Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Casa Maria birds.....again

This blogging program has been doing strange things and won't let me name the birds beside the pictures so I will list them in order of appearance. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Violet fronted brilliant
Silver beaked tanager
Rufous browed peppershrike
Painted parakeet
Glittering throated emerald
Ferruginous pygmy owl
Cinereous becard
Chestnut crowned becard
Blue grey tanager

Friday, March 2, 2012

Birds at Casa Maria

Handsome fruiteater

White vented plumeletier

Thick billed euphonia...the red on his forehead is from the pollen on the flowers he is foraging.

Thick billed euphonia

Swallow tanager

Speckled tanager

Palm tanager

Burnished buff tanager

Blue naped chlorophonia-the red on forehead is from the flower pollen

Bay headed tanager

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Casa Maria

Casa Maria

We left Caracas and headed SW to Casa Maria, an inn with amazing vegetation designed to attract all things nature. The birding, accommodations and cuisine were second to none. We scoured the area looking for birds and were not disappointed. At one location we found a ferruginous pygmy owl that was being mobbed by 19 different species of birds, mainly tanagers and warblers. Norbert, the owner of Casa Maria is a biologist who has made a screened light to attract moths at night for him to study. The added bonus is that early in the morning birds come to the light for a feast. We were up early every morning to see what birds would come to the bug light. Probably our biggest surprise was one night we had a knock on the door at about 10pm to say a mottled owl was in the garden. He did not stay long and the pictures were not great but it was exciting to see him. We ended up with 134 species at his place and in the area.

Mottled Owl

At the bug light

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Amy, Dan, Leonard, Carol

Three toed sloth

On January 31 we flew to Caracas for a 16 day birding trip to various areas of Venezuela that offered a great diversity of birds. The trip was through Victor Emanuel Nature Tours [VENT] and the leader was David Ascanio, a Venezuelan who was a co-leader on our trip to the Amazon of Peru last year, and an outstanding birder. We went with friends Carol and Leonard who we had been with on other birding trips. After flying all night [not my favorite thing] David picked us up at the airport and since we could not check into our hotel until 3pm we headed out to El Avila National Park [] in the mountains surrounding Caracas. We were tired from the long flight but that was soon forgotten when we immediately started finding new and colorful birds…and a sloth. We ended the day with 48 species, many of them common, but some difficult to find, including the black-throated spinetail and Caracas tapacoula which are both endemics.

Caracas is a city of 8 million people, with all the sights and sounds of a big city….including automobile exhaust fumes. The price of gas is 12 cents a gallon [huge government subsidies] and people drive everywhere and all the time. Plus, the gas is 91 octane and there are minimal pollution control devices on the vehicles so air quality becomes an issue. Traffic congestion is major and it takes a long time to get anywhere, so I was happy on day 2 when our group of 6 birders and 2 guides left the city and headed into the country for more birding adventures.

Slate throated whitestart

Blue capped tanager

Golden breasted fruiteater

Groove billed toucanet

Rufous tailed jacamar

Hotel Tamanaco-Caracas

Caracas at night

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mardi Gras Parade

For Mardi Gras some of us in the RV park decided to have our own parade. Those of us who had trikes decorated them with streamers etc, and then all of us wore masks, beads and had noise makers. We then paraded around the park either walking or riding, and throwing candy, coins, beads etc to the residents who came out to watch us. It was a lot of fun. We then had a party with tons of good food, and of course, various selections of booze.

Upon returning from our Venezuela trip we found the garden had grown like mad. The weather had been cool, with rain and the cool weather crops I planted did well. When looking for seeds last fall, I had a hard time finding any so when I found some turnips instead of lettuce, I thought I would try them also. I don't like them too well, but a couple of friends here do, and I had the space to plant them. They are now large enough to pick, and I have become a convert to raw turnips. They are so mild and taste kind of like mild radishes. Dan won't try them, but that is OK.....more for me. We have had tons of lettuce and really enjoyed all the good salads with lettuces that did not spend a week on a truck before it got to our dinner table. Looking forward to doing the same thing at home.

We are leaving here March 1 to head home. There is a lot of organizing to do before we hit the road so we have started the process. We enjoy being here but it will be nice to be at home also.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Wood Turning

This RV park is unique in that it has a woodworking shop. There are people who supervise the use of the shop and others who teach you how to make a wood bowl on a lathe. I had never done that and in the past had thought it would be interesting to try my hand at a wood turned bowl. What better chance when the tools are available as well as the experts who can show me what to do. The bowl I made has 3 layers and each layer has 8 segments. It was a rather long process as each part had to be cut, sanded, glued, then wait for the glue to dry before the next part could proceed. The woods I selected were walnut on the top and bottom, with maple in the middle. I thought I would like to try to wood burn a design on the lighter maple. It may have been a total disaster, but nothing ventured, nothing gained. I just finished it today and I must say I am pleased with the results. The wood burning had never been tried on any of the bowls made in the shop and several people expressed an interest in doing the same on their bowls. Now Dan is looking in catalogs for a lathe!! I am not sure I am ready to launch out on my own without an expert to ask, but we'll see where it goes. In the mean time I had a great time doing it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Trip to Houston

Last week we drove to Houston to visit Dan's daughter. We had not seen her for a while so it was nice to catch up. We talk on the phone but it is not the same as a visit. She is also an excellent cook and we got super spoiled!! Also got to visit with his son who came over. While there we got to have a delicious lunch with friends Carol and Leonard who we know from some of our birding trips. Carol is an excellent cook and the afternoon was most enjoyable. However, after spending time in Houston we have decided that we are country mice....who would go crazy if we had to drive in that traffic all the time. At one time I thought I was a city person but I have since seen the light and really appreciate the more rural lifestyle.

While I was away, various friends offered to water my garden for me. I think they kind of overlapped and everything got extra watering but when I got back, everything had grown like mad. It made me realize that I was probably not watering enough.

The picture shows where the RV park tills a 10 ft wide strip along the edge of the fence and anyone who wants can plant what they want. There is water provided and the rest is up to the gardener. As you can see, everything has done well. Our park is next to a farm field and the people who have sites along the fence can watch the herd of brahma cattle as well as the birds that hang out in farm fields. Certainly nicer than looking at the back of a shopping center.

We went to Progresso [the nearby Mexican border town] the other day. We had not been for a couple of years, partly because of the increased border violence associated with drug smuggling. However, aside from being less busy than it was the last time we visited, things seemed much the same....mainly a tourist destination with lots of souvenir stuff as well as lots of cheaper pharmacies and dentists.