A Race for the Gold(en)

As we are practically at the end of November, I’m starting to feel the pressure as I’m in a race against time. December is a mess with a planned travel early in the month, all the holiday events and then we head south to give our bones a rest from the harsh Midwest chill. That leaves little leeway to everything I “need” much less “want” to get done. The Average Year (link here) is coming to a close and what I thought was an impossible mark to hit – 300 – it now feels incredibly close. Currently sitting at 288, a mere 12 new birds away. Unfortunately, my easy options are pretty much tinned. Linda has a plan that might just push me over. The other race is more literal. For several years now, my running goal has been at least 1200 miles per year. Took a hit when I badly injured my left ankle and my running days were put on hold helping Mother the best we could (link here). With all that. I am still only ~64 miles away which should be doable (predicting a couple long runs in the snow). Lastly there is the sprint to get my “official” NA Bird Life List increased to hit a year-end goal. I have a lot of new lifer birds in the tin thanks to our trip to Texas in January and as a result of our efforts in the Average Year (51 in the latter alone). In a personal decision often regretted, “official” checks also require a featured here at Intrigued.

Not sure how many I am going to have a chance to get to before January, but I did want to at least get through the rarities from the January trip (to make room for all the new rarities in our upcoming trip ha). Let’s start by racing for a gold medal err, make that a crown.

Golden-Crowned Warbler found at Valley Nature Center, Weslaco, TX in January 2022

Hit the jump to read more about this rather rare Warbler to the US.

Continue reading A Race for the Gold(en)

Giving Thanks with Bearded Ladies

To our readers based in the States (or at least hailing from the States) we extend a hearty Happy Thanksgiving! For those of you that do not officially celebrate this particular holiday, or at least maybe not at this point in the year, we wish you a Happy Thank’Em Day – basically a “Festivus for the Restofyou”. In the official Holiday, we typically adorn our tables with feasts of plenty anchored by the traditional plump, flightless domesticated Turkey. While partaking in said feast, we pay respect and gratefulness for those who helped us become what we are today, those that continue to keep us on the right path and for all those that we may never meet in person, but whose sacrifices, insights, creativity and other benefiting acts that contribute to our current state of living. Thank’Em Day is nearly equivalent. We still extend our appreciation for all the same things, just doesn’t include the bountiful feast (10 out of 10 Turkeys surveyed much prefer this alternative ha!).

Without further ado, I would like to start by giving my “Thank Yous” to our family. This has been a really tough year for Linda and I as we have both lost close and cherished family members. It’s the deep family bonds that really shine during these times and having their kind shoulders to lean on when times are darkest is the clearest definition of love. The same goes for our friends – some we’ve had the honor of building upon from childhood playgrounds, others gained later in life, all there to lend a hand when you need it, convert a frown to a smile, provide valuable advice when decisions need extra scrutiny and, for those in the close circle, even willing to ride along on a late night run to the “Train Station”.

And to our faithful Intrigued readers, many of them who have become dear friends over the years thanks to this forum, we want to let you know just how appreciated you are. Your interest in our tins and ramblings keeps us motivated in the field and continue to make this blog thingy just as exciting as it was when we started out nearly 16 years ago. Your kind comments and insights helped us to successfully grow the Wildlife side and will continue to guide us as we expand into more nature related themes.

None of this would be possible without Linda (shhhh, don’t tell her though) who is more often than not our field guide, bird whisperer, personnel transporter, trip planner, food provider and predator distracter … I mean LOOK OUT. My brother Ron is a huge contributor to Intrigued. Not only was he the inspiration for starting this whole blogging adventure, he’s always willing to head out into the field, helping to educate me on birds, assisting with difficult IDs, tick magnet and continually pushes me to improve my “skillz” (“You call that a picture of a bird, I painted better images with finger paints in kindergarten”). A heaping amount of gratitude to our Intrigued staff who toil away night and day to make us look good. (eh, with exception to our Pain-in-the-Ass lawyer pool ha). That includes a special thanks to Brad Marks (and his support staff) who recently came on board and is already giving us fantastic posts from his many adventures (not to mention catches a lot of my typos). Oh, and I can’t forget to express my appreciation for my intern (Linda “you can keep trying all you want, but I already told you a thousand times you are NOT getting an intern!!”) – think of that as a future shout out hehehehe.

Now for the most important thing I’m grateful for today ….

Wild Turkey found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, TX in January 2022

I actually have new pictures of Wild Turkeys for today’s post!

Hit the jump to find out some quick background on our honoree of the day!

Continue reading Giving Thanks with Bearded Ladies

Changes Aren’t Permanent but Change Is: Part 2 of 2… by Brad Marks

Howdy folks! Not sure what it is like in your setting, but in our parts – it’s damn cold. As a gauge, my last two training runs have been on the treadmill. Guess what I HATE more than anything else…Christmas commercials before Halloween has arrived, BUT, running on a treadmill is easily second highest on my multi-volume set of things that make my blood “boil”. I enjoy running in the snow, tolerate running in sleet and fight through temps into the teens, however, 20mph winds pushing windchills into the single digits can freeze-“burn” the lungs right out of my chest. Reluctantly, tied on the Summer shoes, cranked up the conveyor belt and caught up on several streaming shows – harder that it sounds since I had to strain to hear over the body constantly nagging “Can we go OUTSIDE now!, how about now, I know what we should do..let’s go out there, please, please, pretty please, you know, real mean train outdoors, the ballet called, they want their tutu back, is that your picture next to the ‘wuss’ entry in the dictionary?!?” My body doesn’t even whine that much during ultra races. In an effort to save my sanity and maybe help push the mercury up (do kids even know what that means anymore?) let’s all toast our toes over lava with the second part of Brad’s post on Hawaiian volcanoes.

Take it away Brad…

Brief recap.  Twenty years spanning vacations to the Big Island.  Halema’uma’u crater relatively stable. Blah Blah Blah.  At the end of our last episode as we left our intrepid volcanic crater in the Spring of 2018, hell was breaking loose.  Literally. 

The first sign that something big was happening in 2018 was on April 30th when the lava in the Overlook crater at the Kilauea summit dropped significantly.  This meant that the magma had rapidly drained away from the summit and, based on the earthquake trail, was moving rapidly to the East Rift Zone.  To help with the scale of the next part of this article, please visit the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) site to see a map of the East Rift Zone.  I’ll wait while you go check out the map (humming a popular game show theme song). Halema’uma’u crater is to the lower left of this graphic. Here’s a re-post from a prior article.  It is a wildlife and adventure blog after all.  This trio was captured flying over the caldera on our last day on the island this year.  Remember, Nene prefer to walk everywhere and do not normally need to fly.  Just goes to show how large the caldera really is. 

Hawaiian Volcanoes by Brad Marks

OK, now we can go onto the next section.

Continue reading Changes Aren’t Permanent but Change Is: Part 2 of 2… by Brad Marks

Changes Aren’t Permanent but Change Is: Part 1 of 2… by Brad Marks

In a bit of a surprise, Brad has managed to bring us a two-part post. I have no idea how he had time to crank out not one, but TWO posts with all our new Intrigued employee required training that is just short of 30 online classes, two instruction led workshops and a week long retreat. Included in this curriculum: Information Security, Data Privacy, GDPR, Data Classification, Industrial Waste Management, Prohibitive Harassment (unless target is a lawyer), Insider Trading, Office Ethics: How Not to Embarrass Your Boss in Public (there are some Twitter employees that would benefit from our 2 day course), Corporate Assets Usage (jet, carpool, yacht, big wheel, unicycle, pogo stick, jacuzzi), Lawyer Hell Week (first rule of Hell Week, don’t talk about Hell Week), Performance Reviews, Incentive Compensation (I see Brad already added another “craptastic” check in this post!), Intrigued Birding Rules (link here), a complete viewing of the Monty Python comedy series and Field Safety 101 which includes a very useful workshop on how to properly swing (and if needed avoid) a tripod to escape a wild animal attack – hint, you do not use it on the animal. I’m exhausted just thinking about the workload. While I head off for some rest and a fruity drink with an umbrella in it, enjoy part 1 of Brad’s very “hot” topic.

Take it away Brad….

By now you may have noticed a few guest posts about birds and turtles on the Hawaiian Islands.  We have been fortunate to have been able to visit the islands several (more than a few, less than many) times.  We’ve also visited Volcanoes National Park each time we are on the Big Island of Hawai’i.  Who doesn’t like walking around on an active volcano?!  We’ve seen dramatic changes inside Volcanoes National Park.  I’m not talking about new parking stripes, or the remodeled Volcano House.  I’m talking about geological changes that can take thousands or millions of years to occur.  For example, Pikes Peak in Colorado looks pretty much exactly the same as it did 100 years ago, except for the new Visitor Center at the summit and the kitschy shops around its base.  The same could be said about the Kilauea caldera on the Big Island the prior hundred years.  Even Tom Sawyer’s creator, Mark Twain, seemed unimpressed at first with the Kilauea caldera saying it was “a wide level black plain” and that it was like “a large cellar – nothing more”.  Twain was unimpressed until he realized the scale of what he was seeing.  The “place looked a little larger and a little deeper every five minutes” he said.  Since the Halema’uma’u crater appeared in the early 1920’s there have been precious few large-scale changes.  That’s why after reviewing photos from our most recent visit this past August, I realized how much had changed since the prior visit in 2015.  And how much had changed from the visits prior to that.  Here’s my attempt at explaining or illustrating the changes we have witnessed over the 20 years of visiting Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island.  (time for a gratuitous volcano photo from 2010)

Hawaiian Volcanoes by Brad Marks
Continue reading Changes Aren’t Permanent but Change Is: Part 1 of 2… by Brad Marks

Tweety Bird

Howdy everyone! Big thanks to Brad for his latest contribution to the wild side. Apparently those Crabbies can be devious – you bad Crabbie, very very very bad Crabbie! (my end of year bonus also includes Seinfeld references, not just Monty Python .. cha-ching link here). The plan was to get both my race recaps done while Brad held down the fort – lazy Bri only finished one, but it was a biggie. If you need some material to help you get to sleep the long and dry recap of the bittersweet 100K ultra attempt is now posted (link here). Should get the other race done by the end of the week. With all the hoopla around the acquisition of a certain “blue bird” company, thought it would be a perfect time to bring out today’s featured feathered friend.

Social Flycatcher found at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in January 2022

Let me guess, you thought it was going to be a “blue” bird – well, maybe at least some bluish hue to it. Nope! Our bird is colorful, but no blue. So, why is this such a perfect time to feature this particular bird … could it be Elon’s favorite bird..hit the jump and I’ll explain everything.

Continue reading Tweety Bird

Now You See Me . . . Hawaiian Sand Crabs…by Brad Marks

With the day after day pressures subsiding I’m finally getting to work on Linda’s .. I mean my to-dos. Tops on that list is to battle the leaf invasion that has managed to break through my first line ranks and now pouring over the castle walls with reckless abandonment. The paired night (or high wind/rain) task is to get caught up on the Mothership with some very late race recaps and more than likely some haunt tutorials sprinkled in. While I’m tending to those, S.W. Brad is ready with a “ghostly” observation from the Hawaiian Islands.

Take it away Brad!

On the first morning of our first ever vacation to a tropical island in 2000, the last thing you might think to do is to rise early.  However, when your body clock is off by five hours and thinks it’s noon, you get out of bed even though the sun isn’t up yet.  (BTW, in the tropics there’s only a little more than 13 hours of sunlight in the summer, and up to 11 hours in the winter time, go figure) Ambitious you say?  Jet lagged I say.  At the time, I was in the habit of having a mug of honey ginseng green tea with a dash of local honey in the morning before work.  Jan had already been awake and moving for an hour or more.  After steeping my first mug of tea for the day, I walked the 100-feet from our condo to the beach.  Lucky for us, the condo on Kauai was on a beach on the east side of the island, which means we’d get a perfect view of the sunrise each morning.  My primary goal that day was to watch my first Hawaiian sunrise and see if the green flash was a myth. (It’s not a myth, by the way, check here as one of a hundred potential resources)

Hawaiian Islands Sand Crabs

As I stood watching the sky brighten in anticipation of sunrise, I noticed a lot of sand seemingly moving by itself.  I worked my way closer to see if I could figure out what was happening. 

Continue reading Now You See Me . . . Hawaiian Sand Crabs…by Brad Marks

Natural Born Zombie Killer

Welcome to November everyone! Granted we are a few days into it, but I’ve finally managed to make it to surface for some badly needed air. Halloween has past (long live the haunt!), sadness has been overwhelmed by cherished memories and, as of last Saturday, my race season has likely come to a close unless a race in the snow happens to catch my fancy. Although we are likely a ways from the ground sticking fluffy stuff, Bri needs some time for rest and healing – the 100K race left its mark. Now the focus turns to getting back to “normal” and the first order of business is feathers.

Long-Billed Curlew found at South Padre Island in December 2016

I know some of you were wondering when we were going to get back to our featured feathered friends .. after all, this is a blog that is supposed to be about all things wild. In my defense, zombie encounters can get a bit wild if you don’t have a long pointy stick to pop them in the head with. Today’s featured shorebird has absolutely no fear of running into the walking dead. They just causally walk up to the animated corpse and “bill” them in the head.

Long-Billed Curlew found at South Padre Island in December 2016

Hit the jump to learn more about our natural born “zombie killer”.

Continue reading Natural Born Zombie Killer

Hell’s and Bell’s

Greetings my blogger friends! Pretty much a hodge podge of a post today. It has been very busy here at Intrigued and wanted to do a bit of housekeeping to get everything “cleaned up” before we start transitioning into colder temps – well, should probably clarify that as “consistently” colder temps as we had our first flurries of the season a few days ago and we’ve been dipping into nightly frost zones. Been some cold runs lately as well. Good news is it will be back in the 70s for the weekend and then after that, who knows.

While recovering from the ultra beat down, I’ve been able to tick off a few items on the to-do list. First, I finally got my Birding Life List updated – per the updated nav-bar on the left, sitting at 317 (plenty more already in the tin, but they have to be featured here to get the tick). Then went and updated the Birding Chronicles page (link here) with the latest on the “Average Year” efforts. Ron has closed the gap and sits at 280 to my 284 (he might even have two more from a recent outing).

With that out of the way, I moved onto the newest signature prop for the Haunted Trail of Tears. This year, there was a new fancy entryway to set the stage.

Haunted Trail of Tears Pumpkin Arch 2022

It took a good 10 months to bring that arch to reality and admittedly pretty proud of it. I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to produce video tutorials on my new YouTube channel (link here), unfortunately, wasn’t versed enough to bring it to bear on this build. If you are interested on how this arch came to be, I’ve put a 4 part series up on the mothership which goes through every detail.

Part 1 – Pumpkin Creation (link here)
Part 2 – Pumpkin Arch Structure (link here)
Part 3 – Arch Columns (link here)
Part 4 – Putting It All Together (link here)

Next up was starting to chip away at the Haunted Trail Recap. Probably going to be a while before I can get to the detailed walk throughs, but I did manage to get the Gallery published with shots taken during the prep, build, day walker and night scare. Those captures can be found on our Smugmug site (link here). Note, there are several pages with over 300 images. My partner in haunt, Paul, made another great video to give you a feel for what the trail is like – Beware, someone opened the Gates of Hell!

Bri’s been one busy guy! A big thanks to Brad for filling in with some great posts while I was recovering and getting caught up on the to-do list.

Didn’t want to leave you hanging without a wildlife post, so hit the jump to read about today’s featured feathered friend.

Continue reading Hell’s and Bell’s

Bat Country

Hello my wonderful readers!! It has been a while for me – at least on the wild side of Intrigued. Before I go any further, want to give a big thanks to Brad for filling in while I focused on the haunted trail and more importantly, trying to get back on my feet after last weekend’s beat down. He has really upped our game and brought us some great adventures. Based on all the positive comments, we hope to transition Brad from “lifeline status” to regular contributor. Hoping he is up for it! Just need to negotiate some of the details (hazard pay, office size, profit sharing percentages, film stipend, number of ultras required to compete in a year, access to corporate jet, bonuses for weaving “craptastic” into posts etc.).

I will likely cover the race in more detail in a future post, so I’ll just sum it up with “imagine being stapled to a chicken trying to cross an eight lane highway”. Cold, wet, beaten, bruised, blistered and at some point you eventually ask yourself why they hell am I stapled to a chicken. The results were bittersweet. I came up a mere 10 miles short of the 100K, but shaved nearly 2 hours off my 50 mile time and won my age group. Pretty bummed I didn’t hit the main goal, but when I hit 50M Linda gave me the stern “you’re done” look. Normally I’d fight her, but essential parts were bleeding/oozing and that last loop would have likely been 3 hours of intense pain. This one smarts a little as I rarely miss a goal. I owe a big thanks to the encouragement everyone extended leading up to the test!

Okay, back to why you are really here – to read Brad’s latest adventure ha! Time for me to suck it up and get back to work. Bringing you a special feature today that I’ve been saving for this very month. Give a great big welcome to my latest +1.

Bat Falcon found at Santa Ana NWR, Texas in January 2022

How cool is that!!! Eeesh, guess it is a little hard to make out. There’s a good reason for that – Ron and I were standing in near darkness at our southern border trying to get this uber-rare bird in the tin. I was trying every trick in the book, crank up the ISO, ratchet up the aperture, drive shutter speed to dangerous levels, stand on one leg, blood sacrifice to the camera gods…pretty ugly. How about a visual aid.

Bat Falcon found at Santa Ana NWR, Texas in January 2022

There, now you can at least tell it is a bird – and with a major clue to what species.

Take your best guess and hit the jump to reveal the mystery guest.

Continue reading Bat Country

Best of the Rest While I Rest to be the Best

I’m back, well, kinda. As the saying goes, rumors of my demise are [somewhat] exaggerated. The good news is I am past the first of the two events that have been consuming every available second night and day. We held our annual Halloween Haunted Trail event over the weekend. I am rating it as a complete success based on some of the feedback we have been receiving on various social media outlets. Some of my readers made it to the event, so I’ll let them chime in on the comments on how they think it went. Ron and his son even came down a day early to help me out as some of my usual volunteers were unable to help this year – that was a huge assist along with Brad providing guest posts so I could focus on the trail. Finally got the haunted trail torn down and in our outbuilding late this afternoon – will move to packing phase after the second of the two stressful events is over. Focus now shifts to the 100K ultra that launches at 5am this coming Saturday. Need to heal some tweaks, get some rest and see what I can do about the 5 pounds I lost putting the trail together. I don’t mind being a little lighter to carry the large hills, but that is a bit more than I am comfortable with. I’ll cover these two endeavors in future posts, right now I just wanted to get something out so you don’t forget about me ha! The good news is Brad has been gracious to give me a few more features to use as I get closer to race time. Enough gabbing, time to get on with your regularly scheduled programming.

Dickcissal found at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Wilmington IL in May 2016

Hit the jump to see more of the rest.

Continue reading Best of the Rest While I Rest to be the Best