Maggie May

“You lured me away from home, just to save you from being alone
You stole my soul and that’s a pain I can do without”

So, as the adage goes, stories of my demise are greatly exaggerated. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for one of my 3TB work drives. It no workie anymore. Work drives are my day after day use – digital darkroom processing, searches general access and always connected to my main computer for ease. Luckily, all of my photos are backed up on a fully raided NAS drives. So nothing lost (relief). However, it took 6 nonstop days to copy back from the NAS drive onto a brand new working drive. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of finger crossing that nothing goes wrong with the originals while copying back. All done now, nothing lost but my time away from the blog. Let’s remedy that now!

Black-Billed Magpie shot in Colorado, May 2014

Today’s featured feathered friend comes to us courtesy of Red Rocks Amphitheatre on a trip to Colorado back in May 2014. The Black-Billed Magpie is not a new bird to the blog having been previously featured back in July 2008 (link here). That also happens to be the first time I had ever encountered this colorful bird. We were passing through South Dakota on our way to visit Yellowstone. One of the great things about having a photography blog over the last 10 years is you get a firsthand look at how you are improving your craft. Those initial first shots are quite the fuzzy mess.

Black-Billed Magpie shot in Colorado, May 2014

I did get a little better when they appeared for a second time back in February 2015 (link here). There is always room for improvement, but these are a far cry from that initial effort. Those were taken from a good distance, where this third installment had much better foot zoom. Thing is, the closer you get to these members of the Crow family, the more you realize just how menacing they look. Something about those dark hoods that energizes the flight instincts whenever they show up in my viewfinder. Truthfully, my encounters with this large bodied birds has been quite cordial. They simply go about their business as if I am not even there. In this encounter on the outer loop of the Red Rocks trail, I heard a weird rustling sound under a bunch of sage. Not wanting to move off the trail, the next 20 minutes was spent trying locate the moving sound. Thinking I was on target, then engaged in some birding yoga in an attempt to find an angle giving a glimpse of the ruckus source. Hear sound, move to approximate location, peer through the brush only to hear it a few feet in another direction. After numerous search cycles it became a quest. I was either going to be eaten by an annoyed coyote or get something in the tin worth blogging about.

Black-Billed Magpie shot in Colorado, May 2014

During the course of this hunt people would walk/jog by with inquisitive looks. You get this a lot when you are standing around with big glass out in the wild. Embarrassingly my repeated response to their inquiry was “I don’t know” with a couple of “Yeti” just to spice it up a bit. After the fun of taunting me wore off the mystery animal flew up on a nearby post. Yep, a Magpie was just foraging for food in the thick underbrush. At least something went into the tin so it was worth the time … I suppose. Interesting creatures these Magpies – apparently enjoy making fools of us humans.

That’s all I have for you today folks. Just wanted to knock the cobwebs down a bit since it has been a couple of weeks since posting. Take it easy everyone and hopefully my technical difficulties are resolved.

Never Short a Player

As a wildlife photographer, I tend to gravitate to the new or rarer opportunities. Clearly those experiences come with a greater opportunity to learn something interesting or to simply expand your portfolio. I try to be conscious of this tendency while out in the field since it can cause tunnel vision – a narrowing/restriction of your photo targets. The best example of this is on your first trip to Yellowstone compared to subsequent and even the later days of your first trip. If you have been there, go back and take a look at your first day’s shots. Guessing there are a lot of Bison in there. Now check the second, third and any subsequent trips. If you are like me, there is a logarithmic decline in those types of shots. Linda is very aware of this when it comes to my birding efforts. Takes a lot for me to take another picture of a Coot ha! I bring this all up because today’s post is one of those cases where traditional tunnel vision often occurs – fortunately, there’s a remedy!

Mallards shot at Springfield Lake May 2015

The Mallard is abundantly common in my parts, well for that matter, all of North America. If you are birding and come upon a decent sized body of water you are most assuredly going to see one or two hanging out near the banks paddling lazily by. To uphold my golden rule, I’ll quickly snap a pick just to record a species spotting – little effort in making sure the camera settings are ideal. For Coots I’m tempted to shoot from the hip and not even worry about getting it framed – those things are EVERYWHERE. There is something that changes my nonchalant attitude to the Mallard, something that transforms a minutia of shooting time into minutes if not hours.

Mallards shot at Springfield Lake May 2015

Hit the jump to see some more pics of this cuties!

Continue reading Never Short a Player

Exhausted by a Tiny Bird

I hope everyone had a happy and safe holiday (for those of you that celebrate Thanksgiving that is – keep forgetting my readership spans the globe). Linda and I had a very nice T-Day dinner followed up with night and day activities feeding Black Friday frenzy – now even starting as early as Thursdays. Admittedly, for the most part, a lot of holiday shopping is done online these days. Hard to pass up a completely hassle free shopping experience for the exact same cost point. There was a time constraint this year as we’re holding my side’s Christmas in a few days. We couldn’t wait for the delivery and there were a few in store sales worth braving the cold and hectic morning. Then there’s today where we do head out to help our local small businessmen and businesswomen. I mainly mention this because we are home now and basically exhausted which is good news for you since wind down for me generally involves blogging! Been hitting the Halloween posts on my other blog this month, so opted for this today.

American Redstart shot in Minnesota on Lake Superior in July 2017

The American Redstart is one of the more colorful birds available to us in the US. Although they winter in South America, they can be found in the contiguous states with the exception of the far western states either during migration months or summer residence – that according to Cornell. Other references are a bit more restrictive on their region. One place I know they are abundant is Northern Minnesota along the Lake Superior coastline.

American Redstart shot in Minnesota on Lake Superior in July 2017

Hit the jump to see a couple more pictures of this colorful bird from our Minnesota trip

Continue reading Exhausted by a Tiny Bird

Happy Gobble Gobble Day

“As God as my witness, I thought Turkeys could fly.” If you are in the 50-60 year old range, you probably recognize that quote instantly and remember with admiration for one of the truly funny sitcoms of the era – WKRP in Cincinnati. A time when I could sit down, enjoy a bit of TV and laugh a little for 30 minutes – now, not so much. Have a wonderful holiday wherever you might be, stay safe in your travels and enjoy today’s timely feature of Turkeys that CAN fly (a bit at least ha).

Tom Turkey Shot at Rocky Mountain National Park May 2014

This particular Tom Turkey was an unexpected surprise. Linda and I had stopped to take pictures of a Great Horned Owl in Rocky Mountain National Park back in May 2014. You might recall, we were able to get some shots of both the mother and her Owlets (link here). I had moved to a location up on a hill allowing me to shoot almost directly into the pine tree they were nesting in and yet still far enough away that there were no unwarranted concerns by any of the subjects – somewhat aided by the fact I was shooting from behind a large boulder on top of the hill. So caught up in shooting the owls, I didn’t even notice this dude come walking up behind me.

Tom Turkey Shot at Rocky Mountain National Park May 2014

In honor of today, hit the jump to see a few more pictures and read a bit more about the Wild Turkey.

Continue reading Happy Gobble Gobble Day

Yellow Throat of Georgia

Rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated! Granted I have been lax on my wildlife posts, but there is a good reason for that – namely I have been busy busy busy. Halloween has now wrapped up, which means I’m on the clock to get all the haunted trail and prop making posts out on my other blog. Add to that some medical procedures to recover from and the accounting year is winding down at my day job which means extra time to get loose ends straightened up before the holidays hit. Of course, these are still not good enough to warrant keeping my loyal wildlife readers devoid of fodder. With overwhelming guilt I bring you today’s featured bird!

Yellow-Throated Warbler Shot in Georgia May 2015

Before the hate mail starts pouring in, I realize this isn’t my best work behind the shutter. These images are a bit soft likely due to the brief window of time available to get any shots of this interesting bird. These are the only three shots that made it into the tin on this encounter. This specimen was located on our Georgia Birding Trip back in May 2015. If it wasn’t for the high pitch call emanating from high above in the pine trees I would have never found it. I’d zero in on the call, get The Beast pointed in the general direction only to find that the sound was coming from another area in the trees. Repeat process, repeat results. All of sudden, a bird popped out in the opening. Got the camera on point, snapped two shots and a final one as it moved off through the branches – that’s it. One chance, three quick images and birdy went bye bye. It is amazing how many times this plays out on our birding trips. A few minutes before that or a few minutes after that and you wouldn’t even know the bird was even in the area. People ask me if birding gets boring – definitely not – when you consider these brief encounters during the course of a day’s outing, think of how many chances you missed, how many different species you might have seen or what was simply sitting in the tree quiet as a mouse just laughing at your inability to find it.

Yellow-Throated Warbler Shot in Georgia May 2015

This happens to be one of those times where the excitement of the experience wasn’t truly appreciated until many years later in the digital darkroom. The original encounter was cataloged as another Yellow-Rumped Warbler. Better understanding of the difference in songs should have given a clue, but that is a definite weak spot in my game. Both are fairly high pitched in their song and their color palette is remarkably close. A lot more details surfaced when processing the RAW images. Like the Audubon variety of the Rumped, they both had yellow throats. What caught my attention was the extra white and black patterns of the head. A quick look at my reference collection confirmed this was not a Yellow-Rumped Warbler, rather a Yellow-Throated Warbler. Let’s all take a moment to celebrate another check on my birding list. By then I was kicking myself the pictures didn’t come out as crispy as desired. On the positive front, at least they were good enough to properly ID the bird – was also able to confirm it with my brother Ron. Fingers crossed he doesn’t already have one so I can get a little closer to his current count.

Yellow-Throated Warbler Shot in Georgia May 2015

Being that this is a new bird, how about we jump over to Cornell to see what interesting things they have to say about it. This is a Warbler who calls Southeast US home in the summer. Confirms with our shooting location and the time of year. It is also considered a canopy bird preferring to hang out in the upper sections of pine trees. Well, we can definitely confirm that based on the pictures and how sore my neck was after the encounter. Prefers insects and spiders which means it is dear to me – based on my short time in Georgia, anything that might dent the population of No-See-Ums down there is tops in my book. Cornell is pretty sparse beyond those few tidbits.

Again, sorry about the quality of picture on this set. These hyper warblers are always a struggle to freeze. Hope you enjoyed my new addition to my North American Birding List.


Different but the Same

As of last night, my busy October is now officially over. Most of that was taken up with our own Haunted Trail efforts which consumes my mornings and nights and everything in between and a number of races to close out the official run season. That gives way to some additional Halloween parties where we get to enjoy the Halloween labors from our friends. Two of those closed up this weekend leaving my calendar fairly free beyond a garage full of decorations that need to put away for next year (some of them are still drying out from the multiple days of rain they had to endure before finally getting them all pulled out of the woods). The last critical task for the month is to complete my blog quota and then we’re ready for whatever November has to offer.

Since we talked about the Yellow-Rumped Warbler in my last post figured it made sense to provide an immediate contrast with the other sub-species of this colorful bird.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler - Myrtle shot on Wisconsin trip April 2014

As mentioned previously, there are two main classifications of the Yellow-Rumped. The one we covered in the last post was the Audubon variety as noted by their full yellow throat. The other variety is the Myrtle which you are viewing here. Yes, it has the yellow shoulder patches and the yellow crown in similarity with the Audubon version. And it pretty much goes without saying that it too sports the yellow patch on the rump. This wasn’t very easy to tell in the previous Audubon series, so let’s correct that now.

Yellow-Rumped Warbler - Myrtle shot on Wisconsin trip April 2014

Hit the jump to see and read a bit more about this sun painted Warbler.

Continue reading Different but the Same

The Same but Different

Greetings to my readers! A week ago I was standing out in my woods surrounded by a multitude of Halloween decorations. My non-wildlife blog will get an in depth look at that event, but I mainly point this out as a comparative perspective. See, I was standing out in my woods surrounded by creations of the dead IN MY T-SHIRT. October 21st and it was perfect out even in the dead of night. The week before a rainy, chilly, windy mess of a day. Now fast forward a week to today. Once again, standing in the woods surrounded by a multitude of Halloween decorations. This time in someone else’s haunted trail and more pertinent to the lead in – IN 2 SHIRTS, 2 COATS and GLOVES. Talk about one hell of a temperature swing for out here in the Midwest. Think it was even trying to flurry a bit towards the middle of the day. Other than a training run tomorrow, think I’ll just stay in and get caught up on my blog quota for the rapidly closing end of the month.

As a lead in, let’s take a look at a very colorful bird.


That there is a Yellow-Rumped Warbler. This pretty specimen was shot while on a trip out to the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado back in May 2014. Technically it was an add on from a trip to the Denver area for the Teacup Dog Agility Nationals. Linda bribed me with a trip through the park in order to convince me to head out there. I’ve have now tried two times to get the White-tailed Ptarmigan up on the Tundra trail – both coming up empty. Making the best of it, I did get some other specimens in the park, which included the one you are seeing here. Note, I intend to continue going back there until I get that bird checked off my list!


Hit the jump to see and read a bit more about this colorful Warbler!

Continue reading The Same but Different

Forging the Chi Within Yourself

Master Po: Your final test, the urn of the two symbols: the dragon and the tiger. When you can walk in this corridor, the inner path to the outer world, and can push the urn aside with your forearms you will bear its markings with you for the rest of your life.
Kwai Chang Caine: Hundreds of pounds of burning coal and iron. How can I Master, having only the strength of a man and the weaknesses?
Master Po: It is because you are a man that you can do this, Grasshopper.
Kwai Chang Caine: I do not understand.
Master Po: As the softest clay, in time, becomes the hardest brick; a fragile leaf, a diamond; as a stream of fiery ore freezes into unbending iron, so too may a man ascend to himself.
Kwai Chang Caine: How?
Master Po: By slowly forging the chi within yourself, the bond between the finite and infinite, the inner essence of your spirit, and the limitless power of the universe.
Kwai Chang Caine: How can I do this?
Master Po: You will have found your strength and the source of your survival. You will be free my Grasshopper Sparrow

Grasshopper Sparrow shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis MN in July 2017

… and the rest is legend.  Well, at least in the entertainment world.  From a birding perspective it simply represents another new bird encounter while on our Minnesota Birding Trip back in July.  As with the last post on the Marsh Wren and a few back with the Black Terns, this particular Sparrow was spotted while we were at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge outside of Minneapolis MN.  We found this refuge on a website that listed the best birding areas around Minneapolis.  Without a doubt, I can officially confirm that entry on the list.  Sherburne is a fantastic location with a range of habitats to observe – trees, prairie and marsh.  All easily accessible and viewable from the car.

Grasshopper Sparrow shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis MN in July 2017

We did get out of the RV at the first pull off to take a short trail through the prairie.  It is on that trek that I heard a very distinct noise coming from a good distance down and slightly off to the side.  Sounded like a very loud insect possibly rubbing its wings together.  Took me awhile to pinpoint the source of the noise – a bird perched on the very top of a large weed.  My Brother Ron had mentioned this particular bird on a previous outing with him allowing me to quickly guess I was witnessing a Grasshopper Sparrow.

Grasshopper Sparrow shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis MN in July 2017

Hit the jump to read and see a bit more about our featured feathered friend!

Continue reading Forging the Chi Within Yourself

Wren Are You Gonna Stop So I Can Take a Pic?

There are those times you realize you are behind the eight ball and trying to get caught up.  Then there are times when you feel like you’re underwater trying to get above the workload enough to just catch a breadth before going under again.  Then there’s those times when you realize that those times you thought were stressful and overwhelming were comparatively more like a slow stroll through a park.  My life has been more like the latter lately due to some imposed timelines and activities that nearly brought me to my knees.  The good news is I have finally broke through to the park walking stage and doing my best to take a breather before relighting both ends of the candle.  At least all that work filled up the coffers of blog material that will be coming at you over the next several weeks.  For now, I wanted to give some love to the Wildlife side of my blogging efforts. Cannot think of a better way to do that than introducing you to this …

Marsh Wren shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge July 2017

That cute feathered specimen was a pleasant surprise on our recent birding trip to Minnesota.  It is quickly being realized how successful that trip actually was.  If you have been keeping up with my output of words, you have probably come to this same conclusion.  Several of my posts have covered birds that made it into the tin on that trip back in July 2017 at the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge.  In particular, one of those posts – the Black Tern (link here) is the reason for this find.  While standing by the water’s edge trying to keep the glass on target with the hunting Terns, this specimen decided to pop out of the reeds in front of me.  Possibly to show off its; own hunting abilities.

Marsh Wren shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge July 2017

Hit the jump to read and see more about this cute little bird!

Continue reading Wren Are You Gonna Stop So I Can Take a Pic?