The Horn of Alton

Greetings everyone from the Midwest Tundra.  In the midst of some bitter cold, sleet and snow at the moment in direct defiance of Never Colder’s who are still crying from the loss of their precious hockey stick graph.  Don’t you hate it when the data doesn’t align to the narrative.  Speaking of crying, anyone see the last press conference by Bumbles this week.  Let’s see, it is the press’s fault, no wait, it is the talk radio pundit’s fault, nooooo I remember now, it was the Ruskies fault for exposing a rigged DNC nomination process, collusion with the mainstream media, forcing CNN to give Hillary pre-debate questions and for brainwashing the Hillary election committee to ignore fly over country – the sneaky bastards even hijacked Hildebeast’s speech and stuck the word deplorables in it.  Them be some sneaky cold war enemies.  Tell you what, let’s throw in some Bush blame and just give it to Hillary – that way, everyone will be happy. I couldn’t write better comedy if I tried.

How about we move to a count that can’t be debated.  My North American Bird Life List count has been incremented by one thanks to this lonely specimen.
Horned Grebe Shot near Alton IL 3/29/2014

Truth be told, I am jumping the gun just a bit here since my validator has yet to respond to my identification request.  Fortunately, this particular waterbird is pretty easy to identify.  Here’s a better angle that gives a good view of the key feature they are named for.
Horned Grebe Shot near Alton IL 3/29/2014

Hit the jump to see a few more pictures of this intriguing water bird.

Continue reading The Horn of Alton

A Horny Songbird

I received an email from my brother Ron yesterday regarding an email highlighting a Harris’s Sparrow that was spotted at the Crabtree Nature Center.  It was recommended by the originator of the email to avoid scaring it away by standing INSIDE the WARM nature center and looking at the FEEDERS through window (my emphasis).  This, of course was met with great joy and in fact it was actually referred to as “Perfect” by Ron. This brought a big sigh from me when I read it.  I think we need a collective vote on this.  Should we add a new birding rule that disqualifies birds taken through a window at a nature center!?!  Please leave your votes in the comments and I’ll tally them up and make an official ruling.  In stark contrast, today’s post is featuring a bird that required me to drive out in the middle of the tundra, get out in single digit, wind howling weather and risk frostbite on the shutter finger to add this fine specimen to my North American Bird Life List.

Horned Lark shot North of Galesburg Feb 2014

Well, it might not have been the Tundra, but it was a single digit temperature day in the snowy countryside north of Galesburg, IL.  Oh, and I might not have been driving and I might have shot the bird from the car, but the window was down and it was still damn cold.  Ron’s email actually reminded me I could bird from the warmth of my house too – I have such a backlog of shoots I simply went back to February, 2014 and went virtually birding through my queue.  Linda and I were out that particular day hunting down a Snowy Owl (link here).  That was one awesome Valentine’s gift from my wife!  I wonder if Ron has a Snowy Owl yet… guessing not since that would require going out in the cold (ha).  I had already processed the Owl pictures, but remembered taking a few shots of a group of birds hanging out in the country roads.  It was  overlooked at the time due to the excitement of the Snowy.  During my formal pass through the pictures (yes, I’m finally up to February of 2014) the unique horns and coloring of those birds caught my attention.  Those feather horns make for an easy identification – I had a Horned Lark in the tin!   Sorry, let me restate – I had a +1 Horned Lark already in the tin!  How cool is that!?!
Horned Lark shot North of Galesburg Feb 2014
Admittedly, these are not the crispiest shot in my collection.  This is likely due to already having frostbite on my shutter finger from tracking that Snowy in 2.5 feet of snow.  The first shot is clearly the best of the three, but I included the shot from the back (above) and the shot from the side (below).  I like to give my readers a good perspective of the featured bird to provide people a better feel for each bird’s characteristics and help in the ID process.  Due to the very unique horn like features of this specimen the ID was a no brainer.
Horned Lark shot North of Galesburg Feb 2014
Unfortunately, I did not get a lot of pictures of this bird.  Linda was driving which meant every bird on the road was in danger for its life.  You can almost see the horror this specimen was experiencing in the expression in the first picture.  I haven’t seen that much fear on a bird’s face since that Snowy Owl was slaughtered on Linda’s Jeep window… and that Goose that got a feather shave from Linda’s fairway wood – seeing a theme here.  No fears this trip, no birds were harmed in the taking of these shots, promise. Better get to some facts.  First of all, they cover almost all of the US during the winter (odd since I never saw them before and haven’t really seen them very much since).  During courtship the female simulates a dust bath to win over a potential mate – apparently males get horny for dirty females.  If you thought I was going to pass up that joke you do not know me very well hehehehe,  The only other interesting tidbit is the gathers up pebbles, and such to place beside their nests.  This arrangement resembles a paved walkway … but Cornell notes they really don’t use it as such.  Cornell’s hypothesis is that it could be used to hold nesting materials in place during the construction phase.

All I got for you today – hoped you enjoyed this new bird to my list.  Wonder if Ron is noticing my bird count is in overdrive as of late?

A Forster’s Takes Its Tern

How’s it hanging out there.  Obviously we survived the first snow of the season but maybe just barely.  I did get to test my slide control skills coming down one of the larger hills on the way back from my run.  Not sure what was going on there, but my 4 wheel drive truck decided that the rear wheels wanted to race the front wheels down the hill.  Not a big issue for seasoned Illinois drivers – stay off the brakes, steer into the drift to get control and then accelerate out once you get it straightened out.  Easy peasy, but can get the heart a pumping if a car is coming the other way.  Good to get those control reminders out of the way during the early winter season.  By this morning, the snow was gone from the roads and just another day in the Midwest.

To help warm up the place, figured I’d throw up a post featuring a bird shot back in the summer months – June specifically..
Forster's Tern shot at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge June 2013

Just not last June.  You should know me better than that by now.  These shots were taken back in 2013.  Trust me, if I could get these out quicker I definitely would.  Wish I could hire an intern to go through all my pictures after a shoot, weed out the crap shots and present me with the shots to take into the digital dark room.  You’d think a UB would do that for me… WAIT A MINUTE… something just triggered in my head.  Not sure I even posted the results of the UB competition this year.  Definitely need to get on that stat!  For now, let’s enjoy pictures of this lovely Forster’s Tern.

Truth be told, when I was shooting this bird down at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge, I wasn’t sure what I was taking a picture of.  All I knew is there was one bird that “was not like the others” hanging out along the pier.

Forster's Tern shot at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge June 2013

Hit he jump to see a couple more pictures of this cool Tern

Continue reading A Forster’s Takes Its Tern

My What Great Big Yellow Legs You Have

Welcome to December everyone!  I honestly cannot believe we are this deep in the year already.  Seems like a week ago we were prepping for the Halloween Trail and god knows where our warm temperatures went.  I had to bring out the running tights, stocking hat and mittens to make it through my recent runs without turning into an ice cube.  As depressing as the close of the year seems, the bright side of it all is we are under 50 days from a change in guard in our elected officials.  Trump isn’t even in office yet and already saved 1,000 jobs yet the socialist is already shouting to the press how disgusting that is – and they wonder why their asses hurt from the election.  I’m holding off on saying too much to give Trump at least a chance so let’s pivot back to a place that can at least give us memories of warmer times.

Greater Yellow Legs shot in Galveston, Texas in Nov 2013

That pile of feathers on stilts is a bit of an accidental find.  As with most of the birds as of late, this fine specimen was shot on our birding trip to Galveston, Texas.  I can’t express just how productive that trip has turned out to be.  It is hard to grasp just how many new birds were scored on that travel when in the heat of the hunt.  You are so focused on shooting anything that moves that you tend to lose track of what bird you were shooting the hour before.  Especially if there happens to be a secondary bird roaming in the same vicinity as a bird that immediately grabs your attention.  That is the exact case with this Greater Yellowlegs.  That prize bird has already made the blog spotlight (link here).

Greater Yellow Legs shot in Galveston, Texas in Nov 2013

Hit the jump to read a bit more about that Yellow find.

Continue reading My What Great Big Yellow Legs You Have