Burt’s Bees Please

I predicted it – we’ve come to the end of this short month and I’m scrambling to hit my monthly quota. Hats off to my fellow bloggers that are far more productive than I am – not to mention those dedicated souls that are releasing content daily. I need at least one if not two really long runs between posts just to figure out what my next topic is going to be. Luckily I managed to get a decent 9.5 mile run in yesterday that resulted in this bundle of cuteness being selected to close out February.

Ross's Goose found at Henderson Bird Viewing Center in Henderson, NV while there in February 2020

Not sure what the key trigger was, but somewhere in the fog of fatigue I remembered our trip to Las Vegas in February 2020 – possibly thinking about warmer climates being confronted with unexpected snow/ice on the difficult ascents and descents where I was training. That led to remembering I had not processed a single picture from that trip – thousands of pictures just sitting there alone in a cold dark folder in a long forgotten drive hoping with all their bits to be found and presented to the world – yeah, my mind is all over the place when trying to forget that my legs aren’t lounging on the beach sipping drinks with tiny umbrellas.

Ross's Goose found at Henderson Bird Viewing Center in Henderson, NV while there in February 2020

Hit the jump for more background on our extremely cute Goose.

Continue reading Burt’s Bees Please

An Olive Bath

This being a short month, I’ve been watching the calendar closely so I do not blow my self-imposed monthly post quota. Even with that extra scrutiny, I still feel I’m lagging behind. It hasn’t helped that I’ve had a myriad of doctor appointments to take care of and a dentist appointment this week that ended up with multiple needles being shoved halfway up my nose (“Hey, is that grey matter I see on that railroad spike you call a needle!?!). One more doctor visit left this month and then I should be free for two months until I can get in to finally see my referral consultation – very much appreciate all the well wishes in the comments, especially Brad who offered me a pint of his blood (Cat family bonds run strong!). On a happier note, we had the chance to run up to Iowa today to play Santa Claus – unfortunately had to miss Linda’s family Christmas and then we spent the next month in Texas. We joked we wanted to wait until there was snow on the ground unlike the real date ha! While there, Linda drove me around to some birding hot spots. True to winter form, the Eagles were thick on the Mighty Mississippi. Quick count was at least 30 of those majestic birds were hunting the frigid waters down by I280. In tribute to that success, thought I would go with another sure bet when it comes to winter birding.

Olive Sparrow found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January of 2021

Today’s featured feathered friend is a winter bird only in the sense we have encountered them only in our winter excursions. You will not see this particular bird ANYWHERE near cold temperatures unless you count the bizarre cold snaps that have hit Texas the last couple of years. Their region maps consists of year round residency along the coasts of Central America and just barely into the southernmost tip of Texas.

Olive Sparrow found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January of 2021

Hit the jump to read more about this LOJ (warning space aliens may be watching)

Continue reading An Olive Bath

Cheetos Connoisseur

Although we enjoyed being able to spend the entire month of January in the mask-free state of Texas, the fact we had to move all of our medical appointments and checkups to this month has got us lately feeling a bit …hmm.. let’s go with …. blue.

Steller's Jay found at Lake Tahoe in May 2019

Oh, before I go any further, I am reminded by the fluffy cotton ball currently covering a large gaping, cavernous, crater of a hole in the middle of my arm that today was lab day, meaning about 50 vials of my precious life sustaining blood has been maliciously sucked out of my body by a dominatrix dressed up in nurse clothing. I keep telling my doctor I was the reference for Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man and this whole drain me within inches of my life is entirely unnecessary. Then he holds up my medical records with the running err “events” circled in red, takes out his little blue pad, with his blue pen filled with evil blue ink to remind his blue clad nurse to schedule the draining (complete with one of those god-awful smiley faces on it).

Steller's Jay found at Lake Tahoe in May 2019

Hit the jump to read about this high crested Jay…well, maybe.

Continue reading Cheetos Connoisseur

Not a Scooter

Greetings everyone! First off, wanted to let you know that I have update the Birding Chronicles page with the latest progress in Ron and I’s “Average Year” (link here). Between the brutally cold days we’ve had a few bearable temps to get in a bit of tundra birding. From the last update I am now sitting at 185 and Ron coming in at the 156 mark. If you take in the unique species between us we are at a very healthy 194 between us. Absolutely surprising to me as that is nearly 2/3rds of my current life list number! Ron has also been adding new features to our personal tracker using software he developed (Sliver link here) coupled with Google Maps, he is now able to visually chart all of our outings since the first of the year. I’ll be putting the videos he produced from that on the Chronicles page as soon as he gets the current maps generated.

For today’s post I thought I would go with one of my two highlights so far in this young (and short) month. Drum roll please… yes, it is official, I have finally lost the remaining black toenail from my last ultra-marathon (link here). If you recall, last October I entered the…

Linda: “What’s ya doin’?”

Me: “Writing a new post!”

Linda: “”bout what?”

Me: “Successfully losing my last black toe”

Linda (blinks twice): “What?””

Me: “Yeah, I am pretty excited and thought I would share with my rea..”

Linda: “Ummm, No!”

Me: “..but they like to read abou..”

Linda: “HELL NO!”

Me: “Bu…”

Linda: “Go with the Scooter”

Me: “Dammit, it is not a SCOOTER!”

Linda: “Scooter!!” .. walks out of the room.

With a wife like that who needs an editor hehehe. Will heed my lovely wife’s advice and opt out of the extremely thrilling toenail ordeal (for now) and go with the OTHER highlight from a recent birding trip to downtown Peoria, IL.

White-Winged Scoter found on Illinois River in downtown Peoria Feb 2022

I guess it is still sort of blackish, and if you stretch your imagination kinda looks like a foot and ankle.

Hit the jump to find out what today’s “substitute” featured feathered friend is!

Continue reading Not a Scooter

Nixon’s Accomplice

Finally catching a warming spell here in the tundra. Might even get to see the gravel in our extended driveway for the first time since being back from this year’s annual trip to the Texas Gulf Coast. Apologies again for bringing the cold down to all those cities we passed on our trip – honestly, it was not intentional ha! I just realized I let a rather important milestone pass by without mentioning it. Managed to once again trigger the increment button on the age counter in mid January, but that isn’t that important these days (although it is nice to be assured you still have a physical existence in world). The real fanfare is I hit my one year anniversary of being officially retired. Admittedly, a bit stunned looking at the calendar and realizing it has been that long already. Friend of the blog Brad M. also celebrated his first retirement anniversary and he had a similar feeling on how quick it went. Think he summed it up best when he declared being surprised “was a good sign [our retirement] was the right thing at the right time.” Initially thought I would miss the daily grind a lot more than I did knowing how ingrained the work schedule was in Linda and I’s DNA. Each day of the week was tracked by the required meetings and deliverables due. These days we can’t even remember if the day ends in a ‘Y’ or not. I did take a support call while on our trip, but that was entirely caused by me purposely not properly transitioning a tiny piece of my old role. I thought it was pointless when I was doing it and assumed (hoped) it would die off for the good of the company – apparently some check boxes never go away even if nobody even takes an action on it or worse yet even looks at it (it was a quarterly deliverable and it wasn’t missed for over a year hmmmm). Oh well, Big Yellow keeps rolling without me/us…

Prothonotary Warbler with Pollen Hat at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island in April 2021

Hit the jump to read about a softer yellow machine. One that doesn’t beep when it backs up hehehe.

Continue reading Nixon’s Accomplice

A Lite Brite Peg

Welcome to February everyone! Been a rude awakening on the weather front for us. Came back from or extended Texas trip to 4 or 5 inches of the whitey fluffy stuff already on the ground. Wasn’t really in the mood to deal with that yet, so cleaned off the small portion of cement directly in front of the garage and let the other 300′ of gravel go. Tradition continues, delay now, pay thrice later. Yesterday, Snowmaggedon hit. Thankfully managed to get the blade on the UTV ahead of time. Linda performed her highly scientific method of walking into the yard and sticking a ruler in the snow to determine we came in at about 9 inches of new snow (didn’t help that it was preceded by a couple of hours of rain/sleet as required by all Illinois cold weather events). During the multiple hours plowing and shoveling, my body was constantly reminding me there was an RV sitting right there in the outbuilding, all cleaned and gassed up ready to go…anytime, really anytime, just put that metal thingy in the dash, give a small twist, put the lever thingy in reverse…somewhere warm in relatively no time at all. “Come on Bri, do it for the puppies!” For the record, my inner voice is vindictive and evil. Now it is around 12F degrees out with a windchill at -4 which is just a few degrees beyond my willingness to go for an outdoor run – translated – it’s a perfect time to get the first post of the new month out.

Prothonotary Warbler found at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island in April 2021

How is that for a color blast!?! Had a few options in the queue and decided to go with Mr. Yellow here to help brighten my spirits. A few posts ago on the Black-Throated Green Warbler (link here), friend of the blog, Brad, commented that a more appropriate name would have been “Brilliant Yellow Noggin’ Warbler or BYNW”. Those keeping tabs on Intrigued, might have noticed I kind of gave away today’s featured feathered friend in my response. When it comes to brilliant bananas, this Warbler has a head up, not to mention chest and neck. The bird practically glows.

Prothonotary Warbler found at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island in April 2021

Hit the jump to read more about the events surrounding this sighting.

Continue reading A Lite Brite Peg

Marvil Comics’ “X” Duck

The bones are starting to creak and the nose is turning red, we must be headed into the tundra we call home. We made our final stop in Marion, AR yesterday to perform the RV winterization ritual in the closing hours before we officially hit sub-freezing temps. Asked Linda several times during this process if she wanted to turn back and flee south again…with great agony so reminded me we have important appointments awaiting us throughout February, sigh. On the good news front, I can update you on my Average Year efforts. With a few days still left in this month I’ve clocked in 173 unique birds for the young year (Ron at healthy 152). Quite stunned by that and can be directly attributed to how wonderful birding is in Texas. I’ll be turning my err… Linda’s sights on getting the Snowy Owl (link here) immediately upon our return.

Right now I have to focus on hitting my self-imposed post quota for this month. Once again, I’ve overestimated the amount of free time available on our vacation. Amazing how we manage to fill up an entire month with activities (read birding sunrise to sundown). Was able to get five out there during the longer drives leaving me with today’s featured feathered friend for the win.

Redhead Duck found at South Padre Bird Viewing Center in December 2017

Okay birders, without hitting the jump, want to take a guess on what this duck is?

Hit the jump for further clues.

Continue reading Marvil Comics’ “X” Duck

Quick Change Artist

Today comes with a bit of sadness as we are officially on our way back to the broke state of Illinois. Texas has seen fit to help us get acclimated to the cold weather my bones have been subjected to for the past (now) 55 years (yep, had a birthday recently). Been kind of zigzagging our way a bit. Bounced up to San Antonio to see where nearly 40 years ago the Prince of Darkness desecrated a sacred memorial dedicated to those who died at the Alamo whose remains are elsewhere. For those wondering, he did not actually take a leak on the Alamo itself rather across the street in the Alamo Plaza. According to Loudwire (link here), he was also wearing his future wife’s dress because she had taken his clothes to prevent him from doing something stupid. Doubt many people look at Ozzy Osbourne and think “genius”. While there, Linda checked the weather, saw the coming snow/sleet warnings and spun up the crazy train to get us back to South Padre Island to keep our water lines from freezing. Stayed above freezing thankfully, but definitely not conditions we drive all the way to Texas for! Make the most of it as I was able to add not one, but TWO lifers yesterday. While those are awaiting their stint in the digital darkroom, decided to get back on the bird wagon and feature this creature.

Black-Throated Green Warbler found on Dauphin Island in April 2021

Our colorful specimen today also represents a +1 lifer for me. Unfortunately, not eligible for my “Average Year” tally as this Warbler was found on our trip to Dauphin Island last April. That trip is still paying off dividends and a quick look at my queue indicates it will be for many more posts this year as well.

Hit the jump for more on this secretive Warbler.

Continue reading Quick Change Artist

Got Keratin Scales?

I must say, this weather we are experiencing pretty much sucks. True to form, Texas weather has continued against the norm, assuredly due to us being … wait for it … in TEXAS! The cool temps shifted off a bit only to be replaced by constant sprinkles if not all out rain – Linda is currently driving through sheets of rain so I can focus on getting a post out. A week to go and I only have half my self-imposed monthly quota out. Definitely do not want to break my multi-year streak in the first month of the new year. For the birders out there, we just left the Big Tree area in Rockport (outside of Goose Island State Park). We made a quick stop there to see if the “secret” birding targets were out and about. They were, so we are now officially on our way to Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge to see what is playing in the rain there. Not very optimistic, but it is on our way and now that we are 3 weeks into the “Average Year” (link here) we do not want to leave any checks on the table. I need to update that Chronicles page, but for a quick update, Ron is sitting at 152 and my counter sits a tad beyond at 154. Ron made a nice addition to our tracking spreadsheet which shows the total unique species between us which is at 170. I expect that number to significantly outpace our individual numbers until I return home due to the fact he is picking up checks not available down here and vice versa. Feeling good so far as my year count is over half of my official life list count. There are still +1L’s (Lifers) in the queue I didn’t get to and some nice adds while down here, but still technically correct per the tracker in the nav bar.

I was able to stave off some of the BaRwW (Birds are Rats with Wings) Consortium hate mail and rowdy protests outside Intrigued headquarters with the recent non-feathered post. Decided to go ahead and throw them another bone as they are a fickle bunch (you should see their weekly newsletter).

Alligator at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island in April 2021

Definitely NOT a bird (but there might be a way to squeeze one in – hold that thought).

Hit the jump to read more about our scaly feature.

Continue reading Got Keratin Scales?

Got Crabs?

I have figured out how Linda and I can make some side money. The beauty of it is we literally do not have to do ANYTHING to earn it, simply stay home for a set period of time during the month of January. Before you get any wrong ideas…it is legal.. at least I think. I’ll let you in on the secret as this business is based on something that isn’t transferable or subject to hostile takeovers….at least I think. The working name for or LLC is “Cold Prevention Limited”. Premise, those enjoying the south will pay us to STAY home minimally the month of January. Last year we brought Texas an ice and snow storm that took them out for weeks. This year, we just fled San Antonio as they were bracing for 20mph winds, freezing temps and sleet. Trying to get below the frost line, we made it back to balmy South Padre Island. That would be a Midwest balmy 46 degrees with 25mph winds. Locals are bundled up like they have tickets to watch Woolly Mammoths juggle Penguins.

Ghost Crab found on a Dauphin Island beach in April 2021

All preventable, of course. Pay your Cold Prevention Limited Club fee (annual of course) and Linda and I agree to say in the broke state of IL during the winter months. Our bad karma stays out of your state and you get to enjoy the seasonably warm weather you have come to expect. Our toes will be cold, but we can snuggle in our blankets made out of hundred dollar bills. For today, need to get this post finished up before a horde of campers march on us with torches and pitchforks!

Hit the jump to find out more about this crusty creature above.

Continue reading Got Crabs?