On the Matanzas River

Mature brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)

I had a great opportunity today to get out on the water on a pontoon boat on the Matanzas River to scout in preparation for the upcoming Christmas Bird Count. I was accompanied by several folks who will be conducting the official count on Sunday. Today, we wanted to see where the birds are located along the waterway now and we wanted to have an expert birder teach the rest of us tips to improve our bird identification.

It was an amazing day on the water and we saw a nice variety of birds. I think we all feel better about our ability to handle the official count on Sunday.

I found it difficult to capture good shots while moving in the boat, but I was able to capture some. Other photographs were good enough for us to validate our bird identification. I had the most fun watching the pelicans fish.

Immature brown pelican. I love the way pelicans can hang goofy-like in the air.
A mature brown pelican.
Ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis).
Black-bellied plover in front ((Pluvialis squatarola) and a greater yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca).

Great-horned Owls

Great-horned owl that attempted to serve Dart as breakfast for its young.

A couple weeks ago, we began to hear a great-horned owl hoot for hours in the early morning between midnight and sunrise. This owl hooted non-stop for hours. About a week after all that hooting, we noticed that there were now two owls hooting in the trees behind our backyard. They were hooting a lovely duet. At first it sounded like one owl. If you listened closely, you could hear that it was one owl starting the hoot and the other finishing it. They hooted for hours.

The other night, we let Dart out for his final opportunity to relieve himself before bed and heard the owls doing their duet. We were reminded of our 2016 camping trip where two great-horned owls attempted to make Dart breakfast for their little ones. Regis saved Dart and a rabbit became breakfast.

Dart is probably reasonably safe while they are still “in love” but if they nest nearby we will need to be wary.

We recently saw two bald eagles circling and communicating with each other. In the past a pair has regularly nested nearby, so perhaps these are the two starting their courtship prior to nesting.

On a beautiful sunny day recently I was trying to photograph the butterflies visiting the last of my salvia. The bumblebees are gone. I was actively taking pictures of one butterfly when I noticed a change in its behavior. A praying mantis had nabbed it and started to eat it. It was hard to watch, but I understand the praying mantis has to eat also. In spite of having a wonderful camera in my hand, I was unable to get a good picture. I think part of the problem was adrenaline and the other part not having a good grasp of focusing with the new camera.

A poor picture of a praying mantis eating a butterfly.

Regis and I have been practicing a lot with the camera in hopes of honing our skills for our 2020 adventure. We plan to cover about 8,000 miles next summer and go to Washington state, Canada, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico before heading home. I’m still working out the details but I’m excited to have locked up some campsites on Puget Sound for nearly a month. Wahoo!

Little Blue Heron at the Palencia Saltmarsh.
Osprey near our house.

Mail Forwarding on the Road

Screen capture of our St. Brendan’s Isle account. Since we are not currently on the road, the account is inactive.

While traveling for extended periods of time, you may need an option for forwarding your mail. There are several companies that provide mail forwarding services and they are usually located in states with no state income tax. Folks who are on the road full-time can use these services to set up a permanent address.

Regis did extensive research on the mail forwarding services available when we started our summer long adventures in 2015 and decided upon St. Brendan’s Isle which is located in Green Cove Springs, Florida. We have been happy with their offerings and customer service and continue to use them. When we are not on the road, we make our account inactive.

When we are on the road, we activate our account with St. Brendan’s Isle and have the US Postal Service forward our mail to them. The USPS does not forward “junk” mail which significantly reduces how much mail we get. We receive most of our bills and statements electronically, which also reduces the amount of mail we receive. We use the virtual mail forwarding service. St. Brendan’s Isle scans the outside of the envelope and notifies us via email that the image is available. I can usually tell from the envelope whether I need to see the contents. I can choose to have the item shredded or have them scan the contents for my review. I can then have them shred it or hold it for later forwarding to a real address ( a campground we will be spending 4-5 days).

This page on the St. Brendan’s Isle website does a good job of explaining the process.

Should you decide to use their service, please let them know Linda and Regis Burek referred you!

Sunrise over the salt marsh. I had to get a photograph in this blog post.

White Pelicans

White pelicans and brown pelicans on the shores of the Tolomato River (intracoastal waterway).

The white pelicans have returned to our area (St. Augustine, Florida). We heard they were back a few weeks ago but had the opportunity to see about a flock of 30 along the Intracoastal Waterway (Tolomato River) near Pine Island the other day. I have included a few pictures of them from last year that I took while conducting the annual St. Augustine Christmas Bird Count. I love seeing the brown pelicans next to the white pelicans giving an opportunity to see the difference in size.

The American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) is one of the largest North American birds and breeds inland. They, like many humans, winter in warmer climates which is why we only get to see them in Florida in the winter. Their wingspan can reach 9 feet while the brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) has a 7 foot wingspan. The pelicans congregate in large groups in the winter. It’s likely we will eventually see 100 or more together like we did last year. For more information and range maps, check out All About Birds.

Our book The Gifts of the Day: Florida to Cape Breton Island is now available in hard copy at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

We created a Facebook page for L and R Travels and encourage you to like it. We also have an Instagram account.

Kings of the hill – a variety of birds including white pelicans, brown pelicans, cormorants, oystercatches, terns, gulls, willets, dowagers, and others. The picture isn’t good enough to clearly identify all the species along the water’s edge.

Trip Planning Software

Route for our 2016 trip

When we started our cross country traveling in 2015, Regis researched planning software options and selected RV Trip wizard. The company continues to upgrade the software and we continue to use it. Try the FREE demo. In this post, I am going to explain some of the features that we like about the software.

In the trip settings, you can enter information about your camping set up such as the height of your rig, whether you are carrying propane, and how many miles you can go on a gallon of fuel. This aids the software in ensuring it doesn’t route you to an underpass that will remove the top of your rig or send you to a tunnel that doesn’t allow propane. By entering some of the other information, it aids the software in estimating the cost of your trip.

Another nice feature is to have the software put a driving radius on the map. I use this feature extensively to limit our driving to between 250-300 miles. We may do more than that if we are driving exclusively on the interstate, but we usually prefer to not spend all day on the road.

I have the driving radius set for 200, 250, and 300 miles. In this image, St. Augustine, Florida is the central point.

The small icons represent campgrounds. Clicking on them will give you information about the campground with a couple screen shot examples below. If you decide to stay there you let the software know where on the route to place the stop and how many days you are staying. The website link takes you to the web page for the campground where you may find additional information and can perhaps make a reservation.

There are a variety of options available to print your trip, send it to an excel spreadsheet, and more. We usually print a copy to keep with us in case we don’t have internet access.

A drop down menu with some of the options available

You can save multiple trips. On our long trips, I may create multiple alternative routes. You can also enter comments and reservation numbers into your trip so everything is in one place.

If you know of a campground that is not in their software, let them know. They will verify it and add it.

When making plans, I usually pick the key locations we want to visit and let the software plot the shortest route between those points. Then, I select campgrounds along the way. I find the software to be user-friendly.

This planning software has made our trip planning much easier. For us, it is well worth the $39 per year.

The Gifts of the Day: Florida to Cape Breton Island

Our third book in the Gifts of the Day series is now available in eBook version on Amazon for $4.99. There are over 100 photographs in the book, so electronic readers in color will provide the best experience.

The hard copy versions will soon be available through Amazon ($20) and Barnes and Noble ($12). Those versions have different ISBN numbers but the interior of the books are the same.

We found that by limiting distribution and working with Amazon and Barnes and Noble directly, we could reduce the cost of the book. We are working on book 4 now.

Tis the Season…

By Regis;

I know it’s only November but the weather finally cooled down enough to start working on RV projects. Since we did not go on any long trip this summer I had made a “to do list” for the RV. It’s been solid 80 degrees plus since mid September and hotter still all summer long. Even at 80, the inside of the RV is about 95-100 depending on how much sun shine there is. Not one thing got done from the to do list. It was just too hot.

A few days ago I woke to 63 degrees! Great, I can start on one of the RV projects. This job required several hours on the roof. It was just not possible to do till the cooler weather.

We have written on previous posts of poor campground WIFI and how we resort to using our mobile phone to upload blog posts and check weather etc. We have also written on how we improve the cell signal inside the RV using the weboost from Wilson electronics. In short the weboost uses an antenna outside and inside the RV with an amplifier in between. Bottom line for us is that the weboost turns an unusable cell signal inside the RV to a very usable one.

Since we first got the weboost we have been using a temporary tower to mount the outside antenna. I didn’t want to install anything permanent until I knew it would work for us. Well it does work and now we need a nice clean install.

I know some of you out there are starting to panic that there are not any pictures yet. Not to worry, pics are down below with the install!

My plan was to replace the low profile TV antenna with a retractable batwing type and mount the weboost to it. This would allow me to raise and lower the antenna as needed. I needed to do this because our RV is 13 feet 2 inches tall. Mounting the weboost would have pushed the hight to 13′ 8″ or so. The first bridge I went under would knock it clean off!

electronics center ready for upgrade

I thought it would be simple to mount the new antenna, use the old cable to pull the new cable through, then connect everything. No,no, no! It seems during the RV manufacturing the cable got glued between the roof and the insulation. The old cable was NOT moving an inch! I had to come up with a plan B. Why do I always need a plan B?

Luckily the roof is insulated with 5 inches of styrofoam. That should be easy to get a hole through. The problem I now had was how to drill a hole 7 feet long? The longest drill bit I could find was only 5.5 feet, a little short!

Here I got lucky again. I noticed I had three ceiling fixtures in a straight line. I had the tv antenna mount, then 18 inches toward the front a light fixture, then again 18 inches forward a speaker. After removing the light and speaker I was able to drill from the antenna hole to the light hole, then from the light hole to the speaker hole! Bingo half way there. I’ll take that as a gift of the day!

its cold here but that’s not snow it’s styrofoam

From the speaker hole I had to turn slight left and go another 4 feet. I got lucky again! The insulation ran only another 2 feet or so and then it was open space in the very front. Wow, two gifts in one day!

With all the hard parts done what remained was to mount the new antenna on the roof, fish the cable through and put everything back together. This step went very well. Everything got connected just fine, turned the power on and in fact all components worked just fine.

TV and weboost in stowed position
tv and weboost in up position

As a final note I did some signal testing. Without the weboost the signal inside the RV was -106db, a very weak signal maybe 1 bar. With the weboost turned on the signal strengthen to -70db. As we have found during past trips the weboost will allow us to have a very usable internet connect using our phone hotspot.

everything in its place. weboost is top center.