Death Dealers

Welcome to May everyone! I can’t believe we are 5 months into double 20. Part of the problem is as a runner I mark time by races. How many days/weeks can I get training runs in until the next race, race day, how many days to allow for recovery and then how many days to the next race and on it goes until late October when I finally call it a season and try to assess and repair the damage. Obviously, my races have been victimized by the invisible enemy that sounds more like having a beer on a Mexican beach than a shelter in place catalyst. What’s next, Murder Hornets!?! – oh crap, this year is just getting worse and worse. The good news is I’ve been hitting the trails and pavements and checked off a half two weekends in a row – in spite of still fighting some back issues which for some reason decided to nag me today (must be the rain). Now we just need some races to open up in order to add medals to the brag wall. There is a small silver lining to all this – plenty of opportunity to work on the image queue.

Tree Swallow shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove, IL in April 2017

Yep, when I’m not soldering up some new mechanics for Halloween (a mere 5 months away, yikes), Lightroom is up popping shots off the 3 year backlog. This set comes to us courtesy of Chain O’ Lakes State Park up in Spring Grove IL back in 2017. The last two shots in the series were taken in June where the rest were taken a few months earlier in April. Second to my primary training park down the road (Jubilee State Park), Chain O’ Lakes is a wonderful place. A nice campground for a State Park with plenty of trails for running, hiking and yes, BIRDING. It also happens to be conveniently located between Ron and I to spend some time together.

Tree Swallow shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove, IL in April 2017

Hit the jump to see more of Mr. Bunny Tail Breast.

Continue reading Death Dealers

In the Thrush of It

Took a quick break from building our Ark to put another tick in my North American Bird List count. It has been raining pretty solid for the last couple of days which is a bit bitter-sweet. Our wells could definitely use the recharging and it is probably good for the budding trees and flowers that took an early hit with a late bout of freezing rain and snow just as they were emerging from their long slumber. The bitter part is I was just getting into the swing of the yardwork and a crap load of items to get caught up on – well, at least the things I can get materials for. To top it all off my virtual trail half marathon was supposed to happen this weekend and that might get pushed to later in the week – that is if I don’t decide to just put on my mudder shoes and re-live my youth spent splashing in the rain (not sure Linda is going to like the looks of the laundry after that). Oh, well, no used in fretting about yet. In honor of the rain, how about we feature a bird that literally has Water in the name.

Louisiana Waterthrush seen for a brief minute in Iowa in April 2017

Hit the jump to see some more kindergarten art.

Continue reading In the Thrush of It

A Stealthy Addition

Sorry folks, it is has been a few days since my last post. I’ve been trying to get caught up on my yardwork and other “list” items that are way overdue thanks to having my civil liberties forcibly restricted by my elected government. Word out today is I now have 5 more weeks of this to look forward to per my tax evading governor of my broke state. I was doing pretty good thanks to my self-imposed news isolation, but I walked into the house today after a refreshing run and Linda had the governor’s propaganda machine churning away on the TV. Just in the brief amount of time it took me to walk to the shower I had heard enough to get the blood boiling again. Thanks to a nice shower I was able to calm down and get back to my happy place. The same thing happened after my trail run last Sunday. Got back into the truck after a quick cool down and started for home as I searched for a song to accompany my great mood – then it happened – landed on one of my previous go-to news outlets only to hear a reporter ask the most asinine question I’ve ever heard. Quickly continued with the surfing, but the damage was done. The whole time home I could only ponder on the idiocy of a so called reporter that I completely forgot to enjoy my major accomplishment. After 2 solid months of working my ass off in rehab, multiple visits to my chiro and dropping incredible amounts of sweat in my home gym – I was flying high.

Common Nighthawk found in Peoria Heights IL, June 2017

Well, maybe not so much flying high as our feathered friend above has the incredible ability to do, but nonetheless, I was back from the abyss. My back had held together for 9 grueling miles filled with steep hills, dirt, mud, roots and everything else that forest could throw at me. The heel even decided to settle down quickly after the run. I was officially at the same point I was in my training before the back blew and the heel figured out it was fun to produce stabbing pain. The trail lungs still need some work and I have a virtual half marathon at the end of the month to make up for a race that was canceled (complete the mileage, send in proof and they will send you the swag). Talk about a great feeling – a feeling that reminded me of when I spotted this Common Nighthawk soaring overhead. We had gone into Peoria Heights for a treat at our favorite ice cream shop back in June 2016 just around dusk. We were met with a high pitched “peent” as we exited the car.

Common Nighthawk found in Peoria Heights IL, June 2017

Hit the jump to see a couple more shots of this sky forager.

Continue reading A Stealthy Addition

Check Out the Tail on that One

Hope all is going well in your neck of the woods! Not much happening here as we are still in lockdown. Thought there was a glimmer of hope someone would prime the economic pump, but for now everything is still on hold. Fortunate for me I could do my job at the bottom of a volcano as long as there was Internet connectivity – who knew 35 years ago I’d be heading off to college to prepare for an occupation that was pandemic resistant. When you work with coworkers all over the world on any given day (and night), sitting in your den 40 minutes from your corporate office doesn’t feel that much different. Now, there is ONE big advantage, I can look out my windows into our now snow covered woods and take a break from all the key pounding.

Swainson's Thrush found at Starved Rock State Park, IL May 2015

Hit the jump to see more grainy assed shots of this brush bird.

Continue reading Check Out the Tail on that One

A Bunny Substitute

Happy Easter everyone! Not your standard Easter holiday by any means, but hopefully you will be able to take a break, reflect on better times, reach out (virtually) to your loved ones and most of all make an effort to shed some of that pent up stress. I’m in my third day of not being intentionally consumed by news and feeling better than I have in a long time. Now I just need to get Linda peeled away as she’s been intermittently walking past me fuming about one thing or another she saw on Facebook or other outlet. Saw this quote on one of my favorite ultra-marathon outlets.

Almost everything will work again if you unplug for a few minutes including you – Anne Lamot (note, only like here quote – not an endorsement of her opinions).

Thanks to Shawn over at https://www.scienceofultra.com/support for the reference. I cannot think of a better time than now to just unplug for a few minutes to get all those internal stress capacitors to fully drain.

Then plug back in and fill them back up with 100% pure cuteness.

Pika found at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado in May 2014

Hit the jump unless you are scared of soft, cuddly, round eared, button nosed whisker wearing balls of fur.

Continue reading A Bunny Substitute

Gone Nuts

Here we are at the feels like day 2,882 of the Illinois lockdown. All I can say at this point is our political leadership has gone full on batshit crazy. Can barely stomach the news anymore and the next entertainer that thinks I give a crap what they think is going on my “never again” list. Trust me, you do not want to be in the customer facing business and be put on my NA list. Unfortunately new adds these days are already starting on page 52. I was sitting here thinking to myself how nuts this whole thing and one of these specimens flew by the window I was staring out.

White-Breasted Nuthatch found at Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove, IL April 2017

Now that is a sign if I’ve ever witnessed one. Mid-thought on the pontificating nutjobs and a Nut – a White-Breasted Nuthatch lands in a tree near our porch. Yes Mother Nature that is a perfect metaphor for our current situation. My camera was too far away to bring to bear on our new visitor (that being it was sitting about 30 feet away ha), but I was pretty sure there was a series in the queue that would do fine. Sure enough, with a little digging found a suitable stand-in. Honestly, was a bit surprised to find only one specimen in the queue as just about every common bird in our area has a couple sets just waiting for a chance to be revealed to the world. The only question is how far back do I want to go 1990, 2000, 2010 hehehe. Our lone entry today takes us only back to April, 2017 – a mere 3 years ago which is about when my broke state imposed its lockdown. Ron and I were checking out the inhabitants of Chain O’ Lakes State Park in Spring Grove, IL. A nice park that happens to be relatively halfway between us. Linda runs the kids in dog agility up there so I tag along to do a bit of birding. Always a fun time when Ron can join me, although finding a bird, snapping a shot and then scaring it off before he sees it is getting harder and harder (did I write that out loud ha). In this case, pretty sure he managed to tin this specimen. No gain on the bird count, but still an entertaining little bird (that, for a fact, has never felt obligated to preach to me).

White-Breasted Nuthatch found at Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove, IL April 2017

Hit the jump to see a few more images of our featured Nutjob.

Continue reading Gone Nuts

Good to be the King

It appears this may be an apex week for the virus in the States. Based on the numbers I am seeing there appears to be some nuance of stabilization in the hospital numbers which seems right as I am pretty convinced the models that are being applied are way over estimated. I’ll spare you my soapbox regarding social distancing in urban cities equating to invasion of personal space for those of us naturally separated by 10’s of acres out in the country. Instead, I’ll continue to build my birding confidence back with another fairly easily identified feathered friend.

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet found at Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove, IL in April 2017

Hit the jump to reveal a secret about this little guy.

Continue reading Good to be the King

Confidence Restored

Greetings everyone! Please bear with me as I reach up and rip off another page on the ol’ timekeeper. I used to get really excited about April as it was the traditional start of the race season for me. Two back to back half marathons (second one with a 5K event the night before) for the last two weekends. As everyone is painfully aware, these are not normal times and true to course, those square boxes on the calendar are absolutely blank. The first trail run has offered our money back, a reduction in fees or a virtual event and the other road race (Illini Marathon) has been postponed to an unannounced time later in the year. The trail run was a charity event for Make a Wish Foundation and therefore I offered to continue to support the children and just run virtually – the Illini one is going to be an issue as all the races are backing up and guessing there’s either going to be one hell of an end of the season (which already ends with 4 halfs in 6 weeks) or it is going to be a disappointing year for this self-proclaimed medal whore. If that was not depressing enough, the very foundation of my birding identification skills has been rocked

American Robin shot in Iowa in April 2017

Hit the jump to read more about our familiar friend. Continue reading Confidence Restored

One for the Ladies

Welcome to day 2,667 of the Illinois lockdown! If there is any plus side to all this, the downtime is giving my body a chance to finally get healed from the wear and tear brought on by last season’s race circuit. Not sure if it is just the heavier trail course runs or my hatred for Father Time, but injuries are taking longer to heal. I upped my off-season workouts to better prepare for the pending toll, but that has come at a cost of stressing the supporting cast of muscles and joints. Blew my back out last Monday and trying to get that repaired so I can get back on the trails – downtime just makes this whole situation even worse. Already prepping for the race schedule to be nearly back to back when this all lifts which means everything has to be functioning at peak performance. Lemonade out of lemons, have plenty of time to focus on reducing my backlog!

Common Goldeneye found at at LeClaire Iowa locks in January 2017

While going through the newly discovered images, found this interesting duck staring at me, piercing my soul with a finely focused golden ray. When the pain became too much to bear, called for Linda to help free myself from its deadly gaze. What could this strange creature be – to the reference books! The duller color palette indicated a strong likelihood our specimen was a female which causes some additional work as many of the female ducks tend to start looking alike as they often have mixtures of brown feathering.

Common Goldeneye found at the LeClaire Iowa locks in January 2017

Hit the jump to read and see a bit more about this golden one.

Continue reading One for the Ladies

The Whites on Mountaintops

Greetings from what seems like day 2,367 of the Illinois lockdown! Anytime my running gets curtailed things tend to start dragging. Thanks to a local park and a Corp of Engineer site where I do 90% of my trail and hill training being closed, I’ve had to resort to running county roads and my treadmill. Our rural roads have a nasty crown in them which makes my hips scream and any distance runner can attest long training runs indoors will grind your mind to zombie in nothing flat. I have been able to confirm some stuff during this eternity (okay, more like 4 days). For example, although I had already written off the NFL several years ago in honor of my Father who fought under the symbol they think so little of, I have now found my life is quite fine without any professional sports… not to mention a hell of a lot more productive. Guessing that is exactly what every professional sports franchise fears every single day – when the fans realize you are not a necessity. Now contrast that with things I DO need – you know, like CHECKS ON MY BIRDING LIST. Ron put a major dent in my minuscule lead earlier in the year and I need every little morsel of count I can get which brings me to this.

Mountain Chickadee found at Rocky Mountain National Park May 2014

If you are like me when I originally took this shot 0.86 dog years ago. We were out in the Colorado region attending the Teacup Dog Agility Association Nationals (brings up fond memories of our beloved Rizzi who took 6th in the nation for his height group – we still miss that little guy who left us in the midst of Linda’ surgery last year). On our way out we swung by the Rocky Mountain National Park for a little birding. While taking in the local Nutcrackers, Marmots and Owls, a Chickadee decided to drop in and see what had everyone’s attention. We have our share of Chickadees here in the Midwest so didn’t get too excited at the time. Nevertheless, staying true to the bird photographer’s code, I made sure to get a few shots in the tin.

Mountain Chickadee found at Rocky Mountain National Park May 2014

Hit the jump to read about more about this overlooked bird.

Continue reading The Whites on Mountaintops