A Wizard in King B’s Tin

Greetings everyone from the warm state of Arizona…wait, why am I wearing winter clothes and looking out at a cold, overcast, dreary day – CRAP, I’m still in the broke state of Illinois. Unfortunately, there is an explanation for this change of plans. We are supposed to be in Mesa, Arizona this week giving our bones a preview of what’s coming in January and more importantly – pushing my Average Year (link here) over the absolutely shocking 300 threshold. Linda and I decided to get some of our Christmas shopping out of the way on Black Friday – picked up a few presents, a few bottles of wine and apparently a case of Covid. A complete non-event for me, a night of joint/bone aches and a sharp headache passed off originally as just another night after a long run doubled with time in the gym. Linda took it harder with more of an extended flu-like experience. She’s coming out of it now, thankfully, but we had to make a decision to cancel our trip before we lost the flex option. Going to take some magic for me to get to 300 birds for the year – maybe with the help of a Wizard!

Merlin found on 8 Mile Road, Galveston Island, Texas in January 2022

There are probably at least 3 or 4 winter birds that should be relatively easy to get as the temps continue to drop – Snowy Owls being one of them, which had its first sighting yesterday a few hours away. That should put me in the 290s, waaaaay above my projection at the begining of the year. The dark horse is the fact we will have a week of birding opportunities in Texas before the new year hits – fingers crossed. In light of the “magic” that needs to occur, thought this would be a perfect time to bring out another addition to my life list.

Hit the jump to read more about The Wizard!

Continue reading A Wizard in King B’s Tin

Ravenpalooza…by Brad Marks

Somehow we are officially in December and as far as I can tell, we must only be getting one maybe two weeks top per month being no other explanation for how fast time is flying by. Yesterday I was wondering whether to isolate my Turkey from the rest of the fix’ns or just make one big scrumptious pile and douse it with the entire contents of the gravy bowl. A day later wondering if I’m going to get my shopping done before Christmas Eve (which, at this pace might end up being tomorrow). Thankfully, we can lean on Brad to keep us entertained while I wage battle with the hourglass. I must say, our new staff member is doing quite well on his goal milestones – especially the bonus counter for the use of “craptastic” – we never imagined it would find its way into a post in the “literal” sense. Editor note, he would have pulled a mega-score if he had replaced bird “pose[ing]” with a Python reference to the Norwegian Blue nailed to the perch – now that would be Senior Corporate Staff Writer at Intrigued material hehehe. Enough of my rambling, let’s get to Brad’s latest offering, the Ravenpalooza (or should that be Ravenpooplooza?).

Take it away Brad…

The Fall of 2021 was our first visit to Pikes Peak in Colorado.  Jan and I had high hopes of spectacular views from the top. The sun was shining in Manitou Springs at the base of the mountain where you board the cog rail to ride to the peak (visit here for more details on the cog rail).  We booked our tickets for the cog rail while driving to Colorado the day before, so we didn’t end up getting the best seats.  In fact, we ended up sitting backwards on the train as it headed up the mountain.  We were fighting gravity the whole way because the average incline is a 10% grade (up 10 feet for every 100 feet forward) with short runs of 25% grade.  This also means that while we were facing forward on the way down, we were still holding onto our seats so we didn’t fall into the laps of the people sitting across from us.

Unfortunately, the weather can change very quickly around the Front Range of the Rockies.  That visit was no exception.  As we approached 9,000 feet on the ride to the top, clouds settled in and the view diminished quickly.  At about 12,000 feet, snow started to slant past the windows.  By the time we reached the peak, we were in a full-on blizzard.  The snow was falling so fast, and the wind was so strong, that we had to follow the handrails to the visitor center for fear of getting lost in the white-out.  Understandably, we were disappointed not to have a good, or any, view at the top.  Jan and I did decide to run outside for a quick selfie in the blizzard, then ran back inside just as quickly.  After a quick break in the visitor center, we boarded the cog rail for the ride back down the mountain.

Fast forward to Fall 2022.  We bought cog rail tickets months in advance to try for better seats.  Jan and I  ended up with two front row seats.

Hit the jump to read more of Brad and Jan’s “clearer” return to Pikes Peak.

Continue reading Ravenpalooza…by Brad Marks

A Race for the Gold(en)

As we are practically at the end of November, I’m starting to feel the pressure as I’m in a race against time. December is a mess with a planned travel early in the month, all the holiday events and then we head south to give our bones a rest from the harsh Midwest chill. That leaves little leeway to everything I “need” much less “want” to get done. The Average Year (link here) is coming to a close and what I thought was an impossible mark to hit – 300 – it now feels incredibly close. Currently sitting at 288, a mere 12 new birds away. Unfortunately, my easy options are pretty much tinned. Linda has a plan that might just push me over. The other race is more literal. For several years now, my running goal has been at least 1200 miles per year. Took a hit when I badly injured my left ankle and my running days were put on hold helping Mother the best we could (link here). With all that. I am still only ~64 miles away which should be doable (predicting a couple long runs in the snow). Lastly there is the sprint to get my “official” NA Bird Life List increased to hit a year-end goal. I have a lot of new lifer birds in the tin thanks to our trip to Texas in January and as a result of our efforts in the Average Year (51 in the latter alone). In a personal decision often regretted, “official” checks also require a featured here at Intrigued.

Not sure how many I am going to have a chance to get to before January, but I did want to at least get through the rarities from the January trip (to make room for all the new rarities in our upcoming trip ha). Let’s start by racing for a gold medal err, make that a crown.

Golden-Crowned Warbler found at Valley Nature Center, Weslaco, TX in January 2022

Hit the jump to read more about this rather rare Warbler to the US.

Continue reading A Race for the Gold(en)

Giving Thanks with Bearded Ladies

To our readers based in the States (or at least hailing from the States) we extend a hearty Happy Thanksgiving! For those of you that do not officially celebrate this particular holiday, or at least maybe not at this point in the year, we wish you a Happy Thank’Em Day – basically a “Festivus for the Restofyou”. In the official Holiday, we typically adorn our tables with feasts of plenty anchored by the traditional plump, flightless domesticated Turkey. While partaking in said feast, we pay respect and gratefulness for those who helped us become what we are today, those that continue to keep us on the right path and for all those that we may never meet in person, but whose sacrifices, insights, creativity and other benefiting acts that contribute to our current state of living. Thank’Em Day is nearly equivalent. We still extend our appreciation for all the same things, just doesn’t include the bountiful feast (10 out of 10 Turkeys surveyed much prefer this alternative ha!).

Without further ado, I would like to start by giving my “Thank Yous” to our family. This has been a really tough year for Linda and I as we have both lost close and cherished family members. It’s the deep family bonds that really shine during these times and having their kind shoulders to lean on when times are darkest is the clearest definition of love. The same goes for our friends – some we’ve had the honor of building upon from childhood playgrounds, others gained later in life, all there to lend a hand when you need it, convert a frown to a smile, provide valuable advice when decisions need extra scrutiny and, for those in the close circle, even willing to ride along on a late night run to the “Train Station”.

And to our faithful Intrigued readers, many of them who have become dear friends over the years thanks to this forum, we want to let you know just how appreciated you are. Your interest in our tins and ramblings keeps us motivated in the field and continue to make this blog thingy just as exciting as it was when we started out nearly 16 years ago. Your kind comments and insights helped us to successfully grow the Wildlife side and will continue to guide us as we expand into more nature related themes.

None of this would be possible without Linda (shhhh, don’t tell her though) who is more often than not our field guide, bird whisperer, personnel transporter, trip planner, food provider and predator distracter … I mean LOOK OUT. My brother Ron is a huge contributor to Intrigued. Not only was he the inspiration for starting this whole blogging adventure, he’s always willing to head out into the field, helping to educate me on birds, assisting with difficult IDs, tick magnet and continually pushes me to improve my “skillz” (“You call that a picture of a bird, I painted better images with finger paints in kindergarten”). A heaping amount of gratitude to our Intrigued staff who toil away night and day to make us look good. (eh, with exception to our Pain-in-the-Ass lawyer pool ha). That includes a special thanks to Brad Marks (and his support staff) who recently came on board and is already giving us fantastic posts from his many adventures (not to mention catches a lot of my typos). Oh, and I can’t forget to express my appreciation for my intern (Linda “you can keep trying all you want, but I already told you a thousand times you are NOT getting an intern!!”) – think of that as a future shout out hehehehe.

Now for the most important thing I’m grateful for today ….

Wild Turkey found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, TX in January 2022

I actually have new pictures of Wild Turkeys for today’s post!

Hit the jump to find out some quick background on our honoree of the day!

Continue reading Giving Thanks with Bearded Ladies

Changes Aren’t Permanent but Change Is: Part 2 of 2… by Brad Marks

Howdy folks! Not sure what it is like in your setting, but in our parts – it’s damn cold. As a gauge, my last two training runs have been on the treadmill. Guess what I HATE more than anything else…Christmas commercials before Halloween has arrived, BUT, running on a treadmill is easily second highest on my multi-volume set of things that make my blood “boil”. I enjoy running in the snow, tolerate running in sleet and fight through temps into the teens, however, 20mph winds pushing windchills into the single digits can freeze-“burn” the lungs right out of my chest. Reluctantly, tied on the Summer shoes, cranked up the conveyor belt and caught up on several streaming shows – harder that it sounds since I had to strain to hear over the body constantly nagging “Can we go OUTSIDE now!, how about now, I know what we should do..let’s go out there, please, please, pretty please, you know, real mean train outdoors, the ballet called, they want their tutu back, is that your picture next to the ‘wuss’ entry in the dictionary?!?” My body doesn’t even whine that much during ultra races. In an effort to save my sanity and maybe help push the mercury up (do kids even know what that means anymore?) let’s all toast our toes over lava with the second part of Brad’s post on Hawaiian volcanoes.

Take it away Brad…

Brief recap.  Twenty years spanning vacations to the Big Island.  Halema’uma’u crater relatively stable. Blah Blah Blah.  At the end of our last episode as we left our intrepid volcanic crater in the Spring of 2018, hell was breaking loose.  Literally. 

The first sign that something big was happening in 2018 was on April 30th when the lava in the Overlook crater at the Kilauea summit dropped significantly.  This meant that the magma had rapidly drained away from the summit and, based on the earthquake trail, was moving rapidly to the East Rift Zone.  To help with the scale of the next part of this article, please visit the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) site to see a map of the East Rift Zone.  I’ll wait while you go check out the map (humming a popular game show theme song). Halema’uma’u crater is to the lower left of this graphic. Here’s a re-post from a prior article.  It is a wildlife and adventure blog after all.  This trio was captured flying over the caldera on our last day on the island this year.  Remember, Nene prefer to walk everywhere and do not normally need to fly.  Just goes to show how large the caldera really is. 

Hawaiian Volcanoes by Brad Marks

OK, now we can go onto the next section.

Continue reading Changes Aren’t Permanent but Change Is: Part 2 of 2… by Brad Marks

Changes Aren’t Permanent but Change Is: Part 1 of 2… by Brad Marks

In a bit of a surprise, Brad has managed to bring us a two-part post. I have no idea how he had time to crank out not one, but TWO posts with all our new Intrigued employee required training that is just short of 30 online classes, two instruction led workshops and a week long retreat. Included in this curriculum: Information Security, Data Privacy, GDPR, Data Classification, Industrial Waste Management, Prohibitive Harassment (unless target is a lawyer), Insider Trading, Office Ethics: How Not to Embarrass Your Boss in Public (there are some Twitter employees that would benefit from our 2 day course), Corporate Assets Usage (jet, carpool, yacht, big wheel, unicycle, pogo stick, jacuzzi), Lawyer Hell Week (first rule of Hell Week, don’t talk about Hell Week), Performance Reviews, Incentive Compensation (I see Brad already added another “craptastic” check in this post!), Intrigued Birding Rules (link here), a complete viewing of the Monty Python comedy series and Field Safety 101 which includes a very useful workshop on how to properly swing (and if needed avoid) a tripod to escape a wild animal attack – hint, you do not use it on the animal. I’m exhausted just thinking about the workload. While I head off for some rest and a fruity drink with an umbrella in it, enjoy part 1 of Brad’s very “hot” topic.

Take it away Brad….

By now you may have noticed a few guest posts about birds and turtles on the Hawaiian Islands.  We have been fortunate to have been able to visit the islands several (more than a few, less than many) times.  We’ve also visited Volcanoes National Park each time we are on the Big Island of Hawai’i.  Who doesn’t like walking around on an active volcano?!  We’ve seen dramatic changes inside Volcanoes National Park.  I’m not talking about new parking stripes, or the remodeled Volcano House.  I’m talking about geological changes that can take thousands or millions of years to occur.  For example, Pikes Peak in Colorado looks pretty much exactly the same as it did 100 years ago, except for the new Visitor Center at the summit and the kitschy shops around its base.  The same could be said about the Kilauea caldera on the Big Island the prior hundred years.  Even Tom Sawyer’s creator, Mark Twain, seemed unimpressed at first with the Kilauea caldera saying it was “a wide level black plain” and that it was like “a large cellar – nothing more”.  Twain was unimpressed until he realized the scale of what he was seeing.  The “place looked a little larger and a little deeper every five minutes” he said.  Since the Halema’uma’u crater appeared in the early 1920’s there have been precious few large-scale changes.  That’s why after reviewing photos from our most recent visit this past August, I realized how much had changed since the prior visit in 2015.  And how much had changed from the visits prior to that.  Here’s my attempt at explaining or illustrating the changes we have witnessed over the 20 years of visiting Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island.  (time for a gratuitous volcano photo from 2010)

Hawaiian Volcanoes by Brad Marks
Continue reading Changes Aren’t Permanent but Change Is: Part 1 of 2… by Brad Marks

Tweety Bird

Howdy everyone! Big thanks to Brad for his latest contribution to the wild side. Apparently those Crabbies can be devious – you bad Crabbie, very very very bad Crabbie! (my end of year bonus also includes Seinfeld references, not just Monty Python .. cha-ching link here). The plan was to get both my race recaps done while Brad held down the fort – lazy Bri only finished one, but it was a biggie. If you need some material to help you get to sleep the long and dry recap of the bittersweet 100K ultra attempt is now posted (link here). Should get the other race done by the end of the week. With all the hoopla around the acquisition of a certain “blue bird” company, thought it would be a perfect time to bring out today’s featured feathered friend.

Social Flycatcher found at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in January 2022

Let me guess, you thought it was going to be a “blue” bird – well, maybe at least some bluish hue to it. Nope! Our bird is colorful, but no blue. So, why is this such a perfect time to feature this particular bird … could it be Elon’s favorite bird..hit the jump and I’ll explain everything.

Continue reading Tweety Bird

Now You See Me . . . Hawaiian Sand Crabs…by Brad Marks

With the day after day pressures subsiding I’m finally getting to work on Linda’s .. I mean my to-dos. Tops on that list is to battle the leaf invasion that has managed to break through my first line ranks and now pouring over the castle walls with reckless abandonment. The paired night (or high wind/rain) task is to get caught up on the Mothership with some very late race recaps and more than likely some haunt tutorials sprinkled in. While I’m tending to those, S.W. Brad is ready with a “ghostly” observation from the Hawaiian Islands.

Take it away Brad!

On the first morning of our first ever vacation to a tropical island in 2000, the last thing you might think to do is to rise early.  However, when your body clock is off by five hours and thinks it’s noon, you get out of bed even though the sun isn’t up yet.  (BTW, in the tropics there’s only a little more than 13 hours of sunlight in the summer, and up to 11 hours in the winter time, go figure) Ambitious you say?  Jet lagged I say.  At the time, I was in the habit of having a mug of honey ginseng green tea with a dash of local honey in the morning before work.  Jan had already been awake and moving for an hour or more.  After steeping my first mug of tea for the day, I walked the 100-feet from our condo to the beach.  Lucky for us, the condo on Kauai was on a beach on the east side of the island, which means we’d get a perfect view of the sunrise each morning.  My primary goal that day was to watch my first Hawaiian sunrise and see if the green flash was a myth. (It’s not a myth, by the way, check here as one of a hundred potential resources)

Hawaiian Islands Sand Crabs

As I stood watching the sky brighten in anticipation of sunrise, I noticed a lot of sand seemingly moving by itself.  I worked my way closer to see if I could figure out what was happening. 

Continue reading Now You See Me . . . Hawaiian Sand Crabs…by Brad Marks

Natural Born Zombie Killer

Welcome to November everyone! Granted we are a few days into it, but I’ve finally managed to make it to surface for some badly needed air. Halloween has past (long live the haunt!), sadness has been overwhelmed by cherished memories and, as of last Saturday, my race season has likely come to a close unless a race in the snow happens to catch my fancy. Although we are likely a ways from the ground sticking fluffy stuff, Bri needs some time for rest and healing – the 100K race left its mark. Now the focus turns to getting back to “normal” and the first order of business is feathers.

Long-Billed Curlew found at South Padre Island in December 2016

I know some of you were wondering when we were going to get back to our featured feathered friends .. after all, this is a blog that is supposed to be about all things wild. In my defense, zombie encounters can get a bit wild if you don’t have a long pointy stick to pop them in the head with. Today’s featured shorebird has absolutely no fear of running into the walking dead. They just causally walk up to the animated corpse and “bill” them in the head.

Long-Billed Curlew found at South Padre Island in December 2016

Hit the jump to learn more about our natural born “zombie killer”.

Continue reading Natural Born Zombie Killer

Happy Hauntings

Well, it has been one hell of a month leading up to our favorite holiday. Our annual haunted trail, the 100K attempt, the prediction race at a local cemetery a few nights ago and the rather sad news covered in the last post. Through all the ups and downs we finally made it and can now relax and enjoy a day devoted to all things that go bump in the night….and day…

Haunted Trail of Tears 2022

My haunted trail reaper had a growth spurt this year – decided to add over 3 feet to increase the scare factor. Although not shown, the son of Nyx has an animated lantern and thanks to a flea market find earlier in the year, now has a real scythe. Then there is the flaming pumpkin tradition. Nothing sets the mood for horror night better than 3 feet of flames spewing out the top of an evil Jack-o-Lantern.

Haunted Trail of Tears 2022

Some like to look at clouds and let their imagination flow…me, I prefer flames. The shot above is one of my favorites from this year’s haunted trail – like a Rorschach test for the inner demon, everyone sees something different. I personally see the face of the devil hiding behind an upside down cross. Might be therapy in my future..although this was a bit ominous.

Sturtevant Haunted Farm 2022

One of the tombstones that immediately caught my attention in the Sturtevant Haunted Farm cemetery (has my initials). It just occurred to me I have yet to introduce you to one of the creepiest haunts in all of Illinois. If you are not faint of heart, hit the jump for a quick look at some of the scenes awaiting you at that location.

Have a Happy Halloween everyone – let your spook flag fly high!

As promised, hit the jump to see some shots from this year’s visit to Sturtevant Haunted Farm in Walnut, IL

Continue reading Happy Hauntings