Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Bad Day for Bugs

When I went through my photos from yesterday I noticed something interesting.

Mockingbird with a small grasshopper.
Many of the birds I shot photos of all had something in common.  Some were mamas.

Mockingbird with a spider.
Some were papas.

Lucky Grackle with a moth AND  a grasshopper.
And one was a young guy still learning to fend for himself.

Young Blue Jay with a grub.
But they were all hungry for lunch including this guy who caught 2 fish at once.

Then dropped one.

And had to settle for one big bite.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Thank you, Lady Bird Johnson

Wildflowers in Texas are amazing in the spring (thank you Lady Bird Johnson), but did you know that summer is just as beautiful?

Basket Flower
Next time you are out and about look around and you will see that everything is not just green.  Wildflowers pop up everywhere.

Mexican Hat
I love not only taking pictures of all things nature around me, but the research in my books and on the internet to try and find the names of the various flora and fauna is just as interesting to me.

Shame Boy
Indian Paitbrush
However, sometimes I come up empty, unable to find definitively what something is.

I don't usually give up.   But sometimes I have more of a desire to get back out to park and experience more than I do sitting on my couch looking for answers.

Slender Verbena
So I'm off!  Some unlabeled, but there is a park out there that I haven't seen that is calling my name.


Sunday, June 26, 2016


Today I'm just going to post a few of my favorite photos from yesterday's scouting trip to Galveston.

We will rent a beach house in the fall to host a family visit and drove to the island to see a few houses that were in consideration.

Southern Leopard Frog
One the way we had a picnic lunch in Quintana, TX while watching the dolphins swim by, stopped at the San Bernard Wildlife Refuge, and took a short drive on Sportsman Rd. in Galveston.

Huge Crawfish
As I said it was a scouting trip so we also drove by a dozen houses to check out location and make sure the photos matched the real thing.

Turk's Cap
Some didn't make the cut, but it helped us narrow our options.

Juvenile Barn Swallows just getting their coloring.
Now I think we are set and ready to book.  In the meantime, just a few more picture.

Clapper Rail - A first for me and going on my Lifer List
Two spiders sharing one web.
And I haven't forgotten I still have one more view of Bermuda to show you.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Out and About on the Island

On our first trip to Bermuda we stayed on a cruise ship.  This time our options were greater and after weighing them all, from B&Bs to luxury hotels, we chose to rent a pair of apartments.  It was the perfect choice for us.  The apartments were part of a private residence in a nice neighborhood overlooking Harrington Sound and our host was wonderful.

Our backyard for the week with a view of Trunk Island
We had access to the home pool (which we never used because . . . well . . . did you see my pictures of the beaches?) and kayaks which we used to paddle around the Sound's islands.

Rabbit Island in the Sound
On one trip around Trunk Island we spotted Great Blue Herons, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Great Egrets, a Green Heron, Ruddy Turnstone, Mallards, Crows, Great Kiskadees, European Starlings, Catbirds, White-tailed Tropicbirds nesting, Mourning Doves, and Rock Pigeons.  Not bad for an island that is only 7 acres large.

White-tailed Tropicbirds (or Bermuda Longtails) in flight at sunrise
 Trunk Island even had a small beach just a quarter of a mile from our dock (thank you Google Earth ruler).  I was pleased that my camera was able to zoom in on the beach from that distance.

Trunk Island is private, but the beach allows public access as long as you don't leave the beach to explore.
We had beautiful views of the cute homes on the volcanic hillsides in Flatt's Village.  Unfortunately, they were just over a mile away and my camera just didn't have the power.  The photos are a little blurry, but you get the idea.

The colors are so inspiring.  When I was packing my bags I took my travel watercolor painting set out to make room for Breck's binoculars.  I was glad we had the binoculars, but I would have loved to have painted the view we had coffee to every morning.

There are buses that service the islands that are so easy to access  However, who could resist renting a scooter for the week?  Not us.  All the roads are two lanes wide with no highways so traveling on the back was not a problem for me.  Yes, I let Breck drive.   By the way, if you are not a resident you cannot drive a car.  But who cares when the scooters are so fun.

Our steed for the week.
Aside from the scooters and buses we also took the ferry on occasion (nice we could bring our scooters with us) between the city of Hamilton and the Dockyard.

Hamilton Ferry dock
Hamilton Harbour
Even in the city the buildings are painted in soft Caribbean colors.

Gosling Brothers building.  Perfect rum for Rum Swizzles.
Downtown Hamilton
At the Dockyard we entertained ourselves with an event we had been looking forward to for 2 years.  We played putt-putt.

Not only is putt-putt a Zalewski/Templeton vacation tradition, but this is by far the best course we have ever played (even better that the Disney one we played 20 years ago).  It is set up like a regular golf course without the windmills and bumpers.  So fun.  We played more than once (and some of us more than twice).

There are 14 or so old forts on the island.  You can't miss seeing them as you drive the coast.  Most you can just walk right into, read the historical signs, and enjoy the view.

Other than one amazing brunch at Four Ways, we took our breakfasts by the pool, lunches at local restaurants and dinners were split.  It was nice having a kitchen to give us the option to eat in.

We took in a dinner theater where we were regaled with stories by a Mark Twain impersonator, the guys played golf at one of the most beautiful courses I have ever seen, we explored a jungle and caves, snorkeled, hiked a nature preserve, and experienced grocery shopping.  That was an experience of it's own.  Watermelon was over $18!  We bought bananas instead.  Much cheaper since they are grown on the island not imported.

And the flowers.  Stunning.

More on the wildlife and more of the wildflowers another day.  Are you getting the idea we had a great time?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Drama Unfolding

I set out early yesterday morning to try and beat the Texas summer heat in my quest to explore parks in the Houston area.  My first stop was the Archbishop Joseph A. Fiorenza Park in the Westchase area.  There is a large retention pond with an island in the middle and on this day the trees at the edge were filled with Grackles coming and going and making a racket.  (Excuse the photo quality, these were taken over a significant distance.)

On closer inspection I discovered the cause of their concern.

Yep.  Gator.  Probably waiting for a fledgling Grackle to take a tumble.

On the west side of the pond a family of Black-bellied Whistling ducks was just setting off from the shore and headed to the island maybe for a little shade as the day was heating up early.

Then this happened halfway across the waterway.  I noticed mom and dad stopped and their brood of 8 ducklings began swimming in another direction.

I thought to myself that the little guys may be exploring some freedom, exercising their freewill, setting off on their own just because they wanted to.  Basically being rebellious as kids will tend to be.  Then I noticed this back at the island.

Mr. Gator had dropped out of view.  Mom and Dad's behavior began to make a lot of sense.  They  held their position as their ducklings paddled further from the unseen underwater danger and closer to the shore they had departed from minutes earlier.

When their babies were out of danger they rapidly caught up and began guiding them to a new refuge.

Lucky for me they got closer to where I was standing so I could get a better look at this family.

There was a hierarchy at work with the siblings.

The lead was clearly in charge when mom and dad gave them a little space.  His/her neck held high and proud allowing for a clear view of the water ahead with the smallest of the brood right on his/her tail feathers.  The last was the largest and had taken up a position of protection in the rear.  So interesting to me.  It's like they were playing mom and dad.

Again I apologize for the quality of the photos, but I couldn't resist sharing the story.