Let’s Spoon

In case you are tired of Halloween posts, figured it would be a good time to throw in something different.  Don’t get me wrong, you have more posts coming about our Halloween Haunted Trail than examples of corrupt establishment career politicians coming out of Wikileaks on a daily basis – well, maybe not that many, but I had no idea how bad our representatives had become.  To help temper my disgust on this topic, let’s focus on a topic that always brings a smile to my face – a new check mark in my North American Birding List!Birding Texas November 2013

This fine specimen is what they call a Roseate Spoonbill.  I led with this image because it can be a bit deceptive when viewed from this angle.  If you are not familiar with this particular bird, you might not suspect that it has Spoonbill in its name.  In fact you might just think it was a Flamingo that saved up enough money to get that giant curve taken out of its bill.  Now, if you were to see it from a different angle, you would have no problem in the identification process.  An angle more like this one would definitely do the trick.
Birding Texas November 2013

Now that is a schnoz. For some strange reason I have an affinity for this pink hued beauty – not sure why, maybe it’s the cool feet hehehe.  This particular Spoonbill was shot on the Texas cost in Galveston.  We took a birding trip down there back in November to capture the very rare Whooping Crane in the wild (link here).

Hit the jump to see a read a bit more about the Roseate.

Continue reading Let’s Spoon

Black Death

Thought I would pull out a post today that represents how my run went Saturday night.  I’ll post in detail on the Midnight Half Marathon race I mentioned in the previous post.  Let’s just say for a tease that it was bitter sweet.  There was a high moment and a whole lot of BAAAAD that happened that night to the point that Linda brought out full scorn and I didn’t even switch to the full marathon (and thank god I didn’t!).  It was “black” out for the second loop and that is the loop I felt like “death” was calling me from the graves as I passed.  This all pales in comparison to the trip home but more on that later when I can stomach the recollection.

Based on that, I cannot think of a better post topic.
Black Vulture taken on Texas trip in Nov 2013

That my friends is what I believe to be a Black Vulture!  More importantly, that would be a Black Vulture that gives me a plus one on the birding list.  I actually had to spend some time looking at this particular bird  to really determine if it was a Black Vulture or rather just an immature Turkey.  Based on the reference books, the Turkey Vulture is like everywhere in the US more Northern in the summer and more Southern in the winter.  In fact, I’d be tempted to bet you no matter where you happen to be in the US, you will likely see one tomorrow soaring overhead.  Note, if there are bunch of them circling over just your head… you might consider checking your pulse or do and immediate safety check.

Black Vulture taken on Texas trip in Nov 2013

Hit the jump to read a bit more about the Black Turkey.

Continue reading Black Death

A Cornucopia of Cormorants

Well folks, by the time you read this I will probably either on my way down to my race or even in the midst of it.  This year’s Oak Ridge Cemetery Moonlight Race is going to be a solo event for me.  Due to lack of participation, they have canceled the relay prediction race which is the event my team took third overall last year – could have been better but thanks to cheaters we were pushed back to third. – (link here).   Instead, I’ll be running the half marathon solo – probably a good thing they canceled the relay since one of my team members is out with a foot injury and the other has struggled as of late getting his miles in.  Linda is at a dog show so once again sans event photographer.  Wait a minute, no friends to talk me out of it, no voice of reason from Linda…they are running a marathon at the same time … hmmmm.  Note the question isn’t to do or not to do.. it is whether I can withstand the post race scorn and anger from my wife.  What to do, what to do?  (I’ll probably stick with the half .. Linda’s scorn can be intimidating).  With the upcoming event approaching quickly, decided to just go with a short narrative post from our friends in Texas!

Cormorants shot on Texas trip in Nov 2013

Once again back on our trip to Texas back in November 2013.  One bird they have an abundance of are Cormorants.  I believe these are Double-Crested but to be honest, the Neotropic has an upper range that is right where we were (Galveston area) and they look very similar.  If you happen to think otherwise, please let me know – the Neotropic is not checked off my list as of yet.  We encountered these interesting waterbirds wherever we stopped.  Having them already checked off the list, I focused more on the behavior aspects than getting the perfect bird reference shot.  In some cases, I wish my F stop was pushed up (or down depending on how technical you want to get) to pull a bit more of the background in focus.

This particular Cormorant spotted something of great interest not too far away from where it was floating….

Cormorants shot on Texas trip in Nov 2013

Hit the jump to see more shots of these water bandits.

Continue reading A Cornucopia of Cormorants

The King of Texas

How is everyone doing today?  Hopefully better than I am at the moment.  It is rare for me to set a goal and fail miserably at it – I may not get it on the first try, but eventually with a bit of dedication the finish line is reached.  Today was one of those rare times thanks to some god awful heat and humidity that decided to greet us at the start of our training (not practice Ron) run today.  The plan was to knock out the final 13 miles before the taper down started for the two half marathon races coming up in about 2 weeks.  Based on last night’s weather forecast this should not have been that much of an issue besides being out in the rain.  Guess what.. no rain.  Once again the forecast wasn’t even close to being right which is getting to be waaaaay to common these days.  For an industry that declares success at the same level as a coin flip, not even getting that close is an embarrassment.  So instead, we got out of our cars and felt the stinging hot slap of high humidity.  After one loop around Springdale, Ryan and Sung threw in the towel.  Not wanting to give up yet, I opted to replace the three Springdale hills for one mega-hill up to Glen Oak Park.  At least at the top of that, it was flat going until time for the big downhill back to the car.  By the time the hill was conquered, there wasn’t much left in the tank – pounded out 10 and called it a day – sigh.  Let’s hope race day has mercy on us.

Thanks to zapping all the energy out of my body, figured it would be a good rest to get a quick post out.  Today’s featured bird is once again from the big state of Texas in November 2013.
Kingfisher shot on Texas trip Nov 2013

Unlike the last two posts, this particular bird isn’t a new check in the birding list.  However, it is a definite improvement over my previous shots in that it is finally close enough to make out the details and fairly crisp (link here and here).  Something about these Belted Kingfishers that make them difficult to photograph.  It isn’t like they are in constant motion or hyper by any means – more like Herons and Egrets as they simply stair at the water waiting patiently for dinner to arrive.  Once in motion they can be difficult to capture but no excuse for all the soft shots in the past.  Maybe we could harness this voodoo power they have on cameras and make a fortune embedding it into the paint of sports cars – be damned you evil stop light cameras.

Kingfisher shot on Texas trip Nov 2013

By now I can pretty much detect the presence of a Kingfisher by their distinct twilling sound.  Whenever we are by a stream the eyes are in continual scan of the banks outer branches looking for their distinct shape and coloring.  This particular one was easy to spot since it was just hanging out on a support line for a bridge.  It also happens to be a female based on the brown band on the top and side of the white breast.  Males are typically all slate grey and white.

Kingfisher shot on Texas trip Nov 2013

The other feature I really find interesting about the Kingfisher is the eye mark.  In case you are not familiar with these birds, that white spot near their bill … is NOT their eye.  These shots were intentionally left a little dark to obscure the real eye a bit.  The actual eye is all black and is found just back from the white mark.  Wonder if that works as some kind of light aid for their eyes – maybe like how athletes will put black under their eye to keep reflections down.  Crap, out of pictures.  One final fact to leave you with about this bird.  They burrow into the sides of riverbanks to build their nests.  Much like Muskrats and Beavers, they make the tunnel slope upward to help protect the nest from flooding. Tunnel length ranges from 1 to EIGHT feet long.  Wonder if they would be in the market for an underground mining vehicle – I just might know a company that could sell them one.

That’s all folks – time to get off my ass and finish staining my wood trim.  The Halloween party is approaching quickly and Linda isn’t going to stand for the basement not being done again this year.

Oh, before the hate mail gets too high, I probably should have said the Queen of Texas in the title but hey, just going by the name they gave it.

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Pretty Strutting in Texas

Greetings everyone.  True to form, I’m once again under the gun to reach my quota.  The saving factor is I already have the digital dark r4om work is complete so all that needs to be done is add a few of these wordy thingies and hopefully we’ll be good until next month.  Of course, that doesn’t make me feel much better because next month will be all about the Halloween party prep.. and two half marathons and finishing up the basement and and and – sigh, I’ll deal with that later.  For now, let’s enjoy one of the most beautiful birds in the world.

Peacock shot on Texas trip in Nov 2013

Even though the signature plumage isn’t up on full display, you can probably figure out what this colorful specimen is.  Like the Curlew in the previous post, this bird was shot in Texas.  In fact, it was shot on a side road not far from the field where that Curlew was hanging out.  First off, before I get scores and scores of hate male, I am perfectly aware this is not a native bird of North America so technically it shouldn’t be considered a real +1.  However, after long discussions with my brother, we decided it was not in captivity, free to roam about wherever it wanted so what the hell, we are going to put a check mark in the book anyway – woot!

Peacock shot on Texas trip in Nov 2013

I’ve actually photographed this bird a number of times in zoos and even have images from the Denver zoo of one that was just out walking around free of containment – that was pretty cool – was able to get within a couple of feet of it and experience just how beautiful that plumage really is.  Hopefully those pictures are coming up in the queue because that one would go full fantail for us.  I do not have a lot of pictures of this bird being as it was taken from the car while passing through to get to the Whoopers.  That means we have to get to the facts fast.  Starting off, only the mail is actually call the Peacock.  If you think about that a bit, it makes perfect sense.  Females are referred to as Peahens and the more general term is Peafowl.  There are three types of Peafowls – the more common one is pictured here and the one we are used to seeing at zoos etc, is labeled the Indian one and get this .. wait for it – is found in India (as well as Pakistan and Sri Lanka).  The other two are Green and Congo found in Southeast Asia and … you guessed it Congo.  With that kind of naming, who needs a reference book.   The Peacocks (which you now know is only the male) is the one pictured here, identifiable by the large color palette.  Peahens are downright boring but that is for a good reason – they need to blend into their surroundings in order to prevent predators from locating them while nesting.

Peacock shot on Texas trip in Nov 2013

To close out a couple more facts,  Peafowl babies are called Peachicks and a group of  the Peafowl are considered a party or a pride.  India considers them a sacred bird  in reference to the markings on their tail feathers which they attribute to the eyes of the gods.  They are ground-feeders preferring insects, plants and small “creatures” as my reference site refers to them.  I laughed at the last fact I found – apparently they are not the nicest birds to be around and tend to be a bit inhospitable to our native aviary.  The reason I laughed is I immediately thought of Ron and how domestic birds tend to attack him – if he ever gets  close to one of these beasts he’s going to have to pull out his Steer escaping sprinting abilities.

All I have for you today folks – have to hit the hay and get ready for a long run tomorrow …. probably in the rain so I get to relive the Illini Marathon conditions once again (link here).

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Lone Star Goodness

Welcome back to my blog ladies and gentlemen.  If you have been having some problems getting to this site over the weekend you can blame GoDaddy.  Not sure yet what is going on with them, but their availability has been crap for the last couple of days.  I was getting really worried, but found out that my brother Ron was having similar problems with his blog which is also served by GoDaddy.  He has been exploring the actual WordPress services and those appear to be working out quite well – his birding blog I mentioned previously is hosted there already.  Depending on how things work out, there may be a switch considerations coming in the future.  Until now, we’ll just use my current blog – which by the way, I have pretty much worked all the kinks out of already and has been working pretty good up to this point. Enough about the technical details, let’s get to today’s featured bird.

Texas Trip Nov 2013

How do you like the snout on that one!  For some strange reason I have an affinity for this species hehehe.  That there is a Long-Billed Curlew.  To be honest, was not entirely sure when I came upon it in the digital dark room.  Based on the key characteristics (yeah, the snout), it could have been a Whimbrel.  Decided to phone a friend (Ron) and get his opinion.  He pointed out that the Whimbrel has a stronger striped head, a dark crown with a white median stripe and generally less buffy look.  I have to agree – a Curlew it is!

Texas Trip Nov 2013

Hit the jump to see a couple more shots of this Curlew

Continue reading Lone Star Goodness

Whooping it Up

Sorry these posts are coming so slow.  Of course, the reason for this is the “epic” post theme for this month.  I’m trying my best to cover some very significant events, but that means I have to work for subjects.  Well, actually, I have the subjects, since I’ve been waiting awhile (in some cases what seems like forever) to get some of these topics published but I still have to process all the images.  Case in point, today’s featured bird.

Whooping Crane from Texas Trip Nov 2013

If you are a birder, you are probably salivating right now.  That my friends is a shot of not one, not two, but three specimens considered the holy grail of my North American Bird List.  For those of you not drooling, these awesome birds are none other than the rare Whooping Crane.  Let’s type that again .. Whooping Cranes – wow, that feels really good.

Whooping Crane from Texas Trip Nov 2013

Hit the jump to read more about this epic bird

Continue reading Whooping it Up