An Olive Bath

This being a short month, I’ve been watching the calendar closely so I do not blow my self-imposed monthly post quota. Even with that extra scrutiny, I still feel I’m lagging behind. It hasn’t helped that I’ve had a myriad of doctor appointments to take care of and a dentist appointment this week that ended up with multiple needles being shoved halfway up my nose (“Hey, is that grey matter I see on that railroad spike you call a needle!?!). One more doctor visit left this month and then I should be free for two months until I can get in to finally see my referral consultation – very much appreciate all the well wishes in the comments, especially Brad who offered me a pint of his blood (Cat family bonds run strong!). On a happier note, we had the chance to run up to Iowa today to play Santa Claus – unfortunately had to miss Linda’s family Christmas and then we spent the next month in Texas. We joked we wanted to wait until there was snow on the ground unlike the real date ha! While there, Linda drove me around to some birding hot spots. True to winter form, the Eagles were thick on the Mighty Mississippi. Quick count was at least 30 of those majestic birds were hunting the frigid waters down by I280. In tribute to that success, thought I would go with another sure bet when it comes to winter birding.

Olive Sparrow found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January of 2021

Today’s featured feathered friend is a winter bird only in the sense we have encountered them only in our winter excursions. You will not see this particular bird ANYWHERE near cold temperatures unless you count the bizarre cold snaps that have hit Texas the last couple of years. Their region maps consists of year round residency along the coasts of Central America and just barely into the southernmost tip of Texas.

Olive Sparrow found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January of 2021

Hit the jump to read more about this LOJ (warning space aliens may be watching)

The good news is, like the Eagles on the Mississippi, this Sparrow is incredibly easy to get checked off your list, especially if you can make plans to visit Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in Los Fresno Texas. The public portion of this rather large NWR sits about 45 minutes north (technically slightly northwest) of South Padre Island and is always a staple whenever we head down there. Note, the refuge has another huge tract on the mainland directly west of SPI which I believe is mostly restricted likely due to the space alien the military discovered in 1946 when the 97,000 acre refuge was established, Documents reveal the alien was preying on the rare Ocelots that are said to be found in that area (Laguna is home to one of the two breeding populations of Ocelots and that bastard saucer jockey was eating them!!)

Olive Sparrow found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January of 2021

Thankfully, this Sparrow seems to have been spared the crosshairs of the space predator and its population is doing quite well – unlike the Ocelot which was classified as endangered in 1982, although today it states their conservation status is Least Concern but there is no quantified global populations estimate which seems fishy to me – probably doing better now that they aren’t being used for alien shish-kabobs.

Olive Sparrow found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January of 2021

Bri, stay focused, this is a post on the Sparrow, not the uber-cute Ocelots! Sorry, back on the rails. You may have noticed by now, that this particular specimen doesn’t exactly fit the standard mode of a Sparrow. Sure, it sports the overall shape taken by a majority in that family, but they do not have the more traditional brown/rustic flavorings that give them the “Little Brown Jobber” moniker. Instead, this Sparrow chose a more greenish tinge that threw me when first encountered.

Olive Sparrow found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January of 2021

I am no stranger to being in embarrassing situations. Gaining conscious, clearing the fog and wondering why several people were staring down at me with bloody hands while simultaneously realizing I was the one laying in a small pool of blood comes to mind immediately (let that be a lesson to you ultra running kiddies out there, drink your fluids). Learning what this bird was for the first time was an equally funny event.

Olive Sparrow found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January of 2021

After taking a ridiculous amount of shots of this unfamiliar bird, I turned to another couple in the blind and asked them if they happened to know what that bird was. Ever experience that weird sense of time continuum when the cadence of activity doesn’t seem to match the earth’s rotation. Like when a celebrity tries to bestow political wisdom and you sit there trying your damndest to rationalize the sheer stupidity of it…well, I’m sure the shocked people staring at the Beast had a similar thought.

Olive Sparrow found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January of 2021

“Ummm, well I think it’s that”, while simultaneously pointing at the wall directly in front of where I was just standing. HEAD DUNK! Sure enough, there was an 8×10 picture with the exact bird on it with the words “Olive Sparrow” in big black letters. As they say, the best laughs are when you are laughing at yourself. Meanwhile I felt like the bird above was mocking me hehehe.

Olive Sparrow found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January of 2021

So, yes, this is an Olive Sparrow and the best way to tell that it’s an Olive Sparrow is to notice it is indeed predominantly olive colored (that be science). For the acronym aficionados out there that means it is an LOJ. Every time we have visited Laguna since that embarrassing day we have seen this species. Per the “sure thing” comment above, there’s a fail-safe way to check it off your list. Drive to the Laguna Atascosa Visitor Center and then make a note to get your vehicles shocks checked when you get back home (you’ll know exactly what I mean when go there), park the vehicle, grab your camera, set it for two stops longer than your current meter says and then walk past the visitor center and take the path to the bird blind. Note, the visitor center has been closed the last two years we’ve been down there, so be sure and pay the fee first if they ever decide to open it. Put your finger on the shutter button and then simply walk into the blind, stick your barrel out and start pressing – guarantee one of those shots will have this Sparrow in it.

Olive Sparrow found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January of 2021

If one isn’t under the feeder slurping up seed, it might be splashing around like this one in the neighborhood pool. From what I can tell they are clean freaks and like to make sure their feathers are properly washed, conditioned and then fluffed for the parade of spectators that visit the blind. Assuredly want to look their best for the cameras – as long as it doesn’t go to their heads and they start spewing statements on world politics.

Olive Sparrow found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January of 2021

Guessing you want to know some “real” facts about this Sparrow. On further inspection, they do have a grey wash and a crown consisting of two brownish strips which are similar to some of the Sparrows. The adult males and females are similarly feathered which eliminates the confusing gender determination ever-present with this family – at this point I usually just concentrate on the males and toss the females and juvis into a folder named “Life’s Too Short”.

Olive Sparrow found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January of 2021

They tend to hang close to cover which is why you needed the extra two steps on the camera settings. Olives are also quite resourceful. Cornell notes that they will leverage Army Ant swarms (at Laguna more like Fire Ant swarms) to stir up insects to feast on. They will also mass around space alien kills waiting for parasites to come clean the Ocelot bones.

Will call it post here. Rather long today, but this series ended up having a lot of shots I wanted to share. Have a great weekend everyone and try not to embarrass yourself too much … at least try to keep from ending up on someone else’s social media post ha!

Wait, Wait, Wait.. hold the presses – our lawyers just advised me I may have taken some untruthful liberties in this post. Fine, our cadre of legal experts can be quite the fuddie duddies – I’ve cussed at those jackasses (oops) so much they installed a swear penalty jar in their office. For the record, there were no space aliens found in Laguna – at least that the government has officially admitted.

48 thoughts on “An Olive Bath”

  1. He was having a blast bathing. Beautiful photos. You have monthly post quotas? I post ever day, so I have no monthly quotas to worry about. The blood offering was a kind gesture. I can’t make a blood offering because we lived in Spain before the end of mad cow disease. One reason I’m mad about cows I guess. Although cows like kissing me, I don’t like kissing them. My inter-species curiosity is another story. Since I might have been exposed to mad cow disease, I can’t give blood. Bloody hell! As the Brits would say.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Now that is extremely interesting – are you saying if I find the right cow and “kiss” it (and of course got the T-Shirt that said I DIDN”T like it, I would NEVER have to give blood again.. imagine all the cranks and gears spinning in my brain right now “Bloody well great idea’r ol’ chap”). Isn’t there a test or something that will tell you if you blood is tainted so you could at least give blood if for some insane reason you took pleasure in being jabbed with a railroad spike and bled dry…just saying? I should point out that the blood takers tend to frown on my “ink” so not sure how that would turn out even if I had such an insane desire.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I found out I had bad blood when I had to answer a questionnaire prior to being bleed with a railroad spike in each arm for 8 hours to harvest my stem cells for my stem cell transplant back in 2016. Apparently, anyone how lived in Europe between certain dates has bad blood for US donations. That’s fine with me. I’ve been poked by a lot of greedy vampires. One time a cute young nurse in training missed my port and sank an inch long 18 gauge needle into my chest. I said “you missed” the other nurse said “I thought that went in awful easily”, sweet young nurse about had a nervous breakdown. Poor thing. I told her it was perfectly all right and to try again. What a brave fool I am!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. WOW! Definitely more resolve than I will ever have. Sounds like you have been through the proverbial ringer. I was not aware of the potential blood tainting – I have al lot of friends and coworkers who live or completed their corporate sentence in the European theater (ironically from your post we used Microsoft Teams to communicate) and it has never come up. Sounds like the nurse needed to rely on your sweetness and cuteness ha! All I can say is glad you are making your or have come all the way through it.

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      3. Gotcha – I started my corporate life in ’89 and our corporate tools were pretty limited at the – I think we actually had to use something called a phone – the horror ha!

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I was a beta test for Fox Software before Microsoft bought it, and a beta tester and dealer for MapInfo in the late 80s into the mid 90s. I spent a lot of time on the phone with programmers fixing issues and suggesting new functionalities. I had the first version of FoxBase+ for MacIntosh around 1988.

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      5. One of our staff still uses Fox. She also still uses MapInfo. Old MapInfo is still the best geocoder. She helped Mapinfo develop the import and export modules for ARCInfo shape files in the early 1990s. ESRI is super proprietary and wouldn’t share any of their tools back then. These days I do a lop of mapping using Google Maps and Open Street Maps with a MariaDB backend. Open Street Maps are a lot easier to map from the database because I can use SQL queries directly. Google maps require convoluted JavaScripts and map keys to pull data from MariaDB and display it on Google Maps. Google is also notorious for changing their APIs without warning. They made major changes to their maps API in 2013 and I had to rewrite about 100 map scripts after clients started calling because their maps didn’t work.

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      6. I am not up on Google Maps these days, I leave that all to my brother Ron. His Sliver software does a nice job of working with Google Earth to generate our trip plots – assuming he is using the Google Earth API, but honestly, not sure how that magic is happening. Had to get into a little bit of geopinning with online orders at work (redirects to the local dealer for relationship building etc.). Definitely do not miss those days.

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      7. I would love to get out of the IT business. The simplest things are the world falling apart for so many staff. Ugh.

        I like cartography, that was a good part of my geography major. In 2003, I had a really good programmer working for me who developed on web-based GIS that worked really well. That was a time of rapid changes in server software between Linux taking hold, and Apple moving to OSX. Every update broke our web-GIS, my programmer would fix it and so on. Then he left, and I was doing the fixes, but I had other work to do and it got where I couldn’t keep up with the fixes. I tried to get the President to let me hire another programmer specifically for developing the web-GIS. He didn’t see the need. So short-sighted.

        Then Google and others introduced their maps. I doubt we could have competed as a tiny company once Google got into the game, but we were a few years ahead of them. In 2012, the State of NM asked for web-based mapping. The President asked me what happened to the one we developed. I told him it was dead because he wouldn’t let me hire another programmer to continue developing it. He said: “That was short-sited of me!” I told him I would have to use Google Maps, and that’s when I got into Google Maps API.

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      8. Sounds like you were having to hold it all together there. We had a tremendous amount of resources at my former company, but we were still constantly chasing issues brought on by technology falling out of support – keeping the shop floor systems running was the biggest challenge as some of that machinery was based on equipment you were lucky to get off e-bay or leftovers when another manufacturer upgraded. We started out writing all our own software, but then management started on the 3rd party kick and our ability to solve things took additional hoop jumps. My struggles are fortunately over, but I feel for your position.

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    2. Oh, forgot to respond – yes, I do have a quota. I have no idea how people are able to post daily – that is absolutely amazing dedication – not to mention a constant stream of creativity.AND you respond to all your comments each day I have to run miles and miles before I figure out what my next post is going to be about and then I have to work on the images and then the storyline etc. etc. Set my minimal quota to repeating the cycle 6 times a month and trust me, that has been just barely met a LOT – I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I’ve been blasting away on the keyboard at the dead of night while Linda drives back from a trip or vacation – been a long 15 years of this bloggy thingy ha!

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  2. 😂🤣 Cool birder with huge camera asks what bird he is looking at with a huge identification poster on the wall.😂🤣 Loved it! Well, it goes to show you that we all get humbled even in our hobbies.
    Cute bathing pictures. I am sure your legal team was more worried about the compromises of personal bath time than worries on alien existence, which we all already know they are living among us.🛸👽

    Liked by 3 people

    1. What can I say, just laugh and move on ha! There were some definite discussions on the bathing shots with one line of reasoning going to require me to pixilate certain parts of those pictures. Had to remind one that birds are happy in their free-balling life style and DO NOT WEAR CLOTHES (some of my lawyers need to get outdoors more!) I see you are a true believer as well – I see aliens everywhere – especially my local paperboy – he looks quite shifty if you ask me. Appreciate you dropping in CJ.

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      1. Yup, have to agree on the lawyers if they got outside and mingled with the wildlife they would have a more “down to earth”or in this case “birdie view”of things.
        As long as those alien types don’t want to rip my appendages off I am fine with them. I think the guy to dropped off a box from our Postal Service was one… he looked more than shifty, darn right confused!😂🤣 They really need to find better jobs for those types.😂🤣 Thanks for keeping it entertaining these past few weeks from there. I have serious catch up once weather, stars come in line so we can get back to our blog activities. Stay safe, have fun!

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      2. Yes – definitely watch out for those mail people – father retired from the US Postal Service myself and two brothers all worked there at some point trying to pay for college so we have proof they are among us! – a strategic move for sure as you know EVERYTHING about everyone in that job

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      3. 😂🤣😂 I worked for the Postal service in the US and my first job here was with the Dutch Postal Service. Yes, those kinds work inside the USPS and for PostNL. No wonder we see eye to eye on things.😂 With all that is happening right now I can only hope a few of those 👽🛸types are working inside Russia to make sure we don’t all become a waste land from one crazy madman with his finger on a arsenal of dangerous weapons.

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      4. I sure hope the Dutch Postal Service is more efficiently run that our own! Fingers crossed something will happen to slow the war machine. Linda did inform me tonight that a non operations nuclear power plant is burning in the Ukraine now (still has nuclear fuel contained in it)… but hey, how about we keep buying oil from Russia, that sounds like a great plan Brandon.

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      5. Nope less efficient for sure. Investors a few years ago found dozens of postal carriers had taken a pay check and then dumped mail in the canal or stored it at home undelivered. Shocking.
        Yup pretty FUBAR here on the second issue. 😕

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      6. Ugh, we have some of that happening here as you know – Linda is now gets an email with a scanned image of all the mails that is supposed to arrive each day which is a really nice feature to make sure we get everything we are supposed to – especially being out in the country where there are less eyes. Our blogger friend B. in the UK commented on how concerning it is over there – unbelievable.

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      7. At least “B” is a bit further West! Concerning is a huge understatement it is far extreme FUBAR! Gas prices here rose 40% over the weekend for heating and the pumps we are paying near $11.00/gallon. I know NATO is doing what it can within legal limits but without Putin out of control we will remain on pins and needles. We have been testing a great deal of “camping gear” just in case we have to use it to cook on. Not funny as I know how things could look when 17milliom people don’t have heat, food, water. Nasty situation for sure!!!!
        Other than that… my hubby’s month of vacation is great!😬

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      8. Wow, 11/gallon is outrageous. Things do not seem like they are slowing down at the moment so still no idea on the end game with this. I do know relying on this administration to fix anything is a fool’s folly. At least you can make the most of the extra time with the hubby!

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Well, I think and know whoever is in office have leadership challenges that most people wouldn’t be able to understand. At least the last dumb crap is no longer in office or we would be speaking Russian by now and all of us women would be slaves. I am not joking he was a dangerous man to be elected into office! Oh well we are only pawns in this whole big universe but I know I will keep fighting for democracy and freedom and peace for all.💙💛☮️🇪🇺🙏

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Ditto what CJ said! Rule of birding (in this Country anyway) if you don’t know and don’t want to look an idiot wielding a massive lens keep very quiet, take loads of shots and then check on uncle google later!
    Been suffering from lack of sleep due to a major house reno (and a bit of worry about what’s happening out to the east) so a lot of this post went right over my head. However when being taken aback and not knowing something the word is ‘threw’ (as in it threw me off guard) not ‘through’. I wish you colonials would learn how to spell 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yep, that is definitely good advice. On the positive front, a quick laugh at my expense did save me some considerable amount of time trying to track down a member of the Sparrow family- I have learned to take pictures of any “bird’s found” boards anywhere I bird. You are right on my English blunder, when I read your comment I immediately thought I’d try to shift blame to my editor (Where’s Brad M. when I need him) or go into some dissertation on ‘z’s vs ‘s’s, but I own that 100% – two read throughs (think I got that one right), a syntax parse from Microsoft and it still got through ugh. In my defense, “coding” is my first language and English second hehehe. I do not have a lot to say on the Ukraine issue yet as I generally do not believe any information coming out of a war theory and don’t get me started on our own lame stream media. Didn’t want to risk sounding like a celebrity – At this point all I know is our WH unbelievably gave permission to Putin for an undefined “small” incursion and Ukraine’s energy sector bought off our current president’s crooked son – a lot to flesh out beyond that framework. Thanks for stopping by and good luck on the house reno – don’t forget you are supposed to be relaxing a bit in your retired life.

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  4. I loved the chat with you and Tim talking about the old days, yes using an actual phone was the best. Seems like everything I grew up with is in a museum now, how did that happen so fast.
    Great shot of the head dunk, I do love the bird blinds and all the photos they post on the wall and the clipboards where people write down what they saw and when. That helps also 🙂 Oh, yes lock and dam 15 was my favorite place to photograph eagles on the Mississippi. It was a hot spot for years until they cut down the two dead trees that the eagles love to perch on. People came from all over the country to that spot. Dozens of photographers were always lined up on the shore with their giant longest lenses. Seems like they were having a contest at times who could have the longest lens, the attachments just kept getting longer. A couple years ago they put up man made perches to replace the dead trees and the eagles just left the area and went down to Credit Island where there are lots of dead trees in the Quad Cities.

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    1. My brother Ron and I just had a discussion on the old rotary phones and the way they operated (had to resolve an issue where the phone lines into my house stopped working and was busy checking voltages in our patch closet). As a kid today what one of those are and they will stare at you with a blank face. You are absolutely right about the helpful materials at good blinds – mentioned to B. above my rule about always photographing the “birds found” boards if they have one. I know exactly what you are referring to with that Lock and Dam (14). As soon as those dead trees went down and they tried to replace them with wooden structures that place went downhill fast – those Eagles were having NOTHING to do with those made made substitutes. It is really bad now as they’ve been doing construction on the dam for the last couple of years so half the parking lot is blocked off and all the noise drove of all all rest of the birds. We did hit Credit Island while we were up there (got some shots likely Trumpeter Swans there), but most of the Eagles were hanging out on Concord Street at the I280 end. Got some awesome shots of an Eagle enjoying a fresh catch (well, awesome for the Eagle, not so much the fish). Something has happened on Credit Island as a lot of the trees are being removed in the interior – not sure if they got diseased or all the flooding has taken its toll. As you mentioned, there are still a lot of dead trees on the banks which provide excellent perches – we also found a huge Eagle’s nest there that we plan on checking out when their breeding season begins. Appreciate you dropping in Sandra especially with the spotty Internet coverage I know you are dealing with.

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      1. Yes they had a very bad wind storm go through there I think two years ago and took a lot of trees out. I think I know what nest you are talking about. When you drive in there is one on the left side, east side on that little island. I found that nest two yes ago but it was still far away to photograph them.

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      2. Yep, that is the very same nest – Linda found it while I was focused on the Trumpeter Swans that were cruising by. Makes sense with the wind taking those trees down – Linda was busy telling me how when she was growing up in Davenport they used the interior pond as a skating rink. They did build a very nice walking bridge over the backwaters in the back portion – no ice racers this year!

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  5. Brian, loved the intimate photos of the LOJ, not to be confused with another LOJ moniker (little orange jobbers). I suppose if you gave up the insane training schedule you could almost meet Tim’s posting frequency. Almost.
    Ironically, about the time L&D 14 became an eagle wasteland, they started appearing around the woods near our house. Not quite as thick as L&D 14 used to be (dozens at a time) but enough to say “Oh yeah, it’s another bald eagle”. Must be a good food source somewhere around here.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I thought about the overlap that could occur with just the ‘O’ – may have to resort to Or or Ol to cut down on the confusion ha. Now you are sounding like my wife on the training front – I will say it is a slightly more difficult to train these days . I got a lot of help and motivation to train from work – nothing like a good long run to think out issues and purge stress. On the bright side, I used to plan my day around my training – with the extra free time I can now plan my training around my day. Rain going to stop in a couple hours, sure I can wait a bit where before I was out in rain, snow, sleet, tornadoes whatever (granted retirement life is probably making me soft ha). There is definitely a shift going on with the Eagle regions. Like you noted, they are taking year-round residence around here and one has been staying in Jubilee Park for a couple of years now (another one down on Rt 8). I know the one by me has adapted to the fields for hunting, wonder what is keeping your’s nourished .. cats!?! hehehehe. Assuming you had a nice chuckle when you saw B.’s comment above about my typo.

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      1. Yes, but have to let them slide through (correct one) every now and again to allow someone else have a chance to be editor for an article. 😉

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Cool little sparrow! At first I thought it was a green-tailed towhee. Have you ever tried Google Lens to ID birds? I use it mostly for IDing wildflowers. It does give “interesting” results sometimes, like the time it said the lizard in my backyard was a pangolin. 🤣😄

    Liked by 2 people

    1. A Green-Tailed Towhee is actually a really good guess especially with the similar olive coloring on the wings an tail. They have a really nice rufous crown compared to our Sparrow here. I have not tried Google Lens for an ID. Will definitely have to try that out, I do use their image search option when I am at my wits end hoping to find a similar picture, but that is really brute force at that point. While at Estero Llano Grande SP last month a couple recommended an app called Seek that allows you to take a picture in the wild it will try and ID it for you. Had mixed results, but it did nail a couple of birds that I didn’t expect it to – also works well on leaves and flowers. Hopefully it wouldn’t be as far off as that lizard test ha! Appreciate you coming by and I’ll check into the Lens option.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Lisa! They are definitely all decked out with sexy racing pinstripes – guessing they cruise the local trails on Fridays and Saturdays with the T-Tops out, Van Halen blasting on the Alpines, low end Kickers thumping against the rear quarterpannels, Ray Bans on and their mates all dolled up in the passenger seats arms-a-waving to Roth’s provocative lyrics…hmmm, maybe not ha! Thanks for coming by Lisa (and taking me back down high school memory lane).

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, glad you like my folder concept – trust me, you will be glad you did. I told my wife, when I pass it would be a great tribute for her to go through that folder and ID all the birds in that file- That got me a snide remark about being to busy dating or something. Thanks for coming by Sam.

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