Along the Natchez Trace

Friday, August 22, 2014

(Almost) On The Road Again...

It's not quite 10:30 and we still have a couple of hours "work" (putting away, etc) to do, but we'll soon be on our way.  Not very far....  two or three hundred miles to Lake Umbagog NWR, which is on the New Hampshire/Maine borders.  
We'll drive just a short distance today as we plan to arrive there on Sunday.

I had been hoping I'd see the big Bull Moose again before we left, and he didn't disappoint me...
Not the greatest photo, but the best shot I could get...
His rack will keep on growing for a couple months, so he'll be quite magnificent when the velvet is gone.

Not to be outdone...
 I came across Mama Moose and her calf...
They were browsing near the side road where Bill has spent so many hours this summer.

It's been a couple of days since I've seen a bear...  guess they didn't want to say goodbye.

Of course I had to pay a "last time" visit to the photo blind...  I almost missed seeing this guy...

I think this is a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk, but Mark or Judy will know for sure. 

I wrote that Bill will be working on a project at Lake Umbagog NWR, but they are putting us up at Lake Umbagog State Park, as I'm not sure they have RV facilities at the refuge.  This is a job requiring heavy equipment operators, so I may have all next week to explore the area on my own.  I have no idea about internet or phone service...  guess we'll find out when we get there.  

Today we'll stop and get propane, then do some grocery shopping...  probably stay in either Presque Isle or Houlton...  then head on to Bangor tomorrow...  and on west.  The terrain will change...  no more potato fields...  the mountains will start and the roads will get curvier.  It's always kinda sad to leave this place....
I'd have to stop and figure out the total time we've lived here over the years, but together, Bill & I have worked nearly 7,000 hours.  It's no wonder we feel such an attachment!
But it's time to start a new adventure.....

The End

That's All For Today!

Monday, August 18, 2014

It's A Go...

Bill talked today with the equipment operator/coordinator who is in charge of a project at Umbagog NWR, which is on the border of Maine and New Hampshire.  We'll leave Aroostook NWR this Friday and head west.  Bill will work on that project all next week.  I'm really not sure what I'll do, but it sounds like a good time to get ready for our winter plans.

All day the sky has threatened rain...  then it was sunny...  then storm clouds again.  All day I've felt the same way...  not knowing whether we'd be here a few more weeks or moving on soon.  Bill & I feel that we're quite flexible and willing to go in any direction...  but it was good to know this evening whether I should start packing up or hang in there a while longer.

I really didn't get much done for the refuge today.  I wanted to wait until the rains were over before I mowed the trails.  I ran some errands and did some odd jobs...  even working with my photos is kind of a "refuge job" as I leave a CD (or several) of all the photos I take during my time here with the Refuge manager.  I can walk through the hallway and see maps or other informational signs with my photos from years past illustrating various sites.  So...  if I spend a few hours working with photos, that's okay.  It's a good rainy day project.

Solitary Sandpiper
I saw this guy hanging out alongside one of the beaver ponds today.

I cleaned my hummingbird feeder and refilled it....  I still have a female Ruby-throat Hummingbird who visits several time a day.  I know I'll feel bad when we do leave, but I'll provide her with something until we do.

I have a "route" I drive each day...  and now that our time here is drawing to a close, I find the need to drive that route more than once a day.  I stop at the photo blind...  a very favorite place.

I see this female mallard...  
Female ducks always give me fits when trying to identify them.  But she is gracious... she shows me her blue feathers along her side...  I watch her quite a while.

Just a bit further along the shore of the lake I see this White-tail Deer....
She doesn't have a fawn with her...  she's all alone.
Her red coat stands out against the green of the grass.  It won't be long before she'll have her dull greyish coat of winter.

I take my time heading back home...  the main "flower" blooming now is Goldenrod...
In my Entomology class...  many years ago...  we all headed out to a field and were told to select a plant and identify as many of the insects that inhabited it as we could.  We all quickly found out that Goldenrod was host to a multitude of species.  I still cannot see a Soldier Beetle without thinking of Karen Enterline, the instructor of that class, and how my love of insects just expanded.  

I didn't really have a very productive day as far as "work" went today....  and it wasn't until quitting time that I knew for sure we'd be leaving here come Friday...

But...  when Bill got off work and we sat down and talked about the day...
the rains came again...  And so did this rainbow....

Always a good sign that good things are on the horizon.
We'll be leaving here on Friday, but have left some major projects still "in progress", already we are talking about returning again next year.

But for now...  it looks like another volunteer assignment is coming up soon...  if we're lucky, maybe we'll have internet there and I'll be able to blog about our latest adventure.

That's All For Today!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

I'm On A Roll...

But only for a few days....  I'm talking about posting blogs.  I did, indeed, take 2 days off from working.  But... no, not Bill ....  he worked 8 hours yesterday.  Today I work the Visitor Center, but don't open it until 11:00, although  I head up that way around 9:30 to clean it.  The internet is still an "iffy" situation, but if I have the patience to wait, I can sometimes get a blog posted in an hour or so.  
When we lived in Ohio, I often considered the Blue Jays noisy, obnoxious, greedy guys that could take over a feeder and bully other birds into staying away.  Here, way up in Maine, the Blue Jays seldom even come to the feeders.  I hear them squawking way up in the tree tops and sometimes catch a glimpse of blue as they fly around.
Yesterday, as I walked down the road, I saw 3 of them high in the tree tops.  They were squawking their blue-jay talk...  and I had to smile when I realized that I was enjoying their antics.  Maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder.....

We were sitting in our motorhome about dinnertime...  Bill looked out and saw...
the Bald Eagle sitting on the platform...
This is quite a distance from where we're parked, but there's no mistaking the white head, even from here.  Kirk put two of these platforms up over 10 years ago and neither eagles nor osprey have taken up residence.  In early June a pair of bald eagles stopped by several times for about 2 weeks...  so maybe next year someone will stay.  Wouldn't that be exciting!

I take a drive around the refuge every morning before starting work.  Sometimes I don't see a 4-legged critter...  sometimes I get lucky....
This doe and her fawn were curious....  
Again, they were quite a distance away.  I turned off on a side road before getting close...  it always seems to me that critters have a hard enough time without humans making them work harder to conserve energy and forage for food.

You've heard the expression "Getting your ducks all in a row"...  Well....
Mama certainly has her ducklings well trained!
The colors didn't come out well..  they are swimming through a pond that is totally covered in algae (duckweed).....  You can even see some it clinging to their backs.

This Viceroy butterfly is taking advantage of the wildflowers in bloom now....
Asters...  purple and white...  are blooming in profusion.  
I haven't seen as many butterflies this year...  nor as many different species.  For that matter, I haven't seen as many large critters (bears and moose) as in the past.  Even the Upland Sandpiper pairs seemed to be down.  I wonder if last year's harsh winter played a part in this....

We won't know until tomorrow when we'll be leaving.  But I hope this rain quits so I can get all the trails mowed this week.   
In any case, it will be a busy week regardless.

That's All For Today!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Taking Some Time Off....

We don't really work on a strict schedule here, but we're each supposed to donate 32 hours each week to offset the expense of our stay (electric, water, dump station, propane and laundry facilities).  Some refuges also pay a stipend, but that is taxable income so we choose not to take that.

The only full-time employee works Monday through Thursday, 6am to 4:30 pm, with a half hour lunch.  So both Bill & I start our workday at 6am each morning as well.  Working 10 hour days we almost always have worked our "required" hours early in the week.  Bill averages between 50 and 60 hours every week.  I'm a slacker...  only average 45 hours a week.

The back dam of the Bucky Beaver Pond....  6:00 this morning.
See the raindrops on the pond?  

I'm not writing this for pats on the back or thanks...  it's a life we love in a place we love to be.  Bill loves working with the "big toys" and is right at home on a backhoe, a bulldozer, excavator or in a dump truck.  My main job this summer has been mowing and trail maintenance.  We're loving every minute of it.

Ready to dive for breakfast.

On Friday mornings we drive the 18 miles or so to Presque Isle.  That's grocery shopping time as well as a stop in Caribou to run any errands there.  We seldom eat out and I love to cook, so grocery shopping is one of my favorite things to do.  The Graves Shop & Save is a treasure!  I can find organic veggies...  veggies locally grown...  I can find tasty cheeses and their deli bar is outstanding!  I've become addicted to the cream cheese stuffed peppers...  delicious!  They have bison, lamb, smoked salmon....  they have clam chowder, lobster meat....  they have a bulk food area where Bill buys bags of various cereals for his breakfast.  If it sounds like a trip to Graves is the highlight of the day, you're right.

Common Loon
He really does have a red eye... it just doesn't show up here.

Often when we get back from Presque Isle we'll go to work catching up on something we didn't get done earlier in the week.  Yesterday it rained off and on....  I finished the James Lee Burke book (Light of the World) I'd started last week and just kinda goofed off.  Kirk had given me several cucumbers from his mother's garden and I sliced them along with some tomatoes and onions into a bowl to marinate in some seasoned vinegar....  just things like that.

Great Blue Heron

Bill took the back hoe out to push a fallen tree off one of the access roads.  Later we went to the Visitor Center where he put up a coat hook rack that will hold back packs.  Just odds and ends kind of stuff...  nothing you'd count as hours worked.  We spent quite a while talking with Betty, the force behind the Friends Group.

It was a good day...  laid back...  quiet...
That's our motorhome in front of the old maintenance building.
Look at the goldenrod...  even the clover in the foreground is dying down and showing signs of autumn.

While we had thought we'd be here until after Labor Day, there's a good chance we'll be leaving next weekend.  Bill might have the opportunity to work for a week or so at another refuge on a special project that needs heavy equipment operators.  Bill's work here is really appreciated but the management here knows he'd like to work in other areas.  He's already put in over 700 hours in the less than 3 months we've been here, so if we leave early, it's with their blessing.  

We'll know more in a few days...

Meanwhile...  I'm enjoying my time off....  I might even think about getting the rig ready to roll again...  or....  maybe I'll head out to the photo blind to see what's there.

That's All For Today!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Not "Just Another Tour".....

A lady stopped by a week or so ago and asked if she could arrange an early morning tour...  her doctor wanted to see a moose.   Bill & I love giving tours, but told her that there weren't any guarantees on seeing a moose, or any wildlife for that matter.  We set the tour for 5 am last Sunday morning

  As often happens, what she told us and what the folks wanted were very different.  The woman, her husband and the 2 men (both doctors, I think) arrived about 4:45 am....  we met them at the gate and the men got in the truck with me and Bill...  the lady and her husband followed behind.  I should mention here that the men took 2 trips loading their photography equipment into the truck.  

The First Stop on Our Tour...

Bill & I had planned a drive that would wind through the areas most likely to see a moose.  We figured that an hour and a half would about exhaust those possibilities.  Our first stop was at Bucky Beaver Pond.  No moose... but some kingfishers, some great shadows on the water...  Out came the tripods...  out came the cameras and other equipment.  A half hour later the guys had shot dozens of photos...  and we moved on.

Any Second Now...  the Sun Will Emerge...

Okay...  I'm getting the idea...  they're into the photography possibilities.  The sun is about to rise and I know just the spot where we'll see it pop over the treetops.  We didn't see any moose there either, but Bill did spot a bear that ran away.  

Another half hour or so...  nice sunrise...  many more photos.

Setting up for the Perfect Shot....

I noticed that the woman and her husband were dressed for church...  of course I asked about that...  she said they had to leave the refuge by 9:15 am in order to get to church on time.  

While we'd never discussed the length of the tour, I knew that we didn't have time to stay out that long.  By 7:30 we had stopped at quite a few places....  the guys had set up lots of photo shots and it was time to head back to the main gate.

I think they all were satisfied with their tour...  they didn't seem at all disappointed in the lack of seeing the big critters.  

We were out going on 3 hours in all...  
the guys were already making plans to come back at another time...  probably on their bicycles next time.

They were introduced to an area they weren't familiar with; Bill & I got to show off this lovely refuge and the lady who made the arrangements was happy that her doctor had a great time.  

There is no such thing as "just another tour".

That's All For Today!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Time to Wind Down?

The fields we see are now yellow with goldenrod...  I see turtlehead, asters, fields of Queen Anne's Lace and pearly everlasting..
Pearly Everlasting

 While it looks like the beaver ponds lose inches of water everyday, it's still damp enough that we have an abundance of...
 Mushrooms and other fungi.

The fall warblers have arrived.  Bill Sheehan had an all-day birding tour last weekend.  I didn't have the opportunity to go on the tour, but still enjoy the birds that come to my bird feeders. 

 American Goldfinch

 We have a lot of spruce and balsam firs, and we also have hardwoods...  maples and the such.
Some of the leaves are already starting to turn.  

I'd written recently about invasive species and the dastardly Spotted Knapweed.  The blossoms are about gone now, so next week a biologist will be coming from Moosehorn NWR to spray the worst section.  Hopefully we'll get that under control.

Last week a fellow from the State Conservation office spent a couple of days doing surveys of rare or endangered plants that grow here on the refuge.  While roaming around, he also noted another invasive species...
 A strain of honeysuckle that would love to take over...
Since he showed me this bush, I've noted several other locations where it is getting established.  It may be too late this year to get aggressive about control but we will do our best.

I'm starting to see more wildlife now...
Looks like this cow has an injury or some kind of problem with her back leg.  Hope it's not infected.

I haven't seen the big Bull Moose lately...  hope I do soon.

That's All For Today!

Friday, August 8, 2014

An Outing to See the Atlantic Puffins...

One very nice thing about volunteering is that sometimes we are offered opportunities to participate in events or activities that might be very costly or simply not available to the general public.

This past weekend the Refuge Manager, down at Moosehorn NWR, sent us (and the other volunteers, including members of The Friends group) an invitation to attend a fund raising event (at no cost to us) aboard a Whale Watching tour boat.  It was to sail out of Bar Harbor, Maine at 5pm on Sunday, August 3.

The Friends of Maine Seabird Islands sponsored this event.
There were refreshments available on one of the lower decks.

That's the boat we were on, and that's Carolyn (of Carolyn & Wally's Blog), who is a volunteer down at Moosehorn NWR.

 We sailed out of the harbor, and across the bay to the Egg Rock NWR.
These island refuges are, of course, only accessible by boat.  Usually the only people on them are biotechs or other personnel doing research work.

 We saw these seals hanging out on a spit of rocks.  During low tide, the rocks are visible along an area from the island out into the water.

The waters must be full of lobster and other edible seafood as there are an abundance of colorful buoys marking lobster traps.

Petit Manon NWR
This was our goal...  to view the island, see the birds and hear the on-board speaker talk.

Linda Welch...  Wildlife Biologist
Linda pointed out the various birds...  Atlantic Puffins, razorbills, gulls, terns and the such.
She talked about the inter-action between the species, told us about their nesting habits, raising their young, and about some of the problems the birds encounter.
Her talk was both interesting and educational.

While we did see other species of birds, I think most folks on board wanted to see the Atlantic Puffin.  This colony of puffins did not disappoint us...  The boat stayed close by for maybe a half hour or so allowing everyone to take their photo ops.

Of course the main event for The Friends Group was the presentation of this check for $1,250 from the Whale Watch Boat company...  the amount that this fund-raiser had generated for wildlife preservation.

Bill & I sat on the top deck the whole time...  I think about 2.5 hours.  It was cold and at times quite windy...  but it was a wonderful way to see the sights...  and a great way to spend a Sunday evening.

Thank you, Bill K. for giving this opportunity.

That's All For Today!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Home on the Range... well... Refuge....

I enjoyed my visit to Athens...  caught up with my brother and sister and had a great time with my son.  The class reunion went well...  even after 55 years it seems my classmates are the same as always.

But as much as I enjoyed my visit, it was good to get back to Maine and to be with Bill again.
After work each evening we place our lawn chairs in the open bay of the old shop, relax and just enjoy our view.  You can see the old Weapon Storage Area way in the background.  That spruce in the middle is at least 75' high....  sometimes we'll see bear or moose crossing the road...  sometimes a beaver chooses to cross the road up at the creek rather than swim through the culvert.  Last night a couple of Great Blue Herons flew up out of the creek, across the field and into the line of trees on the right.

I got very little action from my game cameras while I was gone...  this time of year the critters seem to disappear for a few weeks.  However...  last night the game camera that I have placed in the "hot spot" picked these up...

So there ARE critters around...  
Maybe the flies get to them during the day, I don't know, but they're around somewhere.

This morning I was making my usual rounds...
Saw Mama Moose and her twin calves...  standing near one of the old guard shacks.  Visibility wasn't very good due to heavy fog this morning...  but she saw me and they all moved on.

The sun is trying to cut through the fog...  
Those big "lumps" you see are the backside of the bunkers.  They held nuclear bombs during the cold war (1950's and 1960's).  I've been asked if it feels creepy volunteering at a place that has such history.  
Usually not...  but there's something that feels different when the fog settles in and around these bunkers...  wafting in and out....  the bunkers seem almost ghostly.

These two bunkers held Tritium (H3-0.. heavy water).  The tritium was used to enhance the bombs power.  
We are all thankful that none of these bombs were every used, but yeah...  sometimes it's a bit creepy out in that area.

One last photo.....  a Great Blue Heron
I haven't seen as many this year as in the past...  while it's a common bird for me, I always love seeing them and listen to their "croak".

We have only a month or so left here.  While the internet service is still the pits, I'm hoping to post more often.  I enjoy blogging... both doing my own and reading others.  
But up here, I'll admit...  communication can be a challenge.

That's All For Today!