Pin the Tail

I’ll tell you right up front, this particular blog post is going to cheat you a bit on your viewing pleasure.  Normally I try my best to give a healthy dose of pictures with each of my offerings.  When it comes to birds the goal is to give you a variety of poses or angles that help provide a good perspective of the featured species just in case you happen to live in one of those obnoxiously big cities and think birds just get in the view of the pretty skyscrapers.  Today.. not so much.  To be honest, I cannot recall what the issue was, but there was really only two picture taken of this bird – surprising since this was another NEW bird to check off the list.

The only hope is there are more shots of the Northern Pintail from the second day of shooting – which hasn’t been processed yet.  If I find more while in the digital darkroom for the those I’ll be sure and post them to make up for the sparsity here.  There is a correction for the long term readers of this blog.  Back on June 5th 2010 I suggested one of the bird shots on that post was a Pintail (although skeptical even then – link here).  Clearly it didn’t possess the twin tails of real Pintails as clearly seen in these shots.

This day began in one of those “Small World” experiences.  It was a little cool that day so I was sporting my Illini pullover.  While walking up to the entrance of the Preserve, a man came out and noticed the coat and asked me if I had gone to Illinois.  Always seems surreal to head out thousands of miles from home and then come across someone that lives a few hundred miles from your hometown.  He actually was the individual who alerted us to the presence of the Pintail.  Based on his excitement at the time it appears that was not a common sighting on the ponds.  A quick look at the regions indicates they do Winter there in that region, but since this was August that does seem pretty early.  From an artistic perspective, I find the color palette on these ducks to be gorgeous which is only enhanced by the sleek profile.  In case you are wondering, these two are both males.

How about some interesting facts to complete the post.  First off they are very abundant and therefore have a conservation status of Least Concern – follow up research indicates they are in a large decline so this may actually change in the future (sad).  They also happen to be a very popular game duck due to (and I quote Wikipedia) “speed, agility, and excellent eating qualities”.  Hey, look ad that purdy eyegil burrd leck’s put led in itz ass.  They are classed as dabbling ducks or simply those ducks that feed off the water’s surface instead of diving.  They are primarily plant eating animals with the exception of when the female is nesting.  During that time,  it changes to invertebrates likes insects – wonder if that is similar to us humans which tend to switch to ice cream and pickle juice during our “nesting” period.  Interesting.. another site indicates they are the first ducks to begin their Winter migration.  I think we can personally confirm that now!  And lastly, the ducks organization website indicates that Northern Pintails have a circumpolar breeding pattern.  Know what that means?  … ‘cuz I have no clue hehehe.  Current guess is they only have sex when circling a polar bear.  Trust me, I’m an Eggspert on dem der wingy things.

That’s all folks – my apologies again for the lack of pictures – good news is you could read the whole post without a jump.

Hefner Would Be Proud

Admittedly, when things get tight I go to my ace in the hole.  Lucky for me, I was able to finish processing all the shots from our first day at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve.  If you recall, on our trip to Nevada last year we stopped in to that gem of a preserve.  Per previous posts, this area already provided two blog posts for brand new birds to my collection – specifically, the Green-Winged Teal (link here) and the Greater Roadrunner (link here).   Here’s a little secret.  Those were not the only two new birds this shoot produced!  I was able to add another new check in the bird list with today’s blog entry.

Anyone want to take a guess on what this might be?  Really take a guess – a little validation would help me at this point.  This little bird took me some extra time to eventually come to a consensus on what it was… or actually what I think it is.  To accomplish this I employed my brand new bird reference guide I picked up while out in Yellowstone.  While perusing the various gift shops in the park, The Stokes Field Guide To The Birds of North America caught my eye.  It isn’t often a book on birds shows up I do not already have, much less ever seen.  The key aspect of this particular reference was the ABUNDANCE of pictures.  None of the books on my shelves come close to  having the quantity of actual photographs contained in this book – in particular the fact it has shots of the female, the male, the juvenile and even seasonal and regional differences.  Truly awesome and it was instantly “mine” – didn’t hurt we got a discount being Yellowstone Association members but truth be told I would have gladly paid full price (shhhh don’t tell anyone).  After about 40 minutes of thumbing through the book I decided to go with … drum roll .. a Verdin.  The only concern was the region but a closer look (need a brush up on my state shapes) shows that it does venture into Southern Nevada.  A friend at work (thanks John!) helped me verify the region today so thinking that concern is past me.  As with any bird post at Lifeintrigued – you are more than welcome to debate any identification.  So for now were going with a Verdin.  This bird is especially cool since it doesn’t come anywhere near where I live making the trip that much more fruitful.

According to Stokes, this bird prefers desert scrub along washes and streams.  The desert part was dead on and it was alongside one of their ponds which kinda fits the water reference.  That is about the sum total of info I got out of the book.  Again, that was purchased to help identify the bird, I have our friends over at Wikipedia and an abundance of info on the web to fill the data gap – finding out what the hell it is the real battle.  Another site did mention they like thorny scrub – based on the shot above and the one below, this one was right at home.

Hit the jump to read more about this cool looking bird.

Continue reading Hefner Would Be Proud

One Fast Cuckoo

Another day, another post!  Guessing the doubters are starting to get a little concerned (hehehe).  I’m not out of the woods completely, but as each post rolls out through the publishing pipeline the stress ratchets down another notch.  The good news in all of this is I was able to get started on another vacation’s worth of shots from last year.  The great news is it looks like the topic hopper will be full for an extended period of time based on activities that has transpired as of late.  Of course, this does have the downside of erasing all the gains made on the already overflowing topic queue.  A very good problem to have when all your peeps have such high expectations.

Speaking of queues, next pop from the stack places us back in Henderson Nevada, home of the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve discussed a couple of posts back (link here).  If you recall, that post introduced a new bird to the blog.  Let’s continue that streak with still another new species.

Most people will recognize this bird thanks to the numerous references over the years.  If you are struggling, imagine it as a highly clever bird painted in blue and yellow.  No help?  How about Beep Beep?  If that didn’t trigger the name, then clearly you did not watch enough cartoons as a kid.  Just in case the suspense is too high, this is a Greater Roadrunner.  That day in Henderson officially marked the first time I’ve ever seen a live one of these and to say I was elated is an understatement.  After shooting the Green-Winged Teal, a blur of brown and white caught my eye dashing across the shoreline of an adjacent pond.  Intrigued,  I immediately headed over there and tried to get a decent shot.  Let it be known that the amazing speed of these birds is confirmed.  It could flat out move making focus tracking nearly impossible.  Left, right, under brush, out of brush, to the water, back to the shore – it never seemed to stop.  To get the shots here required some high shutter speeds combined with just a smidgen of luck.  Tracking brown colored birds against a brown backdrop makes for interesting times with the Beast, but when you get it… you generally get it.

Hit the jump to read more about this runner’s friend

Continue reading One Fast Cuckoo

Goslings Lounging

Looks like our wonderful 67 degree weather day is going to transition to rain pretty soon.  Good thing I got my run in earlier.  if you recall, I’m in the midst of a Project Austin and today marked the first time on the road since three visits to Accelerated Performance.  Today was all about working on the list of things I need to change in my running form (and that list is long).  The good news is the tweaks resulted in very little pain in the hamstring – definitely a plus since that area usually flairs up during every run.  Maybe those torture deep tissue messages are going to pay off or it is simply terrified that if it makes its presence known it will get the hell gouged out of it again.  With the good news is a little bit of bad news.  Apparently these changes are engaging a different set of muscles that have been neglected due to the injury compensating.  At about mile 4 started feeling the effects and ended up backing down to only 5.5 miles today.  This wasn’t meant to be a quick journey so not concerned yet – real test will be next week to see how quick those neglected muscles are going to take before they kick in.  For now it’s just all about the rest.

Speaking of resting, that is the theme of today’s post.  Apparently my last post scared some of our readers (okay, some being ONE but she has some power over me).  Who wouldn’t want to curl up next to a badger? all fluffy for comfort and you know, NO ONE will mess with you if you are sleeping next to a BADGER (especially a Honey Badger because those are just bad-ass).  Instead I get a plea for a more pleasant looking animals.  Sigh, figured I get kudos for bringing something new and intriguing but instead I get a fear response – not unlike when your lovely wife finds a mouse in the car.  Fortunately, the badger wasn’t the only wildlife we captured that day.  Rifling through the shoot I decided on something more cute and plushy but added some contrast to it by taking it in an icky setting.

This isn’t the first time we’ve featured Canada Goose goslings here at LifeIntrigued (link here) but this is probably the nastiest setting I’ve bothered taking them in.  We had just arrived at the park and was caught off guard by the crowd of visitors.  Generally there is not problem parking in the close lots, but that day we were parked way out on a back road.  On our trek to the entrance these goslings caught my eye – yes, I did say goslingS!

Hit the jump to read more about these cuties

Continue reading Goslings Lounging

A Moving Icon

For the obvious reason, February is the bane of all bloggers with a quota. Rather than take the extra time for the prep on some projects I’ve been working on, figured we’d just close out this short month with the last set of Indianapolis Zoo birds. Don’t think you are out of the woods (err the zoo) yet. There’s one post left based on some elemental mammal experimentation, but for now… let’s go with the pinks.

There is no mistaking these birds and I’m pretty sure they are universally known. They can be seen at a majority of zoos, wildlife sanctuaries and even Vegas if you look hard enough.  They have even been known to show up in the yards of unsuspecting new homeowners. In case you have your head in the sand, we’re talking about the Flamingo.  These aren’t just your everyday Flamingos either.  No sir, these are Flamingos that have been shot in harsh light.  That would be a clever way of stating these shots are not going to be making it into competition anytime soon.  I threw all the recovery I could at it, but the conditions were just not the greatest when we made our way to their little pond.  The thing about shooting Flamingos is they are relatively skinny and can be very long.  Good characteristics for a model, but this forces some creative composition decision.  You can choose to go close and draw out detail in the head by cropping down as in the image above.  Rather than just throw a decapitated head out there I kept some of the body to provide a foundation for the shot – see, I’m learning from all those composition questions I keep asking you about.  I actually like how that shot turned out – yeah, I followed the rules of thirds which is pretty common for me.  In truth it is more about giving the subject room to breath in the frame – tight crops put a virtual cage around animals which tends to grate on us wildlife photographers.

If you are feeling a little cruel, you can relax your composition a bit to provide a sense of height.  Pulling back a bit you can incorporate some of the leg structure into the shot.  Now you have more of a visualization on the tall stature of the bird, but at a cost.  You lose some detail in the face and it starts to get lost in the vastness of the surroundings.  The other downside… is it essentially whacks off the rest of the bird’s legs.  The unwritten rule is you never crop a person’s legs above the knee – trust me, it just looks wrong. Although this is not as severe, it still bothers me a bit.  I will say, having a small part of the knee helps some.

Hit the jump to read more about this pink birds … and you get a BONUS!

Continue reading A Moving Icon

Birds of the Desert Biome

As promised previously, it is time to start rolling out the birds from the Indianapolis Zoo trip back in 2011.  Now that most of the mammals and the lizards have been sufficiently covered, it is time to feature our feathered friends.  The downside of this is once again I’ve become extremely frustrated with the resources available for bird identification.  It is becoming almost comical how little information I am able to obtain from the web for what seems like the simplest tasks.  For example, there are aviary identification sites out there that allow you to do identification based on attributes.  It will seem promising at first since it lets you pick some easy body geometry but then you become less than enthused when the all knowing database comes back and says it could be … and then shows at best one or two options.  Does it have long longs?  well then you have a Heron.. what about Stilts.. no, you have a Heron.  Does it sit parallel to the tree? then it is a Woodpecker…. what about Flickers … I said it’s a Woodpecker now leave me alone.  This even holds for what appears to be easily identifiable birds which I’ll get to in a bit.  Now, there is blame to go around here.  Clearly this would have been an easier task had I found a resource at the zoo to ask or found a placard on the habitat that gave the name of the contents.  Lesson learned for future zoo trips that might have a collection of birds more rare to the continental Americas.  The counter to that argument, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to ask the Zoo to list the names of their animals on their web page – Indy has a few listed, but again, one of them has gone unidentified.  Sorry for the continual gripe about identification, but it is frustrating to page through thousands of pages or image query results and come up empty on a bird I’ve captured. (feel like my brother and his frustration with Costco!)

The good news is only one of this set is nameless.  One that was identified is the Gambel’s Quail.  Or, as the Indy Zoo website calls it – Gamble’s Quail (link here) – pretty bad when you can’t rely on the zoo to get the names right.  These birds are actually pretty odd looking with their head protruding plumage.  This bird, along with all of them actually, came from the Desert Biome exhibit.  This is the same location all the lizard shots came from in the previous posts.  Apparently birds and lizards tolerate each other pretty well.  There were a few other shots taken of this bird, but it was spending much of its time hanging out in the back-lit windows – not a good setting for getting real detail in a bird.  Eventually I worked myself around to get a decent headshot.

A very distinctly featured bird don’t you think?  This is a male specimen easily identifiable by its blacker beak and eye coloring.  They are a sport bird but Wikipedia does list them as Least Concern on their conservation status.  This may be due to the fact they lay a lot of eggs at once – 10 to 15 eggs at a time giving them a higher survival rate.  Common to the Quail family, the Gambel’s prefer the ground over flight but they can utilize those wings if they choose – short distances.  They do indeed prefer the desert even though that surprised me when I saw this in the biome exhibit.  In case you are curious, they are named after naturalist William Gambel (my apologies for the zoo in screwing up your name).  He died of typhoid back in 1849, but not before discovering this bird, the Mountain Chickadee and the Nuttall’s Woodpecker.

The next bird was also easily identified.  The zoo site referenced them by their third name – the Owl Finch, but they are also referred to as the Double-Barred Finch and the Bicheno’s Finch. So loved they gave it three names.  Guessing they have the Owl name thanks to the coloring around their eye mimicking their larger brothers.  It is almost as if an artist took a standard finch and decided to dress it up a bit – kind of like what they do with those cow and pig statues you see littered about larger cities.

That shot gives a really good perspective of the Beast’s depth of field.  The finch (a small bird) is perfectly centered in the band of focus – as any bird photographer will agree, the focus  target is always the eyes so compositions like these tend to extend the focus past the bird.  I had to laugh at the next shot – clearly a day of shooting the mammals had influenced my composition choices on the birds.  Always the sucker for head across the body shots.

You are probably wanting a shot from the front to see what this bird looks like.  That is an easy request because there were a few of these birds in the exhibit.  The one below was a little more active than the one simply hanging out in the rocks.

Hit the jump to read more about the Owl Finch and two more of its colorful brothers.

Continue reading Birds of the Desert Biome

One of These and One of Those

Greetings all!  Since I’ll probably not be posting again until after Thanksgiving, I’d like to wish everyone a happy Turkey Day (well, guess not so much from the turkey’s perspective) and safe travels if you are out and about.  Today’s post is a two-for of sorts.  Not only do you get to see a … umm a “this” but you also get to see … uh well umm a “that”.  As you can tell, I’m not entirely sure what they are.  There are a few guesses but, in truth, hoping my highly knowledgeable and gracious readers (the butter-up) can help out.   Begging is an option if needed – my pride is already dashed from flipping through bird books and slogging through the web for a staggering amount of time.

The first bird comes to us from Banner Marsh back in September.  We were heading down to Emiquon to catch the pelicans that were migrating through.  We had some time to spare so hit the Marsh first.  As soon as we pulled in I noticed something wading far out in the water.

It kind of looked from the shape like a stilt (link here) but it was clearly at the max reach of the Beast even with the Tele. Hand holding that glass on such a distant subject is difficult at best and not conducive to crispy shots.  My apologies, but these are the best that could be done with them in the digital darkroom – I did not want to mess up any coloring on the bird since it hasn’t been really identified yet – also had to do some major cropping just to make out the bird.

Hit the jump to start the guessing on this bird and to view the second subject of this post

Continue reading One of These and One of Those

Making the Best of a Dreary Day

I have entered the lair of the enemy and lived to tell about it. How is that for a dramatic intro? So truth be told, for the last three days I have been in Iowa. Specifically, I have been in Iowa City, the home of black and gold and a dreaded enemy of Chief Illiniwek. Why would I subject myself to three days of Herky Hell? What would bring an Orange and Blue die hard to subject himself to an arch rival? Actually, the answer is pretty simple. Linda had the opportunity to benefit from their fine medical facilities at the University of Iowa and for that I will gladly swallow my pride and express my gratitude. I think we are now on a good path to getting some issues under control and if it takes a little humility to make that happen – well, bring it on. Just for the record, I’ll still root against them in any sports competition… although since the Illini once again suck pond water it will be done with more of an inside voice.

One impact of this is a significant reduction in available blogging time. With Project Auuuunold in full bore, another half at the end of the month and taking care of the other issues it doesn’t leave much time to tickle the keyboard. It is too early to throw in the towel, but need to warn you the focus will probably be on photography related topics since the post processing work is actually faster than the prep work for the other types of posts. As a start, here is a set taken off my porch one dreary day a few months back. There is a lot still to learn about the Beast and a little low light practice is never wasted. The Beast is a VRII 4.0f end to end glass . With the 1.4 Teleconverter on, it drops to 5.6f which thirsts for light out in the field. It was time to try out some different settings and modes to see how best to shoot birds when the light is not ideal. One bi-product of the drizzle caught me by surprise.  See anything interesting in this shot?

Nothing catch your eye?  Hmmm, how about another shot in a more traditional crop… hint, you might not associate this as a typical BoaS?

Hit the jump and I’ll zoom you into the subject.

Continue reading Making the Best of a Dreary Day

The Exotic! Youuuuu Caaaaan’t Haaaaandle The Exotic

I’ve been thinking about Linda’s comment regarding my recent post of a Hawk (link here) and her reference to it being too boring for my blog.  She’s claiming that she is just looking out for the best interest of my peeps.  Well, this has been the main noodle topic on my training runs as of late.  What can I do to address this perspective and maybe even provide that needed push I need to get caught up on our photo shoots.  It occurred to me at mile 10 last Wednesday that I have the perfect remedy.  I do indeed have shots of more “exotic” birds and those are actually on my to-do list from back in July 2011.  And people still wonder why I subject myself to the torture of running…. well other than letting me eat what I want (hehehe) it gives me ample time to noodle and I’m betting everyone could use a little more time to noodle.

If you recall, I previously posted a few pics of the Indiana Zoo taken by Linda (link here).  To complement that I will now roll out the carpet for the first of the Indianapolis Zoo Aviary shots.  Drum roll please.

Is that EXOTIC enough for you?  Guessing you might have just gagged a little bit.  Hey, they all can’t be studly like the Hawk!  This is obviously not a bird you will come across just walking in the park here in the US.  To be honest, I couldn’t even locate this bird in any of my bird references (I do have a few that cover more than North America like the Sibley guide).  This required me to hunt down the Indianapolis Zoo website and go through their animal list until I located the birds (yes, there is more than one in this set).  Without a guide reference I had to once again employ our friends over at Wikipedia.  Turns out they have a page devoted to both the birds on this post.  This creature which only a mother could love comes from Central Africa.

In clear evidence of evolution, this bird was obviously maligned by the pretty boy birds to point where distance became his only friend.  This led to becoming one of the highest flying birds with the ability to exceed an elevation of 36,000 feet.  Jonathan Seagull has nothing on these creatures.  The impressive flight ability is definitely aided by their 7 to 8 foot wingspan, but still impressive for a bird that can upwards of 20 pounds.   Clearly they follow the vulture trait of living off of carrion, but I am sad to report that this bird is listed as endangered.  Note it lost two notches since 2007.  Let’s all give our best wishes that we can save this bird for our future generations to gag.. I mean observe.

Okay… Time for the second bird.  Please put down any food you might be eating at the moment and consider moving your keyboard away slightly to the left or right to cut down on cleanup.  Take a deep breath and hit the jump to see the second bird in this post.

Continue reading The Exotic! Youuuuu Caaaaan’t Haaaaandle The Exotic

A Pleasant Feathered Surprise

If I was a pressure cooker I’d be whistling up a storm about now.  More like a “perfect” storm from trying to prepare for a practice run to help friend learn the course for our upcoming relay marathon, working on Project Auuunold, trying to resolve some difficult architecture issues at work and most stressful of all, being two posts short on the last week of the month.  I’ve come too far this year to blow my quota so I will officially give up sleep and try and get through it.  The good news is this post topic literally fell out of the sky into my lap.  Umm, that might be a slight exaggeration, it actually did not land in my lap, rather in a tree about 30 feet from where I was sitting on our porch.  As luck would have it, I was actually out there photographing some of the many hummingbirds that have made our porch feeders their regular stomping grounds.  The ones I was focusing on ended up getting startled by something and split for the woods.  Not a big issue since they find their way back after about 15 minutes of calm.  During this delay I was fiddling with the Beast settings when something darted by and took up perch in a clump of nearby leaves.  Hello there greenish bird I’ve never seen around here before!

A quick flip to my user setting for bird on stick and I was snapping away.  By the way, I need to commend our friends at Nikon for adding the U1 and U2 Manual modes to the D7000.  This has been a godsend for quickly moving between stationary bird settings to bird in flight mode.  A quick flip of the dial brings my ISO to 400 and shutter speed to a slower setting for the perch shots and when it decides to take off all I need to do is flip it again to get my ISO up to 800 and shutter speed doubles – from that base I can quickly adjust the exposure setting to capture the moment.

Since I had not shot this bird before I was concentrating on getting a variety of poses and views to help identify it – head shot, breast shot, wing shot, tail shot etc.  This turned out to be very helpful during the identification phase.  Based on a discussion with John at work and a hefty amount of research both in my reference manuals and Google, I narrowed it down to a Vireo and then specifically either the Warbling Vireo or the Red-Eyed Vireo.  Both of these breeds have compatible ranges so that checked out good.  Both have a greenish hue and display a white to blush yellow  breast.  Initial indicators made me lean to the Warbling type.  There were some reservations regarding the fact the Warbling has as smaller stature than what I witnessed and the beak looked smaller on them than on this specimen.  The National Geographic North American Bird guide threw me with their illustration of the Red-Eyed Vireo – their graphic indicated a much darker green to grey wing coloring which did not match this bird.

Hit the jump to read more about this new bird to the Blog

Continue reading A Pleasant Feathered Surprise