Wildlife Behind the House- July 2015

It gives me a thrill to look at the photos from the wildlife camera we have set up just outside the fence behind out house. I love seeing the types of wildlife we share this small space with, what time they are active, and even knowing the temperature. On some days I can remember what I was doing, or how the dogs reacted to something.

For example on this last reel of photos a random chicken shows up, then five days later a coyote enters the frame. The coyote looks thin and thirsty which is not surprising since we are now in the driest July on record. We had a very wet spring, but July has been dry and hot. The coyote also might have been attracted to the feral cats that frequently cruise through. (I secretly hope the coyote eats the cats since they are not a native species to North America. And they kill millions of birds each year.)

I made a short slideshow with the images from the camera as it was fixed in one location from April to mid-July. Activity speeds up as the summer gets drier and I toss a watermelon on the ground. A very industry raccoon snacks on the watermelon for almost 4 hours one morning.

In this very small space of about 8 square feet that the camera is able to record images, there are approx. 10 species of animals and birds that pass through. Many are frequent visitors.

Thank you to William Orbit for the music in the video.




Sociology in a Sauna

On occasion I make it to the gym to swim or work out if the weather is nasty, but I prefer to exercise outside. Last week I ventured to the Gold’s Gym at prime-time after work to try to shake off a long day with a few laps in the pool.

After my swim I decided to sit in the dry sauna to warm up and dry off. My eyes where still adjusting from taking off my goggles when I opened the door to the small sauna- only to find it was packed with about 15 people. I squeezed into the top corner and could not have predicted what was about to happen.

Maybe I’m old school, but I don’t think the crazy hot sauna is really a hospitable environment for electronics. The other 15 people would not agree with that statement. Each person had a device and was listening to music, checking emails, Facebook and even taking pictures- I’ll get to that in a minute.

The woman next to me was decked out in a trash bag looking space suite that I thought they quit making in the 80’s. Her makeup was pouring off her lush, black skin and pooling on the collar of the suit and she was mouth breathing very loud. The man next to her decided a crowded sauna was absolutely the right place to do some yoga moves and grunt through each pose.

But the chick in front of me took the cake. At first she wasn’t looking at her phone, but then saw everyone else was so she pulled out her giant iPhone 6. She surfed around briefly on Facebook, then decided the sauna was a great place to capture a selfy.

She lined up her phone to get a good photo, puckered her lips, sucked in her cheeks, flipped her long blond hair around and snapped a few choice shots. I wanted to tell her to take her hat off so didn’t get such a shadow over her eyes, but I let it slide. She seemed so pleased with the way she looked in the hot sauna that I didn’t want to rain on her narcissistic parade.

Unfortunately, she didn’t check her background. If she had she would have noticed that I had moved my big old, white leg just behind her right shoulder. No one looks good in a sauna. They look even worse with a giant, middle-aged woman’s thigh photo bombing their precious selfy.

At one point she grew frustrated that her phone wasn’t able to follow her commands because her hands were too sweaty to navigated the touch screen. But, then again we were in a dry sauna so she might have expected that.

People came and went during the 10 minutes that I spent in the tiny room but there was never less than 15 people. I feel certain each one of them came pretty close to voiding the warranty on their smart phones on that day.





Trail Report- June- 2015

I love riding on the trails.  Well- I love riding horses pretty much any where, any time.  After the Memorial Day floods of 2015, there was a lot of debris and mud on the trails at the barn where I ride. But a few amazing women did a little trail work and now we can ride again.  I also love my GoPro and learning how to edit on iMovie.  So I made a little Trail Report news reel to share with the other riders.

I Like Lists

Looking into Mexico from Texas.

Looking into Mexico from Texas.

What can I say? I like lists. I like lists so much that I take a vacation every spring with my family to make lists of the birds we see. But even before we step foot out the door or pack a bag, I make lists of where we will go, what we might see and how long it will take to drive there.

Birding is about observation, tracking and cataloging as much as it is about getting into nature. The Greater Texas Birding Classic gives my husband, mother and myself a reason to make a crazy run around the state to count as many birds as we can see in 6 days.

This year we are planning on increasing our reach by heading out to Big Bend National Park to start our listing of birds. Big Bend is known for a few types of birds that can only be found in the strange and wonderful ecosystems of the park. From there we will journey to the Rio Grande Valley, up the coast, then inland to our home in Austin.


List From Smith Point

In the past we have witnessed around 250-275 species of birds per trip. Texas has amazing birding and the spring migration is where its at if you are an avid birder. The migratory birds journey up from Central and South America on their way to points north and Texas is smack dab in the middle of three major flyways.

The other benefit of this mad dash around Texas is it takes me to places I’ve never seen and would never normally travel to unless I was looking for birds. Last year we touched the very tip of Texas at Boca Chico at the mouth of the Rio Grande River and the Gulf of Mexico. This year I’m hoping to visit 3 state parks I’ve never been to before so I can get a little closer to having visited all 92 state parks in Texas.

Sable Palms Birding Center south of the boarder fence between Texas and Mexico.

Sable Palms Birding Center south of the boarder fence between Texas and Mexico.

The other thing I like about our journey is it blends together my love of Texas history, sociology, travel and nature.  We get to see so many great historical sites and some wonderful snapshots into the human activities of small town life, the oil boom of south Texas, campers at parks, and other birders who are on their own quest.

I make a lot of lists in my life. Most are for work, some are for daily life tasks, but the ones I make of the birds are purely for me and purely for fun. Well, I guess they aren’t all for me, I load them into eBird to be a citizen scientist to do my part to help better understand the bird populations and migrations. Stay tuned of for updates from the road on The Atomic Cowgirl Facebook page.

Adding to the list on the Texas Coast.

Adding to the list on the Texas Coast.



A Day in the Woods With My Friends

I’m lucky to live in a place that is close to where I can keep my horses and still have some open lands to ride them on.  This video is a short chronicle of a day doing some trail work with my dogs before having a nice ride with friends.  Most of the footage is shot from the backs of Chief, the dog with the pointy ears or Casino, the one with the floppy ears, or from the back of my big grey mare- Breeze.  Ranger, the dun mustang, didn’t make the ride today- but he got lots of attention, which is what he loves the most.  The rest of Austin, TX is knee deep in SXSW- but I would much rather be in the woods with the real wildlife, and my friends.

Dog Vision

For Christmas the dogs got me a harness that they could wear the GoPro on so I could see the world the way they do.  This a short mix of clips from the dogs at the park.  As you can see, there is a lot of joy in every step as they explore the park. Casino makes a big run at the opening and for those that know my giant lazy dog- this is a long sprint for the Big Guy.