Grackles

Boat-tailed Grackle sitting on a spotting scope.
A Boat-tailed Grackle checking out my camera equipment. After looking it over, he stared at me while I took his picture.

November 28, 2018

Yesterday, when I was taking pictures in the morning and jumped in the car to warm up, a Boat-tailed Grackle came to check out my camera and scope.  We were nicely entertained.

Three Boat-tailed Grackles
Boat-tailed Grackles entertaining us while we warmed up in the car.  I call them the parking lot birds.  In the south, they are often found in parking lots. 

This morning we went to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge to watch the sunrise.  It was amazing.  It was also freezing, literally.  There were pockets of frost in the refuge.  I used a remote shutter release for the camera so I could keep my hands tucked into my jacket.  It was worth braving the cold.  The sunrise was absolutely beautiful.  And, we got to watch hundreds of birds fly on a bird highway to who knows where.  I suspect they were leaving the places where they had roosted for the night and were heading to the Gulf for breakfast.  We could recognize the silhouettes of many of them like the Great Egrets and Ibises, but some we were not sure of.

Sunrise over St. Mark's National Wildlife Refuge
Sunrise over St. Mark’s National Wildlife Refuge

We got the results of Dart’s biopsy and it is not cancerous.  Yipee!

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge

Tagged Monarch Butterfly
I only took two pictures of butterflies (Monarchs) today and this one turned out to be tagged. I can’t read the tag, so I can’t report it. I didn’t notice the tag until I loaded the pictures on my computer.

By Linda November 27, 2018

We arrived outside the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday afternoon.  We set up camp and left to visit the refuge and promptly got lost.  There aren’t that many roads around here to get lost.  I forgot the maps and I tried to rely on my memory and signs.  Our GPS was useless.  I used the phone for navigation and that’s how we wound up on dirt roads.  The GPS showed us driving through the woods.  We wound up at Wekulla Beach at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.  It was fine, but we wanted to be at the lighthouse.  We enjoyed the tour anyway.

Snipe
Snipe

We visited the Lighthouse area of the refuge on Monday morning.  It was overcast and showed signs of thunderstorms coming our way.  We were able to spend several hours before we decided to get out before the rain started.  As soon as we got back to the RV and got inside, the rain started.

Semipalmated Plover
Semipalmated Plover

The rain brought very cold weather.  We woke up to temperatures in the 30’s.  That’s very cold for Florida.  We braved the low temperatures to go back and visit the refuge today before sunrise.  While Regis kept the car running with the heater on, I got out and looked for birds in the scope.  When I got too cold, I jumped back in the car.  The thing I needed the most today was a pair of gloves.  I wish I had brought my winter coat.

Scaups
Scaups

We came back for lunch to warm up and went back out this afternoon.  We thought the alligators would be too cold to come out, but we saw several lying in the sun trying to warm up.  There are some big ones out there.

Alligator and St. Marks NWR
Alligator and St. Marks NWR
Alligator and St. Marks NWR
Alligator and St. Marks NWR. This alligator looks different than most other alligators I’ve seen. Regis feels the same.

We never went kayaking.  I don’t know why we bother to bring the kayaks.  Monday it rained and today was so cold there was no way I could kayak without the right clothing.  We are headed back home tomorrow.

Ruddy Duck
Ruddy Duck
Pied-billed Grebe
Pied-billed Grebe
Palm Warbler
Palm Warbler
Horned Grebe
Horned Grebe
Cormorant
Cormorant
Bufflehead
Bufflehead
Brown-headed Nuthatch
Brown-headed Nuthatch
American Wigeon
American Wigeon

Next Stop

Swamp Sparrow eating seeds
Swamp Sparrow eating seeds

November 24, 2018

While Regis did most of the packing for the short camping trip we are leaving on tomorrow, I went birding.  It was a great deal for me.

Savannah Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow

We are headed to see the St. Mark’s Wildlife Refuge.  We should be able to do some kayaking.  We are only staying a few days.  The campground host warned us that the space we are camping in is tough to get into with a rig like ours but doable.  Since Regis is the one who has to do it, it’s not stopping us.

When Regis went to pack the RV this morning, he found that the radio is dead.  That’s how we view the cameras, like the backup camera.  We’re going to go on this short trip anyway and Regis will repair it when we get back.  Regis thinks that there may have been a lightning strike near the RV that toasted the radio.

For those of you who know that Dart had some surgery last Wednesday, I’ll give an update.  Dart had a small tumor in his mouth and they removed it on Wednesday.  He came home ready to play.  He’s been eating well and driving us crazy, so we know his recovery period was almost zero.  I did have them send it out for a biopsy and I will get the results next week.  I think he acts too healthy to have anything wrong, so I’m sure the results will come out ok.

Phoebe
Phoebe
House Wren
House Wren
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

 

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.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
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

Wood Stork
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.

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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.

Hawkwatch (2 of 1)
Flock of Roseate Spoonbills over the GTM National Estuarine Research Reserve.

 

Matanzas River

LindaBurek_WildifeNature 2
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.

20181018 6
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.

20181018 1
Dog enjoying the water near the Matanzas Inlet.
20181018 2
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.
20181018 4
Pelicans on the Matanzas River.
20181018 5
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.

 

2018_IMG_2954-Edit
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.

2018_IMG_8487
Wood Stork
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Wood Storks
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Black Vulture
2018_IMG_8411
Wood Stork
2018_IMG_8387
Black Vulture
2018_IMG_3047
Gannet

 

Back in Florida

20180901
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!