The Stork Delivers

Greetings all! Just sitting here waiting for the deluge of rain to pass through so I can get to a ridiculously long training run. Was supposed to get back on the trails, but by the looks of it, going to be too muddy – no reason to risk an injury less than a month from the first race of the season. While I wait out the weather blahs, thought I would put a little NCAA tournament on and bang on the keyboard a bit. May not get it completed before heading out, so apologies if this gets posted later in the day.

Okay, let’s discuss this half Pelican, half Vulture, half Heron looking creature.

Wood Stork shot at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge near Savannah Georgia, May 2015

A bit creepy if you ask me. As I’ve stated during my bird lecture intros, Linda and I are destination wildlife/nature photographers. We essentially travel to our subjects – most of our vacations are specifically planned to get a particular bird or waterfall in the tin. Grab some research books, travel brochures, cross-reference with the birding check list, check the research books again to confirm (to the best of our ability) there is a good chance of finding it, pack up the RV and hope for the best. Sometimes it results in complete failure like the Arkansas trip we took last year (although I did manage to get a couple of unexpected +1’s and a Tarantula Hawk (link here) – Linda totally struck out).

Wood Stork shot at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge near Savannah Georgia, May 2015

Hit the jump to read more about the Georgia trip target bird.

Continue reading The Stork Delivers

The Devil Bird Went Down to Georgia

Spent the day tearing out all the tile in my master shower which definitely had its moments – like the 200 pound sheet of cement board with the tile still on it that decided it would take it upon itself to try and kill me – unexpectedly, it broke free of the stud, just missed my head and then hit the ladder I was standing on before embedding itself in the shower pan – thankfully the pan was the reason all this work was set in motion so it got what it deserved. I’ll probably have to add that to the list of events which I like to label as the “near misses” list. Not nearly as long as the birding list, but a bit longer than I like to admit to. That which doesn’t kill me, serves to makes me wiser. As I reflect on the day and prepare for tomorrow’s planned half marathon training run, thought I would pad the bird list and maybe gain some ground on Ron.

Anhinga shot at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge near Savannah, Georgia May 2015

Ooops, should have mentioned in the intro that these shots are not my best work. In a bit of luck, while shooting the target for the trip to Georgia, another bird showed up that I had not yet officially checked off the list. I have a few pictures of this bird from a quick trip to Florida to drive my parents back from their winter stay. Thanks to a vendor conference in Orlando, I was also able to get a shot of one with my cell phone. All of those shots turned out to be awful and therefor elated to get a third chance at one. This bird is becoming my nemesis – three attempts and still nothing I’d be willing to hang on a wall. Now taking the +1 …well, that is a completely different story.

Anhinga shot at Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge near Savannah, Georgia May 2015

Hit the jump to read a bit more about this flying cross!

Continue reading The Devil Bird Went Down to Georgia

Have a Laugh on Me

Let’s go ahead and continue with the Georgia birding trip theme for another March post. From what I can tell from a quick count that excursion to the swamps to the east resulted in at least a +5. Yep, 5 count increments that have simply been sitting in bit purgatory since May 2015 waiting for someone to give them a bit of love and in some cases a dose of processing to get them in decent enough shape to show the world. Suspect there’s probably less than 800 images left to comb through to finish out the haul from the trip – one good effort over the weekend should put a bow on Georgia processing. That just leaves the easy part, smacking the keyboard in hopes of delivering a post worthy my reader’s time. To that end I bring you the second +1 from the trip.

Laughing Gull found at Tybee Island, Georgia May 2015

For starters, in case you haven’t noticed, I do not feature a lot of Gulls on the blog. There are two main reasons for this. One is the fact that they can be damn hard to ID unless you are lucky enough to find the ones that are regionally constrained or have some unique element that makes them stand out from the horde. I have taken 10’s of thousands of shots of Gulls in my adventures in the field and very few of them fall into the easy to ID category. Many are juveniles or females which have about an equal chance of getting correctly labeled as a juvenile Sparrow. Thus, those shots lay nestled on their digital platters patiently waiting for me to dig in and devote the time and energy to properly check them off the list. Knowing the Gulls are pretty much untapped gives me a bit of comfort when it comes to my relatively low bird count and something to fall back to on a rainy day.

Laughing Gull found at Tybee Island, Georgia May 2015

Hit the jump to find out more about this hooded bandit.

Continue reading Have a Laugh on Me

A Carolina in Georgia

Finally getting around to processing the rest of the shots form our birding trip to Georgia back in (looking down in shame) May of 2015. You at least have to give me some credit for trying to muscle through the incredible backlog. Truthfully, there is a reason I’ve been actively hesitant – is that a thing, let’s go with intentionally slow to get to this trip. One of the main reasons is I f’d up while out in the field there and almost got myself seriously injured. I’ve had a few experiences where I’ve skipped a few heartbeats due to something unexpected happening. One of those times was seeing Ron’s head almost smashed with a steel door. On a personal front, I came way to close to dangerous wildlife in the swamps of Georgia thanks to looking down my glass while walking and not watching the created void in front of me. I’ll get to that in a future post, but thought I’d start with a picture I took while I was heading out into the swamp.
Raven in Georgia May 2015

That’s our youngest, Raven. I laughed to myself when I saw this image come through the digital darkroom. He’s as cute as it gets, but has a serious attitude: “Hey, do you really think you are going to leave me here while you go off and play in the woods!?! Get your ass back here now.” Good thing that cockiness serves him well while competing in the agility ring – he also knows I’m a pushover for ear licks.

Guess I better get to the featured bird for today’s post. My shots are a bit weak for this series, but it is a +1 so I have to go with what I was able to get in the tin.
Carolina Chickadee found in Georgia May 2015

Hit the jump to see a few more mediocre shots if a bird I thought Ron didn’t have yet.

Continue reading A Carolina in Georgia

A Rocky Warbler

Welcome to March everyone! Always a weird feeling when another month is torn off the calendar. A variety of emotions and feelings seems to collide at once. First a slight wave of panic comes over me as I realize that the quota counter resets back to zero and I have to start thinking about at least 6 new topics worth the time my readers generously give me. Soon after that a major concern washes over as I quickly compute the days left before the summer’s planned 50K running event. Then a major swing to the positive as the thoughts of spring make their way in bring a big smile with the excitement of getting back out in the field for the early migration. Of course, it always ends with the sobering “WHERE THE HELL DID THAT LAST MONTH GO!?!” I like to keep myself very busy and have a to-do list that probably rivals small novels in paper thickness – hate to leave this world without getting the very most out of it. While I try to figure out how to squeeze a few more minutes out of the day, figured I’d put out a quick post on a pretty cool looking bird. Before I do that though, wanted to give a shout out to Brian over at Butterflies to Dragsters (link here) who just celebrated his second year of blogging! Those of us with our own blogs know very well the work that goes into them and Brian has been putting up some amazing stuff from his outings across the pond. Check him out and wish him a happy anniversary, you will not be disappointed.

Decided to go with a quick post today from a shoot back in May of 2014 – I know, I know, I’m waaaay behind, but these calendar pages keep flying off the walls.

Wilson's Warbler found at Rocky Mountain National Park May 2014\

Hit the jump to see a few more picture of this very distinct Warbler.

Continue reading A Rocky Warbler

Scarlet for Valentine’s

Once again the white fluffy stuff is coming down. Luckily the accumulation has been manageable so far and not one to complain since it means our wells will benefit as it melts off in a month or so. Unfortunately, not the best of timings as Linda and I had to renew our qualifications on the range this morning. Last time it was also snowing, but 2 degrees (F) out making conditions completely miserable. Still chilly today, but definitely better. Now that the fingers are all warmed up, figured I’d bang out a quick post (bad pun). Decided to wait on the previously planned post and continue with the Valentine’s theme. This was mainly due to a few people asking for details on how our annual “Date Night with a Skunk” went.

Brian and Linda Dinner with a Skunk Wildlife Prairie Park February 2019

Quick background. We are members of Wildlife Prairie Park, a now privately owned park focused on the wildlife historically common to the Midwest. They have a number of captive animals and birds to enjoy and really nice grounds for walking, birding, mountain biking, trail running etc. We happen to volunteer there helping them photographically chronicle their progress on a new bird related endeavor they embarked on last year (3+ years still to go on that). This park used to be owned by the state, but since Illinois is essentially a fiscally failed state (scratch the “essentially” and just go with it IS a fiscally failed state), some private investors ended up taking it back and turning it around. One of their annual fundraisers is an elaborate Valentine’s dinner complete with drinks, dancing (if you are into that), 5 course meal, door prizes and you guessed it… an evening with a local resident Skunk – a play on the love stricken Pepe Le Pew cartoon (not sure this cartoon fits in this day and age anymore). For several years now, along with some friends we have been attending this event and yes, getting our pictures taken with an absolutely adorable Skunk. Just in case you are wondering, de-scented and basically a domesticated version of their more common wild brethren that have a habit of causing neighborhood dogs to get tomato soup baths. Our friend Sung took our pictures above before the night took on an unexpected elation moment only to result in a major disappointment.

Before I get to that, let’s shift to the real feature for today’s post.

tLL

Hit the jump to see a few more pictures of the featured bird and find out how the dinner party went.

Continue reading Scarlet for Valentine’s

Happy Valentine’s Day from the Birding World

Hello Everyone, Happy “Spend Lots of Money on Your Significant Other” Day or minimally shower them with affection and let them know how important they are in your life (the latter being a hell of a lot cheaper .. just saying). So a few posts back I mentioned that I had already selected the featured subject for this special day. That foreshadowing resulted in Ron spending every available minute from that point on theorizing, hypothesizing and speculating on what I would possibly select to represent SLoMoYSO Day. He actually had a few good guesses, but failed to put two and two together even though he already knew what birds were in my queue. Granted, his guess of a Vermilion Flycatcher (link here) would have definitely been a fitting tribute to the traditional color of the day, I went with another option – one that is making its debut on the blog.

Anna's Hummingbird found at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Las Vegas, NV, November 2018

Yes, a Hummingbird! How cute is that!?! In every post involving these delicate birds I’ve mentioned how I have to travel to get any variety in the tin. If you live in the Midwest you basically have three choices of Hummingbirds. The first being a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. Secondly, if you stand real still in a yard full of Hummingbird feeders you just might see a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. Now lastly, if you are feeling really lucky, and I mean really feeling lucky and cover yourself in sugar water and shimmy up the largest pole you can locate you might find yourself in a mental ward …soon after seeing a Ruby-Throated Hummingbird. I think you get the picture.

Anna's Hummingbird found at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Las Vegas, NV, November 2018

So instead, we load up the RV and head out to better locations. Las Vegas happened to be the spot where this specimen made it into the tin. Over the last Thanksgiving holiday we headed out to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area to see what we could find being already elated to have checked off the Costa’s Hummingbird the day before (link here). While coming out of the Visitor Center I noticed the unmistakable sound of a Hummingbird blasting by with full burners engaged. Challenge accepted. This proved to be a bit more difficult than usual thanks to choosing to leave the Beast at home and rent a 180-600mm from a local camera store. Although it was definitely lighter than the Beast, the focus was incredibly slow making in flight shots impossible. All was not lost, just needed to wait until these sugar freaks took a break.

Hit the jump to discover why this little bird was chosen for V-Day.

Continue reading Happy Valentine’s Day from the Birding World

Not So Shiny

A friend of mine has been getting me all teased up for a vacation trip to Hawaii. He is headed there soon and busy pointing out all the birds from that region he’s already managed to get in the tin. Linda and I had plans to go there for our 25th wedding anniversary, but we ended up postponing it due to other commitments. Every year since then we have tried to plan a makeup trip – again to no avail. Last year we decided that this would be our retirement gift to ourselves and put the trip on the shelf until we decide it’s time to divorce ourselves from the daily grind. So every time someone mentions they are heading to the islands my fingers get all twitchy like, a tick develops in the shoulder and my eyes start to blink uncontrollably until I make Quasimodo look like GQ material. They have some stunners of birds there that I need to see… damn, there goes that twitch again. Oh well, I can at least live vicariously through my friend’s captures until we decide to turn our badges in. You’ll be mine Red-Crested Cardinal .. some day… some day. Until we get to go island hopping, I can still continue hunting for all the continental US birds that still continue to elude me. Today’s featured bird first fell victim to my hunt back in December 2015 (link here).

Female Phainopepla found at Wetlands Park Preserve, Henderson Nevada, November 2018

Wait.. ummm, a little late on this, but for those that might be slightly concerned over wildlife with red eyes, you might want to be cautious – the light on these shots were not as conducive to getting the nice red highlights, but they do possess the dreaded early morning Vegas eyes. If you recall back on that initial encounter, we were at Corn Creek Visitor Center outside Las Vegas, Nevada. While birding the Mojava Desert over New Year’s, we found a Phainopepla hanging out at the top of a tree. Those shots had to be heavily processed to account for horrible backlighting. In oddly similar manner, we discovered this new specimen. Like before, we were in Vegas, in Late November (close enough to the New Year’s timeframe), and once again it was sitting at the top of a tree in horrible backlight.

Female Phainopepla found at Wetlands Park Preserve, Henderson Nevada, November 2018

Hit the jump to read a bit more about the shoot.

Continue reading Not So Shiny

A Snowy Redemption

Definitely sticking with the game plan for this month, staying ahead of the game and getting the posts out early. It definitely helps when you already have the images worked up in the digital darkroom. To be honest, short of getting the birds in the tin, the major effort in this whole blogging thingy is working up the images to make it worth my reader’s visit time. Of course, this doesn’t always happen, case in point the horrific Cave Swallow pictures I forced upon you a few posts back. I try my best so you can at least tell it is a bird – not to mention Ron is starting to push me with the quality stuff he is putting up over on his blog (link here). You probably didn’t know this, but I credit him for getting me into photography while I was in high school and the reason I can navigate around a camera (although I did introduce him to back-button focus). Today’s featured bird is a bit of an atonement for a slight I made in a recent post.

Snowy Egret found at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center December 2016

Within the Cinnamon Teal post (link here), I unintentionally dismissed one of the most regal birds there is (at least in North America). It wasn’t the species that dimmed my excitement, just that I was revved up to add a new +1 to the list. I am lucky enough to have a large number of Snowy Egret shots from just about everywhere we’ve traveled along with tins full from Emiquon and other local water hotspots. When I saw this set of Snowies in the post queue, I immediately decided this was the perfect time to bring them out.

Snowy Egret found at Galveston Island, Texas, January 2017

Hit the jump to see some more picture of this immaculate bird.

Continue reading A Snowy Redemption

Often Heard, Rarely Spotted

In preparation for tomorrow, I did some digging in my out building, found a lawn chair and dragged it out to the middle of the yard. Grabbed a pair of flip flops, a bottle of suntan lotion, cheap sunglasses and my favorite birding reference book. Going to be some fun in the heatwave forecasted to hit sometime tomorrow…40F. However, there are possible clouds and rain sneaking in for the afternoon through tomorrow night. Needless to say, I’ll take it. It might look a bit odd being surrounded by a foot of snow that is still lingering, but I “needz my vitamin D”. In truth, I am skeptical it is going to get that warm with this much snow and ice about, but I will definitely be lacing up the running shoes and getting a few miles in snow, rain or sunshine. It might be a bit sketchy on the footing, but it will help the soul to lift the winter blahs. If nothing else, I can simply recall warmer places… for instance Las Vegas.

First a public service warning to those of you that might have adverse reactions to creatures with red eyes. As with the previous post on the Cinnamon Teal, today’s featured bird also possesses a blood red eye. Feel free to view the rest of the post through your fingers if that will make you feel more comfortable ha!

Spotted Towhee found at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Las Vegas, Nevada, November 2018

I was just talking to Ron tonight on how odd it is that so many birds have red hued eyes and I am not talking about the night owls squinting through strained eyes and hazy rooms trying to hit the big payout on the one arm bandits (another term that is becoming outdated with the advent of digital technology/machines). We were wondering if it provided some evolutionary benefit, maybe better able to see at dark or perhaps provide better tracking of UV urine trails of prey (yes, some birds have that ability like the Kestrel) or perhaps it is simply a defensive mechanism – if I was a bird I would stay way the hell away from something that had red eyes – clearly bloodthirsty heathens – just saying. Neither of us have a definitive response to the quandary which means I’ll have something to research while enjoying that lawn chair tomorrow. If you happen to have some thoughts on red eyes feel free to let us know in the comments. We here at Intrigued are thirsty for wildlife knowledge.

Short one tonight, but if you hit the jump, I have a few more words and one more image to share.

Continue reading Often Heard, Rarely Spotted