Greetings from the Midwest Tundra. It is currently -7F not including windchill and I am pretty sure that is close to when appendages start falling off. Tonight the first lunar eclipse took place over a supermoon. Thanks to Ron reminding me, I managed to get out and witness it – actually that reads as if I put a lot of effort into it. We were heading back from a night out, stepped out of the car when we got back to the house and looked up. There it was, only a sliver left and radiating the blood moon hues. Thought about getting the Beast and snapping a few shots to share on the blog. Then my nose, ears and a thumb fell off. Decided to pass on that idea – sorry everyone. To our credit, I did help Linda with a photoshoot in the early morning. Her client wanted pictures of her three dogs in the 5″ of fresh powder we received yesterday (on top of the 12″ we already had). Think it was a balmy 5F out then, which was enough to put a serious sting in the fingers. They say positive thoughts can get you through uncomfortable times. Time to click our heels three times and entertain visions from the desert.
Hit the jump to read a bit more about this desert songbird.
Continue reading A Dash of Yellow in the Desert
How is this for a weird experience? I mentioned a few posts back that I was recovering from a back injury, but I didn’t go into too many details. Now that I am completely healed from it, thought I’d loop everyone into a bizarre injury that had me pretty worried. The last thing I need when training for a 50K event is to have an injury – especially in such a critical area. Usually On Sundays, some friends and I do long training runs on a hilly nightmare of a course through a local cemetery (figure they can bury us where we drop). A few weeks ago we were taking on the course in pretty warm weather for an early January day – mid 40’s accompanied with a strong wind. Decided I was too layered up for the conditions so took my Gore-Tex coat off, removed a layer and put the outer shell back on (important tidbit for later). Although a rocky and uneven course, we know every square inch of it – no slips, bobbles or wobbles occurred up to mile two. That is when I felt something pierce my lower back. I noted the strange feeling to my friend and kept on running – quirks and pains happen all the time – runners learn to ignore them because they almost always work themselves out. 2 more miles and my hips started seizing up. 2 more miles and serious pain started radiating from the lower back. 3 miles later we were back at the car and I was trying to figure out a way to stand without letting my friends see any hint of tears. 30 minute drive home and I couldn’t move without a knife twisting in my spine. Most concerning was a 5×8 inch badly swollen red bulge near where the initial stab was felt. All I could think about was the setback to the 50K training (goals are not taken lightly around Intrigued). For brevity, will skip to the juicy part. Got into my doctor the following day – explained the story above preparing myself for the herniated disk diagnosis. Was not expecting the doctor to hypothesize that it sounded like a spider bite. The recluse would have destroyed skin by now, so they speculated Black Widow, grabbed a magnifying glass and went to work finding the holes. Good news, not a Widow, instead they pulled a stinger out of my spine what I imagined to be the size of this bird’s bill.
Not sure who was surprised more, the doctor or me. Apparently a dagger wielding demon of an insect decided to unload all the venom it had a few inches up from my waistline and directly into the center of my spine. From there it traveled my nerve network down into the in the hips and up the back causing the lockup. Remember, this is the first week of January – those things are supposed to have died off or went into hibernation. No way it stung through the outer running shell. We have come to the conclusion that a wasp,hornet,large ass bee or possibly a Tarantula Hawk (link here) sneaked into the coat when I was removing the layer, panicked at mile two and unloaded everything it had into the spine – I could see a blood spot on the base layer next to the skin. The good news is 5 days of steroids had me back on the trails this morning running in 5″ of snow. I bet I know what you are thinking right about now – what the hell kind of bird is that?
Hit the jump to find out!
Continue reading Purple Shimmers in the Desert
Greetings to all from the big white tundra we like to call the Midwest. A bit of an icebox at the moment as we are dealing with ~12″ inches of the fluffy stuff. Add to that a layer of ice that accumulated overnight from freezing drizzle and you have yourself a recipe for hilarity. Case in point. Our dogs decided that 4:50am is a perfectly good time to demand I take them out. Wipe the sleep from the eyes, remind the legs they were designed to move me from one place to another, put some shoes on and leash up the dogs – you would think by their expression I take evil enjoyment out of cinching up their necks as opposed to the truth there are “eyes in ‘dem trees” that think 4:50am is a perfect time for an early morning snack. Shut the alarms down and take a groggy step off the porch onto the wet concrete. Except it wasn’t just wet, nope, black ice quickly causing my feet to go eye level and my eyes to go feet level. Just got my back all healed up and now I’m being snickered at by sure footed furballs. Later that morning, a semi ended up jackknifing by the main highway exit I use to get to work shutting down that access and choking up all the alternative routes (which had their share of wrecks as well). Some days were just designed to stay in bed and enjoy thoughts of warmer locations.
Like for instance the desert – specifically the Mohave Desert in Las Vegas. The Rock Wren was not the only bird hanging out at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area back in November 2018. Unlike that bird (link here) and Abert’s Towhee (link here). that came before it, this bird possesses coloring that contrasts sharply with the desert floor. Yep, this one is adorned in a pretty blue and grey palette.
Hit the jump to find out what kind of bird this is!
Continue reading Blue Tones in the Desert
Getting my exercise in alternative ways today. Seems Old Man Winter has decided the Midwest needed a serious coating of white. Snow has been coming down in our area since 9pm last night and not planned to let up until 2am tomorrow. Good for our wells, but not for the body. Finally got my back functioning again and was hoping to take an easier trajectory to the daily workouts. So far everything is holding together – did a mid-shovel this morning to get the pavements cleared, but will probably be heading out soon to clear off the 4 hours of new powder that has been dropped and break out the tractor to clear the 300′ of driveway.
In the meantime, thought I’d recall warmer times in the Mojave Desert.
Feel bad for bringing you another fairly dull colored bird, but the desert birds tend to inherit the hues of their surroundings. Nonetheless, this little bird represents the second +1 for the young year. Those that happen to be familiar with our feathered friends will probably recognize it as part of the Wren family. Although unable to bring this element to bear, the chatter these hyperactive birds emit is also a dead giveaway. All that is left to do is identify which type it is.
Hit the jump to find out what this new bird is!
Continue reading Rocking Vegas
Today I watched a Subway employee sort cheese. Actually, sorting might be the wrong word since that it implies there were multitudes of different cheeses thrown in a giant pile that needed to be properly organized. Yep, wrong word. Let’s go with “aligning” cheese. I was in somewhat of a hurry thanks to having recently injured my lower back during a run (interesting story, will save for another lead in). It basically hurt to stand (…or sit… or lie down) and therefore wanted to get back to the car and home before someone saw tears welling up. The Subway employee was standing at the counter directly in front of the lady ahead of me. There she proceeded to align the pepper jack cheese. One by one down the foot long stack of triangles. Ever find yourself staring at something and too mesmerized to look away? One eye was on the cheese dance, the other was on the lady ahead of me trying to predict her breaking point. Word to the wise, psych classes are NOT healthy for you. To her credit, she waited until the cheese was sorted and properly stored in the container at which point she gave her order and asked for .. wait for it ..wait for it .. Swiss. The Swiss bin was empty forcing her to go back and get new packages. To her credit, she just took 4 pieces and finished her sandwich. With that done, she came back in front of me to get my order .. umm no, she opted to take the rest of the Swiss triangles out of the bag, align and put in the bin not looking at me once. “Rest” is somewhat of a guess since I turned and hobbled out the store. Nothing like having a direct reminder not to leave my customers hanging … especially my loyal readers. So, without delay, I give you the first +1 of the year.
This would be the very rare Headstick Sparrow. These brown jobbers develop antler like protrusions in the middle of their head providing a built in defense against aggressive Owls and the ability meld into underbrush when land predators come calling. Don’t worry, Linda isn’t buying it either. I think the words “crappy photographer” just rang out from her den. Sigh, okay, this is not a Headstick Sparrow, but it is from the Sparrow family – the Abert’s Towhee. Here is a better shot sans stick.
Hit the jump to read a bit more about this secluded Sparrow.
Continue reading Thank the Quails
I can tell Christmas is almost here by the signs of growing stress while out and about. It all really starts on Black Friday … let me take that back, thanks to greedy merchants and blunt force trauma of Christmas advertising campaigns it really starts in mid-October. This premature blitz causes some serious angst with me as it is a clear war on my favorite holiday Halloween. Pretty sure the Kringle capitalists want to dispense with the orange and black and force a solid 3 month barrage of sleigh bells and, god forbid, horrible version after horrible version of Santa Baby. It may just be me, but by the time this traditionally festive time comes to a head I am worn out. Sure, I like to entertain myself by spending time at popular merchants observing frantic people desperate to fill the void under the tree or get that hot item that sold out … in October, but you have to feel a bit saddened to see the impact a once joy-centric event now has on society. Linda gives me a hard time about my tradition of going to the stores on Christmas Eve to experience this devolution – this is what psychology enthusiasts do for fun. I cannot speak for other countries and cultures, but if you happen to live in the US, take a look around and start assessing the happiness of those around you, especially on the road, in the parking lots and especially in the cashier lines – what percentage give the impression they are glad to be there? If they do look happy, they are probably psychology majors ha! Feel bad about the downer opening, but really just hoping you can take a breath and remember the holiday should really be about family, relaxation and well, blogging!
Finally worked up a long series for my other blog (ironically focused on Halloween), but before investing in that effort, thought I’d get another bird post out for my wildlife readers. Going with one of the big boys today.
The Reddish Egret is not the largest of the shorebirds, but still tower over the standard peeps and plovers whose shorter legs force them to forage closer to the shore. In fact, just the three toed foot of the Egrets are larger than some of those birds. Those other shorebirds don’t seem to be stressed by the size different, since I have never seen a Reddish, or for that matter any Egret, waste their time harassing the smaller birds – probably worried some stressed out piper trying to get a last minute Xmas gift will go medieval on them. Nope these Egrets are calm, cool and collected as they keep an eye out for an unfortunate frog (now, frogs do have a legitimate reason to be stressed).
Hit the jump to see a few more shots of the two-toned Egret!
Continue reading Somewhat Red for Xmas
Well, I had my annual wellness exam with my doctor today. Another year with “impeccable” (doctor’s word, not mine) health stats. A constant diet of running and lifting may take its toll on your time over the year, but it definitely pays off in the numbers. My employer also provides me annual comprehensive lab screenings so I knew the numbers going into today. Ironically, I came out of the office with a hole in my arm and an hour or two later I wasn’t able to lift my arm above my waist. Extremely healthy going in…damaged coming out thanks to my doctor convincing me I should get a tetanus shot with all the trail running. Probably a good plan – I do shed my fair share of blood during the course of the year with the Halloween props, work on the lot and ideas that do not go as planned – but damn this hurts. Making the most out of my gimpy fin, figure it never hurts to stay on top of the blog quota.
Keeping with the theme from the last post, tonight’s offering focuses on a bird that has previously debuted on the blog while trying to get as many Texas birds added prior to the Audubon speech (link here). Like the Woodpecker, it was also found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park (along the Rio Grande River) while on a birding trip to South Texas at the beginning of the year. Similar to the situation with the last post, the previous series was taken in rather harsh light.
Hit the jump to see and read a bit more about this Central America bird.
Continue reading Another Trya for the Altamira
Hoped you enjoy the previous relief from the bird posts. I like to mix it up a bit from time to time, but the bird shots clearly dominate my photography queue – at least at the moment. Working on a few more non-feather series and hoping to get them finished up before too long. Until then, you are once again subjected to our winged friends.
This series features the Golden-Fronted Woodpecker found on our trip to Texas back in the beginning of the year. This isn’t the first time this bird has been featured here at Intrigued. Back in February, this brightly colored species was honored from our trip to Texas in 2017 (link here). I personally think this is a better executed set of pictures – that first set suffered a bit from being in direct sunlight.
Hit the jump to see more shots of the Golden-Fronted Woodpecker.
Continue reading A Better Golden Pecker
Brace yourself, this is going to be an ugly ride. There are times when I wished I had studied up a bit more before going to a particular birding spot. Typically I’ll jump on the web and try to find a bird list for a destination, but the focus is usually on the entries with the capital ‘C’ next to them. Those represent the species that are common to the area and therefore the list I am more than likely to see depending on what season our trip falls in. A quick check of those against my birding list results in a series of circled birds that are considered my target birds and therefore the ones that require Linda to find creative ways to entertain herself until they are officially in the tin
Hit the jump to read a bit more about how this Dove made it into the tin.
Continue reading Lost in the Dust
We are officially in December now and thus time to walk over to the big counter on the wall and reset the monthly post quota back to zero – by the way, where the hell did this year go!?! I have single digit days left at work to get this year’s work efforts wrapped up and set the preliminary plan for 2019 before the holiday starts … sigh feel like a race I’m never going to get ahead of. However, on the bright side, I can tell you where a large portion of the year went thanks to crossing off one of my annual goals tonight.
Anyone who follows either of my blogs know I spend my spare time bathed in sweat chasing down Father Time and running from the Reaper. During my Birding and Blogging talks this year I mentioned the reason I run (and lift) is so I can spend all day in the field hauling around big glass in hopes of taking pictures to display in my home gym to remind me why I work out – my circle of life. Always elated when I can check off a goal, let’s celebrate with some pie!
Well, maybe not the pie you were thinking of. This here is the birder’s version. Actually, I took some liberties here – this is really a Pie[d]-Billed Grebe. If you live anywhere in the US or a large swath of Canada, you have ample chance to get one of this cute creatures in the tin. It is a rare outing when we do not come upon the Pied on one of our water excursions. You might have to keep your eyes open for reasons explained later, but they are probably there hanging out in small groups or more likely solitaire.
Hit the jump to see some cute picture of the Pied-Billed Grebe!
Continue reading Let’s Celebrate with Pie[d]