Missed It by a Hat

Been a hectic week trying to hold off all the flooding that is going in our parts.  Looks like for the second time Serenity (link here) has been completely underwater.  It is definitely taking a beating but fingers crossed it is still hanging in there.  It will need some pillar work when the water subsides and maybe a couple more coats of protectant.  At the moment I have it lashed to some large trees just in case something lets loose.  You think you know power until you see the force of angry water.  If you recall, last time I promised my next post would not be about birds.  Keeping commitments is kinda my thing so sure enough, today’s post is not about our feathered friends but rather a recap of the latest event in the running season.

Last Saturday was the running of the Steamboat Classic in Peoria, IL.  I’ve been running this race for sometime now and most of those have been of the 15K variety.  Maybe a quick clarification there – the Toughest 15K in Illinois variety.

Steamboat Classic Race 2015

For those not familiar with the event, they have a 4 miler and a 15K interlaced in the course.  We all do the first 2 miles of the 4 miles and then the weak ones turn back and the crazy ones head on up a merciless hill.  Do some fairly flat roads up on top, come back down a steep hill and repeat back up that devil spawn hill again repeating that loop until we head back on the rest of the 4 miler course.  No sugar coating it, that hill will test your will and your fitness.  Fortunately, this Sung, Ryan and I eat this course for breakfast throughout the training season throwing in some Jubilee Park runs to make sure our legs are sufficiently tortured the time race day rolls around. Sung opted out this year, but Ryan and I toed the line on what turned out to be a perfect starting condition for the traditionally HOT Steamboat.  To say a temp in the mid 60’s was godsend would still be putting it lightly.

Steamboat Classic Race 2015

The weather has been pretty kind to us this year .. so far .. which is a bit bittersweet.  Training in cool temperatures is nice but sometime you have to pay the piper and get your heat conditioning up so you are prepared for race day conditions.  This is especially true with me having experience “the incident” last year when the Heat Miser showed me what it meant to “melt in my clutch”.  The goal was to run the race at 9 or under since training this year has been focused on distance at a cost of speed.  Once again, my trusty UB was taking pictures for me.  It never ceases to amaze me how serious people are at these races.  No one forces you to show up.. enjoy it, you trained damn hard to get here

Steamboat Classic Race 2015

Hit the jump to see how the race turned out!

Continue reading Missed It by a Hat

A Golden Day

I’m back with ANOTHER bird post. I promise the next will not be about birds (fingers crossed I can actually pull that off). For now, I will continue trying to get through the multitude of new birds Ron and I got while birding at the Chain O’ Lakes State Park. Looking back at all the captures we got there puts that day in one of the best I’ve had locally. Maybe even better than my entire trip to North Carolina last year which ended up pretty dismal on the bird front … although I did get a Copperhead (link Copperhead) while out there so that was definitely a plus albeit on my Snake Life List. That would be a list I DO NOT mention in Linda’s presence which is odd in the sense she tends to always be with me when I encounter them!

I better get to the featured bird. There is a wicked storm heading our way and that means there is a high likelihood it will knock out my Internet (life as a country boy). Once again, I have to apologize for some sub-par execution on these shots. These were taken at the farthest reach the Beast could muster. To be honest, it was difficult to even make out any features when I spotted it hanging out in the top of the tree – thank god for the golden rule “If it even looks like a bird SHOOT it”. There is plenty of time left for IDing in the digital darkroom.

A Golden-Crowned Kinglet Shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park

So there it is. A fairly small frame which Cornell’s website describes as slightly larger than a Hummingbird. From my experience it looked a little larger than that. Spotting a Hummer at that distance would have been impossible. Ron gets full credit for IDing this particular bird. Pretty impressive being that there wasn’t a whole lot to go on. The eye line helped but the interesting barring was the tipping point. The white bar was a key element, but more importantly, the notched brown bar was very distinctive. The end result, this specimen is a Golden-Crowned Kinglet. For those counting, this is an official +1 on my Birding Life List.

A Golden-Crowned Kinglet Shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park

Pretty proud of this little catch. We could have easily passed over it especially having just walked a looong way out into the depths of the park. The hike came to an unexpected end when the flooded river left impassable water on three sides – bad news. Sighting this on the way back made the trek worth it. It is possible that the fatigue from the energy spent was the main reason for the fuzzy pictures (eh.. likely not, just poor execution)

A Golden-Crowned Kinglet Shot at Chain O' Lakes State Park

Eeesh, out of pictures and haven’t made it to the interesting facts yet. First off, the angles of these pictures didn’t reveal another distinctive feature of this Kinglet, the tops of their heads have a cool yellow stripe on them – guessing the source of the name. Cornell confirmed the field experience that they tend to hang out in the tops of trees. They spend their Winters across the entirety of the United States. We must have caught this one before it headed off to upper Canada for the Summer. Actually on closer look it might spend the whole year in parts of the West as well. They can survive -40 degree temps. Here’s another odd tidbit – each of the Kinglet’s nostrils are covered by a tiny feather. Wonder if it sneezes a lot. Lastly, the Golden-Crowned Kinglet sports a Least Concern Conservation status – YEAH!

All I got for you tonight – the rain is starting so wrapping this up just in time. See ya’ again real soon now.

Glad to See a Gad

Time to test your powers of perception with a little blog quiz.

First Question: What is this post likely to be about?

Second Question: At what location were the images for this post taken?

Tick tick tick tick tick tick.. okay, pencils down.  If you answered the first question with “a bird” you get 1 point.  If your answer referenced a bird but included a profanity (as in another damn bird or probably stupid ass bird), then you have earned 5 points.  Any answers that refer to quickly inflicting harm to author for subjecting them to another winged post results in a negative 2 points.  If you failed to write your answer down because you lost your pencil while jumping in joy that there was a new post deserves 20 points for your sheer enthusiasm.  Now on to question two.  Answers referring to the Chain O’ Lakes State park will be met with a hardy +4, since you are obviously a loyal (and thus beloved) reader.  References to the Circus Museum in Baraboo Wisconsin receive a negative 100 points for being a smartass but anything referring to the fact it doesn’t matter because corrupt politicians are trying to pull one over on the American people get a +12 for not being a sheeple.

… and the answer is – it is indeed a post about a bird and yes, another post from the Chain O’ Lakes State Park.  I warned you it was going to be a feather laden month.  Introducing the latest addition to the Birding Life List.

Gadwell Shot at Chain O' Lakes

Oh, from a scoring perspective, any positive total is a win in my book!  Any negative number should be met with scorn especially anything above a negative 50 (leave now Clown enthusiast!!). The bird or more descriptive, the duck you see here is a Gadwall.  Once again, this ended up being a surprise in the digital darkroom.  Ron and I were birding at the Chain, which translates to shooting absolutely anything with feathers.

Gadwell Shot at Chain O' Lakes

Hit the jump to find out what this new duck is!

Continue reading Glad to See a Gad

Where’s The Cocoa Puffs?

Breaking with tradition for a bit here and featuring a bird that was taken not a year ago, not a month ago, not even a week ago… rather YESTERDAY!  Do not get accustomed to this much freshness.  The reason for such a short shot to post time is purely due to excitement over the discovery of a new bird.  Kind of funny after just traveling 2,000 miles to get a new bird I end up finding one in my own backyard.  Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting the latest addition to my Bird Life List.

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo shot in Brimfield. IL

Pretty cool eh!?!  Yesterday I was mowing the bottoms of our property – quite the chore seeing as how neglect allowed the weeds to get above my knees.  As a Cat guy, I have to give credit to Deere for making some fine tractors back in the day – point the 316 at the weeds and let it clear the path (note, probably wouldn’t do it with their newer models).   Most of the mowing was over and I had stopped to chainsaw some fallen trees when an intriguing sound caught my attention.  Sounded like a Cuck Cuck Cuck Cuck in fairly rapid fire.  A few seconds later I hear it again, and again and again.  Mower had just turned into Birder.  It took a few minutes to locate the source, but eventually spotted this bird bouncing around in the thick trees.

Break in posting – have to go deal with a dead baby Downy Woodpecker on our lawn furniture – poor little guy  — back to post

Odd thing is the bird didn’t seem to really be hiding from me.  It would looks towards me, make its call and then hop to a branch a little further away.  I’d track it to the new location and it would make its call and hop to a branch a little further away… this continued to a point about a 100 to 150 feet away when I lost it – no sight, no sound.  Bummed that I didn’t have a camera, went back to my ATV to get back to work on the fallen trees.  What turned out to be luck for me, I had forgotten my chainsaw pants at the house so took the ATV back up for them (I never use the chainsaw by myself unless I have those – recommend you do the same – already have horrid stories about what happens when you cut yourself bad when you are alone).  While up there, I went ahead and grabbed my old camera just in case it showed up again.

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo shot in Brimfield. IL

As you can tell, it showed back up again.  I walked back to the original sighting location, this time with the camera.  After a few minutes the rapid cucking was heard again.  There it was looking at me and waving its tail.  Just like before it would make its call, and hop to another branch a little further away.  I followed again, but this time trying to take shots whenever the field of vision was clear.  Shot, maneuver around, shot, maneuver around, shot – next thing I know I’m about where I lost the bird the first time and yes, it went silent again.  Patterns in wildlife are always an interesting study.  On a hunch I went back to the original location and sure enough it repeated the exact same procedure – it was purposely leading me away from that spot!  I was able to get a few more shots, but eventually the call to work grew too loud forcing me to put the camera down and picked up the chainsaw.  I didn’t really hear it again, but the saw and the weed trimmer was drowning out most of the sounds anyway.

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo shot in Brimfield. IL

I was pretty sure I didn’t have this bird seeing as how it appears to be a cross between a Vireo and Thrasher (with a Flicker sounding call).  Excited about this I tried to call my brother while tracking it down so he could at least help me identify the sound being sans recording app.  No luck getting him then, but we eventually ID’d this cool looking bird as a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo.  The yellow curved bill and the six distinct spots on the tail made for an easy verification.  I didn’t even know these birds were in Illinois, much less in my own backyard.  According to Cornell’s website, they hang around areas with an abundance of caterpillars.  Haven’t really noticed many of those, but maybe we are due for a big wave.  Cornell also mentions that if they are threatened, nesting pairs of Yellow-billed Cuckoos put on a “distraction display” to lure predators away from the nest site.   One of the pair will hop to a visible perch, opening its wings and pumping its tail. As you probably figured out, this is EXACTLY what it was doing to me – luring me away.  Hoping this means there is a nesting pair down there!  Another interesting fact is this is the first bird I’ve researched that lay their eggs over a period up to 5 days.  It was noted, that the youngest bird is in jeopardy of being tossed from the nest when food is in short supply – apparently unlike the Greater Roadrunner, they do not simply feed the youngest to the older siblings – as the baby of the family I  do not appreciate this behavior ONE BIT!

That’s all for now, I have some presentations to crank out for work.  Was so excited about the new find I had to take the time to get it posted.  Hope you enjoyed this new addition to my list.

A Sam Adams’ Favorite

I am not going to sugarcoat it, you are going to get Hitchcocked with Bird posts this month (and maybe even next month). I am sooooo far behind getting my pictures processed and posted it is absolutely ridiculous. If I do not get on top of this soon I’m going to be having this same discussion at the end of the year. Besides, I really, really, really want to get to the fruits of my recent vacation as soon as possible. Probably go with a few more posts than usual, but maybe cut down the dialog a bit so I can get in and out between processing the images.

Part of the issue is actually a good problem to have. The trips to Chain O’ Lakes, Allerton, Starved Rock and the recent vacation have resulted in a high number of new additions to the Bird Life List! Not sure it is enough to counter the recent haul from my brother Ron, but at least helps to stem the tide. Unfortunately, in compliance with the birding rules outlined in the Birding Competition Rules outlined in the previous post, I have to feature the bird in a post before it gets the official check mark. Not wasting any more time, let’s get to the latest +1 on the birding count – the Brewer’s Blackbird

Brewer's Blackbird Shot At Chain O' Lakes State Park

As with the many of the recent posts, this bird was also shot at the Chain O’ Lakes State Park. I distinctly remember when I spotted this bird because I was drawing a bead on it when my brother was viciously attacked by a pond hell spawn bent on sucking the soul right out of him. That is his narrative, of course. In reality he accidentally spooked a Pheasant out of the brush by the pond – a frightened bird simply trying to escape imminent danger (Rumors about rocket propelled nets and stun grenades have been swirling about the area). I must say that Ron’s startled reaction was quite the comic scene. Even with the commotion, the Brewer’s wasn’t startled and simply continued chatting it up. I was not exactly sure what it was out in the field but the bright yellow eye stood out against the blackness. A quick look on the Cornell site and a validation by Ron confirmed the +1 on the count.

Brewer's Blackbird Shot At Chain O' Lakes State Park

I only got a few shots of this bird – probably due to trying to get Ron back from the brink of terror hehehehe. I better get to some facts. They pretty much cover the US and middle Canada regions across the Summer, Winter and migration periods. Looks like this one might have been migrating up to the Summer area based on the Cornell maps. Ummm… that’s about it – pretty weak. The females lack the brilliant yellow eye and apparently are incorrectly maligned by some farmers who do not understand they are a farmer’s friend and not much of a detriment to their crops. Put away the poisons boys, they actually eat crop damaging insects. Reminds me of the rampant misunderstanding of Wolves out West. They do carry a Least Concern Conservation Status – the fact that they tend to colonize in the hundreds probably helps their overall survival.

All I have for tonight folks – need to go rest some tired legs from the evening run.

Because Chaos Is Fueled By Absence of Right – 1st Draft

Rules Updated: 6/5/15

“It is the beginning of wisdom when you recognize that the best you can do is choose which rules you want to live by, and it’s persistent and aggravated imbecility to pretend you can live without any.”  – Wallace Stegner.

National Crane Foundation

It is a new month, so figured it was time to get this post out of the way.  As you know, I fit the profile of a Birder.  If you have been reading my blog of late you may also know that my brother Ron also fits the profile of a Birder.  He is a more recent entry into the birding hobby but quickly making a name for himself as his life list is growing at a rapid pace.  In light of this accomplishment, I now affectionately refer to him as the Doerfler of DuPage County.   If you see him stalking a bird while out in the nature preserves, stop by and say hi.  Be sure and talk to him as looooong as you can – he likes that – ask him what birds he has seen, where he’s been lately,  his favorite McDonald’s menu item, maybe even something about the Nomography Cult.  Take care to talk really loud too (he is a little hard of hearing) and maybe take some firecrackers with you – yeah, firecrackers – light them off at random times.  What you may not know is we have a little friendly competition going.  One area we do differ is unlike my pacifist demeanor, Ron is extremely competitive.  Couple that with his near anarchist pension to push boundaries in pursuit of victory it is a necessity to establish very clear and concise rules as to guide our little competition.  Victories are hollow if you don’t know the criteria that separates a win from a loss (although I lack a competitive DNA I do feel strongly about competitive events having winners and losers and strictly opposed to the concept of everyone wins – if that is what you want, fine, call it a picnic, not a sport).  In an effort to alleviate any grievances or scoring discrepancies, I’ve created a set of Competitive Birder Rules of Engagement.  It should be noted, that this is as much in the bird’s best interest as it is for our little challenge (again, Ron is uber-competitive and we do not want any winged ones getting harmed in the process now do we!?!)

Caroline Stevermer summed it up well – “How dreadful…to be caught up in a game and have no idea of the rules.”  I am considering this as the first public draft and welcome comments to help provide clarity or shore up any gaps/deficiencies that may exist.

Hit the jump to read the first set of rules!

Continue reading Because Chaos Is Fueled By Absence of Right – 1st Draft