Turkeys

The wild turkeys have been visiting of late. They’re a bit hard to photograph because as a “tasty bird” they are also extremely shy. Getting these images, at dusk, took pushing my camera’s limits.

This group is all toms (male). You can see that by their beards and brightly coloured heads. Later in the year they will break up and recruit individual harems. But for now, being in a flock with many eyes to look out for danger outweighs any romantic rivalry.

New Year’s Resolution

I need to be more like my lab.

A happy dog. An enthusiastic dog. A dog with two speeds – full tilt and asleep.

And asleep.

Every action he takes is full of life.

The empty chair

Something of a reminder, about grief. About 1/1000 Americans have died from Covid-19. To put this in context, most people have a “nodding acquaintance” list of about 100 people. If individuals overlap by about 90% then almost certainly someone in your circle or in the next layer out is gone.

I hope they are not forgotten.

Childhood Memories

From the abyss of my youth, slightly modified to reflect modern and somewhat more mature mores.

 Jingle bells
 Santa Smells
 Rudolph's lost the way 
 Oh what fun it is to drive a beat up Chevrolet
Over the fields we go
Laughing all the way 
Grandma's drunk
We hit a skunk 
Grandpa's in the trunk
Jingle bells 
Santa Smells 
Rudolph's lost the way 
Oh what fun it is to drive a beat up Chevrolet
Lights on police cars glow 
Sirens pierce the night
Bumping through the fields 
Running in the light
Bail money's tight
Jingle bells 
Santa Smells 
Rudolph's lost the way 
Oh what fun  it is to drive a beat up Chevrolet

Merry Christmas, a happy holiday, and best wishes for the new year!

The woods

Summer
Fall

I’ve been learning to do panoramas. The woods in Alabama. Same view but different seasons.

Bon Secour NWR

A follow up to my post on RVs. 

One of the highlights of our trip was exploring the nearby National Wildlife Refuge. We were about a mile down the road from it, and while route 180 is fast, there are wide margins so that it is eminantly walkable.

X marks the approximate location of Fort Morgan RV park.

I have a birding life list into the hundreds and was still able to identify five new species without serious birding. (Just walking with binocculars in hand.)  We walked there three times: first, late in the afternoon to the junction of the Gator Lake trail and the Pine Branch trail (4 miles round trip),  second, to the shore on the Pine Branch trail (6 miles round trip), and lastly to the Gator Lake trail returning via Mobile street, the shore, and the Pine Branch trail (8 miles round trip).


A Sandriling

Since pets (dogs) are not allowed in the refuge and there are not that many people who visit, the birds are quite tame. The Sandriling walked within two feet of me.

Fifteen inches (1/3 meter) of rain will flood the trails.

There were mosquitos, even at the winter solstice, so a summer visit should include insect repellent and quite possibly a face net.

Without trying, we saw:

  • Osprey
  • Great Blue Heron
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Brown Pelican
  • Sandriling
  • Snowy Plover
  • Willet
  • Common Loon
  • Horned Grebe
  • Double Crested Cormorant
  • Lesser Scaup
  • Common Goldeneye
  • Bufflehead
  • White-eyed Vireo

There were gulls (of course) and crows, as well as several varieties of sparrow, that we didn’t identify.  Not to mention these guys, who scared off the plover.

The Blue Angels.

Travels with an RV

At Fort Morgan RV park

A complete change of pace for camping, (my base weight < 15lbs), we decided to try out using an RV. There are several companies that hire them and we ended up with cruiseamerica.

We decided to explore the Gulf Shores region in Alabama. It’s on the Gulf of Mexico, near the Florida panhandle, and something of a “red neck Rivera.” So we fit right in. We picked one of our sons up from his university (Auburn) and after spending the night there (Eagles landing RV park is clean, has nice people running it, and is convenient for a stop over.) drove on to Fort Morgan. We stayed in Fort Morgan RV park, which is a small, nice, friendly, and remote place near Bon Secour NWR (about a mile walk from the trail head.)

I’ll post some of the things we saw in another post, but you can see my portfolio here. Instead I’m writing notes about what we learned in the experience.

This is a 25-foot class-b machine. It was just barely big enough for 3 adults and 2 big dogs.  To be honest, it was just big enough for 2 adults and 2 big dogs.

Hooking the machine up to the power and water at the site (the “shore line” and town water) was straightforward, as was dumping the tanks. Follow the instructions and little can go wrong. It is important to let the tanks fill up so you get a clean flush, do the black water first, and then the grey water. It takes about two minutes, tops.

We used almost no propane. Turning on the water heater a few minutes before you needed it and then turning it off worked well. The water stayed warm for most of the day. Similarly we brought winter sleeping bags and between 3 adults and 2 dogs, only needed the heater now and then.

In no particular order, here are points to consider:

  • Bring a wooden cutting board to put hot pots on. Our unit had two small burners, which were enough, barely. Occasionally we needed to boil water, say for noodles, and move the pot off the burner to finish cooking. The countertops are laminate and would be damaged by direct heat.
  • Clean up as you go along.
  • Find a place for everything and put it back.
  • For long-term: an external propane hookup is a great idea.
  • An awning over the door would make life in rainy weather much easier. (The rental units don’t have this because it tends to be fragile and would be damaged by a typical renter.)
  • For purchase: Aerodynamics matter. The flat surfaces on this unit produce significant drag. If I were purchasing one, I’d look for smooth surfaces and rounded contours.
  • Speaking of driving: It handles like a dump truck. You can get up to speed, but anything more than 70mph is a bit dicey. It bounces and rattles. Drawers will open in turns.
  • 30 gallons to fill up from 1/3 of a tank of petrol. Fuel economy isn’t a feature of these vehicles. They’re not too bad on the motorway, but terrible in town.
  • Having a second vehicle would be a good idea. There are three solutions: 1) tow a car behind an RV, b) use a trailer or “fifth wheel” with a detachable towing vehicle, and iii) a truck camper.  Truck campers are about half the size of this unit and relatively rare in the South.  We saw both towed vehicles and trailers at the RV parks.
  • The propane-powered/electricity-powered fridge worked fine. It’s a little small and slower to cool than a home unit, but fully stable.
  • Storage is a bit tight and takes no little thought to organize. We didn’t get it quite right, but it was OK.
  • The black water tank pellets are some sort of detergent. They help to break up the debris. We could not find any for sale and used laundry detergent pouches. No idea about this for the long term, but in a pinch, it worked well.
  • Most RV sites have water, power, wifi, and cable TV.
  • There was no oven. We brought a Dutch oven which worked OK. It helps if you’ve used one before.

Overall, it was a pleasant experience, and one we’ll probably repeat. There are people who live in these things year-round. It would be tight, somewhat cramped, but definitely do-able.

The Unplanned Puppy

There’s a reason, a very good reason that I’ve been quiescent of late. It’s called a puppy.

 Finn Macheiul, our what looks like a purebred Labrador Retriever, was dropped off on the dirt road by our house. (actually he and his brother were.)

You can’t, well I couldn’t, resist that expression.

More to the point, when we took him to the local vet’s, and asked if we should leave contact information, the vet said, “He’s yours.”

Fortunately our older dog likes having another animal around the place. That said, it is a great deal of work training a young dog. Still, he’s healthy, happy, and friendly.

Finn and his brother Tickee playing (Finn has the red collar)

Now back to writing (We have the finish of Regency spies and a new SF series to get out.)

California Trail Maps, 2018

I’ll have to figure out how to get wordpress to handle gpx or kmz or kml files, but here are the maps from our excellent expedition (part 1, part 2, and part 3).

The trail from ‘camp one’ in the redwoods.

Point Reyes overveiw:

Abbott’s cove:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drake’s Cliff:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tule Elk Preserve:

Two elk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jade Cove:
This location is a bit of a secret – and nearly to the current blockage on route 1.  It is a bit of a climb down a steep cliff and there is more than enough poison oak. That said, it’s a fun day trip.

My Portfolio

My photography portfolio is online. Take a look.