Destressing in Nature – with a Sturdy Stick

Hello everyone! The busy commercial holiday season is upon us. End of the year tasks to finish up, decorations to finish, cards to stuff and stamp, gifts to acquire, hours of baking to prepare for family/friends gatherings all adding to a stressful end of the year. Thank god I do not have to worry about performance reviews anymore – well, beyond my wife’s daily assessment of my worthiness hehehe. My go to stress relief has always been physical exertion – younger years getting bruised up in the dojo, later years having the pavement hammer my knees and now, well, I seek the calming therapy of nature…and, of course, getting every ounce of energy consumed running the hills and valleys on the now very muddy trails.

Yellow-Throated Vireo found at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

My friend Ryan and I added a new element to our trail run today – orienteering. That would be a fancy of way of saying we got our asses lost ha! I happen to pride myself on having a fairly decent internal GPS. As long as I can keep track of which direction I am heading at any given time and roughly the much easier measurement of distance Bri will make it back to the car. If all else fails, point the feet in the right compass point and walk straight – at some point something will look familiar or worse case a few cuts and scrapes later you’ll be back to the start. I can’t say I’ve ever gotten lost on the SECOND time at running a course before today. I also try to lay out my course to always turn one direction until I have to turn the other (a concept left over from my coding recursion days). The course we were replicating today was set up by another group we joined a couple of weeks back. Left, right, right, straight, right, left, left, straight then right and the mess continued until somehow they led us back to the parking lot.

Yellow-Throated Vireo found at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Hit the jump to read more about the latest addition to the bird list!

Trying to replicate that on our own for only the second time at this location turned out to be “interesting”. Caught up in the moment the first time, didn’t notice the crisscrossing trails and intermingling of hiking trails, horse trails and disc golf holes. Run to an intersection point, taking poll on which direction to head and if we conflicted, pull out the map and figure out where the hell we were. Became quite humorous after a while as we attempted to match the Runkeeper GPS with my small map printed out before heading out. Fortunately, we both could run the entire day without dropping, so there wasn’t any huge fear of accidentally taking a longer route – not to mention I could always grab a stick and take out Ryan’s legs if we encountered a Bear or pack of Wolves. A couple of hours later we emerged out of the woods, shoes covered in mud, sweat pouring off us, both sporting huge smiles without a single bit of holiday stress in our thoughts. Absolutely the best form of therapy there is.

This also happens to be the exact feeling when I’m chasing one of these.

Yellow-Throated Vireo found at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Not exactly sure where we were (this time with Ron), muddy from the flooded trails, tired from lugging The Beast around the entire day and huge smiles on our face after spotting today’s featured feathered friend. I mentioned in previous posts all the rain Dauphin Island received in the weeks leading up to our April visit. In most of the birding spots, the trails were still passable, however, the Audubon Bird Sanctuary had many of their passages completely flooded with water levels well over our feet. We successfully dodged, jumped and backflipped our way to their pond overlook without getting our feet too soaked – things drastically changed at that point. The boardwalk to the back portion of the sanctuary was floating on the water – sinking under any real weight. My courage was dampened thanks to the Alligator we had just seen lurking in the pond. Note to self, find a stiff stick and keep within distance of Ron’s knees! Like today, we had quite the discussion on next steps (“nope, no reason I’m holding this stick, just thought it was interesting … might need to draw out plans in the mud…maybe knock down some spiderwebs…scratch my back… rest The Beast..yep, that pretty much covers it – age before strength, please go first”).

Yellow-Throated Vireo found at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

As luck would have it, Ron spotted a Yellow-Throated Vireo sitting in the tree intently watching our debate. Gator concerns vanish, stick dropped, get The Beast on target. Have plenty of experience with Red-Eyed Vireos (link here) and the White-Eyed variety (link here), but never encountered on of these. Absolutely gorgeous. The first series of shots in this post were from that initial encounter. A little earlier in the day giving me a deep background to contrast the colorful Vireo. The later shots are from another encounter with a brighter backdrop – possibly heavy reflection coming off the water there.

Yellow-Throated Vireo found at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

After fighting all day to keep the hyper Warblers on focus, the Yellow-Throated was a dream. They are much more methodical in their hunting and from our experience extremely tolerant of people – especially ones with black bazookas pointed directly at them. A little research on Cornell’s site confirmed this first impression. Characterized by very meticulously searches for insects slowly hopping through the tree canopy. Directly quoting “The aren’t as frenetic as Warblers; they tend to take long pauses before chasing after another meal and often sing while stationary giving you ample time to see them.”

Yellow-Throated Vireo found at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

The two encounters we had did not include a lot of singing, but they definitely gave us plenty of time to get our settings dialed in. Haven’t seen Ron’s captures yet – assuming he has some nice tins as well. I looked at our bird checklist from that trip and pretty sure this was a +1 for him as well. From the tallies on that list, I went +22 and Ron went +21 which included the Red-Cockaded Woodpecker (link here) which should count a lot more than 1! Tip of the hats to Dauphin Island’s spring fallout.

Yellow-Throated Vireo found at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

At the end of the pictures for this particular post – I’ve drafted up a part 2 with additional shots. Plan to get to those early next year – too much holiday stress with the unique bird goal hehehe. Not really much to leave you with regarding interesting tidbits for the Yellow-Throated. Assumed there wasn’t much point in mentioning it has a yellow throat. The back half of the underbelly is bright white (per the above angle). They sport yellow spectacles worthy of being in Elton John’s collection. That feature along with lacking any streaking on the breast/sides will help you distinguish it from the very similar Pine Warbler. They have thicker bills as well, but that type of relative characteristic usually doesn’t help you that much in the field. Lastly, look for the Yellow-Throated hanging closer to the interior of the tree and/or bare branches.

Will put a bow on it there. Hope you enjoyed the latest addition to the unique bird count. That puts me officially at 298. Three little ticks to go to reach my goal. Getting more confident now this is in reach. More confident than I am on Ryan and I’s attempt to successfully navigating McNaughton Park again next week – we should have dropped popcorn as we ran.

25 thoughts on “Destressing in Nature – with a Sturdy Stick”

    1. According to Sam’s comment from my last post and my newly adopted acronym hierarchy, the LYJ would be a subclass under LABs! It would be nice to have some kind of trained bird that I could rely on overhead course corrections – thinking I might want something more manly like a Raptor or maybe and Owl (do not bring up Harry Potter!) . Hate to show up at a group run and pull out a puny Y-TV ha. I think the distinction with geocaching is you are trying to find some hidden treasure of sorts and a specific spot – I’m just trying to get my ass back to civilization. Thanks for coming by Brad – hope you had fun in Chicago (where Ron happens to live).

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      1. The “treasure” in your case would be knowing where you started (eg. parked car full of snacks, water and mobile phone to call for help). And isn’t Ron in a suburb of the Windy City? (without getting too specific). We all may have to see a published heirarchy of acronyms for birding. LAB and BAB at the top level; Under LAB we would find LBJ, LYJ, LGJ, L*J, etc. Do I have that right so far?

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      2. Now I gotcha – Ron lives in Chicago defined by anything east of I39 and North of I80. I am still putting the overall hierarchy together now that I have two new top levels thanks to Sam – Little Ass Birds and Big-Ass Birds. LBJ and LYJ and generally L*’s would subclass below the LABs. BAB probably need to be subdivided into BABs and R(really)BAB to get the medium birds separated from the large waders, falcons and such. Hmmmm maybe make the medium ones MABs – this is very complicated and more research will be needed – Sam is putting us to work ha!

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  1. I’ll bet that lovely Warbler does not have “orienteering” in his birdie vocabulary. I’m, a geographer so I’m never lost. Wherever I am, I am. In reality that was true before chemo. Like so many after effects of chemo, it seems like I’m functioning on half a brain 3/4 of the time. Even with Google and Apple maps, I get lost these days. I’m a sad shell of the orienteer I used to be.

    The first Christmas after we got married nearly 40 years ago, Laurie and I decided not to send out Christmas cards, which would have been fairly easy because we don’t have a lot of friends. Since we see the relatives we want to see and communicate with regularly, we decided we didn’t need to send cards to relatives either. We also decided not to have a Christmas tree and decorated our Ficus instead. This will be our 39th Christmas together as an old married couple, and we have never had a traditional Christmas tree. Since I tend to leave the Christmas lights up all year round for ambiance, Christmas is pretty easy for me to deal with.

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    1. I like the way you think Tim – where I’m at is the place to be and everyone else is out wandering. Always get a lump in my throat when I see the chemo word. My mother has successfully battled a rare form of cancer for over 5 years now (which I think puts her in the survivor category). Chemo every two weeks for all those years – definitely a fighter and by the sounds of it you are as well. I wish you the best if you haven’t already beaten it.

      Linda and I do have the privilege of seeing our immediate family fairly regularly, however, beyond that we have limited chance to meet with relatives beyond that outside of funerals. Everyone is pretty much scattered everywhere across the US and never really got into the zoom stuff with them. Through work we have friends all across the world as a result of a two IT career couple supporting multiple facilities/dealerships on every continent. Both of us retired now we kind of miss those interactions and the holiday cards help keep us in touch – you would think IT people would be all over zoom and other digital communications methods, but we still rely on snail mail ha.

      Definitely intrigued by the Ficus idea – picking out, hauling home, getting stood up and then decorating our standard 13-14 foot Christmas tree is getting to be a chore. It has been one of the few traditions we have stuck to since we met (you have us by 9 years), but I was younger and stronger back then. Sheepishly mention we have two additional fully decorated xmas trees as well on our second floor – Linda always jokes it looks like Hallmark puked in our house. Take care Timothy, thanks for sharing your traditions.

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      1. I have lost so much strength. When I was 21 years old I made an spulture for 3D design class using one of may dad;s radio towers. I built a free-standing base and made it look like a futuristic tree and placed it in the illegal pine grove by Hodgin Hall at the university. I hauled the tower and base and everything around by myself, and put up the sculpture by myself. When I was cleaning up the property in 2012, I tried to pick up that tower to move it. I could not bunge it. It weighed around 150 pounds. I could lift it with east when I was 21. I couldn’t lift it at all after all the chemo at 54.

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      2. I can relate, but definitely not on the chemo front. I’ve basically been lifting weights since I was 14 and still use them in my non-running work out days – embarrassed what my rep weight levels are at this point (from my days in the dojo) not to mention how many hours I feel it afterwards – connected tissue isn’t what it used to be. The good news is we are smarter these days and can hire the younger dudes to move those heavy things for us ha!

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      3. True. But you have to find the young dudes willing to do it. When I was racing bicycles and doing karate and kickboxing I was in such good shape. Now I’m pathetic. However, I can still lift my camera with a big lens, and hold a guitar over my shoulder. Playing the dang thing has been really challenging with numb fingertips, however.

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      4. Good point – I do wonder about the youth of today – thumbs larger than biceps and curved backs from looking at their cell phones. Envious you are still even able to play the guitar – had to give that up thanks to years and years of non-stop typing – hands through cinder blocks probably didn’t help any either. Can still play the drums surprisingly, but tough for me on the frets these days.

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      5. I had to relearn to play guitar because of the numb fingertips. I stall can’t play flamenco very well at all. I used to accompany dancers and played live for years. I don’t think I could play anything live these days because I make so many mistakes. I can do as many takes as needed and stitch tracks together recording. I can’t do that live. I fumble around on the electric guitar and bass. it’s fun and I written around 50 original songs since 2018 when I started relearning to play. I have a digital drum set, but I find I’m a much better drummer assembling virtual drum tracts.

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      6. I would definitely never play live – too much stress for me and it is hard enough for me to count on the drums as it is. Heard some of your tracks over the last year or so of your posts – sound great!

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  2. Much to my embarrassment I have to admit I got a wee bit lost and confused in the forest last year looking for the Purple Emperor, bearing in mind I’ve walked the trails many times in past years I was on a path that I completely did not recognise. Bit of mild panic set in ’till I met another butterfly hunter who pointed me down the correct path.

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    1. Guessing with the lockdown you probably were not on that trail as often as you usually were. I have to consciously tell myself to update my internal GPS at every turn or I’ll get into trouble – Got lost once with my wife bike riding in the woods of a local state park – sun went down on us trying to figure out how to get out – eventually came out on the wrong side of the park and had to ride completely around it to get back to our house (Linda still holds that over me). Used to rely on familiar trees to get me around in a pinch, but for some reason there seems to be a lot of them going down – winds have been really picking up over the last couple of years it seems (US just had a tornado carve a path something like 30 miles long south of us). Ryan cracked me up when we finally passed someone coming the other way on the trails. “Thank god we are still on the trail” – I think the people running at us were equally relieved ha. Are there a lot of other Butter hunters when you are out in the field? Outside of the hot birding spots, I do not run into a lot of other birders which always surprises me. Take care and be safe over there B.!

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      1. Lockdown and bad weather had prevented me going last year and when I had arrived this season (120 mile trip) a lot of ride clearance had taken place. However I just wandered down a trail and had no recognition. Difficult to try and get a pointer when surrounded by dense forest! Never mind we got out eventually.
        Some places at certain times attract a lot of butter hunters. The above woods for instance, if you are not there early in the morning there will be nowhere to park. There are several hundred acres so it’s easy to avoid people but on occasion nice to bump into one!

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      2. Not sure of the options over there, but I do use Runkeeper to track my runs/hikes – the best thing about it is Linda can follow my path from wherever she is – main reason was so she could track me if I went down one of my long solo runs in the woods – now it has the secondary use of her being able to send out the dogs to find me ha. Interesting there are that many Butter hunters – pretty much before I stumbled on your blog didn’t even know there was such a thing! Of course, you have much better specimens than we do around here so it would be a lot more interesting than tracking down the white and the yellow one here.

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  3. Amazing how we who love birding will go to many lengths to keep going and then realize where are we now. I am so glad the husband is with on such adventures for me, because I am like a puppy who sees a SQUIRREL, I am all over the place sometimes. 🙂

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    1. Linda usually isn’t too far away on my birding excursions – I’m with you, those bright shiny objects (err birds) get me distracted instantly and next thing I know I’m using my fingers to determine how much light is left in the day and contemplating calling Linda to honk the horn of the car to determine how many miles are between us. The concept of taking a flare gun has often come up ha! Appreciate you dropping in Sandra – be careful out there!

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  4. That is such a cute bird! I saw it only once and had a difficult time to identify it. Right now I know that it’s a Yellow -throated vireo. These are amazing photos of this beautiful bird.

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    1. Glad you were able to identify this bird Kaya. As mentioned, if you spot the bright yellow spectacles (vs the more common simple eye-ring) you will be able to narrow it down to like the Pine Warbler vs the Y-TV. Then just try to figure out if there are streaks or not on the breast. Hoping to be able to hear their song on my next encounter – both times they were quite as a church Mouse. Appreciate you coming by and have a great rest of the week.

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  5. LOL on BAB/LAB taxonomy! We humans are pattern-seeking animals, for sure. Congrats on being so close to your goal, and on finding and capturing this delightful LAB (Yellow-throated Vireo). And about your wandering path… I’ve found since retirement that I’m relishing the freedom to put aside tight schedules, plans and procedures to impulsively follow birds, butterflies, and new vistas, as they emerge in front of me. Relish, that is, until the comforts of home call me back! Stay loose, and enjoy!

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    1. Just look what your husband has caused – we are busy creating a new taxonomy to support his BAB/LAB terminology ha! – I will say that the L classification is causing some issues with people getting confused between Little and Large. The Intrigued Birding Committee is busy meeting, debating, forming sub-committees and submitting proposals for international reviews to get this taxonomy formalized. On the retirement front we are absolutely flabbergasted on where all the extra time we were planning on has gone. I swear we are busier now then when we were both putting in 40/50+ hours a week in the corporate grind. Granted the time is filled up with more entertaining and less stressful activities but still… somewhere we are leaking hours ha. Time to get back to the goal – thanks for dropping in Sam and have a great weekend.

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