Red Tail No Where

Wow, been awhile since I’ve made a post.  Sorry about that!  I’ve been a little busy as of late with some work deliverables and with an upcoming Half Marathon looming a lot of my time is spent pounding the road.  Ummm maybe I should correct that, the road has been pounding me as of late.  If you recall, I had a sore foot leading up to the Peoria Heights Half (link here).  That eventually cleared itself up (after the race) but again on another training run last week I messed up some bones on the top of my foot – can’t win!  Trying to run through it and made it past 9 miles tonight, so at worst case pretty sure I can tough it out if it doesn’t clear up by the next race – eventually all the other body parts start hurting worse and you forget about those injuries you had going into the race.  In celebration of getting through tonight’s run, figured I’d treat myself to a bird post – not just any bird post though, a NEW CHECK on the list bird post.

Anybody recognize this Raptor?  If you are like me when I was taking the shots you are probably saying .. Red-Tailed Hawk.  That would be an excellent guess since that is the most abundant Hawk in the area.  You can’t go 3 miles on our local highways without seeing one of those hanging out on a roadside tree or fencepost scanning the fields for some juicy mice.  In the last three years, the Red-Tailed Hawk population has stayed just slightly behind the exploding Turkey Vulture population.  However, if you recall, I have already checked that bird off my list on a previous post (link here).  About midway through taking these shots it started occurring to me that this particular Hawk was not really displaying the most apparent feature of the initial guess… that would be the RED TAIL part.  Now this shoot just got a whole lot more interesting.

Hit the jump to find out what this bird is!

Continue reading Red Tail No Where

Peoria Heights Half Marathon Conquered

Not sure if this is common with other runners or not, but I have a tendency to remember with quite clarity specific races.  This generally pertains to the ones that maybe ended in a personal hardship, celebrated a specific anniversary or was a personal victory of some sorts.  Yesterday’s race was actually a combination of reasons that I’ll always remember.  If you have been reading the blog for the last couple of weeks I’ve hinted that I was running a half marathon – specifically the Peoria Heights Half Marathon.  The goal this year was to get more halfs in and that meant starting earlier in the race season.  Typically the half target is early September.  This year the target was May, but found out two weeks ago that the Heights race was on (was given indications last year it was off due to the sponsor moving out of that city).  Went ahead and signed up figuring I could use it as an easy training run and wouldn’t have to bring my own fluids.  I was already at 12 miles having kept the training up through the Winter months – one more mile (point one) shouldn’t be that hard

Well, I can say with great pride the medal is now mine.

From a swag perspective, this one featured one of the nicest medals I have received and definitely the best shirt.   Kudos to the River City Race Management Team (Shazam Racing) for putting on another great race.  If you recall, they also ran the Screaming Pumpkin Race (link here)  which also had awesome medals.  We were unable to locate an ambulance, which is a little troublesome on its own, but we decided to take the traditional post race picture on a nearby wall – the best part being I was able to SIT.

Hit the jump to read all about what it took to claim this medal!

Continue reading Peoria Heights Half Marathon Conquered

Duck Duck Goose

My nervous tick is indicating it is about time to put out another bird post!  Unfortunately, the one I have teed up for today is one I’ve kind of been dreading.  Not that it a terrifying bird or anything (in fact it is quite visually appealing), but rather the offshoots of the Goose are difficult to ID with any certainty.  Once there’s crossbreeding with the Canada Goose and domestic geese you never know what you are going to get – from there, the mutations just get beyond levels of truly classifying.  This is possibly the case here, but based on some serious research, there might be a check here after all.

For reference, focus on the LARGER birds in the images – there was a smattering of Mallards hanging around that looked quite content in the midst of the larger flock.  These shots were actually taken by the side of the road on our way back from Wildcat Den State Park near Muscatine, Iowa.  Linda had always been wanting to take me there so took her up on it one weekend we were free (geesh, probably a year or two ago).  If you have never been there it is similar to Starved Rock in the features, but actually better – for one thing they have way less graffiti all over the place which always make me sick every time I journey up to Starved Rock.  That is one of the few uses of drones or cameras that I condone if that will curtail that crap.  So, on our way back, I noticed a nice collection of Geese and Ducks hanging out enjoying the nice weather.

Hit the jump to read a lot more about these birds and a few others I shot at the same time

Continue reading Duck Duck Goose

It’s a Darner but Darned if I Know Which

Thanks to hurting my foot yesterday, I’m trying to stay off of it as much as I can.  Bad for me, but good for my blog fans because this means a few more opportunities to get some posts out.  Yesterday’s entry focused on one of the many inhabitants in/around our local ponds.  Keeping with that theme, figured I’d go ahead and throw out another member of the pond community – the Dragonfly.

I have been amassing quite the dragonfly collection and a number of them have been featured in various posts (link here, here, here and here).  I know for a fact there are a few more I was able to get in the tin while out in the Nevada mountains.   I’ve stated this in about every single post on these insects but it is ALWAYS a given – identifying these often colorful winged creatures is damn near impossible.  I firmly believe this is more of an issue with the reference tools available on the web (and iPad) than it is a general comment about identification.  Every site that could be located by Google was scoured for any identifying features that would properly classify this dragonfly.   Clearly it has light blue markings on a deep purple base.  A very nice palette by the way if you are looking for a team color scheme.  It also has the unique club/tendril end to the abdomen that one would think is sufficient to track it down.  Of course, that would be just too easy now wouldn’t it.  About the only thing that could really be said with some certainty is you are likely staring at a Darner.  That is all fine and dandy, but WHICH ONE!

It did help to be able to focus on the Darner group but the web kept offering up conflicting images or bad descriptions and or photos.

The Bug Guide offered up this example of a Variable Darner (link here).  The color match is pretty close at least on the turquoise side, but doesn’t really have the deep purple look in the base.   The Dragonfly Whisperer actually provided a nice comparison of two potential dragonflies – particularly one he calls the Happy Face Darner (Paddle Tailed Darner) and the other being a Shadow Darner (link here).  Based on that information the best candidate appears to be the Shadow Darner.    Not to be outdone, the Land that Ugly Forgot (link here) which simply refers to it as a blue dragonfly – not exactly the most helpful reference but some nice pictures none the less (note, I have that red one in the tin as well).  Steve Rottenborn (link here) had a sample of Variable Darners but again it looks like the Happy Face ones from above as well as the previous Variable reference – see, I told you it was hard.    Next up the New Jersey Dragonfly site (link here) which offers up a Canada Darner that doesn’t look that far off from the Variables.  Ugh.  Not to be out done, the Sonic site (link here) refer to a similar looking examples as .. wait for it … California Darners – looks like a Variable to me!  Since we are on a role, how about some more Variables at the Utah site (link here).

Let’s take another look at mine.

Personally, the Shadow Darner seems to be the closest match.  Not emotionally tied to that decision in any way beyond having spent a heck of a lot of time trying to track it down.  Does look like the all red one I have is going to be easier to identify once those get processed in .. say about 6 to 8 months.  That’s all for now folks – getting warm out now so see you at the pond!

In the Muck and on the Porch

Running low on time tonight but thought I’d throw a post out there while watching the Cardinals battle it out with the Reds.  Worried it was going to be a short night, but the Cards covered the 4-0 lead they handed the Reds at the start of the game.. now just down one!!  Since birds tend to take an extra amount of time due to all the associated research figured it would be prudent to just go with your regular standard green …

Bullfrog.  Now when you see me taking pictures of bullfrogs you can quickly come to the conclusion there was nothing else even remotely interesting to photograph in the area.  First I look for birds, then larger animals followed by dragonflies and then.. well those muck loving amphibians.. oops, forgot spiders and slugs – definitely spiders then slugs THEN those mucky amphibians.   Not so much that I don’t like these particular creatures, but where they tend to hang out is usually loaded with those blood sucking mosquitoes.  I do HATE mosquitoes and with two hands on a camera I cannot properly defend myself from their onslaught.  UPDATE – Cards now up by 2!.  Pretty sure the above frog was taken at the Jubilee College State Park pond.  All in all pretty pleased on how that particular shot came out – the frog was pretty clean in contrast to the muck it was lounging in and those eyes came out nice and sharp…. the following shot took a darker feel.

Probably could have lightened it up a little bit more but was going for the more “lurker” approach.  The darker coloring gave the impression it was more concealed in the surroundings just waiting for the next victim to wade by.  This shot was actually taken up by Kewanee IL. in a park just north of the city.  We were taking pictures of a Great Blue Heron and two Swans most of the time we were there.  At one point looked down and saw those two eyes break through the water so took a few minutes to get it in the tin.  Some interesting tidbits about Kewanee for those that are not aware of it (as in live North of I-80 and East of I-39 and don’t believe there is anything worth visiting outside of Chicago).  Kewanee is considered the Hog Capital of the World due to being the top hog producing county in 1949. The name itself is the Ho-Chunk (note, a Native American tribe, not a group of fat prostitutes) word for Prairie Chicken.  It is also the home of Mary… everyone knows Mary so no need to go into detail there.

Hit the jump to see one of their relatives.

Continue reading In the Muck and on the Porch

Mackinaw Merganser

I must say, last month was a bit of a strain on my nerves. That many posts without featuring a bird is just about enough to give me a permanent twitch. The month of variety is officially in the books, so we’ll start afresh with a bird post. For those that were liking the variety, don’t fret. There are plenty of topics in the hopper and some of them just might keep you up at night! Truth be told, we have been out birding shoots for the past two weekends so the tins is plum full of new birds to feature. Problem is I’m still behind on last year’s shoots so it might be a bit before I get to these new ones – even with the upped production (not sure anyone noticed but there was like 9 posts last month). Just like in running, you can’t get to the finish line without taking a step and today we are heading back to the same place as the last post – Mackinaw Island (link here).

Well, actually unlike the last post from the mainland, these shots were taken on the island itself. We were busy biking the area and found these Common Mergansers hanging on the backside of the island.  Before I leave that last sentence I need to comment on the aspect of BIKING that island.  It probably should have been apparent, but once you get off the outer ring it is a beast of a ride.  Big kudos to Linda for toughing that out.  We headed up to the fort and to the airfield which took us some mighty steep hills.  If you choose to do this yourself, make sure you bring your own bike or minimally rent the multi-speed mountain bike.  NEVER and I mean NEVER opt for the two seater – I am very aware Linda cannot be trusted on one of those so TWO bikes was the order of the day.

One Merganser in particular caught my eye while on our last mile or so before completing the loop around the outer ring.  Based on lacking the white stripe on the neck and lighter chin the guess at the moment is a Juvi.

The reason this particular bird caught my eye is that it looked like it was in the middle of a morning workout.  Good to see the wildlife putting in the same amount of sweat we were dripping on the island that day – can’t remember the exact temperature but it was HOT.  By the time I made it off the bike and got the camera ready, the bench press and dumbbell routine was over.  Next up was the stretching portion.

This Merganser was ready for whatever the day had to offer!… well, almost there.  Nothing is better than topping off a tough workout with a little Yoga.  Not sure when it comes to Merganser Yoga, but this looks like the  Tree Pose…

… or maybe the duck Warrior Pose.  In either case – damn impressive and perfect fodder for the camera.  Eventually he dove into the cold water to rejuvenate the muscles and meet the day head on.  On retrospect, seems like a lot of work to simply float on the water all day but who am I to judge.  Having written this now I’m feeling like a slacker even though I did get a 12 mile run in yesterday and hiked another 6 miles today.  Maybe I’ll go hit the weights myself – can’t be outdone by a duck now can I?  Certainly not (although doubt that JUVI is running a half marathon next weekend heheheheh!)