A Jay for a Long Day

Hello Everyone! There are times that you think you are never going to get through and then somehow everything comes together and then start believing you have everything under control… then life throws you a curveball and you are back to trying to get wood on a difficult pitch. That is how it has been here at LifeIntrigued over the last several months. The hectic agenda was finally smoothed only to have a loss in the family. With a heavy heart we laid my wife’s mother to rest today in a nice ceremony in her hometown. We will miss her, but she is in a better place now, free from the burdens that weighed her down in her later years.

In Memory, Dorothy Barton

(12/3/1927 – 11/5/2018)

 

It has been said the best way to move on from a bump in the road is to simply continue driving forward. Seems like sound advice to me, so in an attempt to move forward, thought I’d go ahead and put a post out on one of my favorite topics. On this rather dark day, I bring you one of the brightest birds the aviary world has to offer.

Green Jay captured at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Texas January 2018

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of this stunning Jay!

Continue reading A Jay for a Long Day

Dead Eye Lincoln

I have used a specific quoted from a well-known photographer numerous times in this blog. It is a bit in jest because Linda and I have listened to many of his blog podcasts and even had the pleasure of meeting him person thanks to a speaking engagement with our local camera club. If you were into drinking games this would be a perfect situation where you get to choose what phrase they must down a shot to. Sometime during a Rick Salmon presentation he will say some variation of “one blurry picture is a mistake, a whole bunch of them is a style”. Drink up! In the past post, we met Mr. Softie. In this post you will also see Mr. Softie and well, by the third post on its way you are going to be thinking this is just my style hehehehe. To my defense, all three of the posts in question probably covered a total of 5-6 seconds. Incredibly relieved that enough characteristics made it to the sensor to be able to get a proper ID .. which means an official check on the list. There’s a lifetime of chances to get better pictures, but to be in the right place for the right second or two can make the difference of never getting the opportunity to make that mark. Wife just hollered out to stop making excuses so better man up and get to tonight’s triple F (featured feathered friend).

Lincoln's Sparrow found at Harlingen Thicket World Birding Center January 2018

Hit the jump to learn more about this highly secretive Sparrow!

Continue reading Dead Eye Lincoln

Swamp Thing

Thanks to the extra cycles in my schedule as of late, thought I would loop back into the spoils from the Texas Gulf Coast birding trips and see what’s left to tick that bird counter up. I’ve made it through most of the quality shots in preparation for the multiple talks I’ve given on the subject to local groups. I was shocked to still find a number of potential lifers in there. Sent some samples up to Ron who was able to confirm my initial IDs – score! Unfortunately, most of these encounters were momentary. I’d be intent on getting a target bird in the tin and then catch a brief glimpse of something moving in my periphery. Note to new birders – when you are away from the home base, if anything with feathers decides to crash your party – flip the shutter on it. If it turns out to be a common maybe you’ll get a better shot for your portfolio. You might just be surprised to find out its one that has been eluding you for years. Worse case, you tap that little key with the Del label on it and that moment in history never happened. I joke to myself that it was “Obelisked” in reference to the Egyptian structures that provided a historical accounting of the Pharaohs. Except that history was obliterated err deleted and a new manufactured history created in its place that put the new Pharaoh in better standing. Obscure, but I like to get some use out of all my non-core electives in college ha. Wow, drifted from the feature of tonight’s post.

Swamp Sparrow found at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge Texas December 2017

As eluded to earlier, when this shot was taken I was in the midst of tracking a Sora (link here). That bird is a pain in the ass to get in the tin as it darts in and out of the reeds along the water banks. Just spotting them is task number one. From there you are trying to keep a focus on it as the glass bounces back and forth with every reed that comes between the two. Sometime in that adventure, this little brown jobber darted in for a quick check on meal options. Assuming it was just a common Sparrow, slid the barrel of the glass over, snapped a few for the record and then went back to being frustrated. It wasn’t until the review a few days ago that something triggered renewed interested. Actually that was the second trigger – the first was “Wow, Bri you need some photography lessons”. Basically bled through some foreground stalks. Honestly, lucky the glass didn’t start searching and completely ruin the encounter. This Sparrow might have only been there for less than five seconds, but it’s now an official check on my list.

Hit the jump to find out what this darkly colored bird is!

Continue reading Swamp Thing

Where’s the Hat and Boots?

Greetings everyone, welcome to November albeit a bit late to the month. I was sitting down after a night of traveling around the countryside assessing various Halloween haunts (picking up ideas for our annual haunted trail) and heard the clank of the blog counter resetting as the clock crested the witching hour. That sound is definitely more intimidating during the September and October months thanks to an extremely busy schedule – November is a different story – it is actually welcomed since It means I can re-dedicate myself to something I enjoy second to experiencing the event itself – that’s talking (err typing) about the experiences. A perspective that I believe most outdoor bloggers can relate to. The only downside right now is I used up all my pre-processed images to get me through the previous months. That can be easily overcome as in the case of today’s triple F (featured feathered friend).

Nashville Warbler found at Weslaco Valley Birding Center January 2018

I still have a tremendous amount of blog material from our trips down the Texas Gulf Coast. Took a run through the folder last night and thought this cute Warbler would be worthy of introducing to my readers. This particular specimen was found at the Valley Nature Birding Center in Weslaco, Texas. You may be familiar with this location already as it was the place that gave me the national bird of Costa Rico (link here), the Inca Dove (link here) and that darling of a Warbler the Black and White (link here) to name a few. The Birding Center is a neatly tucked away gem of a birding hotspot posing as a generic park in the middle of town – go through the visitor center and out the back gates and you find yourself standing in six acres of an elaborate forest ecosystem.

Nashville Warbler found at Weslaco Valley Birding Center January 2018

Hit the jump to find out what this new bird to my list is called! Continue reading Where’s the Hat and Boots?

A Better Castaway Companion

Did you hear that!?! If you just heard a huge sigh of relief loud enough to be heard from the Netherlands, that would be me successfully putting a cap on one of the busiest two months I have experienced in a looooong time. The Annual Halloween Cookout is officially in the books (all the decorations are officially dried out, packed and stowed away), the 4 scheduled Half Marathon medals are hanging on the wall, the new well is awaiting final health inspection and as of Wednesday night, my presentation to the local Peoria Camera Club was given. Whew, that blurb sure doesn’t sound as difficult as it was to get all those checked off the to-do list. All of those tasks had been outlined in previous posts, with the exception of the presentation. The president of the Camera Club (Julie) attended my presentation to the local Audubon Society Chapter earlier in the year (link here). After that talk she offered up the opportunity to come and speak to the camera club. Honored to be considered, I quickly accepted and began fretting about it almost immediately. At the Audubon speech, I was in a room full of better birders and likely better photographers. In the new setting I was among a room full of better photographers and likely better birders. Definitely more comfortable in the former being a self-learned photographer. When Julie reached out with the October date, my heart skipped a beat and immediately went to work revamping the Birding Texas Gulf Coast talk to focus on the photography aspects. Apprehension remained up until the point the lights went down and the slide show started. Ended up running out of time to get through all the bird detail (due to favoring camera setup, field philosophies etc), but the audience seemed to enjoy the talk and received a lot of good comments afterward. Also got to talk to a few of them later thanks to a chance decision afterward to catch a bite to eat at the same place. Again, extremely honored to have the chance to present my craft to them and to meet a wonderful group of similar enthusiasts. Huge appreciation to Julie for making all that happen.

While preparing for this speech, I noticed a picture was included of a bird I had not featured on the blog yet – and by definition, one that did not have the official check by it on the bird list. This seemed like the perfect time to remedy that!

Wilson's Warbler found at The Valley Nature Birding Center, Weslaco Texas January 1st, 2018

Hit the Jump to find out what this new addition is!

Continue reading A Better Castaway Companion

A Thrashing Surprise

Sorry, been awhile since getting some material out on the wild side of LifeIntrigued.  To my defense, I did put up a number of running recollection posts on my main blog this month.  Decided it was time to dust the cobwebs here.   Tonight, we feature another catch while on our Texas Gulf Coast Birding Trip back in December 2017 – on the 30th to be exact so just a few days from the current year. This makes this an extremely fresh post based on my normal wildlife recollections. Recently I was offered the opportunity to speak at our local camera club. Their president saw my speech to the local Audubon Society and thought the camera club would enjoy it as well – although likely without the crickets.  This has added to the overall whirlwind of activities that has been consuming me over the last two months (if you have been reading my posts, you are well aware of how I’ve been struggling to get posts out). With Saturday’s completion of the season’s last scheduled half marathon trail run (yeah) this speech is the final task on my to-do list ahead of my favorite day … Halloween. This post allows me to pad my bird count by an extra tick before then – yep, this is another new bird!

Long-Billed Thrasher found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, December 2017

Hit the jump to find out what this mystery species is!

Continue reading A Thrashing Surprise

Pining Away

Technically I can claim I am sticking with a theme of light to close out this month’s posts. The last post was about a structure made for light, this post is about a bird taken with too much light. It’s a stretch, but the best I can come up with knowing that I am officially 68 minutes from blowing a blogging streak I’ve been committed to hitting for a long long long long time. That is why I am spending time working on this rather than trying to figure out a way to make up for not being prepared for my wife’s birthday which is in …wait for it … now 65 minutes from now. With all the sleepless nights focused on the trail, traveling to races and trying my best to get our new well up and running, I have not had time to address her special day. I even missed our dating anniversary this year and I never forget that. To my credit, I did manage to arrange to get a combined birthday cake for Ron and Linda at our party without either of them knowing. That make a +1 for Ron and Linda on the year calendar – tonight’s featured subject is another +1 on my birding check list.

Pine Warbler shot in Texas December 2016

Hit the jump to find out what bird this is and see another equally bad shot.

Continue reading Pining Away

Bet the House

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.

House Finch shot at Colorado ?? In May 2014

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.

House Finch shot at Colorado ?? In May 2014
Hit the jump to read more about the House Finch. Continue reading Bet the House

A Better Gander Pt 2 of 2

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.

Birding Gander Mountain May of 2018

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.

Birding Gander Mountain May of 2018

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

A Better Gander Pt 1 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.

Gander Mountain Birding in Antioch IL

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

Gander Mountain Birding in Antioch IL

Hit the break to see ore finds from the Gander trip.

Continue reading A Better Gander Pt 1 of 2