Screw the BiFs, Hello BoSs

Welcome to May everyone! So far it has basically been one rainy day after another – in fact, April was downright rainy as well. I know some of you in the southwest are pretty dry, wish there was a way to get some of our run-off down to you. Read yesterday that Lake Mead is so low they are finding bodies. The positive in all this is our wells should be fully charged. Unfortunately, the “Average Year” efforts are in a stumble with the Dauphin trip cancellation. I have been able to get a few adds .. in between the rains of course.

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

How is that for an absolutely craptastic shot!?! That particular image is the “best” of about a hundred attempts to tin one of these caffeine junkies in flight. For a majority of birds, their flights are fairly predictable. Note position A, then B and you can pretty much assume where C is going to end up along that trajectory. Focus lock the bird at position B and pan with it to estimated point C while engaging continues shutter mode – easy peasy. Even hyper Flycatchers can be mitigated knowing 83.6% of the time they return to the same branch after a quick sortie. (Note, 91.82% of statistics are made up on the fly.. and while at it, 103% of political poll numbers are bullshit. hehehe.) When it comes to Swallows you are probably better off just randomly pressing the shutter at a random spot at a random distance and pray one of them spots a bug in the vicinity. I tried everything short of throwing the kitchen sink in hopes of knocking one out of the sky and the best I could do is the shot above. 30 minutes into it my arms were like spaghetti and had used up all my colorful swear words. Screw these birds in flight (BiFs)!!

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

Frustrated, I brought The Beast down and gave my arms a rest. Started scanning the nearby trees in a last ditch effort to come away with a shot worthy of the +1 for the Average Year. Well, hello there bird on stick (BoSs)! As I was hoping, these Northern Rough-Winged Swallows were staging on a tree next to the bank we were standing on. Now that is muuuuuch easier on the arms.

Northern Rough-Winged Swallow found at Weldon Springs State Park in Clinton, IL

Did I mention it was really windy that day?

Hit the jump to read about other finds from the Swallow family.

Continue reading Screw the BiFs, Hello BoSs

Definitely Not Another Squirrel

Bad news for those of you out there hoping for another post from the Squirrel family and good news for those that have been filling my inbox up with comments to the contrary. Truth is, I would have gone with another fur focused series if I had one in the queue. I’m only getting home maybe one or two days a week these days if I’m lucky. When I do, I’m more focused on getting the growing list of upkeep items like mowing taken care of over prepping images for the blog. As a result, I’ve been relying on drafts I worked up to use while we were down in Alabama. Thought it would be good to get back to the main staple here at Intrigued – BIRDS!

White-Eyed Vireo found at Quinta Mazaltan, McAllen TX in January 2021

Today’s feature is not a new bird to the blog as it was featured back in November 2018. (link here – but warning, don’t go there). There are few birds that frustrate me more in the field than these here White-Eyed Vireos. Year after year after year I’ve encountered specimens in our many outings and I’ve only managed to feature this vireo that one time back in ’18 and that was ONLY because I wanted to officially get the checkmark. Went with some crappy shots for that post which is why I warned you NOT to go there – if you went there anyway, you might want to go rinse your eyes out – no worries, I’ll wait until you get back.

White-Eyed Vireo found at Quinta Mazaltan, McAllen TX in January 2021

Hit the jump to learn why this bird was on my nemesis list.

Continue reading Definitely Not Another Squirrel

With Darkness Comes Sadness

Before I get into the heart of this post, I wanted to congratulate our little fur covered bundle of energy on his first birthday a week ago Sunday!

Ruger 1 year old

A surprising thing happened the day before his birthday. Linda and I were enjoying our breakfast at the kitchen table when Ruger came bounding in like Tigger. Raven had reminded him the next day he would be turning the big 1. Ruger goes to a chair at the end of the table, nudges it out a foot or so and then proceeds to go back into the living room, puts his butt against a small stool and pushes it all the way into the kitchen – quite the struggle until he finally gets it off the rug and onto the slicker tile flooring. With the stool in position next to the table, he backs up, bolts forward, leaps to the top of the stood and then launches himself up to the seat of the pulled out chair – pretty sure he muttered some older than 1 year old words regarding how high our kitchen table is. Now comfortably situated, he leans on the table with his paws and announces “I want a play date with Happy [his Poodle friend] for my birthday present!!!”. Linda and I looked at each other with open mouths, blinked a couple of times, looked back at Ruger and then glanced back at each other quite shocked – we thought for sure he would say “bouncy house party”. Goes to show you, you never really know what goes on inside the mind of a Poodle. Note, I did point out that there was a step ladder like 5 feet from the table that would have been a lot easier to use. Called up Happy’s mom, relayed the request and received confirmation – now we rock in Ruger’s eyes. A little concerned about what next year’s request is going to be ha!

Anyway, a small bright moment to start off the post of what is a rather sad post. I was looking through the image queue for a good topic to cover today. After perusing through a number of sets I opted for my latest field adventure. To be honest I almost Titled this post “Technical Limbo: How Low Can You Go”. I thought I had lowered the technical bar pretty far with my previous Bat post, but this adds a whole new level of sadness.

American Woodcock at Tawny Oaks Field Station, Edelstein IL in March 2022

If I dipped a craft brush in a bottle of black paint and flung it at a blue wall I could probably get a blob that looks at least as good as these first few shots. That would have been the easy approach, instead I spent 2 hours in a cold field starting at dusk playing “Hunt the Wumpus” until my fingers were stinging so badly it hurt to push the shutter down. Just to set the record straight, there were ten other people with me so I was NOT the only crazy person in Edelstein, IL that night.

Hit the jump for more splotches… and some surprises (good and sad)

Continue reading With Darkness Comes Sadness

Pixie Stix Fueled Myotis

For those of you on the wild side of Intrigued, you might be thinking Bri’s been slacking off this month. That is understandable as that little post calendar in the left navbar is pretty bare – the one day that is highlighted was technically from the last day in February. Truth is. I’ve been pounding the keys like crazy up on the mothership. What started out as a quick break from birds to clear out my overflowing “fail” folder spiraled into a flurry of activity that I now refer to as “The Haunting of March”. My first post this month was a long comedic (eh, at least an attempted humorous) post on “Things that make me go Hmmmmm” as our blogger friend Cedar Journal (link here) has coined. Basically things that catch my attention and either make me cringe or burst out in laughter (view latest fails here). While compiling the images for that lengthy post, noticed there was a a few props from last year’s Haunted Trail of Tears still in the queue. That had to be remedied. While at it, went ahead and added a walkthrough for a recently completed decoration. That’s when the sledgehammer came down. Went to reference the 2021 trail event and it was missing – my signature event for the year, the spectacle that consumes me year-round, the very essence of my being (so says Linda) was completely null and void. As much as I enjoy all things haunt, that gap immediately brought a wave of dread – those posts are massive and require days in the digital darkroom to compile/fix/filter all the shots taken leading up, during and after the event. I put everything aside and pushed through (didn’t help last week I had an hour plundered from me!!). So, for those who enjoy all things Halloween, feel free to check out all the releases on the mothership – warning, the trail posts will definitely burn a hole in your browser’s cache!

’21 Haunted Trail of Tears Prep and Teardown (link here)
’21 Haunted Trail of Tears Day Walker (link here)
’21 Haunted Trail of Tears Night Terror (link here)
’21 Prop: Gargoyle Sentry (link here)
’21 Prop: Mini-Me Fire Breather (link here)
’21 Prop: Injection Freddy (link here)
’22 Prop: Toxic Spidey (link here)

Although a bit exhausted and still waaaayy behind on reading the great posts of fellow bloggers, I didn’t want to leave you hanging any longer (at least right-side up). Continuing the “comic” theme that started March and then tying into the Halloween topics that followed, I bring you this…

Bat found at Lake Tahoe in May 2019

Hit the jump to read the background on this spastic Bat.

Continue reading Pixie Stix Fueled Myotis

Burt’s Bees Please

I predicted it – we’ve come to the end of this short month and I’m scrambling to hit my monthly quota. Hats off to my fellow bloggers that are far more productive than I am – not to mention those dedicated souls that are releasing content daily. I need at least one if not two really long runs between posts just to figure out what my next topic is going to be. Luckily I managed to get a decent 9.5 mile run in yesterday that resulted in this bundle of cuteness being selected to close out February.

Ross's Goose found at Henderson Bird Viewing Center in Henderson, NV while there in February 2020

Not sure what the key trigger was, but somewhere in the fog of fatigue I remembered our trip to Las Vegas in February 2020 – possibly thinking about warmer climates being confronted with unexpected snow/ice on the difficult ascents and descents where I was training. That led to remembering I had not processed a single picture from that trip – thousands of pictures just sitting there alone in a cold dark folder in a long forgotten drive hoping with all their bits to be found and presented to the world – yeah, my mind is all over the place when trying to forget that my legs aren’t lounging on the beach sipping drinks with tiny umbrellas.

Ross's Goose found at Henderson Bird Viewing Center in Henderson, NV while there in February 2020

Hit the jump for more background on our extremely cute Goose.

Continue reading Burt’s Bees Please

An Olive Bath

This being a short month, I’ve been watching the calendar closely so I do not blow my self-imposed monthly post quota. Even with that extra scrutiny, I still feel I’m lagging behind. It hasn’t helped that I’ve had a myriad of doctor appointments to take care of and a dentist appointment this week that ended up with multiple needles being shoved halfway up my nose (“Hey, is that grey matter I see on that railroad spike you call a needle!?!). One more doctor visit left this month and then I should be free for two months until I can get in to finally see my referral consultation – very much appreciate all the well wishes in the comments, especially Brad who offered me a pint of his blood (Cat family bonds run strong!). On a happier note, we had the chance to run up to Iowa today to play Santa Claus – unfortunately had to miss Linda’s family Christmas and then we spent the next month in Texas. We joked we wanted to wait until there was snow on the ground unlike the real date ha! While there, Linda drove me around to some birding hot spots. True to winter form, the Eagles were thick on the Mighty Mississippi. Quick count was at least 30 of those majestic birds were hunting the frigid waters down by I280. In tribute to that success, thought I would go with another sure bet when it comes to winter birding.

Olive Sparrow found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January of 2021

Today’s featured feathered friend is a winter bird only in the sense we have encountered them only in our winter excursions. You will not see this particular bird ANYWHERE near cold temperatures unless you count the bizarre cold snaps that have hit Texas the last couple of years. Their region maps consists of year round residency along the coasts of Central America and just barely into the southernmost tip of Texas.

Olive Sparrow found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January of 2021

Hit the jump to read more about this LOJ (warning space aliens may be watching)

Continue reading An Olive Bath

Cheetos Connoisseur

Although we enjoyed being able to spend the entire month of January in the mask-free state of Texas, the fact we had to move all of our medical appointments and checkups to this month has got us lately feeling a bit …hmm.. let’s go with …. blue.

Steller's Jay found at Lake Tahoe in May 2019

Oh, before I go any further, I am reminded by the fluffy cotton ball currently covering a large gaping, cavernous, crater of a hole in the middle of my arm that today was lab day, meaning about 50 vials of my precious life sustaining blood has been maliciously sucked out of my body by a dominatrix dressed up in nurse clothing. I keep telling my doctor I was the reference for Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man and this whole drain me within inches of my life is entirely unnecessary. Then he holds up my medical records with the running err “events” circled in red, takes out his little blue pad, with his blue pen filled with evil blue ink to remind his blue clad nurse to schedule the draining (complete with one of those god-awful smiley faces on it).

Steller's Jay found at Lake Tahoe in May 2019

Hit the jump to read about this high crested Jay…well, maybe.

Continue reading Cheetos Connoisseur

Not a Scooter

Greetings everyone! First off, wanted to let you know that I have update the Birding Chronicles page with the latest progress in Ron and I’s “Average Year” (link here). Between the brutally cold days we’ve had a few bearable temps to get in a bit of tundra birding. From the last update I am now sitting at 185 and Ron coming in at the 156 mark. If you take in the unique species between us we are at a very healthy 194 between us. Absolutely surprising to me as that is nearly 2/3rds of my current life list number! Ron has also been adding new features to our personal tracker using software he developed (Sliver link here) coupled with Google Maps, he is now able to visually chart all of our outings since the first of the year. I’ll be putting the videos he produced from that on the Chronicles page as soon as he gets the current maps generated.

For today’s post I thought I would go with one of my two highlights so far in this young (and short) month. Drum roll please… yes, it is official, I have finally lost the remaining black toenail from my last ultra-marathon (link here). If you recall, last October I entered the…

Linda: “What’s ya doin’?”

Me: “Writing a new post!”

Linda: “”bout what?”

Me: “Successfully losing my last black toe”

Linda (blinks twice): “What?””

Me: “Yeah, I am pretty excited and thought I would share with my rea..”

Linda: “Ummm, No!”

Me: “..but they like to read abou..”

Linda: “HELL NO!”

Me: “Bu…”

Linda: “Go with the Scooter”

Me: “Dammit, it is not a SCOOTER!”

Linda: “Scooter!!” .. walks out of the room.

With a wife like that who needs an editor hehehe. Will heed my lovely wife’s advice and opt out of the extremely thrilling toenail ordeal (for now) and go with the OTHER highlight from a recent birding trip to downtown Peoria, IL.

White-Winged Scoter found on Illinois River in downtown Peoria Feb 2022

I guess it is still sort of blackish, and if you stretch your imagination kinda looks like a foot and ankle.

Hit the jump to find out what today’s “substitute” featured feathered friend is!

Continue reading Not a Scooter

Nixon’s Accomplice

Finally catching a warming spell here in the tundra. Might even get to see the gravel in our extended driveway for the first time since being back from this year’s annual trip to the Texas Gulf Coast. Apologies again for bringing the cold down to all those cities we passed on our trip – honestly, it was not intentional ha! I just realized I let a rather important milestone pass by without mentioning it. Managed to once again trigger the increment button on the age counter in mid January, but that isn’t that important these days (although it is nice to be assured you still have a physical existence in world). The real fanfare is I hit my one year anniversary of being officially retired. Admittedly, a bit stunned looking at the calendar and realizing it has been that long already. Friend of the blog Brad M. also celebrated his first retirement anniversary and he had a similar feeling on how quick it went. Think he summed it up best when he declared being surprised “was a good sign [our retirement] was the right thing at the right time.” Initially thought I would miss the daily grind a lot more than I did knowing how ingrained the work schedule was in Linda and I’s DNA. Each day of the week was tracked by the required meetings and deliverables due. These days we can’t even remember if the day ends in a ‘Y’ or not. I did take a support call while on our trip, but that was entirely caused by me purposely not properly transitioning a tiny piece of my old role. I thought it was pointless when I was doing it and assumed (hoped) it would die off for the good of the company – apparently some check boxes never go away even if nobody even takes an action on it or worse yet even looks at it (it was a quarterly deliverable and it wasn’t missed for over a year hmmmm). Oh well, Big Yellow keeps rolling without me/us…

Prothonotary Warbler with Pollen Hat at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island in April 2021

Hit the jump to read about a softer yellow machine. One that doesn’t beep when it backs up hehehe.

Continue reading Nixon’s Accomplice

A Lite Brite Peg

Welcome to February everyone! Been a rude awakening on the weather front for us. Came back from or extended Texas trip to 4 or 5 inches of the whitey fluffy stuff already on the ground. Wasn’t really in the mood to deal with that yet, so cleaned off the small portion of cement directly in front of the garage and let the other 300′ of gravel go. Tradition continues, delay now, pay thrice later. Yesterday, Snowmaggedon hit. Thankfully managed to get the blade on the UTV ahead of time. Linda performed her highly scientific method of walking into the yard and sticking a ruler in the snow to determine we came in at about 9 inches of new snow (didn’t help that it was preceded by a couple of hours of rain/sleet as required by all Illinois cold weather events). During the multiple hours plowing and shoveling, my body was constantly reminding me there was an RV sitting right there in the outbuilding, all cleaned and gassed up ready to go…anytime, really anytime, just put that metal thingy in the dash, give a small twist, put the lever thingy in reverse…somewhere warm in relatively no time at all. “Come on Bri, do it for the puppies!” For the record, my inner voice is vindictive and evil. Now it is around 12F degrees out with a windchill at -4 which is just a few degrees beyond my willingness to go for an outdoor run – translated – it’s a perfect time to get the first post of the new month out.

Prothonotary Warbler found at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island in April 2021

How is that for a color blast!?! Had a few options in the queue and decided to go with Mr. Yellow here to help brighten my spirits. A few posts ago on the Black-Throated Green Warbler (link here), friend of the blog, Brad, commented that a more appropriate name would have been “Brilliant Yellow Noggin’ Warbler or BYNW”. Those keeping tabs on Intrigued, might have noticed I kind of gave away today’s featured feathered friend in my response. When it comes to brilliant bananas, this Warbler has a head up, not to mention chest and neck. The bird practically glows.

Prothonotary Warbler found at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island in April 2021

Hit the jump to read more about the events surrounding this sighting.

Continue reading A Lite Brite Peg