To Torture Limits and the Goodness of DEET

I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel – at least let’s hope it isn’t the light to the afterlife ha. Ironically, many of the events and tasks that have been consuming me of late are coming to their end. We closed out Mom’s estate today with the successful closing on the house and tonight I completed my last taper before Saturday’s Bix 7 Race. Now a bit of rest for the ankle and maybe some ice, although I doubt the swelling is going to subside much more before race time. It feels strong enough for a hilly road race and looking forward to testing it on the trails next week. The roots, rocks and uneven terrain that makes trail running so technical, has a way of finding any of your weak spots. We will cross that bridge when it comes – right now I need to focus on the blog as I’m just a few posts down and the end of the month is a mere arm’s length away. My original intent of featuring this feathered friend at this point in the month may not come true now.

Kentucky Warbler found at Tawny Oaks Field Station, Edelstein, IL in July 2022

The Bix 7 race in Davenport Iowa is always held on the last Saturday of July. If you are familiar with the Midwest, the last weekend of July usually means one thing – DAMN HOT! Not just the eh, its warm, rather the sticky, sweaty, sauna like, humid, pressure cooker temps that melt the bottoms of your shoes to the asphalt pavement and makes you look like you just came out of the washer. This is my 18th consecutive running of the Bix (I am not counting the missed one from two years ago that went virtual because of Covid) and I can count on one hand how many “nice” days we’ve had for this race. Note, pouring down rain does fall into the nice category. Just so happens the day Ron and I shot this Kentucky Warbler felt just like a normal Bix race day.

Hit the jump to read more about what it took to get this Warbler checked off for the year.

Continue reading To Torture Limits and the Goodness of DEET

The Midas Wing

Other than the quickly approaching end of the month and being down several posts to meet my quota, things are starting to look up. Dealing with Mom’s estate has taken a serious chunk of time, but that should wrapped up at this week’s closing – thankfully my oldest brother is taking the brunt of the financial aspects – Ron and I focused on the busy grunt work cleaning out the house etc. – which is pretty much the way it is around our house as well ha. The conditioning for the upcoming weekend race (Bix 7 link here) is nearly behind me as well. One more short taper and then just try to be as healthy as possible entering the chutes. Heat is usually a problem, however, I did punish myself on some very hot long run days – fingers crossed the internal thermostat doesn’t go bonkers. My training runs are well beyond the 7 mile distance so that isn’t a problem. That just leaves the ankle as the unknown wildcard. Feels strong, even made it through two trail runs without tweaking it again (yeah) …but still swollen. I don’t know, maybe that is just the new norm. I’ll try body shaming and hurling insults at that weak-punk-ass ankle for the next couple of days and see if it will finally give up the pity act!

Since we are talking about conditioning, thought this feathered friend would fit theme.

Golden-Winged Warbler found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary in May 2022

Hit the jump to read a bit more about this chance encounter.

Continue reading The Midas Wing

It Say’s I’m the Best

For the last two weeks I’ve woken up, looked at the day’s to-do list, covered my dog’s ears and let out a string of colorful words. In big bold letters is the word “POST”. Although that probably is obvious but it is short for “Get your lazy butt into the den and get a post out you lily-livered, bow-legged, flea-bitten varmint”. Yes, I’m retired, yes, I still have to-do lists and yes, my to-do list entries mock me. This month it isn’t so much procrastination, just too much stuff going on, but today we are going to take another bite out of the self-imposed monthly post quota.

Going to start with another brag introduction. I previously mentioned Raven did well in the TDAA National competition held last week in Minnesota. He is starting to slow down a bit, but he is getting the job done qualifying in 4 out of his 6 runs. I’d be sleeping on the couch if I didn’t give some of that credit to Linda ha!

Raven at TDAA Nationals in Maple Grove, MN July 2022

I think Raven is starting to feel the pressure from the newest member of the agility family. A long way from the steady runs of his brother, Ruger is just starting out, but showing amazing talent – Linda just needs to get him focused. We laughed at this shot of him “doing” his first ever weave poles. By “doing” we mean running right through them to get to his favorite obstacle the teeter-totter. “That isn’t how it’s done Ruger!” Raven was absolutely embarrassed and went and hid in his crate after that fiasco.

Raven at TDAA Nationals in Maple Grove, MN July 2022

As they Say’s, hit the jump to see today’s featured feathered friend!

Continue reading It Say’s I’m the Best

Baby dogs in the Water, so Baby Geese on Land

Wow, has this been an event packed month and we are only halfway through it.  Just got back from the Teacup Dog Agility Association (TDAA) Nationals up in Maple Grove, Minnesota (just outside of Minneapolis).  Raven was the primary competitor, but Ruger got to run a couple of runs at the beginning of the event.  4 out of 6 qualifiers for Raven – Ruger… well let’s just say he still has a full head of puppy in him.  I’ll give more details in upcoming posts (waaaayyy behind on my July quota, that’s for sure).  On our way back we had the opportunity to get Ruger introduced to Dock Diving.  He has zero fear of anything and thought he would enjoy the sport – his brother is also getting his” feet wet” so to speak in the sport as they apparently both have a love for driving their owners crazy with their endless energy. 

This first session was just to start introducing him to deep water. His breeder introduced him to water features when he was just a few weeks old (part of his performance familiarization). This was the first time since then he had been in water beyond his groomer baths. By the end of the session he was getting much more comfortable with his swimming skills and would leave the dock to get his favorite ball and come back. Everyone was shocked when he put his head completely underwater to go after his ball – apparently that is an extremely good sign! Needless to say we will be signing up for more sessions and finally getting out and filling the 6’x10′ pool we bought him last fall. We can’t wait until he takes his first leap off that dock!!

Being that we just got home from the week long trip, I had to pull today’s featured feathered friend off the wayback queue.

Canada Goose at Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove IL in June 2017

Hit the jump to see more graceful swimmers.

Continue reading Baby dogs in the Water, so Baby Geese on Land

Burning in the Dirt and the Trees

I just might have to go back to formally working as I can’t for the life of me figure out how I can be busier now that when I was spending over 40 hours a week fighting the ghosts in the machine. Those hours are being sucked up into the vortex somehow and it isn’t a result of naps! (truth is I have NEVER been able to take a nap since they stopped giving me a carton a milk and a carpet square in kindergarten). Admittedly, part of the time consumption is a slew of national and local dog competitions that have had us traveling to compete. Time for a proud pappa to do some quick bragging. Ruger had his very first agility ring showing last weekend. Now that he’s finally had his first birthday, he is ready to impress.

Ruger's first agility competition in Springfield, IL in July of 2022

Hit the jump to read more about Ruger’s debut and to see the latest add to my birding life list – hint, he’s a beauty!

Continue reading Burning in the Dirt and the Trees

A Hard Swallow

Yep, it’s broke! Wait, an astute reader might be led astray by that opener. I am not talking about my ankle thank god. That seems to be progressing nicely. After the re-injury, I’ve been able to get most of the new swelling down and recovering faster than expected. I’ve been testing it out in prep for Thursday’s big trial run for the Bix 7 – a nasty hill race held the end of July (link here). Only 7 miles long, but it will put a hurt on you if you are not ready for the heat and the constant hills. Pretty much the only flat spot is maybe 50 feet at the start and then a nice reprieve about 8 tenths of a mile into it after climbing one hell of a hill. 2 miles down, another more grueling hill just before the turnaround and then follow the same path back up before the ever welcome steep trek back down to a longer run-out to the finish. Not something I want to tackle with a mucked up ankle – wish me luck.

Bank Swallow found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago IL in May 2022

The broke comment was related to an event AFTER my run tonight. I’ve been chasing down a Scarlet Tanager (link here) that has been watching me from a roadside perch the last two training runs. I really need that check for our Average Year (link here) to claw back a point from Ron. Yesterday, post run, I grabbed the travel camera from the truck – a Nikon D90 with a 70-200 f2.8 glass that used to be my workhorse many, many moons ago. No luck seeing the bird. Saw it again today as I started my run – once again grabbed my camera after my 7 mile training run (did I mention how well my ankle is doing ha) – It was there, so I started taking shots – snap, snap, snap, THUNK. WTH!!! Shutter stuck open. First thought, “dammit if I didn’t get that bird I’m going to be upset”. Second thought, “oh no, my baby is broke!”. I’ve been through a lot with that D90 and learned a tremendous amount that helped shape my approach to wildlife photography. Not worth fixing as I still have the D7000’s I used before finally picking up the D7500 as a retirement gift. A hard pill to swallow… which brings us to today’s featured feathered friend.

Bank Swallow found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago IL in May 2022

Hit the jump to learn more about this sand castle living Swallow.

Continue reading A Hard Swallow

Philadelphia Freedom

Quick note, the shell of this post was written a couple of days ago. A status has changed, but rather than rework the post, just added an addendum. Now back your regularly scheduled programming.

Par for course this year, the month of June is flying by. Really not sure what the reason is for that other than I am keeping busy, which is keeping my eyes off the clock. Linda assures me there are still 24 full hours in every day. I do know a chunk of time is being spent training. Per last post, it has been a grind with the ankle injury and now the arrival of Mr. Heat Miser. The lemonade out of lemons is the reduced mileage with the injury is allowing me to ease into the heat conditioning. After 4 consecutive Short 5 to 6 mile outings the ankle was feeling good, so added back in one of the many large climbs that are staples for my usual runs. Ankle held nicely – I decided it warranted a Philadelphia Museum of Art celebration. Yep, put my arms up and did some small circles – pretty sure I heard trumpets in the background. To those that know me, yes, I did look around first to make sure NOBODY would see me hehehehe.

Philadelphia Vireo found at Montrose Beach, Chicago IL, in May 2022

At that moment it occurred to me I had the perfect topic for the next post. I just needed to get back in the digital darkroom when I got back home as this series is fresher than Pepe Le Pew.

Hit the jump to read more about our specimen originally discovered in the City of Brotherly Love.

Continue reading Philadelphia Freedom

The Heat is Making Me Loony

Well, the weather conditions that have been hammering the southwest has made it to the Midwest. Heating up outside which is a bit of an issue. If there was one notable impact on the running front from the 6 weeks with my mother it was in my body’s thermostat. I need ease into hot runs or my thermostat will easily “panic”, immediately dumping fluids to prevent another heat stroke incident (link here). Took a while to retrain the thermostat after that and then wrecked it all again with the heat exhaustion episode (link here) years later. Now I have to be even more careful in high temps and the conditioning takes even longer.

Common Loon found at Kentucky Lake in April 2021

Forced to jump started in the heat, opted to go with shorter more frequent runs starting before the temps reached critical level. All was going well until yesterday when I was sabotaged. It had stormed overnight and the humidity caused fog conditions in Jubilee State Park (7:45am). Started sweating the minute I stepped out of the truck. Checked watch, temps still in the low 80s so set out at a controlled pace. Besides the damn Horsefly sorties over my head, all was good until about mile 4 when things went loony. Out from the woods comes a rabbit (note, this one was normal sized). It hops in front of me, points into the woods and yells “Look, a talking Squirrel!”. So I look ‘cuz, well, who doesn’t want to see a talking Squirrel. Unbeknownst to me, a Raccoon comes riding up on a skateboard and throws a stick down in front of me. Foot lands on stick, ankle goes “marbles” then “frosted flakes” followed by a wave of pain. Disgust came over me knowing exactly what happened and then turning to see the Raccoon laughing so hard it falls off the skateboard which then manages to jump the curb and hit the Rabbit in the chest – serves them right!

Hit the jump – I promise I’ll eventually get to the meat of the post ha!

Continue reading The Heat is Making Me Loony

I Wish They All Could Be California Gulls

I thought when entering June things would start slowing down a bit. Wow, was I wrong. Somehow forgot all the work that has to go into the homestead this time of year. Time is being devoured battling the forest as it continuously plots to revenge our incursion, grass growing way to fast thanks to the barrage of rain (apologies to the dry southwest), a Mole army that could repel a Russian invasion and those hell spawn Chipmunks that I swear breed daily (where are all the Owls). Doesn’t Mother Nature know that I have to focus on the new Halloween props for the fast approaching Haunted Trail (link here)!?! Oh well, shouldn’t complain, far better than having to get all these tasks done and still go to work every day.

California Gull found at Virginia Lake Park in Reno, NV on our trip there May 2019

The good news is I have had some opportunity to bird. Although I still have not updated the Birding Chronicles (link here), …. wait, stop the presses, will be back in a jiffy (imagine the Jeopardy theme tune playing in your head)…just a bit longer… a few more seconds… there, back. Sorry about that. I have probably noted that the Chronicles had not been updated for like a month if not more. Inner Bri demanded I simply update it ha! Feeling hypocritical due to how much I curse at IDOT for taking the time to have a sign made and send out a 4 person crew to install said sign to inform motorists there’s a bump in the road – FIX IT!!!. The latest stats have our “Average Year” progress for Ron at 219 (note, he added 3 more this week) and I am sitting at 249 for unique species this year. Quite shocked really as there are still plenty of easy targets left and a number of good birding trips planned between now and the end of the year (not to mention 2 seasonal changes remaining). Need to have Ron update the video with our latest excursions.

California Gull found at Virginia Lake Park in Reno, NV on our trip there May 2019

Hit the jump to read more about the bird from where “the girls get so tanned”.

Continue reading I Wish They All Could Be California Gulls

Tanager Acne

Well, we are back home from our trip up to Springfield, Ohio for the CPE Invitationals. In general a bit of a disappointment. With the exception of Ruger’s impressive showing in his first ever drag race event, the 4 days of showing (1 practice day and 3 days of actual competition), yielded only one qualifying run in Raven’s 9 attempts. He just seemed off and really wasn’t running at his usual pace. Also a lot more standoffish and too aware of the onlookers and hordes of other competitors to really get the job done. Definitely not a fan of having horse dirt between his toes. I felt bad for Linda as she was having to fight through a nasty cold from the moment we got there. Tough to run, much less coerce a less than enthused Poodle through an obstacle course.

Juvi Summer Tanager found at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island, AL in April 2021

Hit the jump to read more of about our blotchy friend!

Continue reading Tanager Acne