Thursday, May 31, 2012

Branson 3rd Edition

May 16th, 2012

While in the Branson area I visited the College of the Ozarks. This is a four year fully-accredited college. The school was established for students of both sexes who are academically capable but financially unable to enter a public or private college. Each full-time student works at one of 80 campus jobs. The remaining portion of the student’s expenses are made up of scholarships provided by gifts and contributions by donors. The college has a beautiful lodge were some of the students work. Hotel management is one of the areas of study. Other students work at the grist mill that sells fresh ground cornmeal and whole ground grain to the public. There are agricultural jobs and jobs selling fresh canned jams and jellies to the public. During harvest times students sell fresh vegetables. No graduating student leaves the college owing any money to the school.
And for you birders it’s a great place to bird watch. The campus has several water features.
Here are a few photos from around the campus.

Keeter Center and Mabee Lodge - College of the Ozarks

Keeter Center and Mabee Lodge at the College of the Ozarks

Water Wheel at the Edwards Grist Mill at College of the Ozarks

Edwards Grist Mill - College of the Ozarks
Flower Garden - College of the Ozarks
Williams Memorial Chapel - College of the Ozarks
School Truck at the Tractor Museum - College of the Ozarks

John Deere Tractor in the Tractor Museum - College of the Ozarks

Branson 2nd Edition

May 15th, 2012

One of the things I enjoyed while in Branson was a trip to the Butterfly Palace. This is an environmentally controlled building with butterflies, plants, birds, and reptiles from around the world. Here are a few examples.

Butterfly 1

Butterfly 2

Butterfly 3

Butterfly 4

Green basilisk lizards can avoid danger by darting across water. They have specially designed feet and a unique running style that keeps them from sinking.

Bell's Forest Dragon from Southern Thailand

Honey Creeper Male from the Amazon

Honey Creeper Female from the Amazon

Tropical Flower 1

Tropical Flower 2

Branson 1st Edition

May 10th , 2012

I pulled into Branson MO on the 10th of May. I realize Branson is known for its’ entertainment but I was more interested in the natural resources and history of the area. I visited the new visitor center at Table Rock Lake. This is a must see for anyone visiting the area. It’s three stories tall and one side of the building is all glass. It is a certified green building. The views of the lake and damn from all three floors are wonderful. There are also educational displays inside the building that teach about the natural history and cultural history of the Ozarks. The gift shop is well stocked with books about the plants and animals of the Ozarks and the people who have called the Ozarks home. I visited some of the camping areas in several of the state and Army Corp of Engineers parks in the area. They were all very well maintained and included some sites with full hookups. Some of the sites may be reserved through

I took several back road trips during my stay and enjoyed the familiar sweet smells of the MO woods. The woods were full of migrating birds and the usual mix of year round tweeters. The trees were so full of foliage I heard many more birds than I saw. I took a duck tour that included a ride on Table Rock Lake in our amphibious vehicle. We shared the lake with the Showboat Branson Bell. What a beautiful site to see a magnificent old paddle wheel showboat out on the lake.
I did attend two entertainment venues while in Branson. I had a wonderful BBQ chicken and brisket dinner at the Sons of the Pioneers show. Yes that is the group that Roy Rogers sang with and they sang all the old songs. I also attended the “Shepherd of the Hills play”. The play is based on the best selling novel The Shepherd of the Hills, Harold Bell Wright's epic story of love, loss, power, hardship, and the true meaning of life. He wrote the book in 1907. This book put the Branson area on the map as many people who read it wanted to travel to the area where the characters in the book lived. The play is performed in an outdoor arena and includes livestock and horse drawn buggies. Horses are ridden at full gallop across the stage. It’s a very moving story and a must see for anyone visiting the area. Here are a few images from my time in the Branson MO area.

Visitor Center at Table Rock Lake Branson MO

Table Rock Lake Branson MO

Table Rock Lake Branson MO

Showboat Branson Bell on Table Rock Lake

Down River from the Table Rock Lake Damn

Old Matt's Cabin - Featured in the book The Shepherd of the Hills by Harold Bell Wright - Branson MO

Stage where The Shepherd of the Hills play is performed - Branson MO

Sons of the Pioneers - Branson MO

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Potato Couple

So I was leaving TX on my way to MO via AR. I was taking secondary roads and was just about to enter Kountze TX when I spotted this couple on the side of the road holding a sign that read "FRESH POTATOES". They were soooooo very cute I did a U-turn with trailer in tow right in the middle of the road and parked on the shoulder. They looked at me like I was crazy. I looked at the little red potatoes they were selling and ask how much. They said 30 cents a pound unless I wanted a bushel. Then it was less. I bought 2 pounds for 60 cents. They should be great for breakfast sliced up and fried with a big ole cut up Bermuda or Vidalia onion.
Yum can't wait.
I ask them if they knew what facebook was. They didn't. I ask if they were familiar with the Internet. They had heard of it.  I ask if I could take their photo and put it on facebook and the Internet. They thought that would be OK. So here is my cute little potato couple.

Potato Couple in TX

Monday, May 7, 2012

Rookery on High Island TX

Before I left the Bolivar Peninsula I took a trip to the Rookery at High Island. This Rookery is located on a small island in a lake at one of bird sanctuaries in High Island. It's a perfect place for the birds to nest away from their natural predators. Because Hurricane Ike destroyed so many of the trees that the birds use for nesting the caretakers of the sanctuary have supplemented the remaining trees with wooden structures and platforms for the birds to build their nests on. I had such a good time watching the egrets with their young and how the young would interact with the parents and each other. They would really do bodily damage to one another while competing for the food their parent would provide. It was hard to watch at times.
The Spoonbills were late arriving this year so they are just now building nests and laying eggs. I only found one Tricolored Heron nest with an egg - one big blue egg. There is no way these photos can convey the experience of the sights and sounds of a large egret/heron rookery. If you ever get a chance to visit a rookery I suggest you give yourself a lot of time to just sit a take it all in.

Momma Great Egret with chicks

The Spoonbill is thinking "do I really want to hatch these eggs'? I hope my children are better behaved.

It's a nesting condo

Tricolored Heron with big blue egg

Snowy egrets. The male is still bringing nesting material.

Roseate Spoonbill building a nest

Great Egret with pretty blue eggs

It's not easy sitting on a bed of sticks all day

Cattle Egret in Breeding Plumage

Roseate Spoonbill in Breeding Plumage

Other Birds at Sabine Woods TX

As I promised here are some of the other birds I found a the TOS sanctuary called Sabine Woods.

Painted Bunting

Yellow-billed Cuckoo
Northern Waterthrush

Eatern Kingbird

Scarlet Tanager

Orchard Oriole

Friday, May 4, 2012

Photo Challenge

Sometimes I like to give myself challenges just to try and keep my photography skills fresh. Although the smaller birds rarely sit still long enough to catch a clear shot they do have moments of hesitation.
It's one thing to catch a little bird sitting on a perch, but quite another to catch birds in flight or exhibiting some interesting behavior.
So while I was sitting in my truck at the beach I thought I would try to catch some of those special moments.

Dancing Willet

Least Tern in flight

Sandwich Tern in flight
Wilson's Plover with shrimp

Royal Tern in flight

Caspian Tern in flight