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After a fun 4 day weekend with our grandson, we're now looking forward to a visit from my nephew, his wife and their 3 children. They will be staying in our motorhome. They are visiting from MD. After spending a day in Manhattan, they're coming out to the Island.

If the weather co-operates, we'll all go to Jones Beach, or maybe Fire Island on Friday. Then all of our guys and gals, except Brian, who's currently in Utah on vacation, are coming over after work for a bbq. The cousins haven't seen each other in 11 years; not since my Mom's funeral. And the second cousins, Louis, Sarah, Emily and Daniel have never seen each other.

Sarah has just turned 13, so I want to have a cake for her on Thursday. Emily is 11 and Daniel is 4; born on Thanksgiving Day.

I've got all the beds made up in the r.v. and have checked to make sure it's still stocked with the essentials. We'll all share breakfast together in the house, picnic at the beach and hopefully, bbq outdoors and eat outdoors. No rain, please!

The horrible humidity has gone again; last night was the first night without fans in weeks and today is the first day without the a.c. in weeks. What a lovely change!

Still watching and enjoying the Olympics. The things people can train the human body to do are marvelous! How about MIchael Phelps! His record will stand a long time, maybe forever.

I'm putting out fresh water and seed for the birds to help them get through this hot, baking weather.
I try to keep the squirrels in the area from eating all the bird seed, but they still manage to outwit me!

He throws all the seed on the ground!

Cheeky little guy!

No one climbs any better than a squirrel who knows there's food up there somewhere!

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Amazed at the diversity of squirrels and chipmonks in California. Managed to see humpback whales and sea otter too, a black bear, a bald eagle, 4 condors, and a number of bird species I have heard of for years and wanted to see, like Stellers jay - which proved to be very easy to spot! No sign of magpies though and i was disappointed by how scarce American kestrels seemed to be - only saw 1. Your bumblebees are very different! Interesting country!

We in the U.S. have red, grey, black and white squirrels,but they all live in different parts of the country.

Aren't the Condors marvelous? I've been above them as they flew in the Grand Canyon and been very close to one as it sat on a ledge next to a walkway in the same park.

Stellers Jay is gorgeous; we saw one in Rocky Mountain State Park. I couldn't get a picture, though. :-(

I've seen Magpies is Yellowstone National Park and in Washington State and in Cody, Wyoming. They are a lovely bird, so blue when the sun hits them.

The only time I've seen Kestrels is in a county park in Florida. There are always one or two there.

We do have some nice bees, bumble and otherwise, large and tiny and some ground bees; wasps which can be nasty and some white-faced hornets, which once built nests in the azaleas on either side of our front door! Some years ago, wasps used to build a nest on the window of our son's bedroom, so I could look into it! A few wasps always found their way into the bedrooms upstairs each year, which was not so nice; resulting in dead wasps and rude words being said if I got stung.

For a number of years, a family of Cardinals build their nest in the Forsythia bush outside our son's window and I got to watch them raise their young. Also got to watch baby Robins develop in one of my rosebushes.

Used to have picnic wasps in the backyard, resulting in more stings if one wasn't careful (or one stepped on one) ;_*

Our country is so diverse in it's topography that traveling around it is like going to several countries. I'm glad you had a good time.

I assumed kestrels would be everywhere, like over here. Magpies too - they are regular garden visitors.

I think I had eastern grey (introduced to a park in San Fran), western grey at Yosemiti, with Douglas's squirrel, California ground squirrel, golden mantled ground squirrel, and several chipmonks I have not managed to identify yet.

I went searching for rattlesnakes with EJ, but failed to find any, sadly. On the way back he was stung several times by an unidentified beast. His foot swelled up horribly and I think he thought he had been bitten by a silent rattlesnake!

Oh, and I also saw hummingbirds, one of my key birds to see.

Yes, good country, though not so sure about Fox News...

If you and EJ were in the desert/sand, maybe the sting was a scorpion or an ant lion. I've never been stung by the former, but the latter gives a nasty bite which hurts a lot. I didn't have swelling, but maybe it depends on where the bite lands.

Hummingbirds! I've tried to attract them here, but with no luck. My brother had several who visited his house regularly when he lived in central Washington State. I've had them fly by me (a startling experience) in Texas. Saw quite a few and got some great pics of them in Joshua Tree State Park. They actually posed for me on the cacti!

Fox News? Why on earth would you watch Fox News? Was it a punishment for something you'd done? "Fair and Balanced News" my Great Aunt Tillie!

We took in a variety of channels to try to gain a balanced opinion of politics and influences over there (my son is a student of politics), and because there are some things over there we just do not understand as left-leaning Brits (attitudes to gun law, health service, views on Obama, death penalty etc), so thought we would see what was being reported. Fox certainly did make us laugh (or at times feel like crying) most. I tended to watch NBC/CNN for most of my real news, but how I missed the BBC.

I didn't know ant lions bite. Our European ones must be quite feeble. The sting was in a damp meadow in the mountains at Yosemiti and apparently sudden. At first he thought he had been pricked by a nettle, but there were none, and it went through a sock and canvas shoe. It swelled up so large I doubt it can have been from vegetation. I suspect wasps using a dead log, though we did not actually see or hear them at the time.

We saw Anna's hummingbird, at least, but did not see the others well enough to id. Some in gardens in San Fran, The biggest surprise was one about 5 miles out to sea at Monterey hovering over the whale watching boat! Guide thought it might have got lost in the fog - it is a regular thing apparently.

Edited at 2012-08-09 06:41 am (UTC)

Yes, those ant lions bite. They live in depressions just under the sand. If you had been near the cholla cactus, I would suspect that as if you even brush against it slightly, the spines adhere and they can work their way in to the bone. We picked up a few on our shoes/socks in Nevada, but we had a tweezer with us to remove them. If you rub them, it just sets them more deeply.

We do get BBCAmerica here and I will watch it to get an idea of what's happening in the world outside of our little selves. The media here are constantly warring with one another as to who is really telling the truth. To quote from the movie "Tootsie", "truth, in many ways, is a relative term".

I've been lucky enough to see the Anna's, Violet-Throated and Ruby Throated. Also Green-Throsted. Last trip out west, there was a Hummingbird nest right outside our bedroom window in the r.v. and I got to watch the female sitting on her eggs!

(Conservatives here call CNN the Clinton News Network).

What do you think of your health service? People here are afraid of socialistic medicine; long, long waits for treatment; not-so-good care. Having only known my own health care, I'd be interested in the opinion of someone who uses another. If someone here doesn't have good health insurance, and often, even if you do, catastrophic illness can be bankrupting. We here waste so much money on weird things; if we didn't, there would be more money to insure everyone, at least children until age 18.

Your question on the health service is a little tricky. Intuitively the idea of a health service caring for everyone when they are sick without bankrupting them seems really sensible to me. But I have never experienced private health care so it is not possible to compare the quality of the two systems. A bit of my tooth broke off just before I left and I was very apprehensive of it getting painful while I was away. It didn't so it did not cost me an arm or a leg. I have needed the NHS for 2 significant things this year. I was delighted with the service I got from my doctor over a period of 3 months. She was really good. I also had a back/hip problem and have been less satisfied with that, although there may not be an easy answer. I think they are trying to avoid surgery because it is not quite bad enough but was still not too impressed with the consultant.

I was fascinated by the differences between the two countries. people in California seemed to be really friendly, more so than in London, and the place was vibrant, but at times the attention of waiters was infuriating. They seem much more dependent on tips than in the UK, and though I don't mind tipping, I'm not a Mr Pink if you know your Tarantino, I did find it irritating the way waiters kept coming back to you every 5 minutes asking if you were enjoying your meal (I would enjoy it a lot more if you would just leave us alone please - did not say this). And whisking plates away the minute you were finished the meal. Liked the refills for soft drinks though!

It was a shock going somewhere where I did not know many of the birds at first sight. Why did we give you starlings and house sparrows? Bizarre! Had to keep refering to field guides all the time, even in town. Also some species were far less frequent than I expected. Magpies and american kestrel, as I have said before, also swallows, martins and swifts for instance. Interested how your butterflies were mostly in recognisable families to ours, with the odd exception.

Did not get to any desert unfortunately. One for another visit perhaps - would like to get to Joshua Tree National Park.

New Yorkers are a bit more stand-offish. There are so many people, we usually keep a bit of distance, though in times of trouble, we'll come to your aid.

Waiters are the same everywhere; they hope for a large tip, as many restaurants split the tips evenly between all the waiters at the end of the night. It is irritating to have them popping up all the time. I think they take the plates in the hopes that you'll now order dessert and/or coffee.

I believe starlings were brought here as part of some experiment, either to control some bugs or because someone thought they would be a nice addition to our bird world. Now they are everywhere. I rather like them for their speckled breasts. I don't know why house sparrows came here. I see a lot of swallows by rivers; not so many martins or swifts.

In Dinosaur National Park, in Utah, by the Green River (I think)we saw swallows flying out over the water, coming back and shaking their wings out over the mud flats, where the bugs would stick and then the birds would eat the bugs! It thrills me to see things like that!

Many of the Joshua trees are feeling the pressure of rising temperatures and are dying back from the lower elevations in the park. There were a great many more Joshua trees on the Indian land approaching the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, where the horseshoe shaped overhang was built a few years ago than there were in J.T. Park. We have walked out on the overhang and it was fun!

Great Jimson Weed in J.T.Park, flowers like big white trumpets!

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