A Jay for a Long Day

Hello Everyone! There are times that you think you are never going to get through and then somehow everything comes together and then start believing you have everything under control… then life throws you a curveball and you are back to trying to get wood on a difficult pitch. That is how it has been here at LifeIntrigued over the last several months. The hectic agenda was finally smoothed only to have a loss in the family. With a heavy heart we laid my wife’s mother to rest today in a nice ceremony in her hometown. We will miss her, but she is in a better place now, free from the burdens that weighed her down in her later years.

In Memory, Dorothy Barton

(12/3/1927 – 11/5/2018)

 

It has been said the best way to move on from a bump in the road is to simply continue driving forward. Seems like sound advice to me, so in an attempt to move forward, thought I’d go ahead and put a post out on one of my favorite topics. On this rather dark day, I bring you one of the brightest birds the aviary world has to offer.

Green Jay captured at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Texas January 2018

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of this stunning Jay!

Continue reading A Jay for a Long Day

A Thrashing Surprise

Sorry, been awhile since getting some material out on the wild side of LifeIntrigued.  To my defense, I did put up a number of running recollection posts on my main blog this month.  Decided it was time to dust the cobwebs here.   Tonight, we feature another catch while on our Texas Gulf Coast Birding Trip back in December 2017 – on the 30th to be exact so just a few days from the current year. This makes this an extremely fresh post based on my normal wildlife recollections. Recently I was offered the opportunity to speak at our local camera club. Their president saw my speech to the local Audubon Society and thought the camera club would enjoy it as well – although likely without the crickets.  This has added to the overall whirlwind of activities that has been consuming me over the last two months (if you have been reading my posts, you are well aware of how I’ve been struggling to get posts out). With Saturday’s completion of the season’s last scheduled half marathon trail run (yeah) this speech is the final task on my to-do list ahead of my favorite day … Halloween. This post allows me to pad my bird count by an extra tick before then – yep, this is another new bird!

Long-Billed Thrasher found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, December 2017

Hit the jump to find out what this mystery species is!

Continue reading A Thrashing Surprise

Uhhh What?

Not to labor this point too much, but if you read my last post on the Hooded Merganser, you should be keenly aware of how cold it is here in St. Louis.  My hopes of it getting warmer today were quickly dashed when I opened the door of the RV only to be blown nearly all the way to the arena where Raven is running agility.  A quick check of the phone reveals it is 31 with a windchill of .. wait for it … feels like 20.  WTH, last year at this even I was wearing shorts and wandering around comfortably looking for whatever feathered creatures Purina Farms had to offer.  This year I am bundled up like the little kid from A Christmas Story.  To top it off, after fighting the winds to get to the arena, Raven decided that the agility course was improperly arranged and chose to remedy the situation mid run – when the course is setup the way he wants it, Linda and Raven rock.  When it isn’t  then to quote a famous movie “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some [poodles] you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here [this morning] which is the way he wants it”  No worries, Raven has more runs to work things out – more importantly, I am spending the huge gaps between runs on a quest for a birding check tri-fecta.  If the wireless stays up, Mr. White below will give me just that.

Gull-Billed Tern Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas December 2016

Hit the jump to see a few more shots.

Continue reading Uhhh What?

A Slower Life

Just got back from a photography seminar by Ian Plant (link here). For the last three years, Linda and I have been going to the Peoria Camera Club featured photography speakers. The first two had speakers we were very familiar with, however, Ian was new to us and we did not know what to expect. There was some hesitation this year due to the fact that the $75/person fee is a pretty steep if you are unsure if you are going to get any takeaways for the investment. We checked out his site and his work was very interesting – he also ranged from landscape to wildlife which covered both our interests. Being that it was our little thing we do together, we took a chance. We definitely didn’t expect the 9+ inches of snow accumulation that started late last night and has continued throughout the day. This kept a lot of planned attendees home – living in the country we are accustomed to the slippery driving conditions and made it there without incident (can’t say the same for all the trucks and cars we passed in the ditches on our way there). Turned out we had a great time and have new ideas to try out next time we are in the field. Also had a chance to mingle with some of the Peoria Camera Club members which was fun as well.

Having been inspired by Ian today, thought I’d go ahead and put out another post.

Texas Tortoise found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January 2017

Nope, that isn’t a bird for a change! Based on the multitude of hate mail sacks that hit our front door, it was apparent that you wanted a break from the birds. After a quick look through my queue, I found this prehistoric throwback and thought it would fit the bill. Granted, I did come upon this slow moving creature in the midst of birding Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge on our Texas birding trip back in January 2017. This would have been our first visit to the Sticky Mud Lagoon (in case you were wondering what Atascosa means), quickly making its way into my top 10 birding locations. Just be sure and keep a close eye on the road into that place or plan a visit to your favorite tire alignment technician. Actually, let’s call it a giant pothole that leads into the park that happens to have some high gravel parts in it.

Texas Tortoise found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January 2017

Hit the jump to read more about this featured creature!

Continue reading A Slower Life

Paying It Forward

Tonight has been quite the event. Headed out to Menards to get a number of 2x4s and other materials for a new project for the garage. Sparing you the details, but thanks to an ill advised decision by the managers there, but I’ll be getting my lumber from other merchants going forward. I only mention that to set the mood as I was already perturbed before a White-Tailed Buck opted for a game of Chicken on the way back home. Barely avoided that before hearing a loud crash at the rear of the truck. Those of us in big Deer populated areas know all too well, that you need to always be aware of the companions that cross behind. Looked through my rear view mirror and groaned – couldn’t see the lumber anymore. Pulled to the side and braced myself for disappointment and went back to check the damage. Turns out hard braking to avoid the Buck caused the tailgate to give way – that was the crash, not another Deer. Wood was still there, just below my view line in the bed. Now doubly perturbed, had to slam on the breaks for a second time thanks to a stupid black Cat playing Frogger across my driveway. Some days it is just better to stay in bed! Decided the best way to beat the stress was to post on a more uplifting experience. With that I bring you another new check in my birding list.

Common Pauraque discovered at Laguna Atascosa, Los Fresnos, TX in December 2017

How cool is that! Wait, you can’t see that? Well, don’t feel too bad, I definitely didn’t see it at first either. Backing up a bit, I was taking pictures of the Golden-Fronted Woodpecker that was featured several posts back (link here). A refuge volunteer came up and asked me what I was taking pictures of. If you recall that post you’ll understand my response was to point to the sign being used to brace the camera. He then responded with “Do you want to see a Parrot playing croquet?” Now I ask you, who doesn’t want to see a Parrot playing croquet? Correct, no one. Responding with “sure”, I let him pass to lead the way. Linda (who had arrived at the same time as the volunteer) allowed our tour guide to get a small lead on us before asking me if I even knew what that was. She corrected suspected my response would be “Nope”. Figured it would be a Parrot with a large mallet.

Can you see it now?

Common Pauraque discovered at Laguna Atascosa, Los Fresnos, TX in December 2017

No worries, I was having an equally hard time.

Hit the jump to find out what’s lurking in the brush.

Continue reading Paying It Forward

A Stealthy Imposter

I have trained myself to look for the loner when it comes to water and shorebirds. Experience tells me those are the ones that end up being the most intriguing. In the birding world, it is the intriguing ones that get you excited because those are the ones that end up making the latest checkmark in your life list. Contrast that with staring at a cover of Coots – if you do not have a Coot you are in luck, already been to any body of water near me, then you typically utter “more damn Coots” and move on. Although not as diligent on tera-firma, I do try to keep an eye out for those brief encounters.

A few posts ago, I featured the White-Winged Dove (link here). That encounter at the Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge is the location for today’s post. Most of those shots were captured from within their bird blind just out from the visitor center. While getting that +1 in the tin, another creature came darting out from the ground cover, made an aggressive move toward my subject and then raced back into the shadows.

White-Tipped Dove found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas in January 2017

Hit the jump to read more about this elusive bird.

Continue reading A Stealthy Imposter

A Jealous Jay

I suspect my reader base that isn’t fond of birds feel like they are getting a root canal when they come here as of late. To those individuals I must extend my upmost apologies. I will do my best to make up for this lean to the feather, but I am on a mission and I’m running out of time. Funny how a couple of months before the finish line seem like an eternity until that calendar turns and you’re left looking at your to-do list wondering how it could possibly still have that many items. There are definite upsides to all this focus on production – my photo queue, although still rather slight, has been shrinking. It did undergo a transformation from FIFO popping to LIFO popping meaning the memory banks will need to be excavated as the snap to post gap on some of those queued items are getting pretty long (3+ years yikes). The other benefit is I get to show off a number of cool birds!

Green Jay discovered at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, TX in January 2017

This bird is so cool it got the Linda stamp of approval. She doesn’t pull this particular stamp out very often. Contrast that with her “Total Crap” stamp which is so worn down from overuse you can barely read the words – she’s a pretty harsh critic of my work hehehe. When it comes to bird photography, she will not even give the subject the dignity of taking a picture if it isn’t “pretty”. Needless to say, Sparrows will never occupy her tin. It didn’t take her long to get her camera out and start taking pictures of this gorgeous specimen.

Green Jay discovered at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, TX in January 2017

Hit the jump to see a few more pictures of this striking bird!

Continue reading A Jealous Jay

Edge of Seventeen

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone! Linda and I had the opportunity to learn more about the International Crane Foundation tonight thanks to a guest speaker at the local Audubon Society chapter. We are members of the ICF based in Baraboo, Wisconsin. Linda discovered that place sometime back when investigating things to do while in the area. About every year since then we have been making our way back up there to see how the Cranes are doing in their recovery. Tonight we were able to learn a bit more about the site and pleased to see the Whooping Crane (link here) status is starting to look up. Unfortunately, Linda nixed my efforts to put on the Crane suit the speaker brought showing how they imprint the young – someday I’ll get to try that bird suit on and post the pictures here hehehehe. Big thanks to the Audubon Society for hosting that event. Oh, and if you are in the neighborhood you might want to check out the guest speaker for next month – heard it might be on Texas Birding.

Speaking of Texas birding, how about this intriguing specimen.

White-Winged Dove Shot at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, TX in January 2017

If you live in North America and Central America, at first glance you might mistake this bird for the Mourning Dove. That Dove is very common in those regions and wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t see at least one a day hanging out in trees next to your feeders or hanging out with their friends on powerlines trying to choose which car they want to aim their white bombs at – based on experience this always ends up being the shiniest clean car they can find. From a birding perspective, the Mourning Dove is one of those species that has become so common I generally do not pay them very much attention. Same goes for those water chickens the Coots. I might take a few pictures of them just to help with the end of day count summary. That is exactly what occurred while we were at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge on our Texas trip back in January 2017.

White-Winged Dove Shot at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, TX in January 2017

Hit the jump to read a bit more about this feathered encounter.

Continue reading Edge of Seventeen

A Well Placed Sign

I think one of the reasons I am drawn to birding is the ever increasing challenge inherit in the activity. Like my other favorite pastime, running, the barrier to entry is pretty low. If you want to get started in running, all you really need to do is grab your favorite pair of sneakers, lace them on and pretty much go. Over time that gets to be easy so you think to yourself, maybe I will go further or perhaps try to go a bit faster the next time. Complete that bump in ability and next thing you know you are training for a marathon or some other crazy running related activity – wrapped up in all of this is the ongoing investment in tailored shoes, technical clothing and of course new breakthroughs in hydration and fuel.

Golden-Fronted Woodpecker discovered at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January 2017

Compare that to birding. To get started, all you really need is to … well, go outside and look. There are very few places that are inhabitable, that doesn’t have at least one bird to look at if even a House Sparrow or Crow. Like Running, the desire to do more starts creeping in so you expand your circle and start acquiring a few reference books. Eventually you are planning your vacations around a particular bird and invested in some serious photography equipment. The challenge has escalated to getting a better shot of a bird or properly identifying a never seen before species. In Running and in Birding, the thrill of the accomplishment is the fuel that keeps the interest revving.

Sounds impressive doesn’t it – the struggle of man vs wild, overcoming incredible obstacles to get the shot and burning the midnight oil pouring through reference books barely able to keep the lids open enough to compare your blurry image to the hand drawn reference. That may be true for some situations, but don’t be fooled, there are times like this that are embarrassingly easy.

Golden-Fronted Woodpecker discovered at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge in January 2017

Hit the jump to find out what this new bird is!

Continue reading A Well Placed Sign

Gator for Fast Food Delivery

The month counter has officially gone up by one which means the post count falls all the way back to zero. Figured it was time to give my non-birding friends a break from the barrage of birds last month. Don’t be fooled though, you are not out of the woods yet .. or more appropriately I guess, not out of the Gulf Coast yet. If things go as planned, there will be a bevy of new birds to read about this month from our Texas trips. First, let’s have a chuckle!

Birding Gator Speak for Food Delivery

That there is one scary beast. For some reason I really wasn’t thinking about the dangers of birding on my first trip to Texas several years back. It wasn’t until our second visit to Padre Island that we came face to face with a living dinosaur or rather BIG ASS LIZARDS. Our first day at Padre Island Birding and Nature Center back in January 2017, we saw a number of signs on the railings supposedly indicating an Alligator sighting. We didn’t see a single one that morning and both of us decided it was all a grand hoax to tease the visitors.

Alligators encountered while birding Texas in January 2017 - South Padre Island

Hit the jump to see the rest of the Gator shots we were able to get in the tin!

Continue reading Gator for Fast Food Delivery