My What Big Ears You Have

Howdy Everyone!  Guessing you were thinking I had forgotten about getting my 6th post in for the month and was sharpening your claws to pounce all over me for finally blowing the streak.  No worries, although blasting out all the posts early in the month does make me get a little lazy for the rest of the days – well on the post front that is, the rest of the time  is pretty busy in the digital darkroom trying to get the next set of images done.  You may be happy to know that the shots from the second day at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve are now completed.  Unless you are totally fed up with that topic from all the posts over the last couple of months, in which case you will probably NOT be happy since you can guess what is on the schedule for October.

This weekend has been quite the whirlwind for us.  As of last count I think I put myself in peril at least twice over two consecutive days and managed to make a quick run up to Chicago to see a friend married off.  Originally we planned to try and get by to see my brother who lives in “The City” (he loves it when I use that reference – for the record anyone East of 39 and North of 80 lives in “The City” for us downstate hicks.  Timing ended up not working out but we need to make it up there one of these days to see his .. wait for it .. CATS (my dogs just shuddered).  The wedding ended up taking place at the South Shore Cultural Center and I’ll probably end up making a post devoted to just that.  For those not familiar with this place it is where the Obama’s got married – a feature this is COMPLETELY LOST on me.  It was definitely quite the gala which appears to be the norm these days in “The City”.  Details likely to be forthcoming, but let me give you one key piece of advice that you best heed unless you like to live on the edge.  Peril event number one was trusting the GPS to get us from Countryside to the Center.  It declared a quick 30 minute trip that basically took us directly east to the location.  Not being familiar with the area we left an hour early instead.  1 hour and 20 minutes later we were sneaking our way into the ceremony (luckily it started 15 minutes late so we just missed the opening parade.  Let me tell you, that 1 hour and 20 minutes was one of the scariest trips I’ve taken in a loooong time.  Linda about heaved that GPS out the door … to afraid to actually roll the window down ended up saving it.  Every stop light/sign was a test of nerves while everyone standing around on the street (and IN the street) was looking at us all dressed up in the Beemer.  I don’t profile.. I use deduction.  Where the HELL is that conceal and carry bill going to be actionable!!  We went a different way back that took us all of 20 minutes and didn’t cause any additional gray hairs.  Just to round out the other peril, I had to get back early today to get my 12.5 mile run in – another half is coming up and I need to solve whatever happened last time before toeing that line again.  Had to spend some quality time getting my head cleared after that run and the legs are STILL screaming at me.

“What the hell is the purpose of this post Brian!”  Oh, sorry about that, mind started drifting again (did I mention I had to run 12.5 miles today..).  This topic was actually picked last night during the wedding ceremony.  There are some statements I am pretty sensitive to and I always pay special attention to the vows (my wife stating “To Honor and Obey” is a highlight of my wedding and on no less than 10,00o copies spread out in various locations for security just in case something (err more like someone)  should ever happen to it (hehehe).  My friend failed to get this sneaked in, but the sermon was intriguing.  I’ve never seen the person presiding over a wedding concentrate so much on the bad side of marriage – he must have spent 20 minutes talking about “When she annoys him” and “When he makes her mad” (and I swear he said pisses off).  Odd, but then he referenced “When they have children”.  Whoa – that just seemed presumptuous to me .. if nothing else definitely puts pressure on right from the start (I may just be overly sensitive to that).  For some strange reason I immediately decided on my next post.

Just seemed fitting at the time.  This was taken at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve and, as indicated above, on the second day of shooting.  Actually, to be more accurate, it was taken as we were heading back to the visitor center from another long day of shooting.  I like rabbits and do my best to let them live a happy a life on my property.  Sure it is a pain in the butt thanks to the dogs thinking they are a lot funner chasing than playing with their boring toys.  Our youngest dog also thinks their droppings are a delicacy – he needs to be reminded every time he goes out that the nose stays out of the grass.  Unfortunately, those pesky Coyotes think the bunnies are the delicacy and keep them pretty much on the run.  The enemy of my friend is my enemy too as a slight derivation of the adage.

Hit the jump to see a couple more pictures of this specimen

Continue reading My What Big Ears You Have

Only a HALF but it took a WHOLE Lot Out

There are races where everything works out perfect

There are races where you have to dig down deep to get the desired results

There are races where you start second guessing yourself but in the end turn out to be unwarranted

… and then there are races where you have some concerns and they turn out to be all that and then some.

Today’s race  falls into the latter category.  This morning IVS held their Half Marathon in Springdale Cemetery.  This was my third running of this particular race but unlike the last two I was a little worried for a number of reasons.  First off, the training had not been going to my liking.  This was the first year I did not get a full 13 miler in before race day.  I made it up to 12 twice over the last month, but that left myself with a mile of uncharted territory.  Add in the trip to Vegas in the midst of my ramp up wasn’t ideal (although I did get in an 8 and a 6 in the dry heat).  Probably more concerning was dealing with some major problems with my calves as a result of the new running mechanics.  Turns out I migrated to the new form quicker than normally seen which left my calves unable to handle the stress of the new style beyond the 6 to 7 mile mark.    I thought I had those problems mitigated with a  battery of deep tissue massages and a few chiro visits.  What I wasn’t expecting when I woke up this morning ended up being the one element I didn’t want.

A quick rain last night and the rising temps left a very muggy morning.  Our porch thermometer showed high 70’s and the air was already thick yet I was 1.5 hrs from start time.  Not what I wanted on a day I was going to be battling all the other issues to get through 13 miles in the hills.  I can’t control the weather so the best thing to do is suck it up and do my best.  As always, I was blessed with my own personal photographer – thanks to Linda for giving up her dog show day to take care of me – and I was definitely glad she did!

The traditional pre-race shot

You know I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity this statue left me with….

Heheheheh – I crack myself up.  Humor is always the best way to deal with stress.

Hit the jump to find out how this race went .. hint.. not well

Continue reading Only a HALF but it took a WHOLE Lot Out

A Prized Pecker

This week I’ve been focused on avoiding ANY activity that would cause some form of injury up to and including the very painful hangnail.  That means no working on Project Auuuunooollldd, no work to shore up Serenity, no constructing the new mailbox support structure and definitely no cleaning tubs or vacuuming (long story but that one cost me major damage to the shoulder some time ago).  Oh, and doing dishes and cleaning up after myself is right out (hehehe).  What’s left with all the fun stuff banned… well, you blog.  You probably already noticed I am way ahead of schedule at the moment, but sitting and typing is about the safest activity I can pick.  Luckily, the post topic hopper is pretty full.

I promised you a break from Henderson, but that didn’t mean you were free from birds.  This post has been on my mind ever since the day before we headed out to Vegas.  That Saturday a friend of ours (John Best) put a post on Facebook that he might have heard a Pileated Woodpecker while hiking out at Forest Park Nature Preserve.  The minute Linda relayed that message to me we were headed for the car with the Beast in hand.  If you are new to the blog, the Pileated Woodpecker was on the TOP of my bird wish list.  John’s wife actually thought she had seen one at our house one day but I originally dismissed it based on the mere fact I had NEVER seen or heard one in the area from the day we bought the land.  Not to long after that I was busy apologizing to her because one flew into our yard one cold Sunday morning.  That was followed by chasing that damn bird through our entire 15 acres trying to get a decent shot .. big failure on that endeavor – did I mention I was in my jammies at the time (Linda had quite the laugh).  My only other sighting of this bird was in the Porcupine Mountains (link here .. at the bottom).  Once again unable to get it in the tin so no checkmark.   Very frustrating, but maintained hope that one day I’d be able to shoot it.

So, there Linda and I were standing in the park trying our best to locate a large black bird with a red head.  Look to the left, look to the right, look up, look down, walk a ways and repeat.  Nuttin’!  Beginning to think John might have been mistaken we were just about to give up when we heard a loud call ring out from atop the hill to our left.  Pileated Woodpeckers have unmistakable calls that rivals the Sandhill Crane squabbles.  I need to stop doubting the Bests, that’s for sure.  Only problem was finding a way to it.  This isn’t a free ranging park and there didn’t seem to be any paths leading up in that direction.  A huge relief when we found a winding trail further down the main path.  The hunt was on.  Halfway up we stopped for a bit to wait for another call.  5 or 10 minutes later we heard it again this time followed by a jackhammer pounding against wood.  Of course, it was coming from the top of the hill so we continued our climb up the steep hill – kudos to Linda for sticking with me. Once at the top we started a more thorough scan.  all of sudden we see movement from a large black bird…

Ladies and gentleman, I introduce you to the reason for a very prestigious check mark.  There it was in all its glory, the long sought after Pileated Woodpecker.  The tree canopy put the Beast at a disadvantage both in the lighting conditions and the amount of interference.  The ISO was jacked up to provide enough shutter speed to keep most of the blurring down and there was a lot of foot focus going on in desperate attempts to get a straight line of sight to the bird.

This guaranteed there would be no gallery shots, but definitely good enough to qualify for a check mark.  You should have seen the blurred shot I got while running around our lot in my PJs – you could tell it was black and had some reddish in it, but saying it was a bird was reach.  Linda probably thought I was a kid in a candy store running up and down the trail trying to get as many shots as I could.

Hit the jump to read more about the prized Pileated Woodpecker

Continue reading A Prized Pecker

Book Recollection: American Sniper

You can take a long deep breathe and relax because today’s post has nothing to do with birds!  Now, of course, if you like birds as much as I do you might be a tad disappointed, but I think in that case you have had a pretty good run as of late.  Going from frequent to the rare, I have another book recollection for you.  The last one was all about peace (link here), so took a book on war as the latest read.   I like to maintain a good Yang and Um state – good for the soul.   Somewhat ironic given the latest happenings in the world with the Waffle Boys falling all over themselves trying to save face.  The offering today was recommended by a number of my friends as a great read – American Sniper by Chris Kyle.  I think I might have been a victim of setting my expectations bar a little too high.  The individuals that recommended this title had all read (thanks to my strong urging) the Lone Survivor book by Marcus Luttrell.  They implied Chris’s book was just as entertaining which makes for some mighty big boots to fill knowing that I put Survivor in the BEST EVER reads category.  Before opening this book there was a little space reserved next to it on my mental bookshelf.  It is with a heavy heart that I inform you this book did not live up to those lofty expectations.  On reflection it probably was not that bad, but when you get yourself so pumped for a read and it fails to captivate to a point of not wanting to put it down… well, it tends to disappoint.  Lone Survivor grabbed me to the point I felt like I was right there falling down a mountain side with Marcus wondering where my rifle was going to end up.  Dick Couch’s works made me feel like I was suffering through the same ordeals as our elite soldiers were experiencing during their training.  In contrast I simply felt like a third person being subjected to random accounts at a guest speaker engagement.  Not sure at this point whether it is the stories itself or the ability of the writer to set a compelling framework.  The money bet is on the latter primarily due to reading about one encounter followed immediately by a recollection which seemed like an afterthought.. oh yeah, and this happened too.  That may work in blog posts (hehehe), but does not provide for a comfortable long read.

So, here is my overall summary – Chris Kyle is one damn good shot.  He is also one cocky asshole that doesn’t appreciate the decision makers above him and generally treats his family as a secondary entity to his love for the adrenaline of combat.  Is this an accurate reflection of who he was?  I have no idea but this is the picture the author painted for me.  I can’t count the number of times I sat through the civilian bar fight paragraphs and standing up for this and not backing down from that and we have each other’s back etc.  I get it and appreciate the fact he earned the right to be confident successfully making it through the training and missions.  Those that don’t need to boast about it in public are the ones that demand the greatest respect – the ability to crack open a local bar patron is pretty much in my given category and not worthy of the time allocated to it in the book.  The other element that kind of bothered me was the stunning admittance he put combat above family.  Sure, this is understandable in the context of your first few tours, but when you have a child and you are opting up for the third – fourth etc. you have to kind of wonder if you are fulfilling duties as a Father.  This is difficult for me to really harp on too much having no kids of my own and no military experience but when his own wife is quoted stating her discontent with it … you have to take it into consideration.  Oh, the last comment reminded me – one nice aspect of the book was sections added from the wife’s perspective.  An interesting viewpoint especially due to how unflattering a lot of them were to Chris.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to Chris for his service to his country.  For those that may not be aware, Chris is no longer with us.  He was killed on February 2, 2013 by a someone he had brought with him to a shooting range.  If I remember correctly he was trying to help out fellow soldiers suffering from PTS syndrome and guessing something might have gone terribly wrong with whoever he brought to the range that day.  Chris is also the one that was in a defamation lawsuit with Jesse Ventura after Chris claimed to have punched him …. no surprise… in a bar.  According to our friends at Wikipedia, Jesse is even continuing the lawsuit post death against Chris’ estate.  Real class act Jesse, way to be the better man (guessing the “I ain’t got time to bleed”  dude needs money for acting classes)

If you haven’t read Lone Survivor – opt for that over this book – if you have, then wait a bit for my next recollection on another book I’m currently reading.  So far definitely superior to this offering.

Hit the jump for the takeaways from this read

Continue reading Book Recollection: American Sniper

A Long First Day in Paradise Comes to an End

Welcome to the latest offering from Life Intrigued.  I had quite the debate with myself on the topic for today’s post.  Should I go with a discussion on the results of a key bird hunt?  Maybe a summary of the various happenings while we were in Vegas (when you run a blog, there is no such thing as What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas – rather What Happens in Vegas is Another Post!).  I do have another book recollection to get to, but need to get the graphics ready for that first.  Why don’t I just close out the First Day at Henderson Series.  I promise I’ll give you a break for at least two posts before diving into day two.

To wrap things up, I’m going to throw you a hodge podge of birds.  None of these were firsts for me, but wanted to let you know that there was a nice collection of the more common birds to go along with all those new check marks.  First off is the Northern Shoveler.

To say there was a lot of these hanging out at Henderson would be an understatement.  There were actually more there than I’ve seen collectively at Havana’s Emiquon (link here).  What did catch my attention was they isolated themselves to a specific pond.  Not sure what the real attraction was, but it was one of two that had an island in the middle providing pretty good cover from the sun and Harriers circling the skies.  You almost got the sense they were keeping one eye on the water and one eye looking for danger.

Of course, they may have seen what happens when you venture too close to the shores (link here).  Fortunately, this didn’t prevent them from engaging in their unique feeding ritual.  This was observed at Havana, but only two or three of the Shovelers were involved and didn’t give the full effect.  At Henderson, they were in full whirlpool mode.

Reminds me when I was a kid and we would quickly traverse the outside edge of a neighbor’s pool to create a similar effect.  Of course, we were not doing that to make food more accessible (wow, the thought of a Baby Ruth just crossed my mind hehehe).

Although not completely positive thanks to the number of female breeds that look a like, I think the following shot is of a Shoveler coming in for a landing.  Both the water and wings were frozen in motion which is rather difficult to do with the Beast.  Our lighter 2.4 70-200 is more handy for those kind of shots being easier to hit the focus marks and most of all LIGHTER!!

Hit the jump to see more of the birds of Henderson

Continue reading A Long First Day in Paradise Comes to an End

Those Crazy Coots be Dah Bomb

Having just recently walked off the plane on our flight back from a week in Sin City, I thought I’d get to work immediately and get a post out.  Talk about devotion to my reader base.. believe that?  Actually, my ears are ringing so bad I probably couldn’t sleep if I tried – that and having conditioned myself to the Vegas sleep pattern which is really just an extended nap.   The plan was to crank this out during some slack time in the vacation schedule, but Linda put an agenda for this year’s trip with unparalleled activity.  Yep, there is now plenty of blog fodder to take me well into November from this trip alone!

So, there are only TWO more posts from the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve.. for DAY ONE!  I need to get cracking on the day two finds and get this, I now have a day THREE having had the opportunity to once again visit my new favorite bird paradise while out on our recent trip.  This latest one comes in a different season so there were a couple of new birds and minimally some new plumage on the ones I already had checks on.  Why don’t we just get one of those bird posts out of the way now.    Today’s (or rather tonight’s) topic is not a new bird to the checklist.  In fact, it has been all over this post before (link here and here for starters), but it didn’t come to my attention until now just exactly how much of an ass this particular bird was.

Sure, on a cursory view it looks like your typical nonchalant Mud Hen harmlessly paddling the day away.  Nothing to see here, just a Coot using the scales on the feet and lower leg to propel it through the water.   Truth is, they are green with envy of the Ducks with the evolution aid toe webbing (or intelligent design if that gets your fancy).  The envy is so intense it turns their eyes blood red with rage.  But they have learned to dampen this anger by applying their devious minds in the pursuit of PHOTO  BOMBING the other birds in the area.  I would spend countless minutes getting myself in the perfect position to capture the true majesty of a specific bird species.  Checking the manual settings, insuring the composition complimented the bird and waited for that perfect moment to take that one and done shot..

D’oh!  There it is again, that damn Coot jumping into the frame and ruining the shot.  It tracked the angle of the Beast, surveyed the scene and picked its moment to bomb it.  “Look at me, I’m a chicken in the water”.  Sigh, all that planning, all that work for that perfect shot ruined by this devil bird.  Wait a minute, I see another perfectly good shot shaping up over by the Mallards.  Yes, there’s the shot, a Mallard holding court over its minions.  A little rock climbing here, crawling under some bushes there and presto, we have the desired angle.  Breathe in, breathe out and take the sho.. WTF?!

Arrrggggghh, another Coot thumbs its bill at the world and jumps my shot.  Time to verify that this bird has a Least Concern conservation status because it’s about to feel my wrath…

Hit the jump to read more about this water chicken.

Continue reading Those Crazy Coots be Dah Bomb