The Stork Delivers

Greetings all! Just sitting here waiting for the deluge of rain to pass through so I can get to a ridiculously long training run. Was supposed to get back on the trails, but by the looks of it, going to be too muddy – no reason to risk an injury less than a month from the first race of the season. While I wait out the weather blahs, thought I would put a little NCAA tournament on and bang on the keyboard a bit. May not get it completed before heading out, so apologies if this gets posted later in the day.

Okay, let’s discuss this half Pelican, half Vulture, half Heron looking creature.

Wood Stork shot at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge near Savannah Georgia, May 2015

A bit creepy if you ask me. As I’ve stated during my bird lecture intros, Linda and I are destination wildlife/nature photographers. We essentially travel to our subjects – most of our vacations are specifically planned to get a particular bird or waterfall in the tin. Grab some research books, travel brochures, cross-reference with the birding check list, check the research books again to confirm (to the best of our ability) there is a good chance of finding it, pack up the RV and hope for the best. Sometimes it results in complete failure like the Arkansas trip we took last year (although I did manage to get a couple of unexpected +1’s and a Tarantula Hawk (link here) – Linda totally struck out).

Wood Stork shot at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge near Savannah Georgia, May 2015

Hit the jump to read more about the Georgia trip target bird.

Continue reading The Stork Delivers

The Devil Bird Went Down to Georgia

Spent the day tearing out all the tile in my master shower which definitely had its moments – like the 200 pound sheet of cement board with the tile still on it that decided it would take it upon itself to try and kill me – unexpectedly, it broke free of the stud, just missed my head and then hit the ladder I was standing on before embedding itself in the shower pan – thankfully the pan was the reason all this work was set in motion so it got what it deserved. I’ll probably have to add that to the list of events which I like to label as the “near misses” list. Not nearly as long as the birding list, but a bit longer than I like to admit to. That which doesn’t kill me, serves to makes me wiser. As I reflect on the day and prepare for tomorrow’s planned half marathon training run, thought I would pad the bird list and maybe gain some ground on Ron.

Anhinga shot at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge near Savannah, Georgia May 2015

Ooops, should have mentioned in the intro that these shots are not my best work. In a bit of luck, while shooting the target for the trip to Georgia, another bird showed up that I had not yet officially checked off the list. I have a few pictures of this bird from a quick trip to Florida to drive my parents back from their winter stay. Thanks to a vendor conference in Orlando, I was also able to get a shot of one with my cell phone. All of those shots turned out to be awful and therefor elated to get a third chance at one. This bird is becoming my nemesis – three attempts and still nothing I’d be willing to hang on a wall. Now taking the +1 …well, that is a completely different story.

Anhinga shot at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge near Savannah, Georgia May 2015

Hit the jump to read a bit more about this flying cross!

Continue reading The Devil Bird Went Down to Georgia

GatorNeck

Once again, bringing you another break from the feathered fodder. Luckily, this time not a result of cargo loads of hate mail showing up at the door. Nope, bringing you a non-birding post on my own terms. Now, I will admit today’s post was a direct result of a birding adventure and the only reason Linda and I were even in this particular spot was to get a new mark on the birding checklist – actually, I can expand that a bit – one of the two reason we headed all the way to the Georgia swamps was to stand at the very spot these shots were taken. I’ll get to those two reasons in a future posts – for now, let’s take a gander at the shot below.

Alligators shot at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refugee, near Savannah Georgia May 2015

Back in May of 2015 (no idea what happened, the best I can tell is we time warped directly to 2019 – scary) we were visiting Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge which is about 30 miles outside Savannah, Georgia. For those of you not familiar with this refuge, it was established in 1962 on an abandoned military airfield. There are still runways hidden in the overgrown fields along with about 2,800 acres of mixed saltwater marsh, fields and woods. The unique name comes from the peninsula it sits on being originally named Dickenson’s Neck and then later renamed for the principal proprietor in the 18th century, William Harris.

Alligators shot at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refugee, near Savannah Georgia May 2015

Form your impression of the shots above and then hit the jump to read some intriguing details.

Continue reading GatorNeck

Have a Laugh on Me

Let’s go ahead and continue with the Georgia birding trip theme for another March post. From what I can tell from a quick count that excursion to the swamps to the east resulted in at least a +5. Yep, 5 count increments that have simply been sitting in bit purgatory since May 2015 waiting for someone to give them a bit of love and in some cases a dose of processing to get them in decent enough shape to show the world. Suspect there’s probably less than 800 images left to comb through to finish out the haul from the trip – one good effort over the weekend should put a bow on Georgia processing. That just leaves the easy part, smacking the keyboard in hopes of delivering a post worthy my reader’s time. To that end I bring you the second +1 from the trip.

Laughing Gull found at Tybee Island, Georgia May 2015

For starters, in case you haven’t noticed, I do not feature a lot of Gulls on the blog. There are two main reasons for this. One is the fact that they can be damn hard to ID unless you are lucky enough to find the ones that are regionally constrained or have some unique element that makes them stand out from the horde. I have taken 10’s of thousands of shots of Gulls in my adventures in the field and very few of them fall into the easy to ID category. Many are juveniles or females which have about an equal chance of getting correctly labeled as a juvenile Sparrow. Thus, those shots lay nestled on their digital platters patiently waiting for me to dig in and devote the time and energy to properly check them off the list. Knowing the Gulls are pretty much untapped gives me a bit of comfort when it comes to my relatively low bird count and something to fall back to on a rainy day.

Laughing Gull found at Tybee Island, Georgia May 2015

Hit the jump to find out more about this hooded bandit.

Continue reading Have a Laugh on Me

A Carolina in Georgia

Finally getting around to processing the rest of the shots form our birding trip to Georgia back in (looking down in shame) May of 2015. You at least have to give me some credit for trying to muscle through the incredible backlog. Truthfully, there is a reason I’ve been actively hesitant – is that a thing, let’s go with intentionally slow to get to this trip. One of the main reasons is I f’d up while out in the field there and almost got myself seriously injured. I’ve had a few experiences where I’ve skipped a few heartbeats due to something unexpected happening. One of those times was seeing Ron’s head almost smashed with a steel door. On a personal front, I came way to close to dangerous wildlife in the swamps of Georgia thanks to looking down my glass while walking and not watching the created void in front of me. I’ll get to that in a future post, but thought I’d start with a picture I took while I was heading out into the swamp.
Raven in Georgia May 2015

That’s our youngest, Raven. I laughed to myself when I saw this image come through the digital darkroom. He’s as cute as it gets, but has a serious attitude: “Hey, do you really think you are going to leave me here while you go off and play in the woods!?! Get your ass back here now.” Good thing that cockiness serves him well while competing in the agility ring – he also knows I’m a pushover for ear licks.

Guess I better get to the featured bird for today’s post. My shots are a bit weak for this series, but it is a +1 so I have to go with what I was able to get in the tin.
Carolina Chickadee found in Georgia May 2015

Hit the jump to see a few more mediocre shots if a bird I thought Ron didn’t have yet.

Continue reading A Carolina in Georgia

A Rocky Warbler

Welcome to March everyone! Always a weird feeling when another month is torn off the calendar. A variety of emotions and feelings seems to collide at once. First a slight wave of panic comes over me as I realize that the quota counter resets back to zero and I have to start thinking about at least 6 new topics worth the time my readers generously give me. Soon after that a major concern washes over as I quickly compute the days left before the summer’s planned 50K running event. Then a major swing to the positive as the thoughts of spring make their way in bring a big smile with the excitement of getting back out in the field for the early migration. Of course, it always ends with the sobering “WHERE THE HELL DID THAT LAST MONTH GO!?!” I like to keep myself very busy and have a to-do list that probably rivals small novels in paper thickness – hate to leave this world without getting the very most out of it. While I try to figure out how to squeeze a few more minutes out of the day, figured I’d put out a quick post on a pretty cool looking bird. Before I do that though, wanted to give a shout out to Brian over at Butterflies to Dragsters (link here) who just celebrated his second year of blogging! Those of us with our own blogs know very well the work that goes into them and Brian has been putting up some amazing stuff from his outings across the pond. Check him out and wish him a happy anniversary, you will not be disappointed.

Decided to go with a quick post today from a shoot back in May of 2014 – I know, I know, I’m waaaay behind, but these calendar pages keep flying off the walls.

Wilson's Warbler found at Rocky Mountain National Park May 2014\

Hit the jump to see a few more picture of this very distinct Warbler.

Continue reading A Rocky Warbler

Once Upon a Fawn

Apparently some of you are tired of the bird after bird after bird posts as of late. Note even the slight detour with an amorous Skunk would appease your thirst for something new or more succinctly stated by a rather perturbed correspondence “you know, your blog is called wildlife not birdlife”. They definitely have a point so today I will try to appease the teeming millions and go with something in the cloven hoof category – a Killdeer! … sorry, bad birding joke.

Don’t fret, I am making good on a real hoofed animal.

Doe and Fawn discovered at ?? while on our Georgia birding trip in May 2015

Okay everyone, say it with me “….Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh”. How cute is that!?! Now some of you might have held back a bit knowing how destructive these animals can get when they mature. Anyone who lives in the country like Linda and I definitely know their taste for flowers and gardens. At our other house we enjoyed the blooms on the 100 tulip bulbs we planted for … wait for it … wait for it.. ONE day! Then we had the pleasure of enjoying 100 bloomless stalks for the rest of the month. One has even managed to completely destroy my first sports car (thank god for air bags and a lot of luck). Even Linda has managed to tear up some fenders bouncing off them while they attempted to play Frogger. However, when it comes to their baby stages, they are just plain adorable.

Doe and Fawn discovered at ?? while on our Georgia birding trip in May 2015

You usually do not simply come upon a Fawn out on its own. Their mothers generally keep pretty good tabs on them and tend to shadow them just far enough that their offspring think they are braving their new world on their own, but in truth they are being watched very closely. To be honest, mother is probably spending more time watching their surroundings making sure there are no predators around. Sure enough, this Fawn was under a watchful eye.

Hit the jump to see a few more pictures (it will bring a cheer to your heart).

Continue reading Once Upon a Fawn

Scarlet for Valentine’s

Once again the white fluffy stuff is coming down. Luckily the accumulation has been manageable so far and not one to complain since it means our wells will benefit as it melts off in a month or so. Unfortunately, not the best of timings as Linda and I had to renew our qualifications on the range this morning. Last time it was also snowing, but 2 degrees (F) out making conditions completely miserable. Still chilly today, but definitely better. Now that the fingers are all warmed up, figured I’d bang out a quick post (bad pun). Decided to wait on the previously planned post and continue with the Valentine’s theme. This was mainly due to a few people asking for details on how our annual “Date Night with a Skunk” went.

Brian and Linda Dinner with a Skunk Wildlife Prairie Park February 2019

Quick background. We are members of Wildlife Prairie Park, a now privately owned park focused on the wildlife historically common to the Midwest. They have a number of captive animals and birds to enjoy and really nice grounds for walking, birding, mountain biking, trail running etc. We happen to volunteer there helping them photographically chronicle their progress on a new bird related endeavor they embarked on last year (3+ years still to go on that). This park used to be owned by the state, but since Illinois is essentially a fiscally failed state (scratch the “essentially” and just go with it IS a fiscally failed state), some private investors ended up taking it back and turning it around. One of their annual fundraisers is an elaborate Valentine’s dinner complete with drinks, dancing (if you are into that), 5 course meal, door prizes and you guessed it… an evening with a local resident Skunk – a play on the love stricken Pepe Le Pew cartoon (not sure this cartoon fits in this day and age anymore). For several years now, along with some friends we have been attending this event and yes, getting our pictures taken with an absolutely adorable Skunk. Just in case you are wondering, de-scented and basically a domesticated version of their more common wild brethren that have a habit of causing neighborhood dogs to get tomato soup baths. Our friend Sung took our pictures above before the night took on an unexpected elation moment only to result in a major disappointment.

Before I get to that, let’s shift to the real feature for today’s post.

tLL

Hit the jump to see a few more pictures of the featured bird and find out how the dinner party went.

Continue reading Scarlet for Valentine’s

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Birding World

Hello Everyone, Happy “Spend Lots of Money on Your Significant Other” Day or minimally shower them with affection and let them know how important they are in your life (the latter being a hell of a lot cheaper .. just saying). So a few posts back I mentioned that I had already selected the featured subject for this special day. That foreshadowing resulted in Ron spending every available minute from that point on theorizing, hypothesizing and speculating on what I would possibly select to represent SLoMoYSO Day. He actually had a few good guesses, but failed to put two and two together even though he already knew what birds were in my queue. Granted, his guess of a Vermilion Flycatcher (link here) would have definitely been a fitting tribute to the traditional color of the day, I went with another option – one that is making its debut on the blog.

Anna's Hummingbird found at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Las Vegas, NV, November 2018

Yes, a Hummingbird! How cute is that!?! In every post involving these delicate birds I’ve mentioned how I have to travel to get any variety in the tin. If you live in the Midwest you basically have three choices of Hummingbirds. The first being a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. Secondly, if you stand real still in a yard full of Hummingbird feeders you just might see a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. Now lastly, if you are feeling really lucky, and I mean really feeling lucky and cover yourself in sugar water and shimmy up the largest pole you can locate you might find yourself in a mental ward …soon after seeing a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. I think you get the picture.

Anna's Hummingbird found at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Las Vegas, NV, November 2018

So instead, we load up the RV and head out to better locations. Las Vegas happened to be the spot where this specimen made it into the tin. Over the last Thanksgiving holiday we headed out to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area to see what we could find being already elated to have checked off the Costa’s Hummingbird the day before (link here). While coming out of the Visitor Center I noticed the unmistakable sound of a Hummingbird blasting by with full burners engaged. Challenge accepted. This proved to be a bit more difficult than usual thanks to choosing to leave the Beast at home and rent a 180-600mm from a local camera store. Although it was definitely lighter than the Beast, the focus was incredibly slow making in flight shots impossible. All was not lost, just needed to wait until these sugar freaks took a break.

Hit the jump to discover why this little bird was chosen for V-Day.

Continue reading Happy Valentine’s Day from the Birding World

Not So Shiny

A friend of mine has been getting me all teased up for a vacation trip to Hawaii. He is headed there soon and busy pointing out all the birds from that region he’s already managed to get in the tin. Linda and I had plans to go there for our 25th wedding anniversary, but we ended up postponing it due to other commitments. Every year since then we have tried to plan a makeup trip – again to no avail. Last year we decided that this would be our retirement gift to ourselves and put the trip on the shelf until we decide it’s time to divorce ourselves from the daily grind. So every time someone mentions they are heading to the islands my fingers get all twitchy like, a tick develops in the shoulder and my eyes start to blink uncontrollably until I make Quasimodo look like GQ material. They have some stunners of birds there that I need to see… damn, there goes that twitch again. Oh well, I can at least live vicariously through my friend’s captures until we decide to turn our badges in. You’ll be mine Red-Crested Cardinal .. some day… some day. Until we get to go island hopping, I can still continue hunting for all the continental US birds that still continue to elude me. Today’s featured bird first fell victim to my hunt back in December 2015 (link here).

Female Phainopepla found at Wetlands Park Preserve, Henderson Nevada, November 2018

Wait.. ummm, a little late on this, but for those that might be slightly concerned over wildlife with red eyes, you might want to be cautious – the light on these shots were not as conducive to getting the nice red highlights, but they do possess the dreaded early morning Vegas eyes. If you recall back on that initial encounter, we were at Corn Creek Visitor Center outside Las Vegas, Nevada. While birding the Mojava Desert over New Year’s, we found a Phainopepla hanging out at the top of a tree. Those shots had to be heavily processed to account for horrible backlighting. In oddly similar manner, we discovered this new specimen. Like before, we were in Vegas, in Late November (close enough to the New Year’s timeframe), and once again it was sitting at the top of a tree in horrible backlight.

Female Phainopepla found at Wetlands Park Preserve, Henderson Nevada, November 2018

Hit the jump to read a bit more about the shoot.

Continue reading Not So Shiny