Buffy the Nectar Slayer

If a +3 three weekend is worth celebrating, then surely adding another +1 for the week is worthy of a Snoopy happy dance. I would do just that, but Linda is home and knowing her she’d sneak a picture of it and then post it on Facebook to all her friends. Then Facebook would probably mine it and start sending dance lesson opportunities. It’s amazing when you pre-think through your actions how boring your life becomes. Maybe this is the key difference between childhood and adulthood – The Embarrassment Factor. If had actually considered some of my actions when I was a kid, me thinks I would not have had nearly as much as fun as I did. Granted, I would have had far less stitches and Tetanus shots ha! This all brings me full circle to today’s post. Linda is forever embarrassing me by retelling my reaction to learning that a Painted Bunting was hanging out at place we visited in Georgia (wait, hmmm, that post may not be out yet – ignore that if it isn’t). It is this ribbing I take that has caused me to pre-think my actions when I learned this Hummer was hanging out at the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park near Mission, Texas.

Buff-Bellied Hummingbird found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park January 2018

In a much more controlled manner, I calmly walked out of the visitor center and forced a restrained walk over to the specified spot – a feeder we actually passed on our way in. Successfully prevented another embarrassing Facebook post, although my inner being was doing one hell of a Happy Feet rendition. This was one of the new birds I was hoping to get in the tin on our birding trip last January 2017. Here in the Midwest (link here), we are treated to only one kind of Hummer unless one gets mistakenly lost during migration. I did pick a new one at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve – the Black-Chinned variety (link here). Other than that, the list is pretty bare when it comes to these incredibly fast creatures.

Buff-Bellied Hummingbird found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park January 2018

Hit the jump to find out more about this bird.

Continue reading Buffy the Nectar Slayer

Uhhh What?

Not to labor this point too much, but if you read my last post on the Hooded Merganser, you should be keenly aware of how cold it is here in St. Louis.  My hopes of it getting warmer today were quickly dashed when I opened the door of the RV only to be blown nearly all the way to the arena where Raven is running agility.  A quick check of the phone reveals it is 31 with a windchill of .. wait for it … feels like 20.  WTH, last year at this even I was wearing shorts and wandering around comfortably looking for whatever feathered creatures Purina Farms had to offer.  This year I am bundled up like the little kid from A Christmas Story.  To top it off, after fighting the winds to get to the arena, Raven decided that the agility course was improperly arranged and chose to remedy the situation mid run – when the course is setup the way he wants it, Linda and Raven rock.  When it isn’t  then to quote a famous movie “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some [poodles] you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here [this morning] which is the way he wants it”  No worries, Raven has more runs to work things out – more importantly, I am spending the huge gaps between runs on a quest for a birding check tri-fecta.  If the wireless stays up, Mr. White below will give me just that.

Gull-Billed Tern Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas December 2016

Hit the jump to see a few more shots.

Continue reading Uhhh What?

‘Cause the Boys in the Hood are Always Hard

I just want to say for the record that I am currently camping at Purina Farms down in St. Louis and freezing my butt off.  Last time I stepped outside it was dipping below 30 and there were little white flecks hurling down on us from above.  Linda is in complete denial and not exactly pleased we are being treated with this weather during the Poodle Club of America Nationals we are entered in.  Raven will be competing with the big boys and girls in the agility ring (wish him luck!).  With that cold whine out of the way, let’s get on to this weekend’s theme.  Wait – make that themes.  Carrying over from last post, bringing you another bird post, another plus one on the bird list, shoots from this very month (a miracle) and yes, another set of soft pictures.  I purposely went with the Woodcock shots first in hopes those shots would make these look better than they really are.

Hooded Merganser located at Widewaters near Joliet, IL April 2018

I mentioned in a previous post I was heading up to the Joliet IL area to do some birding with my brother Ron (link here).  The goal of that trip was to finally get that Ross’ Goose in the tin.  It had been hanging out with a bunch of Domestic Geese that had taken up residence in the area.  More specifically in Wilmington IL  Ron was threatening to drive there, scoop it up in the car and drive down to my house to get the picture if I waited any longer.  Note, that was only threatened, he didn’t actually do that … this time ha.   Turns out, our little white Goose was nowhere to be found.  We did locate the resident Geese behind Nelly’s Restaurant, but their little friend was either staying inside thanks to another cold weekend or it figured out it was hanging with the wrong crowd.  The day was still young, so Ron offered to show me some of other birding spots in the area.

Hooded Merganser located at Widewaters near Joliet, IL April 2018

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of this distinctive duck.

Continue reading ‘Cause the Boys in the Hood are Always Hard

I’ve Hand Doodled Better Birds

Greetings everyone.  Been a little bit lax on my posting as of late, but things keep popping up that have to be whack-o-moled down before they get out of control.  Ironically one of those is dealing with a mole that has decided the abundant acreage of woods around our house isn’t as inviting as the 1 to 2 acres I carved out for our lawn.  Crazy demon-spawn continually break our pact – no harm shall come to thee as long as they stay off my lawn.  Yet they continually test my resolve and launch their torpedoes toward my house to test my authori-TEH!  I mainly bring this up because those pink clawed creatures usually start their insurgency at the same time today’s featured bird starts their annual courtship rituals.

KK

Hit the jump to see even crappier pictures.

Continue reading I’ve Hand Doodled Better Birds

We Might Be Lost

So there are times when I’m out in the wild and something out of the ordinary happens. Maybe an unexpected bird decides to come out and pose for me or the light will hit a subject just right to reveal an awesome shot otherwise hidden in an overcast day. There are times when I’ve come face to face with a creature higher on the predator list than I was adequately prepared to deal with and wandered into areas where the daylight’s false sense of security relented to uncomfortable darkness. With all those experiences, I had really never experienced a “what the hell is that” followed quickly by the unsettling thought “where the hell am I !?!” .. that is until last December while on our birding trip down the Texas Gulf Coast. Linda had given me a Texas birding book that we were using to find places we had missed on our previous trips. One of the recommended places was at the end of Smith Point Road near Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. Since that was a planned stop anyway, we detoured slightly to check it out.

Plains Zebra found in Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge at end of Smith Point Road\

When we arrived, the road that followed shoreline was closed. That literally left us at the end of road right at the waterline. Linda turned the RV around and parked it off the road. I jumped out to see what I could fill the tin with. Not sure if it was the unseasonably cold weather they were having or the generally drab day, but there was very little moving about. Snapped a few shots of a Tern hunting quite a ways off the shore. Three Brown Pelicans then came flying by warranting some attention even though Brown Pelicans in Texas might as well be shooting Bison in Yellowstone – sure it’s exciting for the first 50 encounters, but soon after the thrill subsides. Eventually found myself trying to track a Sparrow through a nearby thicket. It is there I looked up and uttered those alarming words. There in front of me was a Zebra staring right at me. Somewhere Linda had apparently made a very wrong turn – last I checked those black and white beasts preferred the Serengeti, not a field on the Gulf of Texas. Even went over to tell Linda so she could check my sanity.. One thing for sure, this was a lot more interesting to shoot than a Sparrow.

Hit the jump to see a couple more shots of our mysterious friend.

Continue reading We Might Be Lost

Less Bitter

First off, Happy Easter to everyone! If all goes well today, I’ll be adding a check on my birding list thanks to a quick trip up north. Ron has alerted me to a bird hanging out around Joliet that I still need to get in the tin. Apparently this particular specimen has decided to get chummy with a local flock. The current plan is to catch some birding at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. The wind is supposed to die down, but the mercury dropped as well. Hmm, guessing the younger generation doesn’t know what that means anymore – I remember as a kid having mercury races on the school bus – put a drop in each of the channels of the rubber mat that ran the length of the bus between the seats and see which one made it to the back of the bus by the end of the trip – then again, somewhat amazed it didn’t cause serious health damage. In honor of going after a new bird, decided to feature another new check on my list.

Least Bittern discovered at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center in December 2016

That there is a Least Bittern discovered at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center in December 2016. By now you should be very familiar with that birding sight on the South Texas Gulf Coast. Someday I should count up all the +1’s my two trips to that location have netted. Guessing it rivals the impressive counts obtained at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve in Nevada. That isn’t even considering the improved pictures I was able to get in the tin for birds already on the list. This particular find almost went unnoticed in the digital darkroom.

Least Bittern discovered at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center in December 2016

Hit the jump to see another version of this picture and learn a bit (ha) more about this Bittern.

Continue reading Less Bitter

A Slower Life

Just got back from a photography seminar by Ian Plant (link here). For the last three years, Linda and I have been going to the Peoria Camera Club featured photography speakers. The first two had speakers we were very familiar with, however, Ian was new to us and we did not know what to expect. There was some hesitation this year due to the fact that the $75/person fee is a pretty steep if you are unsure if you are going to get any takeaways for the investment. We checked out his site and his work was very interesting – he also ranged from landscape to wildlife which covered both our interests. Being that it was our little thing we do together, we took a chance. We definitely didn’t expect the 9+ inches of snow accumulation that started late last night and has continued throughout the day. This kept a lot of planned attendees home – living in the country we are accustomed to the slippery driving conditions and made it there without incident (can’t say the same for all the trucks and cars we passed in the ditches on our way there). Turned out we had a great time and have new ideas to try out next time we are in the field. Also had a chance to mingle with some of the Peoria Camera Club members which was fun as well.

Having been inspired by Ian today, thought I’d go ahead and put out another post.

Texas Tortoise found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January 2017

Nope, that isn’t a bird for a change! Based on the multitude of hate mail sacks that hit our front door, it was apparent that you wanted a break from the birds. After a quick look through my queue, I found this prehistoric throwback and thought it would fit the bill. Granted, I did come upon this slow moving creature in the midst of birding Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge on our Texas birding trip back in January 2017. This would have been our first visit to the Sticky Mud Lagoon (in case you were wondering what Atascosa means), quickly making its way into my top 10 birding locations. Just be sure and keep a close eye on the road into that place or plan a visit to your favorite tire alignment technician. Actually, let’s call it a giant pothole that leads into the park that happens to have some high gravel parts in it.

Texas Tortoise found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January 2017

Hit the jump to read more about this featured creature!

Continue reading A Slower Life

The Evening Star

Ever been tasked with something you weren’t sure about? Maybe you committed to an event that might be (way) outside your comfort zone to the point it starts to produce stress several months out from the designated day? How about being cast in a situation where the audience probably knows more about the topic you are presenting than you do? Okay, now imagine a situation where ALL those conditions come to the same confluence and you are standing in the middle wondering if the current is going to drag you under. That is my best analogy of what Wednesday evening felt like to me.

Vesper Sparrow discovered at William Goodrich Jones State Forest in December 2016

I eluded to a commitment I had made last December but really didn’t go into it – choosing to wait and see what kind of disaster would occur. History has taught me humbleness over embarrassment, obscurity over grandstand and work before celebration. Those tenets have served me well. It is also the reason for the stress over the last several months. Last year, I had mentioned my interest in birding and wildlife to a member of my wife’s dog club (Carol). Not sure how, but somewhere in that conversation it came up I had a blog. Carol is also the catalyst for extracting my wildlife content into a separate site for broader consumption. Turns out Carol is currently the president of the Peoria Audubon Society and asked if I would give a presentation on my blogging and photography. Whoa, that’s definitely putting the big boy pants on. At the insistence of my wife and brother, I confirmed and we eventually set the date.

Vesper Sparrow discovered at William Goodrich Jones State Forest in December 2016

Hit the jump to find out what this bird is … well, maybe ha!

Continue reading The Evening Star

Paying It Forward

Tonight has been quite the event. Headed out to Menards to get a number of 2x4s and other materials for a new project for the garage. Sparing you the details, but thanks to an ill advised decision by the managers there, but I’ll be getting my lumber from other merchants going forward. I only mention that to set the mood as I was already perturbed before a White-Tailed Buck opted for a game of Chicken on the way back home. Barely avoided that before hearing a loud crash at the rear of the truck. Those of us in big Deer populated areas know all too well, that you need to always be aware of the companions that cross behind. Looked through my rear view mirror and groaned – couldn’t see the lumber anymore. Pulled to the side and braced myself for disappointment and went back to check the damage. Turns out hard braking to avoid the Buck caused the tailgate to give way – that was the crash, not another Deer. Wood was still there, just below my view line in the bed. Now doubly perturbed, had to slam on the breaks for a second time thanks to a stupid black Cat playing Frogger across my driveway. Some days it is just better to stay in bed! Decided the best way to beat the stress was to post on a more uplifting experience. With that I bring you another new check in my birding list.

Common Pauraque discovered at Laguna Atascosa, Los Fresnos, TX in December 2017

How cool is that! Wait, you can’t see that? Well, don’t feel too bad, I definitely didn’t see it at first either. Backing up a bit, I was taking pictures of the Golden-Fronted Woodpecker that was featured several posts back (link here). A refuge volunteer came up and asked me what I was taking pictures of. If you recall that post you’ll understand my response was to point to the sign being used to brace the camera. He then responded with “Do you want to see a Parrot playing croquet?” Now I ask you, who doesn’t want to see a Parrot playing croquet? Correct, no one. Responding with “sure”, I let him pass to lead the way. Linda (who had arrived at the same time as the volunteer) allowed our tour guide to get a small lead on us before asking me if I even knew what that was. She corrected suspected my response would be “Nope”. Figured it would be a Parrot with a large mallet.

Can you see it now?

Common Pauraque discovered at Laguna Atascosa, Los Fresnos, TX in December 2017

No worries, I was having an equally hard time.

Hit the jump to find out what’s lurking in the brush.

Continue reading Paying It Forward

One Bad Toupee

As hard as I’ve tried, I have yet to find a way to keep Father Time from turning over his hourglass. Each little pebble of sand that falls is another step closer to my Texas birding post deadline. There is light at the end of the tunnel though. I only have a handful of posts that really need to be published before next Wednesday. That day will put an end to several months of stressing over a commitment that comes due. I blame that for my hair turning premature grey ha! Like me, some people embrace the signs of getting wiser, others take more drastic actions to disguise the fact that Father Time paints in grey – case in point…

Black-Crested Titmouse found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park in January 2018

This find from our recent Texas birding trip is apparently a little vain about what others think of his greying appearance. The shame sunk so deep in the conscious it has resorted to Le Style de Burt Reynolds. One can imagine the scene before heading out of the nest for the day. Mr. Titmouse slaps on his black rug, attempts to straighten it in the bathroom mirror before turning to Mrs. Titmouse and asking “do you think anyone will notice?”. After stuttering and stammering love rules out and she responds “Of course not dear”, fighting back a revealing eye roll.

Black-Crested Titmouse found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park in January 2018

Hit the jump to read a bit more about this bird and where it was discovered.

Continue reading One Bad Toupee