultureThe showing of birds at the refuge was poor, and several trails / viewing overlooks were closed.  I don’t think I could honestly recommend going out-of-the-way to visit the Aransas NWR.  If you’re in the area and interested in a picnic outing, then by all means, but if you’re looking for a well maintained, wildlife rich place, this isn’t it.

Next…. I always enjoy a visit to Mustang Island and the town of Port Aransas.  I cruised the island twice by myself and once with Mary Ann.  Commutes via ferry never get old, and are a fond addition to a day of adventure.

This is the boardwalk at the birding center. The woman is carrying a newborn baby. Look in the water to her right. Mr. Alligator is eyeing her.
This is the boardwalk at the birding center. The woman is carrying a newborn baby. Look in the water to her right. Mr. Alligator is eyeing her. He was hungry that morning and on the move.

In the town of Port A (aka Port Aransas) a stop at the Leonabella Turnbull Birding Center and stroll at Charlie’s Pasture is always worthwhile.  Then there’s driving on the beach and sharing lunch with feathered friends.  Seagulls can always be counted on for a little entertainment.Seagulls

It wasn’t long before I discovered my partner in crime (Mary Ann) was adept at spotting those vibrant pink beauties; the roseate spoonbill.  I can never seem to take enough photos of these unique characters.roseate spoonbill

But then I do love the vibrant white of the egret ….. How about a little vibrant pink and white together with a touch of striking yellow?  Aren’t these two beautiful?birding

The highlight of my visit to the Texas Gulf Coast was the morning Al’s friend, Dennis, took me out for a boat ride for the specific purpose of photography.  I just can’t thank him enough for two hours of sheer perfection and joy.  We launched the tiny vessel twenty minutes before sunrise.  It was a cold 32 degree morning (one of the coldest all month) with no wind and clear skies.  He thought for sure I was going to cancel due to the cold.  Not a chance!  I couldn’t wait to get out on the water.St. Charles Bay

I wore my winter coat with one of Al’s camo coats over it along with earmuffs, camo hat, warm gloves, and sweatpants tucked into rubber rain boots.  Sorry folks, no photo of this fashionista.  I was super comfy and with no wind, it was a perfect morning.

Can you see the two whooping cranes?
Can you spot the two whooping cranes?

As we slowly cruised the waters, the sun rose.  We kept an eye on the shoreline in search of wildlife, and from time to time, we could hear the familiar call of cranes.

Once we spotted the cranes, the boat motor was turned off, and we floated toward shore.  I carefully stepped on the front of the boat steadying myself and raised my camera up over my head as high as my five foot four frame would allow.  This is one time I was grateful my Panasonic FZ200 had a flip out monitor.

The three front sandhills are getting ready to fly.... camera ready.
The front sandhills are getting ready to fly…. camera ready.
And they're off
And they’re off

I was thrilled to see not only the endangered whooping cranes, but a smorgasbord of coastal birds;  egrets, sandhill cranes, killdeer and those lovely pink roseate spoonbills.  I was tickled pink with delight and this was by far the highlight of my visit to the Texas Gulf Coast.coastal birds

I would be remiss if I didn’t share the highlight of Dennis’ morning.  While I was clicking away, he was drinking his thermos of hot coffee and enjoying the scenery around him and that’s when he spotted a dolphin.  In a whispering tone, he informed me of the dolphin.

Center right - dolphin feeding
Center right – dolphin feeding

When I turned around to look out over the water, there was a sudden flurry of activity as the dolphin was feeding.  Dennis had never seen this before and was as giddy as a school child…. or as giddy as me seeing the wonderful variety birds.

He and I both enjoyed our morning out on the water.  My boat ride ended with a photo of this trio.Birding

Yes, this was one fun month filled with a bunch of wonderful surprises.  Al and I are already looking forward to returning next January, and who knows, we may even extend our stay.  The desert or the coast?  I’m glad we can split our time between the two, because I don’t think I could pick.  Let the tug of war commence!

We're on the move!
We’re on the move!

amazon

Harmonic enlightenment, and then some

I glanced down at the open book of Hymns on my lap and pondered the fact that I’m clueless when it comes to music.  Oh, I quite enjoy listening to it, but I’m oblivious when it comes to the understanding of notes, composition, tune, rhythm, etc.

It wasn’t my intention to attend church services that morning.  I’m not normally a church goer, but I do occasionally get drawn in by architecture and every now and then the need for a little spiritual enlightenment.  It was a lovely morning, and I was out and about visiting a local historical landmark.  The Lamar, Texas, cemetery has gravestones dating back to the Civil War and all the local tourist brochures listed this as a site to visit.

So, there I was on a Sunday morning strolling through a cemetery when I realized the neighboring little Catholic Church’s’ doors were open.  My curiosity was such, that I found myself entering the Stella Maris Chapel and taking a seat in the second to the last row of pews.  I was a little music_clipart_notesearly and only the fifth person to arrive.  I glanced around taking in my surroundings and noting the Hymn numbers posted.  I turned to the appropriate page to glance at the first song to be sung.  I already knew I wouldn’t be singing out loud…..

My first real exposure to the education of music was somewhere around the seventh grade. It was a semester long, daily one-hour class exposing students to all aspects of music including singing.  This sounded like a fun class to me, especially since I could sing really well…. or so I thought.  After all, what teenager doesn’t like singing along with their favorite artist?

The first day of this new class, the teacher wanted to get to know the students and their abilities.  She had the left half of the class sing the first verse of a song and then she had the right half sing it.  She’d select different students to sing a line while the rest of us remained silent.   Recommendations were made and it was obvious these first few students that had attracted her attention were talented singers.

this little gal sings beautifully
this little gal sings beautifully

This process continued and when the teacher finally called my name, I proudly stood erect thinking she’d want me to sing by myself.  Instead, I was told to sing a little softer, which I did, but apparently not soft enough.  She stopped our group two more times to tell me to sing a little softer.  Once my volume was down to lip-synching level and not one vocal cord in my throat vibrated, I was given a big thumbs up… “That’s perfect, Ingrid.  Keep singing at that volume for the rest of class”.

gumby and poky“Seriously”, I thought?  “What did she know?”  I couldn’t wait to get home and sing my heart out into my little cassette player-recorder, proving that the music teacher didn’t know what she was talking about.  And sing I did, and in my head I sounded fantastic!

With a smile on my face and child-like exuberance, I rewound the cassette and hit play to hear my wonderful rendition of I Think I Love You.   Come on, who didn’t want to be Susan Day back then?  I even played an air piano while singing and had taken an iron to my unfashionable curly hair an hour earlier.

Alone in my room, I listened to the singer on the cassette player.  I didn’t recognize the voice, yet I knew it was mine.  I continued listening figuring it had to get better, because it couldn’t possibly get any worse.  Or could it?  My faced flushed with embarrassment at the realization I couldn’t sing…. or rather I shouldn’t sing.

Oh well, I never had any aspirations to be a musical performer, thus I focused on being the best lip singer in class.  Ever since discovering my inability to carry a tune, I rarely sing.  Even today when we’ve joined friends for karaoke, I won’t sing, but I will gladly get on stage to be a background dancer for a Robert Palmer song!

Vultures can't sing, but they do hiss
Vultures can’t sing, but they do hiss

Back to church….. After a little fire and brimstone which included why parishioners should sing out loud (egad, did the priest imply me?) services were over and I exited the church.  I immediately noticed a turkey vulture in a tree.  I first became intrigued with these unique birds a couple of years ago during a visit to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.  My fascination lead to a series of Google searches to learn about them.  Did you know, vultures lack a syrinx and are nearly silent?  Their vocalizations are limited to grunts and hisses; no harmonic singing from these birds.

We glance at each other knowing we share a common bond - we can't sing!
We glanced at each other knowing we share a common bond – we can’t sing!

As I approached the tree located between the church and the cemetery, Vivian Vulture hissed at me.  I hissed back, “Come on Viv…. we’re kindred spirits…. neither one of us can sing”.vulture

Vultures serve an important role in the circle of life.  Some may say they’re ugly.  I find them beautiful.  I shared my unusual infatuation with these birds before along with some intriguing facts.  If you’re interested in reading a few more tidbits about vultures and seeing more photos, you can read my post here.

I may not have felt any spiritual enlightenment from the church sermon, but I did experience a clarity that morning with my encounter with Vivian.  I was reminded that we are all created with a distinct purpose and rare beauty; created with special talents or gifts; created with uniqueness that should be embraced.  How boring would it be if we were all able to sing like Adele?  Or worse, what if we all sang like Cameron Diaz in “My Best Friends Wedding”?  Oh yikes, I do 😉

Each of us is a unique strand in the intricate web of life and here to make a contribution – Deepak Chopra

vulture

 

All about Luck

Luck! Do you believe in luck or are you a believer in people making their own luck?  I was thinking about luck this past week with all the hubbub surrounding the Power Ball lottery.  Since I’m a firm believer in both, I joined the ranks of lottery purchasers with the high hopes of being one of the lucky ones.  After all, you can’t win, unless you play…. right!whooping cranes

When I came home from the grocery store and told Al I bought a lottery ticket(s), he was surprised considering we can count on one hand the number of times we’ve bought lottery tickets.  Just like millions of other American’s, I was lured in by the hype and insane amount of money. I justified my purchase by considering it a donation.  Lottery money is usually used for good causes.  In Colorado, the money supports parks and recreation.  Here in Texas, the money goes toward education and veterans.  Realizing my chances of winning anything were slim and none, I sought solace in knowing my ten dollars worth of lottery tickets went to a good cause.

Ibis
Ibis

But the fact that I didn’t win any lotto money doesn’t mean my week wasn’t full of good luck.  Ah, to the contrary!  A blogging friend recently commented to me, that a person has better luck at winning the lottery than seeing a whooping crane in the wild.  (It was after this comment, that I bought the lottery tickets…. hoping I was one lucky gal LOL)

how lucky - 2 whooping cranes and a roseate spoonbill in fight
how lucky – 2 whooping cranes and a roseate spoonbill flying by

The majority of whooping crane photos featured on this blog are photographs of WILD whooping cranes.  They aren’t banded and their lineage dates back to the 1940’s to the last remaining fifteen whooping cranes in the world.  Whooping cranes were close to extinction and still remain high on the endangered species list.

whooper_map_EThis group of whoopers that winter in the Rockport, Texas, area are referred to as the Wood Buffalo National Park wild whooping cranes.  Their migration takes them from the far northern reaches of Alberta, Canada, south 2,500 miles to the Texas Gulf Coast.  Looks like these Canadian cranes have joined the ranks of RVer’s who escape the harsh northern winters by heading south and becoming winter Texans.

So, do I consider myself luckier than a lottery winner?  Maybe I should….. but just think of all the good I could’ve done for the cranes had I won the lotto…. even second place would’ve been quite acceptable  😉

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron – If a heron sees his shadow……

Just like the lottery, bird photography requires a certain amount of luck;  being in the right place, at the right time, with the camera at the ready.  However, I have to take the effort to make that luck happen.  In this case, I have to make my own luck and get lucky in the process  (hubby’s ears perked up with the last part of that sentence).Bird photography 

Getting lucky might mean hanging around a place watching the clouds roll by for an hour or more in the mere hopes of catching a glimpse of a rare or endangered bird, let alone a photograph.  This is where patience and perseverance pays off, and a little luck is always welcome.photograpy

Driving around scoping out great locations in hopes of capturing a unique sunset or sunrise photograph can also be challenging, but is there such a thing as a bad sunrise or sunset?  I think not.  Some are just Birdingmore spectacular than others and I consider myself lucky to be able to capture those truly amazing ones.

The other morning, I was dressed and out the door by 6:50 a.m. with my travel mug filled with hot, black coffee and my camera battery full.  I had high hopes for a beautiful sunrise and I was going to capture it so I could share it with all of you.

I drove to a couple of my favorite little spots along the coast.  I tried some new spots as well.  Then I waited, and waited some more.  The thick cloud cover wasn’t producing the results I had hoped for.

A beautiful sunrise, just not the photo op moment I had hoped for.
A beautiful sunrise, just not the photo-op I was looking for.

With the photography a bust, it was time for me to run a few errands.  First stop was the post office.  I arrived at 8:40 a.m. thinking they’d be open by 8:30.  Wrong – they didn’t open till 9:00.  Ah, what’s a gal to do for twenty minutes with a camera and empty media card sitting in the passenger seat?

Interesting grove of oak trees. Dozens of Great Blue Herons spent the night on top of them.
Interesting grove of oak trees. Dozens of Great Blue Herons spent the night on top.

How about a little exploring?  What was supposed to be twenty minutes of aimlessly driving around to kill some time, turned into over an hour of discovering one unique sight after another.   When I came upon an enchanting grove of wind-swept oak trees topped with dozens upon dozens of Great Blue Herons, I swiftly pulled the truck off the road.  Wow!  This was so worth the post office not being open.

Birding trifecta!
Birding trifecta!

As I ventured further down the road, a shot of pink caught my eye.  I quickly found a place to pull over and park.  I donned my favorite camo shirt and green hat and slowly walked through the weeds.  Talk about winning a birding trifecta …. boo-yah!   I hung around with this diverse group of locals until they wandered out of sight.Birding

It was well past 10:00 a.m. when I finally headed back over to the post office. Talk about an interesting morning.  What started out as an unlucky morning with a poor photographic sunrise and the post office being closed, turned into a lucky morning of birding.  If I had sat in the post office parking lot waiting for it to open instead of aimlessly exploring, I never would have stumbled upon these wonderful sightings.  Was it luck or did I make my own luck?  Hmm, when’s that next Power Ball drawing 🙂

“Luck, that’s when preparation and opportunity meet” – Pierre Trudeau

You can read about my trip to the Aransas Wildlife Refuge here and here.

Cranes are said to be a sign of good luck!
Cranes are said to be a sign of good luck! Does that mean I should buy another lottery ticket?

sunset

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The Same, but Different

Our first full week along the Texas Gulf Coast whizzed by.  Even though our weather was a mixed bag of cold, warm, sunny, gloomy, wet and dry, I have no complaints.  It’s been a great week exploring some familiar turf.Texas Gulf Coast

This is our third January hanging out in Rockport, Texas, just down the road from Goose Island State Park.  We’re staying in a private RV park surrounded by some familiar faces and some new faces.  Although the RV park is much the same, there’s a few subtle improvements which are always appreciated.  There’s also a few changes in the neighborhood, a couple of blocks away from the park.

This photo was taken last year. There was never a shortage of cranes to photograph
This photo was taken last year. There was never a shortage of cranes to photograph

The first thing I noticed were the lack of sandhill and whooping cranes hanging around the neighborhood.  Turns out, one of the homes in the area changed ownership, and the new owners decided not to keep up with a feeder.  The locals aren’t too happy anyway about all the tourists and photographers parking in the middle of the road to capture glimpses of the rare, endangered whooping crane.  Plus, Texas has received an abundance of rain resulting in a bumper crop of Blue Crab, the whoopers favorite.

A homeowner maintains a feeder filled with cracked corn
Last year a homeowner maintained a feeder filled with cracked corn
Sandhill and Whooping cranes appreciate the cracked corn during seasons of drought
Sandhill and Whooping cranes appreciate the cracked corn during times of drought
whooping cranes
Endangered Whooping Cranes taking flight

I’m not sure what it is about these coastal birds that has me intrigued, fascinated, and totally enthralled.  It’s captivating to watch these magnificent birds take flight or land.  They exude a sense of weightlessness and perhaps even power that is mesmerizing.  Yep, I’ve definitely developed a passion for cranes.

It's amazing to watch these large birds in flight
It’s amazing to watch these large birds in flight

Whooping cranes

I’m a little disappointed I won’t be able to photograph these gorgeous birds this visit as easily as I did last year.  I might make a special trip out to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge or I’ll focus on photographing some of the other beautiful coastal birds.  There’s no shortage of birds along the Texas Gulf Coast and a little patience and perseverance usually pays off.

Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Spoonbill

Who can pass up an opportunity to capture the pink beauty of a Roseate Spoonbill?

an Egret prepares to land
Snowy Egret prepares to land

I find Egrets to be particularly elegant.  I wonder how they manage to stay so white.  If only I knew their secret so I could have the same results with my socks 😉

Week one was off to a fabulous start, and thus I can’t wait to see what I’ll discover over the next three weeks.  Fingers crossed the weather will cooperate.  If you’d like more information on the endangered whooping crane, you can read my post here (I give some statistics) and here (my second trip) and here (my visit to the International Crane Foundation).

Exploring the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail: Highlights Of A Birding Mecca (Exploring Series)

The Accidental Craniac

endangered cranesThe past two winters, we’ve spent the month of January in Rockport, Texas.  The impetus of the original trip (2 years ago) was initiated by one of Al’s buddies which focused on Sportsman activities…. you know; manly men, doing manly things.

I didn’t mind, considering the majority of the time we’re traveling to places I want to go.

I figured it would be the perfect opportunity for a little alone time and for me to focus on a project stewing in my head.  The RV Park was chosen by the buddy and my initial opinion on the place was less than favorable, but the beauty of living in a home on wheels is everything’s temporary.

whooping cranes
Endangered Whooping Cranes

So while the guys were off doing their manly stuff, I started exploring the area.  The RV Park was located in a rural residential area just down the road from Goose Island State Park.  Several times a day, I’d either ride my bike or walk around the neighborhood.  This is when I discovered a large white bird.endangered whooping crane

The loud whooping call of the bird was hard to ignore and I became quite intrigued.  I snapped some photos and the following day I ventured out to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge.  I was off to an early start and may even have been one of the first few visitors to the refuge that morning.

endangered whooping crane
Whooping Crane aka whooper

In the distance I noticed those big white birds again… click, click, click.  Love that burst mode on the camera.  A couple of hours later the refuge was a little busier. I was asked for the second time that morning if I’d seen any “whoopers”.  Not knowing what they were talking about, I said, “No.”

Before leaving the refuge, I stopped in at the visitor center.  The volunteers were a delight.  All fellow RVer’s workamping at the refuge.  They were quick and enthusiastic to share information.  Again the word whooper was mentioned.   I finally asked,  “I’m sorry, but what’s a whooper?”  Ten minutes later, I’m more intrigued with these unique birds than ever before, and educated on the blight of the endangered whooping crane.  Come to find out, folks from around the country come to this area of Texas to see the last remaining WILD whooping cranes and here I was stumbling upon them without effort.

Siberian Crane
Siberian Crane – Russia and China. Most endangered breed.

I spent the rest of the month observing the wild whooping cranes along with some sandhill cranes.  Oh, there were lots of other bird discoveries I enjoyed as well during that trip, but by passion lied with the cranes.

red-crowned crane
Red-crowned crane – Asia

I’ve never considered myself a birder, but there’s just something I’m drawn to when it comes to cranes.  During one of my photography outings in Texas, I befriended a few fellow photographers and that’s when I first heard the word Craniac used.  Craniac = fictitious name used to describe anyone with a passion for cranes.   Seems I may have accidentally become a Craniac myself.

You can imagine my exuberance when I heard there was an International Crane Foundation.   Once again my good friend, Mona Liza, was able to enlighten me, having already visited.  Hubby and I were formulating a summer family visit to the Midwest and thus a visit to the International Crane Foundation could easily fit into our plans.  It became a MUST on MY itinerary.

International Crane Foundationa
Blue Crane – South Africa
ICF
International Crane Foundation

So here I am.  I arrived at the International Crane Foundation located in Baraboo, Wisconsin, shortly after 9:00 in the morning with plans to attend the 10:00 guided tour.   Until it was time for the tour, I strolled around grounds.  I’ll admit, I was initially disappointed and saddened to see most of the cranes behind fences.

Brolga Crane
Brolga Crane – Australia

I later learned, the fencing is more about keeping predators OUT, plus it’s all about the greater good of the survival of all cranesICF.

Our tour guide, Cully, was a wealth of information on the birds and the facility.  He was extremely knowledgeable and able to answer any and all questions.

After my almost 2 hour guided tour with Cully, I was enlightened and educated beyond my expectations.  There’s even cooperative efforts with the North Koreans to protect habitat for cranes.

Wattled Crane
Wattled Crane
African cranes
Wattled Crane – Africa
International Crane Foundation
Brolga Crane – Australia

It’s amazing what this foundation is doing around the world.  Not only is the effort to save cranes having a positive impact on their overall repopulation, the efforts are also improving the lives of people.  It’s a win win for all involved.

The International Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin, is the only place in the world where all fifteen crane species can be seen.

The respect and care for the birds is obvious.  Breeding couples and new chicks are kept away from the public eye and any human contact is kept to a minimum in an effort to keep these cranes as wild as possible.

Black Crowned Crane
Black Crowned Crane – Africa
International Crane Foundation
Demoiselle Crane – Eurasia

I will say, photographing these beauties was a bit of a challenge.  As I mentioned before, most are behind fences requiring me to find a strategic spot to zoom in between.endangered cranes

Overall, I had a fantastic visit and would return in a heartbeat.  I ended up spending three hours there in the morning, had lunch back at the campground, and returned for another 2 hours of crane communing in the late afternoon.

Siberian Crane
Siberian Crane
Sandhill Crane
Sandhill Crane

My crane obsession has been temporarily satisfied…. emphasis on the word temporary.  For anyone even slightly interested in ecosystems, conservation, or birds I would encourage you to visit the International Crane Foundation.  You can visit their website here…. saving more than cranes.Black Crowned Crane

Siberian Crane“The International Crane Foundation works worldwide to conserve cranes and the ecosystems, watersheds, and flyways on which they depend.”

International Crane Foundation

All photos were taken by me at the International Crane Foundation.  I love photographing cranes from different angles, zoomed in, and zoomed out.  I can watch these unique creatures for hours and quite often do when given the opportunity.  This weeks WordPress Photo Challenge is; from every angle.  I hope I’ve captured the essence of the photo challenge.   Does this look like a happy camper?

whooper
Craniac takes selfie with whoopers

Off the Beaten Path: A Travel Guide to More Than 1000 Scenic and Interesting Places Still Uncrowded and Inviting
The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story

In the Details

I love zooming in on a subject.  Quite often via macro photography I see details in a subject that I didn’t notice with my naked eye.  Many a time, I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the results of a photo once I’m able to view it on my computer.  For instance this Rose….rosesI adore Roses and I knew shooting after a recent rain that the petals might still be wet. I was hoping to capture a Rose with clinging droplets but couldn’t see the raindrops all that clearly on the camera screen.  I was pleasantly surprised once I uploaded the photos to the computer that I actually captured my vision.

Last summer while strolling around the James Robb State Park in Grand Junction, Colorado I noticed a bunch of dragonflies.  With my camera slung cross body, I was ready for them to fly off once I raised the camera to my face.  To my delight, many were so busy with breakfast that they weren’t bothered by my presence.dragonflyThis dragonfly allowed me to get incredibly close.  Doesn’t he have the cutest face?  It has so much personality.

And speaking of personality, Rosie the Roseate Spoonbill and I shared a moment.  It was an early January morning in Port Aransas, Texas when I went out for a stroll and happened to come across Rosie sitting on a fence rail.  We spent at least 15 minutes visiting with each other.roseate spoonbillI returned to the same place several times in hopes of a repeat, to no avail.  Any spoonbills that were in the area stayed a safe distance away from people.  My morning with Rosie still remains a birding highlight.

In preparation for our long drive east, last week I was busy in the kitchen baking and cooking up a storm.  I stocked the RV freezer with healthy meals and treats.paleo cookiesThese chocolate chip cookies are baked with Almond Flour and thus packed with protein and considered Paleo.  Not only are they yummy, but they provide a nice energy boost.  Yes, a healthy cookie 🙂

So the last couple of days, we’ve been on the road.  Saturday morning we bid farewell to Colorado and today we say hello to Illinois…… to visit family and eat LOTS of this……macro photography

Ah, not to worry, September will find us back in Colorado just in time for fall colors and spending more time hanging with our daughter.  I’m already looking forward to it.hummingbird

This post is in response to the WordPress Daily Post – photo challengeClose Up.

Tony Northrup’s DSLR Book: How to Create Stunning Digital Photography

Health Hazards of Travel

hummingbirdsOne of the concerns for folks that travel regularly, is health.  I know it is for me.  I’d like to think I could travel anywhere in the world without a thought of getting sick or injured.  Unfortunately, that would be naive on my part.

What I can do is prepare and educate myself on potential health hazards for a given country or region I plan on visiting.  For instance, its common knowledge we American’s can’t seem to handle the water in Mexico.  Thus, to avoid Montezuma’s revenge, most American’s stick to bottled water, soda, or alcohol when visiting Mexico.  I’m sure the same can be said for Mexicans visiting America.  It’s all about what our bodies are used to.birds of preyIf I were to visit certain foreign countries, I’d probably undergo a slew of shots in an attempt to protect myself from hepatitis, typhoid fever, meningitis, or any other serious medical conditions which might be considered rare in the United States.

mountain wildflowersI remember during my airline days when I would frequent tropical paradises like Hawaii and St. Thomas.  The first five days were always sheer joy and tons of fun.  As the week progressed, I’d be overcome with an unease or even an ill feeling; almost a sense of claustrophobia.  Toward the end of my stay, I couldn’t wait to board that plane for the mainland.  Come to find out, there’s actually a condition called “rock fever”.  Ok, this isn’t anything serious other than a mild phobia, but it did enlighten me. You won’t find me moving to a tropical island anytime soon.  I’ll opt for miles and miles of endless roads any day.

Since I enjoyed plenty of international travels when I was younger, I have no plans to travel outside of North America.  As a full-time RV’er traversing my homeland, what health concerns could I possibly have?  Surprisingly, more than one might think.

prairie dogsLet’s talk about those adorable Prairie Dogs found in the western United States.

I love watching these little guys pop up and then down …. in and out of their mounded burrow.  And their little defensive squawking barks accompanied by the flipping tail is quite entertaining.

I’ve found myself more than once hanging around a prairie dog colony being entertained by their cute antics and trying to capture them on film (film sounds so much better than media card ).  These delightful little rodents can be quick and captivate the attention of not only us two-legged creatures but also our four-legged family members.  I’ve seen many a blogger post about doggie sticking his head in a prairie dog hole or trying to chase these furry rodents.  It’s all I can do not scream at the computer, “NO”!hummingbird

Prairie dogs are known plague carriers.  Yes, you heard me right, Bubonic plague still exists in the United States and is usually contracted from fleas living in the fur of prairie dogs.  These fleas are easily passed on to our pooches, compromising everyone’s health.  Recently near Fort Collins, Colorado, a teenage boy passed away from contracting a rare case of Septicemic plague contracted from prairie dog fleas.

So if you’ve recently been near a prairie dog village and develop flu-like symptoms, it would be wise to seek medical attention immediately.Falcon

There was a time when contracting Lyme disease from deer ticks was an exclusive worry to those living in America’s northeast part of the country.  Although it’s still a huge problem in New England, the disease can be contracted from any infected tick throughout the United States.

BroncoLyme disease is a serious bacterial disease with debilitating consequences.  Thus, a tick bite should never be taken lightly and should even be followed up with immediate medical attention.  You can read about singer – songwriter Avril Lavigne’s Lyme disease journey and struggles here.

Valley Fever?  I don’t know about you, but I never heard the term Valley Fever until we started traveling regularly to Arizona.  Every now and then we would encounter someone informing us they needed to visit a friend in the hospital who was suffering from Valley Fever.

Since we spend our winters in Arizona, I was quick to educate myself on the signs and symptoms of Valley Fever and the fungal spore behind the illness.  Some folks grow up in Phoenix and never ingest a spore while others may visit for a few days and return home with these nasty guys imbedded their lungs.Canadian GeeseThe spores causing Valley Fever live in the dirt of the arid desert southwest and become airborne during windstorms, construction, four-wheeling, or even gardening.  Once airborne the spore can be inhaled – ingested and imbedded in the lining of the lungs.  Depending on the number of spores ingested and the overall health of a person, determines the severity of the symptoms and illness.  Some folks never know they have Valley Fever while others are hospitalized.  It can be fatal.

RobinYou can read more about it here, but there’s one huge fact to understand about Valley Fever especially for travelers.  After returning home, weeks later a person might develop a nagging cough.  The fungal spores on a lung X-ray can mimic cancer and lead to a misdiagnosis. Doctors outside of an arid climate might not be familiar with Valley Fever.

So before jumping to the Big C conclusion, a doctor might need to be informed by the patient that further testing would be prudent to rule out Valley Fever.  Thus, it’s important for anyone traveling to the southwest section of the United States, to be aware of the signs and symptoms of Valley Fever.

ButterfliesAnd last but not least, there’s West Nile.  No one likes being bit by an irritating mosquito.  The itchy welts are bad enough, but now, after being bit, I have to be concerned about contracting the West Nile virus!

So there you have some of “my” health concerns while traveling around the country in our RV; plague, Lyme disease, Valley Fever, and West Nile.  I’m sure my friend Mona Liza would add chiggers to this list.  You can read about her chigger attack here and make sure you don’t meet a similar fate.

Is there a disease or bug where you live that is of particular concern?  Have you ever traveled someplace and been exposed to an unusual health risk?  Feel free to enlighten us in the comments 🙂

Blue Jay

Disclaimer:  I am not a doctor or a nurse.  This post is merely meant as entertainment.  It is meant to enlighten and provoke awareness of geographical health concerns and nothing more.

1001 Natural Remedies (DK Natural Health)
Straw Packable Sun Hat with Black Sash- Wide Front Brim and Smaller Back

Mile High Fun

What’s not to love about this time of year?  The birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming, and the wildlife babies are just too darn cute not to photograph.Canadian GeesewildflowersWith Breckenridge and the Continental Divide in the rear view mirror, we pulled into Chatfield State Park (southwest of Denver) for our two-week stay.

The lower elevation met us with warmer temperatures…. aaahhh!  That didn’t mean I was ready to replace those flannels sheets with the cool cotton sheets on the bed just yet, considering the temperatures and rains were still on the fickle side.  The inclement weather even caused some flooding at the state park.

Our first week in the Denver area whizzed by with the aid of friends and family.

Red Rocks
MonaLiza and Steve on the left – Al and me on the right

First up was reconnecting with RV buddies, Mona Liza and Steve from the blog Lowe’s RV Adventures.  Enjoying pizza and beer at Woody’s Pizza in Golden was the perfect place to catch up.  The next day we managed to work off some of those calories with a little hiking and stair climbing at Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater.

Red Rocks
Me gazing out over the Red Rocks Amphitheater.
wildflowers
Mona Liza and I stop to admire the wildflowers

It was a quick visit with ML and Steve since they were ready to embark on their summer tour of the Great Plains States.  They are on a quest to visit all 50 states and after 3 years of full-time travel, they are getting close to completing that quest.

country western concert
Ashton and me at Mile High Stadium for the Luke Bryan Concert.

Country western concertAnd then there’s the real reason behind us spending June and July in the Denver area; our daughter.

Between our travels and her crazy work schedule, it’s been nine months since we last saw her.  I do believe that’s the longest we’ve ever gone and she’s been sorely missed.

As a belated Mother’s Day gift, she surprised me with a girl’s outing that included a Luke Bryan concert.  I’m not much of a concert goer, but I’m up for anything that includes spending time with my daughter.  We had a great time along with 50,000 of our closest friends.  The line up of entertainers for the Kick Up the Dust Tour included; Dustin Lynch, Thomas Rhett, Randy Houser, Florida Georgia Line, and Luke Bryan.

 

Between you and me, I don’t feel a need to attend another concert anytime soon, much preferring time hiking in nature with a lot fewer people.  I did notice I was in the audience minority – less than 10 percent of the concert goers that evening were in the 55+ age group.  Perhaps those of my tender years were attending the U2 concert, who were also playing in town that night or better yet…. in bed in their comfy cocoon by 11:00 p.m. instead of still out on the town partying past one in the morning 😉

I hate to admit it, but this gal is no longer in shape to keep up the pace of a 25 year old.  But I did give it the ole college try.  That said, the past week has had me lying low fighting a cold, recovering from my Mile High fun, and getting caught up on my blog reading.  Oh, and inhaling lots and lots of chicken soup!Canadian Geese

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