Well, It’s a Bird, but Your Guess is as Good as Mine

My typing fingers are worked to the bone, my eyes struggle to remain open and my body has become one with the office chair.  Yet, I am pleased since this post brings me to the end of the wildlife shots from the Yellowstone vacation last year.  It is slightly embarrassing to have taken this long to get this done, but we literally have thousands (yes plural) of shots from that trip.  Needless to say I haven’t even scratched the surface of all the great shots Linda took – especially the water fall silks.

This last set is an interesting one in the sense your guess is as good as mine as to what these birds are.  I probably went through the field guides about 30 times trying to pin these birds down with very little success.  As with the unknown ducks, these may be shots of females that are not sufficiently described in the guides or possibly migrated out of their standard regions and thus are not usually seen there.  If I am lucky, one of my millions of readers (you believing that?) will recognize one and drop me a comment.

Fasten your seatbelts, the mystery tour is starting.  Basically all I have to go on is the silhouette of this particular bird which is very little help when trying to identify a bird.  Based on comparing the head outline and the wider fantail, my guess is an Olive-sided Flycatcher.  Admittedly, the tail is a little wider than the guide specimen, but other than that it appears pretty close.  It also says they sit on the highest twigs.. well, that appears to match.

I spotted this particular bird out in the middle of a large field (and pretty far out).  I was unable to get a good clean shot of the bird mainly due to the impressive air acrobats that were being executed at the time.  Twisting, turning, diving, loops, it was was quite impressive.  It may have been attacking prey but it never came up with anything.  It was probably just showing off to a potential mate.  It really didn’t match exactly like any of the hawks in the various books beyond the tail striping.  There is a lot of white on the underwings which doesn’t fit with my decision to identify it as a Red-tailed Hawk.

You know, I am still not sure about this one.  The red-tailed doesn’t really have the striping this one has and in this shot, the profile looks a lot leaner.  None of the other specimens really have the whiteness shown under the wings.  There is a chance it is an Osprey, but it would be much darker on top.  Just a second, this is bugging me, let me check another reference…..  sigh, I just can’t tell.  I am less confident it is a red-tailed hawk now and now considering a juvenile Broad-winged Hawk or possibly an American Kestrel.    Note I asked Linda for her opinion and she decided it was a never before seen bird and to name it after me.  This is the kind of help I’m dealing with people 8^(

The next one is probably a Tree Swallow.  It’s a crappy shot, but decided to include it because it was clearly an inspiration for something.  Any guesses?  If you said our stealth wing planes you’re tracking with me.  It would be interesting to know if this is where they got the idea from … or maybe not interesting to know if they’d have to kill me after telling me.

If the hawk above was hard to decide, this one is downright impossible.  As with the hawk, I’ve scoured my resources looking for some clue that would lead me to the proper identification.  There were a number of these birds flying around the rising steam pools around Yellowstone.  This particular one would fly around for awhile and then land in the rocks for a brief rest.  I almost with with a White-throated Swift, but the guides says it never perches.  Never is such a definite word but my pictures never show one clinging to the rocks.

The Violet-green Swallow does nest in colonies on cliffs which checks with my visuals.  Clearly there is room for debate on this one.  Well, not such much debate as I’d probably cave in to any viable alternative (that matches that region).

Strangely enough, this bird exactly matched none of the blue colored birds in the books.  It clearly has blue wings, but the head and body are sporting a pretty solid grey.  It is this grey that makes me throw out the Mountain Bluebird (which is all blue) .  It also lacks any orange which rules out the Western Bluebird, the Eastern Bluebird, the Blue Grossbeak and the Lazuli Bunting.

I also know the Blue Jay and the Steller’s Jay so that left me with the Western Scrub-Jay.  In contrast, it is suppose to have a bluer head the picture being compared to shows fatter in the body.  It did say it likes to hang around campsites and picnic areas which coincides with where these pictures were taken.

Here are two pretty poor shots of a interesting bird.  It is actually the first bird other than the finch I’ve seen sporting the bright yellow markings.  It refused to sit still for a microsecond in order to get the lens focused, but for the most part you can see the yellow on the rump and the second one shows some yellow on the head.  Based on those weak observations, I have officially called this a Yellow-rump Warbler.

Apparently the female is a little duller in the head (coloring fools 8^)  so the above one is likely a female.  The fuzzy shot below is likely of a male because it is smarter.. I mean sharper colored.

Okay, it’s audience participation time.  Hit the jump to see more!

Continue reading Well, It’s a Bird, but Your Guess is as Good as Mine

Just About a Wrap on Vacation Birds

As promised previously, I’m cranking through the remaining photo shots from last year’s vacation.  This year’s vacation is closing fast and since we are headed to a state I’ve never been, the assumption is the shutters will be snapping non-stop.  I have already picked up that region’s field guide and perusing it from time to time in order to set my wildlife checklist.  Last year almost all the animals on the list were checked off, with the exception of the Wolf and Mountain Goat.  Time is short today so I better get to this set of birds.  The first image is of a Chickadee that is fairly common both around my house and apparently out there.

I mainly added this picture because I liked how the little one was tucked inside the evergreen branches.  The field guide actually claims this is a Mountain Chickadee, but to be honest it looks exactly like the ones outside my window as I type this blog.  It does say the habitat is coniferous forests.  Based on this photo, they nailed it.  Wow, as I looked out the window to verify with a chickadee on my feeder, I spotted a raccoon holding onto a branch above my feeder and paw over paw pulling up my bird feeder over the squirrel baffle.  Please hold while I deal with this evil spawn.  …….  the problem is solved.  Geesh, it’s 5:44pm in the afternoon, they are definitely getting bolder.

The next set of photos is from a small pond we stopped at because it had a ton of creatures flying out and diving under a bridge next to the road.  They were flying so fast I couldn’t really tell what they were, so I decided to get out and try to figure it out.  The first consideration of bats were thrown out pretty quick due to the coloring, which led to some type of swallow.  Although I clipped this one, it did show the coloring pattern that led to the identification.  Nothing like trying to look through the viewer and try to get one of these bullets in your field of shot.

I was in the process of putting the lens cap back on the camera and closing up shop when all of a sudden one of the swallows fell completely out of the sky and landed on the water.  Finding this odd, I ended up taking the cap back off in order to use the zoom to get a better view of the scene.  There the bird remained motionless just floating on the water for what must have been at least 3 minutes.

The assumption was it was dead for what reason remained a mystery.  Eventually the little guy stirred a bit and began to come to life.  Slowly it started to beat the wings to build up momentum to escape the water.

Likely due to the extra weight from the wet wings, it was quite a struggle before it was able to gain flight again.  This shot is actually one of my favorites as it was taken just a split second after reaching freedom.

I am hoping it is just a shadow, but the shot actually looks like it might have left some blood where it landed.  Based on the amount of birds flying around at break neck speeds, the odds are it collided with another swallow and lost consciousness for a little bit.  It looked fine as it gained altitude, but eventually I lost it in the swirling mass so best wishes.

Please hit the jump to see the rest of the set.

Continue reading Just About a Wrap on Vacation Birds

What the Duck Is It?

I’m about one day away from going completely nuts due to not having Internet access from my main computer.  This is suppose to be resolved on Tuesday when the new satellite dish is installed.  Until then, I am forced to use my wife’s computer which has to be the crappiest Dell (Studio XPS) I’ve ever used.  Not only is this ridiculously hot thanks to the bad engineering design to have the lid close off the back vent when the lid is open, but the scratch pad mouse will float the cursor randomly if you just wave your thumbs over it.

I do need to persevere though and get through the vacation pictures.  This particular set is essentially a set of ducks of which I have been unable to locate in any of my three bird field guides.  This is likely due to being females and for some reason a majority of the guides will show a male specimen and then simply describe the female version.  It may just be me, but I find this a very frustrating approach for identifying birds.  Usually I can luck out and snap a male with the female which allows me to simply verify the image with the text for the male, but without a starting point, you are basically trying to wade through every description.  After going through this process a couple of times, I have given up and will simply provide the images in hopes someone out there can help me out.

But first, here is one I could actually identify due to how common it is where I live.  We walked up to Nymph Lake in Rocky Mountain National Forest.  Unfortunately, the trail is actually uphill the entire way which did not win me any points with my wife.  I think she was just about ready to beat me over the head with the tripod when we finally reached the destination.  One of the first things we saw coming up to the lake was:

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a mallard with its head in the water, but the interesting thing was how long he maintained this position.  He would literally do a beak stand in the water for over a minute before bringing his head back up.  5 seconds of rest and he would go right back to that position.  It seemed like some kind of inside duck joke on visitors (or an inside joke between Linda and I if she won the lottery which will remain a secret).  This went on for the entire time we were at the lake.  Still intrigued as to the reason, I happened to pan to the right a little and it all came crystal clear.

The dude was just showing off for the ladies.  This is probably the duck equivalent to Val Kilmer doing stupid muscle poses during a sand volleyball game (except Val was with all males by the way).  A quick funny story.  On the way back down, I saw a small little snake dart into some rocks from the side of the path.  Knowing Linda is deathly afraid of them, I calmly mentioned she should go ahead of me (while I blocked vision from the snake).  She somehow put two and two together and started freaking out which included grabbing my shirt and literally ripping it to pieces.  Next thing I know, one of my favorite shirts now has its sleeve seam completely ruined.  Let that be a lesson to myself – next time, she’s going to have wished she hadn’t stepped on one and I’m keeping her hands off my clothes.

Since there a few unknown duck shots, I’ll put them after the jump.  Again, if you recognize any of them, please drop a comment.

Continue reading What the Duck Is It?

Hoofing It

I just noticed my WordPress dashboard is indicating I passed a milestone of such.  Apparently a couple of posts ago I hit my 200th blog post.  Seems like yesterday when I started this whole blog thingy, but in reality it’s the middle of the third year.  Yeah, it has been work at times, but it gives me a change to show off some of my photos along with things that happen to catch my attention.  I definitely appreciate you taking the time to peruse my ramblings and offer up comments from time to time.

Apparently, Linda and I have been poisoned by the Par-A-Dice deli tonight.  My money is on the cheese fries, but the jury is still out – well, the stomach jury has definitely provided a verdict.  While waiting for this to pass, I figured a bonus post was in order.  This one will close out the large mammals from the Yellowstone trip last June.  Still trying get caught up in preparation for the upcoming vacation, this should leave me with some bird shots and a collection of water themed snaps that stood out while reviewing the vacation portfolio.  Ironically, Linda and went out on a shoot yesterday and now we have about 10 more blog topics… guess there is really no such thing as catching up.

This is a miscellaneous set and not all tack sharp by any means.  Let’s start with an Elk.

These animals are simply majestic to look at.  Although not the largest rack of the ones spotted on this trip, it was definitely up there based on size and weight.  Not being an expert on antlers, it is hard to tell how mature this one was.  The antlers were still covered with velvet and for all I know still growing.  According to the guide, they can grow 5′ long.  Oh, and they can run 35mph.  They are also called Wapiti which is Shawnee for Pale Deer.  Come for the pictures, leave a little smarter 8^).  Amazingly, these beasts were not bothered by us and generally just focused on grazing.  This buck happened to look over resulting in a perfect pose.

If you caught the previous Bison post, you know there are plenty of them out there.  Another plentiful animal is the Pronghorn.  By the time we got to South Dakota you couldn’t go 5 miles without seeing them off the side of the road.

Not one of my better pictures, but for some reason I didn’t take any other photos of them.  This is a buck per the short black mane.  Contrasting that with the elk, the male pronghorn antlers only reach about 6″ (with a extra 9″ sheath that is shed in the winter).  Although slightly slower than the elk, these guys can run 30mph for 15 miles with bursts up to 70mph making them a tough prey.  Another interesting piece of information is, thanks to conservation, they are more abundant than they were in the 1900s.  By the way, they are part of the antelope family if you were wondering.

Go ahead and hit the jump, there are two other specimens for your viewing pleasure

Continue reading Hoofing It

Well, It’s a Critter and It’s Furry (Pt 2 of 2)

As promised, this is the second part of my two part post on furry critters.  If I was guessing on some of the categorization of the critters in the last blog, then I’m pulling them out of certain somewhere with this set.  It is hard enough to classify birds, but these animals are about impossible to distinguish one from another especially when they have essentially the same fur coloring.  So, I have taken some liberties.  Due to limited references and numerous inconsistencies on the web, there is a high probability that the animals are not properly named.  Take for instance this creature.

Based on the Rocky Mountain Guide from Audubon (region where this photo was taken), the closest I can tell is that it is a Rock Squirrel.  Am I sure about this… NO.  However, if looks like a Rock Squirrel, walks like a Rock Squirrel and unable to squeak English to correct me, we’ll be going with Rock Squirrel.  On the size scale, this was the largest off all of them I was able to snap a shot of.  Based on the glint in his eye, he seems ready to rip me to shreds.  And then there was this squirrel.

Now there were two options for this fur monster.  It has a distinguished grey color and a distinctive white outline of the eye.  After spending hours scouring the Internet and reading the paltry paragraphs in the field guide, the options are either an Abert’s Squirrel or a Red Squirrel.  The Abert’ Squirrel is suppose to be grey (check), has a white underbelly (check), tufts of hair coming off the ears (uhh, hmm) and white highlights on the end of the tail (crap).  In contrast, the Red Squirrel has a rounded ear (check), white underbelly (check), pale reddish grey coloring (uhh, hmm).  Playing the odds, the money is on Red Squirrel.

Wait a minute, now we have the pale reddish gray we were expecting in the last picture, but the tufts are there now which were more indicative of the other squirrel.  So do we have two different squirrels here or is one in some kind of disguise to hide his super squirrel ninja skilz.  One minute innocent cute and cuddly creature, the next chopping nuts with a pair of squirrel chucks.  Okay, probably not a likely scenario so sticking with the Red Squirrel option.  Oh, and based on about 40 minutes of searching the net, there appears to be a lot of images labeled similarly showing a creature with the same dark grey coloring as in the previous photo.  Maybe the fur coloring changes with maturity or seasons.  This was not confirmed with the weak descriptions in the field guide.  Although this may be the missing link.

This appears to be the transition specimen.  The fur coloring blends in between the deeper grey and the reddish hue.  It also has a similar posture (and eyeliner) along with the tufts from the first picture but still showing the rounder ear structure mentioned in the guide.  For the record, I do like this particular shot since it has both foreground and background depth (nicely blurred) and hint of symmetry with the rock.  After about 5 different cropping experiments, the center crop won out since that allowed for keeping the foreground indicator and still showing the round of the rock.  To critique myself, next time I’ll move about 15 degrees to keep the background limb from impaling the subject.  For snicks, here’s another shot of what appears to be the perfect specimen for a Rock Squirrel based on the Audubon guide.

Makes you want to reach out and pet it doesn’t it?  Wait, two words… Squirrel Fu.

Hit the jump to see a couple of other squirrel like creatures captured in the Yellowstone region.

Continue reading Well, It’s a Critter and It’s Furry (Pt 2 of 2)

Two for the Furry Critters (Pt 1 of 2)

If you read my last post, this one should not be a surprise at this content. I was just relaxing a bit before my race in Chicago tomorrow. This will be the first race since experiencing an injury on the right (inner) side of the left knee back in July (during the Bix7 race). It has been a pretty long journey back to this point with an MRI, x-rays, two-a-week therapy sessions and a regiment of 1.5 hours a night of stretching and strengthening. I will not be pushing the pace, but still hoping everything makes it through alright. The flexibility has definitely improved, but unfortunately, the cardio has taken a hit being only able to crank out 2-3 miles every couple of days. As a lesson to all the kiddies out there, don’t be taken by the latest BS articles against stretching.

As you can tell by the title, this is a two part series focused on the rather cute looking squirrel/chipmunk families. We came across a number of these critters during our vacation and they always seemed like they were living the Carpe Diem. There didn’t appear to be intimidated by my constant picture taking and in some cases it seemed like they were actually posing for the camera. Of course, they are probably all cute and cuddly on the outside while plotting world domination at night in their dens. First step: act cute, second step ehhhhh, third step, world domination.

In all honesty, I had a difficult time actually distinguishing the various types of squirrels and chipmunks so ended up making some educated guesses on what was what.  This particular post will focus on the dominant grouping call Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrels.  There appears to be some similarities with other species, but the stripes all appeared similar on this set and the similar critter (White -Tailed Antelope Squirrel) had white underneath the tail.

Essentially, if they had the dual colored stripes on the side and the white outlines of the eye they were labeled golden-mantled.  If you see any images that are incorrectly identified, please make a comment so that can be corrected.  Of all the pictures we took during the trip, a shot of the Raven and the following shot are my two favorites.  We also had these images blown up for entries into photography contests and are now proudly displayed in our house.  You know the drill, the image here isn’t nearly as nice as the non-reduced version, but hopefully you will appreciate the coloring and the cute pose.  This is also one of the few pictures that I didn’t follow the thirds cropping rules.

Well, to be honest, I did follow thirds since the floral in the lower left and the texture and coloring in the log in the upper right were the features that really make the image appealing to me.  The living, the dead and the cute all rolled together in a nice package.  Just to give you a better feel for why I like this particular photo so much, I cropped another version for you.  This one is closer to real size of the photo.

A smile crosses my face every time I pass by this picture.  With that said, the critics apparently hated it probably due to their overly rigid rules about only good pictures are taken in the morning or night and the thirds violation yada yada yada.  Rather than get myself lathered up on that topic, I’ll just let it go and let you decide for yourself.  I love opinions on any of my photos so feel free to let me know what you think – don’t worry, I’m a big boy and can take the bad.  While we are there, let’s toss out a similar picture.

This picture has essentially the same subject, the same background and foreground setting with on exception.  The foliage was cropped out in the zoom.  As a result, it is still pretty cute, but just doesn’t seem as appealing as the full shot above.  You will be happy to know I did follow the thirds for that crop and it does honestly help in this particular picture.   I probably should have reduced the light some on the little one’s head to pop it a tad more, but overall I have taken a lot worse… and yes, I know it was not taken in the morning or the late afternoon.

Hit the jump to see the rest of the shots featuring this furry critter.

Continue reading Two for the Furry Critters (Pt 1 of 2)

Bison: They’re Pretty Cool for the First 50 Times

I have a small Blog crisis.  Linda and I have just decided on our upcoming vacation destination.  I’ll keep that location a secret for now, but I can tell you it involves another National Park.  This means we will be burning through our camera batteries again.  Unfortunately, I STILL have to get through some wildlife sets we took on our last vacation to Yellowstone.  In an attempt to resolve this backlog, the next group of posts is probably going to be dominated by wildlife pictures.  Hopefully you won’t mind too much.  I do have some interesting observations as of late and will try to sprinkle them in where I can -heck, I might even exceed my standard output… although running season is kicking in now so the training hours go up as well.

Enough whimpering, let’s get to the big dudes in the forest.  Today’s set is a collection of Bison captured at various times throughout Yellowstone and likely a few from the Grand Tetons and Rocky Mountain parks as well.

At first, these large beasts are unique and exciting.  The camera comes out, you take about 50 pictures while marveling in their size.  The one above actually caught me a little off guard.  The real shot was slightly to the left capturing the water, the mountains in the back and a nice clump of evergreens off to the right.  Unfortunately, that shot didn’t make it up to the blog site (not exactly sure why, but it wasn’t there when went to link to it), but trust me it was pretty cool.  In an effort to give a couple of crop options, I took a few pan shots.  On the final pan right shot, the bison came into focus.  This caused a slight internal jolt realizing that not checking the surroundings when on a shoot could get you in some serious trouble.  Mental note taken to scan the area before bringing the camera up to shoot position!

I really like the original version of this image.  The cropping and zooming took a little of the life out of it, but I like the multiple depths through the pines and then back to the lake and beyond.

After awhile, you realize that Bison sightings are not that rare in that region.  In fact, at one point along the trip, we basically never stopped, but simply admired them as we drove by.  Although, one funny thing did happen while admiring this set of bison.  With the long glass on, we could still get nice photos from the established paths through the park.  A lady with a point and shoot apparently needed to decrease the distance between her four legged subjects and proceeded to walk out towards them.  Catching Linda’s attention, I pointed to the scene and told her to keep her camera ready for America’s Funniest Videos.  I blogged on this previously, but the interesting part of that eye witness was the fact some bison offspring were hidden right behind one of the bison on the ground.  Having no idea how protective bison parents were of the young, I assumed this was NOT the thing to do.  It went off okay, she got her shot and returned without ever realizing the potential danger she was in.  Darn, no videos for AFV.  By the way, here were the young from a different angle.

Are they not the cutest things?  Life must be great in the wild when you know your parents are at the top of the food chain.  I doubt the wolves would venture into this danger, there are too many elk and less aggressive prey out there for them.  Sure, the adult bison became somewhat of a bore after the frequent sightings, but I’m a sucker for wildlife with their young.  Linda and I didn’t pass up an opportunity to shoot a few cute family scenes.

Hit the jump to see a few of those shots!

Continue reading Bison: They’re Pretty Cool for the First 50 Times

Winged Justice

Apparently my brother has seen fit to have a multi-part post making it very apparent I need to step up my game or be lost in the dust.  To offset this recent charge, I’m reaching into my bag of tricks and pulling out one of my favorite photo sets.  Needless to say, the topic is winged in nature but with a little extra.  Our Nikons get heavy usage whether it be on photo outings with my wife, capturing the sights on vacation, dog shows or just about any event worth reliving in the future … oh, and of course potential blog posts.  Every once in awhile there are some that make it into our favorites collection.  Sometimes we luck out and the photo is stunningly tack sharp.  Other times the tipping point is a unique setting, an interesting composition or a rare sight.   You may not even be able to tell from the picture itself because the special aspect of the photo was the effort involved in capturing it or pure luck of being in the right place at the absolute right time.  I am fond of this set mainly for the latter reasons, with a smattering of interesting composition and rare sight.

For the curious, I was shooting with the Nikon D90 at the extent of a 80-200mm Nikon glass shooting at ISO 1600 in a desperate attempt to freeze flight.  This results in the age old battle of speed versus grain and in this case I opted for the noise.  I need to briefly set this up for you.  Having spent the morning at Menards loading treated lumber for the bridge, I was slightly drained on the drive back home.  About a mile from the house, something caught my eye coming from the upper left.  Turning my head, my eyes locked onto a huge red tailed hawk in a tight dive right towards my truck.  Not sure what was going on, I hit the brakes in time to see the hawk begin to raise up, extend the wings and drop the landing gear.  With claws protruding, the hawk sailed in front of the windshield and dropped with authority in the ditch to my right.  Thankfully, there was no one else on the road at that time because I just sat there stunned with my mouth open relieved I was able to stop the truck in time.  After about 15 seconds, the hawk unfurled the wings and took flight landing in some tall Hedge trees further off into the woods.  At that point the heart sank because I had no way to capture this magnificent bird.  The truck was a mile from the house and loaded down with hundreds of dollars of lumber.  Screw it, some things are just worth taking some risks.  The truck was put in gear and the accelerator floored.  There was a slight scare as I turned into the driveway (slid would probably be a better word), but it was in 4 wheel drive due to the weight and the back wheels brought it back in line.  I flew into the house, grabbed the camera (thankfully had the right glass already on it) and jumped back into the truck and made the return trek – yes, with the wood since the only alternative was to run and I didn’t want to risk the camera.  Having already resigned to the fact the moment was likely already gone, I pulled off the road and started scanning the original bank of trees.  IT WAS STILL THERE! but definitely at a ways out there.  So, the first part of the equation was good, but was the the tipping point aspect still there?  This is rhetorical, of course.

By any chance, did you take a close look at the photo and notice anything intriguing?  The reason it was worth this effort (at least in my opinion) was that the hawk was actually on a specific mission and not just randomly scaring the crap out of motorists.  Nope, this red-tailed hawk was having some lunch.  As it rose up out of the ditch, there was a snake entwined in its talons.

Hopefully the zoomed shot provides a better view of the prey.  It was pretty cool seeing the snake trying to wriggle free, but that hawk was having none of that.  To be honest, I suspected the snake’s head may already be missing and the muscles were just convulsing by the time I made it back.  It would have had a few minutes to much while hunting down the camera.  It noticed my return giving me all of 3 to 4 seconds to get the camera settings the way I wanted before it started taking flight again.

Hit the jump to see the rest of the pictures in this set – unless of course you are squeamish, have a snake phobia or a PETA idiot that thinks the hawks should be nibbling on a stalk of celery instead.

Continue reading Winged Justice

One Nervous Tick

It is not often that a blog opportunity just drops into my lap.  I by that I mean literally drops into my lap!  In case you did not get the chance to read my last post, I had my Macro glass out taking pictures of some metal shavings that were wrecking havoc on my whirlpool faucets.  As it turns out, during the afternoon before that picture was taken I was out working in the woods trying to clean up the brush from last year’s Operation Parkify.  I came in and decided to get the images created for the post (trust me, that steps takes far longer than the actual post text takes).  I finally got the camera, Macro glass and tripod all set up next to computer desk in order to capture the metal shavings.  As I was checking something on my computer I noticed something strange on wrist.  On closer investigation a controlled (and very manly) eeeesh was emitted.  Now, snakes do not bother me much, spiders fascinate me and bees/wasps will live another day unless they make a stupid decision to annoy me.  What does slightly raise the blood pressure is this!

I am not sure exactly what causes this concern, but it is likely due to the fact they are CREEPY looking and very difficult to actually kill.  Scratch that [hehehe clever pun], they are actually very easy to kill when you are trying to remove them once they have bedded down in the skin.

Based on some literature I read (actually, my brother may have given me the reference for it sometime back), ticks supposedly do not violate the prey until a number of hours after it lands on the host.  And yes, land is the appropriate verb since contrary to a common city dweller opinion, they do not have the ability to fly forcing them to fall from trees and such on their victims.  Needless to say, there was no way this Macro opportunity was going untested.  For some reason, (let’s call him) Vlad did not want to cooperate with the artiiiiist.  No problems, a quick reach for some paper provided a means to move it into the camera zone.  Vlad must have had a flashback of kids trying to burn its legs off with a magnifying glass because he did not want to sit still under the lens (what, you never did that when you were a kid? how about smacking lightening bugs with a Wiffle ball bat?  tearing wings off of flies?  nevermind 8^).  Anyway, the tight aperture of the Macro was not liking the movement with the low depth of field.

As you can see, the front legs and body are in focus, but the top legs were likely moving and past the depth of field.  Keep in mind this particular beast is all of 7mm long.  By my guess we are about 8x-9x magnification with this Macro shot.  Now, am I crazy or is this image not on the same level as demon spawn CLOWNS?  This was a trick question since nothing is in the same league as CLOWNS, but the jury will accept any comparison to moles or our current Congress members.

The annoying thing about Vlad and his species is how hard they are to see in the woods.  Having perfectly adapted to their natural surroundings, they are basically invisible to the naked eye when lurking between the tree bark and their feather weight raises no concerns when they successfully invade your personal space.  The stain on my computer desk is a little lighter than the hues in the woods, but you can see how it starts to blend in better (compared to the yellow paper in the background above)

The odd thing about ticks around here is they tend to attack a certain member of the family far more than the others.  In fact, that member does not even have to leave the house to get them.  If one of the others are out in the woods and forget to properly check their clothes when then come back in, it is a sure thing one of Vlad’s cousins will seek that member out and start feasting.  That member happens to be Rizzi, our youngest toy poodle.  Why you ask?  Well, he happens to be bright white and this is like streetlights to moths.  I can’t count the number of times we have had to pull ticks of him – once even on his eyebrow.  We do treat him regularly to help prevent this, but these sneaky pests always find a way past the defenses.

In closing, here are a couple super zoomed pictures.  Vlad wouldn’t keep still for a even a second so a lot of the detail shots came out a tad blurry.  This particular shot shows the tiny hairs along the bloody colored legs – try getting this image out of your head come bedtime, worse yet the new associations you will have with CLOWNS hehehehe.

I wish the shot came out better, but here is one of the tip of the foot.  It looks like a tiny scalpel.

Probably so it can dig into the flesh when it goes to bury its head deep into the epidermis to start sucking that juicy red nectar.  I am betting you just developed a phantom itch 8^)

Sweet dreams everyone!

Snap, Digging Days are Over

Playtime is over my little demon claws.  In general, I am pretty lenient on the local wildlife.  As stated previously, I pretty much walked into their backyard, dug a hole and slapped a house on it and called it mine.  In payment for this land grab, I tend to let the wildlife have free run of the area.  This includes the deer who destroyed all my new evergreens I planted last year, the squirrels who constantly attack my bird feeders and the raccoons who like to dig up my mulch.  Sure, I’ll shoo them away, but they generally have the privilege of returning to the waiting paws/hoofs of their four legged companions.  However, I still have my limits.

Take for example the owner of this:

Do you have any idea how much damage this clawed paw can do?  In case you are new to this creature,  imagine if you will spending hour after hour after hour toiling away in the sun and rain to make your dwelling look as scenic as possible.  You spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars in materials and equipment to keep it in that shape for the 3 of the 4 seasons.  Then one day you wake up and it looks like the Chicago Bears held a scrimmage in your yard.   I maintain less than 2 acres of grass/landscaping of our 15.  The rest are left in their semi-natural woods state that animals are more than welcome to frolic in.  But no, the owner of this bastard appendage thinks he should be able to do whatever it wants wherever it wants:

Well, I have my limits and fortunately there are geniuses out in the free world (which is currently turning socialist, but that topic is for another time) that have studied this demon, learned their wicked ways and designed the most effective (and lethal) device to exact our revenge.  First a direct disclaimer, if you are a fan of PETA prepare to cry yourself to sleep (of course you can always ask your president to send another email to the Middle East asking them to using something other than donkeys to blow up our soldiers – nope, I haven’t forgotten nor ever will).

So what happens when my blood boils over, when my leniency is abused, when my hard work is destroyed without a hint of remorse.  Well, let me tell you, it makes a loud SNAPPING sound…. wait for it… wait for it..

This one (let’s call him Mort) isn’t going to make it home tonight.  Why isn’t Mort feeling so well anymore?  Answer: Mort decided it would be fun to shred my front yard and is suspected of tearing up my side and back yard as well.  I am also not talking about a single tunnel from one part of the woods to another.  No, this was a systematic and diabolical effort that essentially resulted in raised ground in every square foot of the impacted area.  So now the barrage of .. your fault, you didn’t kill the grubs, you didn’t put this down, you didn’t put that down, they are so cute, they are god’s creatures too, you’re evil yada yada yada.

What do I have to say to those city dwellers?  Actually nothing, I prefer pictures instead:

Kind of peaceful isn’t it?  Just hanging there enjoying the pretty day, reflecting on all good things in life … wishing it had stayed in the 13 other acres of wooded bliss.  Oh, and as far as the “cute” camps out there.  Exactly what is cute about this beast.  Sure it is has a soft and fluffy pelt, but I have to think Mort was accidentally stepped on during Creation Day.  That is probably what flattened out the front paws so bad.  Couple that with a hideous rat face and you pretty much have your fill of nightmare fodder.  Still not buying it, try this:

Granted, if god is a mole, I am going to be experiencing the “real” global warming in the future.  However, for now, I am willing to take my chances and continue to battle against the horde.  One this is for sure, I will continue to use the most lethal tool in my arsenal.

To the makers of this trap, I raise my glass and salute.  You have truly mastered this animal in much the same way Raid has been owning the nervous system of wasps and bees.   Tonight I will lay my head on my pillow and dream of grass between my toes and vibrant greens surrounding my little dwelling.

Wait a minute!!!! did I remember Rule #2…….oh crap, I think I forgot the double tap…now I’ll have…

ZOMBIE MOLES!

Honey, get the 9 – it’s gonna be a long long night.