Seeing Red

Everyone have one of those days when it feels like someone took a sledge hammer and smashed it against the outsides of both your thighs?  No? I expected that to be a little more common.  Anyway, that is EXACTLY how my legs feel at the moment.  I’ve got them all lathered up in BioFreeze, which is making it bearable for the moment .  My hope is another day of staying down will allow this little problem to pass (fingers crossed and rabbits feet rubbed – still on living rabbits of course).  To help pass the time, let’s talk about a surprise +1.

Red-Breasted Merganser at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge - April 2015

This little lady was shot down at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge back in April of last year – I know, based on my previous post timelines this one is like yesterday!  Good to know that my brother Ron is now experiencing what it is like to go on birding outings faster than your rate of processing.  Based on his recent California (noting that technically it wasn’t a birding outing and thus all +1’s are subject to sanctioning body validation) and Florida trips, I figure he will be in the 1 to 1.5 year delay range hehehe.

Red-Breasted Merganser at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

You might be wondering exactly what this bird is.  Even if you are an avid birder you might have come to the quick conclusion this was a Common Merganser.  That was actually my first assessment until I started looking at the details in the digital darkroom.  The coloring seemed a bit off from my field references of the Common.  Sure enough, thanks to some extra time on Cornell’s website and a host of reference books, I decided it was actually a Red-Breasted Merganser.  The main clue being the absence of the white chin sported by the female Commons.

Once again, the theory that the loner birds are the most intriguing comes true.  This is the only specimen that was in the area that day.  No other Mergansers females or males were spotted … even after the painful process of hunting through the hundreds of Coots littered about the area.

Red-Breasted Merganser at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

Eesh, out of pics already – it didn’t stay around very long at all – lucked out, right time, right place.  Better get to some quick facts before I close out this post.  I already mentioned that the Red females do not sport the white chin. Unlike the Common which spends its winters in the area, the Red is only here on its migratory path between Canada and the North American coastlines.  Probably just resting its wings a bit on its way back up to Northern Canada.  And… well, that’s about it – wow, pretty weak on the bird facts for the Red-Breasted Merganser per Cornell’s site.  They do carry the Least Concern Conservation Status so a big yeah on that one.

Apparently the first coat of BioFreeze is wearing off as indicated by the fact the underpants gnomes are once again stabbing me in the thighs with their steely knives.  Time to hobble down to the medicine cabinet and put the gnomes out of business (for at least tonight).  Catch you again real soon my friends.  Right now I’m going to take some pleasure in adding another check on the birding list.

Big thanks to Ron for also confirming the ID on this pretty lady.

A Cold Day at Emiquon

Yesterday I managed to put up an 18 spot on the run counter.  In celebration, I cleaned up the house, scrubbed the bathrooms, vacuumed, gave the dogs a bath and steam cleaned all the hardwood floors in the house.  Believe that?  No!?!  I’m hurt.. but the truth sometimes hurt – not as much as my body hurts, which is why I simply thought about those things and then crashed on the couch – hehehehe.  Now I’m just going to sit in this comfy chair and bang out a new post for you.  Today’s topic is all about a birthday present to myself.  Back in January I took a day off from work and went birding in Emiquon.  These were the results of that day.

Scenes from Emiquon on Jan 16th 2016

I was taking some pictures of Eagles out on the ice when all of a sudden I saw two Mute Swans out of the corner of my eye heading straight for me.  Although startled, I did manage to get The Beast turned in their direction just in time to get a few incoming shots.  They noticed the big glass pointed their way and diverted their flight.

Scenes from Emiquon on Jan 16th 2016

Predicting how this might end, I kept the camera pointed in their direction as they went in for a landing.  Sure enough, when they hit the ice they slid for about 10 feet.  I will give them credit, they rode out that slide like pros.

Scenes from Emiquon on Jan 16th 2016

Hit the jump to view a few more shots from the birding day!

Continue reading A Cold Day at Emiquon

Floodle Camouflage

Howdy everyone!  I’m back with another post in another desperate attempt to hit my quota this month.  To give a little insight into the workflow that occurs around here at LifeIntrigued, there are times when I panic and times when I’m just acutely aware that my output needs to be ramped up.  Panic is reserved for those times I have nothing in the hopper, no pictures processed and worse of all – no content ideas.  Contrasting that with the much lower entry on the concern scale where I know I’m late but most of the pictures are processed already and best of all, there’s a topic already earmarked for at least the quota amount.

Black-Bellied Plover shot at Fort Meyers

Fortunately for me, this month falls into the latter.  The pictures for this post and the next are already processed and the other topics have at least the theme identified with the raw shots already taken.  The best thing about having the picture processing done for the post is I can write it up from just about anywhere there is an Internet connection.  Take for example today where I’m coming to  you from a lonely road near Alton IL.  We were down here doing some errands and a little birding.  Thanks to Linda agreeing to drive – we get to spend the travel time cranking posts out – yeah!

Black-Bellied Plover shot at Fort Meyers

Continue reading Floodle Camouflage

Another Find in the Flooded Flats

Well, today I was accused of not having any October posts out (by my wife mind you).  Obviously my loyal readers know that was absolutely WRONG. Hey, I may be running a little late this month, but at least give me some credit for getting something out there.  The good news is I’m in the process of doubling my October output with tonight’s featured bird.
Red-Necked Phalarope shot at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

If you recall, the last post was about a late recognition of a productive bird outing with my brother.  That bird (the Wilson’s Phalarope) was enshrined in the Birding Life List thanks to one of my golden rules of wildlife photography – “Shoot Anything That Moves”.  I cannot count the number of times that principle has produced a +1.  If the Wilson’s is considered lucky, this find came with Leprechauns.   I know for a fact that I noticed the Wilson since there were multiple shots with that Phalarope being in the center focus position – that, of course, translates into much better shots than these.

Red-Necked Phalarope shot at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

It has been a while since I processed these specific shots, but pretty sure not a single one of them were in the center focus region meaning it didn’t catch our attention during the outing.  Nope, it didn’t even come up until we noticed fellow birders posting about how they found a Red-Necked Phalarope in the exact same floodle area.  That prompted another look through the hundreds of shots we took there.

Red-Necked Phalarope shot at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

Continue reading Another Find in the Flooded Flats

A Missed Phalarope Fallacy

Greetings all… welcome to October posting.  About time I got around to this, but I was hoping at least one comment would come in, but alas I’m like a month out now and nada, zip, chirp chirp chirp.  Oh well, I guess life will go on.  Truth be told I’ve been horribly busy as of late and just now getting over the brunt of it.  There are plenty of posts coming up to highlight all the interesting activities, but as a foreshadowing, this month brought about another long race and our annual Halloween Cookout.  Jumping back to the now, let me introduce you to my little friend.
Wilson's Phalarope shot at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

On a bit of confession here. I must admit that I was not actively aware I had this specific bird in the tin.  In fact, the opinion was just the opposite – total disappointment over having missed a great opportunity to get a +1 for the day’s birding efforts.  At least a month or so back I was birding with my brother at one of my favorite spots – Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge.  Ron had come down the night before in hopes of scouting out some large floodles that had formed in the area.

Wilson's Phalarope shot at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

There were a number of posts out on IBET documenting interesting shorebirds that were frequenting the area.  With the general bird watching opportunities turning quite dull, the chance to add some Pipers and like to the birding list was an exciting opportunity.  We arrived at the area (on the Dickson Mounds road believe it is Rt 9) fairly early in the morning.  In our first pass we noticed a tremendous amount of activity out in the fields to the left.  On our way back we ended up pulling into a wide spot and walking back to see what we could shoot.

Wilson's Phalarope shot at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

Continue reading A Missed Phalarope Fallacy

Snow at Emiquon

FINALLY! It has been like forever since I’ve posted. That is primarily due to a whole bunch of birding so far this month. So much that my queue has overflown. I still have to make my way through the Yellowstone pictures from like 3 years ago. Oh well, when the weather turns bad I’ll still have content to make my quota. The bad news is I probably will not remember a thing about the details surrounding the post event. Every once in awhile I get to jump ahead a tackle a topic more recent on the queue. Today is one of those time for I bring you this new entry on my North American Birding List!

Snow Geese taken at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

Pretty cool eh? This fine looking creature is a Snow Goose. I actually came upon this particular set of birds twice while birding at one of my favorite birding spots in Havana IL, Emiquon National Wildlife National Refuge. The first time came while I was alone trying to track down some shorebirds that fellow birders were reporting on a newsgroup. The bad news is it was a big fat blanking on the shorebirds, but spotting the Snow Goose ended up saving the trip.

Snow Geese taken at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of these Snow Geese!

Continue reading Snow at Emiquon

As the World Terns

I must be going bird crazy.  Not only did I break all protocols with the last post, but here I am doing it AGAIN!  As with the last post, this one also comes from a shoot only a couple of weeks old – the developer solution is still drying on these shots.  Today’s featured bird seemed like a logical bookend to the recently presented Black Tern.

Caspian Tern shot at Independence Grove in Libertyville IL

Yep folks, that is another Tern I get to add to my Birding Life List.  Specifically, this is the Caspian variety.  Pretty sure there’s a set of these in the tin from North Carolina, but these particular shots came from two other locations.  The first time I encountered them (other than NC) was at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in Havana IL.  That place has been very very good to me producing +1 after +1 almost every time we make the trek down there.  Truthfully, the first time they were shot was a bit of an accident.  I had taken a number of frames of a Gull while there because quite frankly.. I shoot anything that is moving (always remember the golden rule).

Caspian Tern shot at Independence Grove in Libertyville IL

Hit the jump to read a bit more about the Caspian and see a few more pictures.

Continue reading As the World Terns

Sora, Glad to Knowya

I decided to go ahead and stay with the programming interruption for yesterday.  Normally the fruits of my photography shoot labors go on my FIFO darkroom queue.  Unfortunately, that means you might not see anything for a long long time – (as regular readers may know, the Yellowstone trip from May 2013 is just know being worked up.  Since yesterday’s post was such a downer, thought I’d brighten it up a bit and talk about a silver lining that came out of the tragic event.  Once everything was wrapped up with the wreck, we continued on to  Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge – or intended destination before we were sidetracked for an hour or so.  The wildlife was primarily made up of water chickens but my golden rule is to look for the outliers.  This was what I was doing while standing on the cement blocks along the shore.  Disappointed that a potential find ended up being just another chicken I lowered The Beast.  At that time movement was detected.  Absolutely stunned, this appeared.

Sora shot at Havan, IL - Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

Up came The Beast and the snapping commenced. To be honest, I was not exactly sure what it was.  It definitely did not fit the Sandpiper family – the bill was way too thick and those feet where mega-thick.  As my brother can attest, I’m not one for really doing my identification in the field.  If it is bright out, it virtually impossible to see the 7000’s LCD screen anyway.  Check the image histogram (which is easy to read) to make sure the full range of exposure is available and focus on getting as many angles as possible to aid in the ID process.

Sora shot at Havan, IL - Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

Hit the jump to read a bit more about this unique bird.

Continue reading Sora, Glad to Knowya

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