Saturday, June 11, 2022

06/11/2022 50! A milestone in my USA travel.

 At long last, I have now been in all 50 states of these United States of America. It took over 30 years to get this last one - North Dakota - and well worth the wait. I have been very fortunate and greatly appreciate the opportunities to travel, whether for work or recreation. 

I had gone on a bird watching tour and it was a great experience. It was a small group with some very expert birders, so there was a lot for me to learn and absorb from this group. The trip started in Minneapolis, Minnesota and extended into western Wisconsin, the western shore of Lake Superior and Duluth and then a cross through upper Minnesota into North Dakota. If you cross the state line 4 times, does that mean I have been to North Dakota four times?!

The trip did start on a hectic note with several flights cancelled and my flight delayed by over an hour. That cut it so very close to make the connection, which was boarding while we were landing in our connecting flight. A good test of nerves. But I made it and more impressive, so did my luggage.

Did you know the mighty Mississippi River has its origins in Lake Itasca, a small glacial lake approximately 1.8 square miles in area? The lake is notable for being the headwaters of the Mississippi River, and is located in southeastern Clearwater County, in the Headwaters area of north central Minnesota. We drove past it, but our tour guide was not too interested in seeing the lake itself. We saw the remarkable change in the wide fast-moving river to a very small stream as we drove north.

It was good to get out of the office and work and stretch my legs on a few hikes. Days start early - if you want to see the little warblers you must be ready to roll by 5 AM. So, this was a vacation without much sleep. But then that is what the plane ride home is all about - right?

Here are a few bird pictures. I hope you enjoy them.

Nelson's warbler.

American bittern. You have to look closely to see this camouflaged bird.

Ruddy duck. Not the clearest picture as it was taken through a window with the van motor running. But he is a handsome duck so I am including him in this blog.

Nesting Western Grebes. They were nesting on one of many ponds in North Dakota. 

Turtles and eggs. Just checking to see if you are paying attention! No birds in this picture!

Can you find the piping plover eggs in the middle of this road?

Female crackle with insect in bill. A very common bird but this was one of the few days we had blue skies. Most of the trip was done in the rain or with heavy winds or substantial cloud cover. I could not resist the opportunity for a bird in clear view with blues skies!

Gray partridge hiding in the grasses.

A handsome grey owl. Look at the claws under her feathers.

We were fortunate to see a pair sitting on one tree branch. This picture gives a good view of the back of one of the owls.

The owl on the far end of the branch flew to another tree and was partially obscured.  I do like this picture of his eye visible as he is peering at us. He is telling us he can still see us even if he is rather hidden in the trees.

Here she is in all her glory. A gorgeous grey owl, very accommodating to the viewing eyes of us birders.

Philadelphia warbler.

Baird's sparrow.

Pied billed grebe.

He, too, is a handsome waterfowl.

Closer views of the partridge. Also a handsome bird.

It was a great trip and I added many birds to my life list. My list is really incomplete as I lost the original one with over 300 birds on it. But this is a chance for me to add some previously viewed birds. 

One day I would like to take a photographic birding trip so I can learn some techniques for photographing birds. These photographs are mostly hit or miss as we walk or take them through the van windows, and I feel lucky to have a couple of nice ones. I hope you enjoy them!

And of course, the boys missed me. Fionnegan is recovering well from Lyme disease and Gunnarr will have his operation for bladder stones in just over a week. Shorty is watching over everyone!

The gardens are beautiful and the peonies were just blooming when I came back home.

One pink rose that just started growing in the yard last year. It will bloom once.

Pink Mountain Laurel.

White Mountain Laurel.

The irises were gorgeous. And they proved to be the protective home of a momma rabbit and her two bunnies. O what fun the boys are having when they pick up their scents in the garden. I am cheering for the bunnies to stay just a few hops ahead of the dogs. So I make a lot of noise to warn the bunnies to run before the dogs are let out. They seem to know to run through the fence, yet they keep coming back to sleep in one garden in particular. Dumb bunnies!

Mock orange blossoms are sweet smelling.

I do hope you all are well and enjoy these photographs. Will try to post more often as I have time. Shorty needs to write his blog and he has a few stories to tell. But now they want to go to sleep upstairs.

To be continued..............

Sunday, April 17, 2022

04.17.2022 Happy Easter!

 It is a beautiful morning with blue skies and the sounds of birds with Spring fever!  Happy Easter to everyone. We will enjoy the day with a walk and a nice Easter lunch. We all are enjoying the chance to be outside in the sunshine. The gardens are starting to bloom but I wish I had more daffodils. There was a time when the gardens were full of a variety of daffodils but over time they disappeared. Could the squirrels be eating my bulbs? And every Spring I make a mental note to plant more bulbs in the Fall. And every Fall I find a good reason why I just cannot do that! Maybe this year.

The lily will be planted outside once it has finished blooming. In the garden, they tend to bloom in the summer.

The boys are doing reasonably well but we have had a couple of issues and Gunnarr goes back to the Vet in a couple of weeks. If there is something seriously wrong, he doesn't show it - he runs and plays and eats and is full of energy and life and love as always. But he had some abnormal tests so we are waiting to see if things improve. 

Before the Easter bath. Gunnarr wears the red collar and is having a good time.

My little Houdini Gunnarr. We have to watch him all of the time. He is trying to sneak through the gate - he does this in his pen in the house and has more often than not managed to open the gate. Fionnegan waits to see if they will be freed. He follows Gunnarr closely during these escapades. Fortunately, this is the gate between the front and the side yards, so they are safe no matter what. Shorty is reclining on the porch, he has learned that this will not work.


After the bath. They now smell so good and fresh. Even Shorty takes notice and sniffs the twins. He too smells good as he gets a rub down with their towel from the bath. Fionnegan is in the middle.  Shorty loves the camera and starts to pose and tries to smile at times. He also lets me trim the hairs on his paws without a fuss. And he gives Fionn and Gunnarr kisses. What a pack!

Everyone is waiting for dinner. Fionn  Gunnarr Shorty


Wishing you all a very Happy and Blessed Easter Day. May you all stay safe and well.

Until next time..........

Sunday, April 3, 2022

04.03.2022 A very quick trip to Tel Aviv

 Without a doubt covid has affected all aspects of life, not the least of which is travel. I had a research presentation in Tel Aviv and am happy to report that all three of my covid tests done within 5 days of each are all negative. Hope never to need another nasopharyngeal swab for a very long time. 

The meeting was at the Convention Center and was excellent with presenters from all around the world. I presented our research and moderated a session, so it was worth the time and effort to get there and back.  The one thing I missed was the chance to do a little sightseeing but hope to do that again sometime. Everyone had to quarantine for 24 hours upon arrival or until the airport performed covid test returned. It is hard to sit still in a hotel room - so it was good that I needed to work on my presentation! Once test results were reported I walked for a couple of hours just doing a bit of exploring. It felt good to stretch after such a long airplane ride.

My hotel was about 1.5 miles from the convention center, so I took the opportunity to walk back and forth through a lovely park. And yes, I did a bit of bird watching along the way. The weather was warm and there were only a few sprinkles to dodge. The park was not crowded so it was a really peaceful adventure. And an adventure it was as the first time I walked to the center, shall we say, I took the long way there! An extra mile and a half long way there! 

One thing worth mentioning is the food. From breakfast at the hotel to the food at the convention center it was always fresh and delicious. Even the snacks during the breaks at the conference were healthy - fresh fruit and vegetables. Sweet snacks were bite size - just big enough to satisfy a sweet tooth. I really did enjoy the local menus.

Here is a melodious myna bird. There were many of them everywhere and were fun to watch.

There were beautiful doves in the park - here is a Eurasian collared dove.  I have developed a new fondness for doves these past few years, Maybe I just like to observe birds that I can easily see!

Also watched many, many parrots flying and feeding on the ground.

The handsome bird is the state bird of Israel - the hooded crow.

A nice stream meandered through the park. I found a heron doing a bit of fishing and followed her for a while, but she didn't catch anything while I was there. 



A handsome pair of Egyptian geese were feeding in the park. Will little geese be far behind? It is Spring! I like the pink legs.

The US requires a covid test within 24 hours of departure. Fortunately, I was able to have a testing service come to the hotel. But the results were available just three hours before departure - a bit if a stress as the results arrived as I was leaving for the airport. 

It is always good to come home. I can sleep on the airplane, and I do enjoy watching the Bollywood movies. The boys were happy to see me and life goes back to normal. 

Hope you all are well and safe. Life is getting back to normal as covid restrictions are lifted. Discussions regarding a need for a fourth vaccination should give us a sense of security that we can protect ourselves and enjoy life.

Until next time.....