Snow Day

Years ago, when my daughter was in school, I almost always took off when the schools closed for snow – either with vacation or make up hours or working at home. Now that I’m retired, I am still doing it. Having a snow day is a mini-holiday with traditions. My daughter knew all the best sledding slops in the neighborhood. I enjoyed being outside too although it was usually to shovel the drive or take a walk. The snow day last week did not require shoveling since the forecast for the next day was temperature in the 50s. So - I took a walk. I bundled up in lined boots, snow pants, coat with a hood, scarf with a hood and gloves. I took my cell phone and small camera with me – deciding not to take the larger camera since it was still snowing, and I couldn’t shield it inside my coat easily.


There were about 3 inches on the ground already when I opened the garage door and headed out.


The fire hydrants in the neighborhood looked festive with their burden of snow.

My destination was the water retention pond. When I got there the old cattail stalks were catching snow and the still parts of the pond were skimming over with ice. The temperature was in the low 30s.

There were two pairs of ducks at the pond! The surprise (for me) were  Hooded Mergansers.  

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I’ve seen more of them this year in our area and I wonder if their numbers are increasing. Were the pair was looking for a good nesting area? I don’t think our water retention pond would be a good place for ducklings although the pair were occasionally diving and (maybe) finding something to eat in the pond.

The other pair were Mallards. They are dabblers and I noticed they both had snow collecting on their backs since they don’t go completely under water for edibles.


I headed home. The pan and spatula to collect snow to make snow ice cream was in the garage to cool down. I filled the pan to overflowing then left it to prepare the other ingredients: peppermint candy puffs in a Ziploc broken to bits with a hammer and vanilla soy creamer (it has sugar and vanilla already…so it reduces the ingredient list). I got out the electric mixer and big bowl.


Then I went out to get the snow. The bowl is so large that it holds the whole pan of snow. I added the peppermint candy and creamer…then beat it all together. The snow was drier than expected so I added more creamer and vanilla coconut almond milk to get the consistency I wanted for the ice cream.


My husband and I each had two large servings to finish it off in one sitting. It was a yummy lunch.

Road Trip to Florida

Last week we drove down to Florida for the annual Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival in Titusville. I’ll be posting about the trip for the next week or so…but today the post is focused on the drive itself. We left the house at 5:30 AM to beat the worst of the commuter traffic around Washington DC. Venus and Jupiter were visible in the darkness to the east. We made a very cold rest stop at 6:30 AM south of DC and on I95…the interstate we would take all the way to Florida. The temperature was in the low teens. Leaving early had achieved its purpose; no stop and go or slow traffic! We listened to Planetary Society podcasts that my husband had on his phone.


It was getting light by our next rest stop at about 7:30 still in Virginia. It was a newer rest stop with a compass in the entry floor, an area to charge/use laptops (we never spend that much time at a rest stop), and a toddler toilet (I’ve only seen these in the newer Virginia rest stops….what a wonderful feature for young families).

We took I295 around Richmond and stopped at a McDonalds for a second breakfast. The sun was shining in our eyes. Turkey vultures were soaring. By 9:40 AM we were in North Carolina. I remembered the rest stop from a previous trip: red tile strips and glass brick.


There was a bird’s nest in the tree just outside the building – easy to see in the winter.


The next stop was a large truck stop in Kenly, North Carolina- with a large tile mosaic in the entry.

We stopped for lunch at Arby’s in Lumberton, North Carolina that did not take long and then were back on the road – crossing into South Carolina and seeing a Honda plant with its own exit from the highway and water tower.


The next rest stop did not have any structural distinction, but I did notice a large river birch in the picnic area.

I saw a hawk fly low across the road in front of us and began to see black vultures along with turkey vultures. Our last rest stop for the day had green tile and a skylight in the facilities. The picnic area had sabal palmettos – matching the South Carolina license plates.

We stopped for the night in Savannah – just off I95.


We didn’t start out as early the next morning. It was already beginning to get light. We made a stop, still in Georgia, where the roses were blooming.

As we drove into Florida a line of clouds moved in.

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I took pictures of the Dames Point Bridge going around Jacksonville (some morning commuter traffic).

At the next rest stop there was a pond with a fence around it (with signs warning of snakes)…but I braved the short walk up to the fence (didn’t see any snakes). I took pictures of the birds around the pond…the first for the trip: hooded mergansers,

White Ibis (mature and juvenile), and

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Not bad birding at a rest stop along I95.

We arrived at the registration desk for the festival a little after 11.

Ten Little Celebrations – November 2018

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At the beginning of November, we had a short burst of color before the leaves fell off the trees. I celebrated a glorious fall day…wishing the season had not been so short this year.

HoLLIE (Howard County Legacy Leadership Institute for the Environment) graduation was this month after accumulating enough volunteer hours since finishing the class last spring.

And then came the Festival of the Cranes with so many little celebrations:

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Seeing sandhill cranes in flight – being close enough to their fly out to hear the first few high-power flaps of their wings.

Seeing two barn owls circle above the field where I was standing. It was a first for me….so beautiful and ghost-like.

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Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge. It was my first visit to the place and it’s hard to choose the high point maybe it was the screwbean mesquite the herd of pronghorn playing a running game with our caravan or seeing a shrike with a meal.

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Hooded Mergansers. It was not the first time I had seen the birds (there were some on a local (Maryland) pond we visited during our 5th HoLLIE class). But they were not displaying like the birds we saw during the Festival of the Cranes.

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge. What an amazing place….and great hosts to the Festival of the Cranes. I am already planning to go again! There are so many sights and sounds to celebrate here.

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Home again. I celebrate returning every time I am away for longer than a couple days.

Bald Eagle seen from my office window. The morning we left to drive to Pennsylvania for Thanksgiving, a bald eagle flew over the forest behind our house while I was shutting down my laptop for the road trip. It continued over our house. Since I saw a pair of eagles soaring a nearby shopping center recently, I think perhaps their nest is somewhere in the forest along the Middle Patuxent River near us. What a way to start the Thanksgiving holiday!

Thanksgiving….celebrating the day…realizing how much I am thankful for.

Festival of the Cranes – part 8

After the fly out, we headed to the Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge visitor center to meet the bus for a Raptor ID tour.

The refuge is home to many red-tailed hawks…several different morphs. The basic ‘football’ shape is what we were looking for in the trees.

The bald eagle was in the snag in the middle of the flight deck pond. Nothing happened when the eagle opened its wings and moved all little (just as I snapped a picture…good enough to identify it as a bald eagle but not much else).

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Later the bird suddenly flew away….and caused a cloud of snow geese to rise all at one time from the water’s surface.

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There are a lot of northern harriers this year too. Every time we drove the wildlife loop, we saw a few. They fly low over the fields looking for their prey.

There were other birds that were not raptors that we saw too. The ravens seemed to pose of us.

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My favorite birds to watch were the hooded mergansers. At first there was just one pair interacting…then another male came along and then another female. They were almost beyond the range of my camera without the monopod. The first pair was acting a lot like is was time to breed but New Mexico is far from their breeding grounds.

The tour was an enjoyable 3 hours around the refuge wildlife loop.

Ten Little Celebrations – March 2018

March 2018 had a lot to celebrate; some of the top ten were unexpected.

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The Snow Day just last week was our first substantial snow of the winter. There had been so many forecasts that didn’t quite pan out that I didn’t bother to buy the makings for snow ice cream like I usually do. We celebrated with just the view and that we didn’t have to get out in the thick of the event.

Beavers at Mt. Pleasant

Two birds with fish at Conowingo. I celebrated that we saw both a bald eagle and a cormorant getting their fish within a relative short period of time after we got to Conowingo.

Another sign of spring – the first pre-K field trip of the season. I enjoy all of the volunteering I do but somehow the youngest children almost always are the highlight of the season.

The HoLLIE classes continued from February into March; each one was a finely-honed learning experience. I was overwhelmed with little celebrations so I picked a bird that I saw on one of the field trips that I had not seen before in our area – a hooded merganser pair.

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The shell spiral in my front flowerbed was a visual celebration – somehow it made the day for me. I think earlier it had been covered with leaves but after the March winds, its whiteness made it stand out.

I also celebrated that we didn’t lose electrical power in the wind storm like a lot of other neighborhoods did. There was some siding damage and at least one tree down in our neighborhood….but nothing happened to our house.

The miniature iris at Brookside were something I did not expect; I didn’t remember them from previous years. Seeing them blooming among the other spring bulbs was a treat.

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Yellow grass might not be something to celebrate in other seasons, but the bright color was like a beacon at the end of winter.

Finishing up our 2017 taxes was worth celebrating too. It’s something that happens every year and I’m glad my husband does more of the work…it’s celebration – and relief – when they are done.