Tuesday, June 27, 2006

UK Gulls

So by request, here are the photos of the gulls. Unfortunately they didn't come out well...

Sunday, June 25, 2006

UK Trip

Well, I've been offline for about a week on a business trip to the UK. After I finally got the hang of using my camera, Marc decided to adjust the settings for me. I didn't get a whole lot of pictures on my trip and most of them were bad! ;-)

The major sitings on my trip (most of which I don't have pictures of)were:
In Gatwick: Crows, Magpies, sparrows (English house sparrows, no doubt!), starlings (also a common import that we have here), regular pigeons and a pigeon with white on the sides of it's neck (I looked it up, but now I can't remember what it was).

In Aberdeen I saw lots and lots of Gulls (well it's on the coast). Most were Herring Gulls. I also saw crows, ravens, magpies, pigeons, a few unidentified hawks (they call Buteo-type hawks "Buzzards"), a lot of LBBs (little brown birds), a deer and lots of rabbits.

My most exciting find was when one of my friends from work took me to lunch at a nice little pub out in the countryside. I saw a really unusual looking bird, and my friend identified it as a pied wagtail. Obviously somewhat common, but very unusual for me!

I did get to go into Aberdeen one evening for dinner, and since it stays light until late, I was able to take a few pictures of the city.

This castle-like building is the Salvation Army. In the far right of the picture, you can see some round stained-glass windows. There were several of these and I tried to get a picture but they all came out blurry. It had started to drizzle a bit, my coworker was fielding a phone call and I was taking refuge in a convenient gazebo in the square in front of this magnificent building (represented by the dark triangle in the upper right corner).

There are a lot of churches in Aberdeen, I am told. Sadly, many of them are being used for other purposes. This one is the Soul Club. Why is it that many converted churches are bars? Some are also resturants -- I know we have at least one in Houston.

We had travelled down Union Street, the main "drag" in Aberdeen. We turned left down a side street, and about a block down from the Salvation Army building is the University of Aberdeen. This is one of many buildings on the University's campus. The opening on the left opens into a quadrangle-type area, though we didn't go in. Interestingly, though there were several buildings, they were located on the streets just like they might have been office buildings. I suggested that maybe I needed to move to Aberdeen and go back to school. ;-) The reality is that I was there on a couple of really nice summer days. I'm not sure how well I would take to the cold winters that far north. Though it would be nice to see the northern lights someday!

So we turned left from the university onto another street. Here's a nice view down the street. One thing I noticed in Aberdeen was that the majority of the buildings were gray -- obviously a stone local to the area. I should also mention that these pictures were taken around 9:00pm. Being that far north, the sun doesn't set until around 11pm and rises again around 3 in the morning!

So that's the last of the Aberdeen pics. However, I did take one final shot from the airplane on the trip home:

This view fascinated me! The bright white spots in this picture are ice floes on the ocean! I checked the monitors and we were just past Greenland on our flight, so I shouldn't be surprised. I suppose this is the left-over bits of the pack ice as it is breaking up for the summer.

Anyway, it was quite a whirlwind trip for one week and I'll admit I am really glad to be home -- and really tired too!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Our Rainy Trip

I've always loved weather and clouds and storms (though, I'll admit I don't like driving in them!).

Our trip to Rockport was pretty overcast with rain off and on the whole time. On our last day there, we went out on the pier belonging to the place we were staying (eveyone has a "private pier" there!) and I took some pictures of the approaching weather. Somehow, I kept thinking -- this is June 1st -- the first day of hurricane season!

In the last picture (above), you can see it raining out over the bay!

Before we left, we went to eat and I shot this pic of a blue heron walking along the docks. Notice that the conrete is wet!

On the way home we really got into the rain! It rained hard and fast -- so fast that as we were driving past the Aransas Wildlife Refuge, the water was over the road (see the arrow in the pic above)!

Monday, June 12, 2006


I love hibiscus -- they are always so bright and beautiful. The place that we stayed in Fulton had hibiscus in front of every one of their cabins. Here are a few:

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Cave Procyon Lotor

The subtitle of my blog is "Sometimes looking out, sometimes looking in." I have mostly been sharing my photos of birds and other "critters" I find interesting. However, today I thought I'd share a little about me (along with the critters in my world). The title is somewhat Latin -- cave means "beware!" (present active imperative of cavere - to beware. Imperative is why there's an exclamation mark after it! ;-). I'm sure many of you have heard the terms caveat emptor (buyer beware), caveat lector (let the reader beware) and cave canem (beware the dog!)

If you haven't guessed by now, I am trying to learn Latin. People ask me why, and I really don't have a good answer, except that I find it interesting. There are several "links" between my interest in Latin and other interests -- a recent one is that my thesis project for my Master's Degree was on "Self-Directed Learning" (SDL). To make a long story short, I felt that if I was going to research SDL, I should give it a try. I am not the perfect candidate for an SDL project, so I wanted something that really interested me and learning Latin was what I came up with. I decided to join an online study group (several, actually as I have started over twice!) and I am currently almost half-way through Wheelock's Latin.

Back to my pseudo-Latin title.

Procyon Lotor is the Latin name for the common or northern raccoon. I claim that the title is pseudo-Latin because I'm pretty sure there were no raccoons in ancient Rome! And because the genus name "procyon" is Greek meaning pre-dog. (Pro in Latin also means "in front of, before"). Lotor is related to "washing". The word for raccoon in many languages means "washing bear". Procyon is also the name of a star, but we won't go there... today.

So... "Beware the Raccoon"

There is a family of raccoons who live near the cabin. After we lost our cats, we tried to adopt a stray kitty and the raccoons quickly discovered the cat food that we left outside. After a while, we gave in and decided to leave our left-overs for the racoons (perhaps not a good idea). One raccoon, whom we have dubbed "Momma" has been showing up very regularly -- even during the day. She has not been agressive, so we suspect that it is more a case of getting to the food before other critters, as she is surely feeding babies. (Which means our population is growing -- eeek!)

Raccoons are very curious: one of the juvenile racoons climbed on a rocking chair and was trying to reach the hummingbird feeders. We saw it throught the window and ran it off.

To the right is "Momma" Raccoon eating the cat food. That's Marc in the rocker.

Raccoons are also very messy. In the article 20 Reasons not to have a pet raccoon, John Hughes says, "Give a raccoon a bowl of water and a dish of dry dog or cat food and he will create for you a mess of epic proportions." I can certainly attest to that!

We have made the mistake of feeding the wild raccoons, and we may need to do something about it soon. We have neighbors who eat raccoons, though that doesn't sound appealing to me. On the other hand, it is said that they are good with sweet potatoes.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

More Birds from Rockport

So I have a nice restful vacation, then come back to work. ;-)

Here are more birds that we saw on our trip -- not new for the life list, but still some interesting creatures!

Here are a couple of Brown Bellied Whistling Ducks in flight. When I would see them flying overhead, I always thought that bold white stripe was on the under-sides of their wings. But the bird book said it was on top -- this picture shows that I was wrong and the bird book is right!

Here is another type of duck -- this is a family of Redheads. A male, female and a couple of juveniles.

And this little baby sparrow was calling to mom and dad. The family lived on one of the many private piers along Fulton Beach.

Here's a Snowy Egret that worked it's way down the water's edge -- it took me a while to get close enough to get a good shot. Look at those yellow feet! It's like he's wearing bird socks. ;-)

Here's a bird picture that I didn't even realize I had gotten. I'm not sure what this bird is -- maybe a bittern? Can you see it?

And not all the pics were of birds! I'm not a butterfly expert, but this is a pretty one!

Friday, June 02, 2006

"Summer" Trip to Rockport/Fulton - New Birds

We have just returned from our first "summer" trip to Rockport/Fulton. OK, I know it's not yet summer, but it's close enough! The weather was less than wonderful and we did not see as many birds as we usually do in the winter -- but we were able to add a few new birds to the life-list and we did our usual seagull feedings which is a lot of fun!

On the way, we usually count how many hawks we see, but we only saw a few. The first two Caracara that we saw was a mating pair! That was exciting! We saw 8 Caracara on the way -- which is a lot. Unfortunately, I was only able to photograph one in a field, but it did not come out well.

We added several new birds to the "life list", most of which I was unable to photograph. We saw a Least Tern, either a Ladder Backed or Red Cockaded Woodpecker (I listed it as Red Cockaded, even though the maps suggest it was more likely the Ladder Backed), Yellow-billed Cuckoo and a Black Necked Stilt (below).

As I examined some other pictures I took of birds in this same field, I discovered that there were probably several Stilts there, and I had more pictures than the one above. Here is a stilt flying:

And we saw another creature that we hadn't seen before, though this one is not a bird. We visited Memorial Park in Rockport and saw this very interesting lizard. I haven't yet looked it up in the reptile books.

Here is a close-up of the lizard's head:

-- notice the striping under his chin? You can also see that his skin was very rough and scaly. When I first saw it, I was only catching glimpses as it ran up the tree, and I though perhaps it was a horny toad (which is actually a lizard) -- but once it settled on the branch, I saw I was mistaken.

More bird pictures and weather pictures coming soon!