Oh, Emiquon Has Those Too … and Whatever That Is

I have just been informed there are only 31 days in May.  For normal people this fact probably does not generate much concern,  unless there is some form of payment due in which case you might feel a little concerned or perhaps agitated depending on the relationship of the debt to the individual’s bank account.  This is not at all how I happen to feel at the moment because that all seems trivial compared to full on PANIC when you realize that there are no more days to procrastinate before getting the final post out for the month.    I pretty much lucked out today.  The post topic was already decided last week and the images were post processed a few days earlier.  That leaves only the witty banter and insightful dialog that accompanies each post which (once again thanks to my brother) is now only done on the day of the post.  But, I am sure you are not hear to read about my trials and tribulations you want birds… and not just any birds, you want a MUTANT BIRD that no one else has ever seen before.

Setting the stage, if you recall during the first of these Emiquon posts we noticed an odd duck on our way out of the refuge. I then proceeded to relate the discovery of the American Shoveler.  There was actually another sighting that occurred right before we noticed the shoveler.  Something about it seemed a little odd but I could not put my finger on exactly what it was.  Then when we noticed the shovelers, I passed it off as simply being the new bird out of the water.  It was not until I went back to prep for this post series that I remembered those previous shots.  Having now become very familiar with the shoveler I can safely say.. that was NO SHOVELER!

Take a quick look at this shot and tell me what bird you think it is…. ready .. go

Remember what came to mind and hit the jump for further discussion

Continue reading Oh, Emiquon Has Those Too … and Whatever That Is

A Prized Addition to the Collection

And we are BACK!  There is a hidden surprise with this particular post … let’s see if you can tell what it is … ready Go! tick tick tick tick. Are you noticing anything different? does something feel a little more ummm snappy? Okay, here’s a hint… who has two thumbs, no longer has to share, removed of daily cap and no longer has to send every post 22,000 miles away from earth just so you can read it?  The answer is THIS GUY who is now the proud owner of a DSL Internet service. Yes boys, we have arrived and we’re loving it. I am sure you can feel just how fast this post is being created compared to those crappy satellite days.

In truth, this is a special day for another reason. Today I get to bring you, to use the description in the last blog, the jewel of Emiquon. My apologies for all those that thought that was a clever clue to the name of the featured bird. I was thinking in terms of how I feel having actually had the opportunity to photograph this bird as opposed to any insightful characteristic like color, hardness or price. First a quick background. When we first discovered Emiquon we immediately walked out to the observation decks to see what they had to offer. While out there I noticed there was a large sign showing the various wildlife in the area and a little history of the place. There was a bird featured on that sign that I had never heard of. Having grown up relatively close to the area, I found it odd that there would be water fowl that I hadn’t came across in many of the other local marshes, rivers and lakes we frequent… and believe me, I would have remembered this unique bird. As luck would have it, on our most recent visit to the Refuge, there it was (actually there “they” were). I will give credit to Linda for spotting them first but she alerted me to them with “what are those doohickies over there”. Those my dear are the find of the year!

And now I would like to introduce you to the latest check on the Birding List. Ladies and gentleman I give you the Black-Necked Stilt”

How cool is that!  Admittedly, there was a struggle to get the exposure right on these shots.  With the two ends of the spectrum covered by the bird feathering itself, all the other greens, browns and the pinks were filling up the palette pretty quick.  I had to delete a bunch of the initial shots thanks to forgetting I had recently reconfigured the camera to moved the focus button off the shutter to a rear button.  By the way, now that I did that it is highly unlikely I’ll ever go back and recommend it to all my fellow photographers out there … I just need to remind myself I did that until it gets engrained in my head.

There were two of these Black-Necked Stilts hanging out in the Marsh.  This particular one was pretty active walking through the water and muck occasionally stopping to stab at the water.

Hit the jump to see even more pictures of this rare (at least to our area) Stilt!

Continue reading A Prized Addition to the Collection

The Birding Answer to The Shining

And were back and keeping the theme.  Once again were highlighting the wildlife at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge.  Today’s post was a very rare sighting that not many people have had the pleasure of witnessing at this particular wetlands.  Behold our newest entry to Life Intrigued… drum roll …

The Prairie Peacock!

This bird is highly admired for it’s adaptive quality to blend into any marsh area in the prairie wetlands.  It is not uncommon for you to walk right past them dismissing them as a large dandelion or an isolated clump of prairie grass.  I will admit that I do benefit from this unique characteristic.  Whenever someone comes over and comments about the weeds in my yard I smugly inform them that we are blessed with a local muster of prairie peacocks!

You buying this?  If so, consider yourself gullible.  In case you live a sheltered life in the city, the bird of the day is actually a Plover.  These birds are all over the place at Emiquon enjoying the shores of the flooded lowland.  Confirming our field guides, this bird is very noisy and very cautious.  They did not want me very close at all and they made haste whenever the barrel of the Beast turned their way.  Last post I mentioned that there was an upcoming bird sporting the red eye color.  Well, here it is.

This Plover’s eyes are a little brighter with a larger pupil compared to the more blood red of the American Coot.  Like the Coot, they are a perfect for photography because they tend to keep their eye on you (if they are aware of your presence) making for very nice compositions.  Generally I see them walking the shorelines on their stilt like legs.  I think the one below failed to judge an oncoming wake.  It was looking around to make sure none of the other inhabitants saw his mistake.

Hit the jump to learn more about the Emiquon inhabitant

Continue reading The Birding Answer to The Shining

That’s Right, We Have Cooties

This topic of this post shouldn’t be a surprise seeing as how I gave a big hint at the end of the last post.  As the Northern Shoveler fades into the background, his friend the American Coot takes the stage.

This is actually not the first time this particular bird has graced these pages. If you recall we kind of called them out in the Yellowstone post (link here). However, there is one big difference from that appearance and today’s entry…. in this post you can actually tell it’s a Coot.  One thing I was not aware of from the first pictures was just how bright red their eyes are.  Guessing this one just flew in from Vegas after having a really good time.

As with the set before (and the upcoming ones) these shots were taken at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge which is located in Havana Cuba.. err make that Illinois.  By the way, somehow the individuals that named this town got the pronunciation of it right.  For some odd reason in our State the similar named cities and towns have butchered soundings – Athens, (strong A), Cairo (Kayrow), Rio (Rye-O), Milan (Mylan), Des Plaines (non-silent s), my favorite San Jose (San Joes) and Goofy Ridge.  Okay, so the last one doesn’t fit but I had a quest to reference that scary location in one of my blogs and it was time to get that off of the to-do list.  I wonder if I started calling it HavingNah if it would catch on.

Apparently this particular Coot didn’t appreciate my little joke about his hometown – giving me that stern look-back every 6 year old knows good and well.  (and yes, that is the EXACT age I felt when coming up with the title for this post).  It would be un-American to pass up the opportunity to draw up a reference to our childhood when confronted with a bird with that name.  For the record, Linda is usually the one who makes the reference first!

Hit the jump to see more the set — don’t miss the take-off shots!

Continue reading That’s Right, We Have Cooties

They Call It Emiquon

Well hello there, long time no read eh?  Admittedly the content has been a little slow around LifeIntrigued as of late.  Contrary to what you might be thinking, nothing terrible has happened to me nor have I turned slacker and abandoned this 5 year journey.  It was noted that there were zero calls to the police to see if I’d been run over by zombies and one comment on a post demanding content soon or they were going to come break my fingers (that last part might be a slight hyperbole, but the anger was dripping off every letter).  The truth surrounding the delay is the huge amount of pre-work that had to go into the remaining posts planned for this month.  I have been staring at a huge hill of photo backlogs that is resulting from not getting through our photo outings quick enough.  There is no easy answer to this problem other than committing to completing the post processing and getting them out on the Smugmug site… and there is no better time than the present.  So, be prepared to be hit with a lot of bird pictures and I mean hit hard.  You will be swimming in feathers before this series is done and we’re expecting at least one or two emails begging for mercy before the end of this.

Hey, what do you know, this post is about …. you got it a BIRD.  To be more exact a duck.

I have an extra affinity towards this specific duck which I’ll get to in a bit (you can probably guess).  First a little background on this particular set of pictures.  Friends of the blog know we hang out in Banner Marsh (in Banner IL) a lot taking in all the wonderful birds that call that place home or a stop off on their seasonal migrations.  There is actually another location we have been making a point to drop in as of late.  We call it Birder’s Paradise, but others call it Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge.  It is actually in Havana IL which is about 35 or so minutes South of us.  Why do we  call it B.P.? .. because you get to experience a wide range of water fowl (along with a number of shore and traditional land birds from the convenience of your car should you choose or by walking along their well constructed boardwalks and observation decks.

Back in March we made a late day run down to the flooded lowlands and see what was hanging about.  After shooting a number of birds we began our exit from the refuge when something odd in the water caught our interest.

The coloring led us to our first assumption that it was your basic Mallard – we have a lot of those around us so we are very familiar with that particular bird.  The green head was a check, but the black bill coupled with the inverted coloring on the body had me scratching my head.  For those not familiar with the Mallard, basically flip the white and the brown and slap some yellow paint on the bill and you are almost staring at a one.   Almost is the optimal word here.  The golden yellow eye is definitely not a trait of the Mallard and well…

hit the jump to read the rest of this post!

Continue reading They Call It Emiquon

Snowy Owl … Well, Technically

In lieu of having some kind soul grabbing his camera, getting in his car and driving what..6 minutes at most… and take a micro second to snap a keepsake photo of an extremely rare bird as a gift to his little brother… I am reduced to sleight of hand and clever semantics.  He also tends to dismiss the truth from his own brother and willingly accepts what are clearly untruths from his sister in law but that is fodder for a whole other post.  This month is probably going to be another one devoted to birds based on the backlog of shoots we’ve been on this year.  If this keeps up we’ll never get to the Indy Zoo pictures that have been in the queue for about a year now.  Sorry, but the big cats have to wait for our feathered friends.

Today’s offering is a snowy owl.

Okay, so it isn’t a true Snowy Owl per se, but it is an owl and although it is difficult to tell from this photo, it was snowing big time when I shot this set.  In case you do not know your owls, this is actually a Barred Owl and lucky for us, one that calls our woods his home.  To be honest, based on the hoots that ring out around the area around 5 pm there are at least 4 of them taking up residence near us.

Hit the jump to see even more pictures of the Barred Owl.

Continue reading Snowy Owl … Well, Technically