Batik

Years ago, while living in New Mexico, I attended my first quilt show. These things of beauty were not rectangles and diamonds assembled into patterns or the stitched together scraps known as crazy quilts. They were, instead, breathtaking pieces of art that took my breath away. I vowed to become a quilter. Not long later I made a solo trip across the country and stopped in Pennsylvania at an amazing quilt shop. For those who don’t know, quilt shops may sell quilts but they probably also sell fabrics. This store had more fabric than I had ever seen in my life.

I stumbled upon a room that was filled with batiks. Never had I seen such gorgeous color and design. Incredibly smitten, I purchased many different designs. Some went into colorful tops for me and some went into quilts. I kept purchasing over the years but never became the quilter I hoped as another passion took over. Birds came into my life.

Still, somehow, the two have melded. I can sometimes see a bird in a random fabric design and sometimes I see a fantastic fabric design in the body of a bird. Sadly, I never became the artist of my dreams but the years of studying the designs of others was good prep. When I look upon the body of the beautiful Blue Winged Teal I am always amazed to see an island batik. Who could not love the beauty of nature?

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Christmas 2018

It wasn’t what we had planned but it turned out to be okay after all. Our plans had been to go to Katy and see grandkids and do dinner with family. But flu came to Katy and it was decided to call off the visit. So we opened our presents which would make one think we were Icelanders – books, books, books. What a delight!

The day was warmish so we headed out to walk at Moody Gardens. Nice walking paths along the bayou are perfect for Dennis to practice his stride. He was slow and steady but did almost a mile and a half in 45 minutes. It’s been four weeks since surgery and he’s doing so well. I, of course, brought my binoculars. I would watch and then catch up. I even got a few decent photos with the new camera. It’s workings are still a mystery to my little pea brain. My favorite shot of the day was a Spotted Sandpiper. Miraculously, the focus was spot on.

We talked about finding a restaurant for lunch but since choices were limited to lovely hotel dining rooms or fast food burger joints, we headed home.

The fridge held fixings for shrimp and grits with asparagus. Not a bad Christmas dinner on the fly! Hope Christmas was as peaceful for you as it was for us.

A Visitor from Maine

I had heard that a Red-Breasted Nuthatch had been seen at Lafitte’s Cove a few weeks ago. I made the requisite visits but was unable to find him. So it was a wonderful surprise to look out the window of my house yesterday morning and find him bouncing about the oaks in the backyard.

Our house in Maine is a bit over an hour north from the border with New Hampshire. The nuthatch visits in colder weather but in summer he is generally found north of us. So to have this little guy visiting 2000 miles south is quite a treat.

I often think how lucky we are to have had a friend check out this little house on Galveston Island and tell us to put in an offer on it, which we did without having seen it. My delight at the trees and the birds was a total surprise to my friend, a non-birder. This perfect, tiny place, which was supposed to be our beach house for a few months in the winter, has become our home. Snuggled between Lafitte’s Cove and Galveston Island State Park, it is a perfect place to be a birder. Another reason I love Galveston.

My Galveston Love Affair

It started quite innocently, as affairs often do. The winter air was crisp and I walked along the beach, camera in hand, randomly snapping photos of Piping Plovers. In retrospect, there were probably also some Snowy Plovers but the Piping Plovers with their yellow-orange legs and impossibly cute Buddha bellies were my goal. My camera was a little point and shoot which took pretty decent photos. At some point I realized that one of “my” Plovers was sporting a yellow flag on his upper leg. The hunt then became more focused as I took seemingly hundreds of blurry photos in attempt to be able to read the three digit code emblazoned on the flag.

That evening when I downloaded photos I had somehow forgotten about the drama of the morning’s chase. I inwardly groaned at the number of shots I needed to go through. After about ten minutes I realized I had a keeper. A photo in which I could read the code clearly: J97. So, now I could read the code and knew that somewhere someone would be happy to receive the info. After much research I found a site that would help me out. I carefully entered all the required info and sent it off. Two days letter I received an email telling me where he had hatched (near Tappen, ND) and where he had spent the previous summer. I was hooked. I saw J97 many times that winter and reported each time. More tagged birds were seen and their info was also reported.

Summers found me in Maine, monitoring Piping Plover nests and proudly watching chicks hatch and fledge. Part of that volunteer job is education and seeing the looks on people’s faces as they first discover those tiny fluffballs in the sand makes every second of my commute to the beach worth it.

I often see banded Piping Plovers on my beach walks here in Galveston. They have all turned out to be from North Dakota. Last week I was doing a bird survey with another volunteer when we spotted one. The blurry photos were taken using that same little camera and that evening I checked my records to find that 3L6 was a bird I had reported in April. He was banded in 2015. My affair was once again justified.

If you take a photo of a banded plover, please share the information. The species has a total population of about 12,000 and with help their numbers are starting to increase. Go to the following link and you will find all the information you need to start reporting! https://www.fws.gov/northeast/pipingplover/report_bands.html Just beware. You may start your own affair!

Prague

Prague was wonderful. We finally had a few days to explore on our own. We walked about ten miles a day and yes, the legs hurt by the end of the day but so worth it! Unfortunately, my camera strap broke and the camera crashed to the ground. Result was there is something floating around in the lens which leaves a dark smudge in every photo. The photos I’m posting here were all taken with my phone.

Prague stunned me. Not as clean as Warsaw but not a lot of graffiti like we saw some other places. Because it wasn’t bombed during WWII the old, old architecture still remains. And it’s not just a small area: the fantastic buildings go on and on.

It was raining the day we arrived and we did a quick tour to get our bearings. Then we were on our own. We quickly figured out the city and did lots of walking. Found a Franciscan garden which was pretty empty in the drizzle and wandered with a purpose, enjoying the sights and seeing many of the sights we had hoped to see. Our timing was bad and we were unable to enter many of the Jewish sites as many were closed for the holidays. Still, glimpsing them from the outside was quite awesome. Jews in Prague, like in much of Europe, were rounded up by the Nazis. So few are left now. It’s horribly sad.

Still, we enjoyed the days. Our last day took us over the Charles Bridge to Lesser town and then up to the castle. Quite proud that our old bodies made the climb fairly easily. We then entered the castle gardens and I got to bird and enjoy the trees and flowers for several hours while we made our way back down for a late lunch.

Posting a slideshow here. Random photos of an exquisitely beautiful city. My impressions: beautiful, old, vibrant, great arts scene, bookstores everywhere, good restaurants, lots of very tall people. Someone needs to introduce some veggies into the diet. Hope to go back.

Prague Photos

Linz

Today we arrived in Linz, Austria. It’s the town where Hitler spent much of his youth and planned to retire. Like many spots we have visited, there is old and new. H&M and McDonalds compete with five hundred year old cathedrals. Here, Hitler installed steel plants which are still in operation today. There is a feeling of history, both horrible and grand.

We visited the largest cathedral in Austria and I was impressed by the LACK of gold. The glory was in the windows and the architecture. So different from the opulence we’ve seen elsewhere.

Tomorrow is our last day on the river. Seems impossible.

Budapest

So beautiful at night. Budapest is a city of a million bright diamonds glittering along the Danube. We stayed out late, savoring every moment we could. Parliament on the Pest side, The castle looking down from Buda and Chain Bridge linking the two side. Unbelievable.

Parliament. Budapest.
Castle, Budapest
Chain Bridge

,o