It’s There, I Just Can’t See It

Things I am thankful for at the moment:

  • Voters in Massachusetts
  • My Chiropractors (unless  he is unable to get the feeling back into my four right toes thanks to a nasty snowboard crash a couple of weeks ago)
  • Burton product managers (just upgraded my snowboard boots and bindings to the latest advancements – can’t have any more of those crashes now can we?)
  • My parents made it down to Florida before the huge storm
  • All my blog readers out there (slather on the butter)
  • And most importantly that there are 31 days in January – and I needed every one of them to get 6 posts in this month

I am going to close out this month’s set of posts with a bird that posed a challenge for me in a couple of ways.  While out on our Yellowstone vacation, we took a short hike up a trail.  While taking in the beautiful scenery, I heard an interesting bird song coming from a set of trees.  It was a rather unique sound, but the point of origin was difficult to pinpoint.  Slowly the sound was vectored in and it slowly revealed itself.  What was this sneaky bird?  Well, it was this one:

The challenge of actually seeing this bird was matched by the difficulties in actually identifying it in my multiple bird books.  Turns out there are at least 6 variations of this Junco with varying coloring contrasts.  Some have a darker head, some have a larger brown spot on their back.  To be honest, at the time it looked like a shrunken robin without the bright orange belly.  Based on the picture above, it is obvious he had no trouble locating me.

This shot gives a better perspective of the side and belly feathers.  The belly t is a dull orange which lead to the robin reference.  From a photo perspective, I do like how these close up shots came out.  The coloring of the bird coordinated well with the bark of the back trees and the wisps of greenery give a nice depth perspective.  Here is another one that I probably like the best of all of them.  To his credit, even though I was moving around to get different angles he did not get concerned enough to seek safety in the deeper brush.

I hate the fact I have to reduce and compress the images for this website.  The full size raws look significantly better than the smaller versions used for the blog posts.  I might actually look into leveraging a photo service website to use as a repository for the larger images.  That way I could provide links to the full versions if you wanted to see those.

Unlike our friend the Mountain Bluebird the Junco blends in quite nicely with their habitat.  Based on the various pictures of the 6+ variations they all look like the colorings would hide it nicely among the limbs and brush common in the forest.  To demonstrate this, here are a couple of examples consisting of full scenes (reduced for space).  Try your hand at Where’s Waldo.

Now that you know what you are looking for it makes it a tad easier compared my struggle trying pinpoint the source of the chirp.  In case you did have some problems, here is a zoom of it:

I pulled a slight switcharoo on you.  This is actually one of the other variations that has a slightly lighter brown patch on the back.  How about another try:

It’s there, trust me.

Let’s hope they don’t figure out how to use that stealth trait against us. They would probably team up with the Ravens and wreak considerable havoc.  I recommend not making them angry!

Whew, that was a close one.  Wiping the sweat from my brow, I close out the 6th and final post of the month.

Magnum P.I. On The Job

This has been a very odd couple of weeks in the cell phone category.  It all started when Linda started getting strange text messages from a strange male at odd hours of the night usually with bodies of “Watz up” or “You no talkin to me no more” etc.  Our guess is some woman gave out a random phone number at a bar or the idiot was too drunk to write it down right.  Soon after that she got a call from a wrong number in the wee hours of the morning.  She informed the caller she had the wrong number only to have the same number call back almost immediately.  This was met by “YOU STILL HAVE THE WRONG NUMBER!!”  You don’t want to annoy my wife while she is sleeping.  Then, yesterday I get a call on my cell from a number I didn’t recognize.  My standard mode of operation is to let those go to voice mail just in case it is someone I might not want to talk to.  Turns out it was a lady inquiring about a house I had for sale in Eureka.  Truth be told, I do not have a house for sale in Eureka, so once again I assumed a fat fingered call and deleted the message.  Twenty minutes later I get a call back from the same number but no message this time.

Which brings us to the tipping point when I decided it was worth bringing to the blog.  Today around 3:30pm I get a call from the same number with the house inquiry.  Figuring someone might have incorrectly put my phone number on house listing, I decided to actually take the call and see what was going on.   To my surprise it is a male’s voice on the other end who asks “Who is this?”  Not about to give any personal information to stranger in this day and age, the immediate response was “Who are you trying to reach?”  He was apparently a little taken aback and informed me that he “was checking a number that was on his phone”.  Alarms started going off at that point and gave my last comment as “Well, I didn’t call it”.  After making a comment that sounded like “uh, well …” he hung up.  After a few moments I began to rewind this call trying to put some context to it.  After a few rewinds I decided one plausible scenario is that the guy could be married to the lady who called yesterday.  Maybe their marriage isn’t going that well and she is cheating around (or he is) and she is looking for someplace to move into.  Mr. Jealous husband is now pulling a Magnum P.I. and trying to track down who she is hanging out with or trying to get some evidence if she is planning something.  If this is the scenario, it probably wasn’t comforting to have another male answer the phone – much less someone not willing to provide any information.

Oh well, I thought it was kind of humorous and decided to share.   If you have other interpretations for how this event might have been playing out, please share it in the comments.

Let’s Hope His Enemy is Color Blind

Well, first off I would like to wish my Nephew a Happy Birthday!  This is a also a veiled reminder to my other brother that it is his Nephew’s birthday to.. hint.. hint.. I know he has been working a lot lately and it might have slipped his mind.

Well, I told it was going to be  a quick break.  We’ve gone to the birds again this particular post.  This particular picture caught me by surprise while reviewing all the pictures from the trip.  Often times I am snapping so many shots that I do not have a chance to go back and review them until later.  It definitely could be sharper but I am guessing I was fighting the limbs for focus control causing a less than tack sharp shot.  But with that said, this was a color photo that I only touched up a little bit to bring out the bird a little better.

This shot was actually taken in Yellowstone National Park at the Mammoth Hot Spring area.  I actually really like the gray of the dead tree on the backdrop of the gray mud and rock formed from the hot springs.  In stark contrast to this subdued setting is a beautiful bird called a Mountain Bluebird.  The full coloring indicates it is a male.  One thing for sure, if it is going to stay in this particular area, it better have color blind enemies or life is going to be pretty hectic for the little guy.  This is clearly one of those cases where evolution/adaptation is running a tad behind or it could just be passing through on a little site-seeing tour.  Or possibly trying to warm up a little since there was actually snow on the ground in other parts of the park while we were there.

Here is a slightly zoomed picture.

Again, not the sharpest on the actual bird itself, but I still like the contrast (and no, it was not gray-scaled).  The full 12M picture actually details the slight browns in the trunk which are still there if you look really close.  If I had known how interesting this was going to turn out I would have spent some time getting the bird sharpened up or minimally got the tripod out to prevent any hand holding artifacts.  Oh well, a lesson learned to take a quick look at the results while out on the shoot instead of waiting till later.  Although, to be honest, I usually when out on bird shoots I usually snap a few off as soon as I spot the bird regardless of how far away or the position in.  Once I have at least one shot of it, I begin the work of moving in to get the better shot.  This way I at least have something to prove the checkmark that goes into my bird book.

AAACCKK, it is already the 28th and I only have 4 posts including this one.  Maybe have to consider less Dragon Age and more Posting for the next few days.  Oh well, off to the P90X Ab RipperX – crunchy crunchy!

They May Be Fat, But They Are Safe

Thought I would take a quick break from the birds and throw out a recent observation before I forgot it.  Having recently had a birthday, my memory is starting to feel the ages.  Unfortunately, with the self imposed graphic requirements I had to whip some appropriate image up first.  Pretty embarrassing effort, to be honest, but it’ll serve the purpose.  Enough rambling, on to the observation.

While coming home from visiting my parents last weekend I was surprised by incident that has not happened to me for at least 10 to 15 years.  Actually, I can’t remember it happening since back in my college days when I was driving to my summer job at the Post Office.  The reason I remember back that far is I left for work in the late afternoon (night casual so I worked most of the night until ALL the day’s mail was ready for delivery the next day).  Inevitably, when exiting the subdivision at that time I would see kids out in the driveways and yards engaged in a number of sports usually involving some form of a ball.  Almost every day, I was forced to slow down or brake to avoid one of those balls that had made its way into the street.  Actually it wasn’t so much the ball that caused the braking, but the overzealous kid that was hotly pursuing the mishandled ball.

Well, guess what?  As Linda and I were heading out of the neighborhood, a basketball came rolling out from a driveway directly into the car’s path.  Sure enough, a kid was on his way to retrieve it.  As I braked, the kid noticed the car and stopped in his tracks.  Immediately, it occurred to me how rare this scene was these days.  Children actually getting off the coach, directly interacting with friends and getting some physical activity.  During my childhood  (wow, am I feeling old) we were out every day we could, playing baseball in the in the court, playing around-the-world/horse/21/teams on the driveway hoops (and yes, everyone boy had a hoop in his driveway), Wiffle ball (actually Indian Ball since the yard was not big enough to run bases) in a local yard or if we were lucky enough to get 5 or more inches of snow the always fun tackle Nerf football in the street.

Now, there is a definite benefit in today’s console generation.  In my day there were some injuries to be had.  I will not even start detailing my injuries and scars, but they healed.  To be honest today, it is pretty hard to get hurt on the couch and I hardly think controller thumb is a real injury.  So, in essence the electronic game industry has made our kids safer.

The question I ask, is FATTER an appropriate substitute for SAFER?  I know my answer, and looking forward to the next time I can strap on the snowboard and ride that edge.

The Gray Jay on a Gray Day

Quick, guess what the subject of today’s post is going to be.  Did you guess a captivating discussion on how Socialism never wins out in a Free Democracy?  or maybe a dissertation on Why Spending The Youth of the Nation’s Wealth on Fictitious Global Warming Threats Is Criminal.   If so, you are unfortunately wrong, but if the answer was “Birdies” then you are dead on (don’t be sad, the other articles will likely be published later in the year).

Today’s feathered feature is the Gray Jay.

We encountered this bird in the parking lot for our hotel at Canyon Lodge in Yellowstone.  We pulled in on a wet/cold afternoon and started hauling our gear out of the car to take into the room.  The minute we opened up the hatch, this bird came flying in an perched on the vehicle next to us.  It was extremely intent on watching us unload.  Since it was still there on our subsequent trips I grabbed the camera and took a couple of snaps.  I think we should round up some of these birds and fly them into Iran.  It will keep their president up at night worrying about  birds the US has trained to spy on their country (think I am kidding… Google it, you will get a laugh).

I did some reading and it looks like the coloring on this one means it is a juvi.  It also gave some clues to why it was so interested in us.  Apparently it is a bold campsite robber so it was likely waiting for some food item to hit the ground.  I can attest to the bold description based on the complete lack of concern it had for me walking around it while unpacking and taking pictures.

Definitely less scary than the Raven eh?

Nevermore … actually a lot more on the way

First off, being that this is the first post of the new year… Happy New Year everyone!  I have yet to decide on my 2010 goals and as a result my blog requirements are not set yet, but that isn’t any reason not to give a post or two.  One thing is certain, I am way behind on my wildlife posts based on the number of pictures I have in my “to post” folder for my blog.  As a result, I am going to bombard you with bird posts this month.  To be honest, I am actually having some problems identifying a few of them which is somewhat upsetting based on the amount of bird books I own and that wonderful thing they call the Internet is not helping out.  Thanks for sticking with the blog and looking forward to another year of observations.

As promised, here is the first of the bird posts.  Mr. Poe would be proud, however, it personally scares the bejeezzus out of me:

We were walking around the parking lot of Old Faithful when we saw this monstrosity of bird for the first time.  Although we had read about them and seen them in numerous horror movies, we had never actually seen one up close and quite frankly that was not a bad thing.  These common ravens are HUGE and apparently only have one thing on third little bird brain.  That, of course, being the dark seeded desire to peck our eyes out.  By the way, although it scares me, I happen to really like this particular photo and had one blown up to hang in our great room.

We had a Hitchcock flashback the first time we encountered these demon spawn.  As we walked across the parking lot to see the geyser a shadow crossed over us and landed directly above us on a light post.  Fortunately, we had our cameras and snapped a few quick shots.

Without a measure reference it is hard to actually appreciate the size of these birds.  The reference books indicate they range up to 24″ long with a 53″ wingspan.   The Smithsonian guide even credits them for removing rivets from aircraft.  This isn’t too surprising since they clearly want us dead.

Eventually this one heard the camera’s focus collars and quickly located the source.  None to pleased, it started a loud squawking in an effort to call in reinforcements.  Not wanting to test my martial arts skills against Raven-Fu we hauled it out of there and headed for the water spout.

They even stomp around with authority.  At another site we were on our way back to the car when this one made a grand entrance about 20 feet from the car.  Having experienced this previously, we took it in stride, but the family next to us were busing warning each other to find cover.  Once landed it started goose stepping its way around the cars.

On another day I did get the opportunity to snap this one.  I don’t know if this one was a juvenile or not, but it was slightly smaller than the other specimens above.  After reading all three of my bird reference books and checking on the Internet, there appears to be very little distinction between the Common Raven and the American Crow beyond the smaller stature of the latter.  So for all I know, this was an adult American Crow or simply a younger Raven.  In either case, I’ll keep the zoom lens on and keep my respectful distance.

Pleasant dreams everyone … Nevermore, Nevermore, Nevermore