Revisiting the Great Egret – This Time With Foot Zoom

I can’t believe it is November already.  2013 has flown by WAAAAY too quick.  This generally means I’ve been keeping pretty busy and that is a good thing.  Unfortunately, my to-do list doesn’t look one bit smaller as a result – rate added is exceeding rate completed.  The good news is Phase 5 of Project Auuuunoooold is completed and another project is nearly done .. translated… look for upcoming posts!  In case you were not keeping track (although I know you do), 4 of last month’s 6 posts were not about birds.  Seemed like a break was in order from all the bird posts that were coming at you.  With the new month that ratio will likely swing back a little – really need to get through the Henderson trip so we can get to the other vacations we’ve taken since then.  Hell, there was even another Henderson trip since then and our friends who went with us to Yellowstone this year are already wondering when the pictures will be coming.  So how about a bird post!

What a fantastic idea.    Seems I have a few shots from the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve in Nevada lying around so let’s dust those off (I know I know .. not much of a surprise there).  Today’s featured bird is a revisit of sorts from the first time we covered it back in Nov 2011.  The Great Egret (link here) photographed back then was quite a ways off and pretty hard to make out the details.  This was not the case at the ponds in Henderson.

We were able to get relatively close – close enough at least for the reach of the Beast.  This particular specimen was busy fishing the edges of the pond.  It seemed to be aware we were there and would throw a glance in the direction of the big glass every once in awhile, but beyond that pretty much stay focused on what sustenance the water had to offer.  It has been mentioned many times in this blog that Egrets and Herons are excellent photography subjects thanks to how calm/still they remain while hunting.  Quite handy when the light isn’t optimum since you can open up the aperture or extend the shutter if needed and most of the time the bird will stay stationary long enough to compensate for it.

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of this majestic bird!

Continue reading Revisiting the Great Egret – This Time With Foot Zoom

A Juvi or a Bittern – Tough to Tell

Looks like today I can report the tale of two lists.  First off, thanks to confirmation from Ron I can now add two more check marks to my birding list.  This is definitely one of those very pleasing moments when I can make that mark next to another entry, but when you actually get to make two marks at once .. through the roof.  If you recall, a few posts ago (link here), I had made some speculation on some bird identifications that were stumping me.  Figured the suggested identifications were my best guesses, but looks like Ron was in agreement with both of them – SWEET!  That Yang and the Um thingy once again makes its presence known around here.  With the good of the bird checks comes the equally bad entry on The List.  Those who know me, know you never ever want to make it on that list since it signifies a personal lifetime ban.  Surprisingly, I was able to locate an old copy of it online (link here).  I have to admit that Best Buy made its way off the list thanks to Circuit City closing leaving no other competition in the area.  There are some other additions, but today’s add is Eddie Vedder and of coarse ANYTHING he is affiliated with.

I was a law abiding 2nd Amendment practicing Pearl Jam fan when I bought Ten

I was a law abiding 2nd Amendment practicing Mother Love Bone and Soundgarden fan when I bought Temple of the Dog

I was a law abiding 2nd Amendment practicing Pearl Jam fan when I bought Vs

I was a law abiding 2nd Amendment practicing Pearl Jam fan when I bought Vitalogy

I was a law abiding 2nd Amendment practicing Pearl Jam fan when I bought Yield

I was a law abiding 2nd Amendment practicing Pearl Jam fan when I bought Ten for Rockband

I was a law abiding 2nd Amendment practicing Pearl Jam fan when I bought their guitar sheet music for Ten

I was a law abiding 2nd Amendment practicing Eddie Vedder fan when I wisely chose not to buy his craptastic solo album

… and now this fuck wishes bad things to happen to me (link here).  I wonder exactly what this asshole would think if someone went after his First Amendment rights?  It isn’t worth wasting anymore time on this topic – the money saved on not buying his latest album will nicely offset the cost of the ammunition spent while substituting those CDs for targets.  Welcome to The List.

Cleansing breadth … crap Kozma is sucking it up at the plate for the Cardinals tonight… cleansing breadth.

There, much better.  On to the real topic of this post.  The last plea for bird identification help worked out so well, figured it was worth trying it again.  Once again there’s another bird shot the second day of the Henderson Nevada Bird Viewing Preserve that has me in a quandary.  What seems to be the norm these days, the expectations going into the identification phase were high due to the key features this particular bird possesses.

Stocky frame, dark coloring palette and takes the standard Heron/Egret form in flight.  No problem right.. this has to be a Green Hero… uh, hmm uh.. let me look at those reference books again.  From the reference images, the Green Heron tends to have a rustier neck and a little more yellow on the bill.  They are also a lot more stockier than the specimen here.  Hold on, there should have been a post on one.  Yes, yes, here it is (link here).  Now it is coming back to me – that bird found at Jubilee Park looked a lot different than this one – mainly again due to the stockiness and the varying yet pronounced colors.  This next shot doesn’t show a whole lot more, but does provide some clues to the neck coloring.

Hit the jump to continue the quest to identify this bird

Continue reading A Juvi or a Bittern – Tough to Tell

To Check or Not to Check

I can’t believe it is October already!  Seems like this year is flying by way to fast – pretty soon it will be snowing in Denver.  What!?!  holy crap, it is snowing in Denver today.  Those Globull Warming dudes got some splaining to do.  I warned you on the last post we would once again be spending some time at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve  in the coming posts as I try to close out the second day of shooting there.  The good news is we are almost through that visit.. bad news is we had the opportunity to head back there a few months ago so we are far from over at that birding paradise.  To start the month off, I’m in need of some more help.  I am always amazed at how hard bird identification can be even with what I would consider unique features.  Two birds are featured here that gave me some troubles and thus not entirely sure if I have them right.  If I do, then there will be two new checks in the Bird List.  Always pleased when I can mark up the list and as you have seen in the past posts, this particular birding site was a goldmine of check marks.

First off I bring you this rather plain looking bird:

I suspect your first inclination is to ID it as an American Crow.  Pretty common bird around here so I have the advantage of seeing it just about every day.  I’ve spent a fair amount of time out in Yellowstone so I can definitely tell you how those compare to the mammoth Ravens out there.  But something just didn’t seem right about this one.  It was black (I can always get the easy ones) but the beak just didn’t seem to fit the large but blunter ones on the Crows around here.  The other part that was causing me some confusion was the tail.

It seemed to long and slender relative to the more stockier body frame of the Crow (and definitely smaller all around compared to those Ravens).  This concern sent me pouring over bird references looking for some other alternative.  Eventually I made my way to the Grackles.  Typically the Grackle is easy to distinguish due to the iridescent purple coloring when the light hits them right.  It is hard to tell in this picture due to having little sun at the moment this was taken but the shape is darn close from my perspective.  Post processing may have taken some slight shimmer out since I was thinking it was just a nicely posed Crow at the time.  The yellow eye definitely stands out which is a defining feature for the Grackle – the Crows and Ravens tend to have black on black eyes.  Now the hard part.. which Grackle.  The Common one is close but the images in the books definitely show more of a purple hue and/or more brownish than the full on black this one is sporting.  That left the Boat Tailed, but that is NO WHERE near where we were out in Nevada (more East Coast).  Could it be the Great Tailed Grackle?

To the web!

Take a gander at the set of images at AllAboutBirds.org (link here).  As mentioned, not positive, but it definitely looks similar to the Great Tailed Grackle shown there – and we can definitely dismiss the Common version. Would appreciate any help on this one.  I have no problem accepting that it is a Common Crow or possibly something I overlooked, but keep in mind that yellowish eye.  Definitely distinct.  Sorry I can’t give you any other angles, this was about the sum total of the shots.  With all the new birds there I likely didn’t spend much time on what I assumed at the time was a common bird.  Regardless of what the ID comes out as, the composition turned out nice especially with the first and this one.

The tail matched the twig angle and the head aligned with both the upper and lower branches giving a nice framing effect.  If you have time, take a stab at it and use the comments for any ideas.

Hit the jump for the second bird featured in this post!

Continue reading To Check or Not to Check

My What Big Ears You Have

Howdy Everyone!  Guessing you were thinking I had forgotten about getting my 6th post in for the month and was sharpening your claws to pounce all over me for finally blowing the streak.  No worries, although blasting out all the posts early in the month does make me get a little lazy for the rest of the days – well on the post front that is, the rest of the time  is pretty busy in the digital darkroom trying to get the next set of images done.  You may be happy to know that the shots from the second day at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve are now completed.  Unless you are totally fed up with that topic from all the posts over the last couple of months, in which case you will probably NOT be happy since you can guess what is on the schedule for October.

This weekend has been quite the whirlwind for us.  As of last count I think I put myself in peril at least twice over two consecutive days and managed to make a quick run up to Chicago to see a friend married off.  Originally we planned to try and get by to see my brother who lives in “The City” (he loves it when I use that reference – for the record anyone East of 39 and North of 80 lives in “The City” for us downstate hicks.  Timing ended up not working out but we need to make it up there one of these days to see his .. wait for it .. CATS (my dogs just shuddered).  The wedding ended up taking place at the South Shore Cultural Center and I’ll probably end up making a post devoted to just that.  For those not familiar with this place it is where the Obama’s got married – a feature this is COMPLETELY LOST on me.  It was definitely quite the gala which appears to be the norm these days in “The City”.  Details likely to be forthcoming, but let me give you one key piece of advice that you best heed unless you like to live on the edge.  Peril event number one was trusting the GPS to get us from Countryside to the Center.  It declared a quick 30 minute trip that basically took us directly east to the location.  Not being familiar with the area we left an hour early instead.  1 hour and 20 minutes later we were sneaking our way into the ceremony (luckily it started 15 minutes late so we just missed the opening parade.  Let me tell you, that 1 hour and 20 minutes was one of the scariest trips I’ve taken in a loooong time.  Linda about heaved that GPS out the door … to afraid to actually roll the window down ended up saving it.  Every stop light/sign was a test of nerves while everyone standing around on the street (and IN the street) was looking at us all dressed up in the Beemer.  I don’t profile.. I use deduction.  Where the HELL is that conceal and carry bill going to be actionable!!  We went a different way back that took us all of 20 minutes and didn’t cause any additional gray hairs.  Just to round out the other peril, I had to get back early today to get my 12.5 mile run in – another half is coming up and I need to solve whatever happened last time before toeing that line again.  Had to spend some quality time getting my head cleared after that run and the legs are STILL screaming at me.

“What the hell is the purpose of this post Brian!”  Oh, sorry about that, mind started drifting again (did I mention I had to run 12.5 miles today..).  This topic was actually picked last night during the wedding ceremony.  There are some statements I am pretty sensitive to and I always pay special attention to the vows (my wife stating “To Honor and Obey” is a highlight of my wedding and on no less than 10,00o copies spread out in various locations for security just in case something (err more like someone)  should ever happen to it (hehehe).  My friend failed to get this sneaked in, but the sermon was intriguing.  I’ve never seen the person presiding over a wedding concentrate so much on the bad side of marriage – he must have spent 20 minutes talking about “When she annoys him” and “When he makes her mad” (and I swear he said pisses off).  Odd, but then he referenced “When they have children”.  Whoa – that just seemed presumptuous to me .. if nothing else definitely puts pressure on right from the start (I may just be overly sensitive to that).  For some strange reason I immediately decided on my next post.

Just seemed fitting at the time.  This was taken at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve and, as indicated above, on the second day of shooting.  Actually, to be more accurate, it was taken as we were heading back to the visitor center from another long day of shooting.  I like rabbits and do my best to let them live a happy a life on my property.  Sure it is a pain in the butt thanks to the dogs thinking they are a lot funner chasing than playing with their boring toys.  Our youngest dog also thinks their droppings are a delicacy – he needs to be reminded every time he goes out that the nose stays out of the grass.  Unfortunately, those pesky Coyotes think the bunnies are the delicacy and keep them pretty much on the run.  The enemy of my friend is my enemy too as a slight derivation of the adage.

Hit the jump to see a couple more pictures of this specimen

Continue reading My What Big Ears You Have

A Long First Day in Paradise Comes to an End

Welcome to the latest offering from Life Intrigued.  I had quite the debate with myself on the topic for today’s post.  Should I go with a discussion on the results of a key bird hunt?  Maybe a summary of the various happenings while we were in Vegas (when you run a blog, there is no such thing as What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas – rather What Happens in Vegas is Another Post!).  I do have another book recollection to get to, but need to get the graphics ready for that first.  Why don’t I just close out the First Day at Henderson Series.  I promise I’ll give you a break for at least two posts before diving into day two.

To wrap things up, I’m going to throw you a hodge podge of birds.  None of these were firsts for me, but wanted to let you know that there was a nice collection of the more common birds to go along with all those new check marks.  First off is the Northern Shoveler.

To say there was a lot of these hanging out at Henderson would be an understatement.  There were actually more there than I’ve seen collectively at Havana’s Emiquon (link here).  What did catch my attention was they isolated themselves to a specific pond.  Not sure what the real attraction was, but it was one of two that had an island in the middle providing pretty good cover from the sun and Harriers circling the skies.  You almost got the sense they were keeping one eye on the water and one eye looking for danger.

Of course, they may have seen what happens when you venture too close to the shores (link here).  Fortunately, this didn’t prevent them from engaging in their unique feeding ritual.  This was observed at Havana, but only two or three of the Shovelers were involved and didn’t give the full effect.  At Henderson, they were in full whirlpool mode.

Reminds me when I was a kid and we would quickly traverse the outside edge of a neighbor’s pool to create a similar effect.  Of course, we were not doing that to make food more accessible (wow, the thought of a Baby Ruth just crossed my mind hehehe).

Although not completely positive thanks to the number of female breeds that look a like, I think the following shot is of a Shoveler coming in for a landing.  Both the water and wings were frozen in motion which is rather difficult to do with the Beast.  Our lighter 2.4 70-200 is more handy for those kind of shots being easier to hit the focus marks and most of all LIGHTER!!

Hit the jump to see more of the birds of Henderson

Continue reading A Long First Day in Paradise Comes to an End

Those Crazy Coots be Dah Bomb

Having just recently walked off the plane on our flight back from a week in Sin City, I thought I’d get to work immediately and get a post out.  Talk about devotion to my reader base.. believe that?  Actually, my ears are ringing so bad I probably couldn’t sleep if I tried – that and having conditioned myself to the Vegas sleep pattern which is really just an extended nap.   The plan was to crank this out during some slack time in the vacation schedule, but Linda put an agenda for this year’s trip with unparalleled activity.  Yep, there is now plenty of blog fodder to take me well into November from this trip alone!

So, there are only TWO more posts from the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve.. for DAY ONE!  I need to get cracking on the day two finds and get this, I now have a day THREE having had the opportunity to once again visit my new favorite bird paradise while out on our recent trip.  This latest one comes in a different season so there were a couple of new birds and minimally some new plumage on the ones I already had checks on.  Why don’t we just get one of those bird posts out of the way now.    Today’s (or rather tonight’s) topic is not a new bird to the checklist.  In fact, it has been all over this post before (link here and here for starters), but it didn’t come to my attention until now just exactly how much of an ass this particular bird was.

Sure, on a cursory view it looks like your typical nonchalant Mud Hen harmlessly paddling the day away.  Nothing to see here, just a Coot using the scales on the feet and lower leg to propel it through the water.   Truth is, they are green with envy of the Ducks with the evolution aid toe webbing (or intelligent design if that gets your fancy).  The envy is so intense it turns their eyes blood red with rage.  But they have learned to dampen this anger by applying their devious minds in the pursuit of PHOTO  BOMBING the other birds in the area.  I would spend countless minutes getting myself in the perfect position to capture the true majesty of a specific bird species.  Checking the manual settings, insuring the composition complimented the bird and waited for that perfect moment to take that one and done shot..

D’oh!  There it is again, that damn Coot jumping into the frame and ruining the shot.  It tracked the angle of the Beast, surveyed the scene and picked its moment to bomb it.  “Look at me, I’m a chicken in the water”.  Sigh, all that planning, all that work for that perfect shot ruined by this devil bird.  Wait a minute, I see another perfectly good shot shaping up over by the Mallards.  Yes, there’s the shot, a Mallard holding court over its minions.  A little rock climbing here, crawling under some bushes there and presto, we have the desired angle.  Breathe in, breathe out and take the sho.. WTF?!

Arrrggggghh, another Coot thumbs its bill at the world and jumps my shot.  Time to verify that this bird has a Least Concern conservation status because it’s about to feel my wrath…

Hit the jump to read more about this water chicken.

Continue reading Those Crazy Coots be Dah Bomb

A Bird Call for Help

Hi all! We are in bonus time thanks to some heavy lifting earlier in the month. This isn’t so much a post as it is a call for help.  As with any bird post, a third of the time is usually spent pouring over reference books and pounding Google with every possible search string in hopes of identifying whatever winged creature happened to be featured in the upcoming post. Luck typically wins out and I find a match to confirm the identification… or I take the closest option and go with it .. or I just lie and wait for someone to call me on it (ha). That process has worked okay so far but that is usually with one or maybe at worst two birds on a given shoot. The first day at Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve left me with FIVE birds that left me stumped. Thus the need for some assistance. Rather than force you to start from scratch, I went ahead and added all the information (links) obtained during my research but feel free to opt in a different direction if you think I’m all wet. I will also apologize ahead of time for some of the poor pictures (errr style yea, that’s the ticket).

Sooooooo, here we go

It is surprising this particular bird gave me such a hard time thinking the flycatcher type crown would be a lock for identification. It didn’t help that I failed to execute on my bird photography principle to capture as many angles as possible. All the shots were from the back providing no insights into breast coloring which is always handy in the classification process – bad Bri, very baaad. After searching far and wide there were two options that made it through to the end. The first is the Western Wood Pewee. Depending on which image you happen to find it will either match almost perfectly or be so differently colored (usually greyer) that you’ll almost write it off.

Here are the best matches from the Internet

All About Birds (link here) – more dull/drab than the image below

Flicker (link here) – not bad, but a little lighter in the neck area

Utah Birds (link here) – lots of options to choose from

Wild Photos Photography (link here) – not the BEAR! … look further down

On the Wing Photography (link here) – too grey

Based on those samples, just not sure. Back to the drawing board. A few pages further I came across another possibility, the Black Phoebe. This is DEFINITELY one of those situations where the breast coloring would have confirmed or knocked it out immediately. The neck is at least solid black which solves that issue, but the tail seems thicker on these birds. Although, the white piping on the Phoebe wings seems a little sharper

As before, here are some of the reference images.

National Zoo (link here) – lots to choose from

SDakota Birds (link here) – damn close … again just the amount of white seems off

Rich Ditch (link here) – not a good comparison angle but does show the all black neck

Birds and Nature (link here) – very close in my opinion

All About Birds (link here) – another bad angle, but the profile in the neck area looks good

Hit the jump to see the other 4 in question

Continue reading A Bird Call for Help

Dangerous Skies

Greetings everyone!  We are currently dealing with a family emergency that has resulted in some unplanned travel.  Hoping for the best on that front (please keep Linda’s brother in your hearts and prayers for a speedy recovery).  As a result there is some downtime while waiting for updates and taking care of all the dogs.  Figured I would go ahead and crank out a post to help the time go by.  Since the pictures have already been processes, let’s head back to Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve.  Unlike the previous posts from that wonderful birding area, this particular bird did not result in a new check mark in the bird list.  Although, they are slightly better than the shots taken at Yellowstone (link here)

From the collective set of Henderson shots so far, one would think this is a bird paradise – various waterfowl enjoying the peace and tranquility of a slow paddle on the calm pond waters.  Well, except for the coyote shots – thinking that Shoveler could have used a little less peace and tranquility (link here).  Whether the other birds realized it or not, there were predators patrolling the skies.  Not sure what it is about these Northern Harriers, but they have a sixth sense to stay as far away as possible from my camera’s reach.  Even with the Beast, it was difficult to really get a bead on these birds of prey.  This set of shots was taken at the extent of the glass – thus the fuzzy results … I mean umm style.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and some of the second day shots will come out better – sticking with the theme of first day shooting for now and these were the best out of the bunch.

Hit the jump to read more about these Raptors

Continue reading Dangerous Skies

Snow in the Summer

Just got back from another exciting two days of dog shows up in Spring Grove.  Normally that means hours of sitting around waiting for each of my dogs to make their two minute runs.  I lucked out this weekend – sure, it had the standard waiting around for hours waiting for each of the dogs to make their two minute runs, but this time I was able to spend some quality time at the Chain ‘O Lakes State Park.  This is actually the park Linda bribes me with every time they have a show up there.  There’s been a lot of good bird sightings up there (link here and here) and in general a very nice park (complete with snakes).  Saturday I got to get my 10.5 mile training run in on their very nice trails although I underestimated how hilly those babies were which pushed me pretty good (give Linda credit for waiting around for me to finish that long run).  Today I had the opportunity to go back and spend a few hours walking a few of the trails with the Beast.  Not a lot of birds in the water but did catch a few tree birds in between sprinting away from the mosquito hordes.  Surprised there wasn’t much in the water but the trails were pretty noisy with people which might have spooked them before I got there.  No harm (other than the 50 bites all over my body) it is always good to be out with the Beast especially if I in place of sitting around in a cold building with people strategizing on whether to go behind or in front of the dog to get to the next obstacle.

Although I didn’t find any birds enjoying the backwaters, I figured it would be fitting to bring out another NEW bird from the shoot that did have a lot of water sightings – that’s right, our old friend the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve produced, yet again, another birding list check mark.  What wonderful bird are we featuring today?

It is a difficult to distinguish from this particular shot but the yellow between the eyes and the black bill gives some pretty good clues.  The critical part isn’t visible from this particular shot because it chose to stand in the water while looking for breakfast.  I’ll ruin the suspense and tell you it has very yellow feet which you will see in a shot further down the post.  It is still not a lock because there seems to be some confusion in the various books on Snowy Egret vs the Little Egret.  The Stokes book clearly calls out the Snowy Egret having the yellow coloring between the beak and the eye where the Little Egret has more of greenish hue.  This seemed like a lock until reading further in the Little Egret description and learning that breeding times it can change to a red, orange or yellow hue.  Hmmm … wait wait .. it looks like when this happens the feet turn red or orange.  So based on that, I am definitely going with the Snow Egret unless someone has more knowledge on this particular species and can provide a more definitive answer to the contrary.  Until then I’m happily putting the check mark in the list!

I spent a lot of time with this particular bird trying to find the best way to compensate for the somewhat harsh light.  Not wanting to blow the shot completely I actually tried a lot of different settings to help bring out the detail in the white that didn’t blur in the wind or bird movements.  These white birds cause havoc in good light, much less late morning direct light.  A big thanks to Adobe for some nifty tools in the digital darkroom that lets me tweak the shots in an attempt to make the good shots a little better.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt these birds are extremely photographer friendly being such still hunters.

Hit the jump to read more about this pretty bird

Continue reading Snow in the Summer

Go West, Young Grebe, Go West

Continuing the Greberrific theme from last post, I bring you a semi-new bird from Australia.  Just kidding, this one came from our trip to Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve just like all the other birds over the last couple of months.  Fact is this bird doesn’t stray far from Canada through lower Baja) .  What can I say, the shutter was quite the workhorse those two days (and yes, we are still posting from the first day’s discoveries).   In a slight deviation from the long list of Henderson birds that came before it, this one is “technically” not a new bird to the Blog and it did have a check mark in the Bird List.  Truth is, the previous mark was written in lightly due to the weak shot I was able to capture.  The original pictures can be found back in 2010 from a trip to Yellowstone (link here).  You can tell it is a bird and if you squint a lot you can discern it is indeed a Western Grebe (or a Clark’s since the pixilation makes it hard to tell if the black goes above or below the eye).  Compare that with this:

Now that is an official Western Grebe check mark.  I really like this bird for a number of reasons two of which is the sleek profile and the cool coloring.  The red eye and the deadly looking bill give a nice finishing touch to the overall appearance of this bird.  A bill that could inflict some serious damage when paired with wing propulsion.  Similar to the Eared Grebe from the post before, they are reluctant fliers – damn you winged creatures that prefer to float on the water.  According to the Stokes guide they can even one up us on the water by being able to run on the top during their takeoffs or courtships.  Sorry folks, no shots of that while we were there.

Hit the jump to read more about this cool Grebe

Continue reading Go West, Young Grebe, Go West