Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for June, 2012

The Rookery at Smith Oaks at High Island

The Rookery at Smith Oaks at High Island

“You should have been here yesterday.”  That’s how my trip in April started out.  Two friends and I drove from North Carolina to Dauphin Island, Alabama, and High Island, Texas, before meeting the rest of our group near San Antonio.  I learned that hot spots aren’t hot every day, even at the right time of the year.

Common Loon - a surprising find at Dauphin Island

Common Loon – a surprising find at Dauphin Island

I don’t have much to say about Dauphin Island except that it did provide my best view ever of a very beautiful Kentucky Warbler.  We also saw so many Prothonotary Warblers that they almost became trash birds.  And, take your own food!  Perhaps being there Easter weekend didn’t contribute to the availability of dining options, but it was so bad that the last night we voted for the hamburgers at the gas station as our best bet for dinner.

At High Island, the bird story was similar to Dauphin Island; we missed the big days before and after our visit.  But High Island did give me my first life bird of the trip, a very cooperative Swainson’s Warbler.  On our first morning at Boy Scout Woods, I asked about finding the warbler and headed in the direction where one had been seen the day before.  After searching a short time, I noticed two men intently peering into the thick underbrush.  I knew that they were looking at a Swainson’s Warbler.  I slowly walked over to the men; they warmly greeted me and then showed me where the warbler was turning over leaves on the ground.  Over the next 20 minutes, a crowd of 10 or so slowly gathered and our local expert did not leave until he was sure that every person there had seen the Swainson’s Warbler.

A rookery is an amazing place with hundreds of birds packed in so tightly that they almost step on each other.  I took the photo at the top of this post at The Rookery at Smith Oaks in High Island.  At the time of our visit, nesting birds were predominately Roseate Spoonbills and Neotropic Cormorants with a few Great and Snowy Egrets.  The Roseate Spoonbills were dazzling with their deep pink shoulders, orange tail, and tuft of pink feathers in the center of their breasts.

Do you remember Dreamsicles?  My friend Susan describes the color of American Avocets in breeding plumage as deamsicle.  The thousand plus Avocets we discovered at Bollivar Flats looked like a colorful sea of dreamsicle, black and white.  What an awesome moment it was to soak in all that beauty and see one of our favorite birds doing so well that they could congregate in groups of thousands.  I have since learned that the American Avocet does indeed have a NatureServe conservation status of G5 (secure) and an IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) status of Least Concern.  The global population is estimated at 450,000 adults.

Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge provided a wonderful break on our drive to meet the rest of our group.  We had only a couple of hours to spare, but could easily have spent an entire day there.  Everything was wonderful – the habitat, birds, butterflies, flowers, visitor’s center.  During our short visit, we were pleased to see the only White-tailed Hawk of the trip, a close-up Crested Caracara, Loggerhead Shrike and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers along with ducks, waders, and meadowlarks.  We all noted Attwater NWR as a place we would like to visit again as we headed west to continue our Texas adventure.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Jesse

Jesse

During the past 12 years, I’ve frequently said that I wanted to be like my dog and I really meant it.  I considered him my role model for life.  The dog is Fallsview Jesse Cleveland, whom I also called Angel Puppy, Sweetie Pie, and The Boy.  I had wanted another girl dog, but I still remember making the decision one morning in the shower, a few days after seeing photos of the litter, that a boy would be OK.  The pups were 4 weeks old when I visited and they were adorable, as are all Labrador Retriever puppies, especially yellow ones.  While the other pups climbed over each other in my lap vying for attention, Jesse was off playing in the woods.  He was the wild boy and the prettiest pup in the litter.  The breeder would donate one puppy to a service agency and expected them to choose Jesse; I would get one of the calmer boys.  But it was like being back in junior high school; I was secretly in love with the beautiful bad boy.

Three weeks later, I drove the 2 hours with my friend, Karen, and my standard poodle, Ruskie, to pick up my new puppy.  We were greeted with a surprise; the service agency tested “the slug” first and found him perfect!  They didn’t even test Jesse or the other male.  So, the breeder quickly re-assigned puppies and asked if I was willing to take Jesse!  One the way home, he whined on Karen’s lap, so I suggested putting him in the back seat with Ruskie.  He immediately snuggled up to her and fell promptly asleep.  Jesse only had his big “sister” for a year, but she helped him get a great start in life.  When she was lying down and he wanted to play, he would grab her “topknot” and pull upwards.  She usually obliged and played with him.  After we lost Ruskie to cancer, Annie, another yellow Labrador Retriever, came into our lives.  Annie was only a few months older than Jesse and they seemed like doggie soul mates right from the start.  Their play was so entertaining that some evenings I didn’t turn on the TV; I just watched the dogs.  One favorite game was for Annie to lie on her back on the floor while Jesse grabbed her by the throat and spun her in circles.  Yes, it sounds rough, but Annie seemed to enjoy the game as much as Jesse did.

So, what made Jesse so special that I’d want to be like him?  I present the following list that I wrote on December 1, 2002, just a few weeks before Jesse’s third birthday.  I envisioned a little book with a rule on each page and an appropriate photo.  While I don’t have a photo for each “rule”, they all bring back wonderful memories and images of Jesse, the sweetest dog I’ve ever known.

Rule #1:  Don’t admit you’re a dog.  You are just as good as anyone else.

Rule #2:  Keep the pack together.

Rule #3:  If someone tries to kill you for taking their pig ear, don’t do it again.  But assume that they still love you and keep on playing.

Rule #4:  Don’t play politics.  Just ignore those who want to be alpha.

Jesse demonstrating Rule #5

Jesse demonstrating Rule #5

Rule #5:  Humor those who love you.

Rule #6:  Treat guests like family.

Rule #7:  Be persistent in making friends.  If someone doesn’t want to play today, ask again tomorrow.

Rule #8:  Share.

Rule #9:  Be relentless in going after what you want.

Rule #10:  Be happy.  Wiggle your butt and thump your tail.

Rule #11:  Enjoy the simple things in life.

Rule #12:  Relax at the end of the day.

Jesse shows how to perform Rule #12

Jesse shows how to perform Rule #12

Read Full Post »

Losing Jesse

Jesse

Jesse

Recently, I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life.  I decided that I did not want to see my beloved dog, Jesse, struggle any longer.  Jesse seemed to be in perfect health until his diagnosis of diabetes nearly two years ago.  We managed the diabetes well, but something else happened at the same time causing Jesse to become very weak in the hindquarters.  The weakness progressed to stiffness, falling, apparent pain, and finally the inability to stand up at times.  Severe arthritis was a factor, but I always suspected that there was also something more.  We did everything reasonable – blood tests, x-rays, a test for Addison’s Disease – but couldn’t find anything to treat, so only administered insulin and pain medication.  It became harder and harder to see Jesse struggle.  I can’t begin to describe the difficulty of my decision.  Guilt played a big part in it; thinking about how I’d feel guilty if I ended his life too soon and guilty if I let him suffer too long.  And then I felt guilty for letting my guilt play such a big part in the decision.  I wanted my decision to be based upon what was best for Jesse, not what was easiest for me.  While I was in Texas in April, my dog-sitter found Jesse on the floor unable to get up without help on several occasions.  I thought that I could see an overall decline, too, in the two short weeks that I’d been gone.  But he still had good days; his tail still wagged; he still greeted visitors at the door with a toy in his mouth.  How I wished that the signs had been clearer and consistent.  Finally, I decided that I wasn’t willing to risk Jesse suffering a serious injury in a fall down the steps and I couldn’t bear the thought of his being “trapped” on the floor, unable to get up.  And there was the ever-present awareness that he was in pain.  So, I made the decision that no one ever wants to make; I decided to say goodbye.  Jesse lived a little over 12 years and gave me a lifetime of love and devotion.  I will write about Texas and I will write about China, but please indulge me with my next post about my dog.

Read Full Post »