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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
Hit the jump to read a bit more about the shoot.
Continue reading Not So Shiny
Definitely sticking with the game plan for this month, staying ahead of the game and getting the posts out early. It definitely helps when you already have the images worked up in the digital darkroom. To be honest, short of getting the birds in the tin, the major effort in this whole blogging thingy is working up the images to make it worth my reader’s visit time. Of course, this doesn’t always happen, case in point the horrific Cave Swallow pictures I forced upon you a few posts back. I try my best so you can at least tell it is a bird – not to mention Ron is starting to push me with the quality stuff he is putting up over on his blog (link here). You probably didn’t know this, but I credit him for getting me into photography while I was in high school and the reason I can navigate around a camera (although I did introduce him to back-button focus). Today’s featured bird is a bit of an atonement for a slight I made in a recent post.
Within the Cinnamon Teal post (link here), I unintentionally dismissed one of the most regal birds there is (at least in North America). It wasn’t the species that dimmed my excitement, just that I was revved up to add a new +1 to the list. I am lucky enough to have a large number of Snowy Egret shots from just about everywhere we’ve traveled along with tins full from Emiquon and other local water hotspots. When I saw this set of Snowies in the post queue, I immediately decided this was the perfect time to bring them out.
Hit the jump to see some more picture of this immaculate bird.
Continue reading A Snowy Redemption
In preparation for tomorrow, I did some digging in my out building, found a lawn chair and dragged it out to the middle of the yard. Grabbed a pair of flip flops, a bottle of suntan lotion, cheap sunglasses and my favorite birding reference book. Going to be some fun in the heatwave forecasted to hit sometime tomorrow…40F. However, there are possible clouds and rain sneaking in for the afternoon through tomorrow night. Needless to say, I’ll take it. It might look a bit odd being surrounded by a foot of snow that is still lingering, but I “needz my vitamin D”. In truth, I am skeptical it is going to get that warm with this much snow and ice about, but I will definitely be lacing up the running shoes and getting a few miles in snow, rain or sunshine. It might be a bit sketchy on the footing, but it will help the soul to lift the winter blahs. If nothing else, I can simply recall warmer places… for instance Las Vegas.
First a public service warning to those of you that might have adverse reactions to creatures with red eyes. As with the previous post on the Cinnamon Teal, today’s featured bird also possesses a blood red eye. Feel free to view the rest of the post through your fingers if that will make you feel more comfortable ha!
I was just talking to Ron tonight on how odd it is that so many birds have red hued eyes and I am not talking about the night owls squinting through strained eyes and hazy rooms trying to hit the big payout on the one arm bandits (another term that is becoming outdated with the advent of digital technology/machines). We were wondering if it provided some evolutionary benefit, maybe better able to see at dark or perhaps provide better tracking of UV urine trails of prey (yes, some birds have that ability like the Kestrel) or perhaps it is simply a defensive mechanism – if I was a bird I would stay way the hell away from something that had red eyes – clearly bloodthirsty heathens – just saying. Neither of us have a definitive response to the quandary which means I’ll have something to research while enjoying that lawn chair tomorrow. If you happen to have some thoughts on red eyes feel free to let us know in the comments. We here at Intrigued are thirsty for wildlife knowledge.
Short one tonight, but if you hit the jump, I have a few more words and one more image to share.
Continue reading Often Heard, Rarely Spotted
Welcome to February everyone! Not sure how to feel about that yet. On one hand glad to be past the worst of the Polar Vortex which will hopefully allow me to get off that instrument from hell … the treadmill. On the flip side, I am officially one month closer to the 50K which translates to one notch higher on the stressometer. Oh, it also means the post counter goes back to zero so make that two notches on the stressometer. The best way to keep that under control is to start early and that means not a moment to spare. Let’s go back to the spoils from the Vegas trip last November.
This particular specimen is referred to as a Cinnamon Teal. Not a big stretch to guess how this Teal got its name. Linda and I were nearing the completion of the pond circuit at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve when we noticed an individual pointing above average glass towards the corner of a nearby pond. Talk about a dog whistle for photographers. We slowly made our way over there being very careful not to disturb whatever he was focused on. Eventually I made it to a point where I could see the area of water that was holding his attention. Excitement dimmed just a a bit as his rapid-fire shutter was waving at a Snowy Egret hanging out near the edge of the water. Don’t get me wrong, Egrets are pretty cool, but if there is one sure bet you are going to see at Henderson, it’s a Snowie. Out of courtesy, we hung back until he was satisfied with his shots – not sure he ever knew we were there.
Continue reading Cinnamon Water
Okay, time to get this post out of the way. It has been staring up at me from the drafts folder for about 6 months now, taunting me every time post day came. “Come on Bri, you gotta feature me eventually if you want that +1”. “No one will notice how crappy these shots of me are, they won’t ridicule you and mock your talents nope, no way hehehehe!” Sigh, the bird’s right, I have to get it featured or I will not be able to claim the check per RB Birding Rule #20. Ron and I have established birding rules born out of someone (name rhymes with con) who has a habit of creatively applying guidelines (link here). Since this represents the 10th post of the month, we are technically in bonus time, let’s go ahead and (cringe) get this out of the way.
Prepare yourself, this is going to be a rough set. If you squint real hard, you just might be able to make out a bird – maybe take a few steps back and let the eyes float a bit like with those magic eye pictures that used to be the rage a decade back. Hopefully you will be able to make it out. If so, you are squinting at a Cave Swallow.
Hit the jump, but prepare yourself, the images do NOT get any better.
Continue reading Guess I’ll Cave Too
Greetings from the Midwest Tundra. It is currently -7F not including windchill and I am pretty sure that is close to when appendages start falling off. Tonight the first lunar eclipse took place over a supermoon. Thanks to Ron reminding me, I managed to get out and witness it – actually that reads as if I put a lot of effort into it. We were heading back from a night out, stepped out of the car when we got back to the house and looked up. There it was, only a sliver left and radiating the blood moon hues. Thought about getting the Beast and snapping a few shots to share on the blog. Then my nose, ears and a thumb fell off. Decided to pass on that idea – sorry everyone. To our credit, I did help Linda with a photoshoot in the early morning. Her client wanted pictures of her three dogs in the 5″ of fresh powder we received yesterday (on top of the 12″ we already had). Think it was a balmy 5F out then, which was enough to put a serious sting in the fingers. They say positive thoughts can get you through uncomfortable times. Time to click our heels three times and entertain visions from the desert.
Hit the jump to read a bit more about this desert songbird.
Continue reading A Dash of Yellow in the Desert
How is this for a weird experience? I mentioned a few posts back that I was recovering from a back injury, but I didn’t go into too many details. Now that I am completely healed from it, thought I’d loop everyone into a bizarre injury that had me pretty worried. The last thing I need when training for a 50K event is to have an injury – especially in such a critical area. Usually On Sundays, some friends and I do long training runs on a hilly nightmare of a course through a local cemetery (figure they can bury us where we drop). A few weeks ago we were taking on the course in pretty warm weather for an early January day – mid 40’s accompanied with a strong wind. Decided I was too layered up for the conditions so took my Gore-Tex coat off, removed a layer and put the outer shell back on (important tidbit for later). Although a rocky and uneven course, we know every square inch of it – no slips, bobbles or wobbles occurred up to mile two. That is when I felt something pierce my lower back. I noted the strange feeling to my friend and kept on running – quirks and pains happen all the time – runners learn to ignore them because they almost always work themselves out. 2 more miles and my hips started seizing up. 2 more miles and serious pain started radiating from the lower back. 3 miles later we were back at the car and I was trying to figure out a way to stand without letting my friends see any hint of tears. 30 minute drive home and I couldn’t move without a knife twisting in my spine. Most concerning was a 5×8 inch badly swollen red bulge near where the initial stab was felt. All I could think about was the setback to the 50K training (goals are not taken lightly around Intrigued). For brevity, will skip to the juicy part. Got into my doctor the following day – explained the story above preparing myself for the herniated disk diagnosis. Was not expecting the doctor to hypothesize that it sounded like a spider bite. The recluse would have destroyed skin by now, so they speculated Black Widow, grabbed a magnifying glass and went to work finding the holes. Good news, not a Widow, instead they pulled a stinger out of my spine what I imagined to be the size of this bird’s bill.
Not sure who was surprised more, the doctor or me. Apparently a dagger wielding demon of an insect decided to unload all the venom it had a few inches up from my waistline and directly into the center of my spine. From there it traveled my nerve network down into the in the hips and up the back causing the lockup. Remember, this is the first week of January – those things are supposed to have died off or went into hibernation. No way it stung through the outer running shell. We have come to the conclusion that a wasp,hornet,large ass bee or possibly a Tarantula Hawk (link here) sneaked into the coat when I was removing the layer, panicked at mile two and unloaded everything it had into the spine – I could see a blood spot on the base layer next to the skin. The good news is 5 days of steroids had me back on the trails this morning running in 5″ of snow. I bet I know what you are thinking right about now – what the hell kind of bird is that?
Hit the jump to find out!
Continue reading Purple Shimmers in the Desert
Greetings to all from the big white tundra we like to call the Midwest. A bit of an icebox at the moment as we are dealing with ~12″ inches of the fluffy stuff. Add to that a layer of ice that accumulated overnight from freezing drizzle and you have yourself a recipe for hilarity. Case in point. Our dogs decided that 4:50am is a perfectly good time to demand I take them out. Wipe the sleep from the eyes, remind the legs they were designed to move me from one place to another, put some shoes on and leash up the dogs – you would think by their expression I take evil enjoyment out of cinching up their necks as opposed to the truth there are “eyes in ‘dem trees” that think 4:50am is a perfect time for an early morning snack. Shut the alarms down and take a groggy step off the porch onto the wet concrete. Except it wasn’t just wet, nope, black ice quickly causing my feet to go eye level and my eyes to go feet level. Just got my back all healed up and now I’m being snickered at by sure footed furballs. Later that morning, a semi ended up jackknifing by the main highway exit I use to get to work shutting down that access and choking up all the alternative routes (which had their share of wrecks as well). Some days were just designed to stay in bed and enjoy thoughts of warmer locations.
Like for instance the desert – specifically the Mohave Desert in Las Vegas. The Rock Wren was not the only bird hanging out at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area back in November 2018. Unlike that bird (link here) and Abert’s Towhee (link here). that came before it, this bird possesses coloring that contrasts sharply with the desert floor. Yep, this one is adorned in a pretty blue and grey palette.
Hit the jump to find out what kind of bird this is!
Continue reading Blue Tones in the Desert