Posts Tagged ‘nature’

Nebraska Trifecta & More (Day 1)

April 24th, 2017 2 comments


Lately I’ve noticed that when contestants tell their amusing little personal anecdotes on my favorite quiz show, Jeopardy, they always seem to start with “So, we were” or “So, I was” or “So, this or that or the other”. It really doesn’t matter what question Alex Trebek asks them, they clearly have rehearsed their “moment” in their minds endlessly before appearing on the show and somehow or another it always begins with “So”. So, in the spirit of all Jeopardy contestants of whom I will never be one, I’m starting this series of travelogue blogs about our trip to Nebraska with…..

SO we were going to Nebraska…..and I had planned this trip for weeks…well, for several months. When our earlier planned winter in sunny Florida got cancelled for medical reasons (I had to get some surgery and figured I ought to recover in the same state where my surgeon was just in case things didn’t go so well), I decided we needed a consolation prize of sorts. SO, (see how easily that word just slips in at the beginning of every sentence?) I started thinking about trips here and there to see a few birds since I am partial to traveling long distances to see birds I have never seen before. Then I thought “what about Nebraska and Sandhill Cranes”? Now, Sandhill Cranes wouldn’t be new birds for us but I had heard that there’s this thing about Nebraska in the spring that attracts thousands of Sandhill Cranes….well, to be a little more precise, maybe a half a million Sandhill Cranes according to official counts.

Nebraska is a well-known layover for the Cranes to give them a bit of time to fatten up in the fields around the Platte River on an eighty mile or so strip between Grand Island and Kearney (car-knee). People from all over the world put on lots of layers of clothes and gloves and hats and wrap scarves around their faces to go and stand out in the cold (Nebraska is very cold in early Spring), trying not to stamp their feet to thaw your toes (don’t want to disturb the birds) or shiver too much in the dark confines of an oversized duck blind to watch these birds come down into the river for the night or, as an alternative, watch them leave the river before dawn. Yep, that’s the kind of vacation for me! Sounded awesome although anyone who knows me knows that my birding is severely curtailed because I really… really…. hate to get out of bed at the crack of dawn for anything (or, as my friend, Glo, says “the crap of dawn”) but a few hundred thousand Sandhill Cranes would be just the thing to drag my lazy bones out of a warm bed. Well, maybe.

So (there it is again…another “so”), the planning commenced and no sooner had I started googling and binging Nebraska and Sandhill Cranes, that I found that early spring is also the best time of year to see Prairie Chickens and Sharp-Tailed Grouse doing their courting dances at the Leks (what you call the place where these birds do their courtship dances). Bingo! We could see the three big birds of a Nebraska spring all on one trip – a veritable trifecta…without the wagering, of course. We were on our way in no time flat.

Now, note that I’m dividing the trip into several blogs because it will be easier to divide the photos and thoughts on the three different birds that way and, well, frankly, because I can get pretty wordy sometimes and the blogs can get rather long. If you know me, you understand. But this series of blogs will be more of a travelogue than the recent blogs that I have completed….good to change things up now and then, don’t you think?

This first blog (Day 1) is rather uneventful because it mostly involves travel and, for the blog, an overview of the planning and whatnot. But, look at it this way – I will bore you on the “going to” Nebraska travel day and I will try not to repeat it on the “coming back” to Maryland travel day. Deal?

Travel days are rather boring because you get on a plane and fly an hour or so, then get off the plane and race through a large unknown airport and then get onto another plane and fly another couple hours to the final city and walk a mile or so through an airport to the rental car stations and wait for a bit until you get a car and head out to a hotel (depending on the time of day) where you find yourself totally exhausted, which is why I have learned to leave day 1 of any traveling for just that – doing the airport, rental car, hotel thing – if we have to fly to get there. A good night’s sleep makes all the difference in the world on how much you enjoy your first official vacation event whether it is birding or beaching or wandering around (like us) or heading to museums or reenacting the Civil War – whatever – it is much better when you’re not totally exhausted. And, since no one got dragged off the plane by the airport police and turbulence was not bad and the pilot did okay on the landing, our travel to Nebraska was not really noteworthy although, as usual, our arriving gate at the transition city, Minneapolis, was at the most distant possible point in the airport from our departure gate to our final destination, Omaha, and there was, as always, limited time to get from one to the other but we made it easy peasy.

Omaha was rather unexpectedly nice – not too big and not really small being the largest city in Nebraska. We had a rather nice view of the city from the parking lot of our hotel just outside the city limits and a rather not so nice view of a tank farm from the window in our room. We saw our first Nebraska birds on the drive out of the airport (Eppley Airfield) – Double-Crested Cormorants – at Carter Lake which is not really in Nebraska so these were our first Iowa birds….we got two states in with one airport.

Omaha sits right on the Missouri River (which was a nice bonus also on this trip since I do not recall ever seeing the Missouri before) and, the river, as you might guess, is the boundary between Iowa and Nebraska. But, back to the birds which were our FOT (first of trip) birds along with a couple Canada Geese and that made the trip official – we were on a birding trip and we’d seen birds. There ya go. Mission accomplished. Well, not quite.

We were tired and we were hungry. You can get absolutely anything you want to eat in an airport these days but somehow it seems not to be enough because whenever I fly, I end up hungry. The little peanuts on the plane are just never enough. Oh, we did have one tiny bit of drama on the plane. Someone was allergic to peanuts so the stewards made them disappear like magic and we were offered pretzels and granola cookies instead.

But, back to being hungry, SO, we were in Omaha, the home of Omaha Steaks, and it stands to reason that we started looking for a good steak house. The hotel manager obliged by telling us that the more local steakhouse was not really the best in his humble opinion so he gave us directions that took us right through to the south side of the city to world famous (at least that’s what the sign said) Anthony’s Steakhouse. Turned out to be a great recommendation…for me….my filet mignon was delicious – tender as butter (or should I say “butta”). Jerry said his prime rib was good but not as good as my filet – yes, we taste each other’s meals liberally – heck, we have been together for a coon’s age and share bout near everything anymore. But, overall, the food was delicious and the experience was all very Nebraska right down to (or up to) the giant bull on the roof of the building.

One final note on day 1, I am a big fan of the NCAA basketball playoffs, aka March Madness. I do not follow basketball at all otherwise but I love the tournament. And, I am a really big fan of the Carolina Tarheels and every year, I root madly for UNC. And this year, they were, amazingly enough considering the challenges they had met and overcome during the tournament, in the final championship game. And, we were right there in the hotel and ready for the game to commence…….and I fell asleep. Yep, I slept pretty much through the whole game. I occasionally woke up and Jerry would tell me how exciting the game was and how the lead was back and forth throughout the game and how I was missing it all….but I could not stay awake….not to save my life. And, of course, UNC won! And I missed it all.

SO, a long day of travel and a tummy full of steak, I was tuckered out. Tomorrow, we would set out to explore south east Nebraska but tonight, you could stick a fork in me, I was done.


Day 1:

April 10 – Baltimore, MD to Omaha, NE (via Minneapolis, MN): 1153 Miles

Birds Spotted So Far:

Canada Goose
Double-Crested Cormorant

Strolling Through the Gardens at Ladew

June 21st, 2016 2 comments

wide view gardenA couple weeks ago, we visited Ladew Topiary Gardens near Monkton, Maryland. I told you of our visit with an initial blog on June 8th in which I wrote all about Harvey S. Ladew, the creator of this beautiful garden…or gardens, should I say. But I stuck mostly to Mr. Ladew and the manor in that initial blog. If you’d like to go back and review, the link is here.

I promised that I would share some photos of the actual gardens…or, as much of them as I saw on this visit. I did not quite walk all 22 acres of gardens. I know I missed the “Garden of Eden” which I hear has statues of Adam and Eve and I also missed the Nature Walk…but that just leaves more to see on our next visit.

So I am now providing those photos…or, at least some of them since you will understand that I took more than two hundred photographs and, even though I had plenty of blurry shots to delete, I still have quite a few to share….but I won’t share all of them….just a goodly bunch. (Now, is that a proper phrase? Yikes! Mrs. Mintz back in eighth grade would look at me knowingly, shake her head in exasperation, and pull out the old red pen and start scritching away at my work….that is, if she were here now to read any of it. On the up side, some of what she tried to teach me did, in fact, sink in and I continue to write….unlike the stuff Mrs. Doehla tried to teach me in those Algebra classes a few years later which, like everyone else, I’m not sure I would know how to use even if I wanted to use it.)

So, without further ado, here are the photos of the gardens.


We started our tour at the Café…..because it is about the food, you know…..where we enjoyed chicken salad sandwiches and cold lemonade on the patio. Since it was a rather warm day and most folks opted to eat inside, we had the patio all to ourselves…and that was just lovely as far as we were concerned. You couldn’t have asked for a prettier day.

water wall

There is just something about garden walls with mosses and ferns growing in the mortar cracks…

path to cutting garden

Next we meandered down the garden path to the cutting garden where there were roses galore and loads of peonies.

cutting garden

pink white peony

pink peony2 pink peonies

Next we headed down to the Butterfly House….we knew it wasn’t open yet for the year…but the wildflower meadow looked lovely and invited exploration. I particularly liked the yard art in the meadow. Well, I suppose the artist wouldn’t call it yard art..he’d probably be snobbish and drop the “yard” but it is what it is – art for the yard…yard art…or in this case “meadow art”.

yard art 3

yard art

yard art 2Then again, it seems the artist had another…and much better name for the art he added to the gardens.

seeds steeds

The “beautiful weeds” part would work for my flower beds at home….well, the “weeds” part anyway.

tally hoThen there were the topiaries…hence the name….Ladew Topiary Gardens.

window wallI suppose I expected lots of little hedges trimmed to look like little creatures like the foxhunt scene above. I wasn’t really expecting walls and windows and garlands carved into the yew hedges…not to mention all sorts of geometric shapes of all sizes from very small to very very large. It was impressive to say the least.

wall and pond

topiary on the side


View through the topiary window to the wildflower garden.

window view

We spent quite a bit of time in the Iris Garden. This time of year the Iris’s were blooming so it made sense that we would gravitate there….especially since it sort of went down hill from the main topiary gardens on the east side of the manor. I do downhill quite well….the uphill part was not so easy.

iris garden

iris 2iris 3iris 1benchWe spent a lot of time trying out the benches in the shade in the Iris Garden…and why not? They were lichen covered and lovely in their own right.

jap mapleAt the bottom of the Iris Garden, you can peek through the arbors and see a topiary ship setting sail into the wildflower meadow. Nice!

ship topiary

Our last stop on our tour was the walled rose garden. What can I say? The roses were plentiful and in full bloom. I love roses climbing on brick walls. It reminds me of cottage gardens and lovely old estates. Throw in a few cherubs (and maybe an imp of a satyr) and a pond with a frog or two and you’ve got paradise in a garden as far as I’m concerned. The smell of all those roses was heavenly, by the way.

satyrrose gardenrose garden 2frog

If you would like to visit Ladew Manor and Topiary Gardens, the address is 3535 Jarrettsville Pike, Monkton, MD 21111. The website is

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