The Lizard King

Greetings everyone!  I would like take this opportunity to officially welcome my brother Ron to the photography blogging world (cheers, hoorays, clowns.. wait scratch that last evil thought).  If you would like to check out his new site, you can visit it by either using the Blog link area in the right navigation pane our simply go here http://rondoerflerphotography.net (link here). Of course, to rub in his superior cache of birds, he leads off with a bird I do not have (dammit!).  If that wasn’t enough he includes photos of bird babies which … wait for it .. .wait for it … I do not have either.  Now before you go feeling too bad for me — and you should be by now — this foray into the wildlife blogging arena comes at an expense.  One trait of my middle brother is he is extremely competitive.  My other brother and I have just learned to live with this unique trait Ron has from the rest of our family – we considered an intervention many years back, but decided it would become a contest on how long he could hold out and opted to not waste the time.  It is because of this trait I had to break down and create an official set of birding rules for us.  This official list can be found on a previous post (link here).  Please take note of Rule 06: If you have a working blog you must feature the bird before counting.  Guess what folks, Ron has a birding blog.  As explicitly stated in our official birding rules, he now has to feature every bird on the blog before it can be officially counted.  I kind of feel bad for him.  Well, for a few minutes at least, but then I realized I was up on him like 160 to TWO (although, I am not competitive).    Regardless, check out Ron’s site – he has that thing looking really sharp.

To be honest, this post is mainly to welcome Ron and picked a post topic that I didn’t need to spend a lot of time on.

Various Lizards from Nevada - August 2013

That my friends is what I refer to as a Lizard.  I can also tell you that my lovely wife always refers to them as snakes with legs.  This specifically means she gets near hysterical when she sees one and has a tendency to rip my clothes to pieces trying to hide behind me (don’t believe me, ASK HER).

Various Lizards from Nevada - August 2013

Unlike my wife, I hope you like looking at picture of Lizards I took out on our trip to Vegas.

Hit the jump to see a few more Lizard shots!

Continue reading The Lizard King

Slow Motion Life

Well, I kinda lied in my last post.  Ron and I had planned to do a little birding in Allerton Park yesterday, but Ron ran into a bit of bad luck that knocked him out of the event.  Probably not a bad thing in the end due to the stifling heat that we are currently experiencing out her in Flyover Country.  To put it in perspective, I had Linda drive me to the Lake of the Woods Forest Preserve.  I noticed a nice trail in the back of that park while getting in a 6 mile run there Friday evening.  We had a couple of hours after the dog show, so took some time to see if it was worth us hitting it on our next trip over there.  It is actually a pretty nice trail that runs along the Sangamon River – bad thing is after 2 miles I was soaking wet from the heat.  The feels like temperature at home when we got back was 112!

Fortunately, the heat isn’t a problem for today’s featured creature.
Tortoise in Red Rock Canyon - Nevada August 2013

That there is what they call a Tortoise.  Guessing you were thinking Turtle.  They are both reptiles and that is the common name associated with the hard shells, but there is actually a definite distinction between the two.  For starters, Tortoises are land dwellers, where Turtles spend most of their time in water habitats.  Clearly this was the case with these specimens seeing as how we took them outside the headquarters of Red Rock Canyon in Nevada.  This dwelling distinction also leads to another difference – Turtles have webbed feet and very sharp claws to navigate the water and pull themselves up on logs etc. to sun.

Tortoise in Red Rock Canyon - Nevada August 2013

Hit the jump to see a few more pictures and learn a few more facts picked up from some quick research.

Continue reading Slow Motion Life

On the Trail of Oregon

Ahhhh, my first day of the holiday season vacation!   Of course, this just means I swap career work items for honey do work items but it sure feels great to be able to sleep in a bit.  Knowing all the things I have to get done over this break, figured it would be prudent to get some December posts out of the way.  So, I bring you today’s featured feathered friend.
Oregon Junco - Nevada

I took this while out hiking the Red Rock Canyon in Nevada (outside of Las Vegas).  We’ve been there a couple of times now and based on the previous posts and some that are still in the hopper, I must say it has produced a surprising number of checks in the bird list – add in the marks gained from Henderson and Nevada has been very very good to me – they obviously have better wildlife than they do politicians.   For those not aware, this particular specimen comes from the Dark-Eyed Junco family.  Their long black hood is pretty distinctive in the birding arena.  The Dark-Eyed Juncos have been featured on the blog a number of times now (links here, here and here).  Because of they are relatively common (they show up in droves here every Winter).  I usually don’t get too excited about capturing them but as a rule, “never pass up a bird shot”.  Once again this principle has likely led to a new mark in the bird list.

Oregon Junco - Nevada

If you look at the specimens in the links above or live in the Midwest you are familiar with one variation of the Dark-Eyed Junco – the Slate Colored group.  They are aptly named in that they are pretty much dark gray colored from head and top feathering through to the tail. Typically they have a white underbelly with some variation in gender.  There is a White-Winged group, a Gray-Headed group and a Pink-Sided group to name a few, but none of those variations have the distinctive executioner hood.  It is this specific feature that led me to the determination that this is an Oregon group Dark-Eyed Junco.

Hit the jump to see a couple more pictures of the Junco (a different one to be specific) and learn a few facts about this little bird.

Continue reading On the Trail of Oregon

When a Wren Isn’t Just a Wren

I’m having some serious concerns about a race I have this Sunday.  It’s time for the annual IVS Half Marathon in the hills of Springdale Cemetery.  Even when I’m healthy this race can take its toll on me, evident by last year’s struggle in the frying pan (link here).  Unfortunately I fell victim to the Peoria Plague last Saturday and I just can’t seem to shake it.  This week was a big project at work which didn’t give me much time to nurse it, so it sunk its teeth in deep.  Hit my last 12+ miler last Friday, missed my 8 miles taper last Sunday, did hit my 6 mile taper Tuesday but felt like crap afterwards and then decided against the 4  mile run  scheduled for yesterday.  Suck Suck Suck.  Topping it off I messed up my back sometime this week .. Suck Suck Double Suck.  I worked from home today to force myself to keep down and opted for a quick adjustment at the chiro in an attempt to get that calmed down.  Back feels much better now (legs were an inch off.. would have been running in circles ha) and some light at the end of the tunnel on the plague.  I primarily breathe through my mouth during the run so that mitigates some of the stuffiness.  One more day of doing nothing (which absolutely kills me) and hopefully my temple will be whole again – keeping the fingers crossed.  Figured I’d crank out a happy post to keep my mind off of the race.

Noticed this bird while reviewing the Red Rock Canyon shots in the digital darkroom.  I initially passed it off as a House Wren and set it to the side noting the execution on the shots was less than stellar.  I have them around here anyway and even featured one during Project Chekov (link here).

At the time I didn’t really think much about it until one day I was looking through the bird references when I came to the House Wren section.  Something caught my eye which made me hesitate a bit.  Something was amiss but couldn’t put my finger on it.  Tail up, wings sharp and down.  Even had the spotting on the wings and tail feathers.  Nothing to strange but the spidy senses were on full on alert.  What the hell?  Decided there was a kink in the system and started turning the page….and then it came to me.  Quickly flipping back to the House Wren confirmed my deduction.  The page I turned to featured the Bewick’s Wren.

Find out the details on this bird after the jump!

Continue reading When a Wren Isn’t Just a Wren

A Juniper Surprise

So, based on the hate mail that has been showing up in my mailbox lately, the teeming millions want their bird posts and they want it now. Fred B. from Michigan wrote “If I don’t get a bird post in the next 48 hours I’m going to stab this little voodoo doll I just made of you.” Harry R. from Nevada just called me a bunch of names and likened me to a terrorist – honestly I’m just assuming it was due to lack of birds but he may just be delusional and simply suffering from a bad case of the bumbles. Oh, and Rick P. from Texas simply asked me if I’d consider featuring a jailbird in the upcoming months. Although I don’t like to give into peer pressure, it is obvious that the people are getting restless – next thing you’ll know Homeland Security will put out a report stating there is a serious trend of the commoners not trusting their government. I’d hate to contribute to such unhealthy thoughts so to remedy that I’ll shall pull out a BIRD POST (trumpets, cheers, clowns losing their heads). Today I bring you a new bird on the list taken at our favorite home away from home – Vegas! To be specific it was actually taken at Red Rocks Canyon while we were out there in Nov 2012 – I know I know, beat me, whip me, make be write bad checks.
Oh, and did I mention it was kind of a surprise find?

Before we go any further, I need to state for the record, that these shots are for the most part pretty crappy.  They were taken in very bad lighting and it took everything I had in the digital darkroom just to make them somewhat presentable.  At first viewing I was disappointed and had my finger moving to the delete key when something made me take a second look.  When I was taking this shot I took the profile to be just a common Tufted Titmouse.  We have them all over the place where I live and that species alone probably consumes about a quarter of my bird food.  I’ve learned to at least snap a few shots in the field even if first impressions are less than exciting – even in bad lighting since these first two had to be pulled out of underbrush darkness.  Guessing that green thing is some form of trash and the twig in the first one is UBER annoying.  Regardless, something made me hesitate to toss them.

There is one common element in our local Titmouses .. maybe that is Titmice now that I think about it… and that is a sometimes faint but always present orange coloring on the sides.  The lack of that on this particular  bird was likely the reason for the hesitation. The crest was a perfect match but in all the shots, the orange element was missing.  It was off to the reference bookshelf to see if this was indeed a new entry on the bird list.  To my pleasant surprise there was an all grey Titmouse – in fact, there were two, the Juniper Titmouse and  the other being the Oak Titmouse.  The Juniper range fit the location I was at perfectly and the Oak was isolated along the Western side of California.  If only Sparrows could be this easy!

Hit the jump to see a few more crappy shots of this new bird to the list and read a few interesting related facts.

Continue reading A Juniper Surprise

Pin the Tail

I’ll tell you right up front, this particular blog post is going to cheat you a bit on your viewing pleasure.  Normally I try my best to give a healthy dose of pictures with each of my offerings.  When it comes to birds the goal is to give you a variety of poses or angles that help provide a good perspective of the featured species just in case you happen to live in one of those obnoxiously big cities and think birds just get in the view of the pretty skyscrapers.  Today.. not so much.  To be honest, I cannot recall what the issue was, but there was really only two picture taken of this bird – surprising since this was another NEW bird to check off the list.

The only hope is there are more shots of the Northern Pintail from the second day of shooting – which hasn’t been processed yet.  If I find more while in the digital darkroom for the those I’ll be sure and post them to make up for the sparsity here.  There is a correction for the long term readers of this blog.  Back on June 5th 2010 I suggested one of the bird shots on that post was a Pintail (although skeptical even then – link here).  Clearly it didn’t possess the twin tails of real Pintails as clearly seen in these shots.

This day began in one of those “Small World” experiences.  It was a little cool that day so I was sporting my Illini pullover.  While walking up to the entrance of the Preserve, a man came out and noticed the coat and asked me if I had gone to Illinois.  Always seems surreal to head out thousands of miles from home and then come across someone that lives a few hundred miles from your hometown.  He actually was the individual who alerted us to the presence of the Pintail.  Based on his excitement at the time it appears that was not a common sighting on the ponds.  A quick look at the regions indicates they do Winter there in that region, but since this was August that does seem pretty early.  From an artistic perspective, I find the color palette on these ducks to be gorgeous which is only enhanced by the sleek profile.  In case you are wondering, these two are both males.

How about some interesting facts to complete the post.  First off they are very abundant and therefore have a conservation status of Least Concern – follow up research indicates they are in a large decline so this may actually change in the future (sad).  They also happen to be a very popular game duck due to (and I quote Wikipedia) “speed, agility, and excellent eating qualities”.  Hey, look ad that purdy eyegil burrd leck’s put led in itz ass.  They are classed as dabbling ducks or simply those ducks that feed off the water’s surface instead of diving.  They are primarily plant eating animals with the exception of when the female is nesting.  During that time,  it changes to invertebrates likes insects – wonder if that is similar to us humans which tend to switch to ice cream and pickle juice during our “nesting” period.  Interesting.. another site indicates they are the first ducks to begin their Winter migration.  I think we can personally confirm that now!  And lastly, the ducks organization website indicates that Northern Pintails have a circumpolar breeding pattern.  Know what that means?  … ‘cuz I have no clue hehehe.  Current guess is they only have sex when circling a polar bear.  Trust me, I’m an Eggspert on dem der wingy things.

That’s all folks – my apologies again for the lack of pictures – good news is you could read the whole post without a jump.