First Paddle

Nearly mid-June and I just launched the Hornbeck canoe this morning for the first time. Too many other activities, chores, excuses but it was a great beginning. I went early to our local Wrightsville Reservoir and being a weekday and early, only one sculler was on the water.

Dozens of bird calls kept me occupied as I headed north on the quiet water with a few beavers objecting to my presence with loud slaps. Then, up ahead, I saw the white head of an Osprey or Bald Eagle in a craggy tree and carefully approaching it, saw that it was my first bald eagle of the year.

I sat at a distance and watched him for some time and then carefully paddled away leaving him undisturbed.

The inlet of the reservoir is the North Branch of the Winooski River and for a short period, it gets scenic and is a great paddle.

I came upon a Common Merganser with her chicks resting on a sandbar and she slipped into the stream and led them away as I tried to steady the boat and take some photos.

The eagle was still there on the return trip and I saw/heard over thirty species, got a nice workout, and finished up before 8 o’clock. Good to be on the water again.

Posted in Canoeing, Hornbeck boats, Local Birding, Vermont Birding, Washington County, Wildlife Watching | Comments Off on First Paddle

Revisiting Chickering Bog

After weeks of rainy days, I took advantage of a sunny break to revisit the Nature Conservancy’s Chickering Bog which I had first explored in late 2015. The trip over there is scenic and birdy and these guys watched me while I listened to a Least Flycatcher along the way.

My first Vermont Killdeer greeted me at the parking area.

The trail in was loaded with mosquitos and bird song — warblers, vireos, ovenbirds, and others — and a pair of camera-shy White-throated Sparrows.

A real treat was a Winter Wren who packed a lot of song into a tiny body. The photo quality is poor due to low light and an elusive songster.

Lots of other items to see — here are a few:

Mourning Cloak on the road

Bunchberry?

I came home to this guy, who with his spouse, visits the feeder daily. What a joy to watch the grosbeaks, purple finches, and hummingbirds for a needed dose of crimson.

Posted in nature, Vermont Birding | Comments Off on Revisiting Chickering Bog

Service Please!

While the weather in Vermont has been cool and rainy and not conducive to camping, we are becoming impatient with the delays and lack of progress in getting repairs estimated and begun. Pete’s RV in South Burlington has not distinguished themselves so far, setting an inspection date and then waffling for three weeks or so. It is a tough time of year to get work done since there is a lot of dealer prep and prior service commitments after a long winter. But …..

There are two problems. The first is the serious damage to the awning caused by a “dust devil” in New Mexico that I first mentioned here.

The awning remains strapped in place with canoe straps after being manually retracted with the help of three wonderful campsite neighbors – in mid-March.

The good news is that the insurance appraiser looked it over a month ago, sent me a check and someday, we hope to just replace most of the unit. Progressive Insurance has been excellent.

The second incident, completely my fault, occurred in Texas as we went for one last look at the Whooping Cranes – which had departed for parts north. I turned down a narrow road which had a “Men Working” sign at the turn but it wasn’t obvious, until after a quarter mile, that the road was closed off due to paving — and there was no turnaround. Rather than backing all the way to the main road, I tried to turn around on the road, misjudged and got the back wheels down off the pavement. The rig was hung up big time and after call to AAA and a wait, a big tow truck (which luckily happened to be in the general area) showed up.

We were lucky to have a monster tow truck with an experienced driver available.

The driver winched the rig, ever so slowly, getting it turned and out — but we knew there was damage. I could drive it back to the state park and over time to Vermont without the propane or the black water system available.

There’s a leak in the black water tank and other damage that needs to be identified. Come on guys, let’s get with it.

Meanwhile, I’m  birding locally and waiting, and still wondering what possessed me to try that U-turn on a narrow road. My co-pilot Sally’s  intuition said, Don’t do it!”  I wish mine had.

Posted in Airstream Interstate, awning, insurance, repairs, SW trip 2017 | 1 Comment

Goshawks

The Goshawk limped home from Texas carrying a broken awning and a damaged undercarriage. We took on a load of contaminated fuel (likely water) in Virginia which nearly grounded us. After a safe arrival and several sessions with insurance adjusters, I am ready to leave it at the RV center and forget about it until everything is fixed.

In the meantime, Spring is slowly creeping into northern Vermont as we await the migrating birds. Penny and I took a hike yesterday afternoon in our woods and the surrounding territory and aside from chickadees, nothing was moving or calling. It was still wonderful to be out getting some exercise. Then from up ahead, I heard the unmistakeable cry of a Northern Goshawk and soon saw a large slate and white raptor weaving through the woods. The dog and I watched him/her but could not get very close. I grabbed a few long range photos as we enjoyed this majestic bird.

It was wonderful to hear and see this raptor, who was likely one of the two that were here this time last year, right after I named the van Goshawk. I hope I’ll have more encounters with this Goshawk in the weeks ahead. A nice taste of spring birding in Central Vermont. Bring them on.

Posted in Hawks, Local Birding, Vermont Birding | Comments Off on Goshawks

Peeps

While staying at Galveston Beach State Park on the way home, we walked the beach several times seeing hundreds of shorebirds — mostly peeps — but a number of Ruddy Turnstones, Willets, and Laughing Gulls as well.  Here are some of the peeps that I saw one evening.

Sanderlings are fun to watch as they run back and forth with the waves.

Who’s the guy in the mirror?

A banded Piping Plover — did not see the bands until processing the photo.

A Willet and Sanderling for comparison.

These tiny shorebirds, often in big skittish flocks, are a joy to watch, especially when you know that you won’t see them again until this summer in New England.

Posted in bird banding, shorebirds, SW trip 2017, Texas birding, Texas birds | Comments Off on Peeps

Thursday-Friday Birds

Rather than stress out over RV issues, we are focusing on some nice birds here in the Rockport area.

Today on the bird walk, we saw 40 species including several terns. Carrot beak – Caspian?

Sitting in our campsite mid-day, we heard the call of a Northern Parula and watched this guy for ten minutes work through the thick foliage. Sorry it’s a bit out of focus.

And the air is alive with the calls of cardinals. We have one building a nest right in front of the van. This guy was foraging under the van and apparently is camera-phobic. Wet snow in Vermont, breezes and birds here. But in less than two weeks, reality time and waiting for the Northern Parulas to visit us.

Posted in Texas birding, Texas birds | Comments Off on Thursday-Friday Birds

Heading Home

While in California, I learned that my dead MacBook battery was going to be a $750 repair so I am limping home using just the cord, which is touchy. So blogging is slow since I can’t pull off the bird photos easily. (End of whine.)

I found some loose tubing hanging down and have determined it is a break in the propane vent line which has shut down the system. No big deal at the point and we will fix it at home.

However, we were hit with a “dust devil” while parked in New Mexico with the awning out. It came out of nowhere on a hot sunny afternoon and in seconds, nearly destroyed the awning. Neighbor campers helped Sally and I removed broken supports and manually retract it so that I could tie it up for the journey home. We were too concerned to get a “before” picture but here’s the wonderful trio that worked an hour or more to sort things out.

After stops at [Seminole Canyon SP](https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/seminole-canyon) and [Falcon Lake SP](http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/falcon), we are settled at [Goose Island State Park](http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/goose-island) in Texas, seeing some good birds including some early warblers.

The game plan is to stop in Louisiana next week and start swinging north with an ETA of the 11th or so. Starting to get itchy for the Green Mountain State.

Posted in accident, Airstream Interstate, awning, equipment_issues, propane, repairs, SW trip 2017 | 1 Comment

La Jolla Cliffs

We stopped for a brief visit, with many many tourists, in the beach town of La Jolla to look at the Brandt’s Cormorants nesting there. They pack the rocky cliffs oblivious to the folks gawking at them.

Among the other birds we saw were two Heermann’s Gulls.

A number of Harbor Seals entertained the watchers.

About time to turn the van around and move eastward.

Posted in CA birds, SW trip 2017 | Comments Off on La Jolla Cliffs

Red-Shouldered Hawks

We have been visiting friends in San Diego who live right next to Balboa Park and have parking available — and nice birding from the backyard. One of the favorites is a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks who live nearby and call to one another throughout the day. Here are a few shots I took of these handsome birds.

Posted in CA birds, Hawks, SW trip 2017, visiting | Comments Off on Red-Shouldered Hawks

On The Beach

South Carlsbad State Beach is a wonderful camping site — very popular and almost impossible to get into.

I made reservations months ago for a beachside site. Here is what we see out our windows:

We have watched California Grey Whales migrate north along with pods of porpoises. The birding has been nice (Pacific Loon is a new life bird) as has been the chance to see Robb, Mary, Dane and Maeve down in Del Mar. We’ll be here several days more and then hang out in the Del Mar driveway (hookup, hot shower, great hospitality.)

Posted in Airstream Interstate, CA birds, CA camping, family visit, life bird, SW trip 2017 | Comments Off on On The Beach