2012 in Review
Why is it that every year seems like an odd year?
January 1st dawned early in Texas. After visiting Liz's brother and cousin in New Mexico, we were at Cathy's in Austin heading east to Miami and Jamaica. The night of January 1st saw us in a Louisiana campground with fond memories of our honey-moon in 1984. A few days of Gulf Coast birding took us to Miami, and then a short flight through Cuban airspace delivered us to Montego Bay, Jamaica.
We met a group of birders from Humboldt State, our undergrad Alma Mater in California, and quickly departed the city for wild places. Our goal was to find all 27 species of endemic birds on the island, and over 9 days, we found them all! The quest required long hours in diverse habitats ranging from mangrove seashores to dense mountain rain-forests (yes, it does rain hard). We saw 41 life birds (e.g., Red-billed Streamertail, Jamaican Mango, Jamaican Tody, and Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo), plus toads, turtles, lizards, crocodiles, and mongoose. We took a few hours off from birding to visit a Rum factory, but of course, Jim found it necessary to disrupt the tour when he found a huge beetle. [link to more about this trip]
On returning to Florida, Liz flew home, and I stayed to help Mom through 3 months of knee surgery and recovery. We spent almost every evening watching the sunset (and shorebirds) over the Gulf. As Mom recovered, I spent more time out birding local parks. Eventually Mom's knees grew stronger, and she came birding with me. Before leaving Florida, I spent 3 days alone birding in the Everglades where I saw lots of alligators, manatees, Roseate Spoonbills, and even one Hispid Cotton Rat -- an old friend from my mouse-catching days in graduate school.
When Mom was fit for travel, we drove the slow-roads around the Gulf of Mexico heading for Las Vegas. We stopped in Corpus Christi, TX, and then Austin. While there, Cathy invited me to join her for a month in Africa. She was going for research with an empty seat in the car - she didn't have to ask twice!
Back in Las Vegas, we kept Mom's knees active by hiking and birding around town. Eventually Liz and I left her to care for the cat while we went camping and birding for 12 days in southeastern Arizona. Then, after a week at home, Liz and I headed out again to camp for a week in Sequoia National Park, the first time we'd been back since we worked there the summers of 1982-1986. It was fun to be back, and we saw more bears and rattlesnakes than we remembered seeing before.
Mom left us at the end of May with knees almost better than new, and Liz and I spent June hiking, birding, and counting dragonflies on the local wildlife refuges, although June in the desert does imply many hours indoors.
July quickly rolled around, and Jim was off to Austin and Tanzania with an unexpected two nights in London due to missed flights in Texas. Northwest Tanzania (safari country) is a wondrous place, and while Cathy interviewed local authorities about land-use issues, I birded my eyes out. Everywhere I turned was a sight: if not a bird, then people, or something cultural.
I did a one-day tour of Tarangire National Park where angry elephants chased us down the road [link to video], lions roamed the landscape following herds of zebra and wildebeest, and the sky was full of amazing birds (e.g., African Fish Eagles, Marabou Storks, Pygmy Falcons, Ostrich, and Lilac-fronted Rollers). The highlight of the trip was a zebra carcass being devoured in a feeding frenzy by all three species of plains vultures! [Link to video] We ended the trip in Dar es Salaam on the Indian Ocean, and except for hundreds of flying foxes filling the night sky [link to video], the city was reminiscent of southern California.
Back to our mundane lives at home, we have been hiking, birding, spending time with friends, and engaging in our usual activities. Liz still volunteers in a local 3rd grade classroom, and she added spinning and weaving to her repertoire of fiber arts skills, and Jim continues to work on his website. We made a quick trip to Oregon for Thanksgiving, visiting Mom at her state park, and visiting Dad and Joe and John and his family in Portland.
In the new year, we look forward to spending more time around Las Vegas (lots of thing we didn't get to last year) and perhaps spending July birding the coast of Alaska, riding the marine ferry system from Seattle out into the Aleutian Islands.
Oh, Liz also spent two nights hospitalized with another minor heart event in September and got one more stent to add to her collection, but all is well and we are out and about enjoying life. More exercise and better drugs will help prevent the next one. Happy Holidays everyone!