Greetings all! Just sitting here waiting for the deluge of rain to pass through so I can get to a ridiculously long training run. Was supposed to get back on the trails, but by the looks of it, going to be too muddy – no reason to risk an injury less than a month from the first race of the season. While I wait out the weather blahs, thought I would put a little NCAA tournament on and bang on the keyboard a bit. May not get it completed before heading out, so apologies if this gets posted later in the day.
Okay, let’s discuss this half Pelican, half Vulture, half Heron looking creature.
A bit creepy if you ask me. As I’ve stated during my bird lecture intros, Linda and I are destination wildlife/nature photographers. We essentially travel to our subjects – most of our vacations are specifically planned to get a particular bird or waterfall in the tin. Grab some research books, travel brochures, cross-reference with the birding check list, check the research books again to confirm (to the best of our ability) there is a good chance of finding it, pack up the RV and hope for the best. Sometimes it results in complete failure like the Arkansas trip we took last year (although I did manage to get a couple of unexpected +1’s and a Tarantula Hawk (link here) – Linda totally struck out).
Hit the jump to read more about the Georgia trip target bird.
Continue reading The Stork Delivers
Spent the day tearing out all the tile in my master shower which definitely had its moments – like the 200 pound sheet of cement board with the tile still on it that decided it would take it upon itself to try and kill me – unexpectedly, it broke free of the stud, just missed my head and then hit the ladder I was standing on before embedding itself in the shower pan – thankfully the pan was the reason all this work was set in motion so it got what it deserved. I’ll probably have to add that to the list of events which I like to label as the “near misses” list. Not nearly as long as the birding list, but a bit longer than I like to admit to. That which doesn’t kill me, serves to makes me wiser. As I reflect on the day and prepare for tomorrow’s planned half marathon training run, thought I would pad the bird list and maybe gain some ground on Ron.
Ooops, should have mentioned in the intro that these shots are not my best work. In a bit of luck, while shooting the target for the trip to Georgia, another bird showed up that I had not yet officially checked off the list. I have a few pictures of this bird from a quick trip to Florida to drive my parents back from their winter stay. Thanks to a vendor conference in Orlando, I was also able to get a shot of one with my cell phone. All of those shots turned out to be awful and therefor elated to get a third chance at one. This bird is becoming my nemesis – three attempts and still nothing I’d be willing to hang on a wall. Now taking the +1 …well, that is a completely different story.
Hit the jump to read a bit more about this flying cross!
Continue reading The Devil Bird Went Down to Georgia
Once again, bringing you another break from the feathered fodder. Luckily, this time not a result of cargo loads of hate mail showing up at the door. Nope, bringing you a non-birding post on my own terms. Now, I will admit today’s post was a direct result of a birding adventure and the only reason Linda and I were even in this particular spot was to get a new mark on the birding checklist – actually, I can expand that a bit – one of the two reason we headed all the way to the Georgia swamps was to stand at the very spot these shots were taken. I’ll get to those two reasons in a future posts – for now, let’s take a gander at the shot below.
Back in May of 2015 (no idea what happened, the best I can tell is we time warped directly to 2019 – scary) we were visiting Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge which is about 30 miles outside Savannah, Georgia. For those of you not familiar with this refuge, it was established in 1962 on an abandoned military airfield. There are still runways hidden in the overgrown fields along with about 2,800 acres of mixed saltwater marsh, fields and woods. The unique name comes from the peninsula it sits on being originally named Dickenson’s Neck and then later renamed for the principal proprietor in the 18th century, William Harris.
Form your impression of the shots above and then hit the jump to read some intriguing details.
Continue reading GatorNeck
Let’s go ahead and continue with the Georgia birding trip theme for another March post. From what I can tell from a quick count that excursion to the swamps to the east resulted in at least a +5. Yep, 5 count increments that have simply been sitting in bit purgatory since May 2015 waiting for someone to give them a bit of love and in some cases a dose of processing to get them in decent enough shape to show the world. Suspect there’s probably less than 800 images left to comb through to finish out the haul from the trip – one good effort over the weekend should put a bow on Georgia processing. That just leaves the easy part, smacking the keyboard in hopes of delivering a post worthy my reader’s time. To that end I bring you the second +1 from the trip.
For starters, in case you haven’t noticed, I do not feature a lot of Gulls on the blog. There are two main reasons for this. One is the fact that they can be damn hard to ID unless you are lucky enough to find the ones that are regionally constrained or have some unique element that makes them stand out from the horde. I have taken 10’s of thousands of shots of Gulls in my adventures in the field and very few of them fall into the easy to ID category. Many are juveniles or females which have about an equal chance of getting correctly labeled as a juvenile Sparrow. Thus, those shots lay nestled on their digital platters patiently waiting for me to dig in and devote the time and energy to properly check them off the list. Knowing the Gulls are pretty much untapped gives me a bit of comfort when it comes to my relatively low bird count and something to fall back to on a rainy day.
Hit the jump to find out more about this hooded bandit.
Continue reading Have a Laugh on Me
Finally getting around to processing the rest of the shots form our birding trip to Georgia back in (looking down in shame) May of 2015. You at least have to give me some credit for trying to muscle through the incredible backlog. Truthfully, there is a reason I’ve been actively hesitant – is that a thing, let’s go with intentionally slow to get to this trip. One of the main reasons is I f’d up while out in the field there and almost got myself seriously injured. I’ve had a few experiences where I’ve skipped a few heartbeats due to something unexpected happening. One of those times was seeing Ron’s head almost smashed with a steel door. On a personal front, I came way to close to dangerous wildlife in the swamps of Georgia thanks to looking down my glass while walking and not watching the created void in front of me. I’ll get to that in a future post, but thought I’d start with a picture I took while I was heading out into the swamp.
That’s our youngest, Raven. I laughed to myself when I saw this image come through the digital darkroom. He’s as cute as it gets, but has a serious attitude: “Hey, do you really think you are going to leave me here while you go off and play in the woods!?! Get your ass back here now.” Good thing that cockiness serves him well while competing in the agility ring – he also knows I’m a pushover for ear licks.
Guess I better get to the featured bird for today’s post. My shots are a bit weak for this series, but it is a +1 so I have to go with what I was able to get in the tin.
Hit the jump to see a few more mediocre shots if a bird I thought Ron didn’t have yet.
Continue reading A Carolina in Georgia
Apparently some of you are tired of the bird after bird after bird posts as of late. Note even the slight detour with an amorous Skunk would appease your thirst for something new or more succinctly stated by a rather perturbed correspondence “you know, your blog is called wildlife not birdlife”. They definitely have a point so today I will try to appease the teeming millions and go with something in the cloven hoof category – a Killdeer! … sorry, bad birding joke.
Don’t fret, I am making good on a real hoofed animal.
Okay everyone, say it with me “….Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh”. How cute is that!?! Now some of you might have held back a bit knowing how destructive these animals can get when they mature. Anyone who lives in the country like Linda and I definitely know their taste for flowers and gardens. At our other house we enjoyed the blooms on the 100 tulip bulbs we planted for … wait for it … wait for it.. ONE day! Then we had the pleasure of enjoying 100 bloomless stalks for the rest of the month. One has even managed to completely destroy my first sports car (thank god for air bags and a lot of luck). Even Linda has managed to tear up some fenders bouncing off them while they attempted to play Frogger. However, when it comes to their baby stages, they are just plain adorable.
You usually do not simply come upon a Fawn out on its own. Their mothers generally keep pretty good tabs on them and tend to shadow them just far enough that their offspring think they are braving their new world on their own, but in truth they are being watched very closely. To be honest, mother is probably spending more time watching their surroundings making sure there are no predators around. Sure enough, this Fawn was under a watchful eye.
Hit the jump to see a few more pictures (it will bring a cheer to your heart).
Continue reading Once Upon a Fawn
Once again the white fluffy stuff is coming down. Luckily the accumulation has been manageable so far and not one to complain since it means our wells will benefit as it melts off in a month or so. Unfortunately, not the best of timings as Linda and I had to renew our qualifications on the range this morning. Last time it was also snowing, but 2 degrees (F) out making conditions completely miserable. Still chilly today, but definitely better. Now that the fingers are all warmed up, figured I’d bang out a quick post (bad pun). Decided to wait on the previously planned post and continue with the Valentine’s theme. This was mainly due to a few people asking for details on how our annual “Date Night with a Skunk” went.
Quick background. We are members of Wildlife Prairie Park, a now privately owned park focused on the wildlife historically common to the Midwest. They have a number of captive animals and birds to enjoy and really nice grounds for walking, birding, mountain biking, trail running etc. We happen to volunteer there helping them photographically chronicle their progress on a new bird related endeavor they embarked on last year (3+ years still to go on that). This park used to be owned by the state, but since Illinois is essentially a fiscally failed state (scratch the “essentially” and just go with it IS a fiscally failed state), some private investors ended up taking it back and turning it around. One of their annual fundraisers is an elaborate Valentine’s dinner complete with drinks, dancing (if you are into that), 5 course meal, door prizes and you guessed it… an evening with a local resident Skunk – a play on the love stricken Pepe Le Pew cartoon (not sure this cartoon fits in this day and age anymore). For several years now, along with some friends we have been attending this event and yes, getting our pictures taken with an absolutely adorable Skunk. Just in case you are wondering, de-scented and basically a domesticated version of their more common wild brethren that have a habit of causing neighborhood dogs to get tomato soup baths. Our friend Sung took our pictures above before the night took on an unexpected elation moment only to result in a major disappointment.
Before I get to that, let’s shift to the real feature for today’s post.
Hit the jump to see a few more pictures of the featured bird and find out how the dinner party went.
Continue reading Scarlet for Valentine’s
Rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated! Granted I have been lax on my wildlife posts, but there is a good reason for that – namely I have been busy busy busy. Halloween has now wrapped up, which means I’m on the clock to get all the haunted trail and prop making posts out on my other blog. Add to that some medical procedures to recover from and the accounting year is winding down at my day job which means extra time to get loose ends straightened up before the holidays hit. Of course, these are still not good enough to warrant keeping my loyal wildlife readers devoid of fodder. With overwhelming guilt I bring you today’s featured bird!
Before the hate mail starts pouring in, I realize this isn’t my best work behind the shutter. These images are a bit soft likely due to the brief window of time available to get any shots of this interesting bird. These are the only three shots that made it into the tin on this encounter. This specimen was located on our Georgia Birding Trip back in May 2015. If it wasn’t for the high pitch call emanating from high above in the pine trees I would have never found it. I’d zero in on the call, get The Beast pointed in the general direction only to find that the sound was coming from another area in the trees. Repeat process, repeat results. All of sudden, a bird popped out in the opening. Got the camera on point, snapped two shots and a final one as it moved off through the branches – that’s it. One chance, three quick images and birdy went bye bye. It is amazing how many times this plays out on our birding trips. A few minutes before that or a few minutes after that and you wouldn’t even know the bird was even in the area. People ask me if birding gets boring – definitely not – when you consider these brief encounters during the course of a day’s outing, think of how many chances you missed, how many different species you might have seen or what was simply sitting in the tree quiet as a mouse just laughing at your inability to find it.
This happens to be one of those times where the excitement of the experience wasn’t truly appreciated until many years later in the digital darkroom. The original encounter was cataloged as another Yellow-Rumped Warbler. Better understanding of the difference in songs should have given a clue, but that is a definite weak spot in my game. Both are fairly high pitched in their song and their color palette is remarkably close. A lot more details surfaced when processing the RAW images. Like the Audubon variety of the Rumped, they both had yellow throats. What caught my attention was the extra white and black patterns of the head. A quick look at my reference collection confirmed this was not a Yellow-Rumped Warbler, rather a Yellow-Throated Warbler. Let’s all take a moment to celebrate another check on my birding list. By then I was kicking myself the pictures didn’t come out as crispy as desired. On the positive front, at least they were good enough to properly ID the bird – was also able to confirm it with my brother Ron. Fingers crossed he doesn’t already have one so I can get a little closer to his current count.
Being that this is a new bird, how about we jump over to Cornell to see what interesting things they have to say about it. This is a Warbler who calls Southeast US home in the summer. Confirms with our shooting location and the time of year. It is also considered a canopy bird preferring to hang out in the upper sections of pine trees. Well, we can definitely confirm that based on the pictures and how sore my neck was after the encounter. Prefers insects and spiders which means it is dear to me – based on my short time in Georgia, anything that might dent the population of No-See-Ums down there is tops in my book. Cornell is pretty sparse beyond those few tidbits.
Again, sorry about the quality of picture on this set. These hyper warblers are always a struggle to freeze. Hope you enjoyed my new addition to my North American Birding List.