Mr. 200

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.

Great Kiskadee shot at South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center in January 2017

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.

Great Kiskadee shot at South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center in January 2017

Hit the jump to learn what this new colorful addition to my birding happens to be!

Continue reading Mr. 200

Gator for Fast Food Delivery

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!

Birding Gator Speak for Food Delivery

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.

Alligators encountered while birding Texas in January 2017 - South Padre Island

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

Gaining My Marbles

I almost went with “A Wasted Endeavor” for the title of this post, however, my not so clever play on losing my marbles won out in the end. A little insight into the inner workings around here at Intrigued – there’s one key ingredient that brings it all together. Sure, the foundation of it all relies on being able to make it out in the field and discover content to feature. Then there’s the digital darkroom where I try to make everything as pretty as I can for you. There’s close to three years of outings in the queue that I am desperately trying to get through (thus the more than usual production as of late). Have to get everything uploaded to the galleries in order to reference into the posts and then the actual finger pounding the keyboard to give it all context. The fact is, all of those elements require a bit of effort on my part. Not exactly the effort you might be thinking of …

Marbled Godwit shot on Bolivar Peninsula Texas January 2017

I’m talking about the effort involved in trying to maintain your sanity being a distance runner. Trust me, people like me who feel guilty when not meeting the mileage quota for the week probably need some therapy – “Hello, my name is Brian and I am a Runner. [all] Hello Brian.” To keep myself from thinking about every step during the run, I set my mind to planning out the next post. What is worth my reader’s time, what interesting photographs do have that will give life to that topic and the most important element – what is the title going to be. It is downright embarrassing how many miles I cover thinking about that component. Hardest part is being able to remember what I came up with by the time I hit the stopwatch. To be honest, it really is a giant life circle. I exercise so I can go into the field, hike all day with heavy equipment, take photos to bring back and then use my exercise time to put it all together. Wash, Rinse, Repeat. Honestly, there isn’t anything I’d rather be doing to pass my free time than out in the wild staring down the barrel of large glass at a new bird for my North American Birding List. In retrospect, that seems like a long intro to simply introduce the first Marble in my collection.

Marbled Godwit shot on Bolivar Peninsula Texas January 2017

Hit the jump to learn more about this tall wader.

Continue reading Gaining My Marbles

A Telling White Line

Well, I’ve just turned another year older which always brings an immediate reaction of “where the hell did that year go!”. Every year I set my sights on getting a bunch of stuff accomplished like finally getting caught up on my photography queue and designing out that cool Halloween decoration I’ve been mulling over the past 6 months. Then I wake up to Linda wishing me a happy birthday and bam, another cold flounder up across the face – crap, my queue is still three years deep and although I did get to a record number of Halloween props for this year’s haunted trail… I know I could have done more – what a slacker. Definitely need to recommit myself to being more productive. One area that has been going well as of late is my bird count.

Neotropic Cormorant shot at Galveston National Park and Seawolf Park in Galveston Texas January 2017

That there is the latest addition to my checklist. Should be assumed by now, but this sleek black bird comes to you courtesy of the Texas Gulf Coast. In particular, this addition was made in the Galveston Island area. These initial specimens were spotted in the Galveston Island State Park while on a birding trip back in January 2017. At the time I thought I was simply filling up my digital card with more pictures of Double-Crested Cormorants. These interesting looking birds are fairly common at waterways across all of the United States at some point during the year. When they are not riding the waves, they are generally just hanging around on docks and poles enjoying the lazy day – might even see them with their wings splayed out trying to get them to dry in the sun.

Neotropic Cormorant shot at Galveston National Park and Seawolf Park in Galveston Texas January 2017

Hit the jump to read more about this new addition.

Continue reading A Telling White Line

Another Find in Sticky Mud

If you have not noticed yet, I am definitely trying to make the most of the extended holiday weekend. It is amazing how much more you can get accomplished with 24 additional hours to consume – not to mention the weather down in the teens with a good wind punching up the chill factor tends to keep me inside in the warm den. Most of you should know by now, ever since starting the sister site Wildlife Intrigued, I try to keep my social interactions/observations/commentaries out of the wildlife related posts preferring to keep those dedicated posted only on the Life Intrigued flagship site. However, there are times when those experiences are too intriguing (in this case read hilarious) that I can’t wait. As a quick one, my wife recently placed an order at a local pizza joint. This particular establishment has odd sizes for their orders always prompting a discussion on what size we should order just for the two of us. I heard her ask the order taker on the phone for assistance on the average number of people a particular size offering could feed. She then went silent with a quizzical look on her face followed by a muffled chuckle. She later told me the reason for the reaction – the clerk indicated he wasn’t sure, “but it does come in eight pieces”. I’ll let that sink in a bit if the humor hasn’t already materialized.

Meanwhile, how about we get to the real feature of post.

White-Tailed Hawk shot while leaving Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas January 2095

No surprise here, ANOTHER birding find from our trip to Texas back in January 2017. Like the last post on the Altamira Oriole, this new addition to my birding list comes to us courtesy of Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge. Thanks to an overheard response by the ranger at the visitor center, we now refer to this birding hotspot as the Sticky Mud Lagoon. A visitor wanted to know what Atascosa stood for…a question we had never thought to ask. Now we all know thanks to a knowledgeable employee. This southwestern Buteo became quite the stumper when trying to ID it. The rufous coloring on the shoulders initially led me down the Red-Shouldered Hawk path.

 

White-Tailed Hawk shot while leaving Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas January 2095

The rather clear white breast left a lot of skepticism once I had confirmed the Red-Shouldered has a fairly barred chest and lot more streaking on top of the wings. A quick search of southern hawks produced the possibility of the Harris’s Hawk. The region was localized to the south Texas region, so that was a positive. Definitely has the red shouldering, but based on reference shots of that particular Buteo, it appeared the marking on the Harris’s is significantly larger than the patch on our specimen. A quick validation of the chest coloring knocked that ID out of contention. The Harris’s sports a dark breast and carries the reddish coloring down through the leg feathering. I am pretty familiar with the Hawks in the Midwest and those encountered out west. The large size (larger than the common Red-Tailed) of this one and more solid markings were not aligning. Opting to look at each and every Hawk in my reference books, eventually came to the conclusion that this particular specimen was likely a White-Tailed Hawk. This was initially dismissed because the reference book shots has the long wings moved off of the tail giving me the impression the tail was always visible and distinctively white. In reality they have very long pointed wings that do hide their white tail feature. There is also a black tail band near the tip. If you look closely at the two pictures above you will just barely see it between the twigs of the tree. Fairly certain on my end, I sent it off for confirmation from my brother Ron. His first response was “Red-Shouldered” which prompted a recounting of the process that got me to the White-Tailed. Upon further analysis and some dead on reference shots on the web we are now in complete agreement – a new +1 and yes, another bird Ron will have to make an effort to catch up on. For reference, here is the backside of the Hawk showing the fairly solid coloring and those long tapered wings.

White-Tailed Hawk shot while leaving Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas January 2095

Linda and I encountered this bird on the way out of the refuge. The day was coming to a close, but following my golden rule, of “If you see it, shoot it”, made Linda pull to the side so I could get a few shots in the tin – thus the limited perspectives. I already covered some of the unique aspects of this new bird. To add a couple more facts, the white tail and black band is unique for Buteos in North America – had I been able to get an inflight shot, the ID could have been a lot easier. They seem to be the Hawk with the largest latitude span extending down into the Caribbeans. Lastly, juveniles have a 15% longer tail than adults – their tail feathers are not able to cover that length completely. Our specimen besides being very large, had sufficient coverage indicating it is indeed an adult.

That’s all I have for you on this particular bird. Hope you enjoyed reading about my latest addition. Now regarding the conversation on pizza size. I hope you realize by now, that the number 8 is the standard cut format for pizzas – half, half, mid slices which always produces … wait for it … 8 slices regardless of the size of the pizza and thus why my math major wife found it so amusing.

Should Have Known to Look Up

Going for the trifecta with today’s featured post. If you have been following along, we are all about the big state of Texas here at the headquarters of Intrigued. More specifically, we are laser focused on pushing my bird count up thanks to a number of visits to the Gulf Coast – wiping the sweat from our brows, pounding Alleve to counter the swelling in our fingers from typing and rubbing our eyes from pouring over reference books to properly ID the backlog of images we are trying to get through. Like the last post on the Vermilion Flycatcher, our current focus of attention was pretty easy on the ID front.

Altamira Oriole shot at Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge Texas January 2017

Up to this point, I have been able to cover our local Baltimore Oriole (link here). Thanks to a trip to South Dakota I was able to add the Orchard Oriole to the mix (link here). Adding to this growing collection of Orioles, a visit to the Red Rocks Ampitheatre produced a surprising Bullock’s Oriole (link here). Not a bad haul when it comes to the Oriole family. With those, I pretty much had the northern, east and west staples covered. Turns out, I can now add the southern tip of Texas – and I mean the very southern tip.

Altamira Oriole shot at Laguna Atascosa Wildlife Refuge Texas January 2017

Hit the jump to read more about this Oriole family member.

Continue reading Should Have Known to Look Up

Just Me and My Peeps

Well, at least I was strong out of the gate this month. Unfortunately, things have slowed down a bit as of late due to massive amounts of spring cleaning taking place around the house. Cleaning brought a bonus with it this year. Linda was continually making comments regarding my Halloween Lab still sitting in the middle of our newly remodeled basement. Personally, I think this is a fabulous place for animatronics construction, but I can see her point – it has been there pretty much since last August. Decided it was best to heed the warnings and cleaned out the small room previously used for the remodeling staging. I must say it looks pretty nice and might put a project post on it when I get time – expecting big things now from the evil depths of the new lab! Knowing my readers have been waiting patiently, decided it would be prudent to dust the cobwebs off the blog.

Say hello to my little feathered friend.
Birding Texas November 2013
Want to spend a day nose deep in reference books, try to ID a non-breeding adult shorebird. You have to admire the experts in this field since they basically ALL look alike – at least to me. For starters, I usually check the regions to see if there can be any narrowing there. This particular specimen was taken at Galveston, Texas back in Nov 2013. Well that did little to narrow the field since the Texas Gulf is a favored stomping ground for all the Peep breeds..
Birding Texas November 2013

Hit the jump to find out what this Peep is!

Continue reading Just Me and My Peeps

The Big Boys Come Out to Play

I’ve been featuring a lot of birds as of late and just wanted to assure all my readers out there that … you are in store for a lot more of them.  Just being honest, my backlog of bird shots is so large now it is going to buckle the floor in my den.   So, if you happen to like bird posts, you are going to be extremely happy over the next couple of months.  Now, on the other hand, if you happen to consider bird posts as simply pointless filler between my liberal rants or book reviews… well, my absolute apologies.  There is a reason I am trying to get through the bird posts as fast as possible – no, I am not going to reveal why until I get further along with that project.  I’ll try to sprinkle some non bird posts in whenever I can, but for now, check out one of the Greats
Great Egret Shot on Texas Birding Trip - November 2013

Obviously the Great Egret is not a new bird on my list – it appeared on Life Intrigued way back in 2011 (link here). The best thing about the hobby of bird photography is even though you have a bird on your list already … you can always try to improve your shots.  Maybe you can get it in a new setting, displaying some new behavior or maybe just improve on the technicals of taking a photograph.  With the exception of those damn Coots, I’ll still take shots of whatever I see that has feathers.  Just so happens that the Great’s are a lot easier to see (ha).
Great Egret Shot on Texas Birding Trip - November 2013

Hit the jump to see a couple more pictures of this long necked member of the Egret family.

Continue reading The Big Boys Come Out to Play

T in Texas

Been a tough week in Peoria – apparently the plague is making its rounds through the area.  A lot of people have been hit with it at work and now it’s made its way to my household – Linda has been pretty ill the last couple of days.  Not a doctor,  but at this point looks to be some kind of stomach attacking flu (yuck!).  Anyway, trying to keep my distance so I do not fall prey to it.  I can’t afford to lose any training time at the moment with the April half marathon quickly approaching.  While I tend to Linda, figured I’d pop out another post.

Once again digging into the November 2013 Texas birding trip grab bag, I bring you this intriguing bird…
Texas Birding Trip November 2013
Apparently our subject likes to look at himself in the large glass of The Beast.  Strutting its stuff for the camera – “I’m too sexy for my orange legs, too sexy for this beach, and I’m too sexy for my feathers”.  You can thank me later for embedding that song in your head for the rest of the post and likely the rest of the week.
Texas Birding Trip November 2013

Hit the jump to see what this bird is  (although you probably already know!)

Continue reading T in Texas

Dive Bomber

Might as well get the third post out on the Pelican series.  This post is also from the draft queue like the last few posts – definitely chipping away at the processed backlog.  Pretty soon I will actually have to open the door to my digital darkroom and start processing again or I’ll be short on the upcoming quotas.  Always good to have a few held back in case of emergencies, but it is a somewhat demoralizing to have so many laying around just pleading to hit the mainstream ha. I promised you a different perspective of the bird in the previous Brown Pelican posts and here it is ….
KK
Umm, well, not exactly that picture.  I forgot I wanted to set the stage.  That is the traditional perspective of the Pelican coasting through the air with little care in the world.  However, there is one aspect of life that does required attention by all living things… nourishment.  When that time comes for a Pelican, there is a decided transformation from the calm, cool and collected behavior we are used to seeing.  In fact, the whole thing is turned on its head … literally
KLL

Hit the jump to see how this plays out

Continue reading Dive Bomber