March 5, 2015

  • 3 Days with 2 Dears

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    A few weeks ago, we took my mother and her sister for a little getaway at Pokagon State Park;
    we stayed in the gorgeous Potawatomi Inn in northeastern Indiana ~ known for its popular toboggan run.

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    This painting in the inn portrays the entrance to the park.

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    ~ antique toboggan in the entry ~

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    So many of my photos taken in the dimly-lit inn were a tad blurry ~ :(

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    They still had a few Christmas displays here and there.

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    Some of the sculptures had me and my aunt drooling ~ gorgeous!
    She loves birds even more than I do, I think.

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    We loved this antler transformed into an eagle.

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    They have several old boat motors on display ~ Clayton was pleased to find one like his grandfather used to have.

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    For two days, we played endless games of Qwirkle, Michigan Rummy, 42 ~ and one mandatory game of Scrabble
    that I told them they had to play ~ just for my sake ~ I love that game, but the rest of them don't ~ ;)

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    A warm fire blazed in the lobby fireplace, night and day.

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    There must have been a dozen jigsaw puzzles strewn throughout the lobby
    and down the long, picture-windowed hallway ~ several people were enjoying them.

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    ~ loved this lobby window ~

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    ~ native American quotes ~

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    A window in our room looked out over the frozen Lake James.

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    The front lawn must be a beautiful place to sit in the summertime.

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    ~ that famous toboggan run ~
    The quarter-mile run features a drop of 90 feet over the length of the course;
    the rails are refrigerated and the thrilling ride down the run usually lasts less than one minute.

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    ~ fireplace in the dining hall ~

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    Now that is one giant eagle! ~ the carving stood in the corner of the dining hall.

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    Upside-down boats and canoes are hung from the dining hall ceiling.

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    ~ luscious breakfast buffet ~

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    Clayton and I walked downstairs to see what the pool area looked like;
    they also have a large game room down there with an air hockey game and a ping-pong table.

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    Caricatures on the wall were fun to see.

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    The squirrel station drew a lot of chuckling onlookers.

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    ~ white-breasted nuthatch ~
    Birdfeeders were really busy since the weather was so very cold and snowy.

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    We just really enjoyed gazing out at the frosty landscape while staying toasty warm inside the inn.

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    A few brave souls shoveled a place on the frozen lake to do a bit of ice skating.

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    Our lovely time away ended all too soon ~ Mother and her sister ~ ready to brave the cold again.

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    I think this place could quickly become a favorite for us ~ it was absolutely wonderful.
    The food, atmosphere, setting ~ everything was fabulous; we would like to enjoy it with our children sometime.
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    "My presence shall go with thee, and I will give thee rest."
    Exodus 33:14

March 2, 2015

  • Texas Trip ~ Take 6

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    Our last day on the island, we took one more very slow, long-drawn-out walk on the boardwalk
    at the convention center ~ we were slightly sad, as it was most likely the last time we will visit there.

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    ~ beautiful redhead ducks ~

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    ~ American wigeon ~

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    The ten roseate spoonbills were taking a nap.

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    But to cheer us up, the reddish egret was back on his perch . . .

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    . . . and in the brisk breeze, I must say, he was having a very bad hair day.

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    I could hardly stop photographing him ~ his windblown feathers just made me laugh!

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    Then we stopped at the beach restaurant to watch the waves one last time;
    a hungry willet searched for lunch in the frothy surf.

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    We shared a fish sandwich for lunch, had a fellow tourist snap our picture, then headed south to the bridge.

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    Farewell, South Padre ~ we will miss you!

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    After crossing the bridge, we stopped at a favorite ice cream parlor ~ yes, we were stalling, trying to stretch the sunny hours.

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    ~ giant fish sculpture in the harbor ~

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    Clayton nearly got nabbed ~ :D

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    On the drive back to Harlingen, we stopped at a roadside stand and bought some red grapefruit to take home.

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    We flew home the next day ~ a last view of south Texas.

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    When we got home, I turned this picture into wallpaper for my computer for those days when everything is going crazy.
    I shall long remember that silly reddish egret ~ he had personality plus ~ so hilarious!
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    "He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings
    shalt thou trust:  His truth shall be thy shield and buckler."
    Psalm 91:4

February 25, 2015

  • Texas Trip ~ Take 5

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    On the morning of January 31, I walked to the beach in the pre-dawn to catch the sunrise.

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    It turned out to be a glorious one!

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    I changed my camera setting to "sunset" for this shot ~ a whole different tone.

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    During the late morning, we walked the boardwalk at the convention center and watched the kite fliers
    who were having some kind of get-together, further on down the waterway.

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    We told our grandson that we found Nemo ~ :)

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    I enjoyed photographing this reddish egret ~ he had so much personality!

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    In this photo, he was giving the eye to an approaching great egret,
    which was planning to take over his spot in the reeds.

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    The great egret won the contest . . .

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    . . . and the reddish egret pouted.

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    ~ great blue heron ~

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    ~ willet ~

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    ~ little blue heron ~

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    ~ northern pintail and redhead ducks ~

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    ~ American coot and black-necked stilt ~

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    This is as close as I've ever been able to get to a black-necked stilt in the wild.

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    I had to be very patient to get a photo of it with its head out from beneath its wing;
    it only briefly looked out about once every 3 or 4 minutes.

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    We rested at the motel awhile, then walked the beach in late afternoon ~ needed a jacket that day,
    as the wind was brisk and it was decidedly cooler than the day before.

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    That evening, we crossed the bridge to eat at Pelican Station, with a window seat looking out over the bay.

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    I ordered fish and shrimp . . .

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    . . . . and Clayton had fish and oysters ~ and then we shared ~ so delicious!
    When we crossed back over the bridge, there were lights flashing,
    warning motorists to watch for pelicans flying across the bridge.
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    "Hear my prayer, O LORD, and let my cry come unto thee.
    Hide not Thy face from me in the day when I am in trouble . . .
    I am like a pelican of the wilderness . . ."
    Psalm 102:1-2, 6

February 21, 2015

  • Texas Trip ~ Take 4

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    ~ sunrise over the Gulf of Mexico from our motel window ~ 1/30/2015 ~

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    Our motel's waffle-maker was quite the attraction.

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    After breakfast, we drove down to the birding center to enjoy the boardwalk out over the marsh.
    This great blue heron was enjoying the pool in front of the center.

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    A reader just pointed out something really unusual about this photo;
    the heron has his mouth open ~ I remember he was squawking quite loudly.
    But in the reflection, his mouth is closed!!??
    How on earth does that happen??
    (an optical engineer ~ friend of a friend ~ says it has to to do with the angles;
    the upper beak does not show in the reflection because of the angle, apparently)

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    I love the way they rest their chins on their long, curved necks ~ :)

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    ~ Queen butterfly ~

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    Anybody know what this bush is called?

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    ~ beginning of the boardwalk ~

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    ~ great egret fishing for breakfast ~

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    ~ Eurasian collared-dove ~

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    At first glance, I thought these were just mourning doves, like we have at home,
    but no, they are the Eurasian collared-doves ~ they are a nuisance at the birding center.

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    ~ common gallinule ~

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    ~ tri-colored heron ~

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    ~ red-eared slider ~

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    ~ great blue heron ~

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    ~ clapper rail ~
    They are so difficult to photograph, because they are not still for long
    as they weave in and out amongst the reeds along the shoreline.

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    The birds weren't exceeding plentiful that morning;
    someone told us there was a flock of roseate spoonbills
    very near the boardwalk over at the convention center,
    so we rushed over to see if they were still there.

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    Clayton stayed near the center, but I hurried out the walk
    and was fortunate to find 10 of them, just a few feet away from the walkway.

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    Ten minutes after I arrived, they began to lift off to fly to another location;
    I was disappointed, but felt very blessed to have gotten there in the nick of time.

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    ~ northern pintail ducks and a pair of American coots ~
    In Texas, the coots are called silver-billed gallinules, for some reason.

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    ~ reddish egret ~

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    ~ "blurry" black skimmers and seagulls ~
    I am disappointed this photo isn't sharp and clear ~ I just love the skimmers.

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    ~ tri-colored heron ~

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    ~ green heron ~

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    ~ sora ~
    These little birds are about the size of a quail ~ so hard to see amidst the reeds.
    I just love their little turned-up tails ~ reminds me of my favorite bird ~ the wren.
    Their yellow feet are huge, compared to their body size.

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    Back at the center, I found hubby catching a few winks ~ :)

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    After we left the center, we walked the beach for a short while only,
    as a cool wind was picking up and the sky was beginning to cloud over.

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    We did run on to the two men who had dug for the ghost shrimp bait the day before;
    they showed us their catch of whiting they had just caught, using those shrimp!

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    Every year, we look forward to eating fried oysters at Blackbeard's ~ our tasty lunch.

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    After sitting in the sun for an hour by the pool, while Clayton napped in our room,
    we returned to the birding center for a guided birding tour.
    A snowy egret, with its bright yellow feet, was fishing in the shallows.

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    ~ clapper rail ~


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    ~ little blue heron ~
    I really enjoy these very small herons ~ we don't see them very often.

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    ~ willets ~

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    ~ pied-billed grebe ~


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    ~ green heron ~

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    On this tour, our guide pointed out a marsh wren that was flitting through the tall reeds;
    it was a first sighting for me and I was thrilled to catch a glimpse of it,
    although it was impossible to get a photo ~ the guide said he had only been able
    to photograph one once in seven years, because they rarely sit still and are so quick.

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    We learned a lot on the tour ~ for example, our guide told us that sunning themselves helps an alligator to digest its food.
    I guess that's good to know ~ ?? ~ :)

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    That night, we ate fish and shrimp tacos at Captain Roy's;
    this prayer was on the wall and made us think of our sons ~ we knew how much they and their families
    would have enjoyed being on the island with us.
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
    For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
    Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet . . .
    The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas."
    Psalm 8:4-6, 8

February 14, 2015

  • Texas Trip ~ Take 3

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    On the 29th, we made our way out to South Padre Island.

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    Since we arrived early, our room wasn't ready yet ~ we decided to drive down to the convention center
    for a walk on the boardwalk through the marsh, which lies between the intercoastal waterway and the Gulf of Mexico.

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    The center has some very interesting displays about the history of the island.
    The middle display tells of the Great Coyote Hunt/Round-Up in the early 1930's ~ quite the fascinating tale.

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    Our first bird sighting was this group of 10 roseate spoonbills and a couple white ibis.

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    Clayton spotted several fish swimming near the surface in one pool.

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    ~ common gallinule (moorhen) ~
    The birding area used to have a purple gallinule in residence, but last year, a visitor witnessed
    a great blue heron eating the poor thing ~ they haven't seen any of them in the marsh since then ~ :(

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    Out near the waterway, there were lots of birds.
    This snowy egret spent a lot of time preening its wispy white feathers.

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    Ya just gotta love those yellow boots! ~ :)

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    ~ great blue heron ~

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    ~ tri-colored heron ~

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    ~ American wigeons ~

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    ~ black skimmers ~
    They fly very close to the surface, trailing their bottom beak through the water to catch prey ~ so fun to watch.

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    We then drove northward on the island to a public access to watch the waves;
    however, it was such a perfect day, with almost no breeze at all, so the surf was pretty quiet.

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    We wanted to stop at this place last year, but it was entirely too cold then ~ they have all outdoor seating.
    We shared a fish sandwich and a pina colada ~ ahhhh ~ island life!

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    It was so enjoyable to just sit and watch the ocean and the gulls.

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    After we checked in, we walked down to the beach for awhile ~ just soaked up the warm weather ~ such bliss.

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    About a half-mile south on the beach, we ran across this series of intricate sandcastles;
    someone told us a class of school children had been there and built them in just a few hours.

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    We walked the beach for over an hour ~ we think it was about the prettiest day we have ever seen on South Padre;
    there was no wind, glorious sunshine, perfect temperature, warm water.
    It is a wonderful husband who agrees to carry his wife's sandals while she walks through the surf ~ :)

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    These two fellows were digging for ghost shrimp to use for bait;
    fishermen are allowed to collect no more than 20 in one day.

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    Ghost shrimp can burrow as deep as four feet and can survive up to 6 days without oxygen.
    Their burrows look like these little volcanos in the sand ~ this one was under water,
    but since the water was extremely clear, we could easily see it.

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    I did not take this picture ~ found it online.  Ghost shrimp are transparent
    and are actually more closely related to a crab than a shrimp.
    They are about 3-4 inches in length and are considered a protected species,
    since they are an important part of the food chain for migratory birds.

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    ~ such very clear water ~

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    A group of older folks was playing beach bocce ~ looked like a lot of fun.

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    We drove down to the south end of the island and didn't see much
    except this group of brown pelicans just bobbing around in the bay.

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    In all the years we have visited the island, we had never driven through the residential area;
    so that day we did ~ it looked like a lovely place to live ~ hey, honey, there's a place for sale! ~ :)

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    That night, we returned to one of our favorite restaurants;
    the entire restaurant sits atop a covered pier ~ it is
    only one aisle wide, and in wild weather, the waves literally rock your table!
    That happened to us last year ~ waves were hitting the windows beside us;
    but this year, it was totally calm and peaceful.

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    Fish are painted on the floor and metal fish adorn the walls.

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    We had a clear view from our window of the bridge to the island.

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    The servings were huge ~ we forgot to share and neither of us could finish our meal ~ :(

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    ~ beginning of sunset ~

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    I walked out the back of the restaurant, on down the pier a ways to capture the sunset;
    there were lots of things in the way ~ this is the best shot I could get.
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    "Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength . . ."
    Isaiah 41:1

February 11, 2015

  • Texas Trip ~ Take 2

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    On Wednesday morning, we went back to the nature park and walked a mile ~ it was the first time
    I had been able to visit it during early morning.  Birdsong rang through the park ~ fog swirled through the vegetation.

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    There were actually drops of dew dripping from the cacti ~ I could hardly get over how very green the park was;
    it almost seemed strange to see the desert landscape so very alive and thriving.

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    This little bird was hopping through the underbrush ~ too quickly for a good photo;
    I think it is most likely an orange-crowned warbler.

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    ~ golden-fronted woodpecker ~

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    ~ green jay ~

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    I was thrilled to learn from a birder later in the day that I had captured a shot of a Nashville warbler ~ a first sighting for me.

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    In mid-afternoon, we walked a couple of miles through the Estero Llano Grande State Park.
    This black-crowned night heron was making it difficult to get a good photo of him.

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    We were able to spot nine yellow-crowned night herons.

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    ~ pied-billed grebes ~

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    ~ ginormous alligator ~

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    On our first visit to this park with friends last year, they showed us where two common pauraques were sitting;
    they are so very difficult to spot ~ Clayton found this one, looking like a bump on a log.
    It was sitting in the very same spot as we saw the two last year.

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    ~ Common Pauraque ~ such a beautiful bird ~

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    Several egrets and ducks were enjoying the far end of one pond.

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    ~ ring-necked ducks ~ 

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    I saw a spotted sandpiper in the main lagoon.

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    ~ northern pintails ~

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    This fella was above our table at the Longhorn Cattle Company that evening.

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    ~ the steak chef ~

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    We shared that filet mignon in the center of the other steaks.

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    "He sendeth the springs into the valleys . . .
    by them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation,
    which sing among the branches."
    Psalm 104:10, 12

February 7, 2015

  • Texas Trip ~ Take 1

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    In the pre-dawn of January 26, we left the cold and snow behind for a business trip to south Texas.

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    ~ lifting off over Indianapolis ~

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    ~ lights of civilization through a hole in the clouds ~

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    ~ sunrise over the clouds ~

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    There was a medical emergency on the flight between Indy and Atlanta;
    our pilot put the pedal to the metal and we landed there a half hour early.
    Firetrucks and ambulances met our plane ~ quite the excitement!

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    We were to stay on the plane for a 45-minute layover, but since we arrived early,
    the stop was actually going to be more like an hour and a half,
    so passengers were allowed to get off if they wanted.  Everyone got off except me, including my husband.
    I didn't think it was worth it.  When the cockpit door opened and the crew was chatting,
    I asked if it would be alright if I snapped a photo of the cockpit interior.  They said, "Sure!"

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    Then they asked if I wanted to sit inside while they took a picture of me ~ they didn't have to ask me twice.
    What a privilege!  It was quick ~ I didn't want to take advantage, but it sure was a thrill!
    I texted a phone pic to the kids ~ they couldn't believe I was allowed to do that ~ ;)

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    ~ lifting off from Atlanta ~

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    ~ corn-rowed clouds ~

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    ~ crossing the Mississippi River ~

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    ~ descending into Houston ~ downtown in the distance ~

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    ~ shadow of our plane as we arrived in Houston ~

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    ~ liftoff from Houston and headed for Harlingen ~

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    ~ crossing the coastline of south Texas over the Gulf of Mexico ~

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    ~ Harlingen airport ~

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    After checking in, just before dark, we drove just down the street to the Hugh Ramsey Nature Center for a walk.

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    It was almost too dark for pictures.

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    ~ sunrise on Tuesday morning, from our motel window ~

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    Our motel had the best breakfasts ~ I usually chose the fresh citrus and yummy oatmeal with toppings like almonds, craisins, golden raisins, etc.

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    While Clayton worked, I sat by the pool in the warm sunshine ~ the temperature was perfect this year.

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    ~ a little bird kept me company ~ :)

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    When hubby got back, we walked a different trail at the nature park ~ didn't see much ~ the birds were even quiet.
    The park was more green than any other year we have been there ~ so nice to see it look healthier this year.

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    These fishermen were having more fun than getting any fishing done ~ ;)

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    We ate at La Playa that evening ~ Clayton had a chimichanga and I had fish/shrimp tacos ~ sooooo good!

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    ". . . Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled . . ."
    James 2:16

February 5, 2015

  • An Early Valentine

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    I usually do a post of cardinals for Valentine's Day, but when I captured these shots today,
    on such a bright, sunny afternoon, I couldn't wait till then to share them with you.
    This gorgeous bird really brightened my day ~ all the shots were snapped within two minutes.

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    So this is an early Valentine's Day wish for all of you;
    I hope your holiday is full of love and joy and sweet things.

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    We just returned from Texas and my computer modem has gone out,
    so I am waiting to begin posting those pictures until after that is fixed.
    I thought I needed to post something and when this fellow showed up
    outside my window, he won the prize ~ :)

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    The sunshine on the snow is almost blinding at our house today,
    making the gorgeous male cardinals a striking contrast.

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    Have a beautiful day and a blessed Valentine's Day this year!
    "Beloved, let us love one another:  for love is of God . . ."
    I John 4:7

January 24, 2015

  • Some of my Winter 'Pets'

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    I think we have several squirrels around here that have a touch of that "rain rot" stuff
    that I described in a previous post ~ this one is not nearly so ugly.

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    They don't let a little snow prevent them from foraging for the birdseed.

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    J15 12

    They really don't like another squirrel showing up while they are eating, though.

    J15 13

    This one was just a bit intimidated by the one at the feeder.

    J15 14s

    He won the staredown and was soon stuffing his own cheeks full of seeds.

    J15 15

    J15 16

    J15 17

    J15 18

    ~ yet another squirrel with an imperfect coat ~

    J15 19

    J15 19a

    I'm not sure why a brown-headed cowbird was at the feeder ~ they usually eat off the ground,
    but I guess the snow brings them in to dine where they can.

    J15 19b

    J15 20s

    Even the pesky house sparrows are somewhat beautiful.

    J15 21

    J15 22

    I love it when a red-bellied woodpecker comes to call ~ they are so striking.

    J15 23

    J15 24s

    J15 25

    J15 26sr

    J15 27

    This noisy blue jay's photos are so dull ~ it was a very gray morning when I shot these.

    J15 28

    J15 29

    J15 30s

    J15 31

    ~ blurry cardinal in the pre-dawn ~

    J15 32

    J15 33

    ~ random photo of icicles from inside a restaurant ~

    J15 34

    ~ a couple photos shot in very early morning as we headed out to a job ~

    J15 35

    J15 36

    ~ round hay bales buried in snow ~

    J15 37s

    ~ my favorite shot from this set ~ just outside our town early one snowy morning ~
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean:
    wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow."
    Psalm 51:7

January 12, 2015

  • Hawk Ambush!

    WARNING:  This is rather a gruesome post ~ :(

    CH 1

    A few days ago, as I was sitting in the office at the computer, I heard a loud "WHOOSH"
    and saw something large flash downward past the window.
    I wondered at the time if it was a hawk, but I briefly glanced out and didn't see anything.

    CH 2

    The window is right beside me as I sit there ~ many birds dine at the feeders just 6 feet away from me.
    But for several minutes after that, there were no birds in sight.

    CH 3a

    CH 4

    Curious, I got up again and peered out more closely ~ alas, right below the window, up next to the house,
    was a large hawk, devouring what looked to have been a mourning dove.
    I grabbed my camera and ran down the hallway, slowly opened the front door and then stood on the front porch
    in my stocking feet ~ it was freezing cold, but I wasn't going to miss this opportunity.

    CH 6

    CH 5

    It was a juvenile Cooper's hawk ~ the size of a very, very large chicken or small wild turkey.
    It couldn't have cared less that I was taking its picture ~ it wasn't budging.

    CH 6a

    CH 7

    Cooper's hawks dine mostly on songbirds and small mammals.
    They often perch on telephone poles, unlike their smaller cousin, the sharp-shinned hawk,
    which is usually slightly larger than the common crow.

    CH 8

    CH 9

    I took many, many photos, then started to inch closer to this ferocious bird.
    It soon grabbed the remains and flew a few feet into one of the pines at the north end of our home.

    CH 10

    After returning to the office, I could see it perched in the pine, directly outside the north window,
    just a few feet away from the house.  It was tearing into what was left of the poor morning dove.
    It saw me, but again, did not care.

    CH 11a

    CH 11b

    CH 12

    CH 13

    CH 14

    CH 15

    CH 16

    The detail of its feathers was absolutely amazing ~ so delicate, intricate, precise.

    CH 17

    CH 18

    When I slowly tried to open the window, it flew deeper into the pines.
    I could no longer get good photos as the limbs kept taking the focus.
    So, I started yelling at it to get it to leave so it wouldn't continue to scare the other birds away,
    but it stuck its ground ~ it stayed an hour and a half before it was finished, then finally flew away.

    CH 19

    As aggravating as it was to me for it to grab one of "my" birds for its lunch,
    somehow it was still quite beautiful ~ in all of its fierceness.
    But, it will be fine with me if it doesn't return, although I'm afraid that it will,
    since it now knows it can find birds around my window most any day ~ :(
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    "Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom, and stretch her wings toward the south?"
    Job 39:26