Manatees by the Saltmarsh

Manatee
Manatee.  You can see the scars from propellers. 

November 18, 2018

Regis and I went birding at the Saltmarsh yesterday and saw lots of birds.  We saw four different birds of prey:  Bald Eagle, Osprey, Red-tailed hawk, and Northern Harrier.  While standing on the dock at the intracoastal waterway (ICW), I looked across the ICW at the GTM Reserve to watch all the bird activity.  Regis called that a manatee had just surfaced.  It turned out to be four manatees cruising by the dock.  There was a baby in the group!  They were so close, I couldn’t get a picture with my long lens until they got further away.   I suppose they are migrating to warmer waters.  There were lots of boats headed south on the ICW also.  The manatees were hugging the shore and I hope they do that the whole way so they don’t get run over by those boats.

I took Regis birding with me at the same place I saw the leucistic Blue-gray Gnatcatcher last Monday and Regis found it again.  How cool is that??

Following are some favorite bird pictures from the last few bird hikes.

Limpkin
Limpkin
Marsh Wren
Marsh Wren
Eastern Phoebe
Eastern Phoebe
Red-shouldered Hawk
Red-shouldered Hawk
Savannah Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Sedge Wren
Sedge Wren
Swamp Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Mottled Duck
Mottled Duck
Muscovy Duck
Muscovy Duck
Snowy Egret
Snowy Egret
Wood Stork
Wood Stork
Red-winged Blackbird (female)
Red-winged Blackbird (female)

 

Leucistic Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

Leucistic Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Leucistic Blue-gray Gnatcatcher near Hastings, FL

By Linda November 13, 2018

I’ve been spending some time birding in the area lately in preparation for the Christmas Bird Count.  I plan to participate and I’m trying to get a handle on the local birds I might see.  I have lived here 3 years, so I’m still learning.

I recently went to a local storm water management facility with two friends to do some birding.  It was an amazing place to bird.  It also shows the wonderful outcomes when you use natural ways to deal with storm water issues.  The facility creates a wonderful wetland that attracts a large variety of birds.

The coolest bird we saw while we were there is a Leucistic Blue-gray Gnatcatcher.  According to Wikepedia, the definition is leucism ” is a condition in which there is partial loss of pigmentation in an animal resulting in white, pale, or patchy coloration of the skin, hair, feathers, scales or cuticle, but not the eyes.”

Here are some pictures of a regular Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and our leucistic Gnatcatcher.  We identified 41 birds while we were there in one area.  Here is a link to an area of our website that includes other bird photos from that trip.

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Blue-gray Gnatcatcher near Hastings, FL
Leucistic Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Leucistic Blue-gray Gnatcatcher near Hastings, FL
Leucistic Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Leucistic Blue-gray Gnatcatcher near Hastings, FL

I also hang out at our local saltmarsh regularly.  It is very beautiful.  Every time I go, the weather, lighting, and clouds are different so you get a different feel for the area.

Saltmarsh on a cloudy day
Saltmarsh on a cloudy day
Saltmarsh on a cloudy day
Saltmarsh on a cloudy day

Regis, Dart, and I are planning an adventure to another part of Florida in early December.  As long as the motor home hasn’t been sold, we intend to enjoy it!

 

Wood Stork

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Wood Stork on Anastasia Island.

By Linda (November 9, 2018)

I love Wood Storks.  They are ancient looking and beautiful in their own way.   This stork was hanging out by the Ark Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation center hoping there would be fish available.  If the Ark has more fish than they need for their current patients, the extra fish are tossed to the birds waiting outside who are happy to quickly dispose of the leftovers.

I went to the marsh again this morning to watch the sunrise.  It was particularly beautiful.  Following are some favorite pictures.  I also got a confirmed siting of my first Clapper Rail.  I’ve heard them many times, but they have eluded me and I have never see one.  Not only did I see one today, but I got a picture too!

Sunrise over the salt marsh
Sunrise over the salt marsh
Sunrise over the salt marsh
Sunrise over the salt marsh
Sunrise over the salt marsh
Sunrise over the salt marsh
Clapper Rail
Clapper Rail

 

Sunrise Over the Marsh

Sunrise over the marsh
Sunrise over the marsh. (Regis took this picture)

By Linda (November 8, 2018)

About a week ago, Regis and I got up early to watch the sun rise over the salt marsh.  The rising sun brings out the gold colors in the marsh grasses.  It’s very beautiful.  It’s a great time to watch the birds begin to stir and set out on their journey for the day.

Sunrise over the marsh
Sunrise over the marsh.

The second day I was there, I heard a Great Horned Owl before sunrise.

I also continue to volunteer at the Ark Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation.  I have had an opportunity to see a Northern Gannet up close and an Osprey that had been electrocuted.  Sadly, the Gannet did not make it but the Osprey was transferred to another rehabilitator that is better able to handle it.  Ospreys eat better in captivity if there are other Ospreys around.  This other rehabilitator had other Ospreys, so it improves the bird’s chances of surviving.

Northern Gannet
Northern Gannet at the Ark Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation center.
Osprey
Osprey at the Ark Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation center.

I went on a shorebird walk at the Matanzas Inlet.  It was a beautiful day.  Following are a few favorite pictures from the walk.

Ruddy Turnstone feasting on a fish
Ruddy Turnstone feasting on a fish at the Matanzas Inlet
Black Skimmer beginning to skim at the Matanzas Inlet.
Black Skimmer beginning to skim at the Matanzas Inlet. The lower bill is longer than the upper bill. The bird drags it’s lower bill through the water to feed.
Great egret shaking it's feathers
Great egret shaking it’s feathers at the Matanzas Inlet.
Shorebirds at the Matanzas Inlet. The Black Skimmers are lying in the sand.
Shorebirds at the Matanzas Inlet. The Black Skimmers are lying in the sand. The first time I saw a Black Skimmer doing this, I thought it was dead.  

RV is up for sale

Motorhome Exterior (7 of 1)

What!? That’s right, we are selling the RV. I think a big part of this decision is the fact that Dart is getting older. While he is very excited to go hiking, he just can’t go more than a mile or two unless its cold. Hiking was really the only activity all three of us could do together while we’re on the road. Linda and I are NOT the type of RVers who just sit around the campground.

As you know through this blog we like traveling, taking pictures and sharing the experience. We are not sure what we will be doing. Much depends on actually selling the RV. When that is gone we can explore what options we have to do the things we want to do.

So here’s the pitch. If you, or anyone you know, are interested in RVing we have a great one for sale.

Some details;

  • 2016 Jayco Seneca 37TS
  • 29,000 miles
  • Freightliner M2-106 chassis
  • Cumins 6.7 liter ISB diesel
  • Auto leveling jacks
  • 2 zone AC/heat pumps
  • Propane forced air furnace
  • 8000 watt onan generator
  • Double wide refrigerator with ice maker (AC/LP powered)
  • LP cook top
  • Convection microwave.
  • 3 flat screen TV’s (one outside)
  • Satellite dish with auto tune
  • Power awning with LED lighting
  • Plumbing for washer/dryer
  • King size bed

The motorhome is stored in St. Augustine, Florida.  The asking price is $149,000.  If interested, please email landrtravels.com@gmail.com.

Motorhome Exterior (16 of 1)Motorhome Exterior (14 of 1)Motorhome Exterior (13 of 1)Motorhome Exterior (10 of 1)Motorhome Exterior (6 of 1)Motorhome Exterior (4 of 1)Motorhome Exterior (2 of 1)Motorhome Exterior (1 of 1)Motorhome Interior (8 of 1)Motorhome Interior (7 of 1)Motorhome Interior (6 of 1)Motorhome Interior (5 of 1)Motorhome Interior (4 of 1)Motorhome Interior (2 of 1)Motorhome Interior (1 of 1)

 

Ibis

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Ibis on Anastasia Island

October 22, 2018

We’ve been enjoying watching the fall migration here in northeast Florida.  I have seen many flocks of Ibis passing through.  I love the long curved bill of the Ibis and enjoying watching them feed by our local bodies of water.

I recently went to Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and saw a large group of Ibis feeding together.  I got some video.

 

I also saw a small flock of Roseate Spoonbills during a recent Hawkwatch.

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Flock of Roseate Spoonbills over the GTM National Estuarine Research Reserve.

 

Matanzas River

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Pelican over the Matanzas River.

October 18, 2018

Last Sunday, we kayaked on the Matanzas River near the Matanzas Inlet.  The river meets the ocean at the inlet.  It was a beautiful day, so there were lots of folks out enjoying the water.  That meant there were lots of boats.  I would not kayak that particular area again on a week-end with good weather.  There were too many boats and a couple times I thought I was going to get run over.

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Mango and Tango waiting to be mounted on the roof racks after a beautiful day on the Matanzas River. We put it on Rattlesnake Island.

There were lots of dogs enjoying boating.  I can’t see Dart enjoying the water and boating like the dogs we saw today.

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Dog enjoying the water near the Matanzas Inlet.
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A couple of dogs out for a ride on the Matanzas River.

I often see dolphins in this area, but I think they wisely stayed away with all the human activity.  We got a nice view of a Reddish Egret and lots of Pelicans.

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Reddish Egret on the Matanzas River.
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Pelicans on the Matanzas River.
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Pelican on the Matanzas River.

 

Kayaking in Florida

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Eagle chasing Osprey to get the Osprey’s fish over Guana Lake.

October 6, 2018

We’ve been back a month and we didn’t get out kayaking until a few days ago.  We kayaked on Guana Lake in the late afternoon.  We saw some drama with an Eagle and an Osprey.

 

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Eagle chasing Osprey to try to get the fish over Guana Lake.

I’ve been volunteering in several capacities but recently started to help out at a local rehabber.  As a result, I got a few pictures of the birds being rehabilitated and the birds hanging out outside the facility hoping for a handout.  It’s been rewarding.

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Wood Stork
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Wood Storks
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Black Vulture
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Wood Stork
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Black Vulture
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Gannet

 

Back in Florida

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Brown Pelican over the GTM Reserve in Florida.

September 1, 2018

Once we left the Rocky Mountains, we headed directly home without exploring.  It is the longest that we have had the tow vehicle hooked to the motor home without removing it.  We drove from 275 to 375 miles a day, stopped for the night, and moved on.  We made sure we had all the supplies (food) we needed so that we did not need to unhook.  We traveled the interstates so we generally made good time except when we went through the cities or got in a fight with the GPS in Topeka, Kansas.

The GPS kept telling us to get off the interstate around Topeka, which didn’t make sense.  I eventually succumbed at the wrong exit and wound up heading west again and doing a big loop.  It took us awhile to realize that the GPS was set to avoid toll roads and interstate 70 is a toll road around Topeka.  We added some unnecessary miles to the trip back, much to Dart’s dismay.

If Dart could have escaped us, I think he would have started knocking on doors trying to find someone to take him in that wouldn’t make him spend so much time driving.

It took six days of driving to get back and when we got to Georgia, we saw the bluest skies we have seen since early July.  It was exciting.  The skies only got better as we got into Florida.  I fell in love with Florida all over again.

We live in a community that doesn’t allow us to bring the motor home in front of the house to pack or unpack.  So, we stopped at a retail parking lot about 2 miles from our house to disconnect the car and make a trip to the house to unload the kayaks, the dog, and some of the food.

I usually put the transmission  in park when we are disconnecting and something seemed odd.  It took a long time for the light to stop blinking and some of the lights weren’t showing (for example, to indicate what gear I was in).  As I helped Regis remove the bolts holding the car to the motor home, I mentioned that something didn’t seem right.  As we each pulled the bolts out, the car began to roll backwards.  OKay.  Obviously, it didn’t work.  I rushed to jump in the car and step on the break and found I couldn’t put the parking break on.  Now, I had a car that wouldn’t go out of neutral and couldn’t set the parking break and we were on a very slight incline (since it’s Florida, it’s a wonder we found one of the fewest places with a “slight” incline).   I kept my foot on the brake until Regis put chocks around the wheels.

We were 2 miles from our house after the longest trip we have taken in the motor home and now our car didn’t work.  What???

Just as we were working through next steps, a car drove up and stopped with two gentlemen I have never seen before.  They asked if we had just come from Denver.  What again?  I indicated yes but was puzzled how they knew.  It turns out to be the guy I have been coordinating with for the RV storage facility.  The two men were nice enough to give us a jump start and we were on our way.

For some reason, the battery drained completely while hooked up to the motor home.  There was nothing on in the Jeep to do that, so there must have been some drain by being hooked up to the motor home.  Having never experienced towing it for almost a week without unhooking it, we never had the opportunity to realize that the battery may have been draining on each tow.

Now many of you may remember, we packed out house before leaving in anticipation of moving and then decided not to move.  We returned home to a house with all our goods packed in boxes in the garage.  It was been a very busy few days.

Our first priority was to find the internet router and cell phone extender.  (We can’t use the cell phones in the house without the extender.)  Regis went through EVERY box in the garage 3 times the day we returned and did not find it.  He found it the next day in the motor home.

Anyway, after we get organized, we’re going to go to the beach and watch the clouds blow across the blue sky as the waves roll onto shore for several hours.

I originally planned to get some nice Florida pictures and do a nice close out post, but it has been too crazy to even turn the camera on.  So, this ends Adventure 2018.  I don’t know what’s next, but we’ll let you know when we find out.

Life’s an adventure.  Live while you are still alive!

Bird Sanctuary at Estes Park

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House Wren in Estes Park, Colorado

August 24, 2018

This morning, we went in search of moose.  We went to Brainard Lake near the Indian Peaks Wilderness.  We did not see any moose, so we hiked to Long Lake.  We didn’t see any moose, but the views were incredible.  Of course, Regis and I both had long lenses on our cameras and I forgot my cell phone, so we have no pictures of the amazing views.

After our short hike in this air which is significantly lacking in oxygen, I left Dart and Regis at the motor home and went to the Bird Sanctuary near the Estes Park Lake.  My first encounter was with two snakes fornicating.

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Two snakes. The only snake in Rocky Mountain National Park is the Garter Snake and we are in Estes Park, right outside the park. Therefore, I believe these are Garter Snakes. If you look closely, there are two heads. They were in the grass, so it was tough to get a photo.
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Garter Snake in Estes Park, Colorado.
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Possibly a female Red-winged Blackbird Estes Park, Colorado
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Robin in Estes Park, Colorado
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Duck in Estes Park, Colorado. (Two bird books and I can’t figure out what kind)
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House Wren in Estes Park, Colorado
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Mountain Chickadee in Estes Park, Colorado.
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Estes Park, Colorado (I think this might be a female Brown-headed Cowbird)
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Eating berries in Estes Park, Colorado. (Regis and I have looked in two bird books and can’t figure out what this bird is.)
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Barn Swallows in Estes Park, Colorado.

If anyone can identify the birds that I can’t, please let me know and I will update this post.  It’s amazing that neither Regis or I can identify some of them with two different bird guides!

Elk

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Elk nursing in Rocky Mountain National Park

August 23, 2018

The night after we saw the wild mustangs near Cody, it rained hard.  We were hoping that would get rid of some of the smoke.  Instead, it was far, far worse.  Apparently, a cool front brought a lot of the British Columbia smoke to the area.  We could barely see any scenery, so we went to downtown Cody to walk Main Street.  I wanted to go to the art galleries.  It was Sunday, they were all closed except for a photography gallery.  We went in there and I was greatly inspired.

After we left Cody, we went to Casper and saw lots and lots of Pronghorn on the way.  Regis saw a roadside sign that said the 2/3 of the world’s Pronghorns are in Wyoming.  It was very smoky in Casper.  We could barely see Casper mountain.  We had a wonderful visit with a friend and walked along the Platte River the next day.  I went to the Werner Wildlife Museum.  It was free!

I prefer to see live animals but enjoyed seeing the animals close up.  They had a black bear and grizzly bear next to each other with an explanation of the differences.  It was very helpful to be up close and see the details.  Most of the animals were from Wyoming, but they had some from around the world.  My favorite was the Least Weasel.  The weasel is so tiny.  It looks like someone stretched a mouse to three times it’s length.

We arrived in Estes Park yesterday.  The campground host warned us that a mother bear and two cubs frequent the campground.  We saw the the dumpster has a padlock.  We’ve been to places that say there are bears around, but you can really believe it if the trash containers are bear proof.  We woke up to blue skies.  We haven’t see a blue sky in weeks.  It was particularly beautiful.  I was mesmerized by the color.

We headed into Rocky Mountain National Park this morning to drive along the amazing Trail Ridge Road.  We took a side trip along the Old Fall River Road, which is a dirt road.  The scenery was spectacular and it was darn cold at the top of the mountain.  The wind was blowing very hard.

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Fall Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park. Our first blue skies in weeks.
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Near the Alpine Visitor Center in Rocky Mountain National Park. There is a herd of elk around the center of the photo on the mountainside.
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Regis got a picture of another hawk on the wing. It’s cool when you are slightly above them!

On the way down the other side of the Continental Divide, we saw lots of elk.  We saw the males relaxing at a higher elevation and found the females and calves near the Colorado River.  There was one young male in the group.  I was standing on the road taking pictures when one of the females moved close by.  We heard a bleating sound and realized it was coming from one of the calves.  The only female to turn her head was the one closest to me.  The little calf ran up to her and started nursing.  They were so close to me that I had a very hard time taking a picture with my long lens with the extender.  I don’t usually have a problem with wildlife coming so close that I can’t take the picture!!

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Male elk in Rocky Mountain National Park
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Calf and young male elk in Rocky Mountain National Park
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Close up of female elk in Rocky Mountain National Park
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Elk calf nursing in Rocky Mountain National Park

After our exciting encounter with the elk, we headed back along the road and stopped near the east entrance at Beaver Meadows to have lunch.  It was nice to sit still and enjoy the scenery and smaller wildlife.  We saw a bunch of birds but the most interesting experience was the ground squirrel.  This was a very brave squirrel who came to find some food.  Dart barely caused it any concern.  We would not let Dart chase the squirrel, so he had to be content with watching it.  It came within six inches of his nose.  I was a little concerned it was going to jump on Dart.  Instead, it chose to jump on top of the picnic table and run up my arm while I was eating a protein bar.  I did not expect it to get that close, so didn’t react to chase it away until it made it all the way to my bar.

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Bluebird in Rocky Mountain National Park.
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Linda trying to eat lunch in Rocky Mountain National Park. I didn’t expect the ground squirrel to be so bold as to run up my arm to get a bite of my protein bar.

Wild Mustangs

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Wild Mustangs at the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.

August 19, 2018

The night before yesterday it rained, so we woke up to beautiful weather and the clearest skies we have seen in weeks.  It was the first time in awhile there wasn’t smoke in the air.

We headed to the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.  Adjacent to it is the Pryor Mountain Wild Horse Range.  We saw some wild horses and they are beautiful.  They looked healthy to me.  There is an organization called the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center who is actively involved in helping to ensure the continued success of these horses.  I was fascinated with the stripe going doing each horse’s back and found some interesting information on the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center website.    This website discusses the distinct colors and markings of the horses.

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Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.

We spent some time at the Devil’s Canyon overlook.  Wow!  While we were there we saw someone water skiing down the canyon.  There was a great campground at the end of the paved road where there is also a boat ramp.  If we come back this way again, I’d like to camp in the campground and kayak through the canyon.  There is the potential to see a lot of wildlife here.  We saw LOTS of scat.

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Devil’s Canyon in the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area.
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Bighorn Canyon National Recreation area with a water skier going down the canyon.
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Bighorn Canyon National Recreation area with a water skier going down the canyon.

After we left the recreation area we went on Highway 14A into the Bighorn Mountains.  This is another scenic highway.  It does not disappoint.  Unfortunately, it started to get hazy again by the time we got into the mountains, so the views were marred by haze.  Nevertheless, the road is astonishing.  It was an incredible engineering feat to build it.

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Juniper berries. We’ve seen lots of these bushes around the area and love the way they smell.

As we go around the country, we notice that a lot of amazing road construction as well as campgrounds, lodges, and other facilities were built in the 1930’s.  The Civilian Conservation Corps built a lot of buildings, trails, campgrounds, and other facilities that we benefit from today.  It’s interesting to me that so much of the stuff we enjoy the most was all built around the same time frame.  You can’t help but wonder how they manage to build these roads in these difficult terrains.  I, for one, am very thankful that they did!

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FAA air traffic control stuff (that’s a technical term) on Medicine Mountain.

We went close to the Bighorn Medicine Wheel.  We visited it a couple years ago and went back because we saw marmots and pikas while we there.  I didn’t get a look at any Pikas, although Regis saw one briefly.  But, there were lots of marmots.  I also saw a little chipmunk actively feeding on natural food.  Since I mostly see chipmunks begging for food in picnic areas and rest stops, it was amazing to catch sight of one eating a good and proper diet for a chipmunk.

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Chipmunk eating a natural diet in the Bighorn National Forest.
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Chipmunk eating a natural diet in the Bighorn National Forest.
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Marmot in the Bighorn National Forest.

It started to rain on us on the way back and the temperature is now quite chilly.  Hopefully, all this rain will clear up the air and help this dry spell.

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Regis caught this hawk in flight in the Bighorn National Forest. We think it might be an immature Red-Tailed Hawk.