First off, Happy Easter to everyone! If all goes well today, I’ll be adding a check on my birding list thanks to a quick trip up north. Ron has alerted me to a bird hanging out around Joliet that I still need to get in the tin. Apparently this particular specimen has decided to get chummy with a local flock. The current plan is to catch some birding at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. The wind is supposed to die down, but the mercury dropped as well. Hmm, guessing the younger generation doesn’t know what that means anymore – I remember as a kid having mercury races on the school bus – put a drop in each of the channels of the rubber mat that ran the length of the bus between the seats and see which one made it to the back of the bus by the end of the trip – then again, somewhat amazed it didn’t cause serious health damage. In honor of going after a new bird, decided to feature another new check on my list.
That there is a Least Bittern discovered at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center in December 2016. By now you should be very familiar with that birding sight on the South Texas Gulf Coast. Someday I should count up all the +1’s my two trips to that location have netted. Guessing it rivals the impressive counts obtained at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve in Nevada. That isn’t even considering the improved pictures I was able to get in the tin for birds already on the list. This particular find almost went unnoticed in the digital darkroom.
Hit the jump to see another version of this picture and learn a bit (ha) more about this Bittern.
Continue reading Less Bitter
There are times when you look at a bird and go hmmm. Then you look at the bird a little closer and go hmmm. You reach into your pocket, start up your favorite bird identification app, do a bit of searching and then go hmmm. Desperate you ask every person with a camera or binoculars slung around their neck what they think of said bird and now everyone collectively goes hmmm. Pretty soon there is quite the gaggle of humans staring at pretty bird simply sitting on a fence watching the sun go by.
If you haven’t guessed already, this is exactly one of those times. Linda and I were visiting one of our favorite birding locations along the Texas Gulf Coast – the South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center. This is our second time to this jewel of a birding place and each time it gets better and better. Oddly enough, we managed to show up there at the one year anniversary of being there back in December 2016. Ever get one of those times when you ask yourself if time travel might be possible and the unexpected side effect is you can’t remember initiating the time travel? (I have dibs on that idea before you get any thoughts of using that in a script hehehe).
Hit the jump to find out what this bird is!
Continue reading Expert Assist
Had a bit of a scare last night. I had just started into a training run on the treadmill – weather has not been conducive to outside runs as of late either due to a deluge of the fluffy stuff or dangerous single to subzero temps. Trust me, if I could run outside, I would, rather that subject myself to the modern day torture machine my fellow runners and I refer to as the killmill. Less than 2 tenths into the planned 7 mile run a sharp stab hit me just below the ankle nearly throwing me off the deck. Managed to stick an ugly landing that brought me to my knees. Tried rubbing and stretching it, but the foot was locked up and wouldn’t hold weight. Had to call it for the night and thinking it might be a stress fracture. Found out from the chiro today, likely not a fracture but had dislocated a bone in the area – that was snapped back into place (that was near equal to the pain of when it happened). Foot moving now – gonna wait for a couple of days before pushing it again. Thought I would get a quick post out there before applying some ice.
Today’s featured feathered species is one I had to go all the way to the southern tip of Texas to get.
On second thought, I guess technically I didn’t need to go all the way to Texas for this one. Nope, I could have simply walked a quarter mile down our road and snapped one hanging out on some nearby power lines. You know what I say, why do something in the cold when you can simply drive for two days and do the exact same thing, but in warmer weather. The region map for this species looks like someone grabbed a can of purple paint and just threw it on the US and let it drain all the way down to the tip of South America. It also includes a line up to Alaska so our isolated friends to the northwest get to experience them as well. Problem is, they are not really a prized bird, unless you are historically bad at Roshambo and need a confidence builder – these birds absolutely suck at it opting to pick Rock nearly 100% of the time. (in a rare move, they’ll through a Spock out thinking they’re playing the expanded game developed by Sheldon). It is actually their stubbornness in always throwing rock that has given this species their name – Rock Pigeon (you can even the one below this about to clinch those talons and do it again – never ever learn – Paper .. you lose).
This particular Rock Pigeon was spotted at the South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center. “Spotted” in this context being it walked down the railing toward me until it was less than a foot away promptly challenging me to a game of claw wits. It couldn’t match my $10 bet so I declined – not going to take the risk of humiliating myself to a Pigeon without some skin in the game. I did take the opportunity to create some distance between us in order to get a picture. I had The Beast out there and that was waaaaaay to close for me to focus. Laughing at how long it has taken to get this fairly common bird in the tin, grabbed a few shots before it headed off to find a more willing challenger.
As far as facts go, Pigeons are well known for the ability to find their homes – some say through magnetic fields along with senses and sun positioning. Must be a handy talent after a night of drinking at the local bar. Cornell mentions these Rock Pigeons carried messages during the first and second World Wars. I was not aware that the various variations of their coloring are given names – the blueish-gray version with the two black bars shown here is referred to as the blue-bar variety – will have to keep a look out for the other patterns (one is rusty red, some have spots, others solid and then there are splotched, mostly red and mostly white etc.). I was always under the impression these birds carried some pretty nasty diseases, but unable to confirm that on the Cornell’s site. Wikipedia did have a blurb about them harboring a diverse parasite fauna (which they started to name causing me to quickly go for the back button before getting the crawlies.
That’s all I have for you tonight. Definitely not a rare bird by any means, but happy to finally be able to officially add the +1 to my list.
For the second straight day I have had to plow our driveway thanks to a near non-stop snow storm that has decided to take up residence in the heartland of Illinois. It was coming down pretty hard on our way back from our “dinner with a skunk” Valentines dinner last night – think I mentioned that event on my last post. Our local Wildlife Prairie Park holds the event as a fund raiser for their now privately funded park (thankfully taken back from our fiscally weak state). Yes, they do have a live skunk to visit and get pictures with. In the past they have had two, Tink and Tank, but this year we were sans Tank. Not sure why, but hope all is well with the little guy. If you haven’t made the association yet, this is a play on Pepé Le Pew who would likely be enemy #1 for the Metoo movement based on his aggressive behavior in those old cartoons. As expected, we had a great time socializing with our good friends and partaking in the festivities. Maybe I’ll even pull out our pictures with the Tink for a future post. Now that the effects of a free bar have worn off, time to get back up on that saddle and ride the [fence] posts.
Today’s featured bird and new notch on my camera strap is…
Hit the jump to see a few more shots of this elusive bird.
Continue reading From Virginia by Rail
Today we are back at my favorite South Padre Island birding spot, the Bird Viewing and Nature Center. In case you have not been keeping track, this incredible site has been spinning the wheels on my bird counter as of late. May just have to get the can of WD 40 out and give the gears a drink to cool them off. Once again, we are getting hit with another blanket of snow here in the heartland. Considering we have been fairly dry this winter, we were due for a good covering. There is one benefit to the harsh conditions – more time for blogging!
Keeping with the Texas theme and for that matter the bird theme and well the +1 theme I present to you Elmo.
Okay, maybe not THE Elmo, but it does have a red fluffy head at least. Not very difficult to figure out this particular duck is called a … wait for it … yep, a Redhead. It would save me a lot of time digging into reference books if all the birds could be named after their key feature. While taking the pictures it occurred to me that something might be wrong with this particular Redhead. The Wing was carried lower than I expected and looked a bit underdeveloped. Not being familiar with the Redhead, I tried to find some reference shots on Google – surprising how few pictures there are of this duck standing. Even Cornell was sans standing reference shots. Of the two I did find, their wings were folded neatly along their body.
Hit the jump to see more of the Redheads!
Continue reading There’s Elmo
Greetings from the white tundra. If you are currently in the heartland you are likely looking out your window wondering if someone just shook the snow globe you’ve been living in. The back breaking fluffy stuff is officially blanketing our driveways and travel-ways. Fortunately, this is nothing new for those of us choosing to live in Illinois where are motto is “Our state might be completely broke, but at least we get all four seasons!” Everyone knows that the best thing to do in a snow storm is to go birding … well, birding in my den that is. In a glass half full perspective (probably with ice), a large backlog comes in handy on days like this.
On this snowy day, I bring you Mr.200 from the warm confines of Texas.
Now that is a beautiful bird. I came across it in the nick of time while visiting the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. Should be no surprise for my regular readers, but just in case, Linda and I were visiting down there in January of 2017. A shockingly short time ago based on my usual delay in getting my pictures processed and posted here. I was heading back to the visitor center after a fruitful day birding at the center. It was my second time there that day and it was getting late and wanted to get back to Linda who was keeping the dogs company in the RV. We were reluctantly heading back home the following day.
Hit the jump to learn what this new colorful addition to my birding happens to be!
Continue reading Mr. 200
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!
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.
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