A Surprise to My Goldeneye

I hope everyone that celebrates it had a safe and merry Christmas!  We hear at Lifeintrigued headquarters have been busy trying to wrap up the year’s posts so we can start fresh again after the first.  The plan is to get through the remaining three Yellowstone bird posts so I can spend January getting to the larger animals shot on our vacation last October.  First on this list is kind of a surprise to me.  Most of the time while Linda is driving, my eyes are focused out the window on trees and any water bodies we happen to pass.  Linda is pretty tolerant of this behavior even when I give our special code word for STOP THE CAR – WE NEED TO GO BACK AND PHOTOGRAPH A BIRD I JUST SAW.  This is shortened to a single word since we would be a quarter of a mile down the road before getting all that out (yes, she drives fast).

On one of these occasions out in Yellowstone I found these waterfowl enjoying a calm late afternoon.

For some strange reason I classified them as Goldeneyes and since I already had that bird checked off my Bird List I didn’t get overly excited about the shoot.  The dark reflections off the water were wreaking havoc on the exposure.  Adding time to bring in the details of the darker birds were causing some blowouts on the whiter ones.  Our presence did not go unnoticed and almost immediately they started heading away from the shore.

When I got back home I started the post processing on this shoot, again,  initially thinking they were goldeneyes.  When it came time to check out some of their reference bios it became apparent that my early classification was wrong.  Now the curiosity was peaking.  Thumbing through all the reference books again revealed what appears to be Buffleheads.  The markings on both the females (darker birds) and the breeding males (whiter ones) are a pretty good match.  The region is also consistent and true to the reference information they didn’t make a sound the whole time I was snapping pictures.  One of the other features of the breeding male is their iridescent head.  It is difficult to see in these smaller pictures, but if you look directly at this picture…

you will see the different colors shimmering in the light.

Hit the jump to see additional pictures of the Bufflehead (including some of them taking off from the water)

Continue reading A Surprise to My Goldeneye

Eagle Eyes

Well, as of 4:00pm today I am officially on holiday break from work until 2012 – WOOT. Of course, that really just translates to two extra days of standing in long lines at local merchants trying to finish up the gift list. Fortunately, that activity can start LATER in the morning so no need to get up at the ass-crack of dawn for the commute to the office. This month was dedicated to shots from our recent Yellowstone vacation. So far we’ve covered the Trumpeter Swans (link here), Mergansers (link here) and two posts covering those scary Ravens (link here and here). We’ll get to the big game soon enough, but today brings us a true American icon… The Bald Eagle.
I have had the opportunity to photograph the eagle a number of times now, both locally as well as up in the Quad Cities along the Mississippi River. I was excited to hear that they were out in the Yellowstone area as well. The first day we saw one from a distance gliding around, but the second to last day produced a great opportunity.  We were heading back to our room towards the end of the day when we passed by a small valley.  A glint of white from the trees caught my eye.  Hoping I was right, I had Linda turn back for a closer look.

Did you see it? (having it centered in the picture makes it pretty easy, but against the full backdrop of the woods it was definitely harder to locate).  The shot above is a pulled back shot with the Beast which starts at 200mm so you can guess how far away this eagle was from the road.  However, This is exactly where the Beast shines.  Pulling the bird in to the full 400mm gives a MUCH better shot of this awesome bird.

And there it sat keeping a watchful eye on the surroundings.  I was actually shooting out the back window of the SUV trying to use the window frame to steady the lens.  The initial shots were producing a lot of blur likely due to the engine vibrations coming through the vehicle frame.  To adjust for that, Linda shut the car off.  that dampened it a bunch, but that distance just amplifies any movement

Heck, why don’t we just pull that shot in a little more!

Hit the jump to see more pictures from the set!

Continue reading Eagle Eyes

Another Dose of the Ravens at Yellowstone

You are in luck if you liked the previous set of images on the Ravens we saw in Yellowstone National Park (link here).  Yes, it’s another dose of those dark winged demons and to be honest, the trusty companion of the ONLY ‘clown’ related character I can actually tolerate… Eric Draven.    For starters, I tried recreate one of my favorite pictures from the last time we were at Yellowstone.

It do not think it came out as dramatic as the other one (which is now hanging in our living room), but definitely not the worst shot I’ve ever taken.  A little brighter background would probably have made it pop a little more but he was having none of my “please move over here” requests.

My close up shots received a few comments on the last post so figured a few more wouldn’t hurt.  This one is a little more stoic but shooting against the bright blue sky wreaked havoc on the exposure.  I backed it down a tad, but lost some of the eye detail in the resulting shadows.  For some reason it gives me the feeling that a large tear will emerge from its eye followed by some public service announcement to not pollute.

The following was a once in a lifetime shot of a UFO hovering over Ol’ Faithful in some kind of super secret refueling process.  Well, that was what it was until this damn raven photobombed my shot… and thanks to this inconsiderate birdbrain.. NOBODY believes me.

Hit the jump to see the rest of the Raven shots!

Continue reading Another Dose of the Ravens at Yellowstone

It Was a Forbidden Love

It was a tragic story of longing. A longing from deep inside to be with the one she loved so dearly. She could not free herself from the image of his silhouette soaring high in the majestic blue sky above Yellowstone National Park. But alas, it was a forbidden love in the eyes of her father, for he had wished a better life for his only daughter. Those early days in the nest hearing about how the life of an eagle’s spouse is a life of luxury would excite her so. A life filled with fresh fish and the respect of a whole nation. These stories filled her dreams until she spotted him in a murder. So dark! So sinister! So dangerous! With the constant danger of her father finding out, they had to keep their meetings in secret.

She would continually scan the sky looking for those sexy black tail feathers to come a calling. She couldn’t find him to the left…umm  the other left

A similar result when she looked to the right..yeah, the other right (hey, birds don’t really know direction anyway)

.. but then she spotted him hanging out on a low branch of a neighboring pine tree.  She fluffed her feathers and made a nervous scan for her father.

Good, he was out harassing some tourists trying to shake them down for a piece of hot dog or french fry… ummm french fries… oh.. she re-gathered her focus and called out to her beau.  “Hey Baby, your place or mine?” she jests as she takes flight already feeling her heart beat at the strength of 10 + 2.

Hit the jump to read the rest of the tragic story.. or just to see the rest of the pictures

Continue reading It Was a Forbidden Love

Ummmm the Merganser…I Think

Howdy Everyone! We are still celebrating reaching our 300th comment here at LifeIntrigued so pardon the mess. For those interested, Ron was the lucky commenter and will soon be receiving a token of appreciation in the mail – well… as soon as we figure out what that will be, we’ll be sending it out. He was also extended a guest blog spot so we are all looking forward to that. In the meantime, you are just going to have to make due with more Yellowstone posts. There are two similarities with the last post – one is it once again covers water fowl and like last time there are struggles on the identification front. The good news is the images are little sharper (not tack yet, but getting more familiar with the Beast). I must say, I am actually pretty happy with the action shots. The takeoff scenes were actually taken from the car doing my best to keep the Beast on focus while panning to compensate for the narrow field of view. Be sure and check out the larger versions up on our SmugMug site (link here).

I had just maneuvered the Beat into position to capture these ducks enjoying the water when they started their pre-launch plan. I am not sure if pulling up next to them in the car or pointing the bazooka glass at them startled them, but they definitely wanted out of there.

I was shooting at f4 so the depth was too shallow to get all the ducks focused in, but to be honest it gives a pretty interesting effect. The larger version gives a better view of it, but they were literally walking on water while building air under the wings. In the following shot they are just beginning to get air under their wings.

Hit the jump to see some more images of these birds taking flight!

Continue reading Ummmm the Merganser…I Think

They Say it is a Trumpeter, But it Looks More Like a Bird

It was a tough debate with myself.  Do I blog about the Zook finally getting the hook (a triumphant time for all Illini fans) or do a rant on what a piece of crap software iTunes is (you would think an half brained programmer would allow you to sort your playlist folders by the physical file name).  At last I decided to go with … oh geez, I better get going on those Yellowstone posts or I’m going to spending the rest of the month wading through all the email from my angry readers.  I need to ease into this thanks to the fact there are probably 30 posts alone from our shots that week and like a big night of bar hopping, once it’s tapped … you’re in for a long stream (too graphic?.. thought so).  This set is a little bitter sweet.  The sweet part is I was able to put another check in the bird list with Trumpeter Swans.  The bitter news is I wasn’t able to get the best shots due to a combination of the weather conditions and just not having the required reach – those suckers were out there and even though we ended up hiking out pretty far to improve the shots, I didn’t exactly execute.  Enough chit chat, let’s get those pictures up!

Linda and I were able to meet up with David and Giselle while we were out there.  They are friends from here that recently moved out to Billings, Montana (to join the militia ha!).  On our first day out there we passed by Swan Lake and noticed what looked like rather large white birds enjoying the water.  Now keep in mind that was a ways off!  I pulled out the Beast and tried to pull them in, but it just didn’t have the desired reach.  Somewhat adventurous we decided to hike out there to get a better shot.  It looked like just prairie grass at first, but we soon found out it was kind of swampy – luckily the cold weather firmed it up enough for us to pick our way out there.  Linda took this great shot of us shooting the Swans.

As you can tell from the shot, it wasn’t the best day for shooting – glad we bundled up before hiking out there. I should probably point out that if it wasn’t for the cold there is absolutely no way Linda would have been out there with us because this field must be a snake haven on warmer days!  As it turns out, we checked back at this lake later in the week and had a little better lighting than our first day.  Since those came out a little better, I’ll start with those – note, I wasn’t about to ask Linda to head back out there in snake land so the better lighting cost some distance.

Here they are pulled in a little bit more thanks to a tighter cropping.  For a bird that is somewhat rare, there sure was a nice grouping of them in the appropriately named lake.

Hit the jump to see more pictures of the Trumpeters!

Continue reading They Say it is a Trumpeter, But it Looks More Like a Bird

Another Check on the Bird List – The Great Egret

I bet you were all ready to read a post about our recent vacation.  Unfortunately, I am generally behind on my vacation pictures and if I recall correctly I have not even posted any shots from our Zion trip other than the Phoadtography set (link here).  It would be cruel to make you wait until I get completely caught up, but at least allow me the liberty of getting a few of the posts out before deluging you with a gadzillion pictures from our latest trek to the West.  Although, I could just be buying some time to get through tagging and filtering all those images, but I’ll never tell… to the post!

If you recall, we took a ride up North so our poodles could compete in the TDAA Nationals (link here).  The “Linda” part of that sentence was changed to “we” due to all out bribery.  Linda knows I enjoy visiting the Chain O’ Lakes State Park mostly due to the opportunity to see Sandhill Cranes again (link here) and was quick to remind me that the park was on the way.  Couple that with a promised stop at the Anderson’s Candy store and there was no hope for resistance.  Alas, there were no Sandhill Cranes to be seen anywhere in the park (this is where you shed a tear for my heartbreak… I’ll wait).  Come on, pull yourself together, the trip turned out very fruitful.  On our way out of the park, I was keeping my eyes focused on the field where the cranes were hanging out the last time.  Disappointed at the lack of birds I started to turn back in my seat.  That is when a a white spot caught my eye way off in the trees.  I yelled out our secret code word for “Stop the car, there is some kind of animal out there that Brian must have a picture of”.  The code word is short and sweet to help cut down on the ear to brake response – no, I will not reveal the code word but for effect it isn’t one you would not use in other company.

Linda put the car in reverse and rolled back a little to the observation spot.  It was definitely white and definitely sitting in a tree, but exactly what it was remained a mystery.  Time to bring out the Beast!  The viewfinder revealed that it was a White Egret.  Well, that is what I have always called it, apparently it is now just referred to as the Great Egret.  Here is my initial shot giving an impression of how far off it was even with the help of the glass – remember, the Beast goes out 400.

The sight line went through a series of trees causing the leaf splotches.  Once again, this park had come through.  This was the first White errr Great Egret I have been able to photograph and therefore another check on my Bird List.  This distance just wasn’t going to do for this opportunity.  Time to go cross country.  You cannot tell from these shots, but there was a large field in front of his perch that appeared to be thick prairie grass browned from the coming Fall.  Two steps later it was revealed that it was not really prairie grass, but more like cattail stalks growing up in the middle of a swamp.  My wet shoe and sock was a proof enough.  Crap!  Out came the cell, a quick call back to Linda (she had driven off to find a pull off) and on came the hiking shoes.  Once again I was off to get the shot.  Without a doubt, this was great entertainment for the egret.  15 minutes later I was standing in the middle of the swamp trying to find an adequately firm spot to put the tripod.  Still not as close as I wanted to be, but navigating much further was going to require some serious rubber boots and the nerves were a little frayed at the though of water snakes closing in for the kill.

Hit the jump to see the rest of the Great Egret pictures!

Continue reading Another Check on the Bird List – The Great Egret

Phoadtography: Visiting Our Neighbors to the North Pt 1

There is no rest for the weary these days.  I can see the edge of October and it is approaching fast.  The good news is I am down to one more post after this one and I think that is doable … at the moment.   I ended up losing yesterday because I forgot to process all the pictures for this post.  Soooo last night was spent getting that done and uploading them to our Smugmug account (Eddiesoft) so I could post tonight.

Today’s entry is from our trip up to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in early October.  Linda and the boys were competing in the Petit Prix, also known as the Teacup Dog Agility Association National’s.  Although I have really nothing to do with this since I neither train the dogs or run them in the ring, that doesn’t stop me from taking credit for how well they competed in the event.  Both Kerby and Rizzi came home with a pile of ribbons and Rizzi even made the Semi-Finals consisting of the top 84 dogs in the whole event.  Of course, there is a reason I get to take some credit…. I have to take off work and help Linda haul everything to and from the car and these toy dogs travel heavier than Paris Hilton.  The good news is Linda drove most of the way providing ample time to snap some shots along the way.  With that, let’s get to the pictures eh ? (in my best Wisconsin accent)

Keeping with the Halloween theme from the previous posts, I’ll start with these.  My eyes lit up when I saw this pumpkin.  Just imagine the cool pumpkin carving I could do with one of these babies.  It might take a chainsaw instead of a Dremel, but I’m definitely up for the challenge.

Hit the jump for the rest of the pictures from the trip

Continue reading Phoadtography: Visiting Our Neighbors to the North Pt 1

Phoadtography: Checking Out Our Neighbors to the East (Pt 2 of 2)

Welcome to the 6th post for this month which successfully puts another check in the monthly post commitment and thankfully this one comes earlier than usual.  As you probably know I am usually rushing to get these babies done before day 30ish comes to a close.  Not this month, but that is primarily due to focusing on getting these done in order to spent the rest of the month (and some into the next month as well) focusing on a big personal event that is scheduled for September 11th.  Not really talking about it at the moment to keep from jinxing myself so we’ll just let that go for now.  On a side note, thanks to the ass Don Henley finding the need to come out in favor of the PROTECT IP Act (and using invalidated studies and hyperbole fear as a basis – must be learning from Gore), today marks the first day of never giving a penny to anything that funds the Eagles or Don Henley in any form.  This of course includes additional albums/CDs/DVDs to those already sitting in our shelves and god forbid anymore $75 tickets to their concerts.  Just my little way of helping make Donny-boy’s fake claims as real as I can – say, won’t you join me?

Enough ranting, you are hear for one and only one reason.. to fill the empty void when you found out there were even more phoadtography pictures from our Indy trip!  So, picking up where part one left off (link) I give you this sign found on a building as we were driving through a city.

Talk about a bad signage planning.  Reading this to someone would put them in a quandary.  Those Damn Pentecostals! or those Pentecostals are one Damn Ass Company.  If their lucky they would have seen the name of the city (Damasco) as they drove through.

As we drove into Indianapolis we spotted this hotel rising up above the trees.  From a design perspective it was pretty stunning and blended nicely with the environment.  Turns out our hotel was right near this Marriott and could have used it to navigate directly where we needed to be.  The construction around Indy had us uncertain we were on the right road and quite frankly the neighborhoods we were passing through had us a little concerned.  It all turned out okay, but simply heading for this landmark would have probably worked better.

Hit the jump to see the rest of the Indy Phoadtography Collection

Continue reading Phoadtography: Checking Out Our Neighbors to the East (Pt 2 of 2)

Another Check in the Bird List – The Scarlet Tanager

Can you tell I’m !#%!@@#$@ cooped up in the house this weekend with a hell spawned cold?  If memory serves (and it is on the fritz at the moment) this is the third post in three days.  Blogging at least keeps my mind off of the missed training runs this has caused which couldn’t happen at a more inconvenient time… but more on that in less than a month.  To be honest, today’s post is really more about a half check than a full check on the Life Birding List.  Linda and I headed out to a photo shoot at Wildcat Den about 30-40 minutes outside of Davenport in Muscatine County, Iowa.  We were in Davenport for our 3 day concert extravaganza (yes, that will be a future post topic) and figured it would be a good opportunity to take some shots at the State Park.  So we strapped on the backpacks, cleared out the memory cards and grabbed the cameras.  Needless to say with opportunities for wildlife, The Beast was in tow.

For the first hour there was not much action in the feathered category.  I decided to focus on some large butterflies while Linda busied herself with some water landscape shots.  From there we moved deeper into the State Park when Linda (so she says) pointed out a reddish bird sitting in the dense trees.  Having learned from previous mistakes, I dropped the tripod down and did my best to get a preliminary shot so I wouldn’t be leaving empty handed.  Once I had sufficient attempts  from afar, I slowly moved in to try and better the shot.  Out of all of them, this is probably the best one.

Hit the jump to see more pictures of this distinctive bird  … prepare yourself, some are a little scary

Continue reading Another Check in the Bird List – The Scarlet Tanager