Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Returning to the Wild

On Tuesday March 29th, on a nice sunny spring day, Bailey was given his freedom to return to his wild life. He was released overlooking a nice valley not far from the Mississippi river. This was on the land of Justin, my soon-to-be first apprentice. Bailey weighed in at 1200 grams!! He has been flown at around 865 grams. I could not feel any keel on him . . . he has a lot of energy stores just in case it takes him a few days to get his bearings on being on his own again . . . but he's always been a good mouser, and I know this valley has mice, as he caught three there on the previous fall.

He continued to sit in that very spot for an hour, before finally flying off into the woods.

Good Bye Bailey! Have a Good Life!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Trip to Texas

Rich and I just recently returned from 10 days in Texas.  It was part business, part pleasure.  We went down to help move my father from his apartment into a different residence, more secure, where his meals will be provided to him, and help is close at hand if needed.  However there was time for a quick trip down to the beach, and a little soaking up of sunshine and warmth as Spring has arrived in Texas.  We gave it directions to head up North.  The picture above is one of the nicer ones from the Dallas Arboretum . . . a lovely bench among the azalea.  More flower pictures below.
I wanted to take my guy to the beach, and let him experience a little of what I have very fond memories of while I was growing up.  We took our family vacations in South Texas, and visited South Padre Island.  The terrain is the same, so I choose to go to Corpus Christi, and North Padre Island.  However, at this time of the year the beach is covered (and at this time I do mean absolutely covered) in sea weed.  Technically, it is called Sargasso.  Either way, it was green and a little slimy, and made the beach not so very fun.  But I did make him get his feet wet . . . so he has touched the Gulf Coast now! I'm threatening to drag him back in the fall, when there usually is no sea weed, to pursue possibly some of the wild Harris Hawks which I believe I saw, and which I have read that area and southward is the highest concentration of their numbers in the US.
On one of the mornings during our brief stay we got up early and joined a birding group.  Those folks were mostly interested in looking at ducks, of which there were a wide variety in some of the fresh water pools that dot Padre Island.  I took the picture above of one of the common flowers which are in bloom.  This is called "Firewheel".  It's Latin name is Gaillardia pulchella. 
WHAT . . . did I find Gold in Corpus?  Well, not really!  I did find something of value, but not in Corpus.  As we traveled down to the Gulf Coast, and then on our trip back, we brought dad to visit his sister Bertha and her husband George.  They live in Fredericksburg, Texas.  We coordinated on our return trip to arrive at such a time that my Uncle George could take Rich to a World War II museum in that town.  Fredericksburg is the birth place of Admiral Nimitz.  A museum has been established in that town, filled with lots of historical items from that period of time.  Now, I'm not downplaying WWII.  It was a terribly important war I think.  But, I'm not terribly interested.  So . . . I went with them to the location of the museum, but let them go check that out, and then I walked up and down the main street of Fredericksburg, which is filled with lots of bakeries and restaurants and wineries and curio shops.  During my travels I came across a chocolatier, where I purchased the above little beautiful item.  It is a small sample of Fortunato #4.  What is that you may ask!  I heard about it on NPR.  Check out the links below and you'll get a description.  The Facebook page also has a nice video about the store.  I purchased this little nugget of rareness . . . but not being a chocolate connoisseur don't really notice much difference between it and regular top grade dark chocolate.  But it was an experience!

Fortunato #4

Chocolat-Fredericksburg-Texas on Facebook

As we drove around Corpus Christi, and then the next day towards Kingsville, and Robstown, we managed to find the old farm where my dad grew up during his elementary days.  While there we even managed to find a neighbor who still remembered dad.  Above is Bob King.  The two codgers exchanged tales a bit, and showed each other their surgery scars.
Our last full day on the coast area was spend searching down remote fish restaurants which turned out to be pretty good eating.  Finding them, however, was a bit daunting.  Missing a turn we did a fair bit of driving.  I had forgotten to bring my Texas map.  But I bird watched!  I saw lots of caracaras, and I do believe a family of Harris Hawks.  The other folks in the car wouldn't let me stop to oogle through my binoculars to confirm.  On the morning of our departure, I got up early and searched through some local birding hot spots, hoping to glance some of those caracaras, or maybe even if I got lucky a Harris Hawk, but instead saw another bird that I have wanted to see while in the Texas Coast.  I did NOT take this picture above, but I did see the bird, rummaging around in some grassy overgrown areas just outside of Kingsville.  It is a Green Jay!  It was their sound that gave them away!  I was traveling slowly on the side streets with the windows open, and I heard a raucous sound I did not recognize.  I was quite delighted to view them, as I was not looking for them.  Those other birds, I've seen them before.  This was a first for my not too officially kept bird life list. 

Kingsville is very near the world famous King Ranch, which is a birding Mecca.  My trip did not allow me any time to partake in any of the organized tours there . . . and besides, you have to have reservations.  Perhaps at some future visit!
Returning Dad back to the Ft. Worth area, we came through Dublin, Texas, which is the home of the Dublin Dr Pepper Bottling Company . . . the only producers of Dr Pepper that still use pure cane sugar.  They have a museum there, and an old fashioned soda bar.  We stopped for a break, and I purchased a case of Dr Pepper in the bottle to take back.  I shared with my sisters, and shipped 12 of them home.  This makes me a 'Bootlegger' . . . as this Dr Pepper cannot by contract be sold (delivered) outside of a surrounding county area.  However, you can mail order it, and of course, purchase and take out of the area.  Above I'm accepting a bottle of the brown Ambrosia.  Click below if you'd like to read more about the plant.

Dublin Dr Pepper
We had a soda fountain made Dr Pepper.  It was quite tasty!  We marked their "Where Are You From" board . . . I wonder what the Spring Grove Pop people would say?  They make their product out of pure sugar too!        Spring Grove Soda Pop
But they don't have a Soda Bar!
And, OMG . . . look at the size of the can of Dr Pepper I found there!  It's gonna take a LONG time to drink all this.  I didn't see a glass as big, or ice . . . and I like my DP iced!
When we returned to the Ft. Worth area, I wanted to do a few things other than visiting relatives to give Rich a bit of a vacation.  So, on one of our last days there we went to visit the Dallas Arboretum.  So . . . scroll through and enjoy a bit of a taste of Spring, which has come to Texas.  It is still yet to come to us folks here in Minnesota.

I really like this picture above.  As we came out to overlook a long green lawn that slopes down into White Rock Lake I saw this young girl running with child-like abandon.  I took several pictures, with this one coming out just perfect.  This is the kind of pic you would enter into a contest, or something like that.  Well, no contest for me . . . but it does capture some of the rebirth and renewal energy inherent with Spring, and Children.
Above is a little clip, of the Sound of Spring in Texas.  This is a Mockingbird.  We do not have them this far north.  They can sing all day long, and during the breeding season sometimes all night long, repeating their phrases continually.  I associate them with the South.  This particular bird sang on and on, inside this bush, not caring that I recorded his song.  They are known for mimicking other birds.  I'm certain I hear some robin song in there near the end.
After our visit to the garden in Dallas, we hopped on the expressway, and zipped over to Ft Worth to the Science Museum, and the Omni Theatre.  There we watched a movie about tornadoes in the 360 degree dome Imax format.  Afterward we goofed off with Alice the Allosaurus above!
Save Me Rich!!  She's going to carry me away!!
So the reason for the trip was to get Dad moved from one place to another.  He didn't have to lift so much as a finger to get the job done.  I think he has gotten settled in pretty good.  Above was him in his old place . . . sleeping . . .
. . . and here he is in the new . . . sleeping.  I guess the move suits him!