"In the night...the scream of the rabbit is terrible. But the scream of the owl which is not of pain and hopelessness and fear of being plucked out the world, but of the sheer rollicking glory of the death-bringer, is more terrible still. When I hear it resounding through the woods, and then the five black pellets of its song dropping like stones into the air, I know I am standing on the edge of the mystery, in which terror is naturally and abundantly part of life, part of even the most becalmed, intelligent, sunny life--as for example, my own. The world where the owl is endlessly hungry and endlessly on the hunt is the world in which I live, too. There is only one world."
Mary Oliver, Blue Pastures

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Windier Than Old Billy Hell

Reasonably warm and sunny today, but too windy for birding. So we hunkered down with our computers sorting and editing previous year's photos. It was interesting, I have never actually seen some of the photos. Sometimes at the end of the day I just dump them - download them with intentions of viewing and editing later. I guess today is later.

Here is a male Anhinga, Anhinga anhinga (easy name to remember) strutting his stuff on a wall at the Old Hildago Pumphouse. It is the only time I have ever seen that pink throat pouch, even in photos. It was a lucky privilege I guess.

- Gunnar

Why Go South?

Photos from todays hometown Minnesota newspaper.

Tip-toeing carefully down I-35

Two crumpled semi-tractor/trailers that didn't.

Yeah, this is why. - Gunnar

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Pintail Filled To the Brim

The Wizard behind the screen at Santa Ana diverted water into Pintail Lake and filled it to the brim, covering the mudflats and shallows. I do not understand the dynamics of water management decisions. All I know is that except for some Black-necked Stilts and a handful of White Ibis, virtually all the waterfowl and shorebirds are gone. Moved on. Vacated the premises.

Oh yeah, the Wizard is filling the glassland on the south side of the walkway levee and there were a number of Wilson's Snipes. They are damned hard to get a photo of. My shots sucked, but Lorna got a couple of decent ones so not all was lost.

Me? I took a picture of an Altimira Oriole and declared it Good Enough. - Gunnar

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Santa Ana Pintail Lake

The weather cleared a little late morning so we jumped in the truck and headed five miles south to Santa Ana NWR. Of course the refuge is officially closed with the shut-down, but the gates are open and the volunteers have really stepped up. We went directly to Pintail Lake where we had seen a large number of waterfowl the other day. The water level is lower this year and there are shallows and mud flats which the birds seem to really love. It was overcast and the low light made photography a little challenging, but the number of birds more than made up for it. It was great! 

White Pelicans, Roseate Spoonbills, Showy Egret, Common Egret (the larger) Blacknecked Stilt, Avocets, 

Lorna walked down to the Rio Grande, and declared it to be SAFE. After she returned we hiked over to Cattail Lake on the way back to the truck. Cattail has more reeds and cattails and is more duck friendly. There was a nice mix, but I am partial to Pintails. The drakes were in prime plumage and were anxious to show it to the females. If they were impressed they were being coy.

Be well - Gunnar

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

blah, blah, blah.

Nothing new today. Started on the 8:30 group bird walk at Estero with Lorna. There were far too many watchers. My stress of crowds overcame my love of birds. I dropped out almost immediately and walked back to the "Tropical Zone" for an hour looking for a Groove-billed Ani. Talked to Rick Snider for a half an hour about the difficulty of indentifying female hummingbirds during molt - probably longer. Looked for the Ani some more. Sat with Doug and May at a picnic table and talked with our eyes scanning the trees for another half hour. Then moved to the old drip and sat at the long bench with Keith Camburn talking, always scanning the environment for birds, seeing some, but nothing very unusual. Took a photo now and then.

Lorna and I bumped into Brian and Jutta, walked with them for a while - then we all went to the Blue Onion for a long lunch. Really good. Went home to the apartment and set up the Roku. Wrote checks. Went to buy stamps to mail them. Stopped on the way back at the doctor. (Our host's wife is a doctor. She saw me as a drop in.)  Back home, checking emails, etc. Went to the drug store to pick up a prescription. Nope, "Ready in 20 minutes". Went back home. Later went back and actually picked up the prescription. Watched Trump stuff on MSNBC. 

Boring isn't it? It isn't all birds and butterflies. Sometimes life is walking in the sun, talking to friends, thankful we have the health, resources and time to simply piss away a day or two. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2019


Solitary Sandpipers are always alone, they are .... solitary. On the other hand, the smallest sandpipers, the Least Sandpipers, find comfort in numbers and closeness, both on the ground and in the air, almost like schooling fish. 

This morning they covered the mud flat shore and shallows of a pond at Estero Llano. 100? 150? A lot? I was watching the little feathered mice when in a sudden explosion of tiny wingbeats they all flew, turning and wheeling in unison through the sky to the far shore. The couple of dozen laggards who failed to get the word, regrouped and went back to work probing the mud for insects and small crustaceans.

Stay warm, be well. - Gunnar

Monday, January 7, 2019

A Sticks In the Way Day

We went to Edinburg Wetlands this morning - late morning. At first it seemed quite birdy, but morning was over and the birds went deeper into the trees and hard to focus on.. 

Lorna did get few good pictures, but mine below were all in the sticks.

So I took a handful of pictures of common butterlies and we went home to sit in the sun.

- Gunnar

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Estero Llano Grande

A set from today for the Pauraque hunters from Bloomington, Indiana.



Tricolor Heron

Be well. Keep your nose to the grindstone. - Gunnar

Monday, December 24, 2018

A Christmas Story.

The only Christmas Eve I have ever been away from family was when I was a callow youth of twenty years. I had been drafted into the United States Army and sent to Hanau, Germany. Because it was Christmas Eve duty had been light, even festive, with shared packages of food and even liquor passed in Battalion Headquarters where I worked. 

Half a dozen of us, the 23rd Engineer S-3 Section, went to the Mien Kit for a Christmas Eve meal. The Mien Kit was a local pub/restaurant run by a couple who's daughter had married an American. They catered mostly to young soldiers away from home and treated all of us as their own. The owner was Karl. I do not know his wife's actual name. Karl called her "Schatz", German for "girlfriend" or "sweetie". And that is what we all called her.  

After closing, Karl broke out the good cognac and we shared German Christmas treats and drinks with the couple. Jeff Gilchrist, who in his previous life had been a lounge singer, started singing Christmas songs, and loosened by drink, we joined him. 

The Mien Kit was a few blocks from our barracks at the Hessen Homburg Kaserne. Karl gave us a couple of more bottles and sent us on our way which was through a residential area. Jeff determined we should be caroling. In the state we were in that seemed liked a really good idea. So any poor German with lights still on was blessed by the singing of half a dozen really, really drunk G.I.s. And bless their hearts a number of them invited us in for more treats and another round. 

Eventually, very, very late, we stumbled in, collapsed on our cots and I drifted off to the echoing sound of Jeff Gilchrist singing in a restroom stall - crying, still singing Little Town of Bethlehem between his vomiting retches.  
Christmas Day was tough. 

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Peter Mooney On the Cottage Wall

I posted this on Facebook, but that is fleeting, so for my own sake I am cross-posting it here.

An old bicycle, this is a French style American touring bicycle, with the frame built by an expat Englishman, painted by Chris Kvale (an old Norwegian. ;-). And built up with Italian components by ... myself.

For the folks who think a bicycle is a device to get efficently from point A to point B, or an exercise machine, let's talk.

After spending hours, days, months on eBay and other obscure sites, with the help of friends I assembled a bike's worth of components, mostly 'new old stock', some old. some new new - mostly Italian manufactured by Tullio Campagnolo. I then stripped off the protective anodized finish with nasty chemicals and polished the hell out of them. Then I masked off the areas I did not want painted on the seatpost, cranks and fenders.

I saved the fully chromed frame from a bastardized flatbar "townbike". It had areas of rust and light pitting so I sanded and filled the bad parts and masked off the chrome rear triangle, front and seat lugs and cable guides. Then off to the painter Chris Kvale, who etched the chrome, applied filler, sanded, sprayed it with primer, sanded, more primer and then eventually the finish color. He then sprayed a clearcoat, applied the transfers, and hit it with another clear coat, sanded, another clearcoat, more sanding, until you cannot feel the decals with your hands. (That paint job is worth a lot of complete bicycles.)

Dan Lestrud built the wheelset (Rigida rims, early Phil hubs) and I assembled the bicycle drivetrain, brakes, shiny bits, vintage French Luxor lights and handlebars - and laced leather covering on the handlebars and toe clips.

Sometime when you have more time we can talk abut the goat-leather trimmed canvas "bicycle luggage" made in France by Veronica Durrant.

Yep, an old bike. - Gunnar

Monday, December 3, 2018

OakWooD Garden: Snow, Party, More Snow

OakWooD Garden: Snow, Party, More Snow:  Here are some photos that Lorna took in the garden this afternoon. We got the first blast of snow yesterday, then ...