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Hooded Mergansers

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Getting Settled In....

We've been here at Aroostook NWR, near Limestone, Maine for 3 weeks.  Even though this is our 9th summer to volunteer here, each year changes and the "routine" is always a bit different.  Last summer Bill had cataract surgery in Ohio so Maine wasn't in our plans.  One of the biggest changes since 2015 is that a local person volunteers several days a week.  He did mowing and trail maintenance all last summer and while that has been one of my "duties" in the past, I am happy to reduce my mowing time to just some of the public areas here.  My carpel tunnel or tendonitis symptoms are happy too.

Wayne, the local volunteer, also gives refuge tours.  Here he is with a group of 8th graders, showing them his "pet" skunk.  That little polecat is really just a pelt, but when draped over his arm, he can make it seem very realistic.

So...  mowing and tours are pretty much taken care of...  What do we do?

Well...  Bill is still on the heavy equipment...
The road that he helped build a couple of years ago is done, but the areas along the bunker roads need landscaped so that the slopes can be mowed.  This job will take several weeks and keep Bill busy for a while.

This is the where the Nuclear Bombs were housed during the Cold War of the 1950's and 60's.  Next to the Loring Air Force Base, the Caribou Air Station was top secret and most of the military at Loring were not even aware that it existed.  That large concrete building (the vault) on the left was were the detonators were kept.  It is mostly just a cube of solid concrete with 4 rooms, each about 6' x 6', in the center.  That's a guard tower along the road.  At the end of the road you'll see a bunker with a tall vent pipe.  That's where the tritium was stored.  Tritium is an element that enhanced the power of the bomb.   The earth-covered bunker just this side of the vault (and also one on the other side) is one of the 50+ bunkers that remain here.  They housed the bombs.  

When the AFB was decommissioned, the government "gave" the land to National Guard, the Loring Development Commission (to make into an industrial park), the MicMac Indians, and to create Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge, which was established in 1998,

Of course, when the military pulled out of this part of northern Maine (and there were many military bases around this region), the economy plummeted.  Many of the locals were from potato growing families and are still potato growers today.  Not a great photo (taken through the vehicle window), here's what a potato field looks like just after it's planted.  This was taken a few miles from the refuge.

This lake was created by the military and still exists today.  That dark area that looks like a dam was a footbridge at one time.  Now it is unused and in disrepair.... and the beavers have decided to build a dam right behind it.  There are usually at least 1 pair of loons here during the summer...  so far I haven't spotted any.  But....

This merganser was swimming around there....  

This cow moose seems to be checking out the greenery...
I've seen 3 different bull moose and a few cows, but don't see any of them often.

Now, on the other hand...
We see bear nearly every day.  Often as many as 3 or 4 sightings a day.  Bill has seen two different Mama Bear with 3 cubs each.  I'm hoping I'll get some photos of them soon.

There is only 1 full-time employee here and everyone else is a volunteer.  The Friends Group keeps the Nature Store open year-round, and during the summer would like to keep it open every day.  Since I'm not spending as much time outside mowing or painting or the like, I work the Visitor Center 3 days a week...  sometimes more if needed.  

There were 75 eighth graders in this school group...  and so well behaved and polite kids!  It was a pleasure to welcome them to the refuge!

What were they working on?
This owl puzzle was started around Christmas... finally completed yesterday!  

The weather has been cool and often rainy since we've been here, and the mosquitoes have been horrendous...
But...
I love it here and am so happy to be back!

That's All For Today!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Mainly Maine

I got a message from a friend today wondering if we are okay.  Made me realize how long it's been since I've posted and that I should catch up.

We left Texas, headed our favorite route up the Natchez Trace, got to Ohio...  visited with family and caught up with a few friends.  Bill did some work on one of the rentals, but it was pretty much a whirl wind trip there and we moved on...
Son Daniel and Yvonne....  came out to the farm on their Blue Beast.
Nice weather in Ohio most of the time, but got cold and rainy before we left.

On to New York to visit daughter and family...
Me, my daughter Donna, my granddaughter Heather, and my Great-granddaughter Evie
We always take a photo this way...  we started this tradition years ago, when my Mom was alive and Heather was a baby.

Bill bought a new toy at the Cabela's in Hamburg, PA...
That's Glenn, our son-in-law, and Bill figuring out how to fly that Drone.  There's Evie in the background.  They got it off the ground but the wind was too strong to get much practice in.

On to Maine...
Great visit with our friend Karen outside of Portland, Maine before heading on up to the County.


 Yellow-rumped Warbler
I headed for the photo blind overlooking the lake and was rewarded with a whole bunch of these warblers flitting around in the trees.

 A very shaggy looking young moose.  We've seen at least 2 moose so far...  one we've seen several times.  But they still have some of their winter coat and look pretty bad.  

 This black bear was the first critter we saw when we got here...  Bill hadn't even parked the rig when he spotted this guy up in the field.  It worked its way down the field and was visible off and on all day long.  Not especially big, it's probably a couple years old.

 We've seen at least 2 pairs of Ring-necked ducks on one of the ponds.

 And the Merganzer is hanging out near a wood duck nesting box...  Hope it makes it home to raise some young!

 The Odd Couple?
Well, this Canada Goose and Mallard Duck were hanging out in this pond, but their mates are probably somewhere close by.
 This is where we live when here at Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge.
Our address is Limestone, Maine, but we're about 5 miles from Limestone, and maybe 10 miles from Caribou.  The refuge is home to Upland Sandpipers, which is an endangered species up here in Maine.  To the left of the building you can barely see a post in the yard.  That's where I hang my bird feeders (which I have to take inside at night because of bear activity), and that dark spot above the open garage door (on the left) and dark spot just to the right of the farthest right garage doors are bluebird boxes.  No bluebirds, but swallows have already moved in and are starting nests.

You can see that we've already settled in (got here Monday) and are quite at home.  I think this is our 9th summer to volunteer here (not consecutive) and it's truly home to us!

That's All For Today!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Texas Wildflowers....

The wildflowers along the highway near our location here in Texas (about 60 miles south of Ft Worth) are exceptional this spring.   We've been told this past winter was fairly mild and I believe there's been more than the usual amount of rain.  In any case, the roadsides are alive with a whole rainbow of colors. 

















I don't know how long these flowers will be blooming, but I'll enjoy them as long as they last!

That's All For Today!

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Mexico... then Texas

Our last week in Lo de Marcos was crammed full of last minutes things. Most we didn't have much control over...  like the new sewer line....

When we arrived here early October, 2016, the work laying the new sewer line began almost immediately.  We applied for the permits, paid the fees and jumped through all the hoops.  But all that did not make the connection from our property to the main sewer line at the street happen an faster.  Finally, the week before we headed back to the States, the city worker came and dug this trench...  and then laid the pipe from our line (just in front of our gate) to the city line...  in the lower middle of the photo.  So it's done... right?  Wrong....  But when we get back this October we will hire the man who laid the line in our yard to come back and do whatever needs to be done to get us off the septic tank system and actually hooked into the city system.  Yes, things take time here.

At least the worker didn't use a barricade like this when the street was torn up...
Wouldn't OSHA have a fit if they saw something like this?


We made several trips to the water office in Bucerias (that's where you apply for the permit) and that's where I saw this cat asleep just inside the door...
I've seen a lot of beat-up, bedraggled tom cats in my day, but this guy topped them all!  Both ears were nearly gone...  he had only one eye....  he had scars and patches of hair gone all over his body.  His hair was dirty and matted in places.  Of course I had to squat down and pet him.  He was ecstatic...  kept purring and rolling over.  He may be rag-tag and tougher than nails, but he still likes a little attention.

We waited until the last day to disconnect our fountain and store it in the bodega.  And I'm glad we did...
We had this pair of Streaked-back Orioles and the male Painted Bunting come to it at the same time.  What gorgeous colors!

We managed to get in a few last-minute walks along the river.  The bridge isn't finished yet...  maybe by the time we return.  We weren't disappointed with the birds...
A Wood Stork...  kind of flopping around at the edge of the Lagoon

A little Green Heron along the bank of the river.
It will be months before I see these birds again....

One evening, just before leaving, Santos brought over a real treat...
Here he is... shucking oysters fresh from the sea!
We slurped them down nearly as fast he he shucked them.  He even brought over some limes to squeeze the juice on them.  They sure didn't need anything else...  they were delicious!

We worked the Sterilization Clinic one last time last Sunday.  Thirty dogs and cats were spayed or neutered.  It was a long day, but everything went well...  two dogs did not have surgery due to poor health, but hopefully they'll be better soon.  Don, who is in charge of the clinic, might be able to arrange a summer clinic.  Mostly they are held when the winter folks are there as they need volunteers.  My job is to heat buddy bags in the microwave to use around the critters as they are in recovery.  The surgery tech didn't show...  so I learned how to secure a dog to the table, clean the area being cut, hold "body parts" in forceps for the Vet and all manner of things.  Just a few things I never dreamed I'd ever be doing...  at least I'm not squeamish over blood and guts.

Like I said, the last few days just seemed to pass faster and faster...
And it was time to go...
I had to say goodbye to Pirate.
He's been my favorite dog for the past 2 years.  This year he's had some hard time as he was hit by a car in November and nearly died.  After finally getting his health back he'd gained weight and energy.  But he's never been to the Sterilization Clinic...  he got in a dog fight and his ear was badly torn and got infected.  With care from the local vet he got better.  Then about a week later he was limping...  but this time recovered quickly.  Here he looks good.  Hopefully he'll get through the summer without anything major and I'll see him again.  Yes, he does have an owner and is fed and cared about....  but Mexican culture is different in how dogs and cats are viewed.

Bill & I decided to take the bus to Puerto Vallarta on Tuesday.  Relax a little, 
go to the Mariana area (very touristy and up-scale)...  look at all the expensive boats in the harbor...

have a beer at the Beer Barn
(Bill likes a really dark, hoppy beer)

and even find a Geocache in a phone booth.
We ate out, went back to our hotel, and Wednesday morning headed to the airport to fly back to Texas.

Our daughter and son-in-law picked us up at DFW...
Nice direct flight...  no problems getting through customs or immigration... 
collected our bags and we all headed down the road.

Our daughter lives about 5 miles out of town (about 60 miles south of Ft Worth), and there's plenty of wildlife to see here, too.
This big Tom Turkey has a whole harem he herds along...

In full display, he's quite impressive.
We see flocks of turkeys at least twice a day moving across the yard.  And there's a single Tom who travels alone.  I love hearing them gobble and watch the strut!

There's a pair of Roadrunners that live a couple hundred feet across from our motorhome.  Kind of far away to get a good photo, but we see them off and on.

There are cardinals, titmice, mockingbirds, Eastern bluebirds and goldfinch, to name a few species here.  As well as cowbirds, house sparrows and others.

The Blue Bonnets and Indian Paintbrush are in bloom...
The roadsides are lovely with the wildflowers.
Ladybird Johnson, you will always be remembered!

It was quite hot when we got here Wednesday evening, but we got a little rain and it cooled things down.  I think we've made the transition from Mexico to Texas quite well.
We'll be here until late April...  again, we have a lot to catch up on.  It took hours just to sort through 5 1/2 months of mail!  I think we're ready to send out tax stuff to the CPA in Ohio tomorrow.  

And so, another adventure begins!
That's All For Today!