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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October 17 – 19, 2015 Las Vegas, New Mexico

Female Northern Harrier Preening
Female Northern Harrier Preening

Las Vegas National Wildlife Refuge

While having the work on my motorhome done in Santa Fe I had searched Google Maps for a place to spend a few days of peace and quiet and perhaps find some wildlife to photograph. Noticing the close proximity of the Las Vegas NWR to the town of Las Vegas and the Storrie Lake State Park, I decided this was the spot.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark

I had forgotten that I had visited this NWR several years ago, but quickly recognized the place when I approached the refuge. Back then, I pretty much had no luck at all in finding anything here. This time, however, there were some songbirds around along with a host of raptors.

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk
Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk

Thought this was kind of an appropriate greeting upon entering the refuge.

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk
Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk
Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk
Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk

There were several juvenile Red-Tailed Hawks hunting the meadows in the refuge, but curiously I did not spot but one mature one in three trips through the refuge.

Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk
Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk
Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk Portrait
Juvenile Red-Tailed Hawk Portrait
Prairie Falcon
Prairie Falcon

I’m not positive on this ID, but I believe it is a Prairie Falcon, and if so, the first for me. There were several spotted, but this was the only decent shot I could get of these small skittish creatures.

Female Northern Harrier
Female Northern Harrier
Female Northern Harrier
Female Northern Harrier

I found several female Northern Harriers flying over the meadows, and as usual, no males.

Female Northern Harrier Preening
Female Northern Harrier Preening

And I spent about half an hour shooting this very distant one doing her preening routine, sure wish she had been closer, these were shot with the 600mm lens with a 1.4 extender attached.

Female Northern Harrier Preening
Female Northern Harrier Preening
Female Northern Harrier Preening
Female Northern Harrier Preening

Western Meadowlarks

Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark

And now I will add a lifetime supply of meadowlark images. I don’t know if the number of meadowlarks here was due to migrating birds coming through or if there are always this many here, but there were hundreds of these guys along the refuge roads, as usual, singing up a storm.

Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark

I get a kick out of the expressions I sometimes get from my photographic subjects, this guy looks like he is disgusted with my intrusion on his singing performance.

Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark
Western Meadowlark

I did say a lifetime supply of these guys!

Kind of nice to get back doing one of the things I enjoy most .. bird photography. I next must make a stop in Amarillo, Texas to get my Prius body work done and then it’s on to Salineno, Texas, for a five month volunteer stint at the Salineno birding site. So, for those of you following this blog who look forward to the bird images, there will be some nice stuff coming, for those of you that enjoy the “travelog” features, well, the next several months will be the first time since I began full timing that I will be stationary for an extended period of time. But please stay tuned anyway!

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February 9, 2015 Ajo, Arizona

Red tailed hawk
Red tailed hawk

I Find a Red-tailed Hawk’s Nest in the Desert

Yesterday, at sunrise, I drove back out Darby Wells Road looking for desert sunrise shots and happened upon a hawk atop a saguaro. Though from my angle, I could not see a red tail, I assumed it was a Red-tailed hawk. Poking around in the desert after the hawk flew off, I noticed a large stick nest in the crotch of a tall saguaro nearby.

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

Hawk's nest
Hawk’s nest

So, at dawn this morning, I headed right back out there to see if I could catch someone on the nest. When I arrived a hawk was flying in the vicinity of the nest so I settled in to wait and see if it would light in the nest.

Redtail hawk
Redtail hawk

Not too long and one came in and perched on top of a nearby saguaro.

Red tailed hawk on nest
Red tailed hawk on nest

Then, a second hawk flew in with a new stick to add to the nest, but I just missed her arrival. In these images I could see the red tail making identification a little more certain. I kept focusing on her hoping to capture a nice flight shot as she dropped out of the nest towards me, but …

red tail hawk
Leaving by the back door

… of course she chose to go out the back door instead.

Sunrise in the desert
Sunrise in the desert
Sunrise in the desert
Sunrise in the desert

On these early morning trips out in the desert I enjoy seeing the first rays of sunlight hit portions of the desert floor.

Saguaros
Saguaros
Saguaros
“Hands in the air, partner”

Ok, does anyone else see the guy holding a rifle on the other cowboy in the saguaro image above?

Phainopepla
Phainopepla

Not a great shot, but it is my first shot of a desert regular, a Phainopepla. I see quite a few of them perched on the upper branches of trees everyday here, but they always take flight before I can get near enough for a shot.

Continued on into Ajo to check out the grocery store and fillup the Prius.

Weather every day here has been identical to the day before, perfectly clear blue skies, temperature around 80, nights pleasant at 55. Except for the occasional coyote, it has been incredibly quiet here.

After returning to my site, I had a white pickup stop and a man identified himself as being with the Border Patrol and asked if I had recently seen any “ razors “ go by. I was a little suspicious of this guy and his partner since they weren’t wearing uniforms, there was no decal on the vehicle door and no government plates, obviously a personal vehicle. Makes me a little nervous now out here pretty much by myself.

 

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January 30, 2014 Moving Day

Roseate spoonbills feeding
Roseate spoonbills

Moving day  Bolivar Peninsula, Texas to Iowa, Louisiana

 

Headed up Route 87 to High Island then inland on Route 124 to Winnie where I joined up with I-10 East. Got off I-10 east at Orange, Texas exit and filled up at the Pilot truck stop right on the exit. Plenty of room on an actual RV gas island!

Called the Wingard shop down the road to see if they could help me with my satellite dish problem and turns out they can’t because their tech’s car won’t start so he won’t be in today. The owner said he thought it probably was a problem with the DirecTv box, of course, shift the blame.

Stopping and letting the dogs out at the truck stop proved to be a wise move because when I checked the tires while out with the dogs, I noticed the curbside tire on the tow dolly was completely flat. 5 minutes before, while I was filling up, it appeared fine. So, I unloaded the Toyota scissor jack and found that it wouldn’t even begin lifting the car, absolutely useless. Fortunately, I had my old small hydraulic jack in the RV and, even though it had once again leaked fluid all over the storage box, it did lift the dolly up enough so I could work it with the scissor jack to finish the change

… with the help of a young Spanish speaking trucker who was parked nearby and insisted on helping, though he spoke no English. He dove right in, so accepted the help, it was appreciated, and I figured I would give him a twenty for the 10 minutes help, so no big deal, even though I could have finished up by myself. With the job completed, I took my wallet out and grabbed a bill, but he absolutely refused to take anything, simply shook my hand, smiled, and walked away.Once in a while, my tenuous faith in humanity gets shored up a bit by the kindness of strangers.

I arrived at Cypress Bend RV Park in Iowa, LA right at noon, and when I went to check in and they had 2 packages waiting for me, my replacement lens foot from Really Right Stuff for my new camera lens ( that is on backorder from Adorama ) and a replacement LNB unit from the Winegard Satellite people. They said they were shipping out a coax cable that goes from the dish base to the LNB unit, but must have changed their diagnosis of my problem. Hope this is the problem, have to give Winegard some credit though, they responded quickly.

With a little sun popping through around 1 PM, I decided to forego the satellite dish repair and head down to Cameron NWR to take advantage of a day with sunlight. On the way, I stopped at the Lake Charles Toyota dealership to see if they can get my speed sensor ordered and installed while I am in the area. I showed their service people the documentation from Galveston Toyota showing the need for a new speed sensor to resolve my cruise control and warning lights situation. The Galveston dealer had told me it would take at least a week to get the part in ( from California he said ) and so I had to forego getting it fixed in Galveston a couple of weeks ago. Turns out there are four different speed sensors and the documentation from Galveston did not specify which one needed replacement so I had to hang around while the two dealerships got that straightened out. Here’s where I again start to lose faith… the Lake Charles dealership made me an appointment for first thing Monday morning to do the work and said that the part would be in overnight and it would come from Houston, so obviously I was getting a song and dance number in Galveston, don’t know why, unless they have an aversion to doing warranty work for people they haven’t sold to.

Cameron NWR

As always, click on any image for a larger, sharper version.

I have visited this wildlife refuge twice in the past and have had mixed results, but it always is worth a look see.

Glossy ibis
Glossy ibis

One of my favorite challenges is capturing the iridescent feathers of the Glossy ( or it could be a White-faced ) Ibis, most often appearing as a drab bronze-brown feathered bird. But if you   capture the sunlight at just the right angle you have a good chance of some seeing some amazing colors on that drab brown body.

Glossy ibis
Glossy ibis
Glossy ibis
Glossy ibis
Glossy ibis
Glossy ibis

 

Glossy ibis
Glossy ibis

 

Gadwall pair
Gadwall pair
Gadwall drake
Gadwall drake

 

 

 

 

 

I managed to add a new duck species to my photo catalog! The Gadwall is a not quite so common, nor colorful, duck that can be found here at the refuge most times.

Pintail pair
Pintail pair

I could hear shotgun blasts in the distance so I assume that might be why these pintails and most of the other birds were very skittish about my approach.

Cinnamon teal
Cinnamon teal

Seemed odd to encounter a single Cinammon Teal drake, not even any other teal nearby.

Black necked stilt
Black necked stilt

A feeding black-necked stilt.

Great blue heron
Great blue heron
Great blue heron
Great blue heron

 

 

 

 

 

There is no shortage of Great Blue Herons at the refuge.

Redtail hawk in flight
Redtail hawk in flight

 

Redtail hawk in flight
Redtail hawk in flight

And there are usually more raptors around than just this single Red-tailed Hawk I encountered today.

Moorhen on the run
Moorhen on the run

Lastly, a Common Moorhen doing what all birds today seemed inclined to do, running away!