Category: National Parks

Another attempt on 101 goals in 1001-days, with 44 things to do before turning 44

I’ve tried several time since 2018 in doing a 101 goals in 1001-day challenge. I’ve even tried to expand it to 100+ goals in 2002-days. My problem has always been the same: I make the list, and then I only occasionally look at it again to see how I’m doing in terms of the goals—and some of the goals never seemed to feel like ‘mine’. They felt like goals I should put down because they’re ones that ‘society’ deems acceptable.

Last year I also tried to a ’43 things to do before turning 43’ list of goals. The problem: I made that list/goal idea during a really rough time—my mother was still in the hospital, and I thought making a ‘smaller’ list of goals and a ‘tighter’ window would result in the goals being accomplished.

I did manage to accomplish about 44% of the goals that I set last year—as I counted even semi-accomplished (or started) goals in the ‘check’ category. Ones I did start or attempt were considered ‘not done’.

So, I’m three weeks and a few days late in posting this particular post—it is a combination of a new 101 goals in 1001 days list, and a ’44 things to do before turning 44’ goal list.

What’s the difference: I’ve actually picked a handful of 101 goals to try to get accomplished (or at least a good head start on) by my birthday next year. In addition, there are several additional goals at the end of the list that are on my ‘44 things to do’ list that aren’t on (or fit with) the 101 goals in 1001 days.

So what is what? The long list is basically the 101 goals that I’m aiming to accomplish in 1001 days. Items that are bolded are from the 44 things to do before turning 44 list. I’ve determined that I’m going to be having ‘scheduled’ updates—every two months for the 44 things before 44 list, and every 100 days for the 101-goals (plus yearly updates around my birthday).

The areas that I’m focusing on for both lists: career/professional growth; personal growth (including areas of health/wellness, spirituality, and personal finances); and crafts/hobbies (tied with career). Why these areas? Because, they’re the ones that if I focus on will also have the most impact in other areas of life (such as social life, friends/family, contributions/donations and physical environment).

So what are the goals? They include:

  1. Start my freelance science/health/medical communications business
  2. Transition to a remote science/health/medical communications position
  3. Monetize blogs and set up an Etsy store for the crafts and so-forth
  4. Launch a YouTube channel
  5. Launch a podcast
  6. Increase blog/website(s) traffic (aim for 500+ views/day)
  7. Social media following of 500+ across different channels
  8. Launch at least one online course
  9. Hit 10K (and then 12.5K, 15K, 20+K) followers on LinkedIn
  10. Go to at least one scientific conference
  11. Present at least one scientific conference
  12. Renew professional memberships (ASBMB, ASCB; at least once)
  13. More interaction on LinkedIn
  14. Go to at least two professional networking events
  15. Attend at least one blogging conference
  16. Attend at least one author-reader conference
  17. Develop a passive income stream
  18. Complete at least 18 different e-courses
    • Finish at least two CSA advanced programs
    • Finish at least four Udemy courses
    • Finish at least six Skillshare courses
  19. Read at leaet 100 different nonfiction/historical fiction books
    • Read at least 44 nonfiction/historical books before Sept 20, 2024
  20. Become fluent in Spanish
  21. Become fluent in German
  22. Become proficient in French, Norwegian, or Swedish
    • Learn to say hello and thank you in ten different languages
  23. Complete at least one 365-day photography challenge
  24. Editorial calendars, to-be accomplished lists for both blogs and various social media accounts
  25. Learn python coding
  26. Create a physical vision board and update it regularly
    • Based on my vision/definition of success
  27. Learn basic sign language
  28. Get out of debt
  29. Increase my savings account 500x
  30. Increase my retirement account 500x
  31. No spend challenges
  32. Finish at least one personal finance book and e-course
  33. Get into the best shape of my life
    • Learn about body confidence
    • Create a happiness plan
  34. Daily mediation (work up to twice a day)
  35. Stretch daily
  36. Hold a 90-second plank
  37. Develop (and stick with) a consistent exercise schedule
  38. Make a candle (or two, or three, or more)
  39. Make some mosaic art & resin art
  40. Make some soap
  41. Make some tie-dye clothes/accessories
  42. Draw/doodle, color, and frame a original drawing
  43. Draw/doodle, paint, and frame a original piece of art
  44. Sew something I’d wear
  45. Start my own jewelry line
  46. Make a memorial quilt
  47. Start another afghan (or make some scarfs to donate)
  48. Upload/update photography pages (namely bird pages) on creative/hobby blog
  49. Complete at least another six cross-stitch projects
  50. Create my own coffee-table photography book
  51. Create my own calendar using my nature photographs
  52. Create at least one piece of wood-burnt art
  53. Monthly new & full moon goals
  54. Daily oracle card drawings
  55. Create my own Wicca/pagan altar & update throughout the seasons
  56. See a coral reef
  57. Tour a vineyard
  58. See the Northern Lights
  59. Go to a Renaissance Festival
  60. Visit at least three countries
  61. Visit at least one ‘new’ national and/or state park
  62. Visit at least one ‘new’ national and/or state monument
  63. Visit at least one ‘new’ zoo
  64. Visit at least one ‘new’ aquarium
  65. Visit at least one ‘new’ state
  66. Visit at least one ‘new’ city
  67. Fly out and/or land at three ‘new’ airports
  68. Make fresh pasta
  69. Learn to make sushi
  70. Learn glass etching
  71. Get a haircut and highlights (light purple, blue, and/or green)
  72. Various top ten author/book series lists (creative blog)
  73. Keep at least three plants alive
  74. Start a succulent garden in a pot
  75. Design a science-based board game
  76. Declutter and downsize
  77. Create a minimal wardrobe
  78. Swim with whale sharks
  79. Put in at least one flower garden around the house
  80. Become better informed in regards to politics
  81. Become better informed in regards to economics
  82. Pick a non-science topic and develop ‘niche’ knowledge on it
  83. Research 30 prominent women throughout history
  84. Write a minimum of 101 mini-book reviews
  85. Write a minimum of 100 blurbs/reviews on different research papers/topics
  86. Start a junk journal
  87. Listen to a different podcast everyday (30-120 day challenge)
  88. Yoga for a minimum of 30 days
  89. 30+ days of iPhone photography
  90. 30+ days of doodling
    • Create a coloring book from various (uncolored) doodles/drawings
  91. 30-days of coloring in coloring books
  92. Solo dance parties (minimum of four to five songs)
  93. 30-days of making rubbings of interesting surfaces and textures (leaves, flowers, tree bark, so forth)
  94. Film progress of one (or more) 30-day challenge
  95. Learn a new country (or fact) a day
  96. Do a Sudoku or crossword puzzle daily
  97. Jumping jack/squat challenge
  98. Watch a different TedTalk each day (30-120 day challenge); plus a 100-200 word summary
  99. Create my own cookbook
  100. Ten minutes on the exercise bike (work up to a 5+ mile bike ride)
  101. 30+ days of mind-maps

The last few things from the 44 things to do before turning 44 list:

Complete at least five 30-day challenges (some of which are listed above)

Read at least two ‘new’ banned books

Read at least two ‘new’ classic books

Read at least one ‘new’ trilogy (or longer) series

Finish creating a inspiring work/craft area

Write a letter to my future self (again)

So that is my combined 101 goals and 44 things list…technically could call it a 107 goals in 1001 days…but splitting things up may help me actually complete more of the goals. In terms of updating the lists: I’ll be updating my progress on the bolded items every 60 days (basically the 20th of every other month) and the first update will be Nov 20 2023. In terms of the 101 goals–updates will be every 100 days, with yearly updates on my birthday (so there will a 365 day and 730 day update in addition to all the other updates). The first update for the 101 goals will be Dec 30 2023.

No Comments 101 GoalsBookscareerCraftsDay TripsfinancesfitnessFitness ChallengesflowersFull Moon GoalsHealthLevel 10 LifeLifestyle Challengesmoney saving challengesNational ParksnatureNature PreservesNew Moon Goalsno spend challengesodds and endsoracle cardsPersonal Development ChallengesPhotographyprofessional developmentRecipesReflectionsSciencespiritualityState ParksSunrises/Sunsetstarot cardstravelUpdatesvision boardsZoos/Aquariums

Odd facts and statistics on the US State Birds

Unless this is your first time visiting my blog (and then, hello and how do you do), one may realize that bird watching and photography are some favorite pastimes of mine. While creating the birding section of my blog and the various bird pages, I’ve come curious on the topic of ‘state’ birds.

Every state has an official ‘state’ bird and after seeing the list of birds, I decided to create a list of ‘fifty-one’ odd facts about the state birds. In addition, I also found about a dozen odd stats about them as well.

Collage of all the ‘state’ birds

So to start off, here are the odd statistics on the ‘state’ birds:

  1. There are over a thousand different species of birds within the United States, but only twenty-seven species, plus two types of chickens were chosen as state birds.
  2. Ten states have both a state bird, plus another ‘official’ bird (game, waterfowl, raptor, or symbol of peace)
  3. The state birds of nine states (plus the District of Columbia) are only present in the state (or area) from mid-spring to early/mid fall (breeding season)
  4. Seven states have the northern cardinal as their state bird
  5. Six states have the mockingbird as their state bird
  6. Six states have the western meadowlark as their state bird–though it is a summer resident for three of those states
  7. Two states have a chicken as their state bird
  8. Three states have the goldfinch as their state bird
  9. Three states have the American robin as their state bird
  10. Two states have the eastern bluebird as their state bird
  11. Two states have the mountain bluebird as their state bird (though it is a summer resident in one of those states.
  12. Two states have the black-capped chickadee for their state bird

What I found ‘weird’ was that high frequency of the northern cardinal (14% of the states), mockingbird (12% of the states), and western meadowlark (12% of the states) being chosen for state birds. These three choices by nineteen states account for 38% of the ‘state birds’.

So, what are some weird/odd or amazing facts about the various state (or national) birds?

  1. The national bird (the Bald Eagle) is no longer considered endangered or threatened (it is one of the biggest success stories of the Endangered Species Act). Though it is still protected at the state level in many states.
Bald Eagle and gulls flying over Boomer Lake. Picture by JessicaMattsPhotography

2. The District of Columbia has a ‘state bird’–the wood thrush.

Wood Thrush

3. The rough translation for the wood thrush’s scientific name (Hylochila mustelina) is ‘weasel-colored woodland thrush’

4. Male wood thrushes do more of the feeding of the chicks than the female; this allows her to start a second brood.

5. The first national wildlife refuge (Florida’s Pelican Island) was created in 1903 by Teddy Roosevelt to protect the brown pelican.

Brown Pelicans flying over the beach. Photograph: JessicaMattsPhotography

6. Besides being the state bird of Louisiana, the brown pelican is also the national bird of Saint Martin, Barbados, Saint Kitts and Nevis, and the Turks and Caicos Islands.

7. Northern flickers actually hunt for their food on the ground, with ants being a staple in their diet.

Northern flicker

8. In addition to nesting in trees (like all other woodpeckers), northern flickers have also been know to use abandoned burros of belted kingfishers or bank swallows.

9. The willow ptarmigan is the only grouse in the world where the male regularly helps raise the young.

Male Willow Ptarmigan in mating colors

10. The willow ptarmigan is also a master of camouflage; they can be snowy white in the winter and a mix of reds and browns in the summer.

11. The cactus wren gets its liquids from the juicy insects and fruits it eats; therefore rarely relying on water.

Cactus Wren

12. Young California quail gain their gut microbiome by pecking at the feces of the adults.

California Quail

13. California quail broods mix after hatching and all parents help care for the young

14. A male northern mockingbird can learn up to 200 songs during his lifetime.

Northern mockingbird

15. While it is called the northern mockingbird, it is actually absent from many of the northern states.

16. Lark buntings are able to survive periods of drought by taking moisture from grasshoppers and other insects

Lark Bunting

17. Lark buntings are endemic sparrows to the grasslands and shrub steppes of North America.

18. The entire American robin population ‘turns over’ on average every six years, though many may live longer than that.

American Robin

19. Did you know that robins can become intoxicated when they exclusively eat honeysuckle berries?

20. Brown thrashers have been known to imitate the songs of Chuck-will’s-widows, wood thrushes, and northern flickers

Brown thrasher seen up at Boomer Lake

21. Brown thrashers are the largest common host for the ‘parasitic’ brown-headed cowbirds. Though they can tell the difference between their eggs and the cowbird eggs, and usually reject the cowbird eggs that had been laid in the nest.

22. The Nene evolved from the Canada goose, which probably arrived on the Hawaiian Islands roughly 500,000 years ago.

The Nene or Hawaiian Goose

23. The Nene is the sixth-most endangered waterfowl species in the world.

24. There are Hawaiian geese (Nene) living in the Slimbridge Wetland Wildlife Reserve near Gloucestershire, England

25. Mountain bluebirds can hunt for insects either in flight or from perches

Mountain Bluebird

26. A male mountain bluebird with a high-quality nesting site is more likely to attract a mate than a more ‘attractive’ male with a low-quality nesting site.

27. Female northern cardinals are one of the few female songbirds that sing

Northern Cardinal

28. Cardinals don’t molt into duller colors–the mature males stay bright red year-round.

29. Goldfinches are strict vegetarians, and the offspring of other birds who parasitize their nests (such as the brown-headed cowbirds) rarely survive more than a few days on the all-seed diet.

Goldfinch

30. Meriweather Lewis, noted in 1805 the differences between the eastern and western meadowlarks

Western Meadowlark

31. Male western meadowlarks usually have two mates at the same time, as the females do all the incubating, brooding, and most of the feeding of the young

32. Black-capped chickadees hide their food to eat later, placing individual items in different spots

Black-capped chickadee

33. Black-capped chickadees adapt to changes in their flocks and the environment every fall, by allowing neurons with ‘old information’ to die and replacing them with new neurons

34. Baltimore orioles are known to breed/hybridize extensively with Bullock’s orioles where their ranges overlap within the Great Plains

Oriole spotted at Boomer Lake

35. When migrating the common loon has been clocked at speeds greater than 70mph

Common Loon

36. Common loons are only present in a few states during the summer. Most of the US is actually within their migratory routes to the coasts, where they will spend the winters (and the young will stay for two years before heading back north).

37. Eastern bluebirds will typically have more than one brood per year

Eastern Bluebird spotted at Boomer Lake

38. Purple finches have lost territory in the eastern US to the house finch

A finch spotted in the winter

39. Roadrunners are able to eat venomous lizards, scorpions, and rattlesnakes.

Greater Roadrunner

40. Roadrunners may also be seen walking around with a snake protruding from its bill, swallowing a little at a time as the snake is digested.

41. The scissor-tailed flycatcher tends to wander on their way to and from their winter grounds in Central America. They have been spotted as far north and west as British Columbia, and as far north and east as Nova Scotia.

Scissor-tailed flycatchers at Boomer Lake

42. The scissor-tailed flycatcher as the second longest tail for members of the kingbird family. The fork-tailed flycatcher has the longest tail.

43. The popularity of the ruffed grouse as a game bird led to some of the earliest game management efforts in North America back in 1708.

Ruffed Grouse

44. The overall population of the ruffed grouse goes through an eight-to-eleven year cycle that is in correlation to the snowshoe hare population.

45. It is only the male Carolina wren that sings

Carolina wrens in the backyard

46. Ring-necked pheasants will sometime parasitize the nests of other birds (such as the ruffed grouse or the greater-prairie chicken)

Ring-necked pheasant

47. Ring-necked pheasants practice ‘harem-defense polygyny’ where one male will keep other males away from a group of females during the breeding season.

48. The California gull became the state bird of Utah in 1848, after they started feasting on the katydids that had been devastating the crops of the settlers.

California Gull

49. Hermit thrushes are likely to nest in trees west of the Rocky Mountains, but on the ground east of the Rocky Mountains

Hermit Thrush

50. Male hermit thrushes will collect the food for the nest, giving it to the female who will then feed the nestlings.

51. Not really odd facts, but here are the two pictures of the chickens that are also state birds:

Delaware’s state bird
Rhode Island’s state bird

So there are the ‘fifty-one’ odd facts on state birds (yes, I know that the last fact are just pictures). So far I’ve managed to get a picture of thirteen or fourteen of the birds–I’m leaning more towards fourteen, since I’m pretty positive that is a purple finch I got a picture of this winter.

A photography goal–get a picture of the other state birds, though I’m not sure if I’m also going to include the chickens in that or not. You might have noticed that I didn’t mention every state in terms of their state bird–I thought it would be more fun to test everyone’s knowledge.

So question–do you know the state bird of your state?

2 Comments bird watchingDay TripsNational ParksnatureNature PreservesoutdoorsPhotographyScienceState Parkstravel

Whirlwind afternoon in the White Sands National Park

So the latest #throwbackthursdaytravel page is up under the travel tab. This week’s entry was our whirlwind afternoon in the White Sands National Park in southern New Mexico (though at the time it was still only a National Monument, it had been promoted to a National Park later).

Gypsum dunes with the mountains in the distance

This is actually the world’s largest gypsum dune field at 275 square miles. If you camp in the back country or hike any of the trails away from Dunes Drive, it is easy to see why parts of various movies (such as Independence Day) were filmed within the area, with rolling dunes and flat plains of gypsum as far as the eye can see.

While the dune field covers a large area, one doesn’t want to become ‘lost’ within it–especially since the park is also within the White Sands Missile Testing area and adjacent to a military base.

Our afternoon was spent basically taking the scenic drive through part of the park (the Dunes Drive is a round trip sixteen mile drive, but one should also account for time spent taking pictures, hiking up and down the dunes, and even possibly sledding down the dunes), hiking up some of the dunes and taking pictures.

Bleached earless lizard spotted within the park

While I may have only seen a single lizard, I was able to get pictures of several different wildflowers that are able to grow within the gypsum dunes:

Gypsum Centaury growing in the sands
Desert Mentzelia growing in the sands.

I would love to go back to the park, and actually try sledding down a dune, hiking a little further than what we did, and even trying to camp out in the back-country for a day or two.

No Comments flowersNational ParksnatureoutdoorsPhotographyreptilestravel

Throwback Thursday Travels: Exploring the Big Room at Carlsbad Caverns

So another #throwbackthursdaytravel page is now live under the travels tab: Exploring the Big Room at Carlsbad Caverns.

One of the many formations within the Big Room

I actually meant to get this page up and going several years ago after the trip to New Mexico, as it was going to be part of the New Mexico travel section (an side note–I haven’t added any type of organizational pages to the travel section, but it has been an idea that has been bouncing around in my head). But once we got back from vacation, work dominated everything else, and it kept getting pushed further down the to-do list.

Well, the page is up and running now. We only spent about a half of day within the park, and most of that was spent taking the natural entrance trail down to the Big Room:

Looking towards the natural entrance trail

The natural entrance trial is a little over a mile straight down, though it curves at times and has a very steep descent. If you have breathing or heart problems–there is also an elevator within the visitor’s center that will take you down to the Big Room as well.

Once within the Big Room, there is a little over a mile trial that you can follow around the cavern (start at the ‘exit’ from the natural entrance trail and you can either end up back at the trail or at the concession stand/elevator area). We spent probably a total of three hours entering, and then exploring the Big Room:

Another view within the Big Room

There are also numerous trails that you can hike on the surface within the park. They do have a list of essentials that one should have within their backpacks for hiking listed on their site. We only did the shortest hike (basically a half mile round trip) on the way out of the park, but did stop at another trail head to get some pictures.

Since there wasn’t much hiking to be done–most of the pictures I got on this trip were of the cavern, though I did mange to get several pictures of various desert wildflowers. There are also numerous mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, and insects found within the park as well. We didn’t really spot any–but we did hear the rattlesnake a time or two.

Red flowers on very sharp branches

Have you ever been to Carlsbad Caverns? Was your time spent around the caves or did you hike one of the trails? Which one, and did you spot any wildlife?

No Comments flowersNational ParksnatureoutdoorsPhotographytravel

Adventures in the Outdoors: National Get Outdoors Day

So within the ‘Great Outdoors Month’, there is also ‘National Get Outside Day’.

This day was ‘established’ in 2008 as a means to get people outside for a ‘healthy, fun day of outdoor adventures’. This is a nationwide event that is coordinated by the US Forest Service and the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (which is America’s leading coalition of outdoor recreation trade associations and organizations).

It falls on the second Saturday of June–which means for this year it is today (June 12th). This means that in theory, today one should have free parking and entrance to parks across the country (though one should always have money on hand just in case the particular park is still charging either entrance and/or parking fees)–though other fees (such as camping or fishing) may still be charged.

While I may not be able to head to a state or national park for the day–I will hopefully be sitting outside ‘enjoying’ the outdoors later this afternoon (we’re in our hot and humid phase, with heat indexes in the upper 90s or low 100s–so even just sitting outdoors is unpleasant unless there is a nice breeze). Though I did get ‘outdoors’ this morning when I went to get the newspaper (and it was already starting to get a little muggy).

Even though I’m not heading to the ‘great outdoors’ today, I thought I’d still share some nature photos from various trips and hikes I’ve taken over the years:

While its been the only cave system I’ve visited–I would have to rank Carlsbad Caverns (more on the caves in an up-coming #throwbackthursdaytravel post) pretty high on the list for both caves and national parks:

Various formations seen within the ‘great room’ in Carlsbad Caverns

For easy hikes, I would say it’s a toss-up between hiking in the Ozarks (at Devil’s Den) and wandering through the forests along the north shore of Lake Superior:

Water-bugs skimming the top of the water @ Temperance River State Park

I managed to get a decent picture of numerous water-bugs walking/skimming the top of the water. This was a ‘calm’ portion of the river, and not very deep. I think it took me about ten minutes or so from the parking lot to reach the spot. One nice thing about the North Shore of Lake Superior–most of the state parks allow free entry for hiking, the only ‘fees’ are if you’re wanting to camp for the night. So, we just found a nice hotel, and drove up and down the coast going to different parks for hiking each day.

Spotting Lee Creek through the trees

I didn’t really try to get down to the creek at Devil’s Den to see if I could spot any insects, fish, or amphibians–maybe next time.

So I’ve been to parks (both state and national) within the Midwest and Southwest, so if I had a ‘magic wand’ that could teleport me to any national park/monument in the country for the day, I would figure out how to split my time and go between Crater Lake Natioal Park in Oregon, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho, and Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky.

How are you spending National Get Outdoors Day?

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Future travel plans need: mindfulness and purpose moving forward

So June is ‘National Outdoors Month’, and everyone is looking to head out on vacations, travel, and meet up with friends and family that they weren’t able to see last year due to the pandemic.

This ‘opening back up’ is due in large part to the fact that numerous companies are rolling out different vaccines against the SARS-CoV2 virus, and no–it wasn’t rushed. As a small aside–scientists had started working on a vaccine for SARS when that epidemic eased on its own, so when once the SARS-CoV2 virus was sequenced, scientists figured out how to make the platform for the SARS virus vaccine troubleshooting platform work for the SARS-CoV2 virus.

Some areas are doing better than others (we’re seeing both the dichotomy of wealth–where the ‘wealthier’ countries are vaccinating at a ‘higher’ rate compared to the ‘poorer’ countries, due to the ability to ‘purchase’ the vaccines; and the influence of anti-vaxxers [and I’m not going to ‘touch’ that subject right now]). I truthfully don’t think that there should be a ‘price’ tag on the vaccines–companies should be giving them (and the technology) away. Yes, it would ‘hurt’ the bottom lines for companies–but there shouldn’t be a price on human survival.

Since traveling is slowly starting up again, I’ve been thinking on all the plans I’d been slowly starting to make before the pandemic hit and forced a total change in plans.

I’d been planning on taking at least one international trip that would have been a mixture of recharging and possibly networking as I slowly tried to figure out what I wanted to do with the second half of my life. Since the pandemic started (and halted travel plans)–I’ve invested heavily in personal/professional development books and courses (and have been slowly making my way through them)–but it has eaten the money I’d ‘tentatively’ set aside for travel.

The SARS-CoV2 virus is here to stay (sorry to say), and that means that any travel plans I now make need to be both mindful and purposeful in nature–meaning I’m not just going to head off for a week (or two) vacation just because the experts say we can (if we’re careful and follow the rules).

I need to be mindful of the fact that there can (and probably will be) small ‘outbreaks’ of the virus, some areas may not want travleres showing up during certain parts of the year, and if I really want to travel (especially by plane)–I have to be willing to have a swab stuck up my nose (for COVID testing). Therefore I’m going to set some ‘criteria’ for traveling, and then really think/debate on any and all future travel plans.

My criteria for traveling will include:

Is it something to see (or possibly do) that I can’t see (or do) closer to home?

What is that something (park/zoo/landmark)?

Can I combine reasons for the trip (enjoyment/work/mental health break)?

Then the major factor/question: Can I afford the possible international health insurance (if I’m traveling abroad), and do I have enough money to also possibly afford ‘quarantine’ periods (if unable to return home quickly enough during another outbreak)? Or do I now someone in the area that I could possibly ‘bunk’ with during a ‘shutdown/quarantine’ period?

I do want to travel–but at the same time I know that my ‘new normal’ isn’t going to consist of constant travel (I do have a couple of pets to consider), but if I plan accordingly, I should be able to do a non-local trip every couple of years once things are better under control (more countries being able to vaccinate their citizens), and I feel safe leaving the house again.

While I have a nice ‘bucket’ list of places I’d still like to visit–if you’ve been to a zoo or an aquarium, where is you favorite?

No Comments Day TripsHistorical SitesNational ParksNature PreservesoutdoorsPandemic2020PhotographyReflectionsState ParkstravelZoos/Aquariums

Photography Challenge Day 153: Cooler areas for a hot summer day

So today’s photographs are yet more throwback/flashback winners. I decided that since we’re in the middle of the ”dog days of summer” with triple digit heat with even higher heat indexes I wanted to share some photographs that reminded me of cooler temperatures.

So when thinking of cooler temperatures, what automatically comes to mind? Swimming, being out on the water, but also being underground in caves.

One of the formations in the main cavern at Carlsbad Caverns National Park

We went to Carlsbad Caverns last year as part of a quick whirlwind trip through New Mexico. While it was my first time there, I enjoyed it and would love to go back and explore more. There is a lot to see within the main cavern, and I would actually like to go on one of the guided tours within other caves that have entrances via the main cavern. The only reason why I didn’t do one to begin with–I didn’t know that it was going to be a five hour round trip tour.

Besides the caverns, there are numerous hiking trails that one can go on as well. I also enjoy hiking, but wasn’t dressed for it and again we hadn’t planned on doing any-though I’d like to hike a little bit of a trail just to see what type of wild flowers or animals are around. I know there are rattlesnakes, we’ve heard them–luckily we didn’t see them on the trip.

My other favorite place to escape the heat is going to a lake, and not just any lake. I prefer sandy bottom lakes, that you can actually see where you’re walking and if it’s a little rocky that’s fine–they’re at least smooth rocks that you’re walking on. So one destination that I have enjoyed going to over the years has been Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota. This is a large fresh body lake that has actually become one of Minnesota’s latest state parks.

Sunset over Frazer Bay, Lake Vermilion St. Louis County Minnesota

Swimming, kayaking, bird watching, star gazing, and watching the sunsets are things that I have always enjoyed doing when going to Lake Vermilion. I remember kayaking out to an island and watching the bald eagles feed their young. This was the first place where I actually saw a bald eagle in the wild, and we use to see them sit atop of the large pine trees gazing out over the water before launching out to hunt for a meal (either for themselves or their young).

Going to the ocean is another way of getting away from the heat–though you do need to stay in the water, or have a really nice large beach umbrella to stay out of the sun. While I’ve been to the ocean several times (both Atlantic and Pacific, and the Gulf of Mexico as well)–I’ve only managed to capture a sunset picture from the Gulf of Mexico, when we went down to South Padre Island years ago.

Sunset over the bay, South Padre Island Texas

What I liked about this sunset picture was actually managing to capture the heron hunting as well. There weren’t any clouds in the sky that day, so there wasn’t any pinks and reds streaking across the sky that I would see when looking at a sunset over Lake Vermilion. It was different, but just as beautiful. Now that I’ve gone back through photographs of different locations–I would like to try to capture more sunsets over water (be it lakes, rivers, or oceans). It’s a nice way of saying it’s been a beautiful day, and tomorrow will be just as nice.

That will be a goal for my travels in 2020–capture at least one sunset picture from one new location. If I travel back to areas I’ve been before (say Boston), then try to go on a harbor cruise and get a picture of the sun setting over the harbor (I do have one of it setting over the river). Also I should try to get at least one new sunrise picture as well in my 2020 travels.

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Photography Challenge day 116: Throwback Thursday edition

Today’s photographs are all throwback photographs to different trips that I’ve taken over the years. One thing I’ve realized is that I do love to travel, both by myself and with others–it all depends on where I’m going.

The main cavern at Carlsbad Caverns

In terms of going to different national parks and doing things like camping and hiking–I think I’d like to be with at least one other person. That way if something goes wrong–there is someone else there to help.

There are several national parks that I would love to visit and hike in–but am realistic enough to know that I need to be in better physical (and mental) shape to handle the hikes and changes in elevation.

Sunset over Boston, looking out from the Skywalk Observatory

Visiting a new city, this is something that I can go either way–on my own or with friends. Sometimes it’s better with people I know, and other times if there isn’t anyone I know–I’m trying to get slightly outside my comfort zone.

The trip to Boston was actually to visit with friends from grad school. So it was fun to catch up, and see a city I enjoy being in. Boston is one city that I think I could probably spend a better part of several years exploring with a camera and still get a different shot every day.

There are several cities that I would like to visit (either for art galleries, zoos, or something else that I’ve found interesting within them), but haven’t decided on when I would go–but I’m realizing that time slips away faster than we think as we get older. I’ve also come to realization about a few other things (but they don’t fit with the current topic).

Next week I’ll share some more throwback photographs from other trips.

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Photography Challenge day 109: Throwback Thursday duel edition.

So today’s photograph winners are from two previous trips I’ve taken (one with family) and one on my own. Both are reminders that, we should be taking time off to explore new places and/or just be outdoors. There was no mini-vacation last month, but I’m thinking that I should start trying to narrow down ideas of places I’d like to go and explore.

Inside the Grand (or great) Cavern at Carlsbad Caverns

Last year was my first time going to Carlsbad Caverns, and exploring the large cavern. I took massive amounts of pictures, but still feel like there were other angles to explore in terms of photography.

I’d also like to go back and go on a guided tour into the other caverns that are behind (or below) the main cavern. I’d also like to hike one or two of the trails, but making sure that I avoid the rattlers at all costs (I now know that a rattlesnake rattling it’s tail sound like a bunch of angry cicadas).

There are several other national parks that I’d like to go and visit, so I will have to figure out who to go with (hiking in theory really shouldn’t be done alone).

Sunny October day at Stonehenge

The second throwback photograph goes to Stonehenge. I hadn’t realized that it has been it has been over a year and a half since I went to England for a combination networking/mental health break. One of the sites that I wanted to see was Stonehenge.

While it doesn’t look like much (as you can’t get that close to the rocks), you can’t help but be impressed at how people managed to 1) move these large rocks to basically the middle of nowhere, and then 2) stand them up, and even get larger ones on top of those.

I’m wanting to do another international trip, and am debating between which continent/countries to visit. It is one of the things I’ve put on my 1001 day goal–visit at least 3 new countries (so maybe there is a way for me to make it a multi-country trip), and I’m hoping to do at least 1 new country during my reboot break.

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Playing catch-up on the photography challenge. Days 80 to 83.

Well today’s post is actually going to be several posts combined into one to play catch-up on the photography challenge. Since the weather has been rainy, cloudy, and then slightly sunny—our internet/wifi has been the same—down, down, up, down, down, oh you can have access for about three minutes and then down again over the past few days.


This unfortunately is why I didn’t get pictures posted after Tuesday (yes, I could have tried to find the time at work to post—but I didn’t feel comfortable doing that) night. Therefore today’s post is going to be a mix of different things. So let’s get started on the photography challenge catch-up.

The winner for day 80 (Wednesday) is the hummingbird at the back feeder. We usually try to get our hummingbird feeder out in mid-April to feed the hummingbirds as they migrate through—though the ruby-throated hummingbird does summer in Oklahoma. It looks like either it’s a female ruby-throated hummingbird at the feeder, or a young male that hasn’t molted into the bright red throat.

Ruby-throated hummingbird has made an appearance in the backyard.

What are some cool facts about the ruby-throated hummingbird?

This is basically the only hummingbird that is seen in the eastern United States; as it is the only breeding hummingbird east of the Great Plains.

It can beat its wings approximately 53 times a second (that means its beating its wings almost 3200 times a minute).

Due to having extremely short legs, it shuffles along its perch (it doesn’t walk or hop). But it can still scratch its head & neck if needed.

It’s either a female or a very young male–I don’t see the red throat.

It belongs to the order Apodiformes (along with swifts), and the name means “without feet”—mainly because in flight it doesn’t look to have feet.

While they mainly feed at flowers (or feeders that have sugar water), they will occasionally eat small insects as well.

Depending on the number of broods, the female may start building a new nest while still feeding the nestlings in the first nest (as the nest will stretch as the young grow).

They can migrate a long distance (for example from Canada down to Costa Rica), and often fly over the Gulf of Mexico during migration (either way).

It seems to be thirsty today.

As much as I’d love to get a picture of one trying to shuffle along a branch–they usually perch extremely high (sometimes I can get a picture of it sitting on the power lines), but I doubt I’d be able to catch it close to its nest where it’d most likely be shuffling along a branch.

References:

https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Ruby-throated_Hummingbird/overview

https://www.audubon.org/field-guide/bird/ruby-throated-hummingbird

The winners for day 81 (Thursday) are the squirrels hanging from the birdfeeders in the backyard.

Someone doesn’t want to hunt for seeds…

So we had to buy a new birdfeeder after the squirrels had chewed a hole in the lid of the one I’d bought a few years earlier from the national wildlife foundation. This is a birdfeeder we have hanging in front of the window in the living room, where the cats can lay on the back of the loveseat and watch the birds, and anyone sitting in the recliner across the room can also watch the birds.

Since we live next to a small creek, and not that far from some wooded areas, we have quite a few squirrels in the neighborhood. These little critters also like to help themselves to the birdseed and bird suets in the backyard, so we try to get the birdfeeders that claim to be “squirrel proof”.

They’re doing an upside down “hug” to stay on the feeder.

Well as you can tell from the picture—the squirrels have figured out how to get around the “squirrel proof” byline and get to the birdseed. This particular feeder is suppose to be weight sensitive—to where if something heavy is on it, the bars slide down and the animal can’t get to the bird seed.

A young raccoon had broken the lid earlier this spring—I’d found the feeder on the ground and the lid pulled off, and since then the squirrels have figured out that if they “hug” the feeder they can distribute their weight and still get to the bird seed.

So yesterday would have been day 82 of the photography challenge. This is the day that I usually try to also share some of the fish pictures I’ve taken over the years–making it a FishyFriday post as well. So in addition to that–it’s also a FlashbackFriday post to one of my trips to the New England Aquarium.

I’ve realized that one thing I should start doing when I go to aquariums/zoos/museums and am taking pictures—I should also try to get pictures of the plaques that state what animals are in the exhibit (or time period if I’m in a museum).  It is quite difficult to google “black and white stripped fish new England aquarium” and actually get a good hit on what that particular fish actually is.

Thankfully, I have managed to identify all three of the fish (though it took quite a bit of time to be able to do so).

A French grunt swimming in the large ocean tank at the New England Aquarium

The yellow-striped fish is actually a French grunt fish (Haemulon flavolineatum). This fish species is actually native to western Atlantic ocean and can be found basically from South Carolina down into the Gulf of Mexico & Caribbean and then downwards towards northern coast of Brazil.

They feed primarily on small crustaceans and mollusks that they hunt for during the night. They stay in close proximity to coral reefs (probably to be able to dart to safety to escape predators) while hunting.

Their name comes from the noise they make when they grind their teeth together.

References: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haemulon_flavolineatum; https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/discover-fish/species-profiles/haemulon-flavolineatum/

A fish that is known by many names: pufferfish, balloonfish, and blowfish

The second fish is the balloonfish. This fish is also known as the pufferfish, blowfish, and bubblefish (just to name a few of the other names).

The habitat of the balloonfish, are the warm shallow coastal waters; more specifically coral reefs, mangrove forests, and seagrass beds. They stay hidden for the most part during the day—though I’m sure they’ve given plenty of scuba divers and snorkelers a shock if they’re accidentally awoken in their hidey-holes.

They are nocturnal feeders, going after clams, snails, hermit crabs, sea urchins, and other mollusks that dwell on the sea floor.

If something comes upon them (and they think they could be eaten), balloonfish will puff up to almost three times their normal size; this puffing also allows for special scales to stick out, and they then look like a spiked football, which most predators will then leave alone. The bubblefish will then float away, and may wait awhile before releasing the air (or water) to shrink back down to its normal size.

References: https://www.scienceandthesea.org/program/201008/balloon-fish

Honeycomb cowfish swimming in the tank at the aquarium.

The final fish is the honeycomb cowfish. This fish gets its name from the hexagonal scales that cover most of its body.  This is one of the ways that the fish is able to blend in with the coral reefs it calls home, though they are also found in seagrass beds as well.

This fish is found in the western Atlantic (east coast of the United States), the Caribbean, and then down towards Brazil. While it isn’t found in the Gulf of Mexico, it can be found around Florida (mainly on the Atlantic side and the Keys).

They feed on shrimp, algae, and sponges during the day.  Another way that they protect themselves from predators (aside from the hexagonal scale like armor) is the ability to change their color to blend in with their surrounds as well. Once they sense a threat—they can change their colors, and then remain stationary for quite some time.

Reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honeycomb_cowfish

Now we’re finally up to today’s photography challenge winner, and it’s one of the hundred or so I took last year on our small vacation down to New Mexico. One of the places that we went to was Carlsbad Cavern National Park.

One of the many formations one can see in the grand cavern at Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

. While we only spent a short time in the caves, I managed to get over a hundred pictures of the caves. Because no matter which way you turned, there was a new angle to take a picture, different lighting, and so forth.

This is one of my favorite pictures of the caves, showing the “draperies” of the caves. As one of the signs stated: “Draperies form where water containing dissolved limestone runs down the ceiling leaving traces of calcite. Over hundreds of years, calcite crystals accumulate. When water stops flowing, draperies stop growing.”

The proper name for the draperies is actually “speleothems”. Since we only spent time in a small part of the national park (the main caves and then a small drive through one of the canyons), I’d like to go back at some point—but maybe actually signup for a tour of the inner caves—which is basically a five hour round trip in and out (which is one of the reasons why I didn’t do it last time). I know that I need to be in a little bit better physical (and possibly even mental) state than what I currently am in.

So I’ve managed to catch up on the photography challenge, and hopefully the wifi connection will behave and I won’t have to many other multiple post days. Though while in a slight enforced ban on electronics–I was able to get some other things done (there will be several posts coming over the next few weeks on this)–so that was one small bright spot. Until the next picture–remember to try to find the beauty in the everyday.

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