May 10, 2018 North Platte, Nebraska

Abandoned Kansas Farm
Abandoned Kansas Farm

Poking Around Kansas and Nebraska

Old Kansas Barns

Over the past few weeks I have racked up a lot of miles in the Prius traveling the dusty back roads of Kansas and Nebraska searching for picturesque old barns and farmsteads.

Abandoned Nebraska Farmhouse
Abandoned Nebraska Farmhouse

Unfortunately, what I have discovered is that most of the old wooden barns have long since gone the way of the dodo bird. Most are just piles of rubble and all of them have been replaced with modern metal buildings, very functional, but surely lacking the aesthetics of the old wooden structures.

Abandoned Nebraska Farmhouse
Abandoned Nebraska Farmhouse

Abandoned farmhouses dot the landscape out here and I always wonder exactly what caused the owners to leave these these buildings to the elements.

Nebraska Barn
Nebraska Barn
Abandoned Nebraska Farmhouse
Abandoned Nebraska Farmhouse

I have not taken any images of the main streets of the many tiny towns you encounter along the back roads here for it is indeed a sad sight to see. The old brick or stone buildings are all vacant and most are crumbling, but the small towns probably lack the resources to demolish them. Needless to say, the general stores and small restaurants and hotels that supported these farming communities have all fallen victim to “progress”.

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

Wildlife Along the Backroads

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

Unfortunately, I have encountered very little in the way of wildlife in my recent travels …

Red-tailed Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk

… a Red-tailed Hawk or two, a few wild Turkeys and Ring-necked Pheasants strolling the remains of the harvested cornfields ( of which there are  a few acres devoted to that crop in Nebraska ) …

Nebraska Does
Nebraska Does

… and here and there I have encountered a few White-tailed deer, does only, no fawns seen yet.

Nebraska Sandhills
Nebraska Sandhills

I have driven to check out the Nebraska Sandhills, a vast expanse of sand dunes, disguised with a thin covering of grasses.

Endless Nebraska Sandhills
Endless Nebraska Sandhills

These dunes seem to go on forever and must have been something for the early westbound settlers to traverse in their wagons. You can right click on this image to get a larger version to get a better sense of the vast expanse  of the these sandhills.

Mare and Foal
Mare and Foal

One day, while traveling between North Platte and McCook, Nebraska, I saw a beautiful herd of horses grazing in a pasture along the highway. When I noticed a large number of mares with fairly new foals amongst them, I had to stop for shots.

Mare and Foal
Mare and Foal
Mare and Foal
Mare and Foal

A youngster enjoying a roll around on a gorgeous spring afternoon.

Mare and Foal
Mare and Foal

The differences in coloring of the moms and the colts was kind of interesting.

Mares and Foals
Mares and Foals

Unfortunately, the majority of the mares with young walked away when I approached the fence to take my pictures, probably to protect the youngsters from any possible threat an unknown presence such as myself might cause. Or it could have been Pearl’s few barks of alarm from the Prius when she noticed these huge beasts just outside the windows of the car.

Mares and Foals
Mares and Foals

This were absolutely gorgeous animals, as if they were brushed and carefully groomed just for these photos. If you right click on the image above ( or any image in these blog posts for that matter ), it will open a larger image in a new window, and you will see what I mean.

Nebraska Horses
Nebraska Horses

I wish I could have gotten this lone white horse to position itself right next to one of the black ones, would have been a neat shot, but I waited and waited and this was the best I could get.

I am probably headed to the badlands of southwest South Dakota next, while I await the release of winter’s grip on Yellowstone NP. Snow is still falling there as of this post and some of the roads are still closed by snow. Hoping I can get there to see some early season bear activity, assuming I can get a spot in the campground at Mammoth Hot Springs, something I have not had any luck doing the last two times I have attempted to visit Yellowstone.

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February 14, 2018 Grand Isle, Louisiana

Roseate Spoonbills
Roseate Spoonbills

Finally!

After twelve straight days and nights of rain and fog with what must be about 100% humidity, I stepped out of the motorhome around 5 AM for Sam to do her thing … and I actually saw stars above. For the first time in two weeks! And that was followed by a visible  sunrise, and what’s more, the sun continued to be seen throughout the entire day.

I really do think I made a mistake not staying in the desert this winter. I can’t say I enjoy the fogged up windows day after day and the muggy 70 degree nights for sleeping, I guess the desert’s winter climate kind of spoils you with it’s wonderfully consistent sunny days, lack of humidity, and cool starlit night skies.

Roseate Spoonbill
Roseate Spoonbill

Anyhow, with a return of the sun, there also was a return of some Roseate Spoonbills, a beautifully ugly wading bird that I had only caught a distant glimpse of during the last two weeks. Today I encountered a few individuals here and there and the one pair in the top image. Gorgeous pink plumage and an almost prehistoric looking head with that very unique beak.

Osprey
Osprey

The Ospreys were out in force, as usual. At times you may see one perched atop about one of every ten utility poles running along the highway, and they usually are dining on a freshly caught mullet or Speckled Trout.

Osprey with Speckled Trout
Osprey with Speckled Trout

There were a few wading fisherman below this bird who would have been glad to catch a healthy Speckled Sea Trout like this guy was dining on.

Great Egret
Great Egret
Great Egret
Great Egret

With the sunny weather, there seemed to be a few more Great Egrets out and about, prowling the shallow waters in search of breakfast.

Brown Pelican with White Pelican
Brown Pelican with White Pelican

Once again there was a single White Pelican wandering among the Brown Pelicans at their usual haunt on the south side of the highway. This morning I counted 88 pelicans gathered there with the majority of them juveniles.

Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican
Brown Pelican

Came close, but just didn’t quite get the dramatic pelican diving-for-fish shots I was looking for. But with some decent light this morning, at least I had some opportunities.

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans

I get a kick out of watching the occasional chaotic action in this large gathering of Brown Pelicans. Ninety percent of the time they are patiently floating along as in the image above.

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans

Then someone stumbles upon a fish …

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans

… and everyone around instantly flies or paddles in …

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans

… to get a piece of the action.

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans

A lot of splashing and slashing, then after just a minute or so, calm returns, until someone else discovers another fish below the surface.

Tomorrow is also supposed to be rain free, so I will get one more chance to get some shots before I head up to New Orleans for a few days at Bayou Segnette State Park.

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February 9, 2018 Grand Isle State Park, Louisiana

 

Osprey and seagull
Waiting for scraps

What Happened to the Birds?

Now I remember why I enjoy the desert in winter … the sunny, warm days, the cool dry nights. I arrived in Grand Isle one week ago today and it has rained at least part of every day I have been here. Several of the campsites are flooded at times, fortunately not the one I am on. Daytime temps have been in the 60’s and low 70’s, nighttime temps in the 60’s, and with the constant showers and high humidity, it’s often difficult to see out the fogged up windows of the motorhome. Haven’t seen the sun, nor a single nighttime star since I arrived, but lots of clouds and fog. Enjoying myself here so much, I just renewed for another week! And the forecast for next week?

Next Week

Rain … every day!

The reason for reupping is really just to kill time since my next destination is Bayou Segnette State Park on the outskirts of New Orleans, and this week is Mardi Gras week.

I have visited here three or four times over the years and have always enjoyed my stays here at the state park. It is a quiet, not terribly busy park this time of year and I have had good luck with wading birds and ospreys in the shallow waters along the highway coming into Grand Isle and Port Fourchon. However, this year I am wondering what has happened to all the wading birds.

Osprey Dining
Osprey Dining

I came upon this osprey enjoying his meal about a hundred feet off the Port Fourchon road ( those are storage tanks in the background ), when a passing truck apparently scared him off his dining perch.

Osprey Dinner Interrupted
Osprey Dinner Interrupted

I am always amazed at the incredibly long, narrow wings of an osprey that seem so disproportionally long for it’s body.

Osprey with Mullet
Osprey with Mullet
Osprey with Catch
Osprey with Catch

The ospreys are still plentiful and I am seeing large numbers of Brown Pelicans, with an unusually large number of immature ones. As in the image just below, the youngsters seem to outnumber the adults by a large margin. I guess that’s a good thing since just a few years ago, folks were worrying about the future of these birds.

Brown Pelicans
Brown Pelicans

There is a spot along the highway frequented by folks fishing from shore ( for what I am not sure ) and also by about 50 or more pelicans. Mixed in with the Brown Pelicans were three White Pelicans, the first time I have seen the two different types of pelicans together.

White Pelican with Brown Pelican
White Pelican with Immature Brown Pelican

I was aware that the White Pelican was larger than the Brown Pelican, but I never realized there was this much difference in their sizes.

White Pelican with Brown Pelican
White Pelican with Brown Pelican

I have only caught a glimpse of one Roseate Spoonbill flying way off in the distance, whereas before I have always encountered numerous small groups of them wading along the roadside waters. I have seen a few Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and White Ibises, but nowhere near the numbers I remember. Perhaps I’ll have some better luck next week ( in the rain ).

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June 28, 2017, Bend, Oregon

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

Some Good News!

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

First off, I would like to thank all of you that have sent encouraging comments regarding my current health situation, it is greatly appreciated. I originally had no intention of posting progress reports on that front, but several readers suggested I should, so I will keep you posted.

But since the main purpose of this blog is to showcase the landscapes and wildlife of this continent, let’s proceed in that direction first.

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

I am currently camped along the loop road around the Saint Charles Hospital Campus in Bend. The hospital has a small, eleven space campground with full hookups that it graciously supplies to it’s patients and their families, free of charge. And for me, it has been a lifesaver! The Bend area has a few very nice, and very expensive RV Parks, and the surrounding area also has several public and private campgrounds. However, they all have one thing in common … they all are booked pretty much solid throughout the summer months. And, until I was allowed to park my rig here, I was out of luck trying to find a place to stay for my chemo treatments. So, thank you, Saint Charles !

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

I have been here undergoing weekly treatment now for seven weeks and really haven’t had the emotional, or at times, the physical energy to get out and explore the area.

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

A couple weeks ago, on a ninety plus degree day, I needed to cool down, so I hopped in the Prius, turned the AC on and did the 100 mile drive east to the John Day area of central Oregon. I only made it to the painted hills section of John Day, but that alone was worth the trip as I hope some of these shots may show.

John Day Colors
John Day Colors

Earlier this month, I made a return trip to Malhuer NWR in the Prius to check out what the refuge had to offer in early summer. I was really hoping to be able to explore the Stines Mountain area and perhaps get a chance to see some of the wild horses there, but the road was still gated.

Common Nighthawk
Common Nighthawk

The refuge certainly looked different than on my previous visits, both of which were in very early spring. There was very little bird activity, and the roadside shrubs and bushes were now all leaved out and the fields were now covered with three and four foot high grasses, so even if there was anything there, it would be impossible to see anything.

The only shot I even took was of this common nighthawk sitting in the middle of the refuge road.

Memorial Day, Mount Bachelor
Memorial Day, Mount Bachelor

Memorial Day weekend, I drove up to Mount Bachelor, only 20 miles out of Bend. Base depths on the hill were still at eight feet at the end of May and the parking lot was quite crowded, with many RV’s and folks staying in tents below the high parking lot snow banks.

Memorial Day Camping, Mount Bachelor
Memorial Day Camping, Mount Bachelor

Seventy-five degrees and sunny, ideal weather for golf or fishing down in town, yet perfect spring asking weather half an hour away, not hard to see why this area is so popular. Just an incredible amount of building going on and housing is very expensive here.

A Lab in it's Element
A Lab in it’s Element

Got a kick out of this lab enjoying himself chasing snowballs on the parking lot snowbanks.

A Lab in it's Element
A Lab in it’s Element

OK, Here’s the Progress Report

Hood Canal Action
Hood Canal Action

I have forced myself to resume painting and just completed my first acrylic painting on canvas. This is a composite of a few photos from the Hood Canal in Washington, where Bald Eagles and Great Blue Herons congregate in late spring to take advantage of the sculpin spawn in the oyster beds along the shore where  Big Beef Creek enters the canal.

This painting measures 24″ x 16″ and depicts the way the Bald Eagles harass the herons to give up their catch. The eagles perch in tall pines along the shore and watch while the herons hunt through the oyster beds looking for the spawning sculpins. As soon as a heron plucks a fish from the water, the eagles swoop down from the pines and force them to give up their catch. You can right click on the image if you would like to see a larger version of the painting.

On the myeloma front, I just completed round two of my multi-drug chemo therapy, and my oncologist is very pleased with the results thus far! My kidney function, not that long ago at a stage four kidney disease level, just a hair’s breath away from requiring dialysis, has already returned to completely normal function. My red blood cell count is slowly increasing and all the bad stuff is rapidly decreasing, indicating that the chemo is doing it’s job. Other than some severe fatigue initially, the result of the disease and the aggressive chemo approach, I really have had very little, if any, adverse side affects, no nausea, no pain, no hair falling out, etc., and the last couple of weeks, even the fatigue has gone away, as the red blood cells continue to increase.

My oncologist says I am, in his words, ” way up on the good side of the bell curve “, as far as my chances of having a good outcome to this process. He says the fact that I have had such a rapid reversal of the progression of the disease, along with my bodies ability to tolerate the potent drugs, bodes very well for my immediate future.

He assures me that I am a very viable candidate for a stem cell transplant and that procedure could possibly be done as soon as August. He has also suggested that perhaps, and he says he is about at a 50/50 position on this, I may be one of the folks that may be able to keep the disease in remission without the transplant because of how my body has responded so far, but the final decision will be made after another round of drug therapy.

But the overall prognosis has decidedly changed in a positive way, and for that, I am most grateful.

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