Flying with Scissors

Decided to take a rest from the Halloween Trail packing and relax a bit in front of the keyboard. Exhausted from the effort. No so much the physical effort, rather the drain on the brain. Feel like I’m back in school taking spatial relation assessments trying to organize all decorations into the smallest spaces I can get. Every year the trail gets a little bigger, but my space is currently fixed. Speaking of schooling, what the hell is the required curriculum these days for kids in high school.. hell, kids in college. Maybe I am getting old and crotchety post retirement, but really, is math.. specifically division a testable skill anymore!?! Went to Michael’s the other day to restock my foam pumpkin supply. I grabbed a white one for a change only to find out it was missing the tag when I got to the checkout. Always make a point to check that – apparently forgot or was too damn eager to get out of the store in order to remove the @#!$%@!#$%!@ mask thanks to our tax evading governor playing dictator. I point out the missing tag and noted it was the same price as another one in my cart (with tag). They were 50% off and normally $29.99. Figured she would simply scan the one with the tag twice .. nope..to her defense, maybe that was to keep the inventory count correct. I offered to go get another one as it was my mistake. Nope – she decided to just ring it in as one-off. Nix that inventory thought. Then the girl looks at me and says “half of 29.99, I’m not good at math, do you mind, I have to go get a calculator. Blink, blink begin to open mouth, close mouth, blink, blink and respond with an “okay, but its $15.00” not wanting to go anywhere near the half cent nightmare. She gets calculator, punches in the numbers, hits the results button and proclaims $15.00 (she can round, ‘cuz I know that isn’t what the display said). Then she has a great idea “I think every register should have a calculator!”. Thankfully she couldn’t read my lips. Round up/down and split the change – grade school skills. I spot the scissors next to the register and have visions of grabbing them and stabbing myself in the heart to end my misery. A perfect lead in to today’s featured feathered friend.

Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher found at Havana, IL in June 2016

First off, these shots are NOT good by any means. I tried step you down a bit from the last post so the fall wouldn’t be as bad. Not as a excuse as I f’p (fstop of course) all the time, but this series was taken right before my camera body took a failure. Per the last post, my 7000 lost a shutter that day and I should have noticed I was getting a drag on all the shots taken prior to that. Cleaned them up as best I could – my apologies. What you are looking at is a Scissor-Tailed Flycatcher.

Hit the jump to learn the backstory on this wayward Flycatcher.

Continue reading Flying with Scissors

They Really are Purple

And we are officially back with the second installment in the Recovery-a-Palooza series. I am starting to get the jitters now and I am pretty sure my hair is starting to fallout thanks to my body rebelling against sedentary life. Won’t be long and my internal inhibitors will be overwhelmed and the “crazies” will start coming out – NOBODY wants that! The good news is the swelling is subsiding and the bruising remains minimal. On the topic of purple, thought I’d go with these for tonight’s featured feathered friend(s).

Purple Martin found at Weldon Springs State Park, Clinton IL in June 2016

Good news – these shots are better than what is in the post coming down the pipe. Bad news – my readers out there deserve better for sure. To get the excuses out of the way, I was a bit handicapped the day these were taken. Not too long before this outing, my trusted D7000 workhorse finally succumbed to the torture I had inflicted on it since likely its Nikon debut in 2010. Later coupled with The Beast, that rig was everywhere I was – snap, after snap, after snap, after snap until there wasn’t enough light left in the day to focus. The shutter gave way while taking shots of a rarity in Havana, IL (that would be the post that is coming up). Heartbreak as I pressed the button thingy and nothing went clicky.

Purple Martin found at Weldon Springs State Park, Clinton IL in June 2016

Hit the jump if you want to see a few more shots of these big Purple Mosquito Eaters!

Continue reading They Really are Purple

Singing Dicks

Well, to slightly tweak an often misquoted Twain quote – “reports of my death are ‘slightly’ exaggerated”. To be honest, I’ve always thought it was “rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated” but learned the truth while doing a quick double check ahead of starting this post. Regardless, good news, I’m still alive – dinged up a bit and hoping no other competitors heard me trying to encourage my body to get the hell across the finish line in the middle of the dark, but hey, still kicking. For several posts I’ve been mentioned the upcoming 50 mile ultra trail race. That was last Saturday and to cut to the chase (see what I did there), I finished every one of those god-foresaken miles. I’ll be putting up a full race review on the mothership blog as soon as I am mentally prepared to relive that experience. Without going into too much detail, there are things you do because they are truly fun, things you do because of other compelling reasons and then there are the things you do to test yourself and further define your boundaries. The latter has a tendency to get into a complete at all cost mentality. Yesterday I had x-rays done on my foot and a follow up discussion with a good friend who happens to be a local foot surgeon. Good news on that front, but I’m in for an extended rest to address some “very angry” components. Rather than just sit and stare at my shiny new super cool belt buckle, thought I’d add another (less strenuous) first, this time to my birding list.

Dickcissal found at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Wilmington IL in May 2016

Say hello to tonight’s featured feathered friend! This is one of those +1’s that have been sitting in my queue for many many years. Part of the delay is due to proximity. Although I do feature easily accessible birds from right here in the broke state of Illinois, I tend to focus on those targets we enjoy traveling tin. Doesn’t seem as exciting if I feature a bird I literally walk out into our woods, snap a few pictures and then hit the kitchen for some tasty waffles.

Dickcissal found at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Wilmington IL in May 2016

Hit the jump to read more about our colorful feathered friend.

Continue reading Singing Dicks

At Least no Worries

Welcome to October everyone! The stress of the Halloween event is now passed and almost everything is packed up and put away until next year. Unfortunately, that reduction of stress has been replaced with concerns about this weekend’s ultra trail race. I am officially at the point where internal demons start cracking through the positive defenses – did you train enough, it would be tragic if you clipped a root, moles are out putting traps on the course, did you see those temps inching up, those shoes don’t seem broke in enough and a litany of other worries that always plague the few days before a big test. Honestly, anyone confident about a 50 mile race should probably consider some therapy sessions ha. Anyway, now in the final tapers. Did break in a new pair of shoes yesterday to have as a backup (actually a backup for the backup that I already broke in earlier in the year). These are a new version of my standard trail shoes – lower lugs, updated tread pattern and most of all, the “lyte” version for those later miles when the legs feel like they have cement blocks attached to them. Did manage to laugh at myself when I almost “supermaned” going down a hill yesterday. My usual ASIC Gel Fujitrabuco lugs are thicker and longer, reminiscent of my many years on the baseball field. Never have failed me especially in the 6 hours of rain and mud of my last 50K (link here). The new ones are lower and sharper with a chainsaw like pattern. I’ve gotten use to the very slight slip as the larger lugs sink in and stupidly assumed the same with the lyte pair. Started down a steep hill, made the first plant and literally rocketed forwarded way over my feet as the new tread grabbed instantly and immediately transferred the energy forward. Caught myself, laughed off the close tumble and went to work harnessing the change. My only worry is whether it will self clean like the standard lugs on soggy trails. Stay tuned for the upcoming uber-exciting dissertation on the wonders of Body Glide hehehehe. I know, I know, you are here for the featured feathered friends, not to read babble on my masochist hobby So, let’s get to it.

Least Grebe found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park January 2021

Hit the jump to see a few more images of this alligrebe.

Continue reading At Least no Worries

The Patron Bird of my Hometown

Well, I survived the big Halloween event.  Per tradition, I’ll be putting up full posts on the behind the scenes work it takes to put up and take down our Haunted Trail of Tears (link here) and, of course, the day and night walkthroughs. This one took a lot out of me.  I stopped adding up all the hours involved and now just measure by pounds lost – this year is an 8.  Yep, 8 pounds shed battling the zombies and other things that go bump in the night.

Dancing Zombie from 2021 Haunted Halloween Trail of Tears

This abomination already took an unsuspecting victim and getting ready to haul it off to the dinner table. Pretty sure what makes our living dead variety so dangerous is their running shoe supplier hehehehe. Still have a lot of the props to pack away, but now the focus turns to the quickly approaching 50 mile ultra trail run. In about a week and a half I’ll be putting this body to the test – definitely need to get that weight back, but that will be difficult now that I’m in the final two-a-day training regimen. While I am resting between bookend long runs, thought I would go ahead and try to close out September with another post.

Lincoln's Sparrow found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park in January 2021

Hit the jump to read a bit more about a bird that fits right in with my hometown of Springfield IL.

Continue reading The Patron Bird of my Hometown

From Black Capes to May Capes

Greetings everyone! If you have read any of the previous posts as of late you are already aware that these are busy times here at Intrigued. It is officially one week before our annual Haunted Trail of Tears event. 7 little itty bitty short days left and there is a mountain of work still to be done. The good news is I got the trails cleared and cleaned up so those just need to be mowed and trimmed and we can start staging all the props…. well, those that are built – we are still trying to squeak in a few new scares. Thankfully Ron was able to come down last weekend and again this upcoming weekend to help me work through some sticking points. Based on how this goes every year, sleep will be in short supply right up to the party. On top of all this I still need to get some runs in with the 50 miler just a few weeks after the party. As a result, I am going to let the blogs go dark for a bit. Figured I would leave you with one of the beautiful tins from this year to hold you over.

Cape May Warbler found at Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

You might have noticed, but I have been gradually amping up the color in the posts over the last couple of months. Today’s posts keeps that theme going with a stunning New World Warbler – the Cape May. Specifically, the adult male. The females and immatures are more muted, substituting the chestnut cheek with a grey toned one and the dark crown is significantly lighter with a more olive hue.

Cape May Warbler found at Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Hit the jump to see a lot more shots of our brightly colored Warbler.

Continue reading From Black Capes to May Capes

Standoff at the OK Blossom

We are two weeks away from this year’s annual Haunted Trail of Tears event and looking around the house as of late and you can definitely tell. Pretty sure every room in the house has some form of prop production happening. My brother Ron was nice enough to come down this weekend and help out designing and building some new additions. He brings the big guns when it comes to the difficult circuits and helps get me through the trouble spots that inevitably pop up. We put together some really nice new scares for the trail this year and cannot wait to see how they look in the dead of night – also vastly improved one of last year’s signature props (link here). Should be some great fun, but still a lot of work to make it to the finish line. Had a few minutes to relax a bit before calling it a weekend and decided to see if I could get a quick post out.

Monarch found at Rollins Savannah, Grayslake, IL in August 2021

In honor of Halloween, I am going to continue with the orange and black theme started in the last post. Giving you a break from the barrage of birds and bring you something a bit outside of my wheelhouse.

Monarch found at Rollins Savannah, Grayslake, IL in August 2021

Hit the jump to see some more shots of our autumn colored friend.

Continue reading Standoff at the OK Blossom

Project Upgrade – Dancing The Night Away

Now this has been a very productive weekend. Thanks to Raven’s agility show, I’ve had what has becoming an increasing rare amount of time to just sit and chip away at the post backlog. Halloween is at the forefront of priorities as our annual Halloween Haunted Trail is but a few weeks away. Like yesterday, thought I would go ahead and detail the improvements and upgrades to another prop for this year’s haunt.

If you happen to recall, several years back (2017 I believe), we constructed the Dancing Zombie prop based on some linkage ideas we had found on the web. The core of the design was the offset wiper motor that would rotate the torso in somewhat of an ellipse incorporating a smooth forward/back as well as a left to right motion.

Hit the jump to read about all the new offseason upgrades to our Dancing Zombie prop!

Continue reading Project Upgrade – Dancing The Night Away

Sing Pretty and Carry a Lethal Dagger

So far so good, our toy poodle Raven (link here) is doing awesome in the Teacup Dog Agility Association (TDAA) competition we are at this weekend. 5 courses five qualifiers along with a TMAG 5 title (Teacup Master Agility Games number 5 which requires 50 qualifying runs in games courses). Hopefully he and Mom can continue the success tomorrow and then into the big boy competition next week at the AKC agility meet. That meet is local for us, but for now I am making the most out of the downtime associated with this travel event. Keeping not one, but two themes going with this third post of the weekend. First is my promise to bring the color and then thought I’d work in the Halloween angle that has been consuming every cycle I can spare. Did manage to get a post out earlier today on my new Westworld 2.5 Posey line if you are curious about the Haunted Trail prop progress (link here). As for now, take a look at our Halloween themed featured feathered friend.

Altamira Oriole found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park in January 2021

Typical of a lot of Orioles, this male Altamira Oriole sports the brilliant orange adorned with black highlights. This particular specimen comes to you from our annual January trip down the Texas Gulf and then along the southern border to McAllen Texas. This particular day at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park outside Mission was incredibly productive.

Altamira Oriole found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park in January 2021

Hit the jump to read more about our Halloween themed bird.

Continue reading Sing Pretty and Carry a Lethal Dagger

Westworld 2.5 Servo Man Industrial Upgrade

Good hauntings all! As it is September, we are currently in full throttle preparing for this year’s Haunted Trail of Tears (link here). Truth is, the trail efforts are an ongoing effort throughout the year, researching ideas, building new props and unfortunately, rebuilding or upgrading props that didn’t live up to expectations. I covered the efforts involved in the Westworld 2.0 line rollout with Servo Man back in July of last year (link here). That line made its debut in the 2019 event.

Unfortunately, that version ended up experiencing a malfunction late in the evening. The best I could tell at the time, the fabric got caught up in the servos which added a bunch of drag to the mechanism – end result, nearly burned out servos. I got it put back together for the 2020 event and hauled it out to its spot in the trail. turned everything on and nothing. Apparently, something got knocked out of whack during the bumpy ride down into the valley. With no time to repair it, it simply became a static prop for the night – completely bummed, especially with all the offseason work that went into it. You can check out all the details in the previous post on that version, but wanted to throw in some quick shots just so you know the upgrades that were done for this year.

… and the simplified version showing the main linkages. Note specifically the neck area as that turned out to be where a lot of the issues turned up. That little neck on the servo was basically holding up the entire weight of the head and carrying all the torque for the rotation.

Hit the jump to see the latest additions in the Westworld 2.5 Posey line.

Continue reading Westworld 2.5 Servo Man Industrial Upgrade