Raptor Day

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Last night was another cold night. The weather all over the country is truly bizarre. We do hope and pray that you are all staying warm and safe. Please, please remember to check on family, friends and the elderly. We are leaving tomorrow and will drive to Live Oak, Florida. It’s been snowing there and predicted to be 25 degrees there tomorrow night. I-10 was closed due to snow IN LIVE OAK, FLORIDA yesterday but has reopened so we aren’t expecting any problems. We are so looking forward to much better weather in Enterprise. 50 degrees will seem balmy.

We started the day going to the morning session at the Nature Center again. Today was a session on raptors, specifically the red tailed hawk. Since we have a red tail that stays around our house we enjoyed learning more about him. It was another great session.

Cutting floor protectorsWe then returned to FRED to do a little work. We bought some vinyl carpet protector material to make floor protectors to go under the slide rollers. We cut that to size today and will try it out tomorrow to see how it works.

After finishing that project we headed back out to try to get some good photos of the eagles. When we arrived the female was on the nest again. We got a few head shots, changed positions and took a few more. After watching about 20-30 minutes she stood up stretched her wings and stood on the edge of the nest. Then she sat right back down on her eggs. Less than ten minutes later she again stood on the edge of the nest and this time spread her wings and made a quick circle around the nest, landed and was back on the eggs. As she was flying we could hear her calling. We decided that it was past time for Dad to be there to relieve her so she could go get some food. But he was no where to be seen. A few minutes later she again left the nest making an even larger circle and more calling. This behavior surprised us because naturalist Kelly had told us that she never leaves the nest until Dad was there to keep them warm. We think he was in trouble. She again returned to the nest. Just a few minutes later we heard and then saw the male eagle coming toward us. He landed in a nearby tall pine tree. Mom took flight and landed beside him on the limb. They talked to each other a little and then Dad flew to the nest and settled in for his time on the nest. Mom then flew off toward Lake Shelby to find a good meal. Such a treat to get to observe these two eagles. Thank you God for blessing us with opportunity to watch your creation.  (Just a reminder, click on any picture to enlarge the view.)

Next we went to the Gulf State Park Pier. Its the longest pier on the Gulf. Since the weather has been so cold we hadn’t even been to the beach and Anne just couldn’t leave tomorrow without a little visit. We decided to just take a walk out on the pier. However, surprisingly it was closed. It never closes. We walked on out to the water. So pretty and clear. Sand so beautifully white. We have visited beaches all over the world and none are any prettier than the Gulf beaches. Later we saw on Facebook that the pier had to be closed due to the cold. We suspect they had some frozen pipes.

We returned home to have a nice dinner and relax before our travel day tomorrow. We had an unexpected treat. A lady knocked on our door and it was a fellow NOMADS. She saw our magnetic signs and stopped. She and her husband aren’t working projects right now due to some health problems but hope to be back on projects again this summer. Such an unexpected treat !

Another cold, but wonderful day.

All About Gators

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Wow. We stayed above freezing last night. The first night in forever, it seems. Time to celebrate! This has been such an abnormally long cold spell. The sun came out after lunch but with the wind, the 43 degrees still didn’t feel very warm. We thought tonight was going to be okay too, but they revised forecast and are now predicting 26 again tonight. Doesn’t make us happy.

Alligator presentation at the Nature CenterThis morning we went to the Nature Center for a presentation on alligators. It was very well done. They have two little alligators, about 12 inches long, that they used for presentations. They came from Alligator Alley, a nature preserve in Gulf Shores and are on loan for educational purposes. We learned that the gators have 80 teeth when they are born – 40 uppers and 40 lowers. These gators, still being only 4 months old, have tiny needle like teeth. While they may not be able to do the damage of the larger gators, we were told that a bite even at this young age is very painful and once they bite they will not let go. You have to get something like a pencil the pry the jaws open. The presenter held the little one but let us touch them, feel the tail and the back. When these little guys are about one year old they have to go back to the preserve because they become too dangerous to keep at the Center. Mama gators lay lots of eggs each year but probably only one baby will live to reach sexual maturity at 6 years old. They stay with mama until age three. So Mama will have babies, one, and two year olds all at the same time and then kick the three year olds that have survived, out, to go find their own territory. Of course, right now due to the cold weather, there are no gators out in the open in the bogs and canals. They don’t hibernate, but sort of burrow up in the mud to stay warm. We have fairly often seen gators in bogs/marshy areas when we have been here in warm weather. We also got to see the barred owl, hawk and great horned owl again while at the nature center.

Original Oyster HouseLater in the day we went back to the outlets for a little more shopping. We did find a few items we decided to bring home. Then we stopped at the Original Oyster House for dinner. We always enjoy eating there, looking out over the water, and have never been served a bad meal.

Late this afternoon, Kelly, the park naturalist who led our First Day Hike, stopped by for a visit. We invited her to come see some of our photos of eagles from Alaska. We really enjoyed her visit. Nice lady. She and her husband, who we also met Monday, do a lot of wild life photography. They hope to go to Alaska some day, after the kids are grown. Of course we would love to go back some day. Come back tomorrow to see what we did. We don’t know what it will be. We are flexible.

Winter Volleyball
We saw volleyball (weather permitting) on the activities schedule today, but didn’t think anyone would be out there in 35 degree weather.

Cold Tuesday

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Screenshot_2018-01-02-07-26-39It was a really cold morning. The official low was 19 in Gulf Shores. Our thermometer didn’t go below 23, but that was cold enough. We have been pleasantly surprised at how comfortable we have been living in FRED in these cold temperatures. FRED 2 has better insulation than FRED 1 had and the heat pumps and furnaces have worked great. We have not cleared the antifreeze from the lines yet and have just been using bottled water to flush the toilet and wash dishes etc. We have used the bath houses here at the park as well. The sun was out today but it was after lunch before we got above freezing. Our high was 40. However, they keep changing their minds on the low for the rest of the week so we will wait until tomorrow to decide about unwinterizing. We have waited this long we sure wouldn’t want to do it one day too soon.

This morning's ice sculpture
This morning’s ice sculpture

Sunset on the boardwalkWhile it was 40, we decided to do a little walking around the park. They have made a lot of improvements since were were here last in 2013. We are told most of the improvements have been funded by the BP settlement money. There are new boardwalks everywhere. They are finally rebuilding the old convention center and the bike trails have been greatly improved. None of the projects have been completed but some of the trails and boardwalks are open. Too bad it’s been too cold to ride bikes. We walked out one of the board walks for sunset this afternoon.

Jam SessionThe park has begun its winter activities this week. Tonight there was a jam session at the activities building. We decided to go check it out. We know some of our NOMADS friends would have really enjoyed playing with these guys. There were 10 musicians, most of whom appeared to know each other and had been at the park for the winter in previous years. They had 10 guitars, a mandolin, a hammer dulcimer and a bowed psaltery. The music was mostly older songs like “Cajun Moon”, “Wabash Cannonball” and “Margaritaville”. The owner of the hammer dulcimer played a beautiful rendition of “Carol of the Bells”. There was a total of about 30 people in attendance. It was fun and some of the musicians were very good. We haven’t been able to do some of the things we had hoped to do when we planned this little time at the beach before starting our winter projects, but we are having some nice time to just rest, read and relax. Flexibility has been our word for 2018 so far. We will see what tomorrow brings.

Happy New Year!

Monday, January 1, 2018

We didn’t see the new year arrive, but evidently there were some others making an early night of it too. Shortly after we were snug in our warm bed around 10:00 there was a nice little volley of fireworks over on the beach that we could easily enjoy out our bedroom window. It was enough for us.

Ice stalagmiteIt was cold this morning. Really cold for Gulf Shores. The rangers here at the state park had asked everyone to please disconnect from the water system and leave the water dripping last night. Not a problem. We weren’t planning to leave our hose out in 26 degree weather. It was really surprising to us the number of people who seemed totally surprised to learn the weather was going to get really cold. Evidently some didn’t believe it because there were a number of broken pipes today. We felt sorry for the guys having to be out in the cold repairing them. We had this cool looking stalagmite icicle this morning at our dripping faucet.

Gulf sunriseWe had a really pretty sunrise this morning. The sun was shining brightly and it looked so deceptively nice outside when in reality it was cold and windy. Around 10:00, the people who were in our site for the next four days pulled out of the park and we moved right down the road to site 31, from 16. This was the shortest driving day we have ever done. Less than a tenth of a mile. Wow, we were exhausted from all that driving. Anyway, we got settled into our new site and relaxed the rest of the morning.

The Alabama state parks have a program named “First Day Hike”. The first day of the new year, a ranger from each participating park leads a hike of their park. It is usually a pretty easy hike that highlights a feature of the park. We try to go to different parks to do the hike each year. The hike here at Gulf State Park this year was on Eagle Loop Trail that passes within viewing distance of an eagle nest. There is a pair of eagles on the nest so we of course wanted to make the hike. We wondered if it would be canceled due to the weather because others across the state were canceled, but not here. We put on multiple layers of clothing and went to the trail head. There was actually about 30 hardy souls at the trail head at 2:00. The park staff had a red tail hawk, a great horned owl and a barred owl for us to see and photograph while we waited for everyone to arrive. Really beautiful birds. The hawk is new to the park – less than 2 weeks at the nature center – and appears very curious when in reality his eyes aren’t focusing due to damage from West Nile virus. His depth perception is about 2 inches off when they try to feed him. He sadly will not be able to be released back into the wild. The staff had also built us a fire which we hated to leave when it was time to hike. But hike we did. Kelly, the park naturalist, lead the hike and shared information on various plants in the park as we walked. By law you can not be closer than 333 feet to an eagle nest or bother them in any way. Our first view of the nest we were quite a distance away but later in the hike we were closer and could see the white head of an eagle hunkered down in the nest. Beautiful bird. We also walked out to lake Shelby, the feeding ground of the eagles and learned more about the birds in the area and critters in and around the lake. We were told that the female eagle is on the nest about 80 percent of the time and the male relieves her for about 20 percent of the time. After the eggs are hatched, they share the work of feeding the little ones more equally. It was a good first day hike with a surprisingly large group given a temperature of 36 and wind chill in the teens.

After returning to FRED, it took us a while to feel warm again so we stayed in the rest of the day. It’s nice just looking out the windows at the water. Hope you had a safe and happy New Year’s Day.