Greetings from what seems like day 2,367 of the Illinois lockdown! Anytime my running gets curtailed things tend to start dragging. Thanks to a local park and a Corp of Engineer site where I do 90% of my trail and hill training being closed, I’ve had to resort to running county roads and my treadmill. Our rural roads have a nasty crown in them which makes my hips scream and any distance runner can attest long training runs indoors will grind your mind to zombie in nothing flat. I have been able to confirm some stuff during this eternity (okay, more like 4 days). For example, although I had already written off the NFL several years ago in honor of my Father who fought under the symbol they think so little of, I have now found my life is quite fine without any professional sports… not to mention a hell of a lot more productive. Guessing that is exactly what every professional sports franchise fears every single day – when the fans realize you are not a necessity. Now contrast that with things I DO need – you know, like CHECKS ON MY BIRDING LIST. Ron put a major dent in my minuscule lead earlier in the year and I need every little morsel of count I can get which brings me to this.
If you are like me when I originally took this shot 0.86 dog years ago. We were out in the Colorado region attending the Teacup Dog Agility Association Nationals (brings up fond memories of our beloved Rizzi who took 6th in the nation for his height group – we still miss that little guy who left us in the midst of Linda’ surgery last year). On our way out we swung by the Rocky Mountain National Park for a little birding. While taking in the local Nutcrackers, Marmots and Owls, a Chickadee decided to drop in and see what had everyone’s attention. We have our share of Chickadees here in the Midwest so didn’t get too excited at the time. Nevertheless, staying true to the bird photographer’s code, I made sure to get a few shots in the tin.
Hit the jump to read about more about this overlooked bird.
Continue reading The Whites on Mountaintops
Greetings to my readers! A week ago I was standing out in my woods surrounded by a multitude of Halloween decorations. My non-wildlife blog will get an in depth look at that event, but I mainly point this out as a comparative perspective. See, I was standing out in my woods surrounded by creations of the dead IN MY T-SHIRT. October 21st and it was perfect out even in the dead of night. The week before a rainy, chilly, windy mess of a day. Now fast forward a week to today. Once again, standing in the woods surrounded by a multitude of Halloween decorations. This time in someone else’s haunted trail and more pertinent to the lead in – IN 2 SHIRTS, 2 COATS and GLOVES. Talk about one hell of a temperature swing for out here in the Midwest. Think it was even trying to flurry a bit towards the middle of the day. Other than a training run tomorrow, think I’ll just stay in and get caught up on my blog quota for the rapidly closing end of the month.
As a lead in, let’s take a look at a very colorful bird.
That there is a Yellow-Rumped Warbler. This pretty specimen was shot while on a trip out to the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado back in May 2014. Technically it was an add on from a trip to the Denver area for the Teacup Dog Agility Nationals. Linda bribed me with a trip through the park in order to convince me to head out there. I’ve have now tried two times to get the White-tailed Ptarmigan up on the Tundra trail – both coming up empty. Making the best of it, I did get some other specimens in the park, which included the one you are seeing here. Note, I intend to continue going back there until I get that bird checked off my list!
Hit the jump to see and read a bit more about this colorful Warbler!
Continue reading The Same but Different
Wow, I feel like a true slacker. Something like the 15th of the month and I have not cranked out a single post yet. Normally I would feel worse than I currently do when in this situation, but the calendar has been full to the brim as of late. Getting close to Halloween (ask my wife, any day of the year is close to Halloween to me), so working hard on new animations for the Trail of Tears, grass up to my knees in our back lot and a big race coming up in a mere two days. At least the last of the taper runs are done for that race – pretty darn hot out there as of late making those a total sweatfest. Still shame on me for once again getting behind on my posts. Maybe I need a swift kick in the nuts I mean pants to get me going!?!
Speaking of Nuts (hey, these lead ins don’t right themselves you know hehehehe!)
How do you like that fine specimen? For those of you who don’t spend their spare time buried in bird reference books, that there is a Clark’s Nutcracker. It was shot in the Rocky Mountain National Park back in May of 2014. Yes, I know it was more than three years ago – I cringe every time I think about my backlog. A backlog that has grown significantly as of late thanks to no less than two bird outings in the last 3 or 4 weeks and another one a few weeks away. Of course, my brother Ron and I never came upon a Clark’s since those outings were local. You have to travel a bit to see these charcoal creatures.
Hit the jump to read about and see a few more pictures of this monochrome bird.
Continue reading Nuts!
I can safely say my body, at the moment, hasn’t been this sore since exactly one year ago today. Ironically, it is really due to almost the exact same torture I put it through last year although this year was about 13.1 miles easier. Yep, this is my anniversary of completing the Illini Marathon over in Champaign. Like last year, I once again battled the running gods by accepting the I-Challenge, but Linda pretty much insisted I only did the half challenge – 5K Friday and then a half marathon Saturday morning. I’ll leave the rest of the details for a future post, but there are three more medals to add to my wall… and legs that once again are screaming at me. Since I’m sitting here waiting for the pain to subside, decided it would be a good time for a post so here goes.
Well, this particular post shouldn’t be too much of a surprise if you happened to read my previous post on the Great Horned Owlets. You probably already guessed, their mother wasn’t very far away.
…. and you would be right! She was actually just on the other side of the tree trunk hanging out on a branch keeping a very close eye on any dangers that could threaten her cuties. She was pretty calm about the whole thing. Imagine a number of tourists driving up, pulling off to the side of the road, jumping out with all forms of cameras and then milling about under the very same tree her precious offspring are spending their days.
To her credit, she would check off all the dangers to her right…
Hit the jump to see a few more pictures of Mommy!
Continue reading Don’t Worry, Mommy Has Her Eyes On You
I have one word that defines today’s post topic – that being FINALLY. This happens to be one of those times when I was keenly aware that I was able to get a prized bird in the tin but it seems like it has been forever trying to get them processed and ready for publication. So, without any further delays, please say hello to my little friend.
How cool is that! That is the cute and puffy offspring of a Great Horned Owl. This particular nest was shot in the Rocky Mountain National Park back in May of 2014. Pretty sure I have mentioned this before, but we had traveled out to the Denver, Colorado area for the Teacup Dog Agility Nationals. As an incentive, Linda added in a side trip to the Rocky Mountain Park to check out the local wildlife. She knows me to well, I’m in the van and ready to go the minute I hear there’s a chance to spend some time in the mountains with The Beast.
“Who goes there!”
Hit the jump to see a few more shots of the fuzzy Great Horned offspring
Continue reading Owl-Let You Take Their Picture
Apparently I crossed some kind of red line in the sand from some of my loyal readers. It appears having the audacity to have 8 … count them … 8 posts on the topic of birding is enough to bring out the claws! It is quite surprising that these people are able to be so verbose in their email angst having to tap away on the keyboard with those pointy talons. So kudos to being able to pull that off, but now my email provider is sending me warnings that I’ve exceeded my quota and threatening to send out the National Guard. I even tried to defend myself with the argument that one of the posts was technically just a book report that happened to have some birds on the cover – nope, no appeasing the spurned. Well, we cannot have an unhappy fan base so in an attempt to rectify my wrongs I bring you ….
Hoping this cute and cuddly bunny will put everyone in a better mood. This little doe was taken at a trail head in the Rocky Mountain National Park back in May of 2014. (let’s go with “doe” this time because in truth I have absolutely no clue at this point and none of my shots reveal any clues – probably for the best). We had just come off a trail with a healthy collection of snow covering it. The Rocky Mountain May is a lot colder than our Midwest Mays – a lesson learned the first time we went out to Yellowstone at a similar point in the year – burrrrrr. On the return I spotted a Junco hanging out on a fence post and hopped over there to get some shots in the tin. Based on the number of shots I took of that Junco, the birding on the trail must not have been that good. After wearing out my shutter finger I headed back to the vehicle to warm up (guessing this was also at the encouragement of Linda who was likely getting frustrated at my long attention to a single bird). On the way back, this cute fur ball caught my attention hanging out in a small opening under a tree.
Hit the jump to see a few more shots of this bundle of fur and find out why it is so intriguing to me.
Continue reading My What Big Feet You Have
I’m about one day away from going completely nuts due to not having Internet access from my main computer. This is suppose to be resolved on Tuesday when the new satellite dish is installed. Until then, I am forced to use my wife’s computer which has to be the crappiest Dell (Studio XPS) I’ve ever used. Not only is this ridiculously hot thanks to the bad engineering design to have the lid close off the back vent when the lid is open, but the scratch pad mouse will float the cursor randomly if you just wave your thumbs over it.
I do need to persevere though and get through the vacation pictures. This particular set is essentially a set of ducks of which I have been unable to locate in any of my three bird field guides. This is likely due to being females and for some reason a majority of the guides will show a male specimen and then simply describe the female version. It may just be me, but I find this a very frustrating approach for identifying birds. Usually I can luck out and snap a male with the female which allows me to simply verify the image with the text for the male, but without a starting point, you are basically trying to wade through every description. After going through this process a couple of times, I have given up and will simply provide the images in hopes someone out there can help me out.
But first, here is one I could actually identify due to how common it is where I live. We walked up to Nymph Lake in Rocky Mountain National Forest. Unfortunately, the trail is actually uphill the entire way which did not win me any points with my wife. I think she was just about ready to beat me over the head with the tripod when we finally reached the destination. One of the first things we saw coming up to the lake was:
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen a mallard with its head in the water, but the interesting thing was how long he maintained this position. He would literally do a beak stand in the water for over a minute before bringing his head back up. 5 seconds of rest and he would go right back to that position. It seemed like some kind of inside duck joke on visitors (or an inside joke between Linda and I if she won the lottery which will remain a secret). This went on for the entire time we were at the lake. Still intrigued as to the reason, I happened to pan to the right a little and it all came crystal clear.
The dude was just showing off for the ladies. This is probably the duck equivalent to Val Kilmer doing stupid muscle poses during a sand volleyball game (except Val was with all males by the way). A quick funny story. On the way back down, I saw a small little snake dart into some rocks from the side of the path. Knowing Linda is deathly afraid of them, I calmly mentioned she should go ahead of me (while I blocked vision from the snake). She somehow put two and two together and started freaking out which included grabbing my shirt and literally ripping it to pieces. Next thing I know, one of my favorite shirts now has its sleeve seam completely ruined. Let that be a lesson to myself – next time, she’s going to have wished she hadn’t stepped on one and I’m keeping her hands off my clothes.
Since there a few unknown duck shots, I’ll put them after the jump. Again, if you recognize any of them, please drop a comment.
Continue reading What the Duck Is It?
The WordPress update effort has put me slightly behind, but nothing a quick jump back to the Yellowstone pictures can’t fix. While we were out there, we came across this interesting bird. This was actually the first time I have ever seen this particular variety and it caught me off guard when I saw it walking across a picnic table. This is not my best effort in getting tack sharp photos, but it was a struggle to get it to stand still for even a second so I could zero in on it or attempt to focus through the branches. According the trusty Audubon guide this is a Steller’s Jay and member of the Jay and Crow family.
According to the field guide, this bird is on the brash side and mostly omnivorous. True to the description, it was indeed scrounging for food among the various groups picnicking in the area. From a visual perspective, it is quite stellar looking with a bright blue back offset by a black plumed head…. somewhat woodpecker looking with a different color pallet.
From this particular picture it is obvious our presence was intruding on his foraging. Okay, I admit it, my focus hand was shaking out of fear the bird was going to stab me with its beak and rip my eyeball out. What, you do not believe me? Take a look at this shot smarty pants and tell me if this isn’t one pissed off bird.
Oh yeah, his meat instincts are kicking into high gear. I decided from that point on that all further pictures would stealth shots outside its vision. Hit the jump to see a few more shots of this quite interesting bird
Continue reading That is One Steller Jay
What does the Puss ‘n Boots and the tiny rock creatures in Galaxy Quest have in common? The answer is they frighten me. No, I know they are not clowns, but they have the ability to be charming and cute while they are scheming to kill you. Puss ‘N Boots would take off his hat, expand the eyes to capture his victim off guard and the pounces on them with saber in hand. Those cute looking rock creatures are all smurf like until one shows a weakness and they pounce on it and tear it to shreds with their fangs and claws. Why am I bothering to tell you this? The reason is I encountered a new creature on visit to the Rocky Mountain National Park that creeps me out in a similar manner. Here it is in stealth mode:
Did you find it? Here is a hint:
According to my National Audubon Society Field Guide to the Rocky Mountain States, this devious creature is a Marmot. In my opinion he looks like a groundhog or possibly a beaver with a furry tale instead of the paddle. Apparently, it is a member of the squirrel family which puts it in the Yosemite Sam Varmint category. There is an error in this guide as it states that the Marmot’s habitat is below 11,000 feet. This picture was taken at 12,000 feet on the Tundra trail.
Upon first look, it is all soft and cuddly like. He would probably curl up in your lap and softly chirp (straight from the guide) away.
But there is definitely a demon side to this creature. Take the jump to see a couple more pictures of the Marmot
Continue reading We’re Here for You Marmots – Rocky Mountain National Park