April 8, 2014

  • Florida Fun for Five Days ~ Part 2

    The second day of our stay in Florida, it rained, it poured, it rained cats and dogs ~ most of the day;
    so, we went shopping in the rain at the little Citrus Avenue shops ~ didn’t buy a thing!

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    The downpour finally abated in early evening, so we ventured out to see
    if we could walk someplace that wasn’t under water.

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    Someone told us to check out the Churchhouse Hammock Trail ~ and so we did ~ it was beautiful.

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    Little squirrels scampering through the trees kept raindrops falling onto our heads from the water-soaked branches.

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    A red-bellied woodpecker was pecking away on a dead tree, high above our heads.

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    The beautiful, peaceful hammock (southern hardwood forest) was full of saw palmetto palms.

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    At the end of the boardwalk, we started down a more primitive path, even though it
    made me a bit nervous ~ was hoping we wouldn’t encounter any snakes!

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    ~ beautiful moss, but ugly poison ivy ~ ;)

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    After leaving that place, we drove to the Crystal River Archaeological State Park.

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    Along the way, Clayton spotted this juvenile red-shouldered hawk, sunning itself atop a dead snag.

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    He truly has a more keen eye than I do when it comes to spotting wildlife ~ and I so appreciate it!  :)

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    I was the one to spot this yellow-crowned night heron though.

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    It was creeping stealthily towards the water ~ had its eye on some kind of prey.

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    Right after I snapped this photo, it struck the water again and grabbed something ~ perhaps a frog ~ I missed the shot.  :(

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    The archaeological park is where Native Americans lived until around 500 years ago.
    Burial mounds are at two separate locations on the grounds.

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    ~ one of the temple mounds ~

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    ~ view of Crystal River from atop the temple mound ~

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    ~ one of the burial areas ~

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    ~ second temple mound ~

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    ~ another first sighting for me ~ palm warbler (western) ~

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    ~ yellow-crowned night heron ~

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    Back at the motel, we laughed at this ball hitch topper ~ when the driver applied his brakes, the fish flopped back and forth ~ :D

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    We ate on the back deck of the Cracker’s Restaurant, near the water ~ Clayton had grouper and I chose shrimp.

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    ~ brown pelican ~ 
    Even though the day started out quite wet and soggy, it ended in a lovely way.
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    “He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak,
    which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest:
    he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it.”
    Isaiah 44:14

April 4, 2014

  • Florida Fun for Five Days ~ Part 1

    Since hubby needed to drive to Florida for a short job, I felt like I just really needed to ride along;
    the winter has been long in Indiana, folks, and a few days of sunshine and warmth was too good to pass up ~ :)

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    On the second day of driving, we stopped in Marietta, Georgia for lunch;
    we were looking for a diner that we had enjoyed on another trip.
    We couldn’t remember the name of it and didn’t find it right off, so we
    just settled for eating at a KFC which sported this very tall sign in front.
    After lunch, we drove a different way to re-enter the interstate, and sure enough,
    we passed the diner just down the street ~ about a block away ~ sigh ~

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    We stopped just before the Florida line for the night ~ there were azaleas, roses
    and rhododendrons blooming profusely ~ we had seen redbud and Bradford pear trees
    in full bloom in Tennessee ~ nearly made me weep ~ another clue that our winter was brutal. :D

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    After breakfast in Florida the next day, I just had to photograph the requisite palm tree ~ :)

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    The very first bird I was able to photograph was a loggerhead shrike ~ a new one for my life list;
    that is always a thrill for me ~ to be able to write down a new bird sighting ~

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    As we traveled on underneath the sunshine-filled blue sky, Spanish moss draped down
    from giant oaks which arched over the highway, swaying in the breeze.

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    The roadsides were strewn with wildflowers ~ oh, spring in Indiana, where are you???

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    For lunch, we had barbecue at this local restaurant ~ antique pickup trucks sat beneath their sign out front.

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    After checking into our motel at our destination in Crystal River,
    we drove about 10 miles out to the Gulf of Mexico.
    The whole area is called the Nature Coast ~ not many beaches to
    be found ~ lots of salt marsh grass and small islands.

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    Three little sandpipers were playing at the edge of the inlet by one of the piers;
    I wish I knew for sure what kind they were, but I don’t ~ do you?

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    Crystal River is widely known for the manatees that winter there in the spring-fed inlets and bay;
    we had no idea about that until we arrived ~ will write more about them in a later post.

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    ~ a lady crabber ~

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    A fisherman was wading in the shallow inlet ~ Clayton walked around the marsh path to ask him how the fishing was.
    He replied that he wasn’t catching much that day, but had caught many varieties at that spot before.

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    As we drove back to the motel, I spotted a row of forlorn shrimp boats, waiting for the next adventure.
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    “And their south border was from the shore of the salt sea,
    from the bay that looketh southward:”
    Joshua 15:2

March 23, 2014

  • backtracking to her shower ~

    I decided to backtrack a bit and post some photos of our niece’s bridal shower which was held in February;
    it took place in the fellowship hall of our new meetinghouse.

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    The decor was especially beautiful, I thought;
    I just loved the old doors used for the backdrop, which they had painted gray.

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    The food was delicious ~ you can’t go wrong with cheesecake, can you?  :)

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    ~ my sister and her daughter, our niece ~

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    She gave instructions to lots of her little nieces and friends about how and where to carry the gifts.

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    ~ beautiful dishes ~

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    I just loved this creative bulletin/chalkboard.

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    She married a dairy farmer from Pennsylvania ~ her nephews colored this page
    which said something like, “Maria doesn’t know how to milk a cow!”
    She replied, “You think I don’t know how to milk a cow?!
    I know how to milk a cow! ~ well, kinda ~” ~ :D

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    Her mother gave her a garden cart stuffed clear full ~ with a whole menagerie of useful and favorite things.

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    This was one of my favorite gifts that she received.
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass: as showers that water the earth.” 
    Psalm 72:6

March 20, 2014

  • Throwback Thursday

    senior prom

    Now don’t laugh too hard, dear friends ~ but since this is Throwback Thursday,
    you get to peek at our past ~ 47 years ago at my senior prom ~ the old photo is so faded
    that you cannot tell that his sport coat is white, the bodice of my borrowed dress is pale pink
    with a large matching bow at the front waist.  The skirt is white with embroidered roses.
    We were so young and thought we were on top of the world!  Oh my ~ those were the days!  :)
    One year later, we were married ~ we have been very blessed ~ God is so good.
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    . . . a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past . . .”
    Psalm 90:4

March 17, 2014

  • a beloved niece’s wedding ~

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    On Sunday, we greatly enjoyed the wedding of our niece ~ she was absolutely radiant.
    It was her long-time dream to be married in a barn wedding.

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    ~ details of her dress (which she made) and her shoes ~

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    She decorated the cake herself with fresh flowers ~ while dressed in her wedding dress ~ :)

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    bridal and bridesmaid bouquets ~

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    her lovely sister was matron of honor ~

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    dresses and shoes of flower girls and matron of honor ~

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    guest registry ~ wedding programs included songs sung by the congregation ~

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    rose petals scattered on the lace-covered aisle runner ~

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    After the ceremony,  we were served a scrumptious meal.
    The wedding was planned with so much love and creativity ~ everything was so beautiful.

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    the very happy couple in the barn loft ~

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    They left for their honeymoon at sunset ~ such a gorgeous wedding!
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    “And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee . . .
    and both Jesus was called, and His disciples, to the marriage.”

    John 2:1-2

March 4, 2014

  • Keeping Warm

    MD 1rs

    This mourning dove found a new way to keep its tail feathers warm ~ in my heated birdbath ~ :)
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    “And the barbarous people showed us no little kindness: for they kindled a fire,
    and received us every one, because of the present rain, and because of the cold.”

    Acts 28:2(AKJV)


February 25, 2014

  • Visiting South Texas ~ Last Day ~ South Padre Island 3


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    Our last day on the island had absolutely perfect weather ~ 75º with a slight breeze, bright sunshine ~

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    We hiked the boardwalk at the birding/convention center one last time;
    a brown pelican and great blue heron were keeping each other company.

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    ~ American wigeon ~
    This one was still wearing its winter dress.

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    ~ tri-colored heron ~

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    ~ redhead duck ~
    There were several of these in the shallow inlet ~ waddling out to deeper water.

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    Through binoculars, we could see there were white pelicans feeding in the distance.

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    ~ black skimmers amidst a flock of gulls ~

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    ~ reddish egret ~
    I think this one needed a new hairdresser ~ :)

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    ~ American wigeon ~ all dressed up for summer ~

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    I believe this is a ruby-crowned kinglet ~ a first sighting for me.

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    ~ beautiful kite ~
    We then headed for the beach ~ we ended up strolling for 3-4 miles, exploring ~ you never know what you might find.
    It was a blissful day to just take our time and enjoy the warmth.

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    I was really thrilled to see a starfish (sea star) . . . until . . .

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    . . . we suddenly realized there were literally hundreds (perhaps thousands) of them strewn on the beach ~ dead ~ :(

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    Lots of them were tangled in seaweed which had floated onto the beach.

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    Other beachwalkers didn’t seem to know why so many had perished and washed ashore;
    we suspected that the storm two days previously had chilled the waters too much for them to survive.

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    We found this one upside down with its tiny tentacles still moving furiously ~ I threw it back into the gulf;
    it was the only live one we saw ~ I wondered if it would actually live or whether throwing it back in was futile.

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    Someone told us to dig through the seaweed to find these special skeletons of saltwater catfish (sailcat);
    Clayton found three of them ~ I only found a single broken one because
    I wasn’t really enjoying the smelly search.

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    Online, I discovered the legend about them ~ they are also called crucifix fish;
    the skeleton appears to have an outline of Christ on the cross.
    It is said that an image of the hilt of the sword which pierced His side
    can be seen if you look closely (we couldn’t detect that);
    and if you shake the skeleton, you can hear the sound of dice which were tossed to win His robe;
    (we could hear the rattle distinctly).  The back of the skeleton is said to look like a Roman shield.

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    It was hard to stop taking pictures of all the sea stars ~ so many ~ so sad ~

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    ~ yet so beautiful, somehow ~

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    They were all still very soft and pliable ~ many people were picking them up to take home.
    I brought a small one home, but it didn’t hold up very well ~ it needed time in the sun to dry and harden first.

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    ~ willets and waves ~

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    After we left the island, we stopped just on the other side of the bridge and walked out on a long pier to enjoy the sun a bit longer.

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    ~ South Padre Island ~

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    ~ brown pelicans were enjoying the bright sunshine as well ~

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    This trio struck quite the pose for me ~ :)

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    On shore, we visited with several parrots which were on exhibit.

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    This one was quite determined to steal my purse ~ :D

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    We finished off the day by sitting in the sun and eating ice cream.

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    Driving back to our motel, I spotted a crested caracara.

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    ~ very unusual cactus in someone’s front yard ~

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    As we lifted off the ground the next morning, I captured this shot of wind turbines peeking through the clouds below the plane;
    they almost looked like broken sea stars too ~

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    Someone on the beach had taken time to make something beautiful from the lifeless starfish ~ :)
    Farewell, south Texas ~ until next time ~ we loved every moment of our visit with you!
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    “In His right hand, he held seven stars, from His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword;
    and His face was like the sun shining in full strength.”
    Revelation 1:16 (ESV)

February 18, 2014

  • Visiting South Texas ~ Days 9-10 ~ South Padre Island 2

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    On Friday, our second day on the island, it was 37º and raining, with a strong wind blowing in from the gulf ~ it felt brutally cold.
    ~ the skies were leaded gray ~ foggy atmosphere ~ damp and dreary ~
    We went to the convention center for awhile ~ they had a nature expo going on ~ lots of booths and films and seminars;
    it was fun, but the power went out on the north end of the island for a couple hours, so some of the presentations were delayed.

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    After we left, we drove north to one of the areas where you can drive onto the beach;
    we just drove into the driveway a little ways to watch the foaming waves.

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    I took a few pics and some video, when all of a sudden, I yelled to Clayton ~ “Back up!”
    because a wave had suddenly sent water all the way around our car with the incoming tide.
    Yikes! ~ time to get out of there ~ sure didn’t want an incapacitated rental car being ruined by salt water!  What next!??
    We had plenty of time to slowly back up and get out of there, but wouldn’t have wanted to stay even five more minutes! :(

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    We then braved our way through the driving rain into the Pier 19 restaurant for lunch ~ it is built right ON a narrow pier somehow.

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    With the high winds that day, our table was actually rocking ~ waves were boiling ~ right outside our window and beneath us;
    it was a strange feeling ~ like eating lunch on a boat ~ waves splashing right up onto the window beside us!

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    We were chilled to the bone ~ shared a hot sandwich ~ and we each had a steaming bowl of clam chowder.
    The floor of the restaurant was painted with brightly-colored fish.

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    They had several funny signs posted on their walls.

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    Palm trees looked rather lopsided in the vicious wind.

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    ~ Cristo de los Pescadores statue ~ Christ of the Fishermen ~ overlooking the bay ~
    We actually saw one small fishing boat fighting its way to shore while we were eating our lunch;
    if I had been on that wind-tossed vessel, I would have been praying, for sure.
    “But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore . . .”
    John 21:4

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    On the gulfside of the island ~ waves were roaring in ~ mist and spray filled the air.

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    We decided to just go back to the motel for the rest of the afternoon to warm up and rest;
    the next day was predicted to have much better weather.

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    Saturday morning, we took a morning walk on the convention center’s boardwalks, on the bayside of the island;
    it was still pretty brisk to attempt a walk on the beach.

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    ~ common moorhen ~

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    ~ great blue heron ~

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    ~ pied-billed grebe ~

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    I was happy to capture the takeoff of a great blue heron.

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    ~ northern mockingbird ~

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    A female great-tailed grackle was taking a morning bath.

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    I couldn’t tell that it helped her drab appearance much, but she probably felt better ~ :)

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    ~ sand sculpture outside a local restaurant ~

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    As we headed inland to explore another park we had not yet visited, we were excited to spot a pair of nilgai
    which were within reach of my camera ~ barely!  These cropped shots are of the male.
    We were told the males grow to be 600 pounds or more ~ nilgai are a type of antelope;
    they were imported to the area years ago and are now considered a pest.

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    At the park, we took a tram tour first, then walked a few short trails.

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    We didn’t spot much there ~ this is the only shot I got of a couple Altamira orioles before they flew away.

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    ~ long-billed thrasher with a green jay ~

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    On the way back to the island, we spotted a large ship anchored on the shoreline of the inter-coastal waterway.

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    ~ took an afternoon walk on the beach ~ I love watching the shorebirds ~

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    ~ willet ~

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    The tiny sanderlings are simply too cute, frantically scampering back and forth,
    just ahead of the incoming waves, as they search for something to eat.

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    That evening, we totally splurged at Pelican Station in Port Isabel, just across the bridge.

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    While waiting on our food, I went out on the patio to take a few photos.

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    ~ bridge to the island ~

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    ~ watching the sky turn pink and purple ~

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    This was Clayton’s meal ~ Shrimp Fiesta ~ coconut shrimp, pecan-stuffed shrimp and bacon-wrapped shrimp.
    I ordered blackened red snapper ~ then we divided half our meal with each other so we could taste everything.
    It was all sooo delicious, but our favorite was the coconut shrimp, dipped in some kind of brandy sauce ~ have mercy!

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    We ordered a flan for dessert and split that too ~ our middles were quite stuffed that night, but oh, so happy! :)

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    It was time to return to the island for the night ~ we had one more day there to anticipate. :)


February 15, 2014

  • ~ a few February fotos ~

    Okay, folks ~ just a few pics I’ve snapped in the last few days ~
    These first few are of one of our pesky squirrels ~ I have one name for all of them ~ Sammy ~ :)

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    He was digging into the snow atop our deck railing
    because he somehow knew there was birdseed in a feeder
    way down underneath there somewhere.

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    ~ Carolina wren ~
    The lighting was so bad when I snapped this shot
    through our office window ~ but I really enjoy capturing
    photos when the birds have birdseed or corn in their mouths.

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    On the only day of Valentine’s, my true love gave to me,
    this bird book I’ve been wanting so much ~ :)
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    I hope all of you had a lovely Valentine’s day ~ we were planning to eat
    at Red Lobster, but with a new snowstorm making the roads so slick, we opted instead
    to eat pizza and salad at our favorite pizza place in our little town,
    then came back home for ice cream and a glass of wine while
    sitting by the woodstove ~ ahhh ~ ’twas wonderful!

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    ~ BJ the blue jay on a very snowy day ~
    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
    “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth,
    making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
    so shall my Word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty,
    but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
    Isaiah 55:10 (ESV)

February 9, 2014

  • Visiting South Texas ~ Day 8 ~ South Padre Island 1

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    On Thursday morning, we checked out of our motel, heading for South Padre Island.

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    Many underpasses in Texas proudly display their lone star symbol.
    And one hears a lot about King Ranch in Texas;
    we saw a pickup with their logo on it ~ must be a massive ranch.

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    We stopped at this park in Brownsville for an early morning walk;
    it was quiet and peaceful ~ we were the only ones visiting at the time.

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    I was excited when we spotted this white-tailed kite ~ another first sighting for me.

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    ~ long-billed thrasher ~

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    ~ our first glimpse of the island while we crossed the bridge ~

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    Our motel had hundreds of these great-tailed grackles hanging around, making an awful racket.

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    Soon after checking in, we left for the island’s birding center;
    we wanted to put a good bit of time in there that day as cold weather was on its way.

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    There was quite a crowd on the boardwalk watching this fellow;
    it is a clapper rail ~ weaving its way through the reeds.
    It really didn’t seem to want to come out for a good photo ~ ;)

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    ~ tri-colored heron (non-breeding adult) ~

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    He was quite the poser ~ fluffing and re-fluffing his wings.

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    ~ willets ~

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    ~ green heron ~

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    ~ great blue heron ~

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    ~ American coot ~

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    I had no idea they had such big feet!

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    ~ roseate spoonbills ~

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    I counted 8 or 9 pairs at the center this year ~ the most I’ve ever seen together;
    they are my very favorite wading birds.

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    ~ redhead duck ~
    Several different ducks were swimming around the roseates.

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    Clayton enjoyed watching a very active alligator;
    they usually seem to be just lying around when we see them.

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    ~ pied-billed grebe ~

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    ~ great blue heron ~
    He is sporting his beautiful head plumes.

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    ~ great egret ~

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    ~ little blue heron ~

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    Until I brought this photo up on the computer and cropped it,
    I had no idea I had captured the heron as it was ready to snag a frog!
    Now I wish I had snapped burst shots ~ perhaps I would have gotten a photo with the frog in its mouth ~ :)

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    ~ American wigeon ~

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    As we headed for the car, we ran across this reddish egret
    who seemed be having an extremely bad hair day ~ :D

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    We stopped for lunch at Blackbeard’s ~ our favorite place for fried oysters.

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    Then it was time to head down this narrow walkway from our motel to the beach to take a long stroll;
    a lone black woolly worm on the wall predicted a long winter ~ guess he’s right for our area;
    and south Texas has had a lot of chilly weather too. :(

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    ~ moon jellyfish ~
    We saw only a few jellyfish on the beach this year.
    Other years when we visited the island, we have seen many of them washed onto the shore;
    some years, we had to be very careful while walking ~ sure didn’t want to step on them with bare feet.

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    ~ someone’s beautiful handiwork ~

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    “. . . David took the castle of Zion, which is the city of David.”
    I Chronicles 11:5