Local Wildlife Update

As we described in earlier posts, I raised a baby blue jay, Topaz, last spring and released it in May. We went across country for the summer and came back mid-August. About a week after we came home, we saw the blue jay about a 1/2 block up the street. The next day I saw it again and was able to get pictures. (Recent Topaz post here.) I walk the dog in that area regularly and haven’t seen or heard the blue jay in the area. Two days ago, Regis spotted a blue jay at the feeder. It left and landed in a nearby tree and when Regis got close to the tree, the blue jay started to exhibit begging behavior. That’s our bird, Topaz! It was great to see it again but once again it is remaining elusive. It was eating the Bark Butter Bits, so I will be sure to keep the feeder full.

We also posted about some raccoon families hanging around. Over the last several days, we have not seen the families together. We have seen individual baby raccoons show up to check under the feeder for any seed that has fallen. They are adorable. Last evening, I saw one of the little guys as it was starting to get dark and then an adult showed up. This was not the mother because we have seen this other raccoon before. The raccoon has an injury. My heart breaks for it but it seems to be able to get enough food. We saw this hurt raccoon a couple weeks ago but this is the first picture we got so we could check out the injury.

Wounded raccoon.

The baby raccoon laid on the ground when the adult came and stayed there while the adult ate what it could find. After the adult left, the baby laid on the ground under the feeder for about 15 minutes before it finally left.

Baby raccoon laying low while an adult (not its momma) eats.

Hawk Pursuit

Juvenile Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii)

Dart and I inadvertently seem to have interrupted a hawk pursuit. Dart likes to play with his flying disk. It’s technically not a frisbee, but we call it one. If you say “frisbee” to Dart, he goes nuts and starts running around in circles as he is trying to get outside. When he was young, he would catch the disk until he dropped dead. We had to be the ones smart enough to stop the game because he would never give up. He is older now and his desire to play exceeds his ability by leaps and bounds. Once I get out and toss the disk, he often doesn’t bother to chase it. Dart is more enthusiastic about playing with Regis. I thinks its because Regis claps and hoots and hollers when he catches it and Dart loves an audience. Dart may catch the disk twice or three times for Regis.

I took Dart out to play with his disk and tossed it into the yard and Dart stood in one spot. But, a juvenile Cooper’s hawk landed on the fence and started watching me and tweeting at me. That’s the first time I heard a hawk tweet. We stared at each other until it flew up by the side of the house but I didn’t see it rise above the roof. I went to the side of the house to investigate and found the hawk perched on the roof above a tree we have that just reaches the height of our one story house. At this point, I noticed a bird hidden in the tree. I am certain the hawk wanted that bird. The bird was panting in the heat. At first I thought the bird was severely wounded and after carefully getting a closer look without startling the bird out into the open, I saw that it was a male red-winged blackbird.

The hawk got tired of waiting for me to leave and flew into a tree behind our house and I went in for the camera. It was still there when I returned and I was able to get a few images. It gave up on me and flew through the trees proving itself to be a Cooper’s hawk. Cooper’s hawk are accipiters which are long-tailed agile hawks that deftly fly through the woods. Cooper’s hawks and sharp-shinned hawks look similar, but sharp-shinned hawks are usually smaller. Although, a large female sharp-shinned hawk can be the size of a small Cooper’s hawk. Based on the size, I was pretty sure it was a Copper’s hawk but was able to verify when looking at the images because a Cooper’s hawk has a more rounded tail than the sharp-shinned. Because the bird had a brown chest and a streaked back, I could tell it was a juvenile. Adults have a gray back and pale reddish chest.

After the hawk left, I checked on the red-winged blackbird and he wasn’t leaving that tree. I checked back about an hour later and again two hours later and he was still in the tree. On the next check, he was gone. I am sure he is suffering from post traumatic stress disorder.

Juvenile Cooper’s hawk hoping I will leave so it can continue to pursue a red-winged blackbird it was after. My presence forced the hawk to find a meal elsewhere and the potential red-winged blackbird victim lived through the experience.

Baby Shorebird

Baby shorebird, perhaps a ruddy turnstone.

I went for a walk on the beach today in Anastasia State Park. I saw this baby shorebird. I think it is a baby ruddy turnstone, but would love to hear from anyone who thinks it is something else. This little one was very active and doing well finding food on the beach. It needs a tail.

This young bird was very active and successful in feeding itself.

Here is a picture of an adult ruddy turnstone I took a few years ago near Marineland.

Ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres).

There were lots of royal terns begging for food and keeping their parents busy bringing in fish to feed them. The young royal terns are almost as big as the parents but you can tell the young ones based on their begging posture.

Young royal tern (Thalasseus maximus) begging for food from its parent.

Raccoon Clean Up Crew

Mother raccoon with three babies cleaning up any food that fell from the bird feeder. There is a baffle on the pole, so they cannot get into the feeder.

When we returned from our cross country trip, I immediately set up the bird feeders since I love watching the birds. A few days after I set up the feeders, I noticed that two separate raccoon families were making it a habit to drop by during the day to clean up any seed that fell to the ground. The first shift is comprised of a mother and two adorable babies. The second shift of a mother and three babies shows up an hour or so later and cleans up anything that was missed or new stuff that has fallen to the ground. I feed a No Mess Blend from Wild Birds Unlimited that includes sunflower seeds and millet without the shells and peanuts. I also feed Bark Butter Bugs and Bits which the bluebirds and Carolina wrens love. If it rains, I will toss out the remaining Bark Butter Bits on the ground and replace with fresh food. I only put out a handful everyday, so there isn’t much to toss out when I do. The raccoons will not eat any of the millet that falls to the ground but they will clean up the rest.

Baby raccoon.

I love to watch them pick up the food with their little hands. The mom’s are always alert and if we make too much movement in the house, the moms shoo their little ones to safety.

Baby raccoon. It may have heard the shutter on the camera. Regis was taking pictures through the open bedroom window.

A few days ago, when I was leaving the neighborhood to run and errand, I saw 17 roseate spoonbills at our local pond. I called Regis and he came down to take pictures. We occasionally see a spoonbill or two at one of the ponds, but I have never seen so many at one time. We see them more often in the marsh, but even then I rarely see more than a few at a time.

Roseate spoonbills (Platalea ajaja) and wood storks (Mycteria americana) at our local pond.
Mother raccoon with her baby.

Topaz Sighting

Topaz, the blue jay.

For those of you who have been following us since at least the spring, you may remember that I raised some wild baby birds for the Ark Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation prior to us leaving for our cross-country camping trip in May. There are several posts on these birds. A few of my favorite birds were a couple mockingbirds and a blue jay that became bonded prior to release. I named the blue jay Topaz and my neighbor named one of the mockingbirds Sweetie. One of the mockingbirds was AWOL after a few days, so I suspect something happened to it. Sweetie would hang around with Topaz before and after release, but we last saw Sweetie about a day or two before we left on our trip.

Topaz was still hanging around the day we left and called to us constantly while we were loading the final items in the motorhome. I hated to leave. My neighbor continued to feed Topaz blueberries and raisins for a couple weeks and Topaz became increasingly less interested in coming to her until it finally left and she didn’t see the bird all summer.

We were hoping to see Topaz when we got back, but with no sightings all summer, we were skeptical. We filled our bird feeders and bird bath as soon as we returned and our usual bird guests are beginning to return. But, no Topaz.

A few days ago, Regis was riding his bike down our street when he heard a hawk and looked for it and found a blue jay instead. Fortunately, I was walking Dart at the time and Regis saw us and summoned us to see this bird. We were sure it was Topaz. It would not come to us but watched us briefly, then flew away.

I have been keeping an eye out for the bird ever sense. I have to run the gauntlet of biting flies every time I go out, so I haven’t been interested in walking further than Dart requires. The biting flies are particularly bad right now and I have become a human windmill swatting them away from my head.

This morning, I wore a hat with a neck covering to protect my head from the flies and walked Dart a bit further than usual when I heard a hawk. But, it was not quite a hawk. It sounded less robust. I searched for the location of the sound and found a blue jay! The bird kept making hawk noises and moved from tree to light post to tree. I took Dart back home and got the camera and fortunately the bird was still there when I returned. I got several pictures and could keep tabs on the bird because it kept making hawk noises.

At one point, as I had the camera pointed to the bird, it started making perfect osprey sounds. I was watching it through the lens as it was mimicking an Osprey. It then went through a small repertoire of bird sounds, none of which were blue jay cries. It was acting like a mockingbird.

Topaz making perfect osprey sounds.

Regis joined me and when he got closer to the bird, it starting moving its wings in a begging position. Now we are certain it was Topaz. The bird seems to be missing some head feathers but they may be growing back in. At first I thought the head feathers were wet, but after reviewing the pictures, I think I see little pin feathers coming in but I am not certain.

Topaz exhibiting its begging behavior when it saw Regis.

Two other rehabilitated blue jays were released in our yard so Topaz would have some blue jay friends, but the other two birds were not seen beyond a day after each release.

Topaz is a great mimic. It was a thrill to see the bird successfully making it on its own even if it thinks its a mockingbird.

Topaz appearing to have found something to eat.

Post trip

It’s been about a week now since we got home. We have spent a good part of that time putting large piles of “stuff” away in their proper place. I guess it’s a good time to start some trip summary blogs, looking back, maybe listing pros and cons of the places we stayed and some topics that just didn’t make it into a post.

Some of the off season projects I am contemplating  are replacing the LP fridge. and removing the LP cooktop. Many new RVs come with a residential Fridge and induction cook top. We have been using induction cooking for about 2.5 years. We even blogged about here two years ago. We love cooking with induction. All of our cooking in the RV is done using the HestanCue Smart cookware.

Ready for Eggs and bacon #cookedoncue

There are two main reasons Linda and I love  the Cue. One, the ease of cooking the recipes. With the Cue you don’t have to guess what medium high heat is. The Cue well control the heat for you. You don’t have to guess about the time either. Fish is my hardest cooking challenge. I always undercook the first side. The Cue won’t let me do that!

The second reason is heat in the RV. The Cue does not generate excess heat. It will not heat up the RV. All the energy goes into the cookware, not the open air. Only the cookware gets hot, not the air around it. I think their website has a full description. I just can’t do it justice here. We have had both “burners” going at the same time and the inside of the RV didn’t get any hotter!

Also, we can use our pressure cooker on the Cue.  If you can stick a magnet to the pan you can use it on the Cue in manual mode. It’s portable. It’s literally the size of a fry pan. I can take it outside the RV and cook on the table or fire pit. This is very helpful for messy dishes like Pub Burgers, Fried chicken tenders or what we just had Friday night, Honey chipotle wings.  All favorites.

#cookedoncue outside

We use the Cue in the house as well. We started using the Cue in the house and then thought it would make a great addition to the RV. It works great for us in both places. We rarely cook on anything else.

Full disclosure: Since Linda and I have been using the Cue almost every day for three years, Hestan has asked me to share my thoughts about the products. I get credit for referrals and sales, hence all the links in the text to the web site. I find this product to be of value both in my home life and RV life so I am happy to share the info with you.

Eggs and Bacon in the RV #cookedoncue

If you are interested in the product and want more info, please use any of the links on this page or click HERE. 

They are having a 25% off summer sale now. If you missed the sale let me know I may be able to help!

If you have any question please comment to the post or email directly at landrtravels.com@gmail.com

If the people we met in Silt, Colorado are reading… Sorry I screwed up the info I gave you. Contact me and I can update it.

Linda here: For those who may be interested in an update on Dart, our dog, he is doing better since we returned. Since he was exhibiting his worst symptoms in Colorado (lethargy and lack of appetite), Regis thinks the elevation may have exacerbated his problem. I took him to the vet shortly after we returned home and they conducted numerous tests. The good news is that he is physically ok. But, the vet says he is too young to behave they way he has been, so she thinks he may be having some cognitive problems. We are now feeding him a special diet for those types of issues and we will see whether he improves.

Dart waiting for fuel at the station

Home 2020

We finished our cross country adventure after driving 7,018 miles. We arrived at a hot and humid St. Augustine. As soon as we got home, we started emptying the RV. It was very hot in the RV but cool in the house. Dart chose to stay in the RV during the entire process. He did not do that on our previous 4 cross country trips. He always stays in the cool house watching us sweat as we unload.

He appeared a little agitated all evening and again the next day. He tracked our every move and would not relax. Yesterday afternoon, I sat on the couch to read a couple chapters in a book and invited him up. By then, he was so exhausted, he fell sound asleep and didn’t wake up when I went outside to wash the car. He was still sound asleep when I finished.

The evening we arrived home, the air conditioner broke. I feel sorry for Dart because he has so much hair. Someone is coming to look at the air conditioner on Monday.

I think its going to take at least a week to get everything put back where it belongs in the house. At our final stops on the trip, Regis started to put together a long list of upgrades to the motorhome in preparation for future trips. We particularly enjoyed this trip. We were considering trying to sell the motorhome again when we returned and the market is good for that right now. But, we have too many future trips planned, so we will keep it and I will start planning the next trip.

We will continue posting.

In Florida, but not Home Yet

I saw my first Brown Pelican today since we left Florida. We were driving over one of the many bridges in either Mississippi or Alabama. This wasn’t the pelican I saw, but it’s a brown pelican.

After Amarillo, Texas we stayed in the KOA in Abilene, Texas. It was nice. We moved on to the KOA in Canton, Texas and picked up lots of grasshoppers along the way. They were all over the grill of the motorhome and even in the hubcaps. It was a bit nightmarish. The Q and Brew brewpub was located in the Silver Spur Resort (KOA) where we were camped and we took advantage of picking up some dinner and Regis got himself a growler. The food was very good and we highly recommend stopping there for a bite to eat if you are in Canton, Texas. We picked up extra food for our next night. Regis is looking forward to filling the growler on a return trip.

From there we went to Lafayette, Louisiana and stayed at the local KOA. We stayed in the newer section which was nice. It is located on a small lake, allowing me to watch the ducks. It was hot and humid and impossible to stay outside. The air conditioners in the motorhome were on full blast and stayed that way almost all night. It reminds me how much I hate camping in hot weather. The air conditioners have trouble cooling things enough to make it tolerable when it is very hot outside and I hate the feel of the air conditioners blowing on me. I should appreciate the blowing cold air as a respite from the heat, but it bugs me and I have to put a sweater on even though it is still hot.

We have been fortunate that our two plus months on the road rarely brought us terribly hot weather. We had a few places where it was hot in the afternoon but cooled off at night. As we make our way south, it has become uncomfortably hot.

Nevertheless, we arrived in Pensacola, Florida and it is 88 degrees and nice compared to the last several days. It rained briefly as soon as we crossed the Florida border and it got rid of a bunch of those grasshopper carcasses we have been bringing home. Also, the bike rack broke completely yesterday and we had to put the bikes in the back of the Jeep. Fortunately, they fit.

The skies were ugly in Louisiana. There were no clouds, but you couldn’t see the sky. Perhaps it was just a lot of humidity hanging in the air. The sky has become increasingly bluer as we drove east to Florida. We are currently camped by palm trees and I am very ready to get back home tomorrow. I can’t wait to start our trips and by the end I can’t wait to get back home. It’s all good.

Dart continues to vacillate between eating and not eating. I’m glad to see him eat when he does, so I am not as concerned as I was in Ouray when I had to hand feed him. For the last month, almost every night, he wakes me up to take him outside to relieve himself. He also drinks lots of water. This has never been an issue with him, so I’ll be taking him in for a checkup when we get back. He is currently in good spirits and I am certain he will be glad to get home tomorrow.

We have 369 miles to go tomorrow to pull up in our driveway. I have been deep cleaning the RV over the last few days. It gets very dusty on our travels and I do this during that last stops before we get home. I keep up with normal cleaning regularly, but I washed down the walls and every nook and cranny at the end of the trip. When we get back, we have a guy who details the outside of our RV and does our Jeep after every adventure. Everything always looks like brand new when he is finished. I do a good job keeping the inside clean, so the motorhome looks great after five cross country trips. Regis is constantly on top of the maintenance and now has a list of “improvements” he wants to make before our next trip.

I saw my first egret while in Texas and it was a reminder of home. I didn’t get a picture, so I’m posting an old picture of a great egret.


Ouray, Colorado

Regis:  After a long drive around yesterday we wanted to stay close and give Dart a break and let him stay in the RV. Linda wanted to go to a water fall in town so we grabbed the cameras and headed into town. We found the exit from the falls but it was a one-way road. Strike one. We turned around and headed up the mountain. We found the sign pointing the way with a parking lot that was full with empty ATV trailers. We found one spot, parked, and started to walk to the falls.

After a short walk we found ourselves at the top of the falls but could not see it. Strike two. What we did find was a very deep chasm, ranging about 4-7 meters wide and about 15 – 25 meters deep. There was equipment set up along the lip of the chasm to spray water. During winter they spay the sides of the chasm with water which then freezes to form a wall of ice. Now you have a place to do Ice Climbing. We found another sign pointing to the falls which appeared to be better for driving, not walking.

Chasm above Box Canon falls. (It is Canon and not Canyon)

Back to the car.  We drove back the way we walked and down a short dirt road to the real entrance to the falls. There looked to be a fair number of people there and you had to buy a ticket. Strike three. We drove through the lot and out the exit back to the RV.

Later that afternoon I went back to town in hopes of getting some pictures of the town. My plan was to walk around the “back” streets, away from the main street and see what there was. I took the first left off of main, which was dirt, and drove several blocks to the end. What I found was a parking lot for a short hike to a water fall. The fall in view was the last of seven that cascade down the mountain. Sometimes you just get lucky. This spot is also at an intersection with the Ouray perimeter trail which is a 6 mile loop around and above the town. I hiked alone for several hundred meters and took some pictures. While the trail was being maintained, it was not much bigger than a goat trail. In fact I did come across some goat or deer droppings.

Lowest of the several Cascade Falls.

Linda: Ouray, like many of the towns around the area, is an old mining town.  Tourism is now more lucrative than the mining.  I read there are over 600 miles of Jeep trails in the area.  Many of them pass over old Native American trails through these mountains.  Many of these are expert trails and we chose not to attempt them in our Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk.  After looking at Google Earth, they looked tough but exciting.  Ninety percent of the vehicles attempting these trails appear to be Jeep Wranglers or other, unlicensed, off-road-vehicles like Razors.  

There are via ferrata trails in the area.  For these trails, steel cables and ladders are affixed to the rock so a non-expert can climb the mountain.  If you are a novice, they recommend a guide.  This area is a great place for outdoor adventures. 

Dart has not been eating properly and he went a whole day without food, so I hand fed him about 1/4 cup of food.  I got concerned enough that I changed our trip to head back to Florida with one day stops.  Fortunately, it looks as though we will miss the hurricane that’s currently hitting Florida.  Today, Dart acted like his old self again.  I can’t believe I was grateful to see him looking longingly at me for some people food.  All of our dogs were well trained not to do that, but after our last collie died and Dart was the only dog, I began to spoil him and even Regis has allowed him to get away with a lot.  After all, he now sleeps in the bed with us and Regis never allowed our other dogs on the bed.  I plan to take him to his regular vet when we get back to see if there is something going on that can be fixed.  But, it was great to see him acting well today.

We stopped in Albuquerque, New Mexico for our first night on the way back and a super bad storm whipped through the campground after we set up.  We suffered no ill consequences but we saw an easy-up tent ripped to shreds and the fence in the dog park was blown down.  

We arrived in Amarillo today.  We left Florida in May and went to Washington State and we are now making our way back to Florida and this is our first stop where the campground staff are not wearing masks.  One of the reasons we are primarily staying in KOA’s on the way back is because they appeared to have adopted a standard protocol that made us feel very comfortable in our travels.  In most campgrounds, even the outside staff have been wearing masks.  Here, no one is wearing masks and no guest is wearing a mask.  I am ready to get home. 

Ouray, Colorado

San Juan Skyway

View along the San Juan Skyway south of Ouray.

Today we drove on the 236 mile San Juan Skyway, mostly. It was a spectacular ride, but too long to do in one day. We prefer to take our time stopping along the way and this was too many miles to do that. Nevertheless, it was a beautiful ride and our favorite parts were Ouray to Silverton and the part before and after Telluride. We wound up veering off the paved path because of a bear. We both saw a bear running full speed through a meadow and turned around to see if we could see it again. We didn’t. We were ready for lunch and there was a sign for a picnic area along the West Dolores River. We never found that picnic area, but found a US Forest Service campground where we stopped for lunch. At this point, we could turn around and go back, or keep going forward hoping to hook back up with route 145. I had seen a sign that suggested we could hook back up with 145 but we did not have maps or cell phone service to validate. We decided to go for it in spite of the number of miles we had already covered.

I’m glad we did. The route was paved most of the way but eventually became a dirt road. It was in great condition for many miles before it wasn’t. At that point, it appeared we were within 4 miles or so of Route 145 so I held Dart on my lap while we bumped our way through the last stretch. It was beautiful, so we have no regrets taking that detour. I think it would be spectacular in the fall when the Aspen leaves change color.

Somewhere on this dirt road we took off of Route 145 along the West Dolores River.

As soon as we got back to the campsite, Dart immediately crawled under the RV and went to sleep. I don’t think he sleeps well while we are driving and now that he is older, he likes his sleep. He also loves his little “porch” under the RV. He gets a great 360 degree view of the campground and it is shady under there. Even when it is hot, he would rather be under the RV than anywhere else.

We have determined that we can bring the RV through the 3 mountain passes necessary to get to our next destination. To make things easier, Regis will drive the motorhome while I drive the Jeep and we will hook the Jeep back up for towing after we get past the third mountain pass.

Along the dirt road we detoured on off of Route 145.
The view of Route 145 as we were making our way back to it.
Route 145 near Telluride.