Sunday, December 16, 2012

Lake Okeechobee & Loxahatchee

Our next Florida stop was Lake Okeechobee, the largest fresh water lake and well known for it's spectacular birdwatching.  We used portions of this 140 mile long dike as an elevated vantage point to view large concentrations of wading birds including egrets, herons, ibis, spoonbills and a variety of waterfowl.  Each night at sunset hundreds of birds flew in from all directions to their night roost.  We stayed several nights at the brand new county RV park at South Bay.
 Large plumbs of smoke rising thousands of feet in the air signals the burning and harvest of sugar cane.  The ash fall out drifted for miles raining down on and all around us.  This area yielded two new target birds for our journey - the Purple Gallinule and the larger chicken-like Purple Swamphen (a life bird for us, but not an ABA countable bird as they were introduced to Florida).
All the buildings at Loxahatchee National Wildlife Refuge were completely destroyed a few years ago by a hurricane.  The new Nature Center is very nice with state-of-the-art exhibits.  We walked the trails and found another trip bird - the Limpkin.  This one posed for us high in the tree.
 We camped a few days at Jonathan Dickenson State Park - many acres of Florida scrub which we walked each day.  It took a while but we found the Florida Scrub Jays and this one was very cooperative for a photo.  In this area we also visited the Hobe Sound and Nature Center, walking the dune trails to the Indian River.
We took a guided river boat tour up the Loxahatchee River from the State Park, passing large alligators and egrets.  Arriving at Trapper Nelson's Historical site, a ranger gave a guided tour and narrated the life and legend of this industrious swamp denizen.
We are now at Port St. Lucie RV Park for the next three months.  Located four miles from Ty's brother Daryl and his wife Vicki.  They are with New Hope Missions to Haiti.

Frequent rainbows are a constant reminder of God's provision.  As we approach Christmas we can receive another of God's promises.  The provision of eternal life through God's Son Jesus.

Merry Christmas!
Ty & Ida

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Florida Atlantic Coast

Crossing into Florida we drove around the Jacksonville area and settled into Bryn Mawr RV Park at Crescent Beach south of St. Augustine.  We walked the extensive beaches and birded to the jetty where we found these Ruddy Turnstones.  There were many Willets and Sanderlings, lots of Brown Pelicans, Black Scoters and Greater Scaup on the move.  We then spent a couple days at Anastasia Island State Park - more beach walking where we found Wilson's Plovers resting in the sand.  We saw more Gopher Tortoises in the dunes - see picture in Georgia Blog.

 At Ponce de Leon Inlet south of Daytona Beach, we walked to the fishing jetty where Snowy Egrets were waiting for handouts from those catching bait in nets.  This one posed for everyone to take pictures.  Also saw a Piping Plover and Reddish Egrets on the inlet.

Canaveral National Seashore was our next destination covering the northern shores then south toward Titusville.  At our picnic lunch stop, we noticed the front tire was flat - after changing it we drove to Tires Plus to get it fixed - broken stem, no charge!

We spent 9 days at "The Great Outdoors RV, Nature and Golf Resort".  The place was huge, and had great nature trails and a small Nature Center.  Lots of birds and butterflies like this Zebra Longwing Butterfly were found along the trails.  We attended the in-park church along with about 400 others, most arrived in their golf carts, but as non golfers  we walked the 1 1/2 miles from our site.
 We made two more trips back to Merritt Island National Wildlife Area - the vast wetlands with it's rich wildlife.  We slowly drove the Black Point auto tour where we pulled up behind an Audubon field trip and pointed out to them a beautiful drake Eurasian Wigeon amid 11 species of ducks.  We also added Glossy Ibis, Roseate Spoonbills and many alligators, plus Florida Scrub Jays - trip bird #602

Our friends Denny & Sue Dunlop arrived to their winter home across from us and we enjoyed 3 days of visiting and eating out until we left for Melbourne Beach.

There we found more Green Bay friends, Tom & Darlene Swille.  We joined them for church at their large worship center, and went later to Turkey Creek Sanctuary and Nature Center for a beautiful day of exploring.  We enjoyed walking the unusually narrow beach, thanks to Hurricane Sandy that scoured tons of sand from the beach and dunes.  We did have lots of Sanderlings running in the waves as these pictured.  With the north winds and high surf we counted over 800 Northern Gannets flying south and feeding.  We wondered if any of these birds were the ones we saw on the nesting cliffs in Newfoundland.

At the Melbourne Beach RV park we found our first Royal Palms with fruit turning red.  Also saw trip bird #603 flying over the park - a Magnificent Frigatebird.  We are now heading to Lake Okeechobee for a few days and then to Port St. Lucie.

Our best to everyone.
Love & Prayers,
Ty & Ida

Friday, November 9, 2012


 Our first stop was Tybee Island east of Savannah, Georgia at River's End RV Park.  We had some great birds within walking distance from the park. We saw 53 Am. Oystercatchers and 100's of Black Skimmers, Sandwich and Royal Terns plus Lesser Black-backed Gulls.  Horseshoe Crabs were being washed up on the beach in the rough surf like this large one pictured.  Bottled-nosed Dolphins played and caught fish near the shore; surfacing, jumping, rollings and tail waving.
We decided to "Hyde" out on Jekyll Island as Hurricane Sandy passed by 200 miles out to sea.  Before it came north, we found all these Fiddler Crabs marching along the upper beach.  For the next 3 days this area was completely covered by high surf from the storm.
 With the low pressure, high winds and terrifically high surf, we found a very interesting sight.  Over 5,000 Tree Swallows swirling and landing on the beach scrub brush, then erupting to swirl again.  Here is the video, which we hope you can access so you can share in this phenomenal experience.
Jekyll Island is a very unique, historical island, beautifully kept mostly undeveloped.  The campground had a "Bird Sanctuary" where we watch 24 species of birds come to the feeding and watering areas.  On this small island we found 77 species in the 5 days we spent here.

Being near the Jacksonville TV reception area we were able to watch the Packer game in Green Bay and see the familiar scenes of "home".  It was great to see the Packers beat the Jags.
As cold air moved southward - we did too, heading to the Okefenokee Swamp staying just north of the National Wildlife Refuge at the Laura S. Walker State Park.  We saw our first Armadillo, found Red-cockaded Woodpeckers, Brown-headed Nuthatches and Com. Ground Doves.  We intercepted this fast moving Gopher Tortoise as it headed to its large underground burrow.

We are now following the Florida coast south.
Our best to all our followers.
Thanks for joining us for our adventures.
God Bless "you all".
Ty & Ida Baumann

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

South Carolina

Our first stay on the coast was Huntington Beach State Park just south of the very busy Myrtle Beach area of S. Carolina.  We highly recommend this park - a must visit for birders coming through this area.  The causeway into the campground and elevated boardwalks yielded a good diversity of wading birds including 300+ Wood Storks, Tri-colored Herons, Little Blue & Green Herons, Yellow-crowned Night-herons, Great Egrets (pictured) and Snowy Egrets.  Numerous Clapper Rails were mainly heard but a few were seen crossing the wet ditches at low tide.
We found songbird highlights including White-eyed Vireos, Yellow-throated, Black-throated Blue, and Hooded Warblers, and our #600 retirement trip bird - the Painted Bunting.  We joined a bird walk one morning and found this pair of 8 foot long Alligators warming themselves in the sun.  We found 97 species of birds at this park in four days.
 Next stop, southwest of Charleston was Oak Plantation RV Park where these 400+ year old Live Oaks dominated the tree species in this former plantation.  We are really feeling "the south" with the Palm Trees, Spanish Moss draping from the massive branches of the Oaks.  The birds here say "south" too with Wood Storks, Anhingas, Fish Crows, White Ibis, Black Vultures, Red-shouldered Hawks plus the ever present Carolina Wrens and N. Mockingbirds providing birding entertainment.
 Ty got permission to explore the back waters of this old plantation.  This large Black Rat Snake challenged his passage with his vibrating tail.
 Back to the beach and a few days stay at Hunting Island State Park.  This Atlantic Ocean park's exposed acres of numerous sand bars and ocean floor at low tide attracted thousands of shore birds: Marbled Gotwits, Red Knots, Long-billed Dowitchers, Black-bellied & Semipalmated Plovers, Willets and Am. Oystercatchers.  Hundreds of Brown Pelicans, Gulls, Terns and Black Skimmers rested here until the tide waters covered their resting areas.

We walked to some areas that had been badly damaged by a hurricane last year. (pictured)

 Vast acres of salt marsh covered the western part of the island where we picked up another new trip bird - the Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow.

Last South Carolina stop was Hilton Head Harbor RV Resort where we hit a good migration movement of warblers and sparrows.  We had this Osprey checking out the deserted Purple Martin gourd houses.  We got up before dawn to watch the meteor showers in the glorious star-studded sky.  Amazing!  The heavens truly do declare the glory of God!

God Bless you all!!
Ty & Ida

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

North Carolina's Outer Banks

Once again, the Atlantic Coast and miles of beautiful white sand beaches beckons us to explore.  Willets, Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstones scurry along the waves looking for "Sand Fleas"(a local name for this abundant crustacean).
 Ty caught this Sand Flea in the retreating tide.  They move by the hundreds and bury themselves quickly leaving only their feathery antennae out to strain the plankton as it rushes by.  Those fishing were also catching them to use as bait.
 As we sat quietly on the Outer Banks beach, Ghost Crabs were excavated burrows, piling sand, running sideways quickly in and out looking for food.  Any movement sent them retreating down their holes.  They come in all sizes, from 1/2 inch to this 6" dandy that kept his stalked eyes on the camera.
 We camped at the Pea Island National Seashore at Oregon Inlet for several days.  We birded Bodie Island Lighthouse area with vast wetlands that attracted large concentrations of Herons, Egrets, Ibis, Grebes, and waterfowl.  We were not the only ones that enjoyed the view from this elevated perch.

We took some trips inland to the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge.  We found a huge Black Bear feeding in an old stubble corn field snacking on fruit.  Too far away for a decent photo as it frequently laid down to rest.

Here are some smaller creatures that permitted a closer view.  This very large 3" Golden Orb Weaver at least was a stationary web sentinel.

On one of our bird walks in Surf City, NC we constantly had to step over mating Walking Sticks like this smaller male and female. Look close!

On the first day of Autumn, this is not the snow drifts of the northern Mid-west, but the white sand dunes of the Carolinas.

Thinking of "you all" (almost southerners now) as winter approaches.

Love & Prayers,
Ty & Ida

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Appalachian Trail from Vermont to Virginia

 As Autumn  approaches, we are migrating south with the birds.  This has been a "warbler year" as we started in Texas following the Mississippi flyway north to the nesting grounds of over 30 species of warblers from Wisconsin to Northern Newfoundland.  We are following the Atlantic flyway south along the Appalachian Trail.
 Across the Green Mountains of Vermont we spent 3 days at a nice RV park along the West River.  Next into New York where we crossed the Hudson River north of Albany into the Adirondack Park staying at the forest campgrounds.

We stayed on the east end of Lake Ontario where we photographed this unusual sunset.  Then south through the Amish farmlands of mid-Pennslyvania and camping in the Tioga State Forest.
 Following the Appalachian Mountains south through the narrowest areas of Maryland and W. Virginia we headed into Virginia.  We spent three days in the Shenandoah National Park and Blue Ridge Parkway enjoying the views from the high ridge over the Shenandoah Valley and the "Blue" mountains.
 Always alert for all of God's creatures, great and small, we found this Millipede, one of many large ones crossing the trails and roadways.  We had to train this one to pose (all 4" of him) on our camping permit so you could see him.

We followed all the scenic byways and avoided the traffic of all the large cities along the northeast coast.  This is not an easy task.  Sometimes we would see the traffic reports with crashes and back-ups on TV and were very happy not to be a part of it.
We headed southeast along the Virginia/N Carolina border back to the Atlantic Ocean.  We are now taking a break from our long trek and planted ourselves for a week at Cape Hatteras on the Outer Banks.  Back to the ocean waves and seabirds with Willets, Sanderlings and Ruddy Turnstones keeping us company on the beach.  Terns, gulls and Brown Pelicans sailing by through the thunderous waves.

Our prayers are with you all as you read this.
Ty & Ida Baumann

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Autumn Signs in New Hampshire

Autumn is in the air and all around us.  Leaves are beginning to change color, others are drifting down in the wind.

 A large variety of fungi are also decorating the forest floor like this Crowned Clavaria on the left.

Covered bridges are a constant reminder of the rich rural history of the New England countryside.  Many tourists come just to see them just as they do the lighthouses on the coast and the many waterfalls in the mountains.
 This waterfall is the Glen Ellis Falls that plunges nearly 50 feet off the moss covered cliffs in the White Mountains National Forest.

We spent a couple days at Lake Winnipesaukee - the first day greeted us with beautiful sunshine, hundreds of boats on the water and people everywhere.  The next day was gray and rainy, all the people left for work and school - "What a difference a day makes".
 We spent a week in the White Mountains, the home of numerous wildlife including this Mama Moose and her hidden half grown calf outside the Dolly Copp campground where we spent 3 nights.

Here's Ida between a "rock and a hard place" resting from a three mile hike up the Boulder Trail to the Ledges with panoramic views of the White Mountains.

We are now in the Green Mountains of Vermont enjoying the last of summer in New England.

Blessing to all,
Ida & Ty

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Coast of Maine

It's great to be back in the good old U.S. of A. with its lower fuel and food prices, lower sales taxes and mileage instead of kilometers.  The rocky coastline of Maine with it's fog shrouded islands, craggy cliffs and rock strewn beaches welcomed us to this picturesque state.

Schoodic Point in the eastern part of Acadia National Park was the most peaceful and beautiful section.
 In contrast, we visited the main part of the park where we joined thousands of visitors,  having been forewarned in brochures that this is one of the most heavily visited parks in the U.S.  We left the RV at the Visitors Center and rode the propane fueled shuttle buses on the 27 mile loop to all the natural features.  To the right is Thunder Hole where the waves crash into the hollowed rocks with quite a roar.
 We left the crowds behind for more peaceful coves, spits and birding areas.  We intercepted excellent fall passerine migration finding 18 species of warblers, some vireos, catbirds, flycatchers, bobolinks, tufted titmice and scarlet tanagers.

Always on the alert to new and strange wildlife we encountered our first Dragon of our journey.  However, not to worry, St. George on horseback was already slaying the dragon.  This large sculpture is by the town hall in St. George, Maine.
We drove to Owl's Head Lighthouse making the long, steep, climb into the lamp room where a tour guide narrated a brief history of the lighthouse (built in 1824) and the West Penobscot Bay area.

Driving through Popham Beach State Park. we noticed some egrets feeding in the salt marsh grass.  Upon closer examination we discovered 2 Great Egrets but more importantly, a rare U.S. visitor from the "Old World" and a new life bird - a Little Egret.  Also seeing some good shorebird movements along the coast: Black-bellied & Semipalmated Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones, Whimbrels, Sanderlings, plus lots of Common Eiders on the Ocean shores.

Now we are heading west then south through New Hampshire and Vermont avoiding all the big cities between here and Florida.

Blessings to all,
Ty & Ida Baumann

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Bay of Fundy

This was our last look at Newfoundland as the ferry sailed west back to Nova Scotia.  We sighted Fin and Minke Whales, Dolphins, Greater Shearwaters, Atlantic Puffins, N. Fulmars, N. Gannets and added Red Phalaropes to our 2012 list which now stands at 475.  All we need is two more retirement birds to reach 600, it may be awhile before that happens.
 We drove along the southern shore of Nova Scotia through hilly farmland that reminded us of Wisconsin.  Our next destination was Grand Pre' on the Minas Basin off the Bay of Fundy.  The bird net had reported over 18,000 Semipalmated Sandpipers were feeding near Evangeline Beach.  We were blessed with a campsite within walking distance and weren't disappointed with the birds.  We were surprised at the vast area of red mudflats at low tide.  We also saw Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers.  Three Peregrine Falcons kept the nervous birds swirling in flocks of thousands.  A sight to behold with light and dark shifting in the sunlight.  Over 75% of the world's population of Semipalmated Sandpipers come to this area to feed on Mud Worms; doubling their weight before flying to South America.

The tides truly are remarkable here, being the highest and lowest in the world.  While we were here it was 46 feet (hard to believe).  The boats lay stranded on the mud half the day, then are ready for fishing when the water comes in.  At some rivers the tidal bore is so fast that zodiacs take tourists for a great ride - at a pretty high price.  We just watched the adventuresome young people pounding through the rapids.
Dense fog now covered most of the southwestern shores of Nova Scotia so we decided to head to New Brunswick and follow the Bay of Fundy west to Maine.
 One of our fun stops was at Hopewell Cape and these beautiful "Flower Pot Rocks".  At low tide we walked along a mile of beach between the arching rocks and caves.  It's important to climb away from the beach before the tide comes in making each rock an island in the water.
We say a fond farewell to Canada and look forward to returning to the USA.

It's been a great adventure!  All 8,000 miles of it, you can figure out how many kilometers that is as we are tired of thinking metric.

Blessings to all!
Ty & Ida Baumann