Maggie May

“You lured me away from home, just to save you from being alone
You stole my soul and that’s a pain I can do without”

So, as the adage goes, stories of my demise are greatly exaggerated. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for one of my 3TB work drives. It no workie anymore. Work drives are my day after day use – digital darkroom processing, searches general access and always connected to my main computer for ease. Luckily, all of my photos are backed up on a fully raided NAS drives. So nothing lost (relief). However, it took 6 nonstop days to copy back from the NAS drive onto a brand new working drive. Yes, there is a tremendous amount of finger crossing that nothing goes wrong with the originals while copying back. All done now, nothing lost but my time away from the blog. Let’s remedy that now!

Black-Billed Magpie shot in Colorado, May 2014

Today’s featured feathered friend comes to us courtesy of Red Rocks Amphitheatre on a trip to Colorado back in May 2014. The Black-Billed Magpie is not a new bird to the blog having been previously featured back in July 2008 (link here). That also happens to be the first time I had ever encountered this colorful bird. We were passing through South Dakota on our way to visit Yellowstone. One of the great things about having a photography blog over the last 10 years is you get a firsthand look at how you are improving your craft. Those initial first shots are quite the fuzzy mess.

Black-Billed Magpie shot in Colorado, May 2014

I did get a little better when they appeared for a second time back in February 2015 (link here). There is always room for improvement, but these are a far cry from that initial effort. Those were taken from a good distance, where this third installment had much better foot zoom. Thing is, the closer you get to these members of the Crow family, the more you realize just how menacing they look. Something about those dark hoods that energizes the flight instincts whenever they show up in my viewfinder. Truthfully, my encounters with this large bodied birds has been quite cordial. They simply go about their business as if I am not even there. In this encounter on the outer loop of the Red Rocks trail, I heard a weird rustling sound under a bunch of sage. Not wanting to move off the trail, the next 20 minutes was spent trying locate the moving sound. Thinking I was on target, then engaged in some birding yoga in an attempt to find an angle giving a glimpse of the ruckus source. Hear sound, move to approximate location, peer through the brush only to hear it a few feet in another direction. After numerous search cycles it became a quest. I was either going to be eaten by an annoyed coyote or get something in the tin worth blogging about.

Black-Billed Magpie shot in Colorado, May 2014

During the course of this hunt people would walk/jog by with inquisitive looks. You get this a lot when you are standing around with big glass out in the wild. Embarrassingly my repeated response to their inquiry was “I don’t know” with a couple of “Yeti” just to spice it up a bit. After the fun of taunting me wore off the mystery animal flew up on a nearby post. Yep, a Magpie was just foraging for food in the thick underbrush. At least something went into the tin so it was worth the time … I suppose. Interesting creatures these Magpies – apparently enjoy making fools of us humans.

That’s all I have for you today folks. Just wanted to knock the cobwebs down a bit since it has been a couple of weeks since posting. Take it easy everyone and hopefully my technical difficulties are resolved.

A Flamboyant Crow

And were back!  You are getting blitzed with posts at the moment because I’m taken care of some family matters which requires me to be in a place without that wonderful time waster .. a TV.  Luckily we invested in a hotspot allowing me to stay current with the world.  That doesn’t really take a lot of time – this group of people is killing that group of people, another group of people are spouting lies and still another is trying to take my rights away.  Pretty much sums up my view of the current chaos around the world and in the States.  Once that perception is confirmed I can jump into my little corner of the Internet and escape a bit.  Way I see it, it’s a win win.  Now I remember how my stay in Shenandoah went, but back then I didn’t even have cell phones – (ask Linda about our critter experience while at a payphone one night there) the horror, the horror.  Today we are in a better digital age which allows me to bring you this
Black-Billed Magpies of South Dakota

If you do not recognize this bird you haven’t been to the Northwest.  The Black-Billed Magpie are very populous in that region and thanks to their colorful palette are quite easy to identify.  I say this with a chuckle since I apparently had no clue what they were the first time we came upon them (link here).  Of course, that might be more due to the crap ass shots I was able to capture – I kinda cringe every time I dive back into the blog archives knowing my photography skills needed some serious work back then.  Glad to say there is marked improvement these days.  The following shot is one of my favorites from the Yellowstone vacation shoot.

Black-Billed Magpies of South Dakota

Hit the jump to view a few more shots of the Black-Billed Magpie

Continue reading A Flamboyant Crow

Viewed From Afar (and a request for identification help)

First off, I’ve decided to go ahead and merge in my wildlife observations. I was investigating the option to have a secondary blog out there just for the wildlife stuff, but then decided I really didn’t want to manage another website. I think it still fits the overall theme of observations I see from day to day. I will tag these as Wildlife and likely a subtag with the specific category like birds, snakes (yeah, you’re getting some of those soon), frogs, bears, deer etc.

So… keeping with the South Dakota trip theme, I thought I would start out with some birds we snapped while traveling out there. I’ll start with a flesh eating variety call the Black Billed Magpie. We were touring the Bear Country USA Drive Through Wildlife Park and I saw this fairly pretty blue and white bird on the side of the road.

Black Billed Magpie

I actually didn’t know what it was until I returned home and found it my brand new Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America. I finally broke down and bought an updated guide, but more on that in a future post (I actually selected this book because it finally had a picture of the woodpecker I could not identify in a previous post). As we traveled a little further, I became slightly horrified by the fact that the previously considered “cute” bird was actually a flesh eating demon.

Black Billed Magpie

I had visions of it attacking me, sticking his beak in one of my eyeballs and ripping it out of my head as it flew off into the air leaving a dangling mass of entrails oozing out of my shrieking face – hmmmm in retrospect, I might need to lay off of the late night horror movies. Based on the description in the book, it appears to simply feed off of carrion so likely little to fear here. Although, this shot looks like he is scraping an eyeball of his beak.

Black Billed Magpie

There is another bird (Spotted Towhee) after the jump along with a blue bird I am currently unable to properly identify.

Continue reading Viewed From Afar (and a request for identification help)