They Call It Emiquon

Well hello there, long time no read eh?  Admittedly the content has been a little slow around LifeIntrigued as of late.  Contrary to what you might be thinking, nothing terrible has happened to me nor have I turned slacker and abandoned this 5 year journey.  It was noted that there were zero calls to the police to see if I’d been run over by zombies and one comment on a post demanding content soon or they were going to come break my fingers (that last part might be a slight hyperbole, but the anger was dripping off every letter).  The truth surrounding the delay is the huge amount of pre-work that had to go into the remaining posts planned for this month.  I have been staring at a huge hill of photo backlogs that is resulting from not getting through our photo outings quick enough.  There is no easy answer to this problem other than committing to completing the post processing and getting them out on the Smugmug site… and there is no better time than the present.  So, be prepared to be hit with a lot of bird pictures and I mean hit hard.  You will be swimming in feathers before this series is done and we’re expecting at least one or two emails begging for mercy before the end of this.

Hey, what do you know, this post is about …. you got it a BIRD.  To be more exact a duck.

I have an extra affinity towards this specific duck which I’ll get to in a bit (you can probably guess).  First a little background on this particular set of pictures.  Friends of the blog know we hang out in Banner Marsh (in Banner IL) a lot taking in all the wonderful birds that call that place home or a stop off on their seasonal migrations.  There is actually another location we have been making a point to drop in as of late.  We call it Birder’s Paradise, but others call it Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge.  It is actually in Havana IL which is about 35 or so minutes South of us.  Why do we  call it B.P.? .. because you get to experience a wide range of water fowl (along with a number of shore and traditional land birds from the convenience of your car should you choose or by walking along their well constructed boardwalks and observation decks.

Back in March we made a late day run down to the flooded lowlands and see what was hanging about.  After shooting a number of birds we began our exit from the refuge when something odd in the water caught our interest.

The coloring led us to our first assumption that it was your basic Mallard – we have a lot of those around us so we are very familiar with that particular bird.  The green head was a check, but the black bill coupled with the inverted coloring on the body had me scratching my head.  For those not familiar with the Mallard, basically flip the white and the brown and slap some yellow paint on the bill and you are almost staring at a one.   Almost is the optimal word here.  The golden yellow eye is definitely not a trait of the Mallard and well…

hit the jump to read the rest of this post!

Continue reading They Call It Emiquon

Snowy Owl … Well, Technically

In lieu of having some kind soul grabbing his camera, getting in his car and driving what..6 minutes at most… and take a micro second to snap a keepsake photo of an extremely rare bird as a gift to his little brother… I am reduced to sleight of hand and clever semantics.  He also tends to dismiss the truth from his own brother and willingly accepts what are clearly untruths from his sister in law but that is fodder for a whole other post.  This month is probably going to be another one devoted to birds based on the backlog of shoots we’ve been on this year.  If this keeps up we’ll never get to the Indy Zoo pictures that have been in the queue for about a year now.  Sorry, but the big cats have to wait for our feathered friends.

Today’s offering is a snowy owl.

Okay, so it isn’t a true Snowy Owl per se, but it is an owl and although it is difficult to tell from this photo, it was snowing big time when I shot this set.  In case you do not know your owls, this is actually a Barred Owl and lucky for us, one that calls our woods his home.  To be honest, based on the hoots that ring out around the area around 5 pm there are at least 4 of them taking up residence near us.

Hit the jump to see even more pictures of the Barred Owl.

Continue reading Snowy Owl … Well, Technically

Thrashing About in the Woods

First off, Happy Birthday to Kerby! (by the way, based on strange looks from the Walmart employee last night, apparently all dogs do not get their own birthday cakes)

Initially I was pretty excited about the opportunity to bring you a NEW bird sighting.  Over the course of about a week I kept hearing a very unique bird song.  It was almost like three distinct sounds that it would alternate through repeatedly.  Probably the most fascinating thing about this was how loud it was.  I would be out back and still hear the singing coming from the front woods.  Three times I ran inside, grabbed The Beast and went looking for the source.  Eventually the search would be narrowed down to a couple of trees, but the sound would either stop or there would be a rustle of leaves followed by some non-distinguishable bird launching itself in a different direction.  A few minutes later the chatter would start up again a couple hundred feet away.  Get close to it again and I’m in another rinse and repeat cycle.  As luck would have it, I stepped out of the truck one evening after a run and heard it again.  This damn bird was not going to school me again (earlier that day I had failed at another attempt even with Linda help in track it down).  Clearly stealth is the key so I grabbed the trusty Nikon and slinked my way over to the woods.  It took a some patience, but eventually it was spotted sitting on some high branches.

Hit the jump to see the rest of the pictures!

Continue reading Thrashing About in the Woods

This One is Hard on the Nuts

I have decided to OCCUPY the MAN CAVE with my AMAZING and GINORMOUS Yellowstone photo collection reading about Beyonce’s BABY BUMP and wondering what the BLOWBACK will be on Katy Perry’s divorce.  All of this has led me to believe that being a PET PARENT is going to be the NEW NORMAL even with all the SHARED SACRIFICES that comes with it.  But enough of this rambling, let’s go out and WIN THE FUTURE through deception and TRICKERATION.  Oh, and THANK YOU IN ADVANCE for all your comments!

Whew, my apologies for that opening.  I was scanning the Internet and came across this years list of banned words from Lake Superior State University.  They do this every year to save our sanity from over-hyped words.  With only a few days left I wanted to make sure I used them all at least one more time.  Having done this now (some for the first time ever) I can assuredly say they will not be missed.  Here are a few other words I’d like banned for 2012 based on the shameful over use in the media

  • Slam (and all derivatives)
  • Bashes
  • Crash
  • Grills
  • Undecideds
  • Outrage
  • Weep
  • Obamacare
  • Gallup
  • Facebook

Have I distracted you enough to forget this is really another bird post from our Yellowstone trip?  Well, I tried.  This is the last of the bird posts from Yellowstone and with a small bit of sadness, the likely last post of the year (there may be one more depending on when my year end summary gets done) – where has this year gone?!  The reason I left this one to the end is thanks to our favorite orthopedic surgeon Dr. Giselle there was no need to spend a lot of time rifling through reference books to identify it.  As soon as the shutter went off on this bird…

Dr. Giselle immediately identified it as a Clark’s Nutcracker.  Having never seen this bird before, I was very appreciative of the assist.  Per the reference books, this particular bird prefers open coniferous forests in mountains.  A big checkmark on that – I left this wider shot with the evergreens as validation of that.  It is a member of the jay and crow family but chooses to walk like a crow than hop like a jay on ground (do scientist actually get paid for these observations?).  As is the custom here at Lifeintrigued, let’s bring that bird in for a closer look.

Hit the jump to learn more about the Clark’s Nutcracker

Continue reading This One is Hard on the Nuts

This One is Kind of Harri

There are two types of birds that tend to drive me crazy when trying to classify them.  Eventually I can get through to the waterfowl, but the family of Accipitridae and Falconidae have way to many similarly colored birds.  Adding even greater difficult to identification is color changes that can occur from juvenile to adult.  As a result, when it comes to classifying some of the hawks and falcons I open the reference books with a slight sense of dread.  That was exactly the case when it came to finally posting this blog.  While traveling out to Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park to check up on the wolves, I spotted this bird hunting in the prairie fields.

Of course, spotting it was one thing, trying to actually get a decent shot of it was a struggle.  The Beast was on high speed continuous mode allowing for burst of shots once the bird came into frame.  It would glide for a short while towards me over a stretch of the field, but would then perform an amazing aerial maneuver to double back on itself.  Once his range was extended, it would start gliding back towards me again.  This was repeated until it eventually made it out of the range for the Beast.  Unfortunately, there were only  a few decent shots out of the whole shoot worth showing anyone.  The one above is clearly the best, but here a few more that provide a decent view of the coloring to help in identification.

Hit the jump to read my attempt at classifying it

Continue reading This One is Kind of Harri

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