Daily Work

It’s Time to Take on the White Whale

With all the preparations I’m doing at home for my mother’s memorial service, I’ve needed to put my bird photography on hold. Never fear, I will resume the Bird Brain Chronicles soon. In the meanwhile, I’m taking on my white whale. (Please note the clever Moby Dick allusion there.) My White Whale is the story of how my wife and I battled her breast cancer. We got the official notice on the last Saturday of January in 2016. I kept notes throughout the journey, knowing that while we couldn’t be sure of the outcome, we were confident that God had things under control.

About a year ago, I finished the first draft of the story, and then began editing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone back to working on the story because I wanted to get it just right. And yet, it was always my next project and then something else came along. Last year, my writing time was consumed with work on my devotional series. I wanted to make sure that I had the whole series edited and ready for publication. And, that happened. mind you, I still need to work on marketing, but I’ve been blessed in some great ways because of this process.

This church, Troy First Assembly of God, is using my devotionals to support the spiritual growth of their church. The pastor asked permission and offered to compensate me. He showed a lot of integrity in the way he asked and set things up. A couple of times he’s passed along comments that gave me an emotional lift when I was a bit down.

See how easy it is to get distracted from my white whale? I’m not sure what makes this so had to edit, aside from the fact that I hate editing in general, but I think it’s because this is a story that I think will have such importance and be such a blessing to others that I want to be sure that I do things right. When people get a cancer diagnosis, it’s frightening – at least to us it was both times. Cancer isn’t the death sentence that it used to be, but it’s still a killer if not dealt with properly. The purpose of the book is to give hope, but show the practical steps we took. It’s meant to prepare people for the depths of chemotherapy and the drudgery of the process of waiting for the next treatment.

No one has the same experiences with cancer or with the treatment, but, people can live with hope and they can conquer cancer. And I’m trying to convey that in one short little book. And it scares me because I want this book to help others. Pray with me, will you?

Daily Work

January 18 – Searching and Sorting

Today I didn’t take any new pictures. I knew that the timing would be difficult with my wife’s follow-up eye appointment today, so I decided to make today a day of searching and sorting through pictures. Only, it wasn’t bird pictures, it was pictures of my mom to get ready for the memorial service we’ll be having soon. I still have a lot of pics to sort through. I have three external hard drives to find. I’m grateful for them, though, because having had cameras and computers stolen in robberies in the past, I have lots of pictures to choose from.

Since I lived so far away from my mom, I don’t have as many as I’d like. Most have been from the last few times I’ve gone up when she’s been bedridden. I debated posting some of them here, but decided not to. Well, I may post a couple that I’ve made public elsewhere. These were pics taken at my mom’s 90th birthday party this last June.

 

My mom has been a Cubs fan as long as I can remember. At her party, the Cubs game was playing in the background. The Cubs jersey I’m wearing was a gift from my children. We gave my mom her Cubs jersey customized with her name (James) and her age (90). I can’t tell you how grateful I am that the Cubs won the World Series before she died. She got to enjoy that year as she celebrated the season and then the ultimate victory in the series. We had lots of fun discussing the games on the phone during and after the series. I should note that Cubs regalia was the dress code of the day…at the least people were asked to wear blue.

 

 

This next picture is of everyone in the family who showed up. We had a LOT of these pictures, because we kept messing up. We were enjoying each other’s company too much. Anyway, my mom’s caretaker patiently took as many pictures as needed. She had a couple of great caretakers these last three years and our family is grateful for them. They started watching over mom after the second time the family was called in because she “wasn’t going to make it.” That’s right, we had been told twice before that she wasn’t expected to live. They just didn’t tell her so she decided to keep on living. While her recent death is a cause to grieve, I knew that every minute we had with her was bonus time. She was the kind of person who exuded warmth and kindness, and while I know this isn’t theologically correct, I can imagine everybody in heaven right now sitting down and eating the egg salad sandwiches that she was known for. Going through these pictures has brought great joy as I remembered the times they represent and the strength and love she showed in all areas of life. I am stronger, my family is stronger because of her love and her example.

Bird Brain Chronicles, Bird pics and story

January 17 – A Few Surprises

I still do some volunteer work for our school district and today was one of the days that I had to meet for a committee I’m on. I brought my camera, in case I had time after our work to go down to the Bayfront and get some pics. I chose to go to Cole Park, one of the more popular places for activities in Corpus Christi. There’s fishing off the sea wall, walking and biking trails, a kids playground, a skate park, and an amphitheater. I didn’t expect much in terms of new birds, but, I figured I’d get a few pictures I could use. Was I surprised!

 

 

Well, not at first. The first birds I saw were the grackles all over the ground. I had to laugh at the picture you see here, because I imagined Jimmy Cagney as the gangster boss with his hands clasped behind his back as he was addressing the thugs under his command. While there was a flock in the grass, I was happy that I focused on this grackle.

 

 

 

 

I turned my attention towards the water, where, beyond the man fishing, a few cormorants were out searching for food. I considered them a whole heard of mini loch ness monsters. There seemed to be some interesting interplay between them as they worked together and then moved off on their own, only to work with the other one. Definitely shifting allegiances for these three.

 

 

 

The seagulls gave me a few smiles. The still pics don’t show the battle for the perch on the light, but these two guys got disrupted a few times and eventually there were three on the light. Then, when I tried to get a picture of the three, they all flew off.

 

 

 

I didn’t mention the fishing pier out at Cole Park, because it’s been condemned. I normally wouldn’t have two pictures of gulls, but, there are some pigeons here two, so this is a pigeon picture. It’s hard to tell from this pic, but the gulls were on the top rank of the railing and the pigeons wee on the bottom. I can’t imagine living downstairs from the gulls in a situation like this. The pigeons didn’t seem to mind in general, but there were a couple who tried to move on up to the top floor.

 

As I moved along the Bayfront, I saw these ruddy turnstones. While I had seen them before, they were a pleasant surprise. I found them in a couple of places along the way. This pic with the two of them appeared to be both of them moving away from threats – one being me. I’m sure when they met here, they warned each other about the danger ahead of them. One of those dangers was me.

 

Then, I saw the willett. While I had seen these birds in the past, I hadn’t seen any this year. It was a nice surprise.

 

 

 

 

Next, I saw this little bird that I thought was a ruddy turnstone at first, but when I focused on him, I realized that it was something different. When I got home, I looked him up and discovered that he was a spotted sandpiper. This was a new one for me, or a lifer, and it was a great surprise. But wait…there’s more!

 

 

 

 

I still haven’t figured out what this one is. Google images caught it as a common sandpiper, but they’ve been so far off that it isn’t funny. It looked to me like the sandpiper feet were claws and this one’s were webbed. I could be wrong though. But, if I don’t know what it is, obviously, it’s new to me. Another nice surprise.

 

 

 

 

My son called while I was walking back to the car and we discussed some of the arrangements for my mom’s memorial service. As we were getting ready to hang up, this pelican came flying by. I had to get this picture.

 

 

 

Finally, one last surprise. This bird, I didn’t have time to identify him was swimming along the way to my car. I’ll be looking him up and identifying him in an edit when I can.

I had far lower expectations for this trip than I had or any of my other excursions so far this year. There were four new birds for the year, with three of them new for my career as a birder. The day was full of surprises and left me in a great mood.

Bird Brain Chronicles, Bird pics and story

January 16 – The Other Side of Life, The Other Side of the Wetlands

Yesterday was a bad day. Not your ordinary, things aren’t going right, bad day – an especially bad day. I had gone to the bank to get our cash for the last half of the month when I got a text that my mother was being rushed to the hospital. I sent a text back to my sister that I was praying, and waited for the next teller. The phone rang and it was my sister telling me that my mom had just passed away. The phone call was brief, but devastating. I went back and waited for the same teller to finish what she was doing. When she finished she told me to have a nice day. I didn’t ruin hers by telling her why I probably wouldn’t.

My original plan had been to go take pictures after going to the bank. Obviously, those plans were derailed and I spent yesterday at home, mostly, dealing with the grief. As a Christian, while I grieve, I don’t grieve as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13), but I can rejoice that my mother is at home with the Lord. Yesterday was rough, but I made it through the day. Today has been a better day mentally and emotionally. I did get out to take pictures today. Last week I was on one side of the Oso Bay Wetlands Preserve, today I visited the other side.

 

We had rain most of the day yesterday and last night. I’ve always loved the pictures of water drops on leaves and as I entered the trail, I was able to get this picture. There’s probably nothing special about it to most people, but I enjoyed the chance to get this picture. There’s such a beauty when you see the raindrops on the leaves like that.

 

 

 

 

I’ve heard folklore about cardinals. I’m going to be honest with you and tell you that I don’t believe the stories. They don’t seem to have any biblical basis and it’s more of a superstition than fact. That being said, the first bird I was able to see and photograph was a cardinal. Superstition and folklore aside, I love cardinals. They’re beautiful birds. So, this first picture of the day set the tone for a good day, even though there weren’t many birds out today. Let’s face it…about the only time I don’t like cardinals are when they’re from St. Louis or Arizona.

 

 

 

 

Next along the trail was a white wing dove. We get a lot of these in South Texas. The white on the wing isn’t very distinctive on any of the pics I got, but as I debated on whether it was a white wing or a mourning dove, the eyes told the story. The blue circle around the eye makes this a white wing.

 

 

As I walked along, I saw, far off in the distance in the bay, these ducks. Given what I see most and the fact that I could barely see them, I figured they were northern shovelers. When I blew the pics up to 100%, though, they were a different type of duck. I had to look carefully, but they appear to be Northern Pintail ducks. That’s a new one for me, so that was exciting. I always love seeing the variety and beauty of the birds that God created.

 

 

 

 

 

Along the trail, I saw a bird do one of those things that kingbirds do when they sit on a tree, fly out to catch a snack, and then go back to the tree. I wasn’t able to get a real good picture of the bird. Google images says that it’s a house sparrow. I think it has too much yellow color for a house sparrow. I could be wrong, though. Any experts able to tell me what this is for sure?

 

 

 

There weren’t many birds out in the mud flats from the observation deck. I saw an egret, but it was so far away that I didn’t get a good picture. Then, two sandhill cranes came flying overhead. They’re apparently still working that cornfield where I saw them last week.

 

 

Heading back down the trail, I heard some beautiful singing I stalked the bird until I finally saw him. After discussion with one of the people in charge (later) and my own research, I believe it’s a long billed thrasher. They sing beautifully.

The Oso Bay Wetlands is a beautifully maintained park area and they have lots of learning activities for kids and adults. You can find information about this amazing place on their Facebook page

Bird Brain Chronicles, Bird pics and story

January 14 – Going Back to the T-Head

Today was cold which means that most of the birds wouldn’t be out. The one place I was sure would have some birds was the People’s Street T-Head, one of my favorite go-to places. If you’re not from Corpus Christi, The T-Heads jut out from the shore in the shape of a T. (Thus the name.) People’s Street is the home of the shrimp boats and you can buy shrimp right off the boat. The other T-Head and the L-Head (should be self-explanatory) have other emphases. All of them sport marinas. I like the People’s Street T- Head because the shrimp boats draw birds.

The first bird of the day was a Ruddy Turnstone. It was the first time I’d seen them this year. These little guys are energetic when they want to be and I saw them as they were darting across traffic. (Well, the street since my car was one of the few on the T-Head today, and I was .) They joined a herd of pelicans and some seagulls for a birdy party. I love the way the coloring works out on these cute little birds.

 

 

 

 

This pelican was slightly apart from the flock a little farther over on the dock. I think he was trying to get their attention so they’d join him in the hokey-pokey. “C’mon guys! You put your left foot in…” There are always a few comical shots from these birds.

 

 

 

The seagulls, meanwhile, were joining in the fun. This guy joined the pelican in his dance, and a good time was had by all. They were so cold that I was able to get pretty close to them. They may have been thinking, “This guy’s a Texan. Maybe he’ll barbecue us and we can finally get warm enough.” Of course, some of these birds take their hokey-pokey a bit too seriously!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, the cormorants were out. I was able to catch a couple in flight this time. I missed one taking off. Before they leave the water it seems like they’re running on the surface as they try to gain the speed to take off. They’re ungainly until they get in the air. Once they take off, though, they can move it!

 

Finally, I saw the obligatory grackle. Anywhere you go in Corpus Christi, the grackles are already there. There are some places at night where you’ll see hundreds if not thousands all sitting on the same wires. I don’t like grackles very much, but I love those eyes! They get me every time.

We have a lot of cold weather coming in, so I may not get out much to take new pictures. Would you be interested if I posted pics i took earlier? Would you prefer I posted birds from Rwanda? What suggestions would you have?