Thursday, April 23, 2009

Welcome ANA Members!

I just got my May issue of The Numismatist (Barbara Gregory and her staff do a great job!!) and saw this blog highlighted in LifeLines. Wow, neat! But this is the worst time to visit! My camera is in the shop so I don't have any cool pictures to share - but if you'll scroll back, you can see what I've been up to since I retired from the American Numismatic Association last May.

I may be retired - but I'm still very interested and involved in the Association. It's especially neat to see all the changes since Larry Shepherd, our new executive director, has arrived. I really didn't realize we were that broken - until after I looked at the fixes he, along with the Board, have instituted. I think we're going to make it!

My first love at ANA always has been - and will continue to be - Summer Seminar. The promotion this year has been great and I hope the new 2-day classes are a big success. Susan Procell is doing a fabulous job managing Seminar. I sure hope she lets me help again this year!

Retirement is wonderful. My husband, Bill, and I are busier than ever. How in the world did we ever have time to go to work?? Every day is an adventure - biking, hiking, birding, gardening, blogging, cooking (Bill - definitely not me!) and getting together with friends. Every day starts at the gym as we try to keep the effects of aging from doing too much more damage than it already has.

And we laugh everyday. We enjoy life! We have lots of fun.

I've been interested in birds all my life - my dad was a zoologist - but actually going places to see different kinds of birds is new. I'm a collector at heart - so I am collecting sightings. I have my Life List of the different species that I check off as I see new birds.

It started with a US Type Set - but now I'm getting into the different die varieties. Take the blackbird - we have the all-black common ones, the Red-winged Blackbirds and the Yellow-headed Blackbirds. The Red-winged Blackbirds come in several varieties - depending on age, sex and the season of the year. Some varieties are more rare than others. The female Red-winged Blackbirds don't look anything like the males and the males can have either red or yellow or both colors on their wings in varying shades from dull to bright. A mule was recently spotted; one side didn't match up with the other side - and it looked like it was half male and half female.

Reminds me of coins! - with rays, without rays; arrows & no arrows; rare date and common date; errors and varieties. I wonder if anyone keeps a "Life List" of the coins they have seen - and maybe held. Like birding, it wouldn't count if you see then in a captive display - like at the Money Museum. You should have to spot and properly identify the coin - and have a witness - for it to count. Small groups could meet and wander the bourse floors checking cases and going through junk boxes identifying species - I mean types. The common "circulating" coins would be easier - just go shopping! Maybe I've just struck on the answer to getting more women involved in the hobby!

So if the current down-turn in the economy has left you with little or no money to spend on coins, but you still want to be an active numismatist - start a Life List!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Birding in the San Luis Valley

It's beginning to look like Spring in Colorado. The daffodils are blooming in our backyard by the birdbath and we've planted some Pansies in the boxes around the patio.

The purple pansies endured the snow we had over the weekend and are looking quite perky.

Bill is re-doing the pond today with two of his grandsons, Nathan and Camron. I'd be taking pictures, but my camera is in the repair shop. Maybe if it can't be fixed, I can get a new one.

Last week Bill and I drove our new-to-us 2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid down to the San Luis Valley to visit Louis and Paula and see if the Sand Hill Cranes were still there. They were not - but we saw lots of other birds like this Yellow-headed blackbird and got great mileage on the car - 47 miles a gallon.

Louis took this picture and I took the next one. He has a much fancier camera and several of the following pictures (the good ones) are his.

I don't remember ever seeing a Yellow-headed Blackbird before, but on this trip we saw dozens.

This is a wren. Louis identified it as a Sedge Wren but I'm not so sure. I think it is a Marsh Wren.

In Florida, we saw lots of Eastern Mockingbirds. This Western Mockingbird looks and sounds the same.

Two pairs of Ruddy Ducks at the Alamosa Wildlife Preserve.

This picture of Ring-necked Ducks is another that Louis was able to get with his long lens. I'm sure I need a new camera!

The Northern Shovelers are easy to identify with their huge bills.

We encountered this Northern Harrier sitting beside the road but before either of us could get our cameras out, he flew away.

I think this is a Greater Scaup. I need to study-up on ducks.

These are Gadwalls.

It seems out of place to see Gulls in Colorado but we saw quite a few of these Franklin Gulls.

I think this is a pair of Bafflehead Ducks.

Canadian Geese are everywhere!

We also saw lots of Mountain Bluebirds.

I was excited to see these American Avocets, cousins to the Black-necked Stilts we saw in Florida.

You can see his up-turned bill in this picture. We also saw several Cinnamon Teal, a Black-crested Night Heron and a White-faced Ibis but they were too far away to get decent pictures.

I will be without a camera until the end of the month so I don't know how many blog entries I will do. We just got new phones with Bluetooth for the car and they have cameras - but I haven't a clue how to get the pictures into the computer. Maybe one of the grandsons can help.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Building a Bird Feeder

Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day in Colorado Springs - crystal clear and sunny with temperatures in the mid-70's. We took the opportunity to work in the back yard and try to clean up the death left by the winter. The greys and browns are not what I got used to in Florida - but I know the yard will be completely transformed in a few weeks. We missed the crocuses as they bloomed in March - but our daffodils are about 6 inches out of the cold ground. We filled several huge trash bags with dead plants, leaves and branches.

The pond is still too cold to see if our fish made it through the winter but there is lots of evidence that the raccoons made our yard home in our absence. We had to shovel mounds of droppings in the north garden; tunnels were dug under the fence and the Bloomin House (potting shed) and all of the pond plants were knocked over.

Since we enjoyed birding so much in Florida, Bill was finally agreeable to putting bird feeders in the yard. We went to the Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop to ask lots and lots of questions and look at their feeders. Bill was concerned about the seeds sprouting weeds in the yard, attracting squirrels and encouraging the raccoons.

They were more than helpful and had answers to all our questions. First, only bird seed with shells has any chance to germinate. Their "No-Mess Blend" has seeds with shells removed so only the meat of the seed is left. We were over the first hurtle - now on to discouraging our furry friends. They recommended a squirrel and raccoon baffle. We also looked at feeders that close when anything heavier than a bird perches.

Our next stop was Home Depot where we compared prices on feeders and purchased an 8-foot, 4" by 4" stud which Bill planted 2-feet into the ground to the south of the pond. The feeders needed to be at least 8-feet away from any tree or structure (the squirrel proof zone) to keep the squirrels from jumping onto them. We then headed back to Wild Birds Unlimited to buy the baffle, feeders, hooks, accessories and, of course, food.

This is the finished project. The hooks were attached to the top of the stud and Bill added a small oak log over the hooks that we smeared with Jim's Birdacious Bark Butter. Jim is the founder of Wild Birds Unlimited and his rendered beef suet, roasted peanuts, peanut oil and corn blend is supposed to attract over 40 species of birds, including thrushes, warblers, orioles, cardinals, mockingbirds, wrens, woodpeckers, juncos, towhees and more. We also hung two feeders - a Mesh Finch Feeder filled with Nyjer (thistle) and a Dinner Bell with a Deluxe Fare Seed Cylinder. We can add more specialty feeders later.

Then we waited for the birds - and waited - and waited. Just when we were beginning to think our avian friends were boycotting our birdy food court, this pair of House Finches arrived to check out the new restaurant.

This Dark-eyed Junco also stopped by. It is estimated that there are over 2 million juncos in Colorado - the most common breeding bird in the state. They spend their winters in the foothills and plains and return to the higher elevations to nest.

It is always nice to see the Robins as they tell us Spring is near. Robins usually feed on the ground, so I do not expect to see them at the feeder. I did spread some seed on the ground by the pond for them.

Mr. Robin took a long drink of the cold water in the pond while our ceramic mother duck and her ducklings (one minus a bill) looked on.

This morning after returning from my morning work-out at the gym, I watched a squirrel try to figure out how to get to the tasty seed. I can tell you that the squirrel baffle worked! He tried everything, including climbing on the wagon and the planter boxes to contemplate a jump - but nothing worked.

I was sitting by the window in the kitchen and when the squirrel gave up trying to get to the seeds, he came over to discuss his dissatisfaction.

I think he was pleading with me to remove the baffle - but that's not going to happen.

I will keep my binoculars and camera close at hand so I can report on our furry and feathered visitors.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Back in Colorful Colorado

It's been an eventful week. We left Fort Myers early last Tuesday morning to begin our drive home to Colorado. On the way we made several stops.

The Disney Wilderness Preserve is just to the south of Orlando and we decided it was a good place to stop for a walk. There were dozens of wild turkeys near the entrance. This huge Tom Turkey was proud to show off his magnificent feathers.

These two Wood Storks were hunting for fish in a small pond along the trail.

The well-marked trail took us through a variety of habitats. The purple thistles were in full bloom.

The trail lead to Russel Lake with these beautiful old growth trees. Unfortun-ately, I didn't see any ducks.

It was quite warm and Bill stopped to sit for a moment to enjoy the view of the lake.

Further down the trail Bill took this wonderful picture of a Dragonfly. My close-up pictures usually don't turn out as good as his do.

There was evidence of a brush fire in one of the meadows - and the new life that springs forth afterwards.
At the end of our first day on the road, we stopped outside Charleston, SC for the night.

Further up the coast - still in South Carolina - we stopped at the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge - and were eaten alive by all the bugs! This barn swallow was trying to keep the bug population at a minimum - but was not even making a dent. They were everywhere! Needless-to-say, we did not stay long!

It was Spring on Pawleys Island. The Wisteria was beautiful - as were the Dogwoods and the Azaleas.

While we were taking these pictures, a nice young man came by and we asked him if the near-by hot dog place was a good place to stop for lunch. He told us to go a little further down the road to the intersection of Ocean Highway and Archer Road and find the Litchfield Restaurant. We did - and boy was it good! Bill had the liver and onions and I had the fried chicken. I'm sure neither of our meals were on our approved diet list - but oh well.

Our destination on Wednesday was Kure Beach where my sister has a beautiful new home just a block from the beach. We took the Fort Fisher Ferry from Southport to Pleasure Island where Kure Beach is located.

The ferry landed near the Fort Fisher Air Force Recreation Area. These trees looked like the wind was blowing 100 miles an hour!

Kure Beach is a beautiful residential community with the Atlantic Ocean to the east and the Cape Fear River to the west. The beaches have very few shells - but lots of nice sand and shore birds. The word is out and the older homes are quickly being replaced with expensive new ones.

This common Laughing Gull is in full mating plumage - his winter clothes.

We had a great visit with Beth and husband Warren, oldest daughter Lisa and their four cute furry cats. I can't believe I don't have any pictures of them!

On Friday, Beth, Warren, Bill and I went to the River Walk in Wilmington NC. Bill took this picture of a Coast Guard Ship as a tug boat lead it to the dock.

Across the river was the Battleship North Carolina. We went over to take a closer look and eat our picnic lunch.

While we were eating, the Jo Oak, a HUGE chemical transport ship came down the river. They had to open the drawbridge for it to pass.

Wilmington is a beautiful city - with lots to see and do - but we had to get back to Kure Beach. Bill cooked a delicious Gulf Shrimp dinner and we played a competitive game of dominoes.

Lisa arrived later that evening and it was great to spend some time with her. She has become a beautiful young woman. Sis did good.

By noon on Saturday we said our good-byes and we were on our way to visit an old friend of Bill's.

Fred and Bill worked together in the Azores and again in Germany. Our visit was short - but very nice.

Even the rest stops along the interstates have something to see. This gorgeous cardinal was sitting in a tree overlooking the picnic area.

The next two days were gruelling. Bill did most of the driving. The winds were howling and it was difficult keeping the car on the road.

This is our first view of Colorado taken while in New Mexico. It was good to see the mountains again.

As we got closer, we saw this sign "Wrong Way" with Colorado in the distance. Was this a message that we were coming home too early? Should we have stayed where it was warm? I guess time will tell!