A New Warbler Addition

Since you patiently read through the last somewhat boring bird (the Mallard) post, I figured it would be prudent to now offer the latest new bird to my collection (the one I promised at the start of the Wisconsin Birds series).  With that…. drum roll … I’d like to introduce what I believe to be the Yellow-Rumped Warbler.

This male Warbler was shot at Devil’s Lake near Baraboo Wisconsin.  As with the rest of this series it was taken over last Easter Weekend.  We were actually up on the very picturesque cliffs overlooking the glacier formed lake when this bird flew over my head and landed in a nearby tree.  At the time I trying my best to capture Turkey Vultures which were circling the cliffs.  The frustration levels were mounting trying to get The Beast zeroed in and focused on those birds which, due to the height of the cliffs, were actually speeding by below us.  The yellow markings on this Warbler were pretty unique which caught my attention immediately.  Screw the Vultures, we’ve got a new bird to track down.  One thing that became painfully clear with this Warbler (and likely generalized to all of these Warblers) is it did not want to stay in one place very long at all.  It would land, give me about 3 seconds to get the big glass in position, get the exposure settings right and finally take one shot.

Hit the jump to see more pictures of this new Warbler

Continue reading A New Warbler Addition

Mallard Slumber

It occurred to me that as of late, I’ve been doing a bashing of the Mallard and thought it was time to ease up a bit.  If you recall there has been some assumptions regarding just how promiscuous this bird is – for reference, check out the muta.. I mean interesting specimens here and here.  The little known but powerful Mallard Urban Transgressions and Neglect Tracking Society has contacted me with a cease and desist.  Trust me, you do not want to stay on their bad side.  As an act of restitution, today’s featured bird is the Mallard.  Unless you live under a rock or in The City (sorry, inside college joke) you have seen one of these at your local river, lake, pond or for that matter the roadside ditch.  They are indeed the most abundant duck in North America and the male markings make it very easy to spot – note, this is not true of the female mallard which is about as common looking as you can get with the exception of the blue teal patch on their wings.  On our way back home from Wisconsin, we stopped in downtown Dells to see what was playing in the river that runs through the middle of it.  After walking a ways down the nice path they have for pedestrians I noticed this Mallard catching some Z’s under a bridge.  It must be nice to be able to carry your pillow with you wherever you go.

Due to the bridge supports and an outcropping of brush and trees, there was a limited viewing angle (I’m sure that was his intention when selecting this spot).  For about 20 minutes I wrestled with foot compositioning in a futile attempt to clear the shot of branches but still capture all the rock pedestal.  At one point in this effort, I banged the bridge beam with my knee and my yelp woke it up.  He gave a quick look around before eventually settling back into his slumber.

Eventually some of the rock had to be sacrificed to get most of the other distractions out (looks like my cropping effort on the right side was just a wee bit short but guessing it would matte out in a print anyway.  After all that work none of the shots would make my gallery list, but I’m finally starting to concentrate more on the in camera composition which results in an easier time in post processing.

I will say the subject in the above picture isn’t that exciting, but I really like the texture that came out in the water.  It kind of looks like molten glass.

Hit the jump to see some additional shots of the Mallard along with a composition discussion.

Continue reading Mallard Slumber

A Majestic Domestic Spotted in Baraboo

Once again, we are back in Baraboo, Wisconsin but this time with specimens from the Goose family.  First off, an apology.  The title of this post really doesn’t fit based on a crap load of Internet research.  After frying a bunch of synapse coming up with a clever title I hated to give it up so we are going with it.  This series of pictures was taken on our way home from our Easter stay at Chula Vista Resort.  just outside the Dells.  Our trek home took us through the city of Baraboo which always makes me shudder in fright  … who in their right mind would take the effort to make a Circus Museum?!?  I’ll answer that, a DERANGED CLOWN LOVER that’s who.  Give me a second to get the heart calmed down..

beatbeatbeatbe atbe atb e atb e atb e a tbe e a t b e a t b e a t   ahhhh that was close

Continuing on, there is a nice stream that runs through that city which can be seen from the main thoroughfare (as it heads to Devil’s Head if you are curious).  On that day we spotted a couple of birds hanging out along the shore.  Not wanting to pass up a shot opportunity I had Linda turn onto a side road for some in vehicle shots – the Beast was on the camera so there was plenty of reach.  Turns out we were stopped right next to a No Parking sign and some cars were giving us disproving looks.  Not wanting to ruffle the locals, Linda dropped me off and started cruising around while I took some more shots from the banks.  Turns out the final product had a nice surprise.

It was high day which put up a pretty good fight on the exposure effort.  Admittedly, there is some blowout just below the neck, but was able to recover a lot of the feature detail outside that (embrace the RAW).  At the time, the small LCD screen was not able to really show a unique feature of the bird, but once in the digital darkroom it came out crystal clear.  Let’s move in a bit so you can see for yourself.

That eye is just plain gorgeous.  The orange eyelids really make it pop against the white coloring.  The sun angle even gave the highly desired glint.  To do it again I would have backed the exposure off one or two stops and then brought the light back in post processing.  Recovery restored a lot of the detail around the head, so a tighter crop would take out some of the blow outs, but there needs to be some of it left – otherwise it would look like someone took an ax to it (eesh).  As an example, here is another tight crop which gives even a better view of the eye but again, a less appealing crop from an overall composition perspective… and yes, I needed to apply some additional recovery on this version to get the detail back in the head feathering.

Hit the jump to see more pictures from this post

Continue reading A Majestic Domestic Spotted in Baraboo

The X-Ducks of Wisconsin

Howdy all, I was recently reminded that we are half way through the steamy month of July and there is yet to be a post on the blog. You would think with how hot it has been in the last two weeks I’d be cranking out post after post in the comfort of my air conditioned den. On the contrary, I’ve been swamped with activities as of late which has included wrapping up phase one of my summer project (literally put the last piece in that phase a mere two hours ago) and a healthy (or not) dose of heat running conditioning needed for the Bix race at the end of the month. I do not want a repeat of the Steamboat race and it looks like there has been some improvement based on my recent Bix@6 training run (93-95 out when the training race started last Thursday and it went quite well). The good news is all the post processing work on this month’s series of posts is already complete!   …and just what is the topic this month…

After much thought and contemplation I’m going with the birds captured during our photo shoot taken  in Wisconsin over Easter. Tragically, this means another month (at least) will pass before getting to the Indy Zoo pictures and the birds of Banner Marsh.

It’s quiz time.  Any guesses as to what that water fowl is (note, these are all non-shopped)?

If you can identify it, please feel free to let me know.  As far as I can tell this is another mutant specimen.  If you recall, this is not the first mutant to grace these pages.  The mallard derivative from the Emoquon series certainly fits this category (link here).    This strange bird has more of the duck features than the goose characteristics in that previous one.  It was also easier to pick out the main ingredients that made that bird.

This on the other hand doesn’t really match anything.  The dominant white and the the black tail feathers would put it somewhere in the Snow Goose realm (or just the white neck and orange beak has traits of an Embden Goose), but it took the stature of a smaller duck.

it that wasn’t fun enough, let’s move on to mutant specimen number 2 and 3.  The one on the right looks like someone sawed the head off the one above and slapped a better Mallard head on it.  Those Mallards must really like to sow their oats.

Shifting to the one of the left.  They were hanging together so the assumption is they were mates.  The left is likely the female due to the dominant male Mallard coloring on the right one.  It looks closer to an Eskimo Sandwich than it does a duck.  The breast feathering almost has a turkey composition and nothing in the reference books really showed markings that chocolaty.

Hit the jump to see even more strange waterfowl.

Continue reading The X-Ducks of Wisconsin

Our Prehistoric Visitor

Wow, I thought last month was a lot of work to meet my quota, but this month has not been ANY easier.  It would probably be simpler if I started a little earlier in the month (or actually pre-wrote the posts, but I’m not going there!)  Today’s entry is coming to you from the road as were on our way to Lincoln to meet the parents.  Since there isn’t much else to do in the car I’ve cranked up the laptop along with the Verizon hotspot and  here we are.  Before you panic, Linda is driving.  If you recall from yesterday, we recently had a unique visitor to the homestead (link here).  Turns out this was not the only interesting creature to find its way to our place.  As some background, I had spent a significant amount of time reworking our landscaping.  This included removing the crappy mulch we had used previously, putting down all new fabric and back filling with all new mulch (about 3 tons of it).  To be honest, it looked pretty awesome when it was all done – a nice reward for all the hard work.  Unfortunately, that lasted less than a week.  One night something decided to dig holes all over the mulch pulling up sections of fabric in various places.  I was pissed and spent a significant amount of time hurling insults (my mother would not be proud) at the raccoons that were clearly responsible for this vandalism.  This started an annoying loop of fixing the holes, waking up to more holes the next day, hurling insults, fixing holes… you get the picture.  One Saturday night we came home around 1am and sure enough the mulch was torn up again.  The fabric was ripped up more than usual this time with what appeared to be a new sense of vigor.  Our youngest poodle (and largest at 10 pounds) made its way from the car and made a beeline to one of our bushes.  To my surprise it wasn’t for the reason I expected – he started sniffing around in a cautious manner that caught my attention.  On closer investigation I noticed THIS!

I have seen a lot of turtles in my lifetime but this has to be the largest specimen I have ever seen outside of captivity.  I did make a quick apology to the raccoons in the area.  This moment was not going to be wasted so I dashed off for the camera .. after, of course, getting our dogs safely inside.  To be honest I have never really engaged turtles before.  I’ve moved a boxer turtle off the road before but I was very naive when it came to this creature.  Want to know how naive?  Well, the first thing I thought of was to provide a size reference so all my readers would have a good understanding of the situation.

Be sure and hit the jump to see how this turned out (I think you’ll get a few chuckles

Continue reading Our Prehistoric Visitor

Oh, Emiquon Has Those Too … and Whatever That Is

I have just been informed there are only 31 days in May.  For normal people this fact probably does not generate much concern,  unless there is some form of payment due in which case you might feel a little concerned or perhaps agitated depending on the relationship of the debt to the individual’s bank account.  This is not at all how I happen to feel at the moment because that all seems trivial compared to full on PANIC when you realize that there are no more days to procrastinate before getting the final post out for the month.    I pretty much lucked out today.  The post topic was already decided last week and the images were post processed a few days earlier.  That leaves only the witty banter and insightful dialog that accompanies each post which (once again thanks to my brother) is now only done on the day of the post.  But, I am sure you are not hear to read about my trials and tribulations you want birds… and not just any birds, you want a MUTANT BIRD that no one else has ever seen before.

Setting the stage, if you recall during the first of these Emiquon posts we noticed an odd duck on our way out of the refuge. I then proceeded to relate the discovery of the American Shoveler.  There was actually another sighting that occurred right before we noticed the shoveler.  Something about it seemed a little odd but I could not put my finger on exactly what it was.  Then when we noticed the shovelers, I passed it off as simply being the new bird out of the water.  It was not until I went back to prep for this post series that I remembered those previous shots.  Having now become very familiar with the shoveler I can safely say.. that was NO SHOVELER!

Take a quick look at this shot and tell me what bird you think it is…. ready .. go

Remember what came to mind and hit the jump for further discussion

Continue reading Oh, Emiquon Has Those Too … and Whatever That Is

A Prized Addition to the Collection

And we are BACK!  There is a hidden surprise with this particular post … let’s see if you can tell what it is … ready Go! tick tick tick tick. Are you noticing anything different? does something feel a little more ummm snappy? Okay, here’s a hint… who has two thumbs, no longer has to share, removed of daily cap and no longer has to send every post 22,000 miles away from earth just so you can read it?  The answer is THIS GUY who is now the proud owner of a DSL Internet service. Yes boys, we have arrived and we’re loving it. I am sure you can feel just how fast this post is being created compared to those crappy satellite days.

In truth, this is a special day for another reason. Today I get to bring you, to use the description in the last blog, the jewel of Emiquon. My apologies for all those that thought that was a clever clue to the name of the featured bird. I was thinking in terms of how I feel having actually had the opportunity to photograph this bird as opposed to any insightful characteristic like color, hardness or price. First a quick background. When we first discovered Emiquon we immediately walked out to the observation decks to see what they had to offer. While out there I noticed there was a large sign showing the various wildlife in the area and a little history of the place. There was a bird featured on that sign that I had never heard of. Having grown up relatively close to the area, I found it odd that there would be water fowl that I hadn’t came across in many of the other local marshes, rivers and lakes we frequent… and believe me, I would have remembered this unique bird. As luck would have it, on our most recent visit to the Refuge, there it was (actually there “they” were). I will give credit to Linda for spotting them first but she alerted me to them with “what are those doohickies over there”. Those my dear are the find of the year!

And now I would like to introduce you to the latest check on the Birding List. Ladies and gentleman I give you the Black-Necked Stilt”

How cool is that!  Admittedly, there was a struggle to get the exposure right on these shots.  With the two ends of the spectrum covered by the bird feathering itself, all the other greens, browns and the pinks were filling up the palette pretty quick.  I had to delete a bunch of the initial shots thanks to forgetting I had recently reconfigured the camera to moved the focus button off the shutter to a rear button.  By the way, now that I did that it is highly unlikely I’ll ever go back and recommend it to all my fellow photographers out there … I just need to remind myself I did that until it gets engrained in my head.

There were two of these Black-Necked Stilts hanging out in the Marsh.  This particular one was pretty active walking through the water and muck occasionally stopping to stab at the water.

Hit the jump to see even more pictures of this rare (at least to our area) Stilt!

Continue reading A Prized Addition to the Collection

The Birding Answer to The Shining

And were back and keeping the theme.  Once again were highlighting the wildlife at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge.  Today’s post was a very rare sighting that not many people have had the pleasure of witnessing at this particular wetlands.  Behold our newest entry to Life Intrigued… drum roll …

The Prairie Peacock!

This bird is highly admired for it’s adaptive quality to blend into any marsh area in the prairie wetlands.  It is not uncommon for you to walk right past them dismissing them as a large dandelion or an isolated clump of prairie grass.  I will admit that I do benefit from this unique characteristic.  Whenever someone comes over and comments about the weeds in my yard I smugly inform them that we are blessed with a local muster of prairie peacocks!

You buying this?  If so, consider yourself gullible.  In case you live a sheltered life in the city, the bird of the day is actually a Plover.  These birds are all over the place at Emiquon enjoying the shores of the flooded lowland.  Confirming our field guides, this bird is very noisy and very cautious.  They did not want me very close at all and they made haste whenever the barrel of the Beast turned their way.  Last post I mentioned that there was an upcoming bird sporting the red eye color.  Well, here it is.

This Plover’s eyes are a little brighter with a larger pupil compared to the more blood red of the American Coot.  Like the Coot, they are a perfect for photography because they tend to keep their eye on you (if they are aware of your presence) making for very nice compositions.  Generally I see them walking the shorelines on their stilt like legs.  I think the one below failed to judge an oncoming wake.  It was looking around to make sure none of the other inhabitants saw his mistake.

Hit the jump to learn more about the Emiquon inhabitant

Continue reading The Birding Answer to The Shining

That’s Right, We Have Cooties

This topic of this post shouldn’t be a surprise seeing as how I gave a big hint at the end of the last post.  As the Northern Shoveler fades into the background, his friend the American Coot takes the stage.

This is actually not the first time this particular bird has graced these pages. If you recall we kind of called them out in the Yellowstone post (link here). However, there is one big difference from that appearance and today’s entry…. in this post you can actually tell it’s a Coot.  One thing I was not aware of from the first pictures was just how bright red their eyes are.  Guessing this one just flew in from Vegas after having a really good time.

As with the set before (and the upcoming ones) these shots were taken at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge which is located in Havana Cuba.. err make that Illinois.  By the way, somehow the individuals that named this town got the pronunciation of it right.  For some odd reason in our State the similar named cities and towns have butchered soundings – Athens, (strong A), Cairo (Kayrow), Rio (Rye-O), Milan (Mylan), Des Plaines (non-silent s), my favorite San Jose (San Joes) and Goofy Ridge.  Okay, so the last one doesn’t fit but I had a quest to reference that scary location in one of my blogs and it was time to get that off of the to-do list.  I wonder if I started calling it HavingNah if it would catch on.

Apparently this particular Coot didn’t appreciate my little joke about his hometown – giving me that stern look-back every 6 year old knows good and well.  (and yes, that is the EXACT age I felt when coming up with the title for this post).  It would be un-American to pass up the opportunity to draw up a reference to our childhood when confronted with a bird with that name.  For the record, Linda is usually the one who makes the reference first!

Hit the jump to see more the set — don’t miss the take-off shots!

Continue reading That’s Right, We Have Cooties

They Call It Emiquon

Well hello there, long time no read eh?  Admittedly the content has been a little slow around LifeIntrigued as of late.  Contrary to what you might be thinking, nothing terrible has happened to me nor have I turned slacker and abandoned this 5 year journey.  It was noted that there were zero calls to the police to see if I’d been run over by zombies and one comment on a post demanding content soon or they were going to come break my fingers (that last part might be a slight hyperbole, but the anger was dripping off every letter).  The truth surrounding the delay is the huge amount of pre-work that had to go into the remaining posts planned for this month.  I have been staring at a huge hill of photo backlogs that is resulting from not getting through our photo outings quick enough.  There is no easy answer to this problem other than committing to completing the post processing and getting them out on the Smugmug site… and there is no better time than the present.  So, be prepared to be hit with a lot of bird pictures and I mean hit hard.  You will be swimming in feathers before this series is done and we’re expecting at least one or two emails begging for mercy before the end of this.

Hey, what do you know, this post is about …. you got it a BIRD.  To be more exact a duck.

I have an extra affinity towards this specific duck which I’ll get to in a bit (you can probably guess).  First a little background on this particular set of pictures.  Friends of the blog know we hang out in Banner Marsh (in Banner IL) a lot taking in all the wonderful birds that call that place home or a stop off on their seasonal migrations.  There is actually another location we have been making a point to drop in as of late.  We call it Birder’s Paradise, but others call it Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge.  It is actually in Havana IL which is about 35 or so minutes South of us.  Why do we  call it B.P.? .. because you get to experience a wide range of water fowl (along with a number of shore and traditional land birds from the convenience of your car should you choose or by walking along their well constructed boardwalks and observation decks.

Back in March we made a late day run down to the flooded lowlands and see what was hanging about.  After shooting a number of birds we began our exit from the refuge when something odd in the water caught our interest.

The coloring led us to our first assumption that it was your basic Mallard – we have a lot of those around us so we are very familiar with that particular bird.  The green head was a check, but the black bill coupled with the inverted coloring on the body had me scratching my head.  For those not familiar with the Mallard, basically flip the white and the brown and slap some yellow paint on the bill and you are almost staring at a one.   Almost is the optimal word here.  The golden yellow eye is definitely not a trait of the Mallard and well…

hit the jump to read the rest of this post!

Continue reading They Call It Emiquon