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Birds

Auckland Aquatics and Friends

Auckland

Auckland

Back to the city, we traveled with new adventures in mind.  The skyline of Auckland is dominated by the Sky Tower.  At 328 meters tall, (~1,000 ft), it is the tallest building in the Southern Hemisphere with its impressive spire!  Visitors can ride to the top in the glass-fronted lifts to one of the three spectacular viewing platforms, or for more thrills and excitement, SkyWalk round the pergola, or even SkyJump off the Tower!  Now, there’s a thrilling ride!  You also can relax with a coffee or light refreshments at Sky Lounge or dine at Orbit – Auckland’s only 360-degree revolving restaurant.  But, my new day hosts, Alison Laurence and Hazel Foote, had lowlier destinations in mind!

Gentoo Swim

Gentoo Swim

Knowing about my passion for all things feathered, we headed down to Kelly Tarlton’s SEA LIFE Aquarium.  Built from the abandoned former sewage tunnels, it opened in 1985.  The original Underwater World was the vision of Kelly Tarlton – an extraordinary Kiwi adventurer, diver, explorer and inventor, who wanted to share his love of the ocean with others.

The attraction is made up of different zones, such as the Antarctic Ice Encounter, which is home to New Zealand’s largest sub-Antarctic penguin colony, offering a rare opportunity to see the magnificent birds up close in their icy domain. With the new walking paths, visitors can spend as long as they like watching the 80-strong colony of King and Gentoo penguins and their playful antics on the snow and their elegant flight underwater.

Gentoo Penguin

Gentoo Penguin

Kelly Tarlton’s has undergone major renovations since my last visit there 19 months ago.  Gone is the mock Antarctic vehicle that used to transport visitors through the tunnels.  In its place are spacious walking tracks with large windows, perfect for viewing the penguin colony above and below ground.  We got great looks at the Gentoo Penguins both above and below the surface.

King Penguins

King Penguins

The larger King Penguins tended to stay aloof from the boisterous Gentoos.  We were there for feeding time, which was a real treat.  The second largest penguin, smaller only than the Emperor Penguin, no other bird has a longer breeding cycle. They take 14 to 16 months to fledge a single chick. During the winter, chicks may be left to fast for from one to five months (May to September/October). Adults can rear a maximum of only two chicks every three years.

King and Gentoo Penguins

King and Gentoo Penguins

We were there for feeding time at 11 a.m. which was an extra thrill.  One of the King Penguins is quite elderly and arthritic and spends much of the day on a heated area to help with this arthritic feet.  He moves slowly but with determination.  During feeding this charmer vocalized for his caretaker with whom he has bonded.  Such a treat!

In addition to the penguins, SEA LIFE has an extensive museum with artifacts, photos and a walk-through replica of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s Antarctic hut (established back in 1911), complete with authentic memorabilia offers a glimpse at what it was like to live 100 years ago in the coldest place on Earth.

Lion Fish

Lionfish

Of course, the aquarium hosts many forms of sea life in a huge array of tanks.  However, it’s really hard to get a decent photo of any thing that is swimming in a tank of water, so this lionfish was the best I could do! In addition to being a major tourist attraction, SEA LIFE has established the SEA LIFE Conservation Fund (SLCF), an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to conserving and protecting New Zealand’s unique aquatic habitats and the incredible animals that live in them.  SLCF is dedicated to conserving the marine environment by funding and carrying out research and educational projects that will help protect threatened species and habitats, and teach us more about the relatively little-known marine world.

Jaws!

Jaws!

And then there were the BIG FISH I was happy that I didn’t meet!  Or should that be meat?

 

 

 

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Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

Bosque Surveys

Bosque Surveys

Back at home in Albuquerque, I immediately morphed back into my bird girl persona, up at 4:30 or 5:00 each morning in order to count birds in the bosque (the riparian forest along the river).  Most of the songbirds are heard rather than seen, so photos are slim pickins!  But, some of my favorites are larger and more photogenic, like

Great Horned Owl

Great Horned Owl

this Great Horned Owl trying desperately to hide among the dense vegetation.  I would have never seen him/her except for the raucous calls and keks of the local Cooper’s Hawk who had discovered and was loudly objecting to his presence.

Cooper's Hawk nestling

Cooper’s Hawk nestling

But, Mama Cooper’s Hawk was merely trying to protect her three babes from a potential predator.  Being along the river at dawn is an amazing experience.  There are NO other people around, just me and nature.  It feeds my soul.  And, I see some extraordinary sights.  One day as I was trying unsuccessfully to photograph a Turkey Vulture, I nearly missed seeing this little fellow about 10 feet away and right at eye level.

Porcupine

Porcupine

I am a lucky woman.

Along the Rio Grande

Along the Rio Grande

 

 

 

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Onward to Halibut Cove

Michele Hymel

Michele Hymel

My friend, Michele, who accompanied me on this trip, was sure excited about the boat trip that would take us to Halibut Cove!   In the end, we took the skiff, not the ferry because the smaller boat could get closer to the famed Gull Island!  It is a protected island where human entry is not allowed, a place for birds.

Gull Rock

Gull Island

We were not disappointed either.  There were birds everywhere nesting in incredibly tight quarters.   A few skirmishes were bound to occur and we witnessed some too.  Most memorable were the two kittiwakes that seemed intent on drowning one another and oblivious to our presence.

Common Murres

Common Murres

Most numerous were the Common Murres, packed together and surrounded by Black-legged Kittiwakes.  We had heard tales of Puffins, but only got a few glimpses of them on the very top of the rock.

Tufted Puffin

Tufted Puffin

Finally, two Tufted Puffins floated nearby and, with the smaller boat, we were able to get this one image!  Cute little devils, aren’t they!

Coming in to Halibut  Cove

Coming in to Halibut Cove

It wasn’t but about 45 minutes and we were already pulling into Halibut Cove.  We were told that this used to be a ‘perfect’ arch, but part of it collapsed recently.  I wonder how long it will be until the land bridge disappears altogether.  It was so beautiful, and exciting to think that we would spend the next several days in an area with no cars and no roads.

Halibut Cove

Halibut Cove

Idyllic might be an apt description of this lovely community that has about 40 permanent residents.  The tides in Katchemak Bay and Halibut Cove can range up to 20 feet, hence the excessively long boat ramps.  We dined at the Saltry, the only cafe in the community, accessible only via the local ferry, the Danny J.  There, we were entertained by the antics of a cheeky Northwestern Crow who had clearly figured out how to get many free meals!  Halibut Cove hosts several art galleries, all connected by a raised boardwalk.   One cannot help but relax in this pastoral environment.  Later, we stopped at the coffee shop, where even the local beagle found a relaxing spot on the sofa.

Chubby Beagle

Chubby Beagle

She did seem to have claimed this as her very own.  We did not challenge her!

Float Plane Lands at Halibut Cove

Float Plane Lands at Halibut Cove

After coffee and art, we adjourned to the boat dock to wait for the skiff.   The only other way to get to Halibut Cove is by float plane, like the one we watched landing on the waters of Heavenly Halibut Cove.

 

 

 

 

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Coming to Alaska

Potter's Marsh

Potter’s Marsh

When Maret Anderson of Seams Like Home Quilt Shop in Anchorage first contacted me about teaching for her retreat, I was beyond excited!  We would be staying in a roadless area across the bay from Homer, called Halibut Cove.  Of course, I had never before heard of that place.   My second surprise occurred when I called Maret to confirm my flight arrangements.  I was planning to fly to Anchorage on June 5, the day before I began teaching.  Much to my surprise, Maret said, “Oh no!  You need to fly to Anchorage on June 2!” Then, she went on to explain all the birdly treats she had in store for the trip down to Halibut Cove as you will see in this series of posts.  My friend and colleague, Michele Hymel, had never been to Alaska before, so she decided to come along too.

Girls at Potters Marsh

Girl’s at Potter’s Marsh, Maret, Gail and Michele

So I packed my trusty spotting scope and tripod.  Arriving in Anchorage laaaaate evening, we went straight to bed.  Maret picked us up at 9 a.m. sharp and off we went, driving for a whole — 10 minutes!  That’s how far Potter’s Marsh is from Anchorage, one of the premier birding stops in southern Alaska.  We saw some amazing birds, like . . .

Red-necked Grebe

A nesting Red-necked Grebe, and

several nesting Mew Gulls

several nesting Mew Gulls

We probably spent a couple of hours only 10 minutes down the road.  But then, with our destination in mind – Homer – we set off down the road with plenty of leisure time for stopping, to look at birds, of course, but also Alaska specialty artists.

The Antler Shed at the Gem and Mineral shop

The Antler Shed at the Gem and Mineral shop

This particular shop took a fair amount of time as the rocks (not photographed here) were impressive as were some of the native carvings and the baleen woven baskets.  We did not dally too long and soon were back on the road.

Harlequin Duck

Harlequin Duck

Only to have me shout, “STOP!”, as we passed over a bridge.  There, right before my eyes, was the second and third Harlequin Ducks I had ever seen.  Found only in the far north, this pair was a rare discovery and a real treat.

Handed carved Wooden Urn

Handed carved Wooden Urn

Our next stop was a wood carving shop that held some unbelievable carved bowls and urns, the likes of which I had never before seen.  The shop owners quite friendly and gave us a tour of the carving workshop out back.  They even give classes in how to make these bowls.  If only the commute weren’t so long.

Moose near Ninilchik

Moose near Ninilchik

Finally, we turned south at Soldotna, meandering our way along the coastal highway and keeping a sharp eye out for wildlife.  Shortly after Maret showed us a stretch of beach, off the beaten path, that held probably 30 Bald Eagles, we were returning to the main road, when we all shouted in unison, “MOOSE!”  It was a female moose and her gangly legged baby who seemed to just be learning to use those long legs.  I couldn’t get a good photo though as Mama Moose was adept at blending  in with the shrubbery and also keeping her baby behind her.

Bald Eagle on nest

Bald Eagle on nest

In addition to the spectacular scenery, there was one final wildlife treasure to be seen.  As we rounded a corner on the highway, I looked over to see a large mass of sticks in a tree.   I hollered, “STOP” and we pulled over.  I knew it had to be the nest of a Bald Eagle, whether occupied or not.  So, I dragged out the scope, walked back along the shoulder of the highway, and set it up.  And, there she was, a huge female sitting on this year’s progeny!  This image gives you an idea of the massive structure that eagles can build, adding new sticks each year.  Some nests can be as much as 10-12 feet across and 10 feet deep.  What a wonderful way to end our first day in Alaska.

I think it only took 10 hours for us to complete the drive that normally take five!

Stay tuned for our Day 2 adventure — Homer and Surroundings!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rainbow Crow – Quilted!

Rainbow Crow 1

 

Done! Finally! Rainbow Crow tells the story of the most beautiful bird in the world with the most beautiful song. Once upon a time, the world went dark and the animals were frightened. The great gods in the sky had stolen the light from the world! The animals wondered what to do to return the light and save their world. Rainbow Crow, who was strong and brave, volunteered to fly to the gods and ask that the light be returned. — Pieced by Gail Garber and quilted by Kris Vierra.

 

Rainbow Crow 2

 

Rainbow Crow flew and flew high into the sky. His muscles were weary but he kept on flying higher. Finally, when exhaustion threatened to overcome him, he arrived at the home of the Gods. With his beautiful song, he asked them to return the light. Perhaps because the Gods so enjoyed his enchanting song, they consented. They gave Crow a burning torch to carry the light back to Earth. Rainbow Crow departed for the long flight home. As he flew, the smoke singed his beautiful feathers and made his beautiful voice harsh and raspy!
Finally, he returned the light to the Earth. All the animals and they were happy. But Crow was very sad. He cried because his once beautiful feathers were now blackened and, instead of a rapturous song, he had only a croak for a voice.

 

Rainbow Crow 3

 

And today, if you look closely at the feathers of a crow or raven in just the right light, you can see all the colors of the rainbow reflected in them. The rainbow still exists!

 

Indigo, the Hawks Aloft educational American Crow, basks in the afternoon sun.

Indigo, the Hawks Aloft educational American Crow, basks in the afternoon sun.

Crows and ravens, members of the corvid family of birds, are the most intelligent birds in the world.  I just finished reading a wonderful book, Gifts of a Crow, by John Marzluff and Tony Angell.  If you admire these birds as I do, you will find this a fascinating  read.

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A Proud Tradition!

There we were at the end of January – off to our 20th Annual Quilt Retreat weekend to stitch up the 2013 raffle quilt, our main fundraiser for Hawks Aloft, the other passion in my life.  Fourteen worker types with various degrees of sewing prowess, 24 hours, my cabin in the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico, and with unparalleled  beautiful scenery outside the windows to distract.  Think we can get it done? Every year it’s our challenge.

The sweatshop, 2013 style.

The Sweatshop

 

The Hawks Aloft quilt raffle is an annual tradition.  Each year, yours truly creates an original design for the Hawks Aloft quilt. Once the design is completed, it is cut and stitched by an all volunteer team at our annual winter retreat. The quilt is unveiled each year at the Monte Vista Crane Festival in March. The Hawks Aloft community works together and produces both an heirloom quality quilt and a successful fundraiser. The proceeds from the raffle benefit the Hawks Aloft educational birds by helping to defray food costs. The winning raffle quilt ticket will be drawn at the annual Hawks Aloft Holiday Party on December 13, 2013.

 

 

Ed Chappelle is our Master Cutter!

 

Chellye Stitches the Outer Border

 

Chellye Porter removes paper foundations from the outer border.

 

Laney was the champion lounging dog!

 

Debby Caffrey

Debbie Prescott Caffrey works on the quilt center.

 

Laurie Marnell

Laurie Marnell was a first timer at the retreat. We were thrilled to have her expert help.

 

Carolyn Sanborn, a.k.a. Sami, works on the quilt center.

 

Quilt middle almost done.

 

Sharing a laugh or two over afternoon snacks! — with Sami Sanborn, Mary Chappelle, Cynthia Figueroa-McInteer, Anita Marsh McSorley, Steve Elkins, Laurie Marnell, and Chellye Porter at the cabin in the Jemez Mountains.

 

Rhianna and Olivia and Sami

Rhianna and Olivia were the youngest participants. Sami works hard in the background.

 

Ed and Steve, the champion paper rippers!

 

Gabby held down the furniture while we worked.

 

Finished at 7 pm

 

Did I say that we finished at 7 p.m. on Saturday!  Here’s the proof! — with Sami Sanborn, Chellye Porter, Anita Marsh McSorley, Cynthia Figueroa-McInteer, Mary Chappelle and Lauri Marnell.  I’m pretty sure the clock in the background tells accurate time . . .

 

And, here’s the official photo of the top, taken by Steve Elkins! Thanks to all who participated in the 2013 Quilt Retreat. It’s our 20th raffle quilt! I was hoping to show the beautiful quilting by Kris Vierra,  of Lincoln, NE, but it is TOO windy out there today to take a photo!  Dang!  Stay tuned for the final photo and information on how to buy tickets!!

Many thanks to all who helped before, during and after the retreat:  Donna Barnitz for pre-sewing and testing the pattern pieces, and Michele Hymel for binding the quilt and attaching the sleeve, Kris Vierra for machine quilting, and Ann Silva’s Bernina Sewing Center for loaning sewing machines for the retreat.   Retreat Participants were Ruth Burstrom, Debbie Caffrey, Ed Chappelle, Mary Chappelle, Steve Elkins, Laurie Marnell, Cynthia Figueroa-McInteer, Anita McSorley, Liz Roberts, Chellye Porter, Rhianna Roberts, Sam Sanborn,and Olivia Velasquez,

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The Full Circle.

Save Our Eagles © 1991 by Gail Garber and friends. Image by Mary Elkins.

Have you ever had one of those experiences that completely changes the direction of your life?  “Save Our Eagles” did just that for me.  Back in 1989, my friends and I offered to make a fund-raising raffle quilt for a local conservation organization.  Other than a love of the outdoors, I was not particularly interested in birds of any kind and had only a passing knowledge of raptors.  But, as we hand-stitched our quilt (like many quilts of that era), I met and fell in love with the group’s first educational raptor, a Red-tailed Hawk, named Red.  It had never occurred to me that being that close to a once wild bird was possible.  More than anything, I wanted to work with her.

Big Red (1989 – 2006). Image by Jerry Hobart.

So, I became a volunteer and eventually became an employee of the organization.  Big Red came to live in a large flight cage that we built for her behind my house.  Each day that she was part of my life was a blessing.  In 1994, we started Hawks Aloft, the non-profit that I continue to direct to this day.  We have a cadre of about 26 non-releasable educational raptors that we use to spread our conservation message.  The presence of the hawk, owl or falcon never fails to entrance children and adults alike.  I know, from personal experience, that a close up encounter with one of these magnificent creatures can change lives.

Hawks Aloft 2012 Raffle Quilt

Because I had been a quilter long before I started Hawks Aloft, we immediately set about making an annual raffle quilt to help raise funds.  Above is our 2012 quilt, stitched by 15 volunteers in one weekend at the cabin!  It was a blast and men, women and children help in its creation each year.  The winning raffle ticket will be drawn on December 1, 2012 at our annual holiday party!  If you would like to purchase a ticket, they are $1 each or 6 for $5.  You can purchase them on the Hawks Aloft website.  Just click on the icon for either single or multiple tickets.

Another occurrence in 2012 affected the lives of not only myself, but also many of my friends.   My friend and colleague in Gail Garber – the company, Michele Hymel, was diagnosed with lung cancer.  It was a huge surprise to all since Michele had never smoked and had always been physically active and fit.  As she was going through chemotherapy, we did what quilters do — we made a friendship quilt for her.  We put the word out and began collecting blocks.   Several of Michele’s friends from her work at the local utility company, PNM, contributed blocks.  We presented the quilt just as she was beginning the treatments.

Michele’s Friendship Quilt – 2012

And then, a funny thing happened.  A coworker of Michele’s contacted Ed Chappelle, who helped to organize the collection of blocks, to say that she had won a quilt a LONG time ago and wanted to donate it to Hawks Aloft for a fundraiser.  The quilt had a pair of eagles and a chick.   As I read his e-mail message, tears ran down my face, for I realized that it might very well be that very first quilt, the one that led me down this avenue of life.  Indeed, it WAS the quilt, the one that started it all, without which there might never have been a Hawks Aloft.

It is now part of my personal quilt collection and Hawks Aloft is $1,000 richer.  These funds will be used for well-deserved staff bonuses at year’s end, as approved by the Board of Directors.  Many thanks to Carol Palmer for this incredible donation!  And, to Ed Chappelle for making the right connections at the right time!  And, to all of you who have worked on the raffle quilts over our 18 year history.  It’s a small world, after all.

 

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PUPS – Picking Up the Pieces Quilt Guild Retreat

The Little Owl that Welcomes Visitors

This little owl welcomed visitors to the retreat center where Picking Up the Pieces (PUPS) quilt guild held their 2012 annual retreat.  I was fortunate to be one of the teachers.  In the quiet woods of Tennessee, not far from Memphis, about 45 of us gathered for a fun weekend of sewing and learning.

Color and Contrast in Quilting

I taught the half day class, Color and Contrast in Quilting, the afternoon I arrived.  This class stretches students through a series of exercises.  Above are images from the first class exercise.  The difference in the designs over the course of 3 hours is dramatic.

Hard-working students

In this class, everything is provided in the kit, including the little scissors, so students can just show up with no supplies.

Concentration

Students concentrate as each exercise builds on the last.  In the end, the final designs are really interesting!  Below are some of the final designs.

Beach Scene

This was a really creative design!

Flower and Flying Geese with a swirl

One of the great things about this class is that students never leave with a UFO!  And, hopefully, they view creativity a little differently after they  leave class.

I also taught the Goose is Loose class the following day, but I didn’t get and photos on that day!

 

 

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