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

Just Some Butters to Brighten Your Day

So last post I tried to cheer up the world with some cute furries and a few of their friends. Not sure it worked, but hell it was worth a try. Things are going from bad to worse here as our tax evading governor has now put my state on lockdown scheduled to begin tomorrow at 5pm or so. All non-essential establishments shuttered. This resulted in a quick run to our local grocery store to pick up a few essentials to make it through the next couple of weeks. As I watched the metal shelves slowly reveal themselves I could only think back to my high school days in the retail industry 5- 11pm during the week and 8s on the weekends. Those days were hard enough, yet nothing like what these workers were having to go through now. I also thought about my blogger friend across the pond going through the exact same chaos. So, thought I’d dedicate today’s post to B over at Butterflies to Dragsters.

First off a warning – if you want good shots, got to B’s site. I suck at these winged missiles and my rig really isn’t set up to get the detail they deserve. Not to mention keeping The Beast sighted on these unpredictable Butters will put a serious hurt on the arms. Secondly, you’d think these beauties would be easy to identify – unique patterns, varying color profiles, how hard can it be… answer damn hard. Eventually got what I thought were some close reference pictures and went with it – thank god for DuckDuckGo.

Okay, here we go…

Butterfly from Minnesota Trip July 2017

Found this specimen on our trip up to Minnesota back in July 2017. Birding happened to be a little thin where we were at so I went looking for some other targets. There were tons of these Butters hanging out in the parking lot. I would spot a particularly colorful one, get the glass on it.. shuffle back to get it into focus range and press… well, start to press the shutter when it would take off. Time after time they did this to me. Finally got one or two in the tin and then decided I needed to get a shot of it fully open. Must have been quite the comedy routine for Linda as I ran around trying to get one to stay around long enough and willing to fold its wings down.

Butterfly from Minnesota Trip July 2017

Hit the jump to see a few more average shots of beautiful creatures.

Continue reading Just Some Butters to Brighten Your Day

Coronatherapy

Howdy everyone! It seems the world is under a bit of stress as of a late that quite frankly is making everyone batshit crazy. I was thinking to myself that the world just needs to relax a bit, take a deep breath and get their vitals back under control. It’s times like this the US.. if not the world, should be coming together. Instead we have the lamestream media lathering everyone up and politicians using the virus as a soapbox for whatever ax they feel they need to grind. If only we took this much national interest in stopping childhood cancer or helping veterans integrate back into our communities – but we don’t. Instead we run around calling everyone a racist if they call out Wuhan while being perfectly okay with Ebola. Toilet paper may be in short supply, but stupidity appears to be in abundance. I feel sorry for those on the front lines – the doctors willing to risk exposure to alleviate the symptoms of others, the truckers who drive tirelessly to deliver TP and other essentials to our local stores, the retail clerks who put the product on the shelves and those who continue to make product to keep society going. Countless others of course making it happen – to those I salute you.

Decided we need something to cheer us all up. So, for the next couple of posts I’m going to focus on things that will hopefully put a smile on your face and maybe warm your heart a bit. Not much, but at this point – maybe every little bit helps. Will probably be light on words, but heavy on cute things like …

Bunny at Clinton Lake, June 2014

There, any chance that made you smile … just a bit. That’s a Clinton Lake IL Bunny and I just want to grab it up and cuddle it. Although, before I did that I’d take that nasty tick off it (just below the ear in the neckline). Thought I’d point that out in case Ron saw it without warning and he jolted back in terror – not a fan of ticks that Ron ha!

IL Bunnies, not your thing? Well, how about a Rocky Mountain National Park Bunny!?!

Bunny taken at Rocky Mountain Park, Estes Park, CO May 2014

Hit the jump, there might a few more smiles under there!

Continue reading Coronatherapy

A Case of the Blues in the Ill

The hysteria continues to thrive around us. Shelves laid bare in the paper aisle, shopping carts full of anything that has the word antibacterial on it and to top it off we have people that aren’t even accountable for the outcome pontificating on TV about how they would solve the crisis – comical in the instances where they were in charge and didn’t do jack. Regardless, since my last post they have closed down all our state parks, banned eating in restaurants and shuttered bars. Wait, this just in, CDC is discouraging any gathering over 50 people. So, now not only are my official races canceled I can’t even continue with my training runs in the safety of Jubilee State Park. Hell, I can’t even bird in my favorite park which means I have no way to keep the internal crazies at bay.

Eastern Bluebird found at Jubilee State Park June 2017

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of the Blues.

Continue reading A Case of the Blues in the Ill

A Walk in the Park

I can only assume things are getting .. if not already been.. crazy wherever you might call home. All the large events have now been canceled (including two of my scheduled races for April), schools have been shuttered, remote work has been instituted where possible and now we officially have our first confirmed case of the Coronavirus in our local area. I’ll spare you the political gamesmanship that is going on at the same time beyond the tidbit my tax evading governor of our broke state is on TV complaining that people are continuing to go outside – the horror, the horror (oh, but he still wants everyone to go out and vote on Tuesday – long live politics). Will be interesting to see how this all plays out. Lemons out of lemonade, there’s extra time to devote to the image backlog.

Birds of Jubilee State Park - June 2017

The queue can definitely use the extra attention now that it has been drastically inflated thanks to the discovery of the previously mentioned missing directory. Being that it is currently snowing here in the heart of Illinois, decided to take you on a virtual bird walk. There was a series of shots in the queue taken back in June of 2017 courtesy of a stroll through my favorite local state park – Jubilee College. It happens to be only a mile south of us – our woods and those of my neighbor’s all link to this park. A lot of my free time is spent there either training on hills or enjoying birding hikes on their many trails. This collection is more focused on the bird variety discovered that day than the photographic execution. Sometimes you just need to focus on the joy of being outdoors and experiencing nature leaving the stress of getting the camera and light settings mastered. Sean O’Connell said it best “Sometimes I don’t. If I like a moment, for me, personally, I don’t like to have the distraction of the camera. I just want to stay in it.”

Birds of Jubilee State Park - June 2017

Hit the jump to do a little virtual birding!

Continue reading A Walk in the Park

Yellow and Orange in Yellow

I have always found units of measure to be the foundation for life. They have the unique ability to deliver a multitude of feelings. Used at the appropriate time they can bring happiness, yet can be used deviously to bring on depression. Similarly playing the fence to deliver a feeling of accomplishment while equally adept at demoralizing. Of course, there’s the inherent use to impress although quickly turned to deliver a sobering cold fish slap across the face. It might be hard to imagine a tiny 5 letter word like “units” having such an impact on our day to day activities. Perhaps you need some examples. Clearly it sounds a whole lot better to North American males to hear their average life expectancy is 27,740 days rather than a mere 76 years. Better yet, how about 665,760 hours – now we’re talking. Nothing like walking into work touting you’ve just completed a 50K only to have some snide remark like “well, that’s only around 30 miles” – bastard! Hey buddy, that’s 158,400 feet back at ya’. Everything equals out of course, as the consumption rates clearly differ, but the fact remains that numbers are a double edged dagger (keeping with the pointy things theme from last post). So, by now you are probably wondering where I’m heading with all this. Well, 1 year ago we came upon this interesting bird.

Hooded Grosbeak found at Yellowstone National Park in May 2013

See, you are probably thinking to yourself, “man, Bri’s on his game for today’s post – so unlike him to deliver a snap to post execution in a single year. Way to go Bri!” (that would be both the feeling of accomplishment and impression if you are keeping score). Yep, this post was from 2013 and comes to us from Yellowstone National Park. Quick math, carry the 1, subtract the denominator, build a 3×3 matrix or whatever the crap they do in common core these days… wait a minute that is more than a year. Nope, one itty bitty cute and cuddly “dog” year.

Hooded Grosbeak found at Yellowstone National Park in May 2013

Hit the jump to find out what the latest add to the birding list is.

Continue reading Yellow and Orange in Yellow