Fly By Here, I Dare You

I swear we are cursed. Once again, our Texas trip has been hit with an unexpected cold snap. Been off and on while on the border – 70’s one day, 50’s next. Moved north a bit to check out some other sites and now we are looking at temps down to 30F. Granted our driveway is currently covered with snow, but come on Texas, let’s keep the boiler on until we have to head back! Meanwhile, things are still going well on the “Average Year” front. Initial surges were expected and now the daily hauls have drastically dropped as the easy adds (at least in this region) are mostly done with only a few unfortunate misses. Did tin two rarities which were amazing – sorry, you have to wait for those reveals until 2025. Just kidding, but at least until we return home. As Ron has already returned to Chicago, decided I’d go ahead and make a new page to help us keep tabs on our progress. Added a new item on the nav bar appropriately titled The Birding Chronicles (direct link here). Planning to update it at least monthly and random times in between – at points when I am ahead of course ha!

Osprey found in Audubon Bird Sanctuary at Dauphin Island in April 2021

Hit the jump to read a bit more about our time with Mr. and Mrs. Yellow Eyes.

Continue reading Fly By Here, I Dare You

Thrushed into the New Year

Happy New Year everyone! My apologies as it has been a while since my last post. Linda and I are in the midst of our annual trip down the Texas Gulf Coast and our days and nights have been extremely full due to traveling and birding at numerous places along the way. Thanks to less-than-ideal weather at the moment, thought I’d try to put it to good use and dig out the laptop. Speaking of weather, Ron and I got an introduction to “extreme birding” at Galveston Island last week. I am beginning to think Linda and I might have angered the weather gods at some point as it seems whenever we head south to escape the finger numbing temps at home, we end up dragging the cold weather down with us. A year ago we brought lower Texas record ice storms and snow (our apologies to the traumatized Sea Turtles). This year we once again brought a cold snap – not as frigid, but with the addition of 35-40mph winds it was downright ….uncomfortable (decided not to go with Linda’s description hehehe). We would step out of the RV and get sandblasted. Felt like a Texas face peel! Great care was taken to keep the blowing sand off of The Beast – using my body to shield and making sure to be upwind of target birds. I was thinking of the best way to describe the conditions and then it hit me … why not pull out the phone and capture it!

UPDATE: if that link is not rendering on your browser, you should be able to go directly to my Smugmug gallery with this link:

https://eddiesoft.smugmug.com/Wildlife/Wildlife-Vacations/Texas-January-2022/i-vV3tdtv/A

So, what would entice me enough to risk being blown into the gulf? The answer is the cut throat world of competitive sibling birding. Ron and I have decided to do an “Average Year” – our term for a big year for those of us without the time and/or finances to be considered in the “Big Year” (650+species) echelons – hell my lifetime species count just topped 300. To kick off our counts, we invited Ron to join us down here. This may be a competition, but no reason not to be civilized especially with Texas being such a mecca for birding – not to mention 6 eyes are better than 4 when out in the field. More to come on this topic for sure, however, it is time to get to the first featured feathered friend of the young year.

Hit the jump to learn more about our spotty specimen.

Continue reading Thrushed into the New Year

Prepare for Glory!

The time has come everybody, brace yourselves for the epic conclusion of the 2021 Bird Life List goal.

First I want to thank everyone for their encouragement to help me get through the ’21 goals. Just to bring the non-regular readers up to speed, I figured I would have some extra time on my hands in my first year of retirement – for the record I am not convinced that actually materialized as it feels busier these days than I would have ever imagined. Regardless, when the idea originated I set a goal to up my birding life list to 300. Ended up being easier to declare than execute, but the fallout at Dauphin Island was the savior for this effort. Not entirely sure I would have gotten anywhere close without that trip and the January trip down the Texas Gulf Coast at the beginning of the year. You have been getting a steady diet of spoils from those trips over the last several months.

It is now time to officially confirm that I have indeed made it to the 300th bird on my life list and it is time to reveal the feathered friend that has been selected to honor this historic landmark… hmmmm.. should probably refer to it as a historic “checkmark” ha!

Go on, don’t be afraid, hit the jump to meet the famous bird(s).

Continue reading Prepare for Glory!

Robin Hood of Dauphin Island

Decided to play it safe today and take my miles on the hilly roads of Jubilee State Park. Getting lost TWICE in the same week would be too much for my ego to endure. Being very familiar with every pothole, tar blemish, dip, undulation, steep hill and deep valley in the park meant I could figuratively sit back and enjoy the run. Incredibly happy that my ’21 running goals were already checked off for the year – the 50K redemption check (link here), the 50M magnet proudly displayed on the back of the truck (that horror story is finally up on the mothership – link here) and blew past my 1200 miles threshold for the year at the end of November. Last year I had to pound out 50 mile weeks in late December to reach that goal ugh. If it gives you any indication of how much extra training it took for those ultras this year, I basically lost 7 weeks due to vacation and another 3-4 weeks due to injury and recovery and still hit the yearly goal a month ahead of plan – the pile of used of shoes is testament to the feat (see what I did there hehehe). Relied on either running friends or tunes to get through the normal every other day… every day a month out and two-a-days in the weeks leading up to the big runs. It is actually those running playlists that brings you today’s featured feathered friend.

Hooded Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Don’t think there is a running playlist on my phone that doesn’t have at least one Bryan Adams song on it (the rest can get quite aggressive). Talk about songs that have stood the test of time. If you can listen to songs like Summer of 69 or Cuts Like a Knife without singing along then you might be dead inside ha! I always have to glance around to make sure NOBODY is around so as not to embarrass myself ‘cuz I am not a singer and didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express. To my credit, I did marry an SAI member (opposites do attract). If you are still with the thread, this enjoyment from Adams led me to watch his Interview by Dan Rather last night. Absolutely despise Rather, but wanted to get an update on the Bryan with a ‘Y’. In that interview he talked about the I Do It For You song he wrote for the Kevin Costner Robin Hood movie. Not a fan of that song, but to his credit, try to go to a wedding without hearing that. He joked that the people who asked him to write a song for that movie hated it and doesn’t play until the credits start rolling at the end.

Hooded Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Hit the jump to finally get to my 8 degrees on this smartly colored bird!

Continue reading Robin Hood of Dauphin Island

Destressing in Nature – with a Sturdy Stick

Hello everyone! The busy commercial holiday season is upon us. End of the year tasks to finish up, decorations to finish, cards to stuff and stamp, gifts to acquire, hours of baking to prepare for family/friends gatherings all adding to a stressful end of the year. Thank god I do not have to worry about performance reviews anymore – well, beyond my wife’s daily assessment of my worthiness hehehe. My go to stress relief has always been physical exertion – younger years getting bruised up in the dojo, later years having the pavement hammer my knees and now, well, I seek the calming therapy of nature…and, of course, getting every ounce of energy consumed running the hills and valleys on the now very muddy trails.

Yellow-Throated Vireo found at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

My friend Ryan and I added a new element to our trail run today – orienteering. That would be a fancy of way of saying we got our asses lost ha! I happen to pride myself on having a fairly decent internal GPS. As long as I can keep track of which direction I am heading at any given time and roughly the much easier measurement of distance Bri will make it back to the car. If all else fails, point the feet in the right compass point and walk straight – at some point something will look familiar or worse case a few cuts and scrapes later you’ll be back to the start. I can’t say I’ve ever gotten lost on the SECOND time at running a course before today. I also try to lay out my course to always turn one direction until I have to turn the other (a concept left over from my coding recursion days). The course we were replicating today was set up by another group we joined a couple of weeks back. Left, right, right, straight, right, left, left, straight then right and the mess continued until somehow they led us back to the parking lot.

Yellow-Throated Vireo found at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Hit the jump to read more about the latest addition to the bird list!

Continue reading Destressing in Nature – with a Sturdy Stick

Surprise – Not Dead

Greetings everyone! Coming off a wonderful night hanging out with some great friends getting caught up with what’s been happening in their lives since last we met – in some cases that’s been more than a year thanks in part to the pandemic. One of those friends reminded me I had 4 birds to go to meet my goal. So, while I shake off the last of the spirits in my machine, thought I’d see if I could cut a bit into that deficit. To set the stage I am generally not a fan of “surprises”. I’ve found over the years that a vast majority of those incidents result in some kind of bad experience. In the corporate world, I dreaded system surprises – ghosts in the mechanical machine if you will. Those in the IT/Systems world know NOTHING positive EVER comes from a code surprise. When it does, you tear your hair out until you determine a way to get the failure to predictably repeat thus solvable. In private life this fear of the unexpected jolt is equally favored to the bad side of the ledger. “Wow, surprised how hard that cement step is that I just launched my chin into while second guessing a new skateboard stunt” or “Amazing my hand made it through that sharp opening – wait, what’s all that blood from”. Add to those examples my surprise on how painful a blow to the back of the head from a box fan can be (once I regained consciousness). A few stunners do end up on the good side – meeting Linda on day one of my career and later her agreeing to spend the rest of her life with me are up there at the top hehehe. Today’s featured feathered friend happens to be one of those surprises that also landed on the positive side.

Pine Siskin found at Brazos Bend State Park,  Needville TX in January 2021

Not the most flamboyant of birds I’ve brought your way for sure. Unfortunately, this specimen lost a bit of its luster thanks to less than ideal shooting conditions. It is hard enough to shoot in dense woods on its own, but when you have to shoot across rays of light penetrating through small gaps in the trees it gets a bit tricky. I had my settings dialed in for black subjects hanging out in the canopy (more on that in a bit). Perfect for those conditions – not ideal for capturing this Finch that popped out on the trail ahead of me. Did my best to pull it out in the digital darkroom at the expense of the yellow highlights on the outer edges of its tail and wings. For the birders out there that are unfamiliar with the Pine Siskin, visualize the overall coloring being a bit tanner and more of a lemon yellow piping.

Pine Siskin found at Brazos Bend State Park,  Needville TX in January 2021

Hit the jump to find out more about this new addition along with a “bonus”.

Continue reading Surprise – Not Dead

Happy Being Bitterned

It has been awhile, but finally back at it. I took some time off to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and to get rested up for the big push to the end of the year. Purely based on the 1100+ emails sitting in my inbox from WordPress I was the only one that has been slacking – will attempt to catch up although at some point the hole becomes insurmountable. To my credit, I have been busy away from the keyboard – got all the exterior Christmas decorations/lighting done (not at the Halloween level, but still significant), finished the interior decorating along with the big ass Xmas tree (just under 14 feet) and addressed the annual leaf horde. That latter one is probably more exhausting than my last two ultras put together. There are times when living in a forest has its down point. One being when the moles mount their counteroffensive to take back the relatively small part I cleared for a yard. It is fierce, nerve-racking, messy and bloody. Those bastards are getting smarter on every attack – next time I am fully expecting archers with flaming arrows and oil filled catapults to be rolled up to the forest edge (a mole army led by Merlin himself). Woods living also gets interesting when winds crest over 30mph, but it is the fall effect that could make one bitter. 2 full days of raking and burning in November to get the early drops taken care of and now another 3 full days/nights dealing with the final dumping – Consider me eternally grateful for Prometheus’ gift to humanity.

The good news is, no matter how tiring it might be, being outdoors will never make me bitter. Come to think of it, few things in the birding world get me more excited than being outdoors and discovering a Bittern in the wild.

American Bittern found at Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center in Port Aransas, TX in January 2021

How’s that for a contrived lead in to today’s featured feathered friend? Per my comments in the November posts I am desperately trying to get my unique species birding life list to 300 by the end of this year. Although the left sidebar running count isn’t updated yet, that number stands at 295 giving me.. one sec, subtract that..carry the one, multiply by the inverse, find the limits, solve quadratic…x=5 – yes, that gives me 5 species to go and a little less than a month to get that accomplished. If you read my Blue-Winged Warbler post (link here), then you already know that today’s American Bittern feature brings that gap down to 4.

American Bittern found at Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center in Port Aransas, TX in January 2021

Hi the jump to read more about the guzzling drunk.

Continue reading Happy Being Bitterned

Tuck It or Man Up

I’ve been posting a lot about checking items off of a list lately, but today’s post is not about birds. Nope, we are going to cover another one of my precious lists – this time it is another notch on the life list. I was a bit tardy on my last notch thanks to the dreaded Heat Miser inflicting a heavy toll. The goal was to get the 50K trail ultra prior to my retirement – a gift to myself, if you will, while I still had full medical coverage ha! You already know how that first attempt went (link here). Add in the pandemic and it took two years to wipe that blemish off my record. Missed the time goal, but at least got it crossed off. That brings us to the other running entry on the life list – the 50 miler by 55. With everything shifted a year thanks to the worldwide shutdown it was getting pretty tight – it was this year or be late AGAIN.

Farmdale Ultra Marathon 50 Mile Trail Run, East Peoria, IL on October 9th, 2021

Opted to go with the Farmdale Ultra again – same place where I ended up getting my first 50K out of the way (link here). The cool October weather takes most of the heat concern out of the equation and I knew (well I thought I knew) the route like the back of my hand. By the way, the irony isn’t lost as I make a post on a run now sponsored by a running organization that goes by “No One Cares You Run Ultras”.

Farmdale Ultra Marathon 50 Mile Trail Run, East Peoria, IL on October 9th, 2021

Hit the jump to see how this latest life list endeavor turned out!

Continue reading Tuck It or Man Up

Turkey Incognito

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Even if you are not from the states, hopefully, we all have something to be thankful for even if there isn’t a designated holiday in your neck of the woods.  This year is a bit of redemption for me from the last couple of years.  If you happen to recall, two years ago I was shocked to learn I didn’t have an appropriate topic to honor the day.  Ended up going with a substitute featured feathered friend – the Turkey Vulture (link here).   To my credit, at least it had the name of the traditional protein right in the name (and large, with some red, funny looking… you get the picture).  Last year I was so embarrassed I completely skipped the topic and announced I was unofficially stepping out of the corporate arena (link here).  Simply skipped right over the day itself and picked back up with part two of the Cedar Waxwing series (link here).  The hope being no one noticed I didn’t have a bird in the hopper that even remotely related to a Turkey – sigh.  Well, this year you are in luck.

White Wild Turkey found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, TX in January 2021

Hit the jump to find out about our incognito Turkey

Continue reading Turkey Incognito