Nixon’s Accomplice

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

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

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

Continue reading Nixon’s Accomplice

A Lite Brite Peg

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading A Lite Brite Peg

Quick Change Artist

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

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

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

Hit the jump for more on this secretive Warbler.

Continue reading Quick Change Artist

Got Keratin Scales?

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

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

Alligator at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island in April 2021

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

Hit the jump to read more about our scaly feature.

Continue reading Got Keratin Scales?

Got Crabs?

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

Ghost Crab found on a Dauphin Island beach in April 2021

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

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

Continue reading Got Crabs?

Fly By Here, I Dare You

I swear we are cursed. Once again, our Texas trip has been hit with an unexpected cold snap. Been off and on while on the border – 70’s one day, 50’s next. Moved north a bit to check out some other sites and now we are looking at temps down to 30F. Granted our driveway is currently covered with snow, but come on Texas, let’s keep the boiler on until we have to head back! Meanwhile, things are still going well on the “Average Year” front. Initial surges were expected and now the daily hauls have drastically dropped as the easy adds (at least in this region) are mostly done with only a few unfortunate misses. Did tin two rarities which were amazing – sorry, you have to wait for those reveals until 2025. Just kidding, but at least until we return home. As Ron has already returned to Chicago, decided I’d go ahead and make a new page to help us keep tabs on our progress. Added a new item on the nav bar appropriately titled The Birding Chronicles (direct link here). Planning to update it at least monthly and random times in between – at points when I am ahead of course ha!

Osprey found in Audubon Bird Sanctuary at Dauphin Island in April 2021

Hit the jump to read a bit more about our time with Mr. and Mrs. Yellow Eyes.

Continue reading Fly By Here, I Dare You

Thrushed into the New Year

Happy New Year everyone! My apologies as it has been a while since my last post. Linda and I are in the midst of our annual trip down the Texas Gulf Coast and our days and nights have been extremely full due to traveling and birding at numerous places along the way. Thanks to less-than-ideal weather at the moment, thought I’d try to put it to good use and dig out the laptop. Speaking of weather, Ron and I got an introduction to “extreme birding” at Galveston Island last week. I am beginning to think Linda and I might have angered the weather gods at some point as it seems whenever we head south to escape the finger numbing temps at home, we end up dragging the cold weather down with us. A year ago we brought lower Texas record ice storms and snow (our apologies to the traumatized Sea Turtles). This year we once again brought a cold snap – not as frigid, but with the addition of 35-40mph winds it was downright ….uncomfortable (decided not to go with Linda’s description hehehe). We would step out of the RV and get sandblasted. Felt like a Texas face peel! Great care was taken to keep the blowing sand off of The Beast – using my body to shield and making sure to be upwind of target birds. I was thinking of the best way to describe the conditions and then it hit me … why not pull out the phone and capture it!

UPDATE: if that link is not rendering on your browser, you should be able to go directly to my Smugmug gallery with this link:

https://eddiesoft.smugmug.com/Wildlife/Wildlife-Vacations/Texas-January-2022/i-vV3tdtv/A

So, what would entice me enough to risk being blown into the gulf? The answer is the cut throat world of competitive sibling birding. Ron and I have decided to do an “Average Year” – our term for a big year for those of us without the time and/or finances to be considered in the “Big Year” (650+species) echelons – hell my lifetime species count just topped 300. To kick off our counts, we invited Ron to join us down here. This may be a competition, but no reason not to be civilized especially with Texas being such a mecca for birding – not to mention 6 eyes are better than 4 when out in the field. More to come on this topic for sure, however, it is time to get to the first featured feathered friend of the young year.

Hit the jump to learn more about our spotty specimen.

Continue reading Thrushed into the New Year

Robin Hood of Dauphin Island

Decided to play it safe today and take my miles on the hilly roads of Jubilee State Park. Getting lost TWICE in the same week would be too much for my ego to endure. Being very familiar with every pothole, tar blemish, dip, undulation, steep hill and deep valley in the park meant I could figuratively sit back and enjoy the run. Incredibly happy that my ’21 running goals were already checked off for the year – the 50K redemption check (link here), the 50M magnet proudly displayed on the back of the truck (that horror story is finally up on the mothership – link here) and blew past my 1200 miles threshold for the year at the end of November. Last year I had to pound out 50 mile weeks in late December to reach that goal ugh. If it gives you any indication of how much extra training it took for those ultras this year, I basically lost 7 weeks due to vacation and another 3-4 weeks due to injury and recovery and still hit the yearly goal a month ahead of plan – the pile of used of shoes is testament to the feat (see what I did there hehehe). Relied on either running friends or tunes to get through the normal every other day… every day a month out and two-a-days in the weeks leading up to the big runs. It is actually those running playlists that brings you today’s featured feathered friend.

Hooded Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Don’t think there is a running playlist on my phone that doesn’t have at least one Bryan Adams song on it (the rest can get quite aggressive). Talk about songs that have stood the test of time. If you can listen to songs like Summer of 69 or Cuts Like a Knife without singing along then you might be dead inside ha! I always have to glance around to make sure NOBODY is around so as not to embarrass myself ‘cuz I am not a singer and didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express. To my credit, I did marry an SAI member (opposites do attract). If you are still with the thread, this enjoyment from Adams led me to watch his Interview by Dan Rather last night. Absolutely despise Rather, but wanted to get an update on the Bryan with a ‘Y’. In that interview he talked about the I Do It For You song he wrote for the Kevin Costner Robin Hood movie. Not a fan of that song, but to his credit, try to go to a wedding without hearing that. He joked that the people who asked him to write a song for that movie hated it and doesn’t play until the credits start rolling at the end.

Hooded Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Hit the jump to finally get to my 8 degrees on this smartly colored bird!

Continue reading Robin Hood of Dauphin Island

Destressing in Nature – with a Sturdy Stick

Hello everyone! The busy commercial holiday season is upon us. End of the year tasks to finish up, decorations to finish, cards to stuff and stamp, gifts to acquire, hours of baking to prepare for family/friends gatherings all adding to a stressful end of the year. Thank god I do not have to worry about performance reviews anymore – well, beyond my wife’s daily assessment of my worthiness hehehe. My go to stress relief has always been physical exertion – younger years getting bruised up in the dojo, later years having the pavement hammer my knees and now, well, I seek the calming therapy of nature…and, of course, getting every ounce of energy consumed running the hills and valleys on the now very muddy trails.

Yellow-Throated Vireo found at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

My friend Ryan and I added a new element to our trail run today – orienteering. That would be a fancy of way of saying we got our asses lost ha! I happen to pride myself on having a fairly decent internal GPS. As long as I can keep track of which direction I am heading at any given time and roughly the much easier measurement of distance Bri will make it back to the car. If all else fails, point the feet in the right compass point and walk straight – at some point something will look familiar or worse case a few cuts and scrapes later you’ll be back to the start. I can’t say I’ve ever gotten lost on the SECOND time at running a course before today. I also try to lay out my course to always turn one direction until I have to turn the other (a concept left over from my coding recursion days). The course we were replicating today was set up by another group we joined a couple of weeks back. Left, right, right, straight, right, left, left, straight then right and the mess continued until somehow they led us back to the parking lot.

Yellow-Throated Vireo found at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Hit the jump to read more about the latest addition to the bird list!

Continue reading Destressing in Nature – with a Sturdy Stick

Why I Try to Spot the Y

Greetings everyone! I must say, this has been a great month for my bird count. At the end of October I was sitting at 290 which isn’t stellar by ANY means when it comes to the birding community, but something that has taken a decent amount of work to get to – note each of those had to be photographed at an identifiable level of quality. That number put me a mere 10 from a goal I set at the beginning of the year. For simplicity I spread that over the two remaining months making intermediate goals of 5 new additions to my count for each remaining month. I learned early in life to set a goal and then immediately focus on smaller accomplishments that get you to the end point. That strategy has served me well at work, home and my numerous hobbies. Want to get through an ultra-marathon race – NEVER think about the total amount of miles to the end – focus on getting through maybe 5 miles marks or hell, the next tree when the mental darkness starts to set in. The uplifting feeling of accomplishment on the little goals is what keeps you motivated to keep pushing. Well folks, I am happy to say with today’s featured feathered friend I’ve made it to November’s target.

Blue-Winged Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Today I am excited to bring you #295, the Blue-Winged Warbler. It should be no surprise by now, this cute little Warbler comes to you thanks to our trip to the Alabama Gulf Shores. We made our way down there back in April of this year. Like several of the recent posts, this addition to the life list was found at Dauphin Island. I would have been in a world of hurt if we had not caught the fallout down there as that visit really gave a steroid shot to my count. I have to give big kudos to Linda who planned our spring trip around this previously unknown birding location.

Blue-Winged Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Hit the jump to read a bit more about the “Y” bird.

Continue reading Why I Try to Spot the Y