That loud collective sigh of relieve you just heard was a result of finally getting through all the hard work that goes into putting on our annual Halloween party. Probably logged less than 8 hours of sleep during the last three days. Thanks for both my brothers and numerous friends from work .. .and of course Linda, we managed to get it all pulled together in the nick of time. Once again, I broke my promise to Linda and failed to get everything set up on the haunted trail before guests started arriving. Luckily everyone chipped in to finish getting all the batteries loaded and a few tweaks to the linkages on some of this year’s new creations. Everything went well until the last guests departed and then the skies let loose with a steady shower for the rest of the night. Will take some time getting everything dried out and stored away for next year. With the party worry over, I can focus on the next crisis…
pissed off squirrels!! No, just kidding, Squirrels are too cute to be pissed off. Honestly, have you ever seen an angry Squirrel? Every time I see them they are busy chasing each other around the backyard or wandering around digging holes in random spots trying to remember where they left their prize nut. My pressing crisis is the fact it is the end of the month (Ron’s birthday as a matter of fact) and I’m short on my personal blogging quota. That is why I’m at the keyboard at the moment and not dreaming about sugarplum fairies or next year’s Halloween props.
As a change of pace, thought it would be fun to feature something with fur instead of feathers. These first shot comes to you courtesy of a birding trip to Kentucky back in April 2015. Unfortunately, I am not up on all my Squirrel species. Thanks to growing up in the Heart of Illinois, I spent much of my years up until college thinking there was just one type of Squirrel. That would be the Eastern Grey Squirrel. When I started branching out into the world, I noticed there are actually more than one species, yet all cute as can be. The shot above came from Starved Rock and based on my untrained eye, looks to be the same Eastern Gray variety.
Hit he jump to see a couple more varieties captured on our birding escapades.
Continue reading Something Fury Comes This Way
What’s the old adage, “rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated”. Yes, I’m still breathing, but to be honest, I am wearing down fast. I’ve commented a lot about my busy schedule as of late and we are now in the pinnacle of stress and deliverables. I am in the middle of a 4 half marathon race stretch (in a little over 6 weeks) and more pressing at the moment is our huge Halloween Haunted Trail event is this Saturday night. I’ll catch you up if the total lack of sleep doesn’t take me out before then. My apologies to all my blogger friends for not getting to all your posts for a while now – promise will get caught up as soon as Sunday makes it here. For now, need to get another task out of the way – introducing my little red friend from Colorado.
That colorful bird is called a House Finch. I found it while hanging out at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds which I think is technically in Golden, but it is just outside Denver, Colorado. Linda and I were out there to run our furry children at the Teacup Agility Nationals back in May 2014.
Hit the jump to read more about the House Finch. Continue reading Bet the House
Had an extremely productive night tonight. Ron was able to stop by on his way back to Chicago and help me out with some Halloween animatronics I’ve been working on for this year’s haunted trail. He was able to improve the sound on my Clown in the Box from last year (link here) and helped work out the kinks on my latest project Nightwing. This new one uses a linear actuator and some fairly complicated linkages. Also have some other new props in the works – shaping up to be another fun trail this year. Since it is going to be a bit hectic around here as the month progresses, figured I’d go ahead and get the second post of the Gander Mountain series out of the way. Going to start with the prize find from our first visit to Gander back in May of this year.
Mr. Red-Eye represents a +1 to my list. That colorful eye, white undertail feathers and the black downward curved bill indicates this medium sized bird is a Black-Billed Cuckoo. These birds generally range in the eastern half of the US expanding a bit into Canada and then down into the eastern half of South America. A fairly broad range for a bird I’ve only seen twice now. Even Cornell mentions how elusive and secluded this species is. You might be able to hear them foraging through the tree branches looking for Caterpillars – getting eyes on and much less a focus point is a difficult task at best. My first encounter was up at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie (or as I call it the bunker prairie link here). I was able to get a few shots in the tin back then, but those pictures still need to be processed – those were really far away and not likely to yield better shots. Instead, using this encounter as my official +1. The shot below gives a little better view of the white under tail and that ominous blood red eye. This Cuckoo should be named the official mascot of late night bingers.
Since this is the first time this bird has appeared here, wanted to grab an interesting tidbit as a takeaway. These Cuckoos love them spiny Caterpillars – see the first shot for proof. Most predators are deterred by those spines, however Cuckoos gobble them up like Peeps during Easter (maybe that analogy only applies to me). Cornell states that those spines end up sticking to their stomach lining. Periodically, the Cuckoo will resolve this discomfort by coughing up their stomach lining in one giant pellet. My apologies if you are having breakfast while reading this – nature be crazy ha.
Hit the jump to see more items from the tin that day.
Continue reading A Better Gander Pt 2 of 2
Greetings from the wetlands everyone! If you recall, last weekend my brother Ron and I were planning to do some birding near the Illinois-Wisconsin border. My youngest poodle was running in an agility competition up in Spring Grove and we were camping at our favorite state park up there, Chain O’ Lakes. Since Ron lives in Chicago it’s a fairly short drive to meet up and hunt down some birds. I also mentioned we have the uncanny ability to force it to rain simply by planning the outing. True to course, IT RAINED.. in fact it rained before we left, then rained on Saturday and again on Sunday and basically ever since. Now, this also may be due to us just having a new well drilled – Murphy’s Law for sure. The good news is we were able to get our birding in between the storms on Sunday! One of the places we decided to visit was Gander Mountain Forest Preserve near Antioch IL. Last year was an awesome outing netting a ton of birds and even a +1. However, this year … TOTALLY SUCKED! Might go into how awful it was in the second of this two part post, but for now I thought I’d simply go back to our previous visit back in May and finally process and post some of those finds.
First off, the smallest find of the day.
We caught this Ruby-Throated Hummingbird hanging out on the right side of the main loop. This is pretty much the only Hummer we have in the Midwest so no trouble ID’ing it. Note I will mention that it was mighty hard to get in the tin thanks to all the trees and limbs that wanted to grab focus over its tiny stature. Near the start of the trail, we were met with Mr. Noisy. Telling you, these Catbirds can make quite a racket. Since they are of the Mockingbird family, they’ll blast away at whatever new song they learned to mimic. If you wait long enough, they’ll go back to their standard mewing giving them away instantly
Hit the break to see ore finds from the Gander trip.
Continue reading A Better Gander Pt 1 of 2