The Site For Mary

If you are interested in updates on the status of Mary, please visit http://www.carepages.com/carepages/ThePathForMary

If not a member, you’ll have to sign up (for free) but it has a good reputation. Thanks for your support.

Posted in Vermont Birding | Leave a comment

An Abrupt Change of Plans

If you follow this blog, you know that we planned an extensive trip to the Southwest and California this winter with our Airstream. We have completely cancelled the trip. Mary has just been preliminarily diagnosed with lymphoma and we are readying ourselves for the final results and the road ahead to recovery. We’ll learn more this week and I’ll likely post something to follow this. I suspect that there won’t be a lot of birding posts or photos here for a while – we have a challenge ahead.

It is comforting to see the local birds at the feeder — the Black-capped Chickadees give us great delight as do the many woodpeckers and nuthatches — even the ravenous Blue Jays that come to our back deck. We’ll soon have juncos, pine siskins, and some of the other winter birds.

Here are a few shots I took this afternoon of our chickadee friends.

ChickadeeW2 ChickadeeW3 Chickadee1W

Posted in Backyard birds, Birding for Therapy, Vermont Birding, Yard birds | 6 Comments

Black and White

Here are two final birds from our California trip: a Black Phoebe and a Snowy Egret. I was surprised at how prevalent Black Phoebes were: in other areas like Texas they are around but I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than one on a outing.

The bird in the photo below hangs out at our son’s swimming pool, chipping away, diving down to snack bugs off the pool-cleaner hose that floats on the surface, and even sipping some of the chlorinated water.

Black Phoebe perching on an old pool pipe, ready to swoop in for some insect snacks.

Black Phoebe perching on an old pool pipe, ready to swoop in for some insect snacks.

Egrets are great birds — watching them hunt for food is a great way to spend some birding time. I saw a couple of Great Egrets and a few more Snowy Egrets during my outings. This guy was grabbing lunch at a wonderful birding site, the San Elijo Lagoon.

SnowyEgretW

Due to some medical issues, we returned to Vermont early but, looking out on barren hills, it is fun to remember the neat birds of San Diego County.

Posted in CA birds, family visit | 1 Comment

Beach Birds

We took a short outing to the Del Mar beach during our last day in California. It’s so cool to have a beautiful beach ten minutes or so away and free access and parking — and no crowds on a winter weekday. The day was pretty – San Diego style – with no wind, temperatures in the mid-70’s, with water temperature about 65.

I waded into the light surf with binoculars and camera and right away, this guy landed just out a short bit and ignored me.

Brown Pelican at Del Mar Beach

Brown Pelican at Del Mar Beach

There are always a few Willets exploring the shallows for food. Here’s one.

WilletW

I walked up the beach to the North to the area called “Dog Beach” where dozens of dogs romp and play. When we are back in February, it might be worth a try with Penny although her track record with other dogs is not sparkling. It is one of the better beaches for dogs (according to many reviews) in southern California.

Robb and his kids were frolicking in the waves so I decided to brave it — what’s 65 degree water to a Vermonter, eh? It was bracing but after a few body surfs and one ***over_teakettle tumble, I was ready to dry off.

We only stayed for an hour or so — just perfect. As I was leaving, this young gull was strolling around checking out folks, likely for possible handouts. I am trying to make it into a juvenile Heermann’s Gull because of the sooty breast and pale white eye crescents but could be dissuaded. What do you think?

Is this a Heermann's?

Is this a Heermann’s?

We are in Massachusetts with Jennifer and her family and instead of watching Black Phoebes hawk insects over the swimming pool, are watching a beautiful Red-bellied Woodpecker hit the suet. Happy Thanksgiving.

Posted in CA birds, family visit | Leave a comment

Ducks on Parade

About a mile from Robb and Mary’s home in Del Mar is a neat birding spot called the Los Penasquitos Marsh Preserve. I walked down there several mornings and crossed busy Carmel Valley Drive to check out the ducks and other waterfowl on the quickly-moving river. I didn’t have a scope with me and the trail alongside the highway is a bit tight in places but it was a fine place to check off birds. Because of the moving water, it was a virtual parade with bushes along the creek blocking views and then nice open stretches.

There were several Green-winged Teal pushing the limits of my Canon SX50.

There were several Green-winged Teal pushing the limits of my Canon SX50.

This Mallard's head looked iridescent blue in the bright sunlight.

This Mallard’s head looked iridescent blue in the bright sunlight.

Northern Pintail is one of the common ducks here at this time of year.

Northern Pintail is one of the common ducks here at this time of year.

This Pied-billed Grebe cruised in rather closely.

This Pied-billed Grebe cruised in rather closely. See his legs?

It was common to see a wide mix of ducks in the same general area, cruising and feeding together. American Coots, Ruddy Ducks, Cinnamon Teal, Gadwalls, and the above ducks were just a few of the species there. It’s a nice challenge for me to sort them out.

 

Posted in CA birds, family visit | Leave a comment

Allen’s Hummingbird

Yesterday morning, I took a walk over to Torrey Pines Reserve Extension, a desert canyon area just a half mile from the house which is accessible only through residential neighborhoods. It’s a unique gem with a nice system of hiking trails and some good birds. SignW

You get some nice views of the ocean from the upper trails. The Pacific Coast Highway is in the distance.

You get some nice views of the ocean from the upper trails. The Pacific Coast Highway is in the distance.

I saw Bushtits, Northern Harriers, dozens of Yellow-rumped Warblers but the star of the walk with this little Allen’s Hummingbird who perched not far from the trail. He flew off for a bit, returned for more photos, and finally left. I was hoping that he might be a Rufous Hummingbird, a species I have not seen, but I don’t think so. This guy was special.

Hummer3W Hummer2W Hummer1W

We leave for Boston this morning after a nice stint of Southern California weather and a chance to be with our kids and grandkids, who we see too infrequently. We hope to be back with the Airstream in early February.

Posted in CA birds, family visit | Leave a comment

Del Mar Neighborhood Birds

We are in California for a few days seeing our son Robb and his family. What a nice change from the barren “stick season” of Vermont; we awoke early the first morning due to the time change to birdsong and rose bushes in bloom. I have taken some morning walks and while I think it is unusual to have a guy walking around the neighborhood with binoculars and a camera, only one person stopped to ask what I was looking at.

Del Mar is a bedroom community north of San Diego with tropical plantings and lots of birds.

Del Mar is a bedroom community north of San Diego with tropical plantings and lots of birds.

There are hundreds of hummingbirds flitting around — I think most are Anna’s but I did see an Allen’s bronzed back the other morning.

This young Anna's (I think) flew in a perched in the shade of a picture. I was only ten feet away.

This young Anna’s (I think) flew in a perched in the shade of a picture. I was only ten feet away.

Two days ago, I came across a kingbird doing its flycatcher routine, returning to a nearby wire. I took a few shots with little success but thought I had a Western Kingbird. In reviewing eBird reports and my photos, I realized that it was a Cassin’s Kingbird — fairly common here but a life bird for me.

The lighting on this photo is poor but the field marks are clear in some others.

The lighting on this photo is poor but the field marks are clear in some others.

I had a bit of trouble identifying one of the common birds here this time of year: Black Phoebe. I’ve seen a few before but they were always on low branches, doing their bug-catching routine. Here, they perch at the top of conifers, come down to the swimming pool for lunch, and work from rooftops and chimneys.

BPhoebeW

Western Scrub-Jays are noisy and I suspect, pests at time. Here’s one I saw yesterday morning working up in a palm tree, oblivious to my presence (or just ignoring it.)Scrub-jayW

Some of the other birds I’ve seen in this built-up area are: American Kestrel, all sorts of warblers including a Townsend’s Warbler (Life Bird), and dozens of House Finches. This White-crowned Sparrow posed nicely for me on yesterday’s walk.WCSparrowW

I’m not doing a lot of serious birding here, spending more time with the grandkids and just enjoying summer-like temperatures. I have seen some nice ducks and waterfowl and will put together another post in the next day or two. Then back to New England and the reality of November.

 

Posted in CA birds, family visit, life bird, Life list, Local Birding | Leave a comment

Six Weeks To Go

Having gone to bed and then awakened early to the horrific news from Paris, it was good to be nudged out for an early dog walk by Penny. I had heard a rifle shot while it was just getting light so we put on our orange and went out to face the elements. Snow pellets and wind greeted us.

We stopped for “cold noses selfie” along the way.

On the way back, I noted that the back of the house is looking wintry – no solar today.

I couldn’t help but think, “It’s still six weeks before we head south” but remembered that we have a quick trip to CA next week which get us out of cold, grey Vermont for a bit.

The bees, who had a good fly day a week ago, are tucked in and with luck, ready for a long winter.

I only heard a nuthatch during our walk but found a mob scene at our feeders, led by five brassy Blue Jays. Chickadees, juncoes, woodpeckers, nuthatches, even a brownish American Goldfinch were sharing the suet and seeds. The dog warmed up fast with her accustomed place by the wood stove.

Meanwhile the Airstream sits down by the road, looking a bit forlorn, as we await the departure. It’s winterized, empty for now, but I suspect waiting, like us, for travel to warmer climes.

I know that while we are traveling – or for that matter – camping, wifi will be very limited so I’m practicing photographing and posting from my iPhone using Poster. It has limits but when all you have is a spotty cell signal, it does the job.

Happy deer season folks.

Posted in beekeeping, iPhone 6, Penny, Southwest trip 6, Trip Planning, Vizsla | Leave a comment

Vote for the Boats

You may recall that we sold our kayaks and purchased two super light Hornbeck boats this summer. We like them a lot but wonder about lugging them 7,000 miles, much of which is desert, for the relatively few chances we might have to paddle. I have worried about possible theft – they are attractive, unique, easy-to-remove, and expensive to replace.

I am a member of a Facebook group called “Hornbeck Boat Lovers” and decided to post my concerns and ask for advice. Most commenters said that they used bike locks and had no problems. The consensus was that it is easy to saw through the wood thwarts but most thieves were probably looking for something more portable. One guy wrote “I’ve got two locks and a sign that says ‘smile you’re on camera’ for subterfuge.”

I looked into insurance under my auto policy and I can get a policy with $500 deductibles for $100 a year. I am not sure whether to pursue that – if I lose one boat I pay $600 to replace a $1300 craft.

Lastly, I looked over our travel plans to determine just how many paddling opportunities we might have. On the way out, we might have chance at one of our two-day stops but the best chance would be at Patagonia Lake – which is perfect for birding and paddling and we are scheduled for two weeks. I don’t think I’ll try the Pacific Ocean but you never know.

Returning, we’ll have more campgrounds with chances to paddle (South Llano, Falcon, Goose Island, Village Creek). I estimate that I’ll probably paddle a dozen times and Mary will try it a few times.

Lock1kW

We have two bike locks and locking racks.

The weak link, so to speak, is the wooden cross-piece. I might add a metal strip for the trip.

The weak link, so to speak, is the wooden cross-piece. I might add a metal strip for the trip.

The boats with their covers ride well on the truck, especially when tied down to the front.

The boats with their covers ride well on the truck, especially when tied down to the front.

If we don’t have the boats, we’ll wish we did – if they are on top the whole way, we’ll probably question our decision about Yuma, AZ. However, my inclination is to bring them along. Stay tuned.

Posted in Hornbeck boats, Southwest trip 6, SW trip 2016, Trip Planning, winter travel | 1 Comment

2016 Trip – Return Trip

I remember sitting beside the Pacific Ocean a couple of years ago, watching surfers, seabirds, and our grandkids cavorting, and thinking “We’ve got nearly four thousand miles to drive back but this makes it worth it.” Well, God-willing, we’ll have that same situation in a few months.

We’ll mosey back, staying for some lengthy stays at some favorite birding state parks, and try to visit some friends and family along the way. We’ll hunker down at Falcon State Park on the border during part of Texas spring break since that park is not overrun like so many of them. We like kids but hundreds unleashed at the same time can be challenging. I should mention that the maps are developed on a neat website: Roadtrippers.com. Here’s how the map looks at this point.

TripHomeMap

And the blow by blow itinerary.

Trip_Mileage2016B-2

The yellow blocks have a significance – I’ll discuss them in my next blog post.

I hope that you enjoyed this year’s last superman, a Hunter’s Moon, in last night’s sky. It looked like this from our deck, once it cleared the tall pine trees:

Moon1W

 

Posted in Southwest trip, SW trip 2016, Trip Planning | Tagged , , | 1 Comment