January 30, Tucson, Houston, & Padre Island

I just looked at the web site and noticed again that the last posting was September 14, 2005. I have written once since then as we were leaving Seattle, but it still leaves an awful lot of time just blank. I'll try to give some highlights of that time then get on to the present. I'll also post that last e-mail along with some pictures of the motorcycle trip we were on back in October.

After leaving Seattle, we headed straight for Tucson with a brief stop in Redding, California, to visit my daughter Lara, who was there with a friend for about a month. It was good to see her and the kids. Justin's birthday was coming up, so we had a brief celebration with him and then took off. Redding is situated with mountains (notably Mount Shasta and Mount Lassen) all around it--a very lovely spot. On this trip we saw about 50 Red-tail hawks perched in trees along the highway--must have been the season.

We arrived in Tucson just in time for Thanksgiving and had a lovely time, as usual, with Riley's family. Randy and Ginny are good hosts and celebrating Thanksgiving in their home is always a pleasure. The big hike this year was up Bear Canyon (near Sabino Canyon), about a 7 mile round trip. I didn't go on the hike this year as I was still fairly low on energy due to the virus I had in Seattle; still somewhat anemic too. Everyone said they had a great time on the hike, and I could tell from the pictures that this was true. I had a good time too; back at the house, I quilted, made phone calls, and watched birds. Tucson has lots of great birds and they all seem to come to Randy and Ginny's yard where they have a birdbath and feeders set up.

Richardson clan ready to eat

Frozen birdbath Monday morning

Hikers to Bear Canyon

Pond at bottom of Seven Falls, Bear Canyon

After Tucson, we camped at Lake Patagonia State Park, a nice place with good birding. The Green Kingfisher had been sighted the day before, but we still haven't seen it. We also did the hike through Ramsey Canyon where we saw the Bridled Titmouse for the first time. The Acorn Woodpeckers were diving at the squirrels and pecking them--looked painful--trying to drive them off. Guess they compete for the same food. We didn't see a lot of birds here but it is a very lovely place and a nice hike, though we didn't climb up to the top of the cliffs this time. Here, the Elegant Trogan had been spotted the day before, but we didn't see it, though we think we may have heard its distinctive call.

In Tucson, Randy was talking about a new "pattern recognition" puzzle called "Sudoku." He showed it to Riley, but I stayed away, figuring that my Solitaire addiction was quite enough. Besides, it was in the paper and we don't take a paper. Then we got to Austin, and Richard was hot about it too, and by this time Riley had found a computer version and downloaded it to our machines. Richard showed it to me along with a few hints to get started, and now I have a new addiction! I knew it would happen. Riley has resisted it, preferring his flight simulator, but it may be only a matter of time! What fun! Richard & Beverly took us out to the Austin Water Reclamation Plant, aka the Austin Sewer Ponds, for bird watching, and what a great day for birds it was. We saw 35 different species--two of which were new for Riley and me.

Houston was next and we had a great time visiting with my family, and some, but not all, of our friends. It was a very hectic time for us. Christmas at Nancy's was great as usual but I forgot the camera. My nephew Jim said he'd burn a disc of the pictures they took, so when I get it, I'll have a record of this event. The two Lone Star quilts I made were for Jim's daughters, Katelynn and Taylor. Katelynn got hers for Christmas, but Taylor had to wait a couple of weeks while I finished quilting hers. Nancy and her husband raise horses and they have one, Super Expectations, that is winning races here in Texas. We went out to the racetrack one Saturday night with them and Super Expectations won. Unfortunately, the clerk who took my bet placed it on the wrong horse, so we didn't win anything! Quite frustrating!

Clark & Marty and Margie & Riley
Happily, my daughter Shannon and granddaughter Rebecca were in Houston for Christmas so I got to spend some time with them as well as granddaughter Sarah. It was first time I'd seen Shannon in more than 2 years. She has just taken a new job at the University of New Mexico and will be moving to Albuquerque in February. This will make it easier to visit her than when she was in Connecticut--so good news for me. Sarah will graduate from high school this year and has really grown up. Mom and Aubrey always make us feel right at home and it was a good visit.

Rebecca, Shannon & Mom

Margie & Sarah

We are camping on the Padre Island National Seashore now and have been for about a week. We do love the life of beach bums. We've done lots of walks on the beach so lots of looking at birds. There are a good many hawks here, though Riley and I are not good at identifying them. I don't remember seeing this many when we were here before. There was a lot of fog yesterday morning (Sunday) and it was a bit eerie walking thru it--not good birding. There are a lot of fishermen here today, but usually there are just RV'ers like us and a very few hardy tent campers. I'll bet it's packed with people come Spring & Summer.

Our RV is second from right

Riley on the beach

Royal Terns, Forster's Terns & Laughing Gulls facing into the wind

Royal Tern

When we were here a year ago, there was a lot of heavy equipment going by to work on a road back to an oil well. This equipment sort of tore up the beach. This year the beach is back--no heavy construction equipment--but the well must have struck oil because now there are tankers driving by at least twice a day. The tankers are annoying to us but not so destructive to the beach. When the government decided to buy this property and protect it, it would have been nice if they had bought the mineral rights. Guess it was too expensive, since it had already been determined that oil was here. The rangers go to a lot of trouble to protect the sea turtles during the season. The tankers and other trucks have to convoy behind a Park Ranger who specializes in the protection of the turtles, and of course, speed limits are low (15mph).

I just finished reading a non-fiction work, given to me by my sister-in-law Ferrell, entitled "Red-Tails in Love, A Wildlife Drama in Central Park," by Marie Winn. It is a good read for all nature lovers, and in particular, for bird lovers. It is about Red-Tail Hawks nesting on an apartment building across the street from Central Park and the birders who spent a good deal of time watching them and worrying about them--quite fun. For the first time ever, I actually think it might be nice to visit Central Park--if it just weren't in the middle of New York City. Oh well ...

Love to all,
Margie & Riley

Bird Diary
December 11, 2005 Austin Sewer Ponds with Richard & Beverly
Mourning Warbler
Eastern Phoebe
Carolina Chickadee
Turkey Vultures
Black Vultures
Loggerhead Shrike
Pied-bill Grebe
American Coot
American Crow
Ruddy Ducks: m & f
Norther Shovelers: m & f
Green-winged Teals: m & f
Lesser Scaup: m & f
Canada Goose (Richard says first time he's seen one locally)
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Ruby-crowned Kinglets: flock
Savannah Sparrow
Bufflehead: m & f
Ring-billed Gull
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Vermillian Flycatcher: f
Northern Cardinal: m & f
Carolina Wren
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red-winged Blackbirds; flock
Orange-crowned Warbler
Wilson's Snipe
American Kestrel: m
Northern Pintail
Least Sandpiper
Great Blue Heron: flight
? Possible Red-shouldered Hawk
? Unidentified Owl

January 22, 2006 Rockport, Texas
Bald Eagle, on side of road northwest of town
Roseate Spoonbill
White Ibis (lots)
Snowy Egrets (lots)
Great Egrets (lots)
Lesser Yellowleg
Brown Pelican
White Pelicans (lots)
Turkey Vultures
White-winged Doves
Great-tailed Grackles
Great Blue Heron
Laughing Gulls
Ring-billed Gulls

January 23-28, 2006 Padre Island National Seashore, Texas
White-tailed Hawks
Ruddy Turnstones, winter plumage
Sanderlings, chasing the surf
Crested Caracaras: m & f, perched in a tree not far off road to west
Forster's Terns, saw first over water. Fun to watch diving
Snow Geese, flock fying in formation resembling the number 4
Red Knot, winter plumage, saw 2
Sand Hill Cranes
Brown Pelicans
White Pelicans
Great Egrets
Laughing Gulls
Ring-billed Gulls
Herring Gull
Royal Terns, always in a group all facing into the wind
Great-tailed Grackles
Rock Pigeons
Turkey Vultures
Northern Harrier
Harris' Hawk
Willets, saw 2 pairs doing courting dance
Double-crested Cormorants
Great Blue Herons
Long-billed Curlew
Lesser Yellowlegs
Eastern Meadowlark
Peregrine Falcon
Snowy Egret
European Starling
Eared Grebes, maybe 20 diving under the breakers

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