A Bird Call for Help

Hi all! We are in bonus time thanks to some heavy lifting earlier in the month. This isn’t so much a post as it is a call for help.  As with any bird post, a third of the time is usually spent pouring over reference books and pounding Google with every possible search string in hopes of identifying whatever winged creature happened to be featured in the upcoming post. Luck typically wins out and I find a match to confirm the identification… or I take the closest option and go with it .. or I just lie and wait for someone to call me on it (ha). That process has worked okay so far but that is usually with one or maybe at worst two birds on a given shoot. The first day at Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve left me with FIVE birds that left me stumped. Thus the need for some assistance. Rather than force you to start from scratch, I went ahead and added all the information (links) obtained during my research but feel free to opt in a different direction if you think I’m all wet. I will also apologize ahead of time for some of the poor pictures (errr style yea, that’s the ticket).

Sooooooo, here we go

It is surprising this particular bird gave me such a hard time thinking the flycatcher type crown would be a lock for identification. It didn’t help that I failed to execute on my bird photography principle to capture as many angles as possible. All the shots were from the back providing no insights into breast coloring which is always handy in the classification process – bad Bri, very baaad. After searching far and wide there were two options that made it through to the end. The first is the Western Wood Pewee. Depending on which image you happen to find it will either match almost perfectly or be so differently colored (usually greyer) that you’ll almost write it off.

Here are the best matches from the Internet

All About Birds (link here) – more dull/drab than the image below

Flicker (link here) – not bad, but a little lighter in the neck area

Utah Birds (link here) – lots of options to choose from

Wild Photos Photography (link here) – not the BEAR! … look further down

On the Wing Photography (link here) – too grey

Based on those samples, just not sure. Back to the drawing board. A few pages further I came across another possibility, the Black Phoebe. This is DEFINITELY one of those situations where the breast coloring would have confirmed or knocked it out immediately. The neck is at least solid black which solves that issue, but the tail seems thicker on these birds. Although, the white piping on the Phoebe wings seems a little sharper

As before, here are some of the reference images.

National Zoo (link here) – lots to choose from

SDakota Birds (link here) – damn close … again just the amount of white seems off

Rich Ditch (link here) – not a good comparison angle but does show the all black neck

Birds and Nature (link here) – very close in my opinion

All About Birds (link here) – another bad angle, but the profile in the neck area looks good

Hit the jump to see the other 4 in question

Continue reading A Bird Call for Help

Dangerous Skies

Greetings everyone!  We are currently dealing with a family emergency that has resulted in some unplanned travel.  Hoping for the best on that front (please keep Linda’s brother in your hearts and prayers for a speedy recovery).  As a result there is some downtime while waiting for updates and taking care of all the dogs.  Figured I would go ahead and crank out a post to help the time go by.  Since the pictures have already been processes, let’s head back to Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve.  Unlike the previous posts from that wonderful birding area, this particular bird did not result in a new check mark in the bird list.  Although, they are slightly better than the shots taken at Yellowstone (link here)

From the collective set of Henderson shots so far, one would think this is a bird paradise – various waterfowl enjoying the peace and tranquility of a slow paddle on the calm pond waters.  Well, except for the coyote shots – thinking that Shoveler could have used a little less peace and tranquility (link here).  Whether the other birds realized it or not, there were predators patrolling the skies.  Not sure what it is about these Northern Harriers, but they have a sixth sense to stay as far away as possible from my camera’s reach.  Even with the Beast, it was difficult to really get a bead on these birds of prey.  This set of shots was taken at the extent of the glass – thus the fuzzy results … I mean umm style.  Maybe I’ll get lucky and some of the second day shots will come out better – sticking with the theme of first day shooting for now and these were the best out of the bunch.

Hit the jump to read more about these Raptors

Continue reading Dangerous Skies

Snow in the Summer

Just got back from another exciting two days of dog shows up in Spring Grove.  Normally that means hours of sitting around waiting for each of my dogs to make their two minute runs.  I lucked out this weekend – sure, it had the standard waiting around for hours waiting for each of the dogs to make their two minute runs, but this time I was able to spend some quality time at the Chain ‘O Lakes State Park.  This is actually the park Linda bribes me with every time they have a show up there.  There’s been a lot of good bird sightings up there (link here and here) and in general a very nice park (complete with snakes).  Saturday I got to get my 10.5 mile training run in on their very nice trails although I underestimated how hilly those babies were which pushed me pretty good (give Linda credit for waiting around for me to finish that long run).  Today I had the opportunity to go back and spend a few hours walking a few of the trails with the Beast.  Not a lot of birds in the water but did catch a few tree birds in between sprinting away from the mosquito hordes.  Surprised there wasn’t much in the water but the trails were pretty noisy with people which might have spooked them before I got there.  No harm (other than the 50 bites all over my body) it is always good to be out with the Beast especially if I in place of sitting around in a cold building with people strategizing on whether to go behind or in front of the dog to get to the next obstacle.

Although I didn’t find any birds enjoying the backwaters, I figured it would be fitting to bring out another NEW bird from the shoot that did have a lot of water sightings – that’s right, our old friend the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve produced, yet again, another birding list check mark.  What wonderful bird are we featuring today?

It is a difficult to distinguish from this particular shot but the yellow between the eyes and the black bill gives some pretty good clues.  The critical part isn’t visible from this particular shot because it chose to stand in the water while looking for breakfast.  I’ll ruin the suspense and tell you it has very yellow feet which you will see in a shot further down the post.  It is still not a lock because there seems to be some confusion in the various books on Snowy Egret vs the Little Egret.  The Stokes book clearly calls out the Snowy Egret having the yellow coloring between the beak and the eye where the Little Egret has more of greenish hue.  This seemed like a lock until reading further in the Little Egret description and learning that breeding times it can change to a red, orange or yellow hue.  Hmmm … wait wait .. it looks like when this happens the feet turn red or orange.  So based on that, I am definitely going with the Snow Egret unless someone has more knowledge on this particular species and can provide a more definitive answer to the contrary.  Until then I’m happily putting the check mark in the list!

I spent a lot of time with this particular bird trying to find the best way to compensate for the somewhat harsh light.  Not wanting to blow the shot completely I actually tried a lot of different settings to help bring out the detail in the white that didn’t blur in the wind or bird movements.  These white birds cause havoc in good light, much less late morning direct light.  A big thanks to Adobe for some nifty tools in the digital darkroom that lets me tweak the shots in an attempt to make the good shots a little better.  Of course, it doesn’t hurt these birds are extremely photographer friendly being such still hunters.

Hit the jump to read more about this pretty bird

Continue reading Snow in the Summer

2013 UB NOT ME

I know the anticipation had been building out there for this particular post.   Well, the wait is over!  I can finally say the results of this year’s Photography Contest Circuit are now in.  For those not familiar with the blog, this is a high stakes competition that puts a significant amount of stress around here at Life Intrigued.  Come judging time, the tension gets so thick you could cut it with a matte cutter.  That tension is a direct result of the consequences of “losing” the competition – not so much how our pictures do against the rest of the entries (although that is definitely nice), but rather how we do AGAINST each other.  Generally there is not a lot of true competitions in the house because we tend to enjoy different activities which prevents such marriage destruction.. I mean healthy competition.  However, when it comes to Photography, it’s a bloodthirsty endeavor drenched in treachery, deception. gamesmanship  and a hell of a lot of sarcasm.  Okay, okay, maybe it isn’t that hostile (except in the case of sarcasm), but losing does cause a lot of work until the next cycle of contests come around.  Nothing is more demeaning that having to hold the umbrella for the “winning” photographer for a whole year.  As a result, we bring our very best out to play.

The 2013 Photography Contest Circuit results are …. drum roll please .. Brian 3 and Linda 0  (streamers, confetti, fireworks maybe even a parade if I can convince the Mayor).

That’s right, this year I stepped up my game (Linda will probably argue rather that the printers caused her to step back) and all my hard work paid off.  The best part of this is there is no room for any controversy and ANY discussion on scoring.  Cut and dried – me big winna!  Based on all the grief and CONSTANT explaining I had to do in the previous contests, I decided make sure I removed all possible doubt and naysayers (and you know who you are) and simply conform to their “supposed” scoring system.  So, let’s wait no longer.  Here are my results from the Knox County Fair:

Let’s see what we have here boys and girls.  First off we have one of two black and white entries.  I decided to put a little more work into my Allerton Park statue (originally aired at link here) and had it reprinted.  Cut down the base a little and cropped it a little tighter – I personally really like how it looks like the statue bent to fit into the frame.  Judges gave it a very respectable 3rd place.  Moving to the right is one of the color animal entries.  The workers at the HOI fair commented this was a kid favorite at their fair.  Again, the judges felt Mr. Lizard (link here) was worthy of a 3rd place.  Shifting down we have the other black and white entry which should be familiar to all the blog faithful.    There was a lot of debate on which one of the wolf pictures to enter based on the results at the HOI fair and my choice of the other color animal I went with the wolf in the weeds shot (link here).  Apparently a good choice since the judges bestowed a 1st place ribbon.  Definitely warming up to this one and based on the fact the HOI fair picked a similar (and personal opinion inferior) B&W wolf shot for Honorable Mention (it was actually in a smaller print size category).  Lastly, moving to the right… what is that first place ribbon doing nestled among the large and flamboyant purple ribbon?  How nice of you to notice (hehehe) that would be the BEST IN SHOW ribbon that is given to the best picture among all the other category 1st place ribbons.  Now this particular shot hasn’t been featured on the blog yet (didn’t want to reveal to Linda my ace in the hole before the competition – ummm.. actually not the case, I am just waaaaay behind on processing but pulled this one out from the Florida trip because I thought it had a pretty good chance.  Luckily I was able to maintain my ownership of the bird category and the purple ribbon put an exclamation mark on it.  Not a bad haul eh?

Hit the jump to see the rest of the results!

Continue reading 2013 UB NOT ME

Crushed It

Figured I’d be nice and give you a little break from the Henderson shoot (trust me, we have a ways still to go with those).  But today, I hit the road for the first run in a long week.  Why the long layoff you ask?  Good question which is best answered with a visual.

I always take a week off from the annual running of the Bix 7 up in Davenport IA and this year was no exception!  Usually the last post of July is earmarked for a recap of the results, but in what has become a rare occurrence my quota was met early last month.  No worries, time is an unstoppable entity and August will do just fine.

Before the gun ever went off this year I was part of a record.  A record that has stood for 38 straight runnings of the Bix race.  Cursed by every Globull Warming pundit, this year was the COLDEST in the history of the race.  Take a guess at what the temperature was when I entered the staging area…keep in mind this is the last Saturday in July in the Midwest.  If you said 58 then you are right (and a damn good Google user).  Linda and I were talking through chattering teeth all the way from the car.  Linda had already opted for her new running coat (admittedly pretty cool seeing as how the sleeves attach by magnets) and somehow convinced me to go back and grab my running rain/wind breaker.  Oh yeah, I remember how – she offered to carry it for me during the race (big thanks for that by the way!).  This allowed me to save some tooth enamel on the trek to our secret pre-race bathrooms.  By the way, I was reading last year’s Bix recap and noticed that a) I was definitely not feeling the best before that race and b) Linda was even complaining about the cold last year – not sure what that was off the top of my head, but you already know it was colder this year.  I was feeling significantly better than last year, but truthfully not at 100% – felt like a cold or something was trying to dampen the day, but nothing really came out of that so guessing it was just some pre-race butterflies.  Note, to address getting sick at work like last year, we opted for a vacation the week before.  We’ll save the details for that vacation for another post, but the week before that it was over 100 for heat index – that somehow turned into a rainy 61 when we arrived at our destination spot at the Dells.

Expecting another hot one, I went ahead and took a 7 mile training run in the morning  before we left for the Dells.  Heat index was pretty wicked, but made it through so felt comfortable there wouldn’t be any issues finishing the race.  We returned that Wednesday allowing me to catch a cooler (75 degree)  final ~6 mile tapper down.  That went excellent with split times coming in ahead of plan.  I remember noting in the post race summary notes that I was ready for the Bix!

Hit the jump to see how the race turned out .. and read about some of our friends that also made the trek to Davenport this year

Continue reading Crushed It

Go West, Young Grebe, Go West

Continuing the Greberrific theme from last post, I bring you a semi-new bird from Australia.  Just kidding, this one came from our trip to Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve just like all the other birds over the last couple of months.  Fact is this bird doesn’t stray far from Canada through lower Baja) .  What can I say, the shutter was quite the workhorse those two days (and yes, we are still posting from the first day’s discoveries).   In a slight deviation from the long list of Henderson birds that came before it, this one is “technically” not a new bird to the Blog and it did have a check mark in the Bird List.  Truth is, the previous mark was written in lightly due to the weak shot I was able to capture.  The original pictures can be found back in 2010 from a trip to Yellowstone (link here).  You can tell it is a bird and if you squint a lot you can discern it is indeed a Western Grebe (or a Clark’s since the pixilation makes it hard to tell if the black goes above or below the eye).  Compare that with this:

Now that is an official Western Grebe check mark.  I really like this bird for a number of reasons two of which is the sleek profile and the cool coloring.  The red eye and the deadly looking bill give a nice finishing touch to the overall appearance of this bird.  A bill that could inflict some serious damage when paired with wing propulsion.  Similar to the Eared Grebe from the post before, they are reluctant fliers – damn you winged creatures that prefer to float on the water.  According to the Stokes guide they can even one up us on the water by being able to run on the top during their takeoffs or courtships.  Sorry folks, no shots of that while we were there.

Hit the jump to read more about this cool Grebe

Continue reading Go West, Young Grebe, Go West

Quite the Earie Sight

What to do what to do.  It’s already a new month which means the quota counter has reset once again.  Should I go with a new bird from Henderson, or maybe a new bird from Henderson, perhaps a new bird from Henderson oh hell, why not a new bird from Henderson.  That would be a good first post for the month then maybe follow it with at least three other new birds from Henderson.  I hope you are getting the impression that the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve was the Honey Pot for me when it comes to the Bird List.  We are literally still on the FIRST day’s worth of shots  and I’ve already filled up multiple months worth of posts and if the comments above didn’t already give it away.. there are plenty more birds queued up and ready to go.  But let’s live in the moment shall we.  Today we grace the pages here at LifeIntrigued with…

Ever seen one of these while wandering around the local ponds?   Obviously, this is the first I’ve actually been able to photograph one and quite frankly probably the first time I’ve ever seen one.   If you haven’t already cheated by hovering over the picture, take a long look at it as if you were the first human that got to lay eyes on it.  Being the first, you get the high honor of bestowing a strong yet distinctive name that all others that follow will use to proclaim their sighting.  Maybe you went with Red Eye Flighter (the eye is actually more red than what shows on the shot above – the sunlight was amping up the orange tints),  maybe Chimney Sweeper (cause of the soot look) or in a moment of stunted imagination, the Fluffy Floater.  Well, it turns out whoever named this particular bird decided it should be called the Eared Grebe.  If you are like me you probably rushed to Wikipedia or your closest bird reference book with an unquenchable thirst for the origins of this name.  Of course, you could take the easy way out and just wait for me to tell you (ha).

Hit the jump for the reveal

Continue reading Quite the Earie Sight