June 26, 2009

A few more things

We all finally made it home a few days ago. It was a really good trip but I was definitely ready for a rest. Off to Swing Week at Ashokan tomorrow, but I'm looking forward to that as well. So I've got just a few more pics from the trip I wanted to post. After our visit to the Wichita Mountains mom flew into Oklahoma City and we played for the Flamingo Fling dance weekend.
I was just excited to be in the real-life hometown of my all-time favorite freak-rock band The Flaming Lips
Anyway we had a great time in OKC working with the always enchanting Nils Fredland
Kailyn and Andrea
After Flamingo Fling Noah and Kailyn flew back to Syracuse while mom and I drove to Asheville, NC.  Along the way we visited our good friends David and Donna Peterson in Greenbriar, AR and Craig and Janice Howard near Nashville, TN.  We spent a couple days in Nashville and they took us to see the Opryland Hotel.  It was amazing...
Mom, Craig and Janice
ehemm... err... yeah...
That's it for now.  I'll try to post again in a week or so.

June 24, 2009

What's for dinner?

Right now I'm reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. It's amazing! He examines what exactly we eat; what are the ingredients, what's in the ingredients, where it comes from and what it's doing there. Fascinating stuff. And more than a little creepy. Sarah picked it up a couple months ago and read it before me. We're definitely reevaluating some of our grocery shopping. Last fall I started trying to eat a lot less meat and a lot smaller portions. I couldn't believe how much better I felt so I've tried to keep it up. Anyway, check out this trailer for Food Inc, a new movie coming out this summer...

June 22, 2009

Wichita Mountains

On our way to Oklahoma City we decided to spend a day hiking and exploring in the Wichita Mountains near Lawton, OK.  What a beautiful place! 

These were the first more-or-less wild bison I've seen
I love prairie dogs!
Near the top of Elk Mountain we found this awesome hide-out cave.  We though it looked like prime real estate for your average middle class outlaw, bandit, highwayman, etc. 

June 21, 2009

Dinosaur Valley

We are almost at the end of our big trip!  Just one more dance tomorrow night and then a 12ish hour drive back home.  Lots of cool stuff to share so I'll start back a couple weeks while we were staying with Rhonda and Tim in Dallas, TX.  Noah, Kailyn and I visited Dinosaur Valley State Park one afternoon and we had a great time hiking, swimming and checking out the crazy prehistoric dino prints near the stream.
Golden-cheeked Warbler
I was hoping for Black-capped Vireo here but no such luck.  We did, however, get to see some pretty neat wildlife.

June 08, 2009

Birds: Lower Rio Grande Valley

June 2 - Noah and I played a dance in San Antonio back on May 30.  Near the dorm where we stayed was a decent sized egret rookery.  I woke up early on May 31 and was able to get some decent shots of some more or less expected city birds.  Then we drove south on Route 16 and had wonderful looks at Harris's Hawk, Pyrrhuloxia, Greater Roadrunner and Bronzed Cowbird; all birds I'd seen only once before on my previous trip to Texas in 2006.  Also had CHIHUAHUAN RAVEN (Life Bird), HOODED ORIOLE (Life Bird) and WHITE-TAILED HAWK (Life Bird) on our way down to the Rio Grande Valley.  Near our campsite I had a pair of CURVE-BILLED THRASHERS (Life Bird) and neat looks at a COMMON PAURAQUE (Life Bird) flying around in the brush.  We arrived at Bentsen-Rio Grande State Park in the late afternoon and almost immediately had a beautiful CLAY-COLORED THRUSH (Life Bird) bathing near the Visitor Center.  In the park we saw many of the expected but still amazing southern Texas birds like Green Jay, Couch's Kingbird, White-tipped Dove, ALTAMIRA ORIOLE (Life Bird), GREAT KISKADEE (Life Bird) and PLAIN CHACHALACA (Life Bird).  The Kiskadee and Altamira Oriole had nests across the trail from each other and it was so cool to watch them go back and forth.  On June 1 I walked down the road to Bentsen before dawn and heard several trilling Eastern Screech-Owls, as well as many more Pauraques.  Near the beginning of the drive I heard two Gray Hawks calling but never got a look at them.  Farther in I had a single singing NORTHERN BEARDLESS TYRANNULET (Life Bird) while back at the Visitor Center there were several BUFF-BELLIED HUMMINGBIRDS (Life Bird), OLIVE SPARROWS (Life Bird) and GROOVE-BILLED ANIS (Life Bird).  A final late morning hike down to the river was very hot and buggy but I did manage to spish up a CACTUS WREN (Life Bird) while dancing to avoid the fire ants and sacrificing my knuckles to the mosquitos to snatch a couple photos.  A late afternoon trip to Santa Ana was mostly quiet and I had to wait out a big thunderstorm in a photo blind.  LONG-BILLED THRASHER (Life Bird) was new and I got more decent looks at Black-crested Titmouse, Groove-billed Ani, Olive Sparrow and Green Jay.  I did see a bobcat briefly which was very cool.  We ended the day in Weslaco where we had a few large flocks of RED-CROWNED PARROTS (Life Bird) fly in to the neighborhood at sunset.  Definitely a trip highlight!  We've seen many nighthawks ever since we arrived in Texas and I'm assuming most them have been Common.  Not sure if I'd be able to pick out a Lesser or not.  This morning I went back to Santa Ana for a couple hours.  Nearly my first bird was a beautiful GREEN KINGFISHER along the canal.  I walked around for a while without seeing too much new but I did finally decide to count BROWN-CRESTED FLYCATCHER (Life Bird) thanks to some help from another birder.  On my way out of the park I heard another NORTHERN BEARDLESS TYRRANULET mixed in with some titmice and I got a very brief look at an adult GRAY HAWK (Life Bird) before it was chased off by angry kingbirds.  No photos of either of these great valley specialties unfortunately.  This afternoon we drove to Brownsville and then out to the beach at Boca Chica.  Lots of terns: Caspian, Royal, Sandwich, Gull-billed, Least and Black.  As we were watching the Brown Pelicans feeding I noticed a silhouette that was somehow a little different.  Bigger with a longer tail.  It was an immature MAGNIFICENT FRIGATEBIRD (Life Bird)!!!  I was a little disappointed to see this bird without Sarah.  But it was an amazing experience and it came quite close; nearly overhead.  My year list is currently 393.
Altamira Oriole
Great Kiskadee
Buff-bellied Hummingbird
Green Jay
Plain Chachalaca
Common Pauraque
Hooded Oriole
Curve-billed Thrasher
Cactus Wren
Groove-billed Ani
Bronzed Cowbird
Red-crowned Parrots

Texas adventures

Hi everyone.  Okay, sorry it's been longer than I intended.  My internet access has been somewhat limited by my laptop's current state of not-working-ness.  Here's a little recap.  Noah, Kailyn and I have been in Texas for the past week.  We played a dance in San Antonio and then kept going south all the way to McAllen and Brownsville (fyi really crapy cities... endless identical mega stores and chain restaurants as far as the eye can see... they make Utica and Watertown look like cultural treasures).  The idea was to spend a couple days birding along the Rio Grande, then head over the the Gulf, then work our way back up to Austin and Dallas.  And yes, it's been incredibly hot.  Mid-90s everyday, think we crossed 100 a couple times.  Now we're back in Dallas and the humidity is down a bit so it's not as bad.  For the most part it's been a great trip.  LOTS of great birds but I'll put the details in another post.  Only one bad hotel.  It took us a while but we eventually found some really good Mexican food and we've been able to hang out with some old and new friends.  During the car rides we've been listening to Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke on CD - one of my absolute favorite books.  And I just got the new DMB album which (somewhat to my surprise) TOTALLY ROCKS!  So all's well.  We're hanging out in Dallas for a few days now.  I'm really excited because I think I might get to see St Vincent on Thursday!  Here are some pics... 
The Hawk Tower at Bentsen
This was not an easy picture to take!  The fire ants and mosquitoes were really bad through here so I had to do this funny little dance in place while Noah got out his camera
The Rio Grande!
Morning at Santa Ana 
In addition to all the birds we've seen some other cool wildlife like javelinas, a tortoise, dolphins, a bobcat and these crazy huge toads!
The Gulf of Mexico