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“Celebrate the Gulf”

Saturday, 31 March 2012

It was a ladies day out for Diana, Mary, and myself today so we headed for the Celebrate the Gulf Festival in Pass Christian, MS. 

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This is a family friendly festival whose goal is to educate the public about the wonders of the Gulf of Mexico area.  Lot’s of hands on activities for the kids, and interesting displays for adults.  The interns from our refuge, and some local volunteers manned the MS Sandhill Crane NWR booth.  You could be banded there like a bird, and there was a live corn snake in that cardboard box on the lower right.  The snake was taking a little rest in between performances.  Winking smile

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The US Navy even had a boat and sea bottom investigation monitors on display.  All of these young sailors were dressed in blue and black fatigues, and I had to ask what happened to their ♪ ♫‘Bell-bottomed Trousers and Coats of Navy Blue’ ♫  They assured me that they had about five different uniforms.  I expected to see them in those crisp white bell-bottom pants, Navy caps, and white starched blouses.

There were also displays on fly tying, preserved fish varieties of the gulf, water shed pollution, and free samples of shrimp with the hottest cocktail sauce I’ve ever consumed!   I picked up some recipe cards for fresh Mississippi shrimp along the way.  It turned out that they were the same recipe cards I had gotten at some other festival last year. 

At the other end of the War Memorial Park, an Art Festival was taking place.  I chose to sit and enjoy some local entertainment (in the shade) as Diana and Mary perused all of those displays.  There was lots of jewelry and other art items for a home for sale that I’m not very interested in.

IMG_7300Back at the ranch, Emma and I sat outside this evening and I noticed this stunning caterpillar waltzing around the top of my outdoor grill.  Maybe it didn’t know that Mardi Gras is over?

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It seems the top of my grill was the place to be tonight.  There was also an inch worm and another very small caterpillar making their way back and forth along the top.  I’m not sure what was so attractive to them all. 

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                                                                                 THE END!!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

It was back to the VC to work for me today.  Most of the time was spent welcoming the 25 visitors throughout the day, and catching up with Doug, the volunteer coordinator.  He has been gone for the last three weeks dealing with health issues with his parents up in Pennsylvania.  We needed to get the schedule for the next month set up with school groups coming in for programs.

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Also in the plans is a trip for all of the volunteers and interns to Ship Island off of the Mississippi coast in April.  I’m looking forward to that trip.  April turns out to be Volunteer Appreciation Month, so the refuge will probably foot the bill for this trip.  Sweet!!

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I have found Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR to be the most willing, of all the refuges I’ve volunteered at, to provide trips and wonderful experiences for their volunteers.  It’s one of those perks that makes volunteering here most memorable.

During a lull in visitation during the afternoon, I took a walk around outside.  I wanted to check out the grassy area in front of the VC to see if the sundew plants had started blooming.  What a surprise I was in for today.  If any of you have watched “The Golden Girls”, you may remember that Sophia always prefaces her stories by saying “Picture this…”

Well, “picture this…”  I’m walking along in the grass staring down looking for those small sundew plants.  Instead, I see a small brown bird running along ahead of me.  As I peer at it, I figure out it is a Henslow’s sparrow.

An uncommon and famously inconspicuous bird, the Henslow's Sparrow breeds in weedy grasslands of the east-central United States. Its population numbers have declined steadily over the past few decades, largely because of habitat loss.  The Henslow's Sparrow takes flight only with great reluctance, preferring to flee from threats by running through the grass. (This is from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology bird website)

Yahoo!  The only Henslow’s sparrow I’ve ever seen is the decapitated head of one while helping with a loggerhead shrike study in Texas. (a different story Thinking smile)

Anyway, I decide to stalk this little illusive bird.  I bend over and slowly try to creep up on it.  In the meantime, Doug comes out front and laughingly shouts: “What’s the matter, are you having trouble with your back?”  It’s at this point that I shoot my right arm out and snatch the little sparrow up in my hand. 

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Doug is flabbergasted!  He can’t believe I caught this sparrow in my hand.  Truth be told, I can’t believe it either.  Surprised smile

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I just wanted to get a close up and personal look at this very uncommon little friend.  Of course, twenty years as a bird bander helped in knowing how to handle this little guy.  What a beauty!  That’s when the title for this post popped into my mind.

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After everyone got a chance to ooh and aah over the bird, I carefully returned it to the wet pine savannah behind the VC.  It immediately skulked its way back to its preferred habitat.  Within the next week or so, this little guy will be on his way north for the breeding season.  _MG_7251This little guy did not go quietly into the night.  He gave me a good tweak to show me what he thought of the experience.  I understood.  Safe travels, my friend!

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

“I’ll get you my pretty…”

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

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It was time to haul out my rubber boots and walking stick today as we would be on a quest for some carnivorous plants.  The area we were going to required a walk through a very wet and muddy area.  The boots also help deter mosquitoes and chiggers from attacking my legs.  I need the walking stick to help with my stability walking through mucky areas.

Before we sloshed through the wet area, we checked out a culvert that we were told had a lot of bladderworts near it.

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Sure enough, we found them.  They are a carnivorous plant that is aquatic and is usually only noticed when in bloom. 

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Wikipedia had a pretty good explanation of how this plant operates.   Aquatic species, such as U. vulgaris (common bladderwort), possess bladders that are usually larger and can feed on more substantial prey such as water fleas (Daphnia), nematodes and even fish fry, mosquito larvae and young tadpoles. Despite their small size, the traps are extremely sophisticated. In the active traps of the aquatic species, prey brush against trigger hairs connected to the trapdoor. The bladder, when "set", is under negative pressure in relation to its environment so that when the trapdoor is mechanically triggered, the prey, along with the water surrounding it, is swept into the bladder. Once the bladder is full of water, the door closes again, the whole process taking only ten to fifteen thousandths of a second.  The bladders are those many little round things located under the water.  I was thrilled to find these plants as I’d never seen one before.  I continue to be overwhelmed by the diversity of the natural world.

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Then it was on to see more pitcher plant blooms.  The most common species has yellow flowers, but last year I learned of a spot that had red blossoms.

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The red blossoms emerge a little later than the pale yellow pitcher plants.  This area had tons of yellow blooms and quite a few pitchers already, but the red blooms have just begun.

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To me, these red blooms have a waxier look to them, and you just can’t beat that vibrant color.

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I found two pale yellow pitcher plants doing a tango, with a wall flower waiting on the side.  Eye rolling smile  I suppose some of you may become tired of my pitcher plant pictures, but I’m so fascinated by these carnivorous plants that I can’t help myself.  Just wait until you see the pitchers from the red blossoms in a week or two.  Perhaps you’ll be  as thrilled as I.  They take my breath away…

I had to leave Emma home today so the Wicked Witch of the West wouldn’t get “your little dog too!”  You can never tell about these carnivorous plants. 

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

A girls’ day at the beach

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Diana, Emma, and I headed out this morning for a girls’ day at the beach on Dauphin Island, Alabama.  It was about an hours drive away.  I’ve never been much of a beach person (picture an alewife die off on the shores of Lake Michigan when I was growing up in Chicago).  I believe Diana has always been a beach person. 

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What a pleasant surprise it was for me to arrive at this mostly vacant white sand beach for the afternoon!  The water wasn’t brown, and the waves provided a lovely sound backdrop.

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As I went about setting up my chair under the beach umbrella that Diana had brought, she took Emma on a little romp in the sand.  I had told her that the last time I took Emma near any sand, she was a lunatic and nearly pulled my arm out of its socket.  Thank goodness she’s calmed down some.  Emma was happy until…

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Diana tried to coax her into the water.  Emma has always hated getting wet and even avoids small puddles that might get her feet wet.  She tried a sit down strike, but…

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Diana was stronger, and Emma found herself in water over her head.  Of course, she naturally did the dog paddle for a few seconds.

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                             As soon as she saw the shore, she was out of there!

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                                      “MOM, SHE MADE ME GO IN THE WATER AND I WAS SCARED!!”

We had a fun afternoon chit chatting away on the beach, and Emma and I went for a nice walk so I could look for some shells.  I did get my feet wet, but I’m not one for jumping in the ocean for a swim.  Guess I need to work on that.  The water wasn’t really cold at all.  Maybe next time. 

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I’m thinking this is a much nicer place to take Andy and his family for a day at the beach than at Biloxi Bay.  This Laughing Gull must have found something humorous in the waves.  Winking smile

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Last night, I downloaded the new upgrade to Picasa, so when I went to edit my photos tonight there were new editing options available.  I gave one of them a try on this group of brown pelicans that was flying overhead.  Interesting, but I’m not sure how much I’ll use those new options.  I’ll have to play around with them a bit.  It’s back to work tomorrow for me.

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

Are you plagued by Wristastosis?

Monday, 26 March 2012

Well I sure am.  The older I get, the weaker my wrists seem to get.  Today I tried to open a new jar of marinated mushrooms to go along with my grilled spare ribs.  First I just tried to open it using my hands alone.  Ha!  What was I thinking?

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So I got out my trusty rubber round thing that I got my first year on the road from the Social Security booth at Quartzsite.  No luck there either.  Sad smile  Okay, it was time to pull out my arsenal.

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Next up was this handy dandy little opener that works on most every jar, and it’s adjustable to the jar lid size.  Not today, though.  It failed me.  I really like marinated mushrooms so I was getting worried.  I had one last tool to try…

IMG_7168 …and it worked!  Yahooie!  I believe this antique jar opener was my grandmother’s.  Sometimes in an RV, even a women has multiple tools to accomplish the same thing.  Winking smile  It sure helped with my wristastosis!

I was plagued with two other things today.  One was a definite ‘snake in the grass’, and the other one turned out not to be.  The real snake in the grass came this morning when I got a call from the Wells Fargo Fraud Unit.  It seems there were some questionable charges on my debit card last Friday and this morning, so they were calling to find out what was up.  They approved the charge on Friday, but not the one this morning.  Not sure what the Friday charge was for but it occurred through a billing agency in the UK.  The one that was denied this morning was for an escort service also through the UK.  I may be a solo, but I’m not desperate enough to hire an escort service!! Annoyed

The result is that my card was immediately cancelled, and a new one is on the way.  Steps were also taken so I would not be liable for the Friday charge.  I’m sure glad the Wells Fargo Fraud Unit was on top of things, as it might have been some time before I caught the bogus charges myself.

_MG_7121Remember this pic from a couple of days ago?   One commenter on that post wanted to know what kind of snake it was, so I went in to talk to one of the biologists today to help me identify it since I couldn’t figure it out.  The reason I couldn’t figure it out is that it isn’t a snake at all!  It’s a Slender Glass Lizard.  It didn’t have any legs, so I just assumed it was a snake.  These guys mainly eat bugs.  When I took the pictures I noticed that it didn’t flick out a forked tongue, but it never sunk in why.  So, it was definitely not a snake in the grass…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

An interesting, for me, paddle up Bayou Castille

Sunday, 25 March 2012

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Just before noon today, John and Diana and I launched one of the two canoes for our use to take a paddle up Bayou Castille.  John prefaced our trip by stating that it had been many years since he had been in a canoe.  Diana remarked that she was a boater, not a canoeist.  Alrighty then.  Eye rolling smile

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We got ourselves out into the bayou.  It’s been over forty years since I’ve been paddling in the front of the canoe; I’m usually in the stern and doing the steering.  It was a bit unsettling for me.  (On second thought, it was a lot unsettling for me)  I could just imagine us tipping over as the canoe seemed to be rocking back and forth too much for my comfort. 

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I had my life vest on and the bayou is not very deep, but I was most concerned about ruining my camera.  It took me a while to settle down.

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In our journey, we did come upon an active Osprey nest.  The nest was perched in the tallest tree along the bayou.  If you really scrutinize the picture on the right, you can see the adult taking off from the nest as we tried to silently approach.

John did a fine job of steering us for our paddle, but I think in the future I’ll be more comfortable in the stern.  I may even inflate my kayak so I can take a more leisurely paddle on my own down the back inlets of the bayou for picture taking opportunities.  I guess I’m a more slow and steady wins the race kind of person that prefers to investigate small nooks and crannies rather than cover greater distances.

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It was a glorious day to be out on the bayou, and I was surprised at the beautiful homes we saw bordering the water as we made our way north.

I’d like to give a little update on yesterday’s post.  It garnered some very interesting comments.  Yes, I do remember the Grit Newspaper from my time in upstate New York, and I didn’t know that GRITS stood for Girls Raised In The South.  Surprised smile  I’ll be sure to give grits another try, but I really feel it needs additional ingredients to make it pleasant to eat.

On the squirrel front, today I just stuck my hand outside the window in the shape of a gun and shouted ‘Pit-chew’ loudly like a shot from a gun.  It seemed to have the same effect on the squirrels and Emma as the actual pellet gun does.  Go figure… (of course that could be due to the bee-bee gun that is being used nearby)

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As far as the spreadsheet of all of my expenses is concerned, I’ve decided to not log everything into the spreadsheet.  Instead, I’ll be keeping all receipts in a bag for a month or two to see if I can wean myself off of the dreaded recording bit.  I will be on guard for ‘creep’, however…

Thanks for stopping by… talk to you later,  Judy

 

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