Hello everyone! We are quickly approaching the end of another year of blogging – my 11th year to be specific – and hoping to get a few more posts out before Father Time turns over the hourglass. The good news is other than a few cleanups here and there I am officially on vacation until the New Year giving me plenty of time to get that done. Of course, there are Halloween props to build (yes, that is a year long activity), books to read, house projects to finally wrap up and fingers crossed, some birding to get to. Fortunately, I was able to get a lot of the images for upcoming musings done while traveling Sunday removing the most difficult part of the blog process. The birds have been dominating the slots as of late and therefore switching it up a bait .. err … bit.
Nothing says Christmas like Alligators. Okay, maybe not, but I needed an excuse to feature this series of shots taken at the beginning of the year (note, that might seem a long time ago, but my back queue of shots has officially crested over 4 years – an embarrassing amount, but relieved to know my brother Ron having once chastised me for my inefficiencies is now experiencing a similar queue buildup ha!). Our menacing looking specimen comes to us courtesy of South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center.
Hit the jump to read a bit more about this menacing creature.
Continue reading Dangerous Waters
We are officially in December now and thus time to walk over to the big counter on the wall and reset the monthly post quota back to zero – by the way, where the hell did this year go!?! I have single digit days left at work to get this year’s work efforts wrapped up and set the preliminary plan for 2019 before the holiday starts … sigh feel like a race I’m never going to get ahead of. However, on the bright side, I can tell you where a large portion of the year went thanks to crossing off one of my annual goals tonight.
Anyone who follows either of my blogs know I spend my spare time bathed in sweat chasing down Father Time and running from the Reaper. During my Birding and Blogging talks this year I mentioned the reason I run (and lift) is so I can spend all day in the field hauling around big glass in hopes of taking pictures to display in my home gym to remind me why I work out – my circle of life. Always elated when I can check off a goal, let’s celebrate with some pie!
Well, maybe not the pie you were thinking of. This here is the birder’s version. Actually, I took some liberties here – this is really a Pie[d]-Billed Grebe. If you live anywhere in the US or a large swath of Canada, you have ample chance to get one of this cute creatures in the tin. It is a rare outing when we do not come upon the Pied on one of our water excursions. You might have to keep your eyes open for reasons explained later, but they are probably there hanging out in small groups or more likely solitaire.
Hit the jump to see some cute picture of the Pied-Billed Grebe!
Continue reading Let’s Celebrate with Pie[d]
Greetings everyone!. Been a fun day around here thanks to a spontaneous decision to celebrate our 27th anniversary by hunting down some birds and sunflower fields. We were not sure if the weather was going to hold out our not as some storm clouds were rolling through the area most of the day – thankfully we didn’t get hit with the tornado swarms that were doing significant damage to our Iowa neighbors. Looks like Linda’s relatives made it through without too much trouble. We ended up making a run down to Havana IL so I could get a nice bird in the tin (looking forward to getting that posted here) and Linda was definitely able to add to her flower portfolio form the two sunflower fields we successfully located. Those were both still in their bloom stages where the fields down the road from us have officially wilted. Tired from the long day, so opted to rest a bit and push out a post.
For ease, going back to our recent trip to the Texas Gulf Coast for this post. A lot of those pictures were processed already and easy to simply pull them into a new post. I find the largest chunk of time in any of my posts is getting the pictures in a shape I’m willing to share, so having that part out the way is a huge benefit when you have a short time to get one of these out. Today’s featured post is our friend the Sora. Like the last post, the Sora is not a new bird to the blog. That previous posting (link here) featured a specimen found down at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge. We ended up swinging through there today on our way to Havana. Unfortunately, the dry summer has really impacted that place. For those familiar with it, the water has receded way beyond the observation decks at the back of the refuge.
Hit the jump to read more about my encounters with the Sora.
Continue reading Sora Doubletake
My Cardinals just blew another late inning lead for the loss. Rather than sit her and seethe through the post game excuses, decided to simply turn off the source of my frustration and immerse myself in another blog post. Bring a bit of calm to my night and productivity at the same moment – can’t beat that… well you could if those damn Cardinals could keep it together… calming breadth, serenity now, puppies… okay, back under control. Thought I’d simply keep the theme from the last post going and feature another Heron family member.
Today’s effort is a combination post consisting of the same species, at the same spot, but a year apart. These first few shots were taken a little less than 6 months ago at the South Padre Bird Viewing and Nature Center. The Green Heron is not a new bird on my list – in fact it was featured all the way back in September 2012 (link here). Ironically the specimen back in 2012 was just down the road from our house in a state park. Seems like a bit of an overkill to drive all the way down to the tip of Texas to see the same species hehehe.
Hit the return to see a few more shots of the Green Heron
Continue reading A Green Double Take
Welcome to race day eve. Tomorrow the alarm will ring at 4:45am to signal the start of another day of racing. Fortunately, this one is a slight downgrade from the half to a 15K – now, for the record, it is the toughest 15K in Illinois thanks in part to a repeat loop with a wicked hill. That doesn’t concern me much thanks to a lot of hill work during training, but what does concern me is that two word weather term HEAT INDEX. Earlier this week the night temps dropped into the high sixties. No luck keeping that around. The heat index is supposed to get around 105F. Wish me luck, ever since the heat stroke episode, my internal thermostat has been very touchy. Always helps me to relax to sit down and get a post out.
Unlike the bulk of the posts lately (more like this year), the featured waterbird is not a new bird for my list. Nope, they were previously featured not once, but twice here already (link here and here). Not to mention, every time I see this bird the first thing that pops into my head is the image of my brother Ron trying to get into a good position to get a picture of one only to end up falling halfway down a large embankment and rolling to the bottom. Think my laughter ended up scaring the bird and for all that work, nothing to show in the tin – although a memory to last a lifetime.
Hit the jump to read more about this red nosed bird (apparently heavy drinkers ha)
Continue reading Rednosed Reedbird
Sometimes adversity results in finding yourself balled up on the floor trying to keep your eyes from floating out of their sockets (so people tell me). Of course, then there are difficult situations that turn out to be opportunities in disguise. Now the latter I have experienced multiple times and that includes this week! I’ve mentioned recently that my days and nights are packed at the moment with work and training devouring the few chances I have to get my posts out. The month was churning away and my quota counter wasn’t moving nearly fast enough. Decided to forego some sleep last night and get back into the digital darkroom and work some images up. At least with the most time consuming part out of the way, I could find smaller chunks of time to get something out there for you. While combing through my image cache, a pleasant surprise greeted me.
Turns out I had somehow overlooked a number of additional discoveries on our recent Texas trip over the Christmas holidays. One of those discoveries was this beautiful specimen. I think one of the brain fog contributing factors was my Audubon Chapter speech earlier in the year. Most of my blog posts were in preparation for that talk. Must have gotten confused thinking the work up of images for that presentation had already been posted here. A quick search of the blog came up empty – long story short(er), this cool looking Green Kingfisher was inadvertently skipped. So glad this was found, this Kingfisher is one of my favorite finds from the trip to South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center.
Continue reading Little Miss Green
A little late getting this published, so first off, wanted to extend my appreciation for the families that have served (those in theater and those that keep the home going so they can focus on their task at hand) and to those that will choose to protect this great country and her values abroad in spite of those that continue to tear it down from the inside. To those that gave the ultimate sacrifice, there are no words sufficient to thank beyond you will never be forgotten
Now back to your regularly scheduled content.
Good news, I survived my “new endeavor” in running. I still need to get my recollection post out (on my other blog), but as a quick summary I decided to add more challenge to my running passion and decided to move into trail racing. Probably wouldn’t recommend to others to start out in this version of the sport with a half marathon… in a hilly reservoir… with technical sections … and creek crossings. That run is only second to my marathon run in terms of toughness. It also happens to be one of a very few races I had a smile on the entire time. Amazing and needless to say, totally hooked – a round of claps for trails!
Well, actually more like a Clapper – and not the trail kind – rather the Rail kind. This rather large bird is the latest to bear the check mark on my birding list. We came upon this specimen on our birding trip to South Padre Island over the holiday break last December. The South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center has easily become one of my favorite birding locations adding new birds to my list every time we make it down there. If you have spent any time at all on my Wildlife Blog you already know how amazingly productive that location is thanks to an extensive boardwalk that allows access to the marshes without disturbing the birds. This one was found in nearly the same location where we spotted the Virginia Rail on a previous visit (link here).
Hit the jump to read more about this interesting bird!
Continue reading Clap So I Can See You
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.