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Hooded Mergansers

Thursday, May 29, 2014

It Suits Me Just Fine....

Between working more hours and bad (non existent) internet service, I'm WAY behind on both reading other blogs and posting one of my own.  

We've been seeing a lot of wildlife...
Like this Mama Moose and her young calf standing knee-deep (Mom) or belly-deep (calf) in the Bucky Beaver pond.  Mama's still shedding her winter coat, but baby is a lovely chestnut-brown.  

We see bears...  both by themselves or sows with cubs...  every day.  My goal is to get a good photo of a black bear standing up on its hind legs to see what I'm doing.  And... by the way...  as much as I like my Leica camera, I finally ordered from Amazon a Canon to replace my 11 year old EOS Rebel that gave up the ghost a year or so ago.  I have several lens and am looking forward to that camera's arrival next week.

Do you know what this is?
You can tell it's pretty big...  look at that backhoe behind it for size comparison.
It may be hard to see, but those are iron rods, spaced a few inches apart all across the top.  The rest of the apparatus is hollow.

I knew you'd get it...
Remember when you played in a sandpile and your mom gave you her old flour sifter to play with?  Well, this metal box is used to sift gravel.
The smaller rocks fall through the spaces...

And...
the larger rocks slide off and make a pile of big rocks in front of the box.  
What use is this, you might ask?
Well, there's a lot of trail patching that needs done.  The smaller rocks allow more versatility in filling up a hole.  I know they'll be a use for those big rocks somewhere...  nothing goes to waste...  but sifting to attain a more uniform size is what it's all about now.

And...  where does that fill go?
This was one of the bigger "mud holes" on the Lima trail...  I don't know how many (Gator) loads have already been dumped and spread, but it's going to take a lot more before we're done.

I've taken some time to go birding but some really "good" ones come to our feeders...
While I'd prefer getting shots of wildlife in their own habitat, I'll take what I can get.  And this Rose-breasted Grosbeak appeared today.  Such a gorgeous throat...  

Today was my first time this season with a tour group...
We had a school-bus load of pre-kindergarten kids (35 or so) in the morning...  and then the afternoon classes (also around 35) in the afternoon.  There are 2 classes per session and they had plenty of parents along as helpers.  In fact, each group of 16 or so had at least 10 parents as well as their teacher.  They were very well organized.  In fact, we, at the Visitor Center had to do nothing except unlock the door, see that the bathrooms were stocked, be sure the fridge could hold their snacks and water and be on hand for any questions.  This teacher comes every year and she is a delight to work with.  

I think one kid had a melt-down in the morning session, but Miss Tina got that under control real fast.  How sweet that is!

So...  Bill's busy on various projects...  the other volunteer couple have arrived and will be put to work soon...  and I fell right back into my routine...  which is being everything from a plumber's helper to running errands to mowing to ....  whatever.  It suits me just fine!

That's All For Today!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Monday's Meanderings....

This is a long weekend for the "Brown Shirts" (gov't employees who work here), and the other summer volunteers won't arrive for another week, so Bill & I are in our own "gated community" until tomorrow.   But since we've been here off and on since 2003 we are able to get along just fine.  In fact, before the brown shirts left for the long weekend, they gave Bill a list of things he could do if he wanted to.

You might already know that Bill is a workaholic..  he's been chomping at the bit to get back on the "big toys" and get busy.   I'm not quite as ambitious as Bill, but one thing I did want to do was get my little (and I DO mean little) vegetable garden started.

We bought a plastic bin - maybe 32' X 16" - some potting soil, 1 tomato plant and 3 packets of seeds (basil, cilantro and spinach).  Bill drilled holes in the bottom for drainage and we set it down on the lid so we can drag it back into the garage if it gets too cold.  Not exactly the gardens we used to plant years ago, but if I get one ripe tomato by the end of the summer I'll be happy!

Our bird feeders are attracting more birds now.  A blue jay visits now and then.  And a Ruby-throated hummingbird has stopped by a couple of times, but I'm not sure it's drinking the nectar.  And...  this one came along today...
Y'all can laugh all you want, but I'll readily admit that the first time I had one of these at my feeders many, many years ago, it must have taken me a half hour to identify the little rascal...
She's a female Red-winged Blackbird.
Doesn't look a thing like her handsome husband, does she?  But really, I think she's quite attractive in a very unique way.

There are lots of bird houses around...  mostly to attract bluebirds, but the Tree Swallows like those ready-made homes as well...
They have a gorgeous dark blue head and back.  

Speaking of ready-made homes, we are still seeing the Bald Eagle check out the nesting platform each day...
I'm kinda hoping that the lower right photo isn't her final opinion of the place....
Yeah, it's exactly what it looks like...

I have my game cameras out...  Didn't take long for one of them to get knocked whopper-jawed!
Really...  we did set it up so the photos would be level...  Those 4 upper left show various bear "parts"...  and the upper right and lower left and middle show some real "up front and personal" views of the bruin.  And the lower right ....  guess it wasn't all that interesting so he's walking away.  (and the camera is tilted quite a bit).

We've had a lot of rain here...  and this afternoon the sky got real dark - thunder sounded in the distance...
 This is looking from our motorhome up towards the Weapons Storage Area (where the nuclear bombs were stored during the cold war)...

Wasn't too much later that all hell broke loose...  
Hail stones the size of marbles...  and lots the size of those big jaw breakers...  
Lots of noise on the tin roof of the old maintenance shop.  I pulled the car in one of the stalls because it's a little Scion and it doesn't take a whole lot to make dents in it.  (Don't even ask how I know)....

Anyway, the day has gone well...  I'll catch y'all up on the bridge repair that Bill's doing soon.

I do want to add something here....
Apparently the refuge has had a lot more interest in folks volunteering here than in the past...  and yes, it is a great place.  But I seldom mention the black flies (which are abundant right now), or the mosquitoes - which Bill has already encountered in the wet woods, or the "no see-ums", which you don't even know bit you until the blood runs down into your eyes.  Then come the Moose Flies...  I have photos of them swarming around our heads.  In a couple of weeks I'll have welts the size of quarters on my head and neck.  Bill & I both wear "bug shirts" in an effort to keep the bites to a minimum.  I'm hearing that the ticks are really bad this year.  While there are no poisonous snakes, there is poison ivy.  
So while it may seem like Eden, keep in mind that that poisoned apple is always close at hand.

That's All For Today!


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Red-faced Boo-Boo Maker

Birders have all heard of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and the White-winged Dove and the such... well...  today I was the "Red-faced Boo-boo Maker".  

(None of today's photos show such a rare bird...  they're just here to alleviate some of my embarrassment)

Gray Jay

The day starts early here and I'm always ready to get going on my agenda.  Laundry was at the top of the list today...  the washer and dryer are in the maintenance shop which is a couple of miles up the road.  Before 6am I had the car loaded and headed out.  I remembered my keys...  good...  because I have to unlock 2 gates and the shop door to use the laundry.  

Got through the first gate...  no problem.  At the 2nd gate I stopped to see some Blackburnian Warblers along with some other birds.  That took a while...  even though I didn't get any photos.

Yellow-rumped Warbler

On to the shop...  unlocked the door...  Beep... Beep...  Beep ... OH NO!  I forgot that there is a security alarm system that I have to disarm.  Even worse, I forgot the code!  Beep... Beep...  Beep....  on it went.  I knew that it would automatically contact the Security Company...  and the Limestone Police.  But it's just going to keep beeping until it's shut off.  We don't have phone service at our rig...  which is 2 miles down the road...  so I jump back in the car...  hurry down to get Bill, who never forgets alarm codes, phone numbers and the such.  As much as I love seeing the moose and bear along the way, I'm just hoping that none decide to cross while I'm on this mission.

Fiddle-head Ferns

I leave the car running...  run inside to get Bill...  he doesn't even have his shoes on..  just slippers...  and he didn't grab a jacket (40's this morning)...  off we go...  the 2 miles back up the road.  He disarms the system...  I start my laundry...  and we lock up.  Just as we've locked the first gate, here comes the Limestone Police.

Ring-Neck Ducks (I still think they should be called "Ring-billed")

Rats!  I explain what happened...  he needs my name, date of birth, address...  all that stuff.  He has already called Kirk, who is on his way to the refuge.  Rats! Rats! Rats!  It's not even 6:30 am on a Sunday morning...   Neither Bill nor I brought our phones with us from the rig so we don't have Kirk's cell phone number with us to give him a call so he can head back home.  

The policeman is very polite and all, but he wasn't exactly chatty, either....

Porcupine

Bill is freezing out there...  jeans and a tee-shirt (with bedroom slippers) just aren't enough...  he waits in the car.  About 20 minutes later Kirk shows up...  tells the police that I'm not a criminal intent on a B&E.....  and the police head back to Limestone.  

American Wigeon (male)

I'm terribly embarrassed about my "boo-boo"....  but Kirk is kind.  And I got a little lesson in how to handle the alarm in case it happens again (Oh my...  I hope not!).....  But this is our 8th year to volunteer here (the alarm system is new since the last time we were here) and we've become such good friends that a lot of good nature kidding goes on...  so you can bet I haven't heard the last of this yet!

That's All For Today!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Saturday... More Wild Things... More Dreary Weather

We've been here only a few days but have seen very little sunshine so far.  It is overcast...  often have a mist that turns into a bit of a drizzle...  no real rain...  just wet and cold.  

Of course "cold" is a relative term...  it's 57 degrees here right now but to me (who spent the last 3 months in Costa Rica where the daily temps were 95+) 50 degrees is cold.  

Despite the cold and drizzly weather, I did clean the windows inside and out on our motorhome today.  This morning when I opened the blinds, this is what I saw across the field on one side...
(before I cleaned the windows)
A Mama Moose and her calf were bedded down between the road and a pond.
Too far away to get a good shot, but we could easily tell what we were looking at.  While we were busy looking at these guys, I happened to turn around and on the other side of the rig...
Yeah...  that's a young moose just on the other side of our car.

A little better shot....
Could be the same one I saw yesterday in another part of the refuge.  But all the moose we've seen so far have had "bad hair days".

Anyone who has read my blogs in the past will know all about the "Bucky Beaver Saga".  To cut right to the chase..  "Bucky" is my name for the beavers that dam the pond up the road.  It's become known as the Bucky Beaver Pond...  Most beaver ponds are just "live and let live" around here, but this particular dam floods the main road when Bucky gets too ambitious..
Bucky's really been busy...  (hey...  you know...  "busy as a beaver"... groan)
Bill and Bucky have had a constant battle since our first time here back in 2003.  Sure, Bucky always wins...  but not without working some...
Kinda hard to compete with Bill and his big ole backhoe!
You can see how close the water is to the road.  Besides this problem, another problem is that waterfowl will set a nest and lay eggs along the sides of the pond.  When the water rises, those nests are destroyed, and this year's duck and geese population suffer.
One scoop is all it takes... 
Just a small bite out of the middle releases enough water to stabilize the level... 
at least until Bucky repairs the "damage".

After Bill finished at the beaver dam I headed back home.  Saw a black "lump" on the road that goes past our rig.  Kinda crept along (in the car)...  and came across this small black bear. 
 He was alone...  not real big.  Bear cubs stay with their moms for 2 years.  I'm guessing this is a 3 year old on his own for the first time.  He was curious when he saw me, but kept on eating.

Looks like I'm mighty close...  but, no....  I'm not only a safe distance away, I'm also in my car.

I had the opportunity to take over 80 photos of him... but the distance and the crappy weather made clear, sharp shots very difficult.
We put out several bird feeders as soon as we got here, but knowing these guys are around, I have to take them all down each evening as they would be destroyed during the night.

I started out saying I cleaned the rig's windows...  I mention that because we have so many opportunities to view wildlife using our motorhome as a photo blind.  Quite a distance to the front and side, there is a nesting platform that Kirk erected many years ago. 
Finally, this year, it looks like the Bald Eagles might be interested in taking up residence.  
We see a pair of them fly over about once a day...  and sometimes they'll stop and check it out.
Here's hoping that it looks like the home they've been looking for.
Only time will tell...

But...  with these great photo opportunities, clean windows are a must!

Internet is still kind of "iffy" here...  I've been able to read other blogs (sometimes the photos don't come through) but too often it times out before I can make a comment.  Just want y'all to know that I'm trying!  

That's All For Today!






Friday, May 23, 2014

Early Morning Scenario....

We're less than 5 miles from New Brunswick and that part of Canada is in Atlantic Time Zone...  1 hour earlier than here.  So it's daylight when I woke up at 4:46 am this morning.  Nothing would do but I had to get out on the refuge "to see what I could see".  

Down to the Dilemma Pond...  nothing...  well, yeah...  a couple of Canada geese and a pair of Ringneck ducks...  but...  not moose.

Okay...  over to the 300 area.  (You'll get used to the names of these various areas as the summer goes on)...  took the time to park and walk to the photo blind.  
Oh yeah!  At least one pair of Loons!  Nice!


  Back to the car...  down, around the curve...  I looked up the middle road!  Oh Boy!  There's a moose standing there...
She's just watching me, so I creep closer...  and closer.

Suddenly, I'm seeing this in my view finder...
Oh Wow!  A Mama bear and her cub....

They cross the road right in front of that moose...
I keep watching...  I figure that there's another cub who's lagging behind...

Sure enough...
Along comes the 2nd cub.  These cubs were born last year.  They'll stay with Mama for 2 years then she'll kick them out and they'll be on their own.

I figured the excitement was about over...  but...  just seconds after the bears crossed the road into the woods...  
This White-tailed Deer bolted out of the woodsy area...  right in front of that moose...  and shot across the road.  

The Moose just kinda watched it all going on...  didn't phase her a bit...
Look how bad her hide looks...  
One reason is that she is getting rid of her winter coat and getting her summer one.  But also, we're hearing that the ticks are particularly bad this spring.  They find a host (like a moose) and are so irritating that the moose scrape their bodies against trees to rid themselves, but scrape off their hair...  which is their insulating material, and with the freezing weather still at nights, they are prone to disease and illness.

I try really hard not to harass any critter, so after these shots, I drove on home and got ready for the day.

Bill & I headed to Presque Isle fairly early...  grocery shopping and Bill needed knee-pads to do some of the work he wants to do this weekend.

We were home by 9:30 am....  ready to hit it hard again today.
It's now nearly 5pm and even though I've been up and about only 12 hours I am beat!  All afternoon we worked on a bridge that needs rebuilt...  

Oh, there's so much I want to write about...  and I wish I could relay to y'all how sweet the White-throated Sparrow's "Pure Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada" sounds....  

It's gonna be a great summer!

That's All For Today!




Thursday, May 22, 2014

We Have Arrived!

More about our drive here (and about all the family and friends we saw) in another blog.  But I just have to report on our arrival at Aroostook NWR way up here in northern Maine.

We arrived around 1:30 pm...  talked a bit with Steve, the refuge manager...

Hey!  Look at this!  Just to the side of the parking lot...  Yep!  That's SNOW!  They got 140" of snow  over the winter and this is what's left.   By 2pm headed down to get set up in our RV site.   Well, actually, Bill set up... I couldn't wait to head to one of my favorite ponds...

Sure enough...
Way off across the pond was this moose.  I'm not sure whether a bull or a cow, as the bulls, especially one this young, wouldn't have antlers yet...  Kind of shaggy looking, but winter's been rough and the new summer "coat" should be on it's way.  I always try to guess how soon after we get here I'll see my first moose...  bear...  whatever.  I think today was the best ever!

Shortly after we set up and went for a drive around the refuge with Kirk,  who has been with the refuge since it became a refuge in 1998, we saw a mama moose and her calf (no photos of these)...  and then...

Mama Bear (sow)  in a field off in the distance....  with..



her twin cubs not far away.  These would be cubs born last year.  Baby bears stay with their Moms for 2 years.  And mama bear gives birth to cubs only every 2 years.

Of course I'm thrilled to see any and everything!  We saw a loon...  (again, no photo), a couple of groundhogs,
A few Hooded Merganzers..  (this is a male)....

A Porcupine (this would be a great "the end" photos, because by the time I got my camera in focus, he was well on his way...

And yet another moose...
Maybe another cow...  this one a couple of miles from the pond where I saw the other one.  But..  again, a very shaggy coat....

We saw several beaver, but they splashed heartily into the water before I  could snap their photo.  However, as we were eating dinner, I glanced out the window and saw something in the pond across from us...
This big Beaver had been down along the waters edge but decided to cross the road to the other side (another pond there)...  and while the photo I got wasn't very good, it confirmed that I was seeing a beaver (see his "paddle" tail?).

So between 2pm and 6 pm, we saw 4 moose, 3 bear, 1 porcupine, several species of ducks, 2 Canada geese, 1 loon, and several beaver.  We also saw several species of birds, including several Yellow-bellied sapsuckers.

Quite a beginning!

Our last summer here was 2012...  the year I began my blog...  so those of you who have been with me for a while may get some "repeat" photos of the wildlife here.  Honestly, I never tire of seeing moose, bear or anything else, but just a bit of a warning about what the next 3 months will be like.

The work day starts at 6am here...  so I'll catch up more on what's going on in a later blog.  I can only say...

It's SO good to be back!

That's All For Today!

(Thursday update...  I did see 2 whitetail deer, 1 more bear and 1 more moose before bedtime last night.  What a great beginning to the summer.  However, we don't seem to have internet at our RV site - not sure what we'll do to fix that problem...  to send this we drove 5 miles or so away from the Canadian border (our RV site is very close to New Brunswick)....  so right now my blogs may be a few days apart.)




Tuesday, May 20, 2014

We're On Our Way...

A quickie post while we have internet...  just to catch up.

Bill & I left Athens Saturday morning...  of course we had to go to the Farmer's Market on our way out of town.  By 9:30 we were heading towards the Ohio River...  and West Virginia...  and then turn east through some beautiful country.  Probably mountains by some folks thoughts, but at that point we're still in the foothills of the Appalachians...  then across Maryland..  just a few miles from the Pennsylvania border.  At Hagerstown we head north again on I 81...  We don't always stick to the interstates...  this time we headed for Stroudsburg and up to Port Jervis (NY)...  across I 84 and then take a left at Newburgh.

And for a very special reason...  Just a few miles north of Newburgh, our daughter and her family live at Marlboro, NY.

Our Budding Photographer

That's Evie, our great-granddaughter and Glenn, our son-in-law.  Evie loves taking pictures.  We had a great visit with everyone and you can bet there'll be more photos later!  Evie's 2 1/2 years old...  I hated to leave so soon as she's growing up so fast!

After a very short visit, it was on the road again...  across the Beacon Bridge (Hudson River I 84) and into Connecticut ...  through Massachusetts...  into (and out of) New Hampshire, and finally into Maine.

Today is Tuesday...  we're at Cabela's right now.
Spent most of the day driving into Freeport to do some shopping at the LL Bean store...
Yep!  That's Bill outside the main store...  right in front of the boot.
As you can see, our shopping bag is full...  lots of goodies to make our stay in Northern Maine more fun and more comfortable.  (insect resistant shirts and stuff like that).

This evening our good friend Karen, who lives in nearby Portland, Maine, will stop by.  We'll go out for dinner and catch up on life.

Tomorrow morning Bill & I will head out again...  we have a long day's travel ahead of us...  up to Limestone/Caribou Maine.  This place is like "home" to me.  We've been volunteering at Aroostook NWR off and on since 2003....  It's so exciting to be going there again.

Gotta make this short...  we're dry-camping this week....  So... until the next time...

That's All For Today!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Blasts from the Past....

I guess the biggest event of the day is that we filed our 2013 income taxes.  Just on time... right?  Well, it IS May 15th...  only 1 month late.  Okay...  truth is, we were out of the USA until mid-March...  got back and went through 3 month's mail...  sorted out all those 1099's etc...  and sent them off to our CPA who is in Ohio.  We weren't real concerned as we'd paid estimated taxes throughout the year...  but... yeah... judgement day DOES arrive...  and this was the week.  We got lucky...  overpaid quite a bit so when it's all filed and in order today we have a some bucks leftover that the IRS can just keep and apply to this year.  

Whatever...  another year is taken care of.  However, the rental we're currently working on still requires a lot of work (translate that into $$$$) and maybe it will be a nice write-off for this tax year.  We'll see.....

As I've often said, when we left in 2001 we expected to return at the end of our year on the road.  We didn't bother to get rid of, properly pack, give away...  all those excuses....  all our "worldly goods".  We put a lot of stuff in bins and stored them in our barn. 
 A few days ago, our (greatest ever) renter, John, invited us up for some of his homemade wine.  WooHoo... really good.  He talked about making beer and wine...  something we used to do.  One of these days I should write a blog about when the State Agriculture Agent came out to inspect us....  

But...  back to the beer and wine.  That night I woke up thinking about one of the bins we had put in storage.  Hmmm...  cans...  lots of cans....  of malt mixes to make homemade beer.  Wonderful lagers...  pilzners....  stouts....  oh yes!  We'd never gotten around to making these brews...  hmmm...  those cans are in a bin...  um huh...  in the storage area.

Yesterday I got to poking around...  found the "liquor bin".  Yeah... the cans are there, but also various bottles of booze.  Grand Marnier....  Kalua....  Frangelica  ...  (heck, I can't even spell these)...  a bottle of whiskey that's never been opened... think someone gave it to Bill as a gift in the 1990's.  Hey... looky here...  a half empty bottle of Corby Whiskey...  belonged to my Dad who died in 1982 and I'll bet that bottle was 30 years old when he died.  I always did like the parrot logo on that bottle...  never did try the booze.

Oh... back to the cans.  Six of them!  Bet they cost us over $60 way back then...  but... oh no!  The tops and bottoms are both bowed out.  Not good...  about to blow!  What to do?  I sure as heck don't want to puncture them with a can opener....  I'll have malt goo everywhere...  and that's assuming I still have eyes left to see it.  

Brain storm!  Bill likes to target practice with his Ruger...  hey...  I'll set the cans down where we feed the deer....
Yes!  He can shoot them...  let off the pressure...  and the deer would love that molasses-like stuff (it isn't alcoholic at this point) to lap up.

Dawg!  It doesn't take much to entertain me!
Yahoo!
There goes the first can!  

I'll hurry this narration up a bit...  He did hit all six cans.  And lots of that gooey-ooey stuff drained out onto the ground.  He grazed one can hard enough to knock it over, but the bullet didn't penetrate the can.  Another one...  that yellow one on the right...  he hit... the bullet went straight through but the can never moved.

By the way, all those cans were seriously outdated....  we're just lucky they didn't blow while still in the barn.  Kinda reminds me of the time I started my own sourdough yeast starter....  it went real well until one night...  around midnight...  we heard this big explosion....  in the kitchen.  I think we scraped gobs of that off the ceiling, the cabinets...  well...  everything....for months!   Oh yes...  then there was the night the beer we'd brewed...  and bottled...  and apparently was still fermenting...  hey....  several bottle just exploded!  It ain't just bumps in the night around our place.....

That's All For Today!