I now know what my hell would be like – plenty of downtime, but NO internet. We just got back from UKC Premier held in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Basically Dog-A-Palooza as there were dogs competing everywhere you looked, prissy confirmation dogs in the midst of working dogs – dock diving, luring coursing, precision coursing, drag racing, weight pulling, nose work, obedience, rally and our specialty agility. A lot going on, but huge gaps between Linda’s runs which I usually fill with posts… granted I have decent access. What’s gives Kalamazoo, still relying on two cups and a string? Instead, being in Michigan, decided to ponder who has the worst governor. Both our governor and Michigan’s used pandemic as an excuse to destroy their economies (ours to get federal bailout for systemic fiscal failures, Gretchen tried to be VP). Both felt they were above the lockdown protocols they forced on their constituents (after trying to lock us down, our governor sent his family to Florida and then Wisconsin, Gretchen went to Florida with her daughters). Both are habitual liars except Gretchen can’t stop doubling down after being caught in lie after lie about her trip. Ours is a tax evader and Gretchen is so vindictive she repeatedly goes after a barber even though their state judicial system clipped her. Honestly, I can’t decide – looks like the only option is to head to the polls.
Blackpoll Warblers that is! ILL-noise is way too far gone to fix the political corruption – there actually might be more Illinois governors now that have served time than those that managed to weasel their way out without being caught. Michigan, you are on your own up there. The good news is Warblers could care less about our politics. Assume they worry more about how to complete their migrations every year. The Blackpoll pictured here is one of those that put my distance running to shame. Imagine having to fly nonstop from the eastern coasts all the way to South American every fall. Interesting enough, Cornell noted that they take a less intense spring trek opting to pass through the Caribbean Islands before heading to Canada and Alaska.
Hit the jump to read a bit more about our long distance flier.
Pretty much on the go these days. We had to leave the great-nephew’s graduation/family reunion a day early in order to make our way up to Michigan for the UKC Agility Nationals competition. Raven and Linda qualified for the national ranks this year and was invited to compete with the rest of the ranked boys and girls. Planned on leaving the reunion on morning rise to give us sufficient time to repack us and the dogs – that was the plan until we heard the words “water balloon fight”. Decided we could spare a few hours to experience the perfect way to spend a hot Midwestern summer day. Quickly learned the old days of trying to slip the rim of a balloon over a water spigot without it breaking, trying to cut the water off before the balloon overfills and finally getting it successfully tied without dropping it are LONG GONE. A clever engineer (guessing) looked at the struggles of a kid trying to rain bombs on his enemy and came up with a better plan. Have you seen the new water balloon system (link here). Unbelievable! Hook up a bunch with a single nozzle, let the water flow and presto 35 perfectly shaped bombs. They even fall off when they are full or simply jerk the nozzle down and they all plop off perfectly sealed thanks to a rubber collar that slides off the fill straw. I watched in horror as the kids prepared over 1,000 water bombs in probably less than 15 minutes. Ummm, honey, thinking it might be time to go ha! What followed can only be defined as perfectly engineered fun – well, after the first barrage of bombs from the kids directed at the still stunned adults. Luckily some of the kids were still developing their arms allowing us to catch and retaliate. That worked great until those little bastards realized they could throw above us and let the balloons bust on the RVs and shower us. We finally got the upper hand, but there wasn’t a dry set of clothes anywhere to be seen – just miles and miles of smiles.
In honor of that experience, thought I’d go with this featured friend for today’s post.
Why go with this rather odd looking bird? Well, the first reason was pretty easy. I was flipping through my backlog of images specifically looking for a bird that is commonly associated with “water”. As we are in the later part of the week I allowed myself to go back in the catalog and found our rather odd looking friend. It also luckily met my second criteria of being purpose built – correctly engineered (or evolved) if you will.
The oven is on here in the middle of Iowa. Over here celebrating the high school graduation of one of my many great nephews (-in-law this time). Good food, good drinks, good greets, good times and good god a lot of sweat. Have a hot trail run coming up in about four weeks, so the extra heat conditioning will definitely come in handy. For the record, Linda still thinks I’m thoroughly Cuckoo for trying to redeem myself at the Cry Me a River 50K (link here). Question is – would that be a Yellow-Billed or a Black-Billed!?!
Getting real used to Linda’s eye-rolls at my bad jokes now that we are both retired and spending extra time together. I will get more than an eye roll if I go down in the heat again so I better keep on her good side. To answer the question in regards to today’s featured feathered friend, it is a Yellow-Billed variety. Not a new bird to the blog as it was already featured first back in 2015 (link here) and again in 2018 (link here). For a bird I saw for the first time only 6 years ago, I am surprised how often I’ve encountered it this year. Wondering if I’m just getting lucky on our expeditions or if there is an explosion of sorts in their population. This particular series comes to you from Dauphin Island – went ahead and processed these when I saw them while working up the Fish Crows in the last post.
Hit the jump to see a few more shots from our brief encounter.
Good news for my readers, I’m on the road again. Just a weekend jaunt this time, but good for a couple long drives to and from which means time to get a post or two out. A relief as things have been tight as of late with training and haunted trail builds. Coming at you with something fresh today – extremely fresh for those that know how things usually go at Intrigued! Mentioned it a few posts back, but we had the opportunity to head down to Dauphin Island, Alabama for our second expedition in April. Have to give Linda full credit for that destination decision. She had done some research and learned that Dauphin was a popular migration birding destination and mentioned it a few times as a possible destination. This option was met with a healthy dose of skepticism. I had never heard of the place and well, seemed strange as I consider myself a bit of a birder. Boy was I WRONG (that admission will forevermore be referenced I am sure ha). Dauphin Island is absolutely fantastic for those enamored by feathers and beaks. Beyond that – not exactly sure what else you would do there as access to the beaches/shores on that island is surprisingly limited. To put it into perspective, I went at least +23 for the trip and almost all of that was on the island itself. Due to well established birding rules between Ron and I, the counter cannot increment until they are featured on the blog. For the astute you can read that as at least 23 posts coming your way. I’ll elaborate more on this incredible island as we make our way through those new birds. Until then, definitely a place to Crow about!
Speaking of Crows — as the first post from the island, we are going to focus on this rather mundane looking black bird. As bland as it may look from the onset, it made me as happy as the most colorful Warbler down there the day Ron and I spotted it. If you’ve been just about anywhere in the US you’ve probably encountered an American Crow. Smaller than their Raven counterparts, the American Crow can still tower over many of our more common NA birds. Problem is they know it and are quite pushy if they mingle with other species.
Hmmm, maybe this isn’t your standard Crow, hit the jump to find out.
Greetings all! May was a busy month around here at Intrigued and June is looking to be more of the same. I have a 50K ultra trail coming up the first week of July – a bid for redemption as the first go around at this race two years ago put me in the emergency room (link here). I don’t do well with failure and need to get this only blemish on my racing career addressed. Hopefully they’ve learned not to put box fans out in the open at the aid stations ha. Although it may not have seemed like it from the wildlife side of Intrigued, but May was also a big month for posting – especially on the mothership. As mentioned in one of those posts, the BARwW Consortium (Birds Are Rats with Wings) was blasting my inbox with hate mail tired of all the feathers. Decided to finally address it with a number of posts up there which included a running post (holy crap finally had a REAL RACE link here) and several Halloween posts after that. While gathering up the images for those posts, noticed this in my cell phone gallery.
This prehistoric specimen decided to visit us back in May 2019. Every so often during the rainy season the wash will push the Turtles out of our ravines up to higher ground. I’ve made a few posts on our previous visitors (link here and here). This one was significantly younger than the other visits – younger being relative for a creature than has a wild lifespan from 30 to 45 years.
Hit the jump to read more about our country critters.
Unfortunately, I am late on this particular post. It isn’t so much a case of procrastination as I had written the first version prior to Monday. During the course of several activities over the weekend (including birding with Ron), I mulled on the approach I had taken and the words written regarding the topic. Thoughts went back and forth until the time came to publish and I decided to scrap it. I still hold firmly the opinions originally expressed, but decided Memorial Day was a time to honor those that have fought for our freedoms and principles at home and abroad rather than sully it with accounts of worthless politicians and seditious mainstream media.
Instead, I wanted to focus on the brave men and women who volunteered or were called to duty like my Father to defend our nation’s founding principles. To all who have or are serving we owe a level of gratitude that can never be repaid. I would contend that all have been permanently altered to some degree by their experiences. My father would not discuss what he went through during his time in the Army deployed during the Korean War. Piecing together tidbits gathered over my lifetime – a photograph here, a rare comment there or an emotion that momentarily forced its way through his stoic facade weave a tale no one would wish upon their child.
Well, we just embarked on another camping adventure. A short one this time unlike our previous multi-week excursions. Of course, there is birding involved – Ron is even going to be able to join me for some fun time in the field… not for a couple of days though until the weather clears up. Seems that we are perpetuating a trend on our trips. In January we brought the Midwest rain, snow and ice down to Texas with us. In April we brought the Midwest Spring downpours to the Alabama Gulf Shores and Florida Panhandle. Now, damned if we didn’t manage to bring the May showers north with us. Clearly we are CURSED!
As I sit here listening to the rain come down, thought it would be an excellent time to get to another one of the new props for last year’s Haunted Trail of Tears (link here). Unlike the previous post which was more of upgrade to an existing prop, today we are covering the signature piece for the year. Each year I decide on what the big addition is going to be and then spend a majority of the year trying to get it conceived prior to show time. Note, regardless of how early I start on the signature piece each year… I NEVER give myself enough runway. Every year it comes down to the night before or even the day of to get it in good enough shape for the trail.
Hit the jump to learn all the behind the scenes work it took to bring this idea to life.
“Another post so soon and sans birds or anything with a heartbeat – what’s up with that Bri!?!” Tis true folks. My inbox has been filling up with hate mail from the Birds Are Rats with Wings (BARwW) Consortium – when they get their dander up they can be a handful, especially when maintaining a birding blog as part of the overall Intrigued mothership. They were feeling left out along with a number of the other purely non-wildlife readers that have admittedly been slightly in my pursuit to close the gap on Ron’s birding count. Guessing based on the last post you might have been expecting a companion post on the actual 2020 foam coffin prop. That would definitely been a logical thing to expect, but that is waaay to predictable for me – I prefer to keep you guessing (especially for those sending me angry emails ha!)
In my defense, this post does carry the Haunted Trail of 2020 theme (link here). For reference, you will need to actually look back at the Project Witch Replicate post (link here). That blog post covered a new prop for the Haunted Trail of 2017 (link here and here) – can’t believe it was that long ago. This was the 2017 version of the witch.
So, long time followers of Intrigued should already know my kryptonite is failure. It literally gnaws at my core until something is done about it. Pretty much three paths lead from such events – train harder/get better and get ‘er done, find a better way to accomplish said feat or, unfortunately, find myself in the hospital. Come to think of it, there is really only two paths as the last one just starts the cycle over again. Not sure of the exact moment this infliction came to be, but likely a result of being undersized in every sport I ever participated in and a father (who was also undersized) that wisely knew the ramifications of letting someone get the better of you and not picking yourself off the ground. This being an over-dramatic intro for one such failure, albeit one of a harmless nature. What you see in this next shot is the results of “find a better way” after a disappointment.
A bit of background. For the 2019 Halloween Haunted Trail (link here), I had designed a new prop to add to the cemetery. The intent was to have a coffin being half exposed from the ground being pulled out by a group of skeletons. Prop building for the big event starts months in advance in order to get it completed prior to the chaotic mess that occurs during setup. I picked up the foam sheets to make the coffin out of in April and went right to work on cutting out the pieces. The top and bottom were supposed to be easy as they were straight cuts. Not the case, as my hand would waver on the long cuts – the foam was no match for the hot blade of the gun and happily obliged a wayward cut. Slowly the coffin size got smaller and smaller as I tried to correct the bad cuts.
Hit the jump to read about the solution to an annoying failure.
19 months ago I ran my last official trail race – actually make that my last official race of any kind. That was the redemption 50K run at Farmdale towards the end of 2021 – before the damn pandemic decided to destroy my running events (link here). I did participate in one virtual race in April of last year (link here), but frankly, that’s like paying someone to give you a medal for a training run – you were going to do it anyway except now it costs you to go out and run alone. Now, that was for Make A Wish so the donation fee definitely went to a good cause. The rest of the 2020 races ended up going to some form of virtual as well – all those I passed on. Instead I focused on the planned 50 miler at Farmdale – a step up from the 30K the year before. Trained and trained and trained until the disappointing news came that it was canceled as well. 2020 was a bust, and honestly, it was looking like 2021 was stacking up to be more of the same. That is until Linda noticed the Blue Chevy Trail Classic Half Marathon at Farmdale Reservoir was taking entries!
Hit the jump to read about my first race since forever.