Thursday, January 31, 2013

I'll Huff and I'll Puff

...and I'll blow those houses down!

I had an appointment with my asthma specialist today.  There is a lung function test that I hate because it's always so difficult.  There are three houses on a computer screen and I have to try to blow through a tube and knock them all down.  That darned brick house never wants to fall.

Well, today I knocked them all down with no problem!  Could it be because of all the hiking I've been doing lately?

Not exactly related, but I like this song, and a house does get blown down...


Wednesday, January 30, 2013

UTC 091: Hermann Park / Houston Zoo

The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail - Upper Texas Coast

I tried to time my arrival late enough so that it wouldn't be just me, the birds, and the derelicts, but early enough that I could still see some birds.  I arrived around 8am, which seemed to be just about perfect.  This was confirmed by a jogger who stopped to talk to me.  She wanted to know if I was looking for the bald eagles that had recently been sighted and tried to steer me in the direction they might be found.  She made it clear that I was not safe here before daylight.  "Make sure there are joggers around."    

I'm not sure if she was exaggerating, but this is an urban park in the United States' 4th largest city.  It's probably wise to err on the safe side.         

Sam Houston statue.  He's pointing toward Hermann Park. 

I didn't find the bald eagles or the hawks she said were often to be found in the Japanese Garden.  I did find plenty of other birds, though.

I either saw several blue jays, or this one was stalking me.  Do you ever find yourself wondering if birds watch people as intently as people watch birds?

This is the first ring-necked duck I've ever seen.  He's wintering on the lake within the park.  The ring around his neck is not evident in this photo, but that unique bill helped identify him.

There are two different cormorants to be found on the Gulf Coast, so it took a closeup of his face to confirm he is a Double-Crested Cormorant.  You can also tell by the slight crook of the neck if seen in flight.

I saw some sparrows bathing in a puddle and headed over to a bench, planning to sit quietly and watch.  A pair of mountain bikers stopped and began conversing quite loudly, chasing them off before I could identify them.  Would it have been rude to ask, "Are you going to ride or chit-chat?"  I stayed a few minutes, hoping they'd move on soon.  They didn't.

The park was becoming more and more crowded with people as the morning went on.  I decided it was probably a good time to head over to the Houston Zoo, which is within the park.  They have some amazing birds to see any time of day.  There's an aviary where birds (more than 200 according to my map/guide) fly freely within the enclosure, as well as the usual cages.  I don't think I'm supposed to include them in my diary, though.  It doesn't really count if they're captive.      

Birds seen this visit:  Mallard, Black-bellied Whistling Duck, Blue Jay, Mourning Dove, Ring-necked Duck, Rock Pigeon, American Coot, Double-crested Cormorant, Snowy Egret, Grackle, domestic geese, domestic ducks.

This is a large, multi-use, city park with jogging, walking, and biking trails, picnic areas, grills, playgrounds, and restrooms.  There is also a train, a zoo, a theater with free performances during the summer, and a golf course.  The Houston Museum of Natural Science, IMAX theater, planetarium, and butterfly center are across the street.  One could easily spend an entire weekend here.

The park and zoo are wheelchair accessible.        

I'm linking up with Wild Bird Wednesday.  Visit to see more birds or link up photos of your own.    

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

HOTW012: White Shaman Preserve

Heart of Texas Wildlife Trail - West 

That's the Pecos River.  Hidden down there are some amazing paintings between 1,000 and 100 years old.  

The Rock Art Foundation conducts weekly tours of the White Shaman Shelter.  I was extremely tired and sore from the Pressa Canyon tour the day before, but this was the main reason I drove so many miles to get here.

I came to see him - the White Shaman.  My photos cannot compare to being there in person.  The hike is not as difficult as Pressa Canyon, but it does require a somewhat steep descent into the canyon and then up non-regulation "stairs" (more like a stone ladder).  There is a chain along the most difficult parts which proved very helpful.      

There are also displays depicting the people that lived here and what life may have been like for them.

Although this is part of the wildlife trail and there is certainly wildlife to be found in this area, including bears and mountain lions, our tour did not coincide with prime viewing hours.  We saw only a lone deer spooked by one of the guides on the rim as we were making our ascent at the end of the tour.

The only restroom I saw was an outhouse next to the cabin our guide decided to show us even though it was not part of the official tour.  I suggest making a pit stop en-route.  Seminole Canyon SP is 1.4 miles down the road.  If you're camped there, use the facilities before you leave.      

I cannot remember any part of the tour that was wheelchair accessible.    

This week, I'm linking up to Outdoor Wednesday.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Scavenger Hunt Sunday: Houston Zoo

Lace:  Sunday Morning means it's time to lace up my walking shoes and head out on a scavenger hunt. 

Bling:  I donated $2 toward care of the animals and received this bracelet.

Wood:  Wooden pathways wind through the primate area.

Fuzzy:  For some reason I thought the word was fluffy.  Fuzzy works, too.

Fabric:  What a life!  This chimp is napping in a hammock high in the trees.  I didn't notice he had a blanket until I uploaded the photos.  That's fabric x2.

See other interpretations of this week's items or link up your own at Scavenger Hunt Sunday.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

HOTW 011: Seminole Canyon State Park and Historic Site

Heart of Texas Wildlife Trail - West

Most people come here for the ancient rock art.  The above pictographs are located in Fate Bell Shelter, a moderate hike from park headquarters.  Visitors are not allowed into any of the shelters or the canyon without a guide.  

We took a longer, much more difficult tour.  Eight miles of hiking took us to some amazing rock art.  This is not a tour for anyone not in very good physical condition as parts of the route (I would say trail, but there's not one) require wading through waist-high water, climbing boulders, and bush-whacking through some very mean plants.  It is worth the effort if you're up for the challenge.

We were able to see many birds, as well.

The Cactus Wren paid a visit to our campground on Sunday morning.

White-Throated Swifts provided entertainment during our lunch stop on the tour, twittering loudly as they flew in and out of cavities in the canyon wall.

A Red-Tailed Hawk observed from the rim as we made our way along the canyon floor. 

Also seen this visit:  Northern Cardinal, Savannah Sparrow, Northern Mockingbird, Flicker, Pyrrhuloxia, Roadrunner.  

A Canyon Wren was heard but not seen.

The park and campgrounds are wheelchair accessible, but the canyon is not.   

I'm linking up to Wild Bird Wednesday.  Visit to see more birds or to post your own. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Scavenger Hunt Sunday: West Texas Road Trip

1) Basket:  I stopped in Hondo, TX and bought a basket (aka cart or buggy) of groceries because there were no food services where I was headed.

2) Park:  Seminole Canyon State Park, my destination.

3) Auto: This little automobile and I have taken more road trips than I can count.

4) Recycle:  An example of how to recycle old tires was on display at one of the rest areas along the     way.  They are used to create the pavers shown, and on children's playgrounds.

5)  People Watching:  In these parts, the Border Patrol does most of the people watching.  This was       taken approaching one of the checkpoints where I was asked if I was a United States citizen as a K9      officer made a pass around my vehicle.  


See more interpretations or link up your own at Scavenger Hunt Sunday. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

UTC 077: McHale Park

The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail
Upper Texas Coast

Brown Pelican
I was on my own this weekend, so I visited tiny McHale Park on the western shore of Galveston Bay only a 10 to 15 minute drive from my home.  Possibly because rainstorms prevented me from arriving until early afternoon, I didn't see any flotillas of white pelicans as my map / guide suggested I might in winter.  I did spot a couple of Brown Pelicans under the Kemah bridge.  

Brown Pelicans, the state bird of Louisiana, are the only non-white pelicans in the world.  I hope to capture a photo of one diving.  They fly over the water looking for fish, then point themselves like an arrow and plunge headfirst from the air.  It's an impressive sight.      

Willet, winter plumage.
I spotted the willet from the viewing platform in the park.  It's a first for me, and I had to rule out other birds.  It doesn't have yellow legs, doesn't have a short or curved bill, etc.  Some breed along the Gulf Coast, but it's quite likely a winter visitor, spending summers as far north as central Canada.

Part of the fun in bird-watching, for me, has been reading about the birds I've seen.

McHale Park is a very small waterfront park in League City consisting of a parking lot, grassy area with two benches, rocky beach, and a gazebo-type viewing platform.  
No entry fee.  
No overnight stays allowed.
No restrooms or drinking water are available.
No picnic tables or grills.
The viewing platform is wheelchair accessible.

Species sighted this visit:  Boat-Tailed Grackle, Ring-Billed Gull, Laughing Gull, Willet, American Coot, Brown Pelican, Turkey Vulture 

Since many people find my blog posts via Google these days, I'm including info that might be useful to them.  Constructive suggestions are welcome.    

I'm linking up with Wild Bird Wednesday.  Visit to see more beautiful birds from all over the globe or link up your own photos.   

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Scavenger Hunt Sunday: Galveston Bay


I completed this scavenger hunt outside, while bird-watching along the western shore of Galveston Bay.  That's a brown pelican in the photo, with some seagulls in the background.


 The seagull wasn't interested in posing for me.  He kept showing me his backside.

Little Things

Tiny droplets of rainwater on little clovers.

A Cup of...
It used to be a cup of coffee.  Now it's trash.  This annoys me.

  The puddles created by the morning thunderstorms reflect palm leaves.

See other interpretations or link up your own at Scavenger Hunt Sunday.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

UTC 117: Brazos Bend State Park

The Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail, Upper Texas Coast

We only saw one alligator on this trip, and zero snakes. 
I dragged myself out of bed at 6:30 am, the time I was originally planning to leave.  It was so warm in bed, and so not warm outside.  I had to go, though.  I told everyone I knew that I was going on a 5 -7 mile hike, and I told all of you I was starting my new project.  

"No excuses," I told myself.  Get your a@@ out of bed.  "NOW!"    

I was the first one there.  I stopped at park headquarters to buy a new park pass for the year, then drove to the nature center where I was to meet up with other members of BCO.  They just happen to be visiting many of the sites along the wildlife trails that are my new project.  I don't have to do this all alone.  Hooray!

The first birds I noticed were Turkey Buzzards.  Hundreds of them.  Ten or more to a tree.  I took a few pictures of them from the parking lot, then started making sure I had everything I needed.  Water, hat, gloves, snacks, binoculars, camera...I decided not to bring the binoculars.  I should have taken them.  They're on the do not leave behind list for next time.  

As my fellow hikers began arriving, the turkey vultures (aka buzzards) took to the skies.  There seemed to be a hundred or more circling overhead.  "Everybody keep moving," someone said.  Good idea, I thought to myself.  Don't look dead.       

Anhinga drying its wings.
Even with our 20-plus, noisy group walking way too fast, we saw quite a few birds.  For the most part, they ignored us.  If we got too close, they'd fly far enough to stay out of reach, but didn't leave.  On the trail by the picnic area at Elm Lake, we saw White Ibis and Little Blue Herons.  Further along the same trail, we saw  American Coots.  We climbed the observation tower and could see White Pelicans, Great Egrets, and a group of sleeping Black-Bellied Whistling Ducks with their heads tucked under their wings.  

On the trail leaving the tower, I saw my first Anhinga.  They don't waterproof their feathers, so they can often be seen drying them in the sun.  My field guide says they swim with their bodies submerged and only their heads out of the water, resembling a snake.  I'm going to have to keep my eyes peeled for that.               

Eastern Bluebird
After the hike, I saw a bunch of tiny birds near the picnic tables at Elm Lake.  I got excited, thinking they were Painted Buntings.  Nope.  I downloaded the pics, pulled out my book to confirm, and realized they were Eastern Bluebirds.  They are beautiful little birds, though, so it's hard to be disappointed.    

Restrooms, drinking water, picnic tables, and grills are available.  Overnight camping is allowed in designated areas for an additional fee.  The picnic area is wheelchair accessible.    

Species seen this visit:  Turkey Vulture, White Ibis, American Coot, Black-Bellied Whistling Duck,       Great Egret, Anhinga, Vermilion Flycatcher, Eastern Bluebird, Little Blue Heron, American Crow,           Tri-Colored Heron, American White Pelican     

I'm linking up to Wild Bird Wednesday.  Please visit to see more birds from around the world and link up your own photos if you have them.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Days 71 - 75: Soup, Sunsets, and Storms

Tomorrow, my outdoor group is hiking at a state park that just happens to be a site on the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail.  I can become an active member again and begin my new project at the same time.  I'm excited!

In the meantime, I've been continuing my photographic project 365.        

Day 71:  Garlic

Where do you store your garlic?  Until recently I put everything in the refrigerator.  Apparently, that's not ideal.

Day 72:  Onions 

I still keep onions in the fridge.  I heard a rumor there are less tears that way.  

Whoever wrote the recipe I used for black bean soup must have a very different concept of large than mine.   It called for two and this was just one (almost 2 cups).

Day 73:  Lost 

Lost marathon should reduce the temptation to buy jewelry.  They put so many beautiful pieces on clearance sale at the end of the year, I had to buy a few of them.  

Day 74:  Moon at Sunset  

The moon rose before the sun set, so it was surrounded by purple clouds.

Day 75:  Rain

It's been doing a lot of this lately.