A Northern In Perfect Light

Last day of March so one last bonus round for the month.  Been doing a bit of Spring cleaning in the digital darkroom to get a bit more caught up.  The hope is I can get to processing all those trips that we have taken since 2013 – which was the time most of the posts as of late have been originating out of.  There are so many +1’s in the tin just sitting there waiting to get processed and counted!  I’ve had this post ready go for over 6 months now and never got around to getting it out of draft mode.  Today we remedy that.

Northern Flicker Shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park

These shots of the Northern Flicker came from a birding outing my brother Ron and I took at Chain O’ Lakes State Park back in April 2014.  That would be the same outing where the shots came from in my previous post of Ring-Neck Ducks.  Main difference is those pictures were crap and these are some of my favorite.  In fact, the shot above was worked up for the Heart of Illinois Fair competition last year and ended up preserving my no-UB status for the year thanks to pulling in an Honorable Mention (which in or books a huge victory for reasons I will not go into right now).

Northern Flicker Shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park

Ron and I were hiking a hidden trail I had found the year before which takes you into a fairly remote area of the park.  We ended up getting trapped thanks to flooding waters on this particular hike, but we were able to get some good shots in the tin.  It was later in the day when we came upon this Northern Flicker hanging out in a dead tree.  Unlike the Ring-Necked ducks, we were able to get nice and close to this specimen who didn’t seem to mind our presence.  We could not have asked for better lighting or composition.  Although I already have this bird checked off the list due to a chance encounter in my backyard, these shots are definitely worthy of replacing the crappy shot I had to use for my NA Birding List Gallery up on our EddieSoft Photography Gallery (link here).

Northern Flicker Shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park

I actually have a couple more Flicker shots in the tin from an encounter at Independence Grove and on our trips out East, but these by far are the best of the bunch.  As my brother has pointed out – the great thing about birding from a photographer’s viewpoint is every trip has the opportunity to be successful – you can observe new birds, you learn more about behavior and you can always improve on your shots of birds you already have on your list – case in point with this post.  For some reason  Ron keeps getting asked (he is a very social person!) if he is a photographer  who likes to take pictures of birds or a bird enthusiast who happens to have a camera.  I’ve thought about that a lot and determined I must be a photographer first and a birder a very close second.  A shot of a bird is nice, but a shot of a bird in perfect light can be breathtaking.

Happy birding everyone – see ya’ next month!

 

Ring One Up From Afar

It may not be evident from the multitude of wildlife photography posts that have been dominating this blog over the last 6 months or so, but in truth, I’m still out and about taking in everything in our so called civil society.  People are unaware, but if I’m around I’m likely socially profiling, categorizing and then observing to validate those first impressions.  I always thought one of my best fit jobs would be an FBI profiler.  Much like they must do, I’m continually building character models and applying them in every social setting I may be in.  If those model are wrong, I fold those new findings into the model and look forward to confirming them in the next setting.  This last Saturday I witnessed a very sad interaction while at a Quad City casino.  Linda and I were eating at the buffet when a lady with her suspected son and an older lady I assumed was the grandmother were seated at a nearby booth.  The original interest was the concept of bringing a child to a casino and wondering what influence that might have as the kid matures.  Clearly there was not going to be any model tweaking from that based on not being able to spend the next 3 or 4 years collecting social data.  Then something heartbreaking occurred.  A guy comes up to the table and proceeds to explain how they were not going to give him a free buffet due to a point system change of some sort.  That translated to a 20 dollar expense for dinner (that night’s buffet price).  He then gave the casino card back to the grandmother.   I ran through some models in my head, picked one and waited for validation.  Stunned, that selection failed to match reality.  Contrary to expected action of paying for the meal and spending time with the other ladies and kid.. he explained that he was just going to leave, took a step away but countered at the last minute when he noticed the kid moving toward him from the booth.  He took a step back and gave the kid a quick hug and told him he has to go.  At the same time I heard the grandmother mention something about a birthday the next day.  It must have been the kid’s because upon hearing that he reached into his pocket and pulled out a bill, put it on the table in front of the kid and said “go to the gift shot and get you something you want”.  He then left the table leaving the kid sobbing.    My heart sank.  My assessment – he had money based on the gift and he had the time or he would not have tried to get a free meal.  Instead of spending some quality time with his kid – a gift more heartfelt and nurturing than a gift shop trinket, he opted to leave a vacant hole in a young child’s life.  Now I really wanted to spend that next 3 to 4 years observing this saddened kids life.  I wished that child the best of luck under my breath, tweaked my model and went back to eating my food – a little more depressed that we continue to call ourselves a highly evolved society.

Like the experience in the casino, the following observation was also from afar.  In fact, so far out that you can barely tell you are observing a duck.  In a couple of weeks Ron and I will be doing another birding outing at Chain O’ Lakes State Park.  Being that it was April of LAST year when these were taken, figured I better get this out pronto.
Ring-Necked Duck Shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park

If you squint, stand on your head and bend your legs just right… you might be able to make out the Ring-Necked Ducks that are hanging out near the far bank.  Trust me, this was a looong way across the river and The Beast was straining with everything it had to get a bead on these distant waders.  To be honest at the distance we were shooting and my dislike for chimping on the back LCD (my brother can confirm this) I wasn’t entirely sure at that point what it was.  It had wings – that is all it takes for me to shoot it.

Ring-Necked Duck Shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park

In the digital darkroom it became apparent what these waterfowl were.  As it turns out, it is in my nemesis bird category because I have yet to get a decent printable shot of these birds.  I did get a shot of them back in 2012 up in Wisconsin (link here) to get the check mark on the Bird Life List – but like these, those were definitely not worthy of ink on paper either (the previous ones were closer though!).

Ring-Necked Duck Shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park

Just to close out the shots, figured I’d throw in a wide shot to show you how difficult it was to spot these ducks against the reed background.  That’s all for this bonus round entry.  Looking forward to checking out what the Chain has to offer us in a couple of weeks.

Housewife

The equal opportunity groups are filling up my inbox as of late complaining about a disproportionate number of featured male birds.  I find this a bit odd based on the fact that with a number of the recently featured birds it is difficult to actually tell the different sexes.  Quite frankly, in the birding world, typically the male is the more interesting bird to look at.  Of course, this directly correlates to how damn hard it is to identify a lot of the females from each other seeing as most of them are just a different shades of brown.

Case in point, take this bird.

Allerton Park Female House Sparrow - 04/2015

Quick, what is it?  My guess is you came up with the clever response of .. “it’s a bird”  (you know you did hehehe).  The truth is, I couldn’t even tell what this bird was.  Based on a hefty amount of research I first opted to ID it as a Clay-Colored Sparrow.  This might have been more wishful thinking being as I didn’t have a Clay-Colored Sparrow checked off my Bird Life List.

Allerton Park Female House Sparrow - 04/2015

Hit the jump to find out what this bird is!

Continue reading Housewife

The Allerton House

We are officially in bonus time ladies and gents.  Not bad seeing as how it is only the 20th – no whining about being down posts this month.  There’s more than one reason this month is special – I finally overcame my demons today and managed to knock out three loops during our weekly Sunday Springdale Run.  That’s right, 20 miles in the books on the nasty hillfest we torture ourselves about every weekend these days.  The third loop has been my nemesis for over a year now – every time before I end up begging for mercy at the end of the second loop regardless of how well I felt at the end of the first.  This time we held back a bit on the second loop too keep from tiring our legs out.  There is a theory that there was some help from the Girl Scouts but further testing is needed before we can definitely say we have found a running secret!  Note, I was so happy I checked this life list item off I enjoyed a Shamrock Shake – a rarity based on the calorie count that decadent dessert possesses – figured with over 2500 burned off  during the run I could spare a few to indulge.

20 miles also signifies something else – I’m gonna need some time to rest the legs.  Not one to waste a perfectly good afternoon, figured it could be spent cranking out this bonus entry.  Now I’d like to introduce you to the House Sparrow.

House Sparrow Shot at Allerton Park

This happens to be one of the few Sparrows I can easily identify in the field.  The black laced necklace of the male in these shots is easy to spot and distinctive enough to ID.  At some point I’m going to distill all the key features of the various Sparrow members so my brother and I can quickly classify all the little brown jobbers that end up in the tin after any Midwest outing.

House Sparrow Shot at Allerton Park

Hit the jump to see and read more about this common North American bird.

Continue reading The Allerton House

Better Spots

Greetings everyone!  I now have a new bittersweet birding experience as of two days ago.  Birding to me is about the hunt as much as it is about the execution of the photo capture (which determines whether it can be counted our not based on the highly technical and strict Doerfler Birding Rules – link here).  Linda and I have traveled far and wide hoping to track down a specific bird or to just explore new habitats to see what we can find.  Every once in a while this cycle reverses in that a bird comes to me.  This is exactly what happened to me last Wednesday night.  I was working on surveying part of my lot just past dusk when all of a sudden a fluttering was heard over my right shoulder.  Startled, I looked back to notice a large object moving my way.  First thought was a bat but it looked too big and bulky for such a creature.  When it narrowly avoided hitting a tree it was obvious that it wasn’t a bat.  It did manage to land about 20 feet from me in a small clearing.  For at least a minute I stared at it… trying desperately to make out what it was.  The darkness had set in and only a small amount of ambient light was available.  The coloring on the back camouflaged it perfectly in the woodsy setting making it impossible for me to get a sharp image.  Then it hit me I could take a picture with my phone!  The second my hand made it to the phone the chicken like shape bugged out in a large semicircle up and out of view.    After a quick call to my brother, we determined it was an American Woodcock.  Dammit Dammit Dammit.  A few seconds of patience from the bird could have added a +1 to my list.  Never have I seen a Woodcock in the wild or in a zoo.  It was sweet to see such a cool bird.. but the bitter taste of missing the shot will be with me until I finally get it in the tin.

So instead of a Woodcock post, I bring you this…

Porcupine Mountains Trip - July 2012

Do you recognize that bird?  Turns out I had these better shots of the Spotted Sandpiper originally featured during the Yellowstone series (link here).  Surprisingly, these shots were actually taken BEFORE the Yellowstone shoot which was in May 2013.  These were shot in July of 2012 – wow, I am waaaaay behind on my processing.

Porcupine Mountains Trip - July 2012

Hit the jump to see a couple more shots of the Spotted Sandpiper

Continue reading Better Spots

Ft Myers – Bright and White

Spent the day at a Rick Sammon seminar and now all pumped up on the photography front.  Linda and I have been following Rick for several years now ever since we found his Digital Photo Experience podcast.  That audio show is our go to entertainment on our long travels.  If you are a fan of photography (a likely assumption based on the fact you are reading my posts), I highly recommend caching their show both from the questions they get/answer and their numerous interviews with experts in the field.

Continuing the posts from the Ft. Myers trip, here is a set of those white angels that get to enjoy the wonderful weather down there on the gulf.

Scenes from Ft Myers Florida 2013

Figured it was time to finally put that previous image on display.  I’ve kept it close since it is a special entry in our EddieSoft Gallery.  That shot of the Snowy Egret earned me a first place finish AND a Best in Show at the 2013 Knox County Fair (link here).  If you know about the competition Linda and I have between ourselves, then you probably know that kept me from having to take the UB title that year!

Scenes from Ft Myers Florida 2013

Hit the jump to see some more pictures of the Great and Snowy Egrets.

Continue reading Ft Myers – Bright and White

More Ft Myers Bounty

Looks like the GPO nomination is shaping up to be an interesting one if not an outright implosion.  Seems the conservative populous has initiated an all out rebellion against career politicians.  Last night Rubio put up an embarrassing showing, Cruz showed a surprising strong gain and Trump.. well Trump once again put the tremors into the old guard.  That would be the old guard that thought it wise to bring Romney and McCain out of the mothballs to attempt to tell us low information voters how wonderful life would be if we just listened to them one more time (I think those pathetic choices that gave us our current administration pretty much speaks volumes for low information elitism).  Since politics has a tendency to get my blood boil, let’s turn to something more positive – another +1 in the books:

Ft Myers 2013

How cool is that!  This shot was taken during my quick trip to Ft. Myers back in 2013.  For those of you counting, this makes the third addition to the North American Birding Life list in only two days.  I’ve mentioned this several times, but that lagoon in Ft Myers is a treasure trove for birders.

Ft Myers 2013

Hit the jump to find out what this bird is and see a few more shots!

Continue reading More Ft Myers Bounty

Ft Myers Delivers

Welcome back everyone!  As mentioned previously, this is dog show weekend so I have an unusual amount of extra downtime to crank out some posts.  Since this blog started as an observation on life I thought I’d begin with a funny experience from this morning.  I was standing in a pee zone (as I like to call it) waiting for my mother-in-law’s dog to get his business done before rejoining Linda inside the event building.  At the same time a lady gets in her car to exit the parking lot.  To better describe the setting, there were a number of cars parked in two rows – one row aligned with her and one behind her.  The lucky thing for her is she could have backed out straight, missed all cars behind her and been on the road in about 5 seconds.  Instead she cuts it sharp out of the space into the small lane between the rows.  Of course, that was too short for the vehicle so the next 2 minutes were spent inching out, turning, going forward, inching some more out, repeat a painful number of times.  From an observation perspective, that was entertaining, but the real reason I’m relaying this story is a lady came up behind me and quite loudly proceeds to ask; “Why didn’t she just back out?”,  “Why would she do that?”, “I’ll feel bad if she hits that car” (by that time the driver was less than a foot from another car).  Trying to aid in the situation I tried to give her a visual sign she had plenty of space to come forward and complete the final turn.  When I did that, the quizzical lady gets a stunned look on her face and goes “Tell me that’s not your wife!?!”  I hesitated because I was holding back a laugh she mistakenly took as a reluctance to say yes it is.  This prompted another hopeful plea that it wasn’t my wife.  I let her off the hook, but the look on her face when she realized that she may not have probably read the scenario was priceless.

Sorry for that long intro, but it’s nice to get back to my observation roots.  During the previous Crane post it was mentioned that there were other wildlife trips just waiting to get attention.  Before I can get to those I needed to finish up some pending posts like this one from Ft Myers.

Scenes from Ft Myers Lagoon 2013

I’ve already jumped the gun a few times on the fruits of that quick Florida trip (link here, here and here).  Each of those posts produced +1’s for my Birding Life List.  Three new ones is always good for a trip, but the Ft. Myers Lagoon exceeded expectations.

Scenes from Ft Myers Lagoon 2013

Hit the jump to see more about this bird… and maybe another surprise one!

Continue reading Ft Myers Delivers

Crane Craniums

Pretty much doing some early Spring cleaning around here at LifeIntrigued.  I have a bunch of processed pictures sitting in the queue I want to get through as soon as possible.  Not that there is anything wrong with them, I’m just getting really antsy to get to all the trips we’ve taken since these were taken.
International Crane Foundation July 2013

The good news is this set of shots is more recent than all the Yellowstone posts from May 2013 you’ve been reading for the last couple of months.  To quantify the liberal use of “recent” these pictures were taken in .. wait for it … July of 2013.    WOOT!

International Crane Foundation July 2013

Hit the jump to see some more interesting birds!

Continue reading Crane Craniums

A Walk In The Woods: Jubilee

Welcome to the new month!!  It took a little longer that last year.. and the year before that.. and the year before that, but we made it.  Yesterday was a gorgeous day here in the Midwest.  The mercury made it up to  the 63 mark which signals a great time to go birding! Although not feeling the best from a bad run the day before, I decided to head down to Emiquon and then caught Jubilee State Park on the way back.  Neither of those locations produced anything noteworthy.  The plan was to come back, process the shots and get them up on the Blog for your enjoyment.  Unfortunately, the tin was pretty thin so pulling out a birding trip to Jubilee from back on January 30th of this year.

Birding in Jubilee State Park - January 30th, 2016

The shot above is definitely my favorite of the set.  In truth, the lighting wasn’t that great forcing me to push the ISO up.  This caused a grain that ended up adding to the overall look of the scene.  It has that water color effect or even the look of a Japanese rice paper painting.  Can’t wait to get that one printed out.

Here’s another shot of the same Eastern Bluebird.

Birding in Jubilee State Park - January 30th, 2016

This Nuthatch was hanging out in the bottoms down by the Jubilee pond.  This area is usually a bog, but the cold January weather froze it up enough to traverse it without issue.

Birding in Jubilee State Park - January 30th, 2016

Hit the jump to see a few more shots from the hike.

Continue reading A Walk In The Woods: Jubilee