Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Home - And Not A Minute Too Soon

Skip is fanatical about tracking the weather. He has 11 weather apps on his iPhone. I used to mock him until we got stuck driving through an ice storm a few years back when we decided to throw caution to the wind. I now completely defer to his judgement.

We arbitrarily picked April 10 as a departure date from SPI with a tentative home arrival date of April 15. We packed up the car and got going to Buffalo TX on the 10th. We had superb driving conditions all the way.

On the Weather Channel, a terrible ice storm was being forecast for the weekend, so we decided to drive an extra hour or two from our normal pace to get home on Friday - just to be safe.

We made it to Jonesboro AR on night #2 and stayed at a sketchy Econolodge due to an error on my part. I have apps for every hotel chain and accumulate points for free nights and just booked the wrong Choice Hotel. It turned out OK as the motel was within walking distance of a Cracker Barrel. By 'motel', I mean you drive up to the door of your room. It was a bit noisy but I was so pooped that I slept like the dead. I don't think Skip slept as well as I did but regardless, we got up bright and early the next morning and headed for Fort Wayne IN.

The original plan was to spend the night at my sister's in the Sarnia area before doing the last 4 hours on the road before home. But from Fort Wayne, we could certainly make it home in one day.

We had excellent driving conditions the whole way. No bad weather. No major traffic tie-ups. No car malfunctions. As we neared the ramp for the 407, we were fortunate to get off the 401 without a slow-down as we could see cars stopped farther down the road.
The 401 below us as we head eastward on the 407. We most certainly did NOT miss traffic like this on our holiday.
We made it home by 4:30 and just got the car unloaded before the rain started coming down. It had been 14C in Sarnia after we crossed from the US and the temperature had plummeted to 4C by the time we got home.

Here was our 3200km route:

Back in Whitby, it rained for a while. Then when the temperature dropped below freezing, freezing ice pellets started. They lasted for about 1.5 days, covering everything in what looked like newly fallen snow.
Saturday night
Freezing ice pellets covered the driveway and sidewalk Saturday night 
Then it snowed for a few hours, then it rained for a day. I didn't leave the house until yesterday (Monday) when I went out to help Skip clear our driveway and sidewalks. The slushy snow was really heavy. Thank goodness, Skip was able to get the snowblower to move the stuff. It was still hard work, but so much easier than if we'd had to shovel.

It was windy overnight and a bit drizzly this morning but our driveway and sidewalks are still clear. Am I ever glad we got out there yesterday and cleared things off. Several people in our neighbourhood didn't even bother to clear the 10cm of accumulation away.
This morning. Our hard work yesterday paid off. There was only a light dusting of snow overnight. 
We are all unpacked and laundry is done. Our regular activities have resumed. Our wonderful holiday in south Texas is but a delicious memory.

We were so fortunate to have been able to experience the beginning of the migration and are following several of our birding friends on Facebook who are still down there. In the meantime, we're reconnecting with our friends and loved ones here at home and already planning things we might want to do down south next year.  Two things we didn't do were visiting the new Sea Turtle Rescue place and doing a Segway tour of the island. It's always nice to have something to look forward to.

Monday, 9 April 2018

Last Kick at the Can

We had a couple of things to pick up in Port Isabel this morning so swung by Sheepshead lots to see if anything new had flown in since yesterday.

Some birders have wacky licence plates.

Female golden-fronted woodpecker
A male golden-fronted on the same grapefruit a few minutes later
Lesser nighthawk in a different spot today. One got nailed by a Cooper's hawk the other day.
Louisiana waterthrush
Black and white warbler
Ruby-throated hummingbird
And we finally got to see the yellow-billed cuckoo that we missed seeing yesterday! That was bird #172 for this trip.
Yellow-billed cuckoo
Summer tanager
There were several species that we've seen in the RGV  in past years that we didn't see this year: vermilion flycatcher, herring gull. lesser scaup, or any owls. If we stayed later, we'd see lots more warbler species but alas, it is time to make our way home.

We will pack up the car and hit the road tomorrow morning. This year was stellar for birding, weather (it only rained a couple of days in 2 1/2 months), and our conveniently-located condo. Skip and I will have lots of things to reminisce about on our 5+-day drive home.

Sunday, 8 April 2018


The wind shifted last night and the temperatures plummeted. This morning we first went to the Convention Center and started seeing lots of species.

This was only some of the people who showed up.

Indigo Bunting

Young male orchard oriole
Warbling vireo
We also spotted a Blackburnian warbler but he was so flitty, I didn't get a picture.

We then went over to the Sheepshead lots where carloads of people were starting to accumulate.

We no sooner got out of the car and we started seeing all kinds of birds.
Black-throated green warbler
Hooded warbler
Baltimore oriole
Black-throated green warbler
Eastern wood-pewee
We took photos of each other for posterity. It was only 14C this morning so we really had to bundle up.

Eurasian collared doves
The painted bunting was all puffed up, I assume for warmth
I caught the young, transitioning male summer tanager and the adult having some kind of discussion.
Very briefly, some scissor-tailed flycatchers flew in.
Then another with a queen butterfly in its mouth.  I didn't get that shot, unfortunately.

 I did, however, get a closeup on the immature, male summer tanager.
This one seemed to be at the end of the transition phase as well.

Worm-eating warbler
Northern parula
By the time we left to grab some lunch, cars and mini buses were parked all over the place.

Looking west on Sheepshead St.

Looking east on Sheepshead St.
Palm warbler
Next thing I know, a bunch of folks were walking to the west side of the lot and looking across the street at the wooden fence. There, a lesser nighthawk was snoozing, right on top of the fence. Another lifer for us!
Lesser nighthawk
 It stayed there all afternoon and later rested on the other side of the fence on the cross-piece that the pickets are nailed to. Only its head was showing. It was still there when we left at 7:30pm.
Cactus flowers

Red admiral butterfly
Yet another palm warbler
After lunch and naps, we returned to Sheepshead for Round 2 today.
Eastern wood-pewee
Golden-fronted woodpecker drinking out of the hummingbird feeder

Ruby-throated hummingbird
Baltimore oriole
Summer tanager
Ruby-throated hummingbird
Skip saw several indigo buntings feeding on the ground in a neighbouring yard.

White-eyed vireo
More summer tanager shots
Baltimore oriole shot taken during the 'golden hour'
Transitioning male Baltimore oriole
Common yellowthroat
 After 11 hours (counting lunch and naps), we packed it in. Today was the most amazing birding day we've ever had. It is totally the reason that we stay down here into April. We have one more full day here, then we pack up the car for the trek home.