Beast Mode

Not sure where this myth about vacations being relaxing originated from. Obviously not from one of our outings, that’s for sure. We have been basically in birding “beast mode” since we headed south right after Christmas. The days leading up to the new year was focused on trying to reduce the gap from 300 – the days since have been a whirlwind of checks as the Average Year slate was wiped clean. Definitely two sides of the same coin. Every check at the end of the year felt like getting teeth pulled versus the check extravaganza beginning on the first. While Brad was entertaining you with his +1, Linda and I (and Ron while he was down here) were hitting the south Texas hotspots trying not to miss any key birds that are only accessible in this particular region. Time after the sun went down was spent trying to catch up on my mail (Sisyphus could relate) and doing my best to clean up the Birding Chronicles to close out 2022 and reset for 2023. I need to update the text, but I did get the plot captures updated – 2022 can be found here and the 2023 shell can be found here (note, for ease I added a quick summary on the title page (link here). Thanks to an amazing day today at Brazos Bend State Park, the 2023 stats are already out of date – my latest count is 170! Pretty good for only 20 days into the year.

In honor of the birding “beast mode”, thought I’d go with a beast of a different kind.

Nilgai Antelope found off highway between South Padre Island and Brownsville on our January 2022 trip to Texas

Hit the jump to learn more about our surprise while driving to one of our base camps on South Padre Island.

Continue reading Beast Mode

The Wet Realm

It has been a whirlwind of birding since the start of the new year. When it comes to our Average Year efforts (link here), the most exhilarating birding is at the the start – when the counter resets to zero, everything you see with wings means a +1 for the year. Yeah, a Northern Cardinal – check – wow a Carolina Chickadee – check – is that a Grackle, why yes it is – check – IS THAT REALLY A Robin, color me thrilled – check, check, check and on and on. Ron was able to meet us down her for a week to get his year started off on the right foot as well. To be honest, if you miss the border birds, you are probably in a deep hole with tall slick sides. I am still trying to get caught up, but as of January 7th Ron is at 87 and my counter sits at 108. For those keeping track that is over 1/3rd of last year’s total. Ron had to get back home today (of all days, one where the FAA grounded all flights). We have several weeks before we start heading home which will allow me to pad my lead… oops, I mean turn my attention to other creatures…

Blowfish seen at Roberts Point in Port Aransas, TX, January 2022

Hit the jump to see a few more shots from the Gulf waters.

Continue reading The Wet Realm

When Less is a Plus

First off, Happy New Year everyone! Apologies for the long delay between posts, hopefully Brad was able to keep you entertained while I was away. Been a bit of a whirlwind around Intrigued since Christmas morning. Our plans to leave the day after ripping open our presents was altered by Mr. Freeze who found out we were attempting to escape his clutches. Started hearing about carnage on our path out of the state due to black ice/blowing snow and opted to hold out a day. Safer for sure, but made for some very long drives trying to get back on schedule. On top of that stress, I was still clutching a thread of hope on the Average Year front (not updated, but link here). My counter was stuck on 290 thanks to the storm and canceled Arizona trip coming into December. Picked up two strays in a small pond about an hour away and FINALLY tinned an elusive winter Sparrow. Even managed to add one more in Rochester during Linda’s checkup setting the counter at 294 for Christmas. Drove Linda nuts with all the possible scenarios that could lead to 6 ticks while on our trek south. Heart was tested by my first experience with a totally pissed off Rattler cocked and ready to take me out in Waco (more on that in a future post) – totally worth it as it led to a new bird lifer.

“Look at him go. This boy can really fly! He’s rounding first and really turning it on now, he’s not letting up at all, he’s gonna try for [300].

Worked my ass off in Austin trying to find something/anything that would put me at the finish line. Thanks to a very helpful birder who took me to within 5 feet of a bird I needed and a “pay $10 gimme” at another park got the excitement up.

“Here’s the pitch-he’s going, and what a jump he’s got,
He’s trying for third, here’s the throw, it’s in the dirt-safe at
Third! Holy cow, stolen base!”

297, 3 to go. Poured over the eBird sightings trying to find targets…4 possibilities remained – all with recorded sightings the previous days. Up early on New Year’s Eve with a glimmer of hope. Search, search strike one, go to next place, search, search, whiff, on to another place — optimism fading fast as frustration pushes to the forefront. Wait, is that one – YES, 298.

“The suicide squeeze is on! Here he comes, squeeze
Play, it’s gonna be close, holy cow, I think he’s gonna make it!”

Well, I think you probably already know the next line in the song, but night fell and I was..

“Stop[ped] right there!”

Sooooo close. Two less than I wanted. Bittersweet having the finish line in sight, still elated at the same time as I had no ambitions when I started this endeavor I’d be anywhere near a perfect bowling score. By the way, Ron clocked in at 296 with an incredible late surge.

Enough of my challenges, you are really here for this!

Lesser Goldfinch found at Guadalupe River State Park, San Antonio in January 2022

Hit the jump to read more about less.

Continue reading When Less is a Plus

Birdz n the Hood

We are now officially deep into the holiday season. Christmas will be here before we know it and the New Year stands ready to pile on disappointment for any unfulfilled ’22 goals. For a change, I happen to be in fairly good shape on the resolution front. As mentioned in a previous post, my 1200 mile goal has been met (currently at 1221.6 to be exact), and technically, my Average Year goals has been blown out of the water. Ron always reminds me that I thought it would be impossible to crest 200 birds in a single year. Stunned the count currently sits at 294 to the point I’m optimistic there’s an outside chance to crest 300. Two possible birds were on the hunt list for the end of this week (Prairie Falcon/Snowy Owl). Unfortunately, Mr. Freeze has decided to snow on my parade. The Four Snowmen of the Blizzpocalypse (link here) arrive tomorrow followed by the next “Ice Age” (-1F degrees base with 55mph gusts belching windchills to -30 and below). In those conditions, both Scrat and I would both lose our n….oses (link here). Fingers crossed we can get 6 checks the week after Christmas while we head south. In recognition of the “Hoodie” layer weather forecast – as in t-shirt, sweater, hoodie, coat, scarf, mittens and snoot-boot… how about we “check” out today’s featured feathered friend.

Hooded Oriole found at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in Brownsville, TX January 2022

Hit the jump to read more about our orange flavored specimen.

Continue reading Birdz n the Hood

Miss Magnificent

Hope you recovered quickly from Brad’s lava hike. In stark contrast, today’s post comes from the cold snow of Rochester, MN. We are up at Mayo for Linda’s annual heart checkup – which means ample time to get a post (or two) penned while we navigate Linda’s battery of pokes and prods. One positive, it allows me to continue researching a concerning phenomenon. It is a human behavior topic so it will be targeted for the mothership. Here is a teaser. We are historically social creatures, yet we are evolving to isolation as demonstrated by Waiting Room Entropy (which sounds a lot more appealing than my previous title Men’s Room Urinal Selection Principle link here). This is on full display in Mayo Clinic waiting rooms. Every grouping seeks to maximize space between themselves and others. It is an elaborate ballet as they cleverly try to disguise the task, hawking from the main aisles as they calculate the best spot. Circle backs are occasionally required when personal items are strategically placed. Quite fascinating to this life voyeur. Someday I’ll post the full multi-year analysis, but the New Year is fast approaching and I want to maximize distance between Ron and I’s “official” bird count.

Magnificent Frigatebird found at Roberts Point Park in Port Aransas, TX in January 2021

I can assure you Ron and I have not decided to start including Mosquitoes in our bird count – that blotch above is definitely a bird…well, not just any bird, rather a Magnificent bird!

Hit the jump to get a better view or our fork-tailed lady.

Continue reading Miss Magnificent

A Wizard in King B’s Tin

Greetings everyone from the warm state of Arizona…wait, why am I wearing winter clothes and looking out at a cold, overcast, dreary day – CRAP, I’m still in the broke state of Illinois. Unfortunately, there is an explanation for this change of plans. We are supposed to be in Mesa, Arizona this week giving our bones a preview of what’s coming in January and more importantly – pushing my Average Year (link here) over the absolutely shocking 300 threshold. Linda and I decided to get some of our Christmas shopping out of the way on Black Friday – picked up a few presents, a few bottles of wine and apparently a case of Covid. A complete non-event for me, a night of joint/bone aches and a sharp headache passed off originally as just another night after a long run doubled with time in the gym. Linda took it harder with more of an extended flu-like experience. She’s coming out of it now, thankfully, but we had to make a decision to cancel our trip before we lost the flex option. Going to take some magic for me to get to 300 birds for the year – maybe with the help of a Wizard!

Merlin found on 8 Mile Road, Galveston Island, Texas in January 2022

There are probably at least 3 or 4 winter birds that should be relatively easy to get as the temps continue to drop – Snowy Owls being one of them, which had its first sighting yesterday a few hours away. That should put me in the 290s, waaaaay above my projection at the begining of the year. The dark horse is the fact we will have a week of birding opportunities in Texas before the new year hits – fingers crossed. In light of the “magic” that needs to occur, thought this would be a perfect time to bring out another addition to my life list.

Hit the jump to read more about The Wizard!

Continue reading A Wizard in King B’s Tin

A Race for the Gold(en)

As we are practically at the end of November, I’m starting to feel the pressure as I’m in a race against time. December is a mess with a planned travel early in the month, all the holiday events and then we head south to give our bones a rest from the harsh Midwest chill. That leaves little leeway to everything I “need” much less “want” to get done. The Average Year (link here) is coming to a close and what I thought was an impossible mark to hit – 300 – it now feels incredibly close. Currently sitting at 288, a mere 12 new birds away. Unfortunately, my easy options are pretty much tinned. Linda has a plan that might just push me over. The other race is more literal. For several years now, my running goal has been at least 1200 miles per year. Took a hit when I badly injured my left ankle and my running days were put on hold helping Mother the best we could (link here). With all that. I am still only ~64 miles away which should be doable (predicting a couple long runs in the snow). Lastly there is the sprint to get my “official” NA Bird Life List increased to hit a year-end goal. I have a lot of new lifer birds in the tin thanks to our trip to Texas in January and as a result of our efforts in the Average Year (51 in the latter alone). In a personal decision often regretted, “official” checks also require a featured here at Intrigued.

Not sure how many I am going to have a chance to get to before January, but I did want to at least get through the rarities from the January trip (to make room for all the new rarities in our upcoming trip ha). Let’s start by racing for a gold medal err, make that a crown.

Golden-Crowned Warbler found at Valley Nature Center, Weslaco, TX in January 2022

Hit the jump to read more about this rather rare Warbler to the US.

Continue reading A Race for the Gold(en)

Giving Thanks with Bearded Ladies

To our readers based in the States (or at least hailing from the States) we extend a hearty Happy Thanksgiving! For those of you that do not officially celebrate this particular holiday, or at least maybe not at this point in the year, we wish you a Happy Thank’Em Day – basically a “Festivus for the Restofyou”. In the official Holiday, we typically adorn our tables with feasts of plenty anchored by the traditional plump, flightless domesticated Turkey. While partaking in said feast, we pay respect and gratefulness for those who helped us become what we are today, those that continue to keep us on the right path and for all those that we may never meet in person, but whose sacrifices, insights, creativity and other benefiting acts that contribute to our current state of living. Thank’Em Day is nearly equivalent. We still extend our appreciation for all the same things, just doesn’t include the bountiful feast (10 out of 10 Turkeys surveyed much prefer this alternative ha!).

Without further ado, I would like to start by giving my “Thank Yous” to our family. This has been a really tough year for Linda and I as we have both lost close and cherished family members. It’s the deep family bonds that really shine during these times and having their kind shoulders to lean on when times are darkest is the clearest definition of love. The same goes for our friends – some we’ve had the honor of building upon from childhood playgrounds, others gained later in life, all there to lend a hand when you need it, convert a frown to a smile, provide valuable advice when decisions need extra scrutiny and, for those in the close circle, even willing to ride along on a late night run to the “Train Station”.

And to our faithful Intrigued readers, many of them who have become dear friends over the years thanks to this forum, we want to let you know just how appreciated you are. Your interest in our tins and ramblings keeps us motivated in the field and continue to make this blog thingy just as exciting as it was when we started out nearly 16 years ago. Your kind comments and insights helped us to successfully grow the Wildlife side and will continue to guide us as we expand into more nature related themes.

None of this would be possible without Linda (shhhh, don’t tell her though) who is more often than not our field guide, bird whisperer, personnel transporter, trip planner, food provider and predator distracter … I mean LOOK OUT. My brother Ron is a huge contributor to Intrigued. Not only was he the inspiration for starting this whole blogging adventure, he’s always willing to head out into the field, helping to educate me on birds, assisting with difficult IDs, tick magnet and continually pushes me to improve my “skillz” (“You call that a picture of a bird, I painted better images with finger paints in kindergarten”). A heaping amount of gratitude to our Intrigued staff who toil away night and day to make us look good. (eh, with exception to our Pain-in-the-Ass lawyer pool ha). That includes a special thanks to Brad Marks (and his support staff) who recently came on board and is already giving us fantastic posts from his many adventures (not to mention catches a lot of my typos). Oh, and I can’t forget to express my appreciation for my intern (Linda “you can keep trying all you want, but I already told you a thousand times you are NOT getting an intern!!”) – think of that as a future shout out hehehehe.

Now for the most important thing I’m grateful for today ….

Wild Turkey found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, TX in January 2022

I actually have new pictures of Wild Turkeys for today’s post!

Hit the jump to find out some quick background on our honoree of the day!

Continue reading Giving Thanks with Bearded Ladies

Tweety Bird

Howdy everyone! Big thanks to Brad for his latest contribution to the wild side. Apparently those Crabbies can be devious – you bad Crabbie, very very very bad Crabbie! (my end of year bonus also includes Seinfeld references, not just Monty Python .. cha-ching link here). The plan was to get both my race recaps done while Brad held down the fort – lazy Bri only finished one, but it was a biggie. If you need some material to help you get to sleep the long and dry recap of the bittersweet 100K ultra attempt is now posted (link here). Should get the other race done by the end of the week. With all the hoopla around the acquisition of a certain “blue bird” company, thought it would be a perfect time to bring out today’s featured feathered friend.

Social Flycatcher found at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in January 2022

Let me guess, you thought it was going to be a “blue” bird – well, maybe at least some bluish hue to it. Nope! Our bird is colorful, but no blue. So, why is this such a perfect time to feature this particular bird … could it be Elon’s favorite bird..hit the jump and I’ll explain everything.

Continue reading Tweety Bird

Bat Country

Hello my wonderful readers!! It has been a while for me – at least on the wild side of Intrigued. Before I go any further, want to give a big thanks to Brad for filling in while I focused on the haunted trail and more importantly, trying to get back on my feet after last weekend’s beat down. He has really upped our game and brought us some great adventures. Based on all the positive comments, we hope to transition Brad from “lifeline status” to regular contributor. Hoping he is up for it! Just need to negotiate some of the details (hazard pay, office size, profit sharing percentages, film stipend, number of ultras required to compete in a year, access to corporate jet, bonuses for weaving “craptastic” into posts etc.).

I will likely cover the race in more detail in a future post, so I’ll just sum it up with “imagine being stapled to a chicken trying to cross an eight lane highway”. Cold, wet, beaten, bruised, blistered and at some point you eventually ask yourself why they hell am I stapled to a chicken. The results were bittersweet. I came up a mere 10 miles short of the 100K, but shaved nearly 2 hours off my 50 mile time and won my age group. Pretty bummed I didn’t hit the main goal, but when I hit 50M Linda gave me the stern “you’re done” look. Normally I’d fight her, but essential parts were bleeding/oozing and that last loop would have likely been 3 hours of intense pain. This one smarts a little as I rarely miss a goal. I owe a big thanks to the encouragement everyone extended leading up to the test!

Okay, back to why you are really here – to read Brad’s latest adventure ha! Time for me to suck it up and get back to work. Bringing you a special feature today that I’ve been saving for this very month. Give a great big welcome to my latest +1.

Bat Falcon found at Santa Ana NWR, Texas in January 2022

How cool is that!!! Eeesh, guess it is a little hard to make out. There’s a good reason for that – Ron and I were standing in near darkness at our southern border trying to get this uber-rare bird in the tin. I was trying every trick in the book, crank up the ISO, ratchet up the aperture, drive shutter speed to dangerous levels, stand on one leg, blood sacrifice to the camera gods…pretty ugly. How about a visual aid.

Bat Falcon found at Santa Ana NWR, Texas in January 2022

There, now you can at least tell it is a bird – and with a major clue to what species.

Take your best guess and hit the jump to reveal the mystery guest.

Continue reading Bat Country