Reach Out and Grab It

The “Month of Variety” is coming to a close.  This is a good thing for me because the bird pictures are really starting to stack up as of late.  I’ve had a number of local encounters this month that I’m really happy about and Linda and I have been out on additional bird shoots that have have netted some nice opportunities as well.  Speaking of which, today’s shoot was unbelievably FRUSTRATING – well at least one large chunk of it.  We had been up and down the Mississippi River for most of the morning checking out whatever water birds we could locate.  While visiting a nature center at of the sites we came across a birding pamphlet that indicated the Pileated Woodpecker was COMMON in the particular area we were, Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall.  Let me restate that – they are COMMON to the area.  Needless to say, we tracked down a wooded nature preserve and headed right for it.  By headed right to it, I mean, drove all over the place trying to find it including backtracking like crazy trying to locate it.  Unbeknownst to us at the time this was going to be the theme for our prized Woodpecker hunt.  Eventually we located it and headed out on one of the trails.  Mental note, next time take a better look at the map.  In our haste to get the shot, we failed to set a proper course.  About 20 minutes into the trek we heard it!  You can’t mistake the sound of a Pileated Woodpecker.  Sure enough, about 5 minutes later it flew high over our heads and lighted quite some distance deeper into the woods.  In hindsight we should have just tracked it down, but instead we decided to continue on the trail back to the car.  An hour plus later we were lost thanks to absolutely pathetic trail markers.  It was awful, but eventually we found the proper trail and started our trek out.  At one point I joked to Linda that there will probably be 5 Pileateds sitting in the tree next to our car when we returned.  That didn’t come to fruition when we staggered out of the woods.  We got in the car and left dejected.  About .3 miles out of the park that damn Pileated (assuming at this point it was the same) flew past our windshield and into the trees by the side of the road.  By the time Linda got the car stopped and I got out it had disappeared again AAAARRRRGGHHHH!!!  All that work, 2 sightings and NOTHING to show for it.

But that really wasn’t the topic for today’s post.  Instead I am going with some shots that we took during our Mackinaw Island trip back in 2012.

It was actually a gorgeous night on July 3rd.  We were in the area to catch the Fourth of July celebrations.  As with our previous visit, we opted to stay on the mainland rather than fight the hassle with the shuttles.  The hotel we were staying at was on the lake complete with beach.   As the day was coming to an end, the full moon decide to grace us shrouded in a breathtaking orange.  The Harvest Moon shots in the previous post was what reminded me about these shots.

There is something about a serene water setting that completely relaxes you.  No more worrying about work or fretting about tasks to get done at home, just living in the now with the best nature has to offer.  I was standing out in the water enjoying the scene when Linda took this shot.  Was I thinking deep philosophical thoughts, the foundation of our existence or maybe the downfall of the greatest country in the world thanks to socialist agendas?

Hit the jump to see the answer.

Continue reading Reach Out and Grab It

Little Boy Blue

Greetings Earthlings! In keeping with the “Month of Variety” figured it was time to go with something out of this world. One of the many great things about living out in the country is you get to experience all that the night has to offer. If the howling coyotes don’t intrigue you or the bats don’t take your breath away (literally spooked one out from under our deck tonight) and the billions of visible stars don’t captivate you .. there’s always the majesty that is …

… the full Moon. In particular I’ve always referred to this as a Harvest Moon. Not sure where I learned that, but guessing once again it has its roots in my early education years since the fact it was orange is what I associate with the Harvest Moon. According to Wikipedia, that may not be a requirement. What makes it the Harvest Moon is the closest full moon to the Autumnal Equinox.  Now whether that means it is always orange is left unclear. Another interesting note was that the Harvest Moons are unique in that the time difference between when the moon rises on successive evenings is significantly shorter than average. Typically the moon rises 50-47 minutes later each day. The Harvest Moon successive nights is only in the 30 minute range.

Personally, I generally liked the half moon form better than the full. Just gives a more eerie feel and the texture on the surface at the midpoint gives a cool jaggedness too it. And as Pink Floyd so eloquently stated, don’t let the band you’re in start playing a different tune or you just might be there.

I can imagine the anguish that previous statement probably caused. “The dark side of the moon isn’t referring to the “missing” part you idiot, it is meant to refer to the OTHER side of the moon”. You know, the one that was introduced to us thanks to Apollo 8 in 1968 – since that point it is no longer a mystery, we KNOW what the back side of the moon looks like and it is bright pink with millions of multi-color spots all over it – pretty much looks like a giant cupcake with sprinkles.

Question time – what direction does the Moon orbit the Earth? If you said same direction as the Earth.. you get a big gold star! Now what appears to be the harder question since there are a lot of people out there that don’t know the correct answer (and yet they are still allowed to vote). Does the Earth orbit about around the Sun or does the Sun orbit around the Earth?

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of our little buddy in the sky

Continue reading Little Boy Blue

A Fungus Among Us

A mushroom walks into a bar

The bartender states “we don’t server your kind in here”

“But I’m a Fun Guy” responds the mushroom.

This was actually an opening joke at a work presentation.  Trust me, the rest of the material was better.  Each presenter led with a bar joke – when you’re in a multi-hour strategy session anything to lighten the time is welcome.  Besides, it provided the perfect lead into my latest blog entry.

We are in overtime this month but this set fit the “something different” theme.  When it comes to fungi (I hope you got that joke earlier) I am a total neophyte.  To put it in perspective, I had no idea what a morel was until we were invited to a hunt by our new neighbors about 6 years ago when we moved into the new house.  Apparently if you live in the woods you are expected to be a morel hunter.  After someone finally explained to us what one looks like we headed out into the woods with zero guidance on where one might find these supposedly good eats.  Eventually Linda and I found one.  We took it back to the gathering area and low and behold we won the “biggest morel” contest.  Note, I can definitely tell you these rather cute orange mushrooms are NOT morels.

Oh, I do know one other thing about mushrooms.  Do not eat a mushroom unless you absolutely know what it is.  This should go without mention – it’s a fungus – why in the hell would you want to put that in your body .. IT’S A FUNGUS.  From what little research I did, this must not be as obvious as one would think because 95% of the websites visited during that research explicitly stated that warning  somewhere on the site – translated – someone has been sued.

Hit the jump to read a little more about these fungi and others.

Continue reading A Fungus Among Us

The Tiny Bandits Return

I don’t know how much longer I can go without pulling out another bird post.  The anxiety is giving me a twitch, but I’ll persevere.  Pulling these babies out because it helps to remind me what it was like when there wasn’t SNOW on the ground.  This  Winter is unbelievable capped off by a 46 degree day Sunday, Thunder Snow on Tuesday, Snow on Wednesday and now 46 again today.  If there is a silver lining, I’ve been able to get two of my training runs outside this week!

Although this post features the babies, it seems only right that I give a quick shout out to their mother.  As much as I enjoy Raccoon babies, adult Raccoons are a menace.  However, since I will not harass expecting mothers or parents with their children this particular adult (mother) went unharmed.

Clearly she didn’t recognize my benevolence based on the hostility being issued in my general direction.  Relax, you and your babies will live another day.. but I will be getting my camera because those babies are just too damn cute.  One given with these young ones, when spooked they always head to the trees.  Typically the mother will high tail it into the woods in an attempt to draw me away.  She’ll hang out under the cover until the cost is clear and then start calling them out of the tree.

I am pretty sure the mother had either met tragedy or decided they were old enough to fend for themselves when they returned a number of weeks later.  If the coyotes were not enough danger, our neighbors have no tolerance for them (regardless of age).  When their off my property they are pretty much tempting fate every minute they makes themselves visible.  On the other hand, when they found my temporary feeder location on the porch they definitely took advantage.

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing a number of offspring while living out here in the deep woods.  Typically there are 3 to 4 in each litter that make it to this age.  The makeup of that litter is also surprisingly common.  There’s the more aggressive one that is less fearless than the others and is the first to come out into the open.

Then there will be one that is way to timid – the last to emerge from the woods and the first to high tail it out of the area if there is any unexpected sound or motion.  Want to guess which one tends to meet an unfortunate end the first?  It is the more aggressive one – not smart enough to now its limitations and will cease to show up in a week or two.  Oddly enough, the overly timid one will go missing a little bit after that – to timid to nourish properly and thus unable to be strong enough to avoid the threats.  It is kind of sad looking at the litter and being able to guess which ones will not make it.  The middle one or two have a much greater chance of making it to adulthood.  Good news for them, but once they become adults they lose their cuteness protection and they are subject to my wrath if they start pillaging my feeders or tearing up the place – and trust me, those opposable thumbs can do some serious destruction.

hit the jump to see a few more shots of these cute creatures

Continue reading The Tiny Bandits Return

Shop ’til Ya Drop

Apparently March is “variety” month here at Life Intrigued.    Pretty much everything but the kitchen sink – got you some birds, some insects an accident what more could you ask for?  What was that .. you want some landscape shots?  Now this is really a topic better left to the landscape specialist (Linda) but if this is what you want, we’re here to satisfy.  Looking back into the archives I found a set of shots taken while visiting the Porcupine Mountains.

The above shot is the favorite of the bunch for a couple of reasons.  The first being the fact I like the overall composition.  The shore line tends to push the eye from left to right into the fire and then back out to the sunset.  Could have used a little bit more color but this was taken later in the set and most of the pinks and purples had taken off for better horizons.  The other reason is I specifically remember when I took this shot and recall how calm and peaceful everything was – my definition of a great vacation spot.

Jumping back to a little bit earlier in the set, you can see those soft pinks and purps I was talking about.  These particular shots were taken down the shoreline in the opposite direction.  This would be one of those very few times when I wish I had a panoramic camera that could have captured the beauty of the entire scene.

Hit the jump to see some more shots from the Porkies

Continue reading Shop ’til Ya Drop

That Ain’t No Fish

Having just committed myself to another Half Marathon thought it would be good to get a post out before training takes over ALL my free time.  This will be the earliest in the race season I’ve run this distance.  Usually I build over the course of the season starting with the 5Ker’s moving to the 15K, back to the 7mi and THEN prepare for the final two halfs of the year.  Decided to short change that process a little and simply start with the 13.1.  No, I didn’t go crazy – umm, that may be up for debate.  Regardless, there is a reason and we’ll leave it at that.  The downside is it means there wasn’t really an off season this year as I continued to run through the winter months (yes, even outside when the temps actually got about 20).  Hoping the body holds together!

Oops, enough about my self-inflicted torture, let’s get to the post shall we.

I almost titled this post as Live and Let Die but that will make more sense later in the post.  Thought it would be fun to fall back on the memories when Globull Warming allowed me to go outside and spend time on the porch for more than 3 minutes at a time.  Take a look at this find

Creeeeepy.  I can honestly say this is the first time I’ve seen such a creature.  Definite concerns as to whether it could inflict harm on me or not.  It was definitely scary looking with the wings folded, but when I saw it with the wings spread I took an extra step back and got my wits before going in with the Macro again – looking through that glass puts you right up close and personal.

Hit the jump unless you don’t want to see the up close shots (but at least you’ll learn what it is!)

Continue reading That Ain’t No Fish

With a Rebel Yell

In a break from your regularly scheduled programming, I bring you an interesting observation.  Well, to be more accurate, an interesting observation from this very evening.  I know, I know, this is unprecedented to be posting on an event so close to the time it was observed.  The danger is you might get used to such velocity and become agitated and bitter when I get back to my current string of being what, like a year behind (ugh).  I promise I’ll work harder to get caught up.  Now that my main day’s task is out of the way (that being removing all Pearl Jam music from all my devices … I never forget), I can get back to the current scene I came across on my way home tonight

Quite unexpected.  This was taken near my house.  The bridge you see in the background has been out for like a year.  According to the county engineers, they bridge pillars were built on top of shale which not surprisingly is giving way.  Because of flooding over the years, the bridge has been closed.  They even put a sign on the bridge that says “Bridge Closed”.  That would be the sign that was hung from one of the two barricades that were placed in front of the bridge.  Oh, almost forgot, they also placed piles of rock in front of the bridge to insure no one actually tried to go around said barrier.  To round the thoroughness of the roadwork crew, there was another barricade with a warning that the bridge was out placed about 3 miles back as you turned onto this particular road.

Guessing you noticed something that looks out of place.  Just to set the scene, it had been snowing at the time and Linda mentioned it was blowing hard an hour or so earlier when she came through the same area – at that time there was nothing odd about the scene.  I could not imagine what an impact that must have been.  There were no skid marks in the snow and could only guess they hit it at full speed.  I went ahead and turned right (another road T’d into this road right before the bridge).  Concerned, I decided to see if help was needed.

Admittedly, I was apprehensive of what I might find.  The lights were off and there wasn’t any smoke coming from the exhaust so figured it had been a little while (but less than two hours per Linda’s passing) but that could be good news or bad news.  After peering into the windows confirmed it was good news – empty.  Then thoughts went to whether someone was possibly dazed and wandering around in the cold.  It was hard to tell if there were tracks away from the car – the wind had blown the light snow all over the place likely covering any light tracks.   I couldn’t tell if there were marks from opening the driver door which surprised me since that pile was probably 4 feet high – you can tell that from the fact the belly of the car was sitting on top of the gravel.  Another lady in a truck came by with equal concern and we decided it would be prudent to call the county Sheriff’s dept and let them know in case someone was in need of help.  This I did when I got home – they were not aware of any accident and were going to send someone out.

Just thought I’d share this intriguing scene.  On a pathetic note, the reason given as to why this bridge has been out so long and will not be fixed until sometime later in the year is “People are driving too efficient of vehicles and therefore the county is not getting enough money from the gas tax”.  Unbelievable!!!!  This current administration is pushing alternative energy (that would be the companies that keep going bankrupt) and as a result our infrastructure suffers.  Keep in mind this means our fire department and our county Sheriff’s dept require additional time to get to our house as they have to go well out of their way to make the detour.  My opinion on this matter will be actioned at the next voting opportunity.

Pin The Tail Revisited

Since there was a definite outcry of support for more birds after the last post, I’ve decided to appease the teaming millions and feature a bird for this post.  This particular set of pictures is actually a bit of a surprise.  If you recall, I introduced the Northern Pintail back in June of last year (link here).    In that post I mentioned there was a better set of pictures likely to come from the second day of shooting.

I managed to process this second set of images yet they didn’t find their way onto the blog.  Nothing like spending time on something only to find there were no fruits of the labor.  As you can tell, the missing images were found (while processing the Katydids from the last post).  I do like these shots better – the previous ones were mostly from behind and didn’t give a good view of the overall bird.  The right side view:

the left side view:

and the front!  That pretty much covers all the angles with the tail side covered in the previous post.

Hit the jump to read some more about the Pintails

Continue reading Pin The Tail Revisited

Katy Did Creep Me Out

It’s a new month and that means a minimum of another 6 posts.  Based on my productivity in the darkroom as of late coupled with the need to really get through a backlog of topics, this month may end up having a few extra posts – a bonus if you will.  I already have the images worked up for another 7 posts and have another 8 or so in the queue that just need some finishing work on the images and upload to the Smugmug galleries.  probably put emphasis on the photography aspects more than the textual part but we’ll see how it goes.  Once I start typing I tend to get immersed and next thing you know it’s a small novel.  Also have a variety of topics ..yes, including birds.. so it should be a fun month.

Figured I’d start with a theme that hasn’t been covered in awhile – those creatures that roam the night and are drawn the warm glow of our porch light.  That’s right, another dose of a night out with the Macro.

This particular set of shots was taken at two distinct times during the Spring/Summer months.  I forgot to write down the exact dates but I am making an assumption that this first set was taken in the Spring because I think this particular creature is a Tettigoniida or more commonly referred to as a Katydid or Bush Cricket.  In our region they are referred to as Katydids.

The reason I think this was taken in the Spring is this is when the Katydid’s hatch into nymphs.  These nymphs look identical to their adult form with the exception of not having their wings.  We’ll get to those images a little later in the post.  At first I was searching the grasshopper reference books assuming it was one of those.  Through luck (as in using the Google search criteria of “large green bug”) the possibility of the Katydid came up.  Again, the part that was throwing me was the lack of leaf like wings.  The long antennae, the lanky legs and the profile of the body seemed to fit.  Upon careful examination, it did appear that there were tiny little wings starting to emerge on the side.  You can just make them out if you look straight up from the middle leg.

Hit the jump to read more about the Katydid

Continue reading Katy Did Creep Me Out