Gaining My Marbles

I almost went with “A Wasted Endeavor” for the title of this post, however, my not so clever play on losing my marbles won out in the end. A little insight into the inner workings around here at Intrigued – there’s one key ingredient that brings it all together. Sure, the foundation of it all relies on being able to make it out in the field and discover content to feature. Then there’s the digital darkroom where I try to make everything as pretty as I can for you. There’s close to three years of outings in the queue that I am desperately trying to get through (thus the more than usual production as of late). Have to get everything uploaded to the galleries in order to reference into the posts and then the actual finger pounding the keyboard to give it all context. The fact is, all of those elements require a bit of effort on my part. Not exactly the effort you might be thinking of …

Marbled Godwit shot on Bolivar Peninsula Texas January 2017

I’m talking about the effort involved in trying to maintain your sanity being a distance runner. Trust me, people like me who feel guilty when not meeting the mileage quota for the week probably need some therapy – “Hello, my name is Brian and I am a Runner. [all] Hello Brian.” To keep myself from thinking about every step during the run, I set my mind to planning out the next post. What is worth my reader’s time, what interesting photographs do have that will give life to that topic and the most important element – what is the title going to be. It is downright embarrassing how many miles I cover thinking about that component. Hardest part is being able to remember what I came up with by the time I hit the stopwatch. To be honest, it really is a giant life circle. I exercise so I can go into the field, hike all day with heavy equipment, take photos to bring back and then use my exercise time to put it all together. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. Honestly, there isn’t anything I’d rather be doing to pass my free time than out in the wild staring down the barrel of large glass at a new bird for my North American Birding List. In retrospect, that seems like a long intro to simply introduce the first Marble in my collection.

Marbled Godwit shot on Bolivar Peninsula Texas January 2017

Hit the jump to learn more about this tall wader.

Continue reading Gaining My Marbles

A Telling White Line

Well, I’ve just turned another year older which always brings an immediate reaction of “where the hell did that year go!”. Every year I set my sights on getting a bunch of stuff accomplished like finally getting caught up on my photography queue and designing out that cool Halloween decoration I’ve been mulling over the past 6 months. Then I wake up to Linda wishing me a happy birthday and bam, another cold flounder up across the face – crap, my queue is still three years deep and although I did get to a record number of Halloween props for this year’s haunted trail… I know I could have done more – what a slacker. Definitely need to recommit myself to being more productive. One area that has been going well as of late is my bird count.

Neotropic Cormorant shot at Galveston National Park and Seawolf Park in Galveston Texas January 2017

That there is the latest addition to my checklist. Should be assumed by now, but this sleek black bird comes to you courtesy of the Texas Gulf Coast. In particular, this addition was made in the Galveston Island area. These initial specimens were spotted in the Galveston Island State Park while on a birding trip back in January 2017. At the time I thought I was simply filling up my digital card with more pictures of Double-Crested Cormorants. These interesting looking birds are fairly common at waterways across all of the United States at some point during the year. When they are not riding the waves, they are generally just hanging around on docks and poles enjoying the lazy day – might even see them with their wings splayed out trying to get them to dry in the sun.

Neotropic Cormorant shot at Galveston National Park and Seawolf Park in Galveston Texas January 2017

Hit the jump to read more about this new addition.

Continue reading A Telling White Line

Cha Cha Cha Went the Birdy’s Feet

Hope everyone is keeping warm wherever you happen to be. The Midwest is once again on a freezer lockdown as the temps plummet again into single digits. As I tell people, I really do not have a leg to stand on being that I choose to live in a state that experiences all of the seasons – the good with the bad, the perfects to the extremes. The irony of it all is Linda was quick to inform me tonight about the weather conditions in the very region we have been featuring this month, Texas. While we were down there over Christmas break, the temps were unseasonably cold. We went all the way to the Rio Grande and I didn’t get the chance to wear shorts once. The mercury essentially hung in the high 30s low 40s cresting once into the mid 50’s on the last day we were there. Don’t feel bad for us, our home town was experiencing -22 windchill. Our friends accused us of bringing the cold down to Texas and yes, it did warm up to mid 70’s the day after we left. Guess what, it is snowing in the Corpus Christie area and the windchill temps at South Padre are 18. Based on the covering we saw for 40’s, my guess is the locals were raiding grocery stores and bundled up like the kid in A Christmas Story.

Thanks to the web, you get to experience our latest southern Texas bird from the comfort of your home.

Plain Chachalaca shot at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge Freson Texas in January 2017

That rather strange looking bird is not a chicken although Cornell did imply it was a chicken relative. It isn’t a color deficient Peacock either. This happens to be a Plain Chachalaca. I can say without a doubt this is one of Linda’s least favorite birds to encounter in the wild – at least when I am around. For some reason the name makes me laugh. Upon initial discovery of the name, I thought it was pronounced Chawkalawka. Channeling my inner child this was uttered in a deep long drawn out verbalization – think lost rainforest tribe dancing around a fire chanting to the fire gods. Every time Linda and I encountered one I was obligated to inform Linda of its arrival by repeating my new tribal influence moniker. Chaw Ka La Ka Chaw Ka La Ka Chaw Ka La Ka Ugga Ooga-chaka, ooga-ooga hooked on feeling I’m high on believing that you’re in love with me.

Plain Chachalaca shot at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge Freson Texas in January 2017

Hit the jump to find out more about the Plain Chachalaca.

Continue reading Cha Cha Cha Went the Birdy’s Feet

Another Find in Sticky Mud

If you have not noticed yet, I am definitely trying to make the most of the extended holiday weekend. It is amazing how much more you can get accomplished with 24 additional hours to consume – not to mention the weather down in the teens with a good wind punching up the chill factor tends to keep me inside in the warm den. Most of you should know by now, ever since starting the sister site Wildlife Intrigued, I try to keep my social interactions/observations/commentaries out of the wildlife related posts preferring to keep those dedicated posted only on the Life Intrigued flagship site. However, there are times when those experiences are too intriguing (in this case read hilarious) that I can’t wait. As a quick one, my wife recently placed an order at a local pizza joint. This particular establishment has odd sizes for their orders always prompting a discussion on what size we should order just for the two of us. I heard her ask the order taker on the phone for assistance on the average number of people a particular size offering could feed. She then went silent with a quizzical look on her face followed by a muffled chuckle. She later told me the reason for the reaction – the clerk indicated he wasn’t sure, “but it does come in eight pieces”. I’ll let that sink in a bit if the humor hasn’t already materialized.

Meanwhile, how about we get to the real feature of post.

White-Tailed Hawk shot while leaving Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas January 2095

No surprise here, ANOTHER birding find from our trip to Texas back in January 2017. Like the last post on the Altamira Oriole, this new addition to my birding list comes to us courtesy of Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge. Thanks to an overheard response by the ranger at the visitor center, we now refer to this birding hotspot as the Sticky Mud Lagoon. A visitor wanted to know what Atascosa stood for…a question we had never thought to ask. Now we all know thanks to a knowledgeable employee. This southwestern Buteo became quite the stumper when trying to ID it. The rufous coloring on the shoulders initially led me down the Red-Shouldered Hawk path.

 

White-Tailed Hawk shot while leaving Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas January 2095

The rather clear white breast left a lot of skepticism once I had confirmed the Red-Shouldered has a fairly barred chest and lot more streaking on top of the wings. A quick search of southern hawks produced the possibility of the Harris’s Hawk. The region was localized to the south Texas region, so that was a positive. Definitely has the red shouldering, but based on reference shots of that particular Buteo, it appeared the marking on the Harris’s is significantly larger than the patch on our specimen. A quick validation of the chest coloring knocked that ID out of contention. The Harris’s sports a dark breast and carries the reddish coloring down through the leg feathering. I am pretty familiar with the Hawks in the Midwest and those encountered out west. The large size (larger than the common Red-Tailed) of this one and more solid markings were not aligning. Opting to look at each and every Hawk in my reference books, eventually came to the conclusion that this particular specimen was likely a White-Tailed Hawk. This was initially dismissed because the reference book shots has the long wings moved off of the tail giving me the impression the tail was always visible and distinctively white. In reality they have very long pointed wings that do hide their white tail feature. There is also a black tail band near the tip. If you look closely at the two pictures above you will just barely see it between the twigs of the tree. Fairly certain on my end, I sent it off for confirmation from my brother Ron. His first response was “Red-Shouldered” which prompted a recounting of the process that got me to the White-Tailed. Upon further analysis and some dead on reference shots on the web we are now in complete agreement – a new +1 and yes, another bird Ron will have to make an effort to catch up on. For reference, here is the backside of the Hawk showing the fairly solid coloring and those long tapered wings.

White-Tailed Hawk shot while leaving Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas January 2095

Linda and I encountered this bird on the way out of the refuge. The day was coming to a close, but following my golden rule, of “If you see it, shoot it”, made Linda pull to the side so I could get a few shots in the tin – thus the limited perspectives. I already covered some of the unique aspects of this new bird. To add a couple more facts, the white tail and black band is unique for Buteos in North America – had I been able to get an inflight shot, the ID could have been a lot easier. They seem to be the Hawk with the largest latitude span extending down into the Caribbeans. Lastly, juveniles have a 15% longer tail than adults – their tail feathers are not able to cover that length completely. Our specimen besides being very large, had sufficient coverage indicating it is indeed an adult.

That’s all I have for you on this particular bird. Hope you enjoyed reading about my latest addition. Now regarding the conversation on pizza size. I hope you realize by now, that the number 8 is the standard cut format for pizzas – half, half, mid slices which always produces … wait for it … 8 slices regardless of the size of the pizza and thus why my math major wife found it so amusing.

Should Have Known to Look Up

Going for the trifecta with today’s featured post. If you have been following along, we are all about the big state of Texas here at the headquarters of Intrigued. More specifically, we are laser focused on pushing my bird count up thanks to a number of visits to the Gulf Coast – wiping the sweat from our brows, pounding Alleve to counter the swelling in our fingers from typing and rubbing our eyes from pouring over reference books to properly ID the backlog of images we are trying to get through. Like the last post on the Vermilion Flycatcher, our current focus of attention was pretty easy on the ID front.

Altamira Oriole shot at Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge Texas January 2017

Up to this point, I have been able to cover our local Baltimore Oriole (link here). Thanks to a trip to South Dakota I was able to add the Orchard Oriole to the mix (link here). Adding to this growing collection of Orioles, a visit to the Red Rocks Ampitheatre produced a surprising Bullock’s Oriole (link here). Not a bad haul when it comes to the Oriole family. With those, I pretty much had the northern, east and west staples covered. Turns out, I can now add the southern tip of Texas – and I mean the very southern tip.

Altamira Oriole shot at Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge Texas January 2017

Hit the jump to read more about this Oriole family member.

Continue reading Should Have Known to Look Up

When Red or Scarlet Isn’t Good Enough

If all goes well around here at Intrigued, the bird counter should pretty much be free spinning well into next month. Most of those additions will be coming from the Texas coastline. Pretty sure I already made posts from our first trip to Galveston Island back in November 2013. I recently completed processing all of the shots from our Christmas trip down to South Padre Island last year. Those shots will be featured for most of the posts over the next several weeks. I need to get through those by mid February in order to focus on all the new blog fodder put in the tin on our recent trip back to Padre and then over to the Mission region on the Rio Grande. Texas has become a biding nirvana for me – each trip has produced multitudes of +1’s. A surprising number of those being absolutely gorgeous birds.

Vermilion Flycatcher shot at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Texas in January 2017

One thing for sure, the Peterson Field Guide I use for my field reference does not do this bird justice. At the time I had no idea what kind of bird it was. It was definitely smaller than a Cardinal although it did sport a spiky tuft of a crown. I did not boost the saturation of this bird, although the overcast feel of the day did give it more of a natural pop against the duller background. The Summer Tanager was the next option, but even that species is pretty much duller red all over and seemed stockier than this specimen- see my previous reference (link here). Hmmm – staying in that arena, it did have a feel of Scarlet Tanager which is definitely closer to the red hue along with the darker wing coloring. The definite robber mask set this one apart from that. My previous Scarlet reference is of a water logged specimen, but you can see that here (link here). (Note, I do have a better Scarlet in the queue, just need to find some time to get it posted).

Vermilion Flycatcher shot at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Texas in January 2017

Hit the jump to see more images of this bird and, of course, learn what it is if you haven’t seen one before.

Continue reading When Red or Scarlet Isn’t Good Enough

Fuzzy Wuzza Oyster

Somehow this month has already gotten away from me. Partial blame is having spent the first week of January down in Texas seeking out new material for the blog. For the next couple of months you will definitely be hearing a lot about that recent trip as well as spoils from the other trips to Texas we’ve taken over the last several years. There is a specific reason for this southern state focus, but I am going to keep that under wraps for a bit longer. For you, the Texas focus is going to be either really good or possibly irritating. If you are a bird enthusiast you will definitely be the former – if you prefer your wild without feathers, then my apologies right up front, gonna be a bumpy ride. I do plan to sprinkle in some other creatures to help you through it.

Kicking right into the new year’s theme – bringing you another new bird for my list

American Oystercatcher found on Bolivar Peninsula ,Texas January 2017

Hopefully you can make it through the less than stellar photography execution. The day was overcast and basically too dark to even hope to get a wall hanger. Task at hand was to try my best to get something in the tin to satisfy requirements to officially get the check on my list. Took a bit of processing in the digital darkroom, but I think they are sufficient to get credit – will let my check officiating crew (aka my brother Ron) weigh in if there is a differing opinion. For now, you will need to tolerate some fuzzy soft shots.

American Oystercatcher found on Bolivar Peninsula ,Texas January 2017

Hit the jump to find out with this new bird is!

Continue reading Fuzzy Wuzza Oyster

Spotify the Sparrow

It is finally thawing out a bit here in the Midwest. Although we did get a nice covering of sleet followed by an inch or so of new snow, I am pleased to say we are up in the 30 degree range. Feels like a heat wave based on what this area has been experiencing over the last couple of weeks. Admittedly, we did escape some of that with a trip back to Texas over the holidays. I would have preferred staying around, but we had to head all the way down to the southern tip of Texas to find new fodder for the blog – the hardships we bloggers have to do to keep our loyal readers … sorry, I could barely type that from laughing so hard. Trust me, I jumped at the chance to get out of the negative double digit windchills even if Texas was experiencing colder than usual temps. More on the fruits of that labor to come. Right now, thought I would feature a surprising +1 to the Birding List.

Song Sparrow shot in Baraboo Wisconsin April 2014

Now, surprising not so much on the specific bird, because it is likely you have had the pleasure of seeing one of these anywhere in the US and a significant portion of Canada. The surprising element is the fact the Song Sparrow is so common in these parts I was shocked when I noticed it was absent from my birding list. This bird is so frequently encountered on my bird outings I typically do not even bother taking pictures of it anymore. Had I known it wasn’t checked I would have spent some extra time to get better shots (will keep this in mind next time out in the field).

Song Sparrow shot in Baraboo Wisconsin April 2014

Hit the jump to “See Spot run” errr “sit”!

Continue reading Spotify the Sparrow

A Decade Anniversary

Well, we have definitely made it to 2018 – or, based on the current weather, the Chinese year of the popsicle!

This month officially completes my 10th year of blogging. Yes, folks and entire decade of observing life around me and bringing you my perspectives and interpretations. Admittedly, rather proud of that accomplishment. I personally cannot believe it has been that long since committing to this small off ramp on the information highway. All started thanks to my brother Ron who provided the spark with his own blogging over at Dead Reckonings – link here. One of my goals for this year was to expand Life Intrigued to a broader audience. I have mentioned this a number of times over the years, but finally carried it through. Wildlife Intrigued was create and launched in the beginning of the year to provide a more public offering to the wildlife related posts on the Life Intrigued blog. The new blog has introduced me to individuals all over the world and really pushed me to make sure my wildlife posts were up to that par. Although an addition of a significant amount of work, very pleased with how that is progressing and looking forward to what that offshoot will bring in the coming year (there is one upcoming event that I’ll be posting on in a few months). Note, for those reading this summary from the Wildlife blog site, the stats provided are for the Life Intrigued posting and thus represent a larger body of work of which Wildlife is a subset.

With turning of the new calendar, tradition continues with the yearly summary. Our efforts with our photography work continues to be the main focus of the blog, however, this year brought a large number of projects (especially on the Halloween front), book recollections and still some perspectives on my daily life observations. Although this year I pulled back from the Marathon distance, it was still another big year on the road with a record number of half marathons making its way into the books. Still struggling with some heat issues, but went over 1,000 miles for another year with multiple age group placements – one of the few advantages of turning 50 (sigh). I’ve mentioned this a number of times, but it is truly amazing to look back over the years (all 10 of them) and see what was keeping my attention back then and on a personal development front see the progression in my photography abilities and Halloween prop building. I’ve purposely kept my political leanings out of the Wildlife arena – no reason to mix our broken political system with the tranquility and, quite frankly, currently more civilized ecosystem of the wildlife kingdom. For those that might be wondering, I set my yearly goals at the end of this month to give myself sufficient time to really think about what I want to accomplish and what areas of character development to focus on. I am moving into a brand new role at my day job which looks to be very challenging. Add that element to the list of items in my idea book, throw in new ventures in Halloween electronics, new photography trips along with a continued strive to get healthier (is this the year of the obstacle courses?!?!?) and we have a recipe for excitement, challenges and another full year of blogging. My heartfelt appreciation for all my readers and a huge thank you for all the commenters that have provided their inputs on my meanderings (that includes a special thanks to my brother Ron who pretty much commented on EVERY one of my posts). Nothing makes my day more than sitting down at the computer and seeing feedback on one of my posts – please keep the comments coming especially if there is anything I can do to improve your experience.

Again, special thanks goes to my brother Ron for all the time he has put in on the blog, helping to bring my crazy project ideas to fruition and making the effort to head out into the field on our numerous birding outings in search of feathered friends to feature on this post. He continues to challenge me on the bird count pushing me to catch up his impressive number. Finally making some headway on that thanks to a number of birding trips to other states (Texas rocked again this year and even Minnesota added a good number to the count). Of course, he did take a hit to his bird count when he started up his wildlife related blog – per our agreed upon birding rules, our counts only go up after featuring the bird on our blog – rules are rules hehehe, It does bring a smile to my face now that he is experiencing the photo processing backlog – not my nightmare 3 year queue yet, but it is creeping up there. By the way, for the 7th year in a row I managed to hit my minimum 6 posts per month goal (yeah!).

I have high expectations for another exciting year around here at Life Intrigued and now the sister site Wildlife Intrigued. The training season is already in full swing (albeit on the treadmill at the moment – too damn cold out lately), processing is in full swing on the photo backlog and, to hopefully no surprise, Halloween prop work is already in flight. Looking forward to trying to hold on to my UB competition reign (not sure I blogged about it this year, but I won this year’s annual photography competition between my wife and I). Hope you join me on this journey again this year! Enjoy the details in my blogging summary below and let’s pop the top on that champagne in celebration of 10 years past and plenty more to come.

Thank You!

And now, the annual stats for the year’s worth of blogging.

Hit the jump to see the 2017 stats!

Continue reading A Decade Anniversary

That Shaft Be Red

First off, Happy NewYear Everyone!!  I can’t believe we have officially put another year in the books.  Every time it comes to this point on the calendar I ask myself where did the year go.  Although I was able to get a lot of objectives checked off, there always seems to be that undertone of “I should have done more”.  It will soon be time to set my new resolutions – I never do it until a few weeks into the new year to give me time to ponder what my goals are really going to be.  For now, I’ll simply pat myself on the back having just completed a decade of blogging.  That’s right, today represents the start of the 11th year here on the ol’ blog.  It will be a few more days before the end of year stats are ready to post, but we’ll touch more upon that proud accomplishment when that post comes out.

For now, let’s ring in the new year with a new variety for my birding list.

Northern Flicker - Red Shafted - shot in Colorado May 2014

The Northern Flicker in itself is not a new check on my list having been featured back in March of 2016 (link here).  If you look close at the pictures in that previous post, you will notice there is black line extending in from the bill.  This represents one of the two subspecies of the Northern Flicker.  Since it is black, it is easy to identify it as the “Black-Shafted” variety.

Northern Flicker - Red Shafted - shot in Colorado May 2014

I might have just fibbed, hit the jump for a correction!

Continue reading That Shaft Be Red