Guest Feature: Hawai’i State Bird…by Brad Marks

Well, the good news is we made it back from Witchita..I mean Wichita yesterday after 10 long hours passing through corn field after cornfield. Pulled into the driveway, bolted into the house, changed and managed to get another training run in. Perfect conditions for the latter half of the actual race – dead tired, legs and back sore from sitting so long and temps dropping as fast as the sun. Now it’s Halloween trail 7×28 (need to find a way to squeeze a few more hours out of each day). Clearly going to be a struggle to get my required posts up with the current pace of things, so pressed the bat signal once again. Brad once again came to my aid – actually, more than came to my aid, brought me not one, but TWO features to help fill the gaps (and I think he is working on another one for you). Cannot thank him enough for the assist and I know you will enjoy this second adventure. I’m going to head back into the woods now and try to get a nasty clown infestation under control – happens every year right before the big party, sigh. Time to step aside and let Brad take the helm once again. Take care and see you down the road.

……Take it away Brad

We were fortunate enough to recently enjoy a lengthy vacation on the Big Island of Hawai’i.  Our daughter and her boyfriend were able to join us for the first week.  We spent time on the beaches, snorkeled, took coffee & chocolate plantation tours, and went to a luau.  We drove to the mountains and stayed overnight on the volcano.  We hiked many miles over hardened lava and through the rainforest and near the coast to see 500-year-old petroglyphs.  We watched every sunset possible and caught a few sunrises as well.

We probably went through a gallon of reef-safe sunscreen (OK, I probably did by myself).  We maximized the “unlimited mileage” on our rental car (a little over 2,000 miles total) even though the island is not much more than 90 miles across.  You would think the Hawai’i state bird would be as obvious as the Northern Cardinal is in our home state of Illinois.  You would be wrong.  We couldn’t see more than two up close until our last five hours on the island.

Nene from Brad Marks

Hit the jump to read more of Brad’s adventure.

Continue reading Guest Feature: Hawai’i State Bird…by Brad Marks

A Chick from the Land of Witches

Coming to you tonight from Wichita, Kansas. Had to pause my Haunted Trail efforts in order to run out here for a family wedding. Could not have come at a more inconvenient time, but I have been working night and day to hopefully get far enough ahead on the trail work to compensate for the loss of 4 crucial days. I have to admit, it has given me a bit of a rest – was starting to get drained, especially with trying to finish off the rest of the pre-taper training runs. Quite fitting we ended up here as Wichita is a Choctaw Native American Indian word that means “Land of Tall Witches”. Just guessing that they were good witches or this place would have more likely been called Wicheville. Before this mountain gets any bigger, how about we turn our attention to another kind of mountain.

Mountain Chickadee found at Lake Tahoe in May 2019

Hit the jump to see more shots of this tiny mountain of a bird – oh, and I should probably clear up some liberties as well.

Continue reading A Chick from the Land of Witches

Cheetle-Jay

Hello everyone! I am back for a likely brief period of time while I’m waiting for some props to finish drying. First off, I wanted to thank you for the warm welcome you gave Brad on his first guest post. Definitely helping me out while I try to get things under control at the home base. There will be more coming from him in the future – in fact he already has some ready to go. Will try to spread out the sugar, don’t want anyone to get over-sweetened and tire of the standard fare ha!

Really good news on the running front as well. Finished my 50K simulation run last week on the approximate course the 100K will be held. Not sure what happened over there, but the CoE site looked like a tornado hit it – downed trees everywhere. Some still over the trails turning it into a wilderness obstacle course. Other areas had been cleaned of the down timber, but so many branches and wood chips were left behind I had hunt/guess to find the path at times. Will be impressed if they get all that scrub taken care prior to the race (in a shockingly short 3 weeks). The simulation did successfully remind me the actual race is not going to be “pleasant” until the moment I cross the finish line – was definitely feeling the last couple of miles of the simulation and that only gets me HALF way there – will thankfully be cooler then.

Enough of that, let’s get to the part you come here to see – the featured feathered friend of the day.

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay found at Red Rock Canyon, Clark County, NV in February 2020

Hit the jump for more of my Vegas tin.

Continue reading Cheetle-Jay

Guest Feature: An XXS Year…by Brad Marks

Brian here, I promised you something special if you behaved and I am delighted to bring you our first “Guest Feature”. Some of you may recognize Brad Marks from the many comments to my posts over the years. He has been a long-time friend of mine that started when we both had Information Technology careers at a local Fortune 50 corporation. We actually retired on the exact same day. I have always wanted to bring my readers new adventures while giving my fellow birder friends a chance to share their experiences with a broader community. A toe-tip in the blogging waters so to speak and who knows, maybe a catalyst to embark on their own blog journey – or minimally more future guest spots here. I know you will enjoy Brad’s post and will now hand over the reins and head back into the nightmare lab. Be sure and let him know how much you appreciated his effort in the comments!

……Take it away Brad.

While many of avid birders may be trying for a Big Year (700+ bird species spotted), or Medium Year (350-ish?), I’ve tried to focus (no pun intended) on going for an Extra Extra Small Year (only 45 species YTD, +6 for the Life List).  I know Brian’s loyal readers are used to a certain visual and textual representation standard so I hope this posting does not disappoint.

We (Jan and I) like to take photographic vacations, or at least vacations in very photographic places.  And while we do like to catch the local wildlife and scenery, we sometimes make focused efforts for specific subject matter.  For example, on our recent Hawaiian vacation (to celebrate a milestone anniversary) we hiked 45+ minutes, round trip, in the dark (with only mobile phone lights) to see an active lava lake.  Who wouldn’t?

We also took a day trip from the Kona Coast (desert west side) on the Big Island of Hawai’i to the Kipuka Puaulu (pronounced “kee-‘poo-kah” and “poo-‘ah-oo-loo”) Trail and nature preserve on the slopes of Mauna Loa (rainy southeast-ish side) just outside the boundary of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  Our goal was to photograph some of the Big Island’s feathered friends.  The circular trail is a little over a mile long and is a very easy hike if you have the time.  However, by the time we drove the 93 miles (2+ hours including 15 miles of switchbacks) to the preserve, the birds had all gone off for Kona coffee breaks.  All except for this one and a couple of friends.

Hit the jump to read more about Jan and Brad’s recent adventure!

Continue reading Guest Feature: An XXS Year…by Brad Marks

Now That’s Some Junk in the Goose Trunk

I am beginning to wonder if CJ (link here) is right on a previous post comment wondering if the epoxy fumes in the Nightmare Lab are starting to affect me. The last post I threw out the standard “holistic” approach to birding posts and simply zeroed in on one feature – the Night-Heron’s chicken foot galoshes. Now today, I am featuring this!

Domestic Goose found at Virginia Lake Park Reno, NV in May 2019

Granted this particular specimen looks kinda cute and for the record that is why I bothered to even take a picture of it. The issue is, I rarely bother to feature domesticated and likely hybrid birds here at Intrigued. Sure, like this one I’ll spend some digital capital and tin a few shots for my personal collection. Those images will never go to print and up until today would not be placed on the post queue – I know some of you just chuckled “he has a three year plus backlog of images and that’s with taking shots off the table – good lord, get that man an intern!?!”. Not to go too far off track, but one of my favorite authors is AJ Jacobs. One of his works, My Life as an Experiment: One Man’s Humble Quest to Improve Himself, covers his attempt to outsource his daily life to India. Every time I bring this “opportunity” up to Linda she smirks and sarcastically declares “I’m already your personal secretary you dufus”..sooo is that a yes?

Domestic Goose found at Virginia Lake Park Reno, NV in May 2019

Hit the jump to read a bit more about this rarity here at Intrigued.

Continue reading Now That’s Some Junk in the Goose Trunk

The 6 Million Dollar Heron

Welcome to September everyone! This is the critical month around here with the big Halloween Haunted Trail event looming at the end. The Nightmare Lab has been in full production from sunup to well past sundown trying to get this year’s batch of new scares finished. Sooooo glad I no longer have to worry about getting the IT architecture work deliverables done in the midst of the fabrication and assembly – not exactly sure how I managed to hold this event prior to retirement. The main thing getting in the way now is the ultra-training. Unfortunately, the 100K torture, I mean race, is the week immediately after the party so I do not have a lot of room to spare on that front either. Wake up, do my Wordle, head to the lab, emerge in early afternoon to go for a veeeeerrrryyy long run, shower and head back into the lab until my eyes are bloodshot, crawl up the stairs to bed (did I mention the long run ha) and reset the for-loop counter. A huge thanks to Linda who manages to keep me nourished in the midst of this hectic routine. Not a lot of time for posts, but luckily I have a few sets of images ready to go already – just need to add text and press the submit button. Usually use these contingency features to get me out of trouble when I’m short at the end of the month – not when I need to cover an entire month – sigh! Great news though, if everyone promises to “behave”, we might have a special topic to send your way – “If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your meat!”

Time’s a ticking, let’s get to today’s contingency feature. In honor of my nightly bloodshot peepers, thought our fancy footed friend would be an excellent choice for today’s focus.

Black-Crowned Night-Heron found in Reno, NV in May 2019

Hit the jump to read more about this bionic shorebird.

Continue reading The 6 Million Dollar Heron

Kilroy

I cannot believe we are practically out of August already. Apologize for being out of pocket for a lot of this month (especially late on responding to everyone’s comments). I mentioned previously that I was a couple of months away from our big Halloween event and the to-do list for that would run a new printer cartridge dry. Now we are only 32 days away and I certainly didn’t get halfway way through the list. Truth is… this is par for course so it isn’t as bad as it reads. I did manage to take this weekend off to do some very productive birding with my brother Ron. He came down and we attended an Illinois Ornithological Society Shorebird Event at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge – about 45 minutes from where I live. All I can say to that is b-r-a-v-o. My shorebird identification skills are in the upper echelons of craptastic. Sure, the easy ones I have down, it’s the other 43,245 that drive me bonkers – long legs, brownish, tannish, whitish, greyish, predominantly head down ass up and dancing around the edge of water – know what that gets you in the reference manuals – let me tell you DIDDLEY. Fortunately, the IOS guides know their stuff and helped us spot and ID everything Chautauqua had to offer to the tune of 16 new birds for the year with a number of them lifers. Ron had a few of my new ones already, but he also added a bunch. Ended up finding a new bird on a quick outing the next day to give me 281 for the Average Year (link here – note NOT UPDATED YET). Ron thinks I am in striking distance for 300, we’ll have to see how the remaining months go – seems like a loooong way to go.

… and while we are on the topic of long way to go, here is today’s featured feathered friend!

Burrowing Owl found at Progresso Sod Farm, Hildalgo County, TX in January 2022

Pretty cool huh!?! It is actually a new lifer for me – a bird that I have had in my top 5 target list for at least the last 10 years. Obviously I will need to figure out a new target to replace the gap left from officially checking this bird off while on our January trip to Texas. Wait, maybe you haven’t figure out what feathered creature I’m talking about – let me take a Frogger stroll across a surprisingly busy road.

Hit the jump and I’ll get you closer to the castle, I mean the bird.

Continue reading Kilroy

Beware of Raccoons Riding Possums

All I can say is thankfully you do not need to hear to write a post – although it may play a part in continuity! My ears (and Linda’s) are completely fried thanks to our weekend trip back home to attend the Illinois State Fair. Having grown up in Springfield, it is basically weaved into our DNA as small children that we must make the annual pilgrimage to see The Butter Cow. I actually have fond memories of the fair – corn dogs, ribeye sandwiches, losing my shoe somewhere in the muddy track during a Beach Boys concert, trying to pick up the carney girls (trust me, they live on the wild side and you know they will be gone in under two weeks – no brainer ha), mopping up at the ridiculously shady games (just need to know the tricks.. say it with me… carney girls), local bands in the beer tents and racing pigs. Note, the smart people NEVER ride the rides – don’t believe me, go look at the 2x4s stacked up under the coaster supports …or ask a carney girl when the last accident was when her boss isn’t around. This weekend Linda and I got to relive a lot of those memories (NOT THE CARNEY GIRL PART – those days are long gone..moved up to the beer tent women – kidding of course! Ended up camping there so we could catch all the traditional sights and then attend the Sammy Hagar and the Circle/Ann Wilson of Heart concert – thus the deaf part.

Had a great time and even got into the Disturbed concert the night before thanks to some very nice people checking tickets at the gate. A massive storm came through that delayed the concert. Opening act was dropped and Disturbed started late. We walked by one of the gates and stood there and listened to one of their songs – the ticket takers called to us and just told us to go on in with one condition – “Don’t get into trouble”. We agreed to their terms, thanked them for their generosity and grabbed a seat in the grandstand – which had PLENTY of seats left. Guessing the rain scared their fans away. The next night we attended the concert we paid for. Some quick takeaways from the gig:

  • Ann Wilson was better than expected, but I had very low expectations there – not a huge fan of her. Played an hour, hit the Heart classics, threw in some crappy solo work and then nailed the Zeppelin cover. Suggestion, going back and sitting on the stage while the band does their solo parts is pretty rude – act like you want to be there.
  • Sammy was incredibly good and they covered many of the greats from each of the member’s bands – Sammy from Montrose, solo, Van Halen and his post Van Halen groups, Michael Anthony brought the early Van Halen era and Jason Bonham added his band and, of course, Zeppelin in honor of his dad. Apparently Vic Johnson doesn’t have the legacy of the other members, but he smoothly transitioned through all the other band material.
  • Damn that was loud – after Sammy’s first song my ears were toast, but that made the rest of the night sound incredible or they finally fixed the treble – days later and still ringing although I already have Tinnitus (hey kiddies, your parents are right, turn those speakers down)
  • If you are going to “get in trouble” do not sit at the very top of the grandstand where nobody is – you stick out like a sore thumb and have to give up your expensive bottle of whiskey when the State Police swarm on you rookies.
  • You don’t need to clap after each song in the house music – lady in row ahead of me would enthusiastically cheer after every piped in song. She didn’t look “baked” to me, just living in her own little world I guess – still made me chuckle.
  • How great is it to see an older band – the audience is very appreciative, yet most of their knees are shot so they remain seated so everyone can enjoy the show.
  • Sammy knows how to entertain and you get the feeling he genuinely wants to be there for the crowd, no stage sitting for him – interacting constantly with bandmates, talking to the crowd between songs, signing every damn thing that was tossed on stage and handing it back (mid-song) and of course belting out songs as good now at 74 as when the songs first came out.
  • I forgot how good Sammy can play – having been sidelined by Eddie, he didn’t really get to show his skills with Van Hagar.
  • Lastly, I am not a big fan of the Van Hagar albums. I am on team Dave there, but then I heard them last night with harder drums, unsmoothed vocals and stronger baselines – muuuuuuchhhhh better.
  • Oh, and I guess my only complaint of the night was piping in the keyboards for the one Van Halen song that needed it (Right Now). Just grab Ann’s keyboardist from the bus for that one song and make it as authentic as the rest of the show – small complaint, but it was a surprise

Yikes, maybe that wasn’t so quick after all – what can I say, probably the first real concert we have seen since before 2019. I know, you are really here to see the wildlife, not some old guy’s fair experience. The good news is I do have some wildlife shots to show you!

Raccoon found at LaBagh Woods, Chicago IL in May 2022

Hit the jump to find out more about our featured bandit.

Continue reading Beware of Raccoons Riding Possums

She Wanted His Black Pearl Necklace

Doing my best to stay on top of the posts this month. Although this month seems to be gobbling up time faster than Ms. Pac-man on a pellet run, next month is going to be downright ugly. That is when the heavy Halloween Trail lifting begins. So much still to do on this year’s new prop additions. Linda isn’t too pleased about the condition of the basement at the moment – there are at least 5 projects in various stages down there, not to mention my den has another 2 servo based props that are driving me absolutely crazy thanks to either a wiring glitch or an erratic software demon. Bad flashbacks to those sleepless system troubleshooting days with the tiny sign in my office. “A repeatable problem is easily solved”. Those living an IT life already know this, it’s the random shit that’s a pain in the ass. Luckily for me, Ron is coming down next weekend to lend a hand..oh and we are attending a birding event with the local Ornithological Chapter. Speaking of which, how about we get to the real reason you are here.. the pretty birds!

Hit the jump to learn more about our flamboyantly colored bird.

Continue reading She Wanted His Black Pearl Necklace

Frustrating Fulvouses

Howdy everyone! Although I did get another Halloween project out on the mothership (Our updated UV Light Bombs link here), it has been a bit of time since we’ve had a real wildlife post. To remedy that, today I wanted to bring you a new lifer bird in thanks for having to sit through that rather lengthy project post(s). Some house cleaning before I get to that.

First off, I left my readers hanging on the outcome of the Bix7 race. Some details were provided in response to a few of the comments that asked how it went. As a whole it went quite well! The weather probably lands in the top 5 best conditions I’ve had for that event. End of July races in the Midwest can be brutal with the heat and humidity sucking out every bit of moisture in your body. I’ll never forget the year the course was littered with runners getting IVs in the street gutters. Somewhat cool at the start and smattering of clouds that kept a lot of the humidity in check. They did add a new layer of asphalt to the middle of the race course a year or two ago and for some reason that portion really cooks ya’. Beyond that – no performance excuses can be levied on the race conditions. My primary focus was on the tender ankle. Right before the gun went off I gave it a very stern lecture on how there would be NO whining, NO bitching and certainly NO pansy footing tolerated – there was Whitey’s popsicles at stake and nothing was going to jeopardize getting that delicious post race treat – Linda calls me a medal whore.. in reality I am more of a popsicle whore ha. To keep with tradition, I’ll put a full account of the race in a future post (on the mothership), but as a summary – ankle did just fine. Had some minor swelling afterwards, which was less than expected so complete success. Note – the next day I was moving a ridiculously heavy washer up a truck ramp and the damn thing fell on top of me pinning my injured ankle under it. That pissed me off, but I couldn’t yell at the ankle for that – that was all me and the guy I was helping getting distracted by a Squirrel. Although extremely frustrating at the time, ended up being okay and no additional damage occurred – at least not the serious kind. Ankle continues to improve and now with the ultra race coming up here in October, I’ve been hitting the trails hard and it is holding (always mind over body!).

In honor of being frustrated with the washer incident, decided this, or should I say these, would be a good feature for today.

Fulvous Whistling-Duck found at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Anahuac, TX in January 2022

Hit the jump to read about why these Fulvous Ducks are equated to rampaging appliances

Continue reading Frustrating Fulvouses