One Goose, Two Goose, 10,000 Geese

I’m finally back! Been struggling to get time to feed the blog thanks to an incredibly busy schedule. When I am not trying to keep the acreage from getting too far out of control I’m out pounding the asphalt and now dirt trails to prepare for fast approaching races – in between that is honey-do’s about a mile long. Luckily was able to give my other blog a bit of love and posted some recollections of recent races and readings. More disappointing is how far I’ve fallen behind in reading the outputs of my fellow blogging friends. If there was only a way to write and read posts while out on training runs – ha. In an effort to try and right this ship, thought tonight’s post will focus on 10’s of thousands of these…

Snow Geese massing at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Texas in January 2018

Well, admittedly, that shot doesn’t really give the full effect of the experience. It does give a better view of what made up this huge flock of birds we saw on our trip down to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge along the Texas Gulf Coast over Christmas break 2017. If you recall, our first unique encounter this year at Anahuac was the Zebra (link here). Kind of hard to really top a creature more commonly seen at the Serengeti National Park than off the Gulf of Texas. However, a close second had to be witnessing one of the largest massing of birds I’ve ever encountered. Apparently those three Snow Geese above have a VERY large number of friends and relatives who flew in for the holidays.

Snow Geese massing at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Texas in January 2018

Continue reading One Goose, Two Goose, 10,000 Geese

Clap So I Can See You

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!

Clapper Rail at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center, Texas in December 2017\

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).

Clapper Rail at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center, Texas in December 2017

Hit the jump to read more about this interesting bird!

Continue reading Clap So I Can See You

Buffy the Nectar Slayer

If a +3 three weekend is worth celebrating, then surely adding another +1 for the week is worthy of a Snoopy happy dance. I would do just that, but Linda is home and knowing her she’d sneak a picture of it and then post it on Facebook to all her friends. Then Facebook would probably mine it and start sending dance lesson opportunities. It’s amazing when you pre-think through your actions how boring your life becomes. Maybe this is the key difference between childhood and adulthood – The Embarrassment Factor. If had actually considered some of my actions when I was a kid, me thinks I would not have had nearly as much as fun as I did. Granted, I would have had far less stitches and Tetanus shots ha! This all brings me full circle to today’s post. Linda is forever embarrassing me by retelling my reaction to learning that a Painted Bunting was hanging out at place we visited in Georgia (wait, hmmm, that post may not be out yet – ignore that if it isn’t). It is this ribbing I take that has caused me to pre-think my actions when I learned this Hummer was hanging out at the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park near Mission, Texas.

Buff-Bellied Hummingbird found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park January 2018

In a much more controlled manner, I calmly walked out of the visitor center and forced a restrained walk over to the specified spot – a feeder we actually passed on our way in. Successfully prevented another embarrassing Facebook post, although my inner being was doing one hell of a Happy Feet rendition. This was one of the new birds I was hoping to get in the tin on our birding trip last January 2017. Here in the Midwest (link here), we are treated to only one kind of Hummer unless one gets mistakenly lost during migration. I did pick a new one at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve – the Black-Chinned variety (link here). Other than that, the list is pretty bare when it comes to these incredibly fast creatures.

Buff-Bellied Hummingbird found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park January 2018

Hit the jump to find out more about this bird.

Continue reading Buffy the Nectar Slayer

Uhhh What?

Not to labor this point too much, but if you read my last post on the Hooded Merganser, you should be keenly aware of how cold it is here in St. Louis.  My hopes of it getting warmer today were quickly dashed when I opened the door of the RV only to be blown nearly all the way to the arena where Raven is running agility.  A quick check of the phone reveals it is 31 with a windchill of .. wait for it … feels like 20.  WTH, last year at this even I was wearing shorts and wandering around comfortably looking for whatever feathered creatures Purina Farms had to offer.  This year I am bundled up like the little kid from A Christmas Story.  To top it off, after fighting the winds to get to the arena, Raven decided that the agility course was improperly arranged and chose to remedy the situation mid run – when the course is setup the way he wants it, Linda and Raven rock.  When it isn’t  then to quote a famous movie “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some [poodles] you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here [this morning] which is the way he wants it”  No worries, Raven has more runs to work things out – more importantly, I am spending the huge gaps between runs on a quest for a birding check tri-fecta.  If the wireless stays up, Mr. White below will give me just that.

Gull-Billed Tern Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas December 2016

Hit the jump to see a few more shots.

Continue reading Uhhh What?

One Bad Toupee

As hard as I’ve tried, I have yet to find a way to keep Father Time from turning over his hourglass. Each little pebble of sand that falls is another step closer to my Texas birding post deadline. There is light at the end of the tunnel though. I only have a handful of posts that really need to be published before next Wednesday. That day will put an end to several months of stressing over a commitment that comes due. I blame that for my hair turning premature grey ha! Like me, some people embrace the signs of getting wiser, others take more drastic actions to disguise the fact that Father Time paints in grey – case in point…

Black-Crested Titmouse found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park in January 2018

This find from our recent Texas birding trip is apparently a little vain about what others think of his greying appearance. The shame sunk so deep in the conscious it has resorted to Le Style de Burt Reynolds. One can imagine the scene before heading out of the nest for the day. Mr. Titmouse slaps on his black rug, attempts to straighten it in the bathroom mirror before turning to Mrs. Titmouse and asking “do you think anyone will notice?”. After stuttering and stammering love rules out and she responds “Of course not dear”, fighting back a revealing eye roll.

Black-Crested Titmouse found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park in January 2018

Hit the jump to read a bit more about this bird and where it was discovered.

Continue reading One Bad Toupee

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.