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

Guest Feature: There’s a What in the Tree? …by Brad Marks

I am definitely not in any condition to provide you a quality post. Although my race last weekend is officially over, my legs and various other body parts (some of which I didn’t even know I had) are in a constant bicker to see who can complain the most. Advil has apparently met its match! “You torture us like that and then try to bribe us with those puny anti-inflammatory pills !?! – we tell nerves to illicit more pain you fool – now crawl into the kitchen and get us some frozen peas!!!” Such a cranky bag of parts. Anyway, I’ll eventually get to a race recap, but for now, let’s just classify it as bittersweet. While I try to get everything calmed down, blisters popped, blood cleaned off and knots pressed out, I’m once again turning wildlife post duties over to Brad. Today’s adventure is a little closer to home and definitely rings the “Intriguing” bell. I’m sure you will enjoy. Note, WordPress was rendering the images a bit too small to really see the details, so I went ahead and added links directly to the photos so you can view the full picture – you can also use the link Brad provided at the end to view the complete gallery.

Take it away Brad…

Brian and I were both fortunate enough to be able to retire at relatively young ages from the same company.  And after 30+ years of running around like a (fill in your own phrase here) it is nice to have a slow day ever now and then. (BTW, Brian still needs to learn this) One afternoon while sitting on our four-season porch reading, Jan asks “is that a raccoon in the tree?”  I grabbed my handy bird binoculars and took a look at the mulberry tree.  It was a very still day so when parts of the tree move all on their own, something larger than a bird is moving in the tree.  The critter was out at the edge of a branch near the tasty leaves, but had no mask or stripey tail.  Coincidentally my camera was nearby so I tried a few photos.  It looks like a . . . no it can’t be one of those . . . in a tree.  I ran upstairs to get my really long lens to see if I can tease out the identity.  At first, I didn’t believe what the camera was telling me.  A quick internet search revealed that yes indeed, these animals do sometimes climb trees.

Groundhog in a Tree by Brad Marks

Hit the jump to read more about this surprisingly nimble creature

Continue reading Guest Feature: There’s a What in the Tree? …by Brad Marks

Guest Feature: Infinite Regress …by Brad Marks (and Family)

Greetings everyone! By the time you are reading this post I will be passing from the severe discomfort phase and transitioning to the path paved by torture. Self-inflicted, of course, so I have no one to blame but myself for my addiction to long distance trail running – hell, I even paid good money to punish myself ha. I have always felt it is good to know one’s limits – let’s hope over the next 15+ hours, mine is somewhere past a 100K! With the focus on the pre-race fretting, the race itself and an unknown length of time required for recovery, Brad has once again thrown me a lifeline with another guest feature. He is also working on additional posts so I might have to promote him from “guest” status to Intrigued Corporate Staff Writer – this position pays the same, but it sounds far more prestigious. Hope it doesn’t cause problems with his lovely wife as our staff writers are constantly being chased down by sexy hordes of groupies. With that, I’ll let Brad take you through another island wildlife adventure.

Take it away Brad…

Have you ever seen the photo of Earth hanging in the blackness of space?  I know some people think that photo is a fake, and that there are rocks holding the flat, Photoshopped, earth in place.  There are many stories about the creation of the earth, most involved animals (elephants, turtles, birds, water, etc.).  One variation of the many involves turtles and was first referenced in an ancient Hindu text. 

Fast forward to modern times.  Two people are discussing a variation of the creation story (heavily paraphrased here). 

Person One says, “Earth was created by putting soil on a turtle’s back, growing the Earth and then holding it up.”

“If that’s the case, what is the turtle standing on?” asks Person Two.

Person One replies, “another turtle of course.”

“Then what is THAT turtle standing on?” asks Person Two.  

Person One says, “Oh no you don’t, you are not going to trick me.  It’s turtles all the way down”.

At this point you’re probably wondering why I’m talking about turtles.  After all, isn’t this a birding blog?  True.  However, if you’ve ever seen a sea turtle glide through water, the motion their flippers make in the water is very similar the motions birds use to fly through the air.  See, I could tie this story back to birds (sort of), you just had to stick with me.  Plus, turtles are really cool. 

Hit the jump to read more about these intriguing creatures!

Continue reading Guest Feature: Infinite Regress …by Brad Marks (and Family)

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

Guest Feature: Hawai’i State Bird…by Brad Marks

Well, the good news is we made it back from Witchita..I mean Wichita yesterday after 10 long hours passing through corn field after cornfield. Pulled into the driveway, bolted into the house, changed and managed to get another training run in. Perfect conditions for the latter half of the actual race – dead tired, legs and back sore from sitting so long and temps dropping as fast as the sun. Now it’s Halloween trail 7×28 (need to find a way to squeeze a few more hours out of each day). Clearly going to be a struggle to get my required posts up with the current pace of things, so pressed the bat signal once again. Brad once again came to my aid – actually, more than came to my aid, brought me not one, but TWO features to help fill the gaps (and I think he is working on another one for you). Cannot thank him enough for the assist and I know you will enjoy this second adventure. I’m going to head back into the woods now and try to get a nasty clown infestation under control – happens every year right before the big party, sigh. Time to step aside and let Brad take the helm once again. Take care and see you down the road.

……Take it away Brad

We were fortunate enough to recently enjoy a lengthy vacation on the Big Island of Hawai’i.  Our daughter and her boyfriend were able to join us for the first week.  We spent time on the beaches, snorkeled, took coffee & chocolate plantation tours, and went to a luau.  We drove to the mountains and stayed overnight on the volcano.  We hiked many miles over hardened lava and through the rainforest and near the coast to see 500-year-old petroglyphs.  We watched every sunset possible and caught a few sunrises as well.

We probably went through a gallon of reef-safe sunscreen (OK, I probably did by myself).  We maximized the “unlimited mileage” on our rental car (a little over 2,000 miles total) even though the island is not much more than 90 miles across.  You would think the Hawai’i state bird would be as obvious as the Northern Cardinal is in our home state of Illinois.  You would be wrong.  We couldn’t see more than two up close until our last five hours on the island.

Nene from Brad Marks

Hit the jump to read more of Brad’s adventure.

Continue reading Guest Feature: Hawai’i State Bird…by Brad Marks

A Chick from the Land of Witches

Coming to you tonight from Wichita, Kansas. Had to pause my Haunted Trail efforts in order to run out here for a family wedding. Could not have come at a more inconvenient time, but I have been working night and day to hopefully get far enough ahead on the trail work to compensate for the loss of 4 crucial days. I have to admit, it has given me a bit of a rest – was starting to get drained, especially with trying to finish off the rest of the pre-taper training runs. Quite fitting we ended up here as Wichita is a Choctaw Native American Indian word that means “Land of Tall Witches”. Just guessing that they were good witches or this place would have more likely been called Wicheville. Before this mountain gets any bigger, how about we turn our attention to another kind of mountain.

Mountain Chickadee found at Lake Tahoe in May 2019

Hit the jump to see more shots of this tiny mountain of a bird – oh, and I should probably clear up some liberties as well.

Continue reading A Chick from the Land of Witches

Cheetle-Jay

Hello everyone! I am back for a likely brief period of time while I’m waiting for some props to finish drying. First off, I wanted to thank you for the warm welcome you gave Brad on his first guest post. Definitely helping me out while I try to get things under control at the home base. There will be more coming from him in the future – in fact he already has some ready to go. Will try to spread out the sugar, don’t want anyone to get over-sweetened and tire of the standard fare ha!

Really good news on the running front as well. Finished my 50K simulation run last week on the approximate course the 100K will be held. Not sure what happened over there, but the CoE site looked like a tornado hit it – downed trees everywhere. Some still over the trails turning it into a wilderness obstacle course. Other areas had been cleaned of the down timber, but so many branches and wood chips were left behind I had hunt/guess to find the path at times. Will be impressed if they get all that scrub taken care prior to the race (in a shockingly short 3 weeks). The simulation did successfully remind me the actual race is not going to be “pleasant” until the moment I cross the finish line – was definitely feeling the last couple of miles of the simulation and that only gets me HALF way there – will thankfully be cooler then.

Enough of that, let’s get to the part you come here to see – the featured feathered friend of the day.

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay found at Red Rock Canyon, Clark County, NV in February 2020

Hit the jump for more of my Vegas tin.

Continue reading Cheetle-Jay

Guest Feature: An XXS Year…by Brad Marks

Brian here, I promised you something special if you behaved and I am delighted to bring you our first “Guest Feature”. Some of you may recognize Brad Marks from the many comments to my posts over the years. He has been a long-time friend of mine that started when we both had Information Technology careers at a local Fortune 50 corporation. We actually retired on the exact same day. I have always wanted to bring my readers new adventures while giving my fellow birder friends a chance to share their experiences with a broader community. A toe-tip in the blogging waters so to speak and who knows, maybe a catalyst to embark on their own blog journey – or minimally more future guest spots here. I know you will enjoy Brad’s post and will now hand over the reins and head back into the nightmare lab. Be sure and let him know how much you appreciated his effort in the comments!

……Take it away Brad.

While many of avid birders may be trying for a Big Year (700+ bird species spotted), or Medium Year (350-ish?), I’ve tried to focus (no pun intended) on going for an Extra Extra Small Year (only 45 species YTD, +6 for the Life List).  I know Brian’s loyal readers are used to a certain visual and textual representation standard so I hope this posting does not disappoint.

We (Jan and I) like to take photographic vacations, or at least vacations in very photographic places.  And while we do like to catch the local wildlife and scenery, we sometimes make focused efforts for specific subject matter.  For example, on our recent Hawaiian vacation (to celebrate a milestone anniversary) we hiked 45+ minutes, round trip, in the dark (with only mobile phone lights) to see an active lava lake.  Who wouldn’t?

We also took a day trip from the Kona Coast (desert west side) on the Big Island of Hawai’i to the Kipuka Puaulu (pronounced “kee-‘poo-kah” and “poo-‘ah-oo-loo”) Trail and nature preserve on the slopes of Mauna Loa (rainy southeast-ish side) just outside the boundary of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  Our goal was to photograph some of the Big Island’s feathered friends.  The circular trail is a little over a mile long and is a very easy hike if you have the time.  However, by the time we drove the 93 miles (2+ hours including 15 miles of switchbacks) to the preserve, the birds had all gone off for Kona coffee breaks.  All except for this one and a couple of friends.

Hit the jump to read more about Jan and Brad’s recent adventure!

Continue reading Guest Feature: An XXS Year…by Brad Marks

Now That’s Some Junk in the Goose Trunk

I am beginning to wonder if CJ (link here) is right on a previous post comment wondering if the epoxy fumes in the Nightmare Lab are starting to affect me. The last post I threw out the standard “holistic” approach to birding posts and simply zeroed in on one feature – the Night-Heron’s chicken foot galoshes. Now today, I am featuring this!

Domestic Goose found at Virginia Lake Park Reno, NV in May 2019

Granted this particular specimen looks kinda cute and for the record that is why I bothered to even take a picture of it. The issue is, I rarely bother to feature domesticated and likely hybrid birds here at Intrigued. Sure, like this one I’ll spend some digital capital and tin a few shots for my personal collection. Those images will never go to print and up until today would not be placed on the post queue – I know some of you just chuckled “he has a three year plus backlog of images and that’s with taking shots off the table – good lord, get that man an intern!?!”. Not to go too far off track, but one of my favorite authors is AJ Jacobs. One of his works, My Life as an Experiment: One Man’s Humble Quest to Improve Himself, covers his attempt to outsource his daily life to India. Every time I bring this “opportunity” up to Linda she smirks and sarcastically declares “I’m already your personal secretary you dufus”..sooo is that a yes?

Domestic Goose found at Virginia Lake Park Reno, NV in May 2019

Hit the jump to read a bit more about this rarity here at Intrigued.

Continue reading Now That’s Some Junk in the Goose Trunk