Category Archives: Nature


My name is Arlyne Draper, and I was married to Robert L. Draper (Bob) for a month short of 52 years. I met Bob in Los Angeles, California. My ex-boyfriend worked with him at North American in Downey during the Apollo program and introduced me to him. It was meant to be, and we were married a short time after. Our marriage was unique. We enjoyed being together, doing things together and exploring nature, birdwatching, and travels with each other.

A native of Costa Rica, I came to Los Angeles to study. After graduation, I decided to stay and became a naturalized citizen. I love this country like my own. After I met Bob my life was complete. We were married on November 22, 1966 in my hometown of Puntarenas. At the time, Bob was working at Eglin AFB in Fort Walton Beach as a field engineer, and this became our home for almost two years. Our son David was born there. We were long- term car renters at Avis and they considered us “the longest car rental people they ever had.” After this assignment, there were many others in the U.S. and overseas through the years. We lived at the Rocket Motel in Alamogordo, NM and our daughter, Alexandra, was born in Las Vegas, NV. We moved around in California and settled in San Diego. Bob worked for Cubic Corp for 26 years and loved every minute of his career. He was able to travel to more than 26 countries, including Israel (I tagged along for some of his trips). The highlight of his travels was New Zealand. We were there for 1-1/2 years and this is where we became serious bird watchers. He retired in 2005, so bought a small RV and became full-timers in 2010 until he was taken from me by a sarcoma cancer October 11, 2018. Losing the love of my life and companion through 52 years left such a void and a terrible feeling of loneliness in my heart. Life is not the same without him.

I am not a writer, but Bob loved his blog and he was an excellent writer. He always said that engineers should be able to write to succeed and he did succeed during his career. He won proposals and awards, got some instruments patented, and earned the respect of those who worked with him and under him. I want to continue his blog and take pictures of birds. His twin brother Rich has offered to continue it with me. I hope you enjoy the future postings as Bob would love to have you read them.

Bob mowing the lawn at our first volunteer assignment at the Matagorda Nature Center in
Bay City, TX.

Costa Rica Adventure – Part 2

Introduction to My Thoughts.  When I was a kid, I read Edgar Rice Burroughs books about Tarzan of the Apes.  I read the comic books too.  I dreamed of life in the jungle.  Growing up in Arizona didn’t quite match up to the African jungle.

Here in Costa Rica, land of volcanos, exotic animals and primary jungle that hasn’t been disturbed by man for centuries, my little dream has been realized.

The birds here are colorful and have wonderful songs.  The other animals are truly exotic to us as well…….iguanas, iconic frogs, snakes, monkeys, coatis, tapirs and many more.  Arlyne and I have found remnants of historic (and prehistoric) Costa Rica in the places we’ve been and where we’re going. Volcanos are smoking, rivers and lakes have crocodiles and alligators, the birds are lit up like holiday lights.  I’ll never see a jaguar, an ocelot or a margay in the wild, but I’ve seen them here in near natural surroundings.  They are some of the planet’s most beautiful creatures.

Irazu Volcano.  We began our adventure with a trip to Irazu volcano, where delightful birds live their lives at 3432 meters (over 11,000 feet).  We loved Irazu, the now sleeping volcano, but were delighted to encounter three high-altitude birds, the volcano junco, the sooty thrush and the sooty-capped chlorospingus.  Some birds have straightforward descriptive names but others seem overcooked by long dead ornithologists.

We love to photograph birds in lush, photogenic, natural surroundings.  My historic first look at the iconic volcano junco at Irazu was on the rim of a picnic area trash can.  I didn’t have any problem with that and of course saw the little guy in better spots soon enough.

DSC_5471 sooty thrush-blog

DSC_5478 sooty-capped chlorospingus

a cute bird at the rim of the volcano

DSC_5428 volcano junco-3

iconic volcano junco at 11000 feet on Irazu

A highlight was seeing the Turrialba volcano in the distance, sending smoke and hot gases into the sky.  This active volcano is of course being monitored.

Turrialba volcano-blog

an active volcano we couldn’t visit

Nest-building.  I will likely never be able to show you all the birds we photographed but on our way back from Irazu, we had lunch at a coffee plantation/restaurant and spotted a pair of Passarini’s tanagers.  Only in Costa Rica would birds nest in a small bush next to the parking lot and a busy walkway.  The beautiful black and red male seemed totally

DSC_5544 Passerini's tanager (f)-blog

the female was very cool about the whole nesting process

DSC_5540 passerint's tanager-blog

this male was stressed out with nest building

stressed as he darted in and out of the bush, presumably making sure everything was ready, while the sweet female waited patiently across the path for him to tell her it was OK.  He eventually did, and then nervously perched on guard duty after she flew deep into the bush.  It was a memorable encounter.

La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Wildlife Refuge.  A couple of days later we drove up to the barrier that prevented us from going to the Poas volcano, which has been closed since we arrived due to poisonous gases from the crater.  Poas has been inactive since 1955 but has just awakened.  We took a fork in the road and stopped at La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Wildlife Refuge. This facility could be termed a tourist trap by jaded visitors but wild birds and other animals are in beautifully designed natural enclosures because they have been rescued from illegal hunters, confiscated by the government or donated by their owners.

We birders know, of course, that wild birds love the surroundings and come here to live and nest.  We found several in the trees and gardens.  Dozens of hummingbirds darted and swirled through a large natural area that had only a few feeders.  We saw green

DSC_5885 green thorntail

this bird is a fast mover – lucky for us it has a white band

thorntails, green-crowned brilliants and black-bellied hummingbirds.  Although officially wild birds, they have become reasonably accustomed to humans.

It was here in La Paz Gardens that we were introduced to my first and probably only ocelot.  A jaguar also prowled a large enclosure.  Arlyne and I also met Tomas, a lovely margay.  He has been here for many years and responds to his name.

DSC_5735 ocelot-blog

You are just beautiful……..

The La Paz Waterfall Gardens and Wildlife Refuge, as its name implies, has five quite spectacular waterfalls, embedded deep in the jungle.  I was robust enough to take the steep, wet stone steps down to two of them.  It was here that my vision of Tarzan emerged.  I felt energized, even as I clambered back to the top level where I had started, sweating profusely from the world class humidity.

As Arlyne calls them, we saw several “free world” birds that love this neighborhood and raise their families here.  Even leaving a place like this (which I didn’t want to do) it’s

DSC_5776 La Paz waterfall

Tarzan’s abode…..

easy to search for a few more wild birds that hang out here.  We saw a swallow-tail kite, a Montezuma oropendula, and a Sulphur-bellied flycatcher (which has been seen frequently in Arizona).  Very cool!

More wildlife adventures awaited us as you will see in my next post.


Bob and Arlyne Draper

Tarzan’s abode…..

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Posted by on May 4, 2017 in Bird Lover, Costa-Rica, Nature



There’s a Lot Going on at the Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge

Border Patrol briefing. A representative from the Border Patrol (BP) talked to volunteers for an hour and a half last week. We all had questions of course and did get a few answers. This is what he told us. Border crossings are down in our area near the Refuge. The border fences are working to channel illegals into small areas where they can be more easily intercepted. Tethered balloons, previously used for weather forecasting, can be seen every several miles along the border. The BP uses vehicles, boats, horses, bicycles, helicopters, drones, tethered balloons and aircraft. The BP officer told us they are concentrating on criminals that transfer drugs and money across the border. Using intelligence, they try to identify and capture high level cartel members. Every illegal captured is questioned and fingerprinted. If the illegal is new to the system, he/she is given a court date. He says they understand that 98% don’t show up. If they don’t appear, a deportation order is created, in absentia. However, almost every illegal goes back to their home country for holidays, funerals, Holy Week, Christmas, to see their family, etc. If these people enter the U.S. again and are captured, they are now identified and sent right back to their home country (no more court dates). Mexican deportees are passed across the border into Mexico. OTMs (other than Mexican) are flown back to their home country, usually El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Brazil and other South American countries. The U.S. pays for these flights. He says the U.S threatens to withhold the usual monetary assistance to countries if they don’t accept their own citizens back. This seems to work (if we really do this).

Three years ago, 254,000 illegals were detained in the Rio Grande Valley area. So far in 2015, about 50,000 have been caught. Estimates (guesses really) are that only about 50% of illegal border crossing attempts are detected and captured.storm damage-1-blog storm damage-2-blog

Power Outages and Storm Damage. We recently had a power outage for a few hours because a rotted power pole was being replaced next to the Visitor Center. It’s so humid here in the south Texas jungle and because it was our day off we sat in the VC for a couple of hours. The VC was being powered by a big portable generator. The Refuge tram had to be cancelled because the power company truck that was replacing the pole was blocking the tram access road. We also had a severe storm (lightning all over the valley) a few days ago that made national news. Many, many trees were blown over in 70 miles per hour winds, including a few within 25 feet from our motorhome. Another volunteer and I went out on the tram road and chain-sawed trees that had fallen across the road. We managed a couple of hours in the heat and probably only got half a mile into the refuge. The entire refuge had to be closed for two days.

crew putting up new poleGreat Birding at South Padre Island. We’ve had overcast, humid, rainy days here for the last several weeks. These conditions aren’t good for photography. The winds over South Padre Island (SPI) have almost continuously been blowing from south to north, helping the birds migrate over the gulf and encouraging them to fly over SPI and go hundreds of miles further north. We’ve persisted anyway and have had a couple of pretty good days.

New birds for us last week and this week: Northern waterthrush, Acadian flycatcher, Ovenbird, red-eyed vireo, lilac-crowned parrot and red-lored parrot. A large parrot community lives at a public park in Brownsville. The waterthrush was a bird we thought we already had on our list but didn’t. The northern waterthrush and the Louisiana waterthrush look very much alike. There are several website references that help us to distinguish the two birds apart and we had to use many of them. The Acadian flycatcher is a difficult identification as well but we both took lots of pictures and checked several references. We’re 98% sure of the ID. Three other birders helped us identify the Acadian and it was there for an hour, flying around.

Actually, we saw another new bird that we dithered about putting on our list.  A couple at the Convention Center told us they had seen a masked booby on the beach the previous day.  Yes, it’s a bird.  What do you know, the bird showed up at the pond by the South Padre Island convention center.  The problem was that the bird was a juvenile and appeared either terribly tired or perhaps dying.  We watched it make a tunnel in the reeds, probably to protect itself until it recovered.  We counted it for our lists but felt badly for the bird.  It looked very stressed.

very tired and stressed out masked booby

very tired and stressed out masked booby

All Creatures Great and Small. Every once in a while, we meet people at our Visitor Center who have interesting stories or are stories in themselves. An older man named Lee Johnson came in with his wife. He seemed like a knowledgeable birder and I chatted with him. It turns out he is way up on the list of people with huge bird lists within the ABA (American Birding Association) region. He has seen 780 birds in the limits of the U.S. and Canada. He’s been birding since the early 1940’s, has founded ornithology organizations and is a renowned bird-banding expert. He’s from Wisconsin. In the birding community, he’s famous. In response to an obvious question (what bird would you like to see now?) he said he wants to see the fieldfare, a European bird that is only accidental in North America. It is only seen rarely in North America. I heard about another man who has over 800 but that’s just rumor here. Seeing 780 birds in a lifetime of birding doesn’t sound like much but it really puts into perspective the achievement noted in the movie “The Big Year” when Sandy Komito saw 745 birds in just one year, a record that will probably never be broken.

Lee Johnson-master bird bander and near the top of North American birders

Lee Johnson-master bird bander and near the top of North American birders

Tony. Another man we met last week isn’t famous but should be. His name is Tony Villegas. He came to the Refuge with his daughter and sister-in-law. He’s 96 years old and full of energy. He was born next door in Pharr and still lives there. While the two women went for a short walk in the Refuge, Tony and I talked while I “took care of him.” He tried to join the Marines in the early 40’s but was too small. He accepted in the Army in mid-1941 and was in a training program when Pearl Harbor happened. He spent much of the war in North Africa and Italy, including Monte Casino, which had been bombed to pieces before he went there. He told me the story of one of his Army buddies who went to the Philippines, was captured and spent four years in a prison camp. He saw him after the war and didn’t recognize him. Tony has an incredible mind and a delightful personality. I told him he was a national treasure and thanked him for coming to see us.

I liked Tony’s little story about a chachalaca who was in a yard in back of his house. He and his neighbor sometimes fed them. A hawk flew down toward the chachalaca, intending to kill and eat it. The chachalaca zipped over the fence, ran between Tony’s legs and stayed there. He knew he had a friend.

Tony - a wonderful man to talk to.  96 years old

Tony – a wonderful man to talk to. 96 years old

Tony Villegas - WWII vet at our Visitor Center with his family

Tony Villegas – WWII vet at our Visitor Center with his family

Locally Famous Rio Grande Valley People. As we drive around the RGV, as we call it, we often have questions about what we see. We’ve decided, if we come back next year, we’ll start a project to research all the people for whom streets, highways, schools and even cities are named after. Early street name sightings include Cesar Chavez, who of course is famous as an advocate for farm worker’s rights. Raul Longoria is a street named after a local educator. As we passed by the little town of San Benito, I asked Arlyne who this saint was. She googled the history of San Benito, finding that this town was initially named after an early president of Mexico named Luis. Later they renamed it after a beloved local rancher named Benjamin. They agreed that he was virtually a saint, hence the name San Benito. That’s pretty cool. We’ve got dozens of names to go and even Google probably doesn’t have all the info. By the way, the local city of Weslaco, Texas is named after the W.E. Stewart Land Company. In 1919, four brothers purchased 320 acres from landowner W.E. Stewart to establish this new town.

The very small creature department. Arlyne and I have been overwhelmed by chiggers the last several days. These are nearly invisible little mites that drop onto your clothes and skin if you so much as brush against any vegetation here in Texas during the spring and summer. The bites don’t show up until the next day and it’s too late by then. The itching is, according to Google and me, is intense and unrelenting. We tried a few creams but I told the pharmacist in town that I wanted a medication so powerful it would give me a near-death experience. After a laugh, he recommended some creams that mostly work.   We bought all three. I had the worst condition, with upwards of 50 bites. I told Arlyne to take a Magic Marker and connect the dots all over me to see what kind of image would show up. Probably a huge chigger. The nearly continuous rains we’ve had brought out the chigger population. We’re now World Headquarters. I told the Refuge manager I won’t go out in the refuge anymore without a Hazmat suit.  Chiggers are smaller than the period at the end of this sentence.

Butterflies. The weather has finally warmed up and the promised butterflies are showing up. We have learned to recognize a few. I put butterfly bait on some special little logs that are hung from trees around the visitor center. We may not always see these little creatures but the bait keeps them in the area. They’re way tougher to photograph than birds. Butterflies have the most beautiful names and we’ve seen a few of the prettiest.

bordered patch-1

black swallowtailBordered patch and black swallowtail

Visitors from an Infamous City. A man and wife arrived at the Refuge on a trip from England. I made small talk with them and asked where they were from in England. He said “We’re from Narborough, have you heard of Narborough?” I told him no, I hadn’t. He said “It’s quite famous as the town where DNA was first used to solve a crime. Have you heard of Colin Pitchfork?” I said; wait a minute, wasn’t that a case many years ago when two girls were killed? He said (sadly) that Narborough was the place and that he had been living there in the 80’s, at the time of the murders. Colin Pitchfork was finally convicted of the crimes. He had persuaded another man to supply DNA in his place when the police asked hundreds of men to donate DNA samples. The other man bragged about what he had done in (where else) a pub. In the annals of crime, yes, Narborough is infamous.

Bird Pictures.  Arlyne has turned out to be a very good bird photographer. She is adept at spotting birds and catching them in photos, many of them action shots. So I’m including photos from both of us.  She has posted many of her bird pictures on her Facebook.

worm-eating warbler in the grass-blogtri-colored heron-blog

Whoops……..not a bird but great timing to see this guy walking through the surf on South Padre Island.

coyote in the water-blogcoyote through pilings-blog

Nashville warbler-blog hooded warbler-blog  northern parula-blog

magnolia warbler-1-blog

Thanks for checking in with us,  Bob and Arlyne Draper

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Posted by on May 3, 2015 in Nature, RV living


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Something a Little Different

My blog usually centers on birds and our little adventures as Arlyne and I travel as volunteers to different Refuges and Parks. The blog will continue to do so, most of the time. We do, however, have some “down” time of course, which we use to do things we like, including cooking, baking, beading, local birdwatching, practicing my guitar, seeing local sights and coming up with stuff to write about. Sometimes I hit on something that makes my test subject (Arlyne) laugh. I like that.  Check out the next section.

New Prescription Drugs.  I was watching TV the other day when a commercial for a new prescription drug was droning on about the wonders of their product. The name of the drug was Farxiga (scientific name: dapagliflozin). This drug is used to treat diabetes. It got me thinking. Farxiga is pronounced “far-see-gah”. So I thought that maybe this drug could also treat nearsightedness. This inspired me, so over a couple of days, with help from my brother Rich (a wordsmith) and his wife Linda (a wordsmith with a science background), I came up with some new prescription drug names, what they would be used for and possibly some new syndromes or conditions. If drug companies can do this…… can I.  Here they are.  What do you think?

Debilitol – counteracts the effects of too much testosterone

Packotrexate – relieves severe constipation

Benextium – feel better while waiting in long lines

Dechorocon – rids you of that embarrassing greenish skin condition

Codify –soothes the effects of too much mercury from eating fish

Fracticillin – loosens up stiff, achy joints

Equilibricillin – for ear-related dizziness

Amplify – assists with hard of hearing

Conundrium – a drug in search of a disease

Lovelostatin – slows down the progression of heart disease

Depropogate – helps with low sperm count

Embowellicillin – a powerful new laxative

Damitol – good for almost everything

Metroprolol – used by the sharpest traffic reporters

Dousematchifen – relieves inflammatory bowel disease

Calmpoopamine – de-irritates irritable bowels

Hope you find a favorite. This kind of mental exercise helps us to resist the effects of aging……..…doesn’t it?

Environmental Education. Arlyne and I helped put on an Environmental Education presentation about birds a little while ago at an elementary school. Today, we helped with another presentation about butterflies. Another couple did most of the hard work, with a PowerPoint show for 2nd grade and 5th grade kids but we enjoyed the experience. Today, the 5th grade class released a Viceroy butterfly that had just come out of its chrysalis in a container that the class had been watching for a few weeks. The little butterfly flew way up in the sky and appeared to be heading north, which is what it needs to do.

Odds and Ends. Our neighbor volunteers, Steve and Laura, buy green coffee beans from some fairly exotic locations, roast them in a little specialized roaster, grind the beans, use a French Press and usually drink some of the resultant coffee that same day. Steve just gave us some fresh ground coffee from Oaxaca (Mexico). We’ll try the coffee tomorrow morning.

Arlyne and I borrowed a Government van and went with another volunteer couple to Falcon Dam/Falcon Lake in Roma, about 80 miles east of Santa Ana. Ostensibly, we were checking on another volunteer couple to see if they needed anything. We did that and then went birding the rest of the day. The other couple saw a life bird (red-billed pigeon) and helped us spot other birds. We had a nice list for the day, including a few scissor-tailed flycatchers, which are just starting to arrive in Texas. The overcast days we’ve been experiencing for nearly a month are getting to be a bore. Photos just don’t jump out like they should.

Local Law Enforcement. I talked with a Texas State Trooper at the fee booth the other day. He told me he lived 500 miles to the north but had been assigned to the border. He had already been down here for three weeks, living in a hotel. He said they catch somebody with 200-400 pounds of illegal substances every single day. He looked tired and said he just wanted to go home and see his kids. He also said they needed 250 more guys along the border. People in the northern states (and probably California) really don’t hear about what’s going on down here. I really can’t go into any more detail about the stuff we hear about but I told the Fish and Game guys here that they live in a circus.

Beautiful Things.  I’ve included pictures here of beautiful things that we’ve seen over the last few years.

solitary-blog bambi pair DSC_0186-blog DSC_0057-blog DSC_0088-crop love the coast of the Pacific-blog


Wonder Wart Hog

Wonder War Hog – beautiful, isn’t he?




Historical Documents (see below). My brother, Rich, uncovered some marvelous old photos that I really like and maybe you will too. We were all young once. As I look at these photos, I find the strength to resist aging, because lately it seems I’ve been taking too much debilitol.

See you around, The Drapers, Bob and Arlyne


Three guys doing stuff together....

Three guys doing stuff together….Bob, David and Charlie the dog

A nice young couple

A nice young couple

Bob and Arlyne

Bob and Arlyne

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Posted by on March 20, 2015 in futurism, Nature, RV living


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A Collection of News, Thoughts and Birds

A Collection of News, Thoughts and Birds

The Good News. We’re finally back at Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge in Alamo, Texas. Here in the Rio Grande Valley of south Texas, you don’t stop and smell the roses, you stop and smell the broccoli (and later the onions).

We won’t soon forget Bosque del Apache. It’s a beautiful, fascinating place. From late October to February, sandhill cranes, snow geese and other birds come to Bosque , many to spend the winter there. We took many of our favorite photos at Bosque and were lucky enough that the Refuge included three of our photos in their 2015 Habitat magazine that is given to visitors. How fun is that? Here are a few pics that we submitted that weren’t selected but are some of our favorites.

DSC_0055 American avocets in flight-blog avocet and reflection-2-blog Beautiful Great Blue Heron DSC_0066-blog







sandhill cranes

sandhill cranes

















Santa Ana.  If you remember, we spent part of last year as volunteers here at Santa Ana, having an exciting time. Some things have changed here and some things will never change. One change we’ve already noticed: There is a major increase in State Police and Highway Patrol in our area. The locals tell us that illegal immigration is down about 80% as a result. We see more Border Patrol too. We’ve heard that former Governor Perry negotiated a grant from the Government to pay for the extra people. Another change is at the Santa Ana Visitor Center. There are new displays, new procedures, new volunteers and new Fish and Wildlife personnel all over the place. We’ll be fine here.

The Bad News. What hasn’t changed is life (and death) below the border. The day after we arrived, I picked up a Spanish language newspaper with the headline: Van ya 30 muertos. In English: “Up to now 30 dead.” This all happened in the last few of days in the Matamoros area, just across the border from Brownsville. The article, translated for me by Arlyne, says (paraphrased): There has been an escalation in violence in Matamoros. The body count reflects only the bodies that are found because many are carried away by the gangs. Area roads and some universities were closed and the U.S. Consulate cancelled its activities because of grenades thrown into a (nearby) municipal building. The toll road between Reynosa and Matamoros was closed because the fee booth was riddled with bullets. The newspaper also said: The toll road is now a free road.

Arlyne and I are located about 45 miles east of Brownsville as the bullet flies, so I hope we’re safe for the time being.

Other News. In spite of these activities in Mexico, Santa Ana feels like a refuge for us too, getting us away from of the problems we experienced in California and later on our trip to Texas. The California problems were significant but nothing we couldn’t handle. It’s just money, I guess. We spent more than two months fixing up our former home (now rental property) in Escondido. New microwave, new hot water heater, new gas cooktop, electrical repairs, tile work, furnace repair, window repairs, hauling away junk left by the previous tenants, etc. We camped out in the empty house most of the time, sleeping on deflatable beds. Yes, we had our own version of deflategate when we woke up one morning on a nearly flat bed. It seems as if we had to fix or clean something every day. We’re fortunate we managed to find new tenants who signed a two-year lease. Not to mention that our motorhome was in the shop for nearly two months as well.

The Other Bad News. We were only 75 miles from our destination at Santa Ana, driving comfortably, when we heard a loud, sharp WHACK! We had a massive blowout on a rear motorhome tire. Scared the hell out of us. We were lucky that Good Sam roadside assistance called a local company that replaced the tire with our spare. The culprit tire actually blew up (shredded and violently came apart) and blew a softball-sized hole right under our shower. Talking to other volunteers, we’ve found that nearly everyone has had a similar experience.

The Good News. Whoa! It turns out there is a recall on our Michelin tires and we’re going to get six new tires at no cost. The recall notice states that the tires in question could lead to a “loss of tread, and in some cases rapid air loss, risking a loss of vehicle control.” (I love the attorney-drafted phrase “rapid air loss.”) Well, we’re now poster-kids for this recall. Six new tires would normally cost $2500.

Now that's a blowout!

Now that’s a blowout!

Rescued in Texas

Rescued in Texas

Draper On Aging. I promised a few people that I would write some words about aging, which Arlyne and I are doing every day. This is only for entertainment value, I suppose. Two things to start with: First, I find that as we age, everything dries up except watery eyes and drooling and, if you’re lucky, post-nasal drip (which is good because if you’re sick, you’re not dead). Second, we have to resist signs of aging whenever we can. When I took a short SouthWest flight to visit my brother Rich, I was putting my carry-on in the overhead compartment and a middle-aged passenger standing next to me said “Let me help you with that.” I almost said “get the hell away from me” but then just said “Thanks, I got it.”

As I get older, I sometimes have what I call “extreme short-term” memory loss. I put some water in a cup, for example, reach over to turn the faucet off, move my hand back and knock over the cup. Is it possible to forget something I did just 2 seconds before? Yes. Arlyne and I are systematically developing strategies for remembering where we parked the car, where we put our phones, her purse, my glasses, all our battery chargers……well you get the idea. We’re not immune.

As we get older, it seems we’ve lived long enough to see a number of U.S. presidents rehabilitated (or nearly so), having been very unpopular during their term of office. Harry Truman is one of them. He was not glamorous but he’s considered a great president now. LBJ is one of them. He is beginning to be rehabilitated. He faked a war record by taking a flight in a military aircraft early in his career. Of the dozens of Great Society programs he instituted, the only one still around is Head Start. All the others have long since been abandoned as useless and wasteful. He did sign important civil rights legislation, but remember, he just signed the legislation, he didn’t work hard to craft it, negotiate with Congress and the Senate, fight over amendments, etc. He simply held the pen and signed it. That’s good but not great.

We older people really do have a great advantage in remembering bits and pieces of history, good and bad. Most of us have talked to people who witnessed history that occurred even before we were born. My father, for example, was already an adult in 1929 Los Angeles when Wyatt Earp died (in Los Angeles). I talked to him about that. I remember listening to the radio when it was announced that the Korean Police Action (war) started. I remember hearing (on the radio again) that Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay were the first humans to reach the top of Mt. Everest. An interesting sidebar to this: when Arlyne and I were working in New Zealand in 2003, Sir Hillary was still living there and still in the phone book. (2nd Sidebar: Hillary Clinton says she was named after Edmund Hillary. Well, she was born and presumably named in 1947, six years before Edmund Hillary climbed Mt. Everest in 1953. What do you know about that?)

Things I’ve seen…….a real life lion tamer (with bandages), a complete live radio show on stage (Buster Brown), the WWII Lockheed flying wing (flying), the Howard Hughes Spruce Goose, a field of dozens of surplus B-24 rear gun blisters, John Wayne movies before he was a cowboy, Elizabeth Taylor movies before she was a teenager, a WWI (yes, one) veteran who had been hit with mustard gas and an Army scout that guided General Crook and met with Geronimo before the legend was finally captured.

Things Arlyne has seen…….an active German submarine that was sunk off Puntarenas, Costa Rica when she was living there, her dad and his friends gathered around the radio listening to a Joe Louis boxing match, memories of enjoying working ox cart rides with her brothers and sisters at her grandfather’s remote Costa Rica farm.

Also, after 48 years of marriage, I find I have X-ray eyes. I look at Arlyne and I see the young woman inside, still there, still beautiful. Only I can see this. It’s Valentine’s Day every day. I’m living the dream. Getting older isn’t all bad.

“My” Thoughts onThe Future. Now here’s a different subject in my blog. Do you remember “The Time Machine” by H.G. Wells? It was published in 1895 and there have been two movies based on the book. Perhaps we should all read it again because Mr. Wells actually made some profound predictions. I’m struck by similarities between what Wells wrote and today’s world. I will use some of his nomenclature. Again, this is for entertainment value, I suppose.

When Well’s main character visited the distant future, he found that the world had two kinds of people: the eloi and the morlocks. The eloi lived above ground, didn’t work, had fun and danced all day. They had no responsibilities and were generally small and weak. The morlocks were strong and misshapen, lived underground, did all the work and operated the machines that allowed the eloi to live in comfort and pleasure. Once in a while, the morlocks would come to the surface and “take” some of the eloi, in effect a barter system.

I already see our world beginning to separate into these two categories. By virtue of normal human nature, assisted and encouraged by the direction and intervention of governments, it seems many people are evolving into an eloi class. Using the labor of the morlock class to supply their needs, eloi are provided for in increasing ways, easing their way through life. I understand that it’s very early in this process, but there are many people worldwide today who don’t want to work, are unable to work, can’t find any work, don’t have to work (perhaps rich) or aren’t necessary anymore due to technological and societal changes. In the moderately distant future, these people will increasingly be supported by benevolent governments or find increasingly simple employment with governments themselves. The very rich (this is the future remember) will fade away because their assets will increasingly be taken by desperate governments, until governments themselves (and elections and politicians) are no longer needed.

Another segment of society, the morlocks, will develop to operate machines, grow food, generate and distribute energy and control transportation and other “industries”. There will be fewer morlocks than eloi because of highly advanced technology that will allow morlocks to provide for both themselves and eloi. Perhaps there will be a very small intellectual class but I will lump them in with the eloi. There will be no middle class at all, as there will be no purpose. I think, initially, the eloi class will consist not only of the very (idle) rich and those who are supported entirely by governments, but athletes, entertainers, artists and others who produce no food, materials or goods. I’m not saying artists and entertainers are not valuable today. But, they will increasingly become part of the eloi class and be supported entirely by others.

I’m not saying I know more than anybody else but you may ask “What about doctors and nurses, for example?” Where do they belong? Because of advances in technology, robotics, artificial intelligence and a vastly increased understanding of the human body, this segment of the population will most likely fade away. What about criminals? I think this segment will also fade away, since all their needs will be taken care of or eventually they may gravitate to the morlock side and be subsumed.

I’m trying to be realistic, not pessimistic. H.G. Wells was way ahead of us and my thinking of course relies on his ideas. His vision included society (and the earth) deteriorating until both were gone. It is very scary and may not happen, of course. He saw this as millions of years in the future. Clearly we’ll never see it, but perhaps we are witnessing very, very early movement. I hope humans eventually escape from earth and try to improve the future of humanity. What do you think about this idea of the future?

“Our Birdies”. I can’t post a blog without a few wildlife pictures. As we left our assignment at Bosque del Apache in New Mexico, we submitted several photographs to the Refuge, for possible inclusion in the 2015 issue of Habitat, the brochure given to all visitors. Three of our photos were included in the brochure……very exciting for us! A deer, a hiker and Arlyne’s sora (a small water bird). Here are a few more of the photos we took in our last few weeks at Bosque.  Next blog I’ll include the Habitat photos.

munching leaves

munching leaves

killdeer gymnastics-blog

Northern harrier on the hunt

Northern harrier on the hunt

here we come-blogHope you enjoy this issue.  A few new wrinkles……

Bob and Arlyne Draper






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Posted by on February 11, 2015 in Bird Lover, futurism, Nature, RV living


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Here at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

Arlyne and I are here at Bosque del Apache NWR in New Mexico, beginning a three month assignment. We’re getting pretty good at this volunteering stuff and we’re fitting right in. I used to live in Las Cruces, New Mexico and graduated from college there. I love New Mexico, especially the wide open spaces and long views available here. We are near Socorro, in the center of the state.  Let me briefly describe the facility here.  And start with a couple of photos.  Maybe you don’t like snakes but they have lives too and we protect them here.  (Western diamondback)

DSC_0004 female Bullock's oriole-blogDSC_0038 western diamondback rattlesnake 1-blog

WHERE WE ARE. Bosque del Apache NWR is on the list of 50 Places to Go Birding Before You Die. We came to Bosque several years ago and we know why it’s such a popular birding destination. Bosque is the Jewel of the Refuge system. The design of Bosque is ingenious in the way it closely resembles how this area in central New Mexico has served as a natural stopover for migrating cranes, geese and ducks for millions of years (that’s right….millions). Its right along the Rio Grande, which used to periodically overflow, flooding lower areas and creating a waterfowl paradise. Farming and roads and towns and water usage have disrupted this. Over the years, Refuge biologists have engineered the flow of water and mix of local crops to recreate the prehistoric environmental conditions that encroaching civilization almost destroyed forever.

WHAT WE’RE DOING. Arlyne and I both work in the Visitor Center where she is helping in the Nature Store and working the phone and front desk. I handle the front desk mostly but I set up and clean the hummingbird and oriole feeders every day as well. Arlyne and I are taking a four-hour online defensive driving course over the next few days and then we’ll be able to handle Refuge roving duties using a Government vehicle. This takes us around the Refuge, answering questions, assisting with a spotting scope, making sure visitors are doing OK. That’ll be fun…….it’s what we like to do. 

THE FESTIVAL. Sandhill cranes spend the winter here and have become an international attraction. Tens of thousands of cranes remain here for nearly five months, feeding on corn, alfalfa and other crops that are planted especially for them. They start arriving in late October. Bosque hosts the Festival of the Cranes the week before Thanksgiving and there will be thousands of people here, jostling for the best view. Arlyne and I are considering staying here for another week to help with the setup for the Festival.  Too bad the hummingbirds will be gone.DSC_0076 rufous hummingbird-blog DSC_0055 rufous hummer on stick-blog

OTHER WILDLIFE. We’re already spotting a lot of cottontail rabbits, a few rattlesnakes, mule deer, trillions of mosquitos, fancy lizards and skinks, and a coyote. We’re hoping to see a few javalina and maybe spot the common black hawk that has been reported.

LOCAL STORY. One of my duties is to clean and refill four hummingbird feeders next to the Visitor Center. I mix up the sugar water and hang up the feeders each morning. We use a lot of sugar. I get it out of a 5-gallon bucket. A railroad track runs right by the Refuge. Last year it seems that several train cars derailed just up the road from where we are. Some of the cars were filled with, guess what…..sugar. Most of the sugar was lost but a one ton package of sugar was given to the Refuge. It’s stored in a garage in the maintenance area. We should be good for quite a while.

DSC_0024 deer at Bosque-blogDSC_0042 roadrunner on alert 2-blog

OTHER WILDLIFE. We’re already spotting a lot of cottontail rabbits, a few rattlesnakes, mule deer, trillions of mosquitos, fancy lizards and skinks, and a coyote. We’re hoping to see a few javalina and maybe spot the common black hawk that has been reported.  Just a couple of days ago, I got a call from a man who took a series of pictures here at Bosque of a great blue heron eating a HUGE fish. He called the Visitor Center wanting someone else but we started talking and he told me about his (now) nearly famous YouTube posting. Go to YouTube and search for “Great Blue Heron has fish dinner at Bosque del Apache NWR”. It’s a REALLY big fish.

BIRDS. We picked up a new bird for our lists almost as soon as we arrived. Now I know that hummingbird feeders are not exactly natural sources of food but the way of the world is to “collect” these little jewels so we can enjoy them close up. There are only four hummingbirds that come to this area and one of them is the calliope hummingbird. The beautiful male has throat feathers that look like flames. We got a new bird for Arlyne’s list as well when we drove a few miles off the refuge and saw a pair of golden eagles. Nice.  Here’s the calliope.

DSC_0068 calliope hummingbird-blogSeveral visitors have reported two common black hawks in the Refuge. Arlyne and I have casually tried to spot this bird and thought we had it a few days ago. Turns out, by analyzing my single snapshot through the windshield, we saw a Swainson’s hawk. A black hawk would be a cool bird. It isn’t supposed to be in this region. More likely Arizona. We’ll keep looking while we’re here. Nice birds we’ve seen so far include a sage thrasher (not supposed to be here yet), cool roadrunners, wild turkeys with chicks, Gambel’s quail, Bullocks orioles, black-chinned and broad-tailed hummingbirds, yellow-headed blackbirds and some others. It’s not a bird but we came across the western diamondback rattlesnake one morning, right on the Refuge road. I got a short video.  Here’s the rufous hummingbird again.

P1010539 male rufous hummingbird-blog P1010556 boardwalk at Bosque-blog

In the nearby San Mateo and Datil mountains, there are some pretty common birds that we haven’t seen: Virginia’s warbler, red-faced warbler, a few owls and a flycatcher or two. A trip to see them has been added to our travel list.

GOING OUT. We didn’t waste time and went to the famous Owl Café and Bar in the small town of San Antonio, just north of the Refuge. I had their signature green chile cheeseburger…..actually very good. I’ll go back, maybe without Arlyne. We went to Sofia’s Kitchen Mexican restaurant in Socorro because it was recommended. Sofia’s reminded me of my early years in New Mexico. The food was very New Mexican, pretty hot and very tasty. I thought I was in a time machine. What a kick.

UPCOMING ADVENTURES IN NEW MEXICO. Later in August we’re taking a train from a little town north of here up to Santa Fe to visit our dear friends Jerry and Karol. The train (imagine) only costs $16 round trip for both of us. In Santa Fe, we’ll visit an international Native American crafts fair that attracts thousands of people. I hope to drive to Las Cruces in the coming months and visit the White Sands Missile Range Museum. I worked at WSMR while going to college and the museum should be interesting to me. We’re just visited the Very Large Array (VLA) radio telescope facility about 50 miles from here. This is a fascinating place and we were very impressed. I’ll cover that in the next blog

New Mexico looks great to me.  See you next time.

Bob and Arlyne Draper

.P1010549 New Mexico highway-blog

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Posted by on August 4, 2014 in Bird Lover, Nature


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