That Statue Moved

It occurred to me after the last post that I kinda let the cat out of the bag on one of my previously unpublished additions to the Birding Life List.  If you recall I mentioned my brother Ron and I had taken a trip down to Emiquon in Havana IL to snap a few shots of the Black-Crowned Night-Heron for his list – the implication was I did not need that particular bird for mine.  Well, that was actually true because I had the privilege to shoot one at the Denver Botanical Zoo a few years back.

Black-Crowned Night-Heron Shot at Denver Botanical Gardens

Now technically I did post what I believe to be the Juvi of this species back in 2013 (link here), but truthfully, the Juvis just do not convey how cool looking these birds are.  All that newbie brown gives way to a stunning display of color from the gray, black and white that dominate the body colors down to the haunting blood-red eyes.  Since I knew the adult was in the tin, I went ahead and counted it in my Birding Life List – it was actually already on the List Gallery along with the Juvi.  I snuck one in on you.

Black-Crowned Night-Heron Shot at Denver Botanical Gardens

Hit the jump to read and see a bit more of this majestic bird.

Continue reading That Statue Moved

As the World Terns

I must be going bird crazy.  Not only did I break all protocols with the last post, but here I am doing it AGAIN!  As with the last post, this one also comes from a shoot only a couple of weeks old – the developer solution is still drying on these shots.  Today’s featured bird seemed like a logical bookend to the recently presented Black Tern.

Caspian Tern shot at Independence Grove in Libertyville IL

Yep folks, that is another Tern I get to add to my Birding Life List.  Specifically, this is the Caspian variety.  Pretty sure there’s a set of these in the tin from North Carolina, but these particular shots came from two other locations.  The first time I encountered them (other than NC) was at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in Havana IL.  That place has been very very good to me producing +1 after +1 almost every time we make the trek down there.  Truthfully, the first time they were shot was a bit of an accident.  I had taken a number of frames of a Gull while there because quite frankly.. I shoot anything that is moving (always remember the golden rule).

Caspian Tern shot at Independence Grove in Libertyville IL

Hit the jump to read a bit more about the Caspian and see a few more pictures.

Continue reading As the World Terns

Taking My Tern

It’s a special treat today folks!  With a complete break from protocol, I’m bringing you the fruits of a bird outing from just a couple of weeks ago.  In relationship to my usual delays in getting my babies out of the camera and into these pages this is nearly light speed.  If we were in a jet there would be a HUGE boom about now.  There is a couple of reasons for this promptness.  One being that the images were already processed – literally the day I took them and the other just due to the excitement of getting this bird in the tin.

Black Tern Shot at Goose Lake on the Hebron Bike Trail

That my friends is a Black Tern.  Without question, this is a new addition to my Birding Life List and I owe my brother for having the chance to get it.  We had recently signed up for the Illinois Birders Exchanging Thoughts (IBET) Yahoo group.  I am not technically sure if Ron saw all the posts that were occurring regarding the Black Tern sightings and decided to head down there or if he went there on his own first and then saw all the posts.  Regardless, he went over to the Hebron IL. bike path and checked out the scene.  Sure enough, there were Black Terns hanging out in a distant pond/lake.  It really looked a bit like a marshy area but apparently it is referred to as Goose Lake by all the birders in the area.  Note, there is absolutely no signage anywhere near this area that actually refers to it as “Goose Lake”.

Black Tern Shot at Goose Lake on the Hebron Bike Trail

Hit the jump to read a bit more about the Black Tern and see a couple more pictures.

Continue reading Taking My Tern

The Little Mockingbird

How about we go for six bird posts in a row – six consecutive days in row actually wait wait .. let’s clarify that a bit more – six consecutive new birds on the Birding Life List in a row!  Yes, that sounds a lot better.  The disheartening thing about that is this happens to be the exact number my brother was able to get in the tin when he came down to my neck of the woods (for someone that lives in Chicago, this must feel like the deep South hehehe) for a little birding action a few weeks ago.  I did manage to plus one that weekend thanks to a surprising find at a Burger King but stay tuned for that story.  Today’s featured post ended up taking some work to get in the tin.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher shot at Allerton Park, Monticello IL

Along with several of the previous posts, this score occurred while birding with Ron at Allerton Park in Monticello IL.  We had two encounters this this particular variety.  The first came near the main entrance just East of the visitor center.  We noticed an interesting bird cross in front of us on our way to the large parking lot in that direction (Linda had just arrived and we were heading over there to see her).  Eventually it made its way over to a large evergreen next to the red brick wall.  For the next 15-20 minutes we tried everything we could to get a clear shot of it.  Based on the seeing the results of that initial sighting come through the digital darkroom I can safely say that was pretty much an epic failure.  There was enough there to take credit for the check mark, but nothing I’d really want to show if I didn’t have to.

Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher shot at Allerton Park, Monticello IL

Hit the jump to read a bit more about this bird .. oh, and learn what it is!

Continue reading The Little Mockingbird

Tally Up Another Kinglet

Having spent the entire day power washing the house – probably the best to-do task you can ask for on a wicked humid day.  In the flip side, I can safely say I’m totally exhausted.  There is something to be said from a total body workout trying to hold rains over a firehose hell bent on ripping your skin off.  I chose that over going for a run today to appease Linda who hasn’t let the incident go yet.  We’ll make up that long run early tomorrow morning, but for now let’s take care of a little bird business.

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet Shot At Allerton Park in Monticello IL

That my friends is a new check in my Birding Life List.  It was shot while birding with my brother Ron at Allerton Park earlier in the year.  This one actually had me stumped.  I was looking at all the Warblers and even the Vireos trying to identify a yellow bird with a nice white eye ring.  No luck with those attempts so opted for some help!  That assist came from Ron who was able to identify this bird – still not exactly sure how he did it, but his suggestion of a Ruby-Crowned Kinglet seems to match with all the described characteristics.  That is with the exception of the actual ruby crown.  The next shot kinda gives a little hint of on in the sun if you look close and let your imagination run a bit.

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet Shot At Allerton Park in Monticello IL

Hit the jump to read a bit more about this cute little bird

Continue reading Tally Up Another Kinglet

Another Sparrow I Can Identify

The hate mail is really piling up now.  Apparently the teeming millions of readers out there are a little tired of the recent focus on bird posts over the last couple of months.  You can’t say I didn’t warn you they were coming and if there was any way I could circumvent the birding rules (link here), trust me, I would.  But rules are rules and without them… well you would have what I affectionately refer to as a mime school zombie attack – SHUDDER.  This will not appease the author of “STOP POSTING BIRDS.  I’m absolutely sick of it.  I sit down at my computer, place my drink up on the stand, nestle into my comfy den chair and start to tickle the keys in eager anticipation of something new and exciting on the blog.  BUT NOOOOOOoooo, all I get is another damn bird!”  Or the most hurtful email of all “I’d rather listen to Hillary stumble through another woe is poor me stump calamity in her best I’m a robot impersonation than have to look at ANOTHER old bat … I mean bird”.  Harsh.  At least they didn’t threaten to vote for her if I didn’t cease feature birds here…. and because of that I can safely bring out another bird post.  Seriously, this is all my brother’s (aka Mr. Competitive) fault.. blame him, I’m just trying to stay up with him on the counts.

That would be a bird count that just had another increment thanks to today’s feathered friend.

White-Throated Sparrow shot at Allerton Park in Monticello, IL

Normally I refer to the entire family as Just Another Sparrow or JASs because it is so damn hard to identify these birds.  Every once in a while I shoot a variety that has some unique enough feature that I can pick it out in the reference guides.  Previous to this post I was able to identify the White-Crowned variety (link here). Adding to that a House and a Chipping (link here).  That was probably a good 4 hours of research I’ll never get back.  As luck would have it, Ron and I were able to shoot another uniquely featured Sparrow while birding at Allerton Park in Monticello IL.

White-Throated Sparrow shot at Allerton Park in Monticello, IL

Hit the jump to see a couple more pictures and learn what this bird is

Continue reading Another Sparrow I Can Identify

A Pair You What?

“Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no! Germans? Forget it, he’s rolling.”  Seemed an appropriate opening since I’m pretty much on a bird post roll at the moment.  Today was a hell night on the pavement with the heat and humidity putting the hurt on (mind you not at heat stroke level in case a certain wife happens to be reading this – just hot and sticky).  The hope was it would rain on me but nooooo, it has to wait until I get home before the cooling water pours out of the sky.  Oh well, just means I’m better prepared for the Bix which is approaching FAST. Keying off the FAST word, apparently I was able to score this new featured bird thanks to some quick camera work.

Northern Parula shot at Allerton Park in Monticello IL.

That very soft specimen is a Northern Parula.  This is another new bird from the trip with Ron to Allerton Park.  The sum total of shots I got of this Parula is TWO.  Two shots taken in rapid succession and then nothing.  No shots before it, no shots after it.  I vaguely remember noticing a bird in my peripheral while trying to track a Brown Thrasher that was occupying a good portion of our time.  Golden Rule, if it has feathers take at least one shot regardless of how many times you’ve put it the tin previously.  Guessing I was passing this off as just another Warbler and went back to trying to get a sharp picture of a Thrasher hell bent on putting a branch between him and me at all times.  While going through the shots in the digital darkroom, the unique coloring caught my eye.  Sure enough, it was not just a common Warbler .. it was a Parula which represents a +1 for me!  Unfortunately, Ron failed to get this beauty in the tin.  We sync’ed up our camera timestamps for this very reason – cross validation – but he claims those times in his collection were void of Parulas – bummer.

Northern Parula shot at Allerton Park in Monticello IL.

To be honest, the deep ridge in the chest might indicate some eggs were on their way – not sure about that… maybe I’ll ask my brother who is slowly building a nice collection of ….let’s say.. very affectionate birds.  Oh, and again, sorry for the softness of the shots.  With only two shots I have to rush to the facts.  First interesting fact to relish is … is …. is … The Parual has nested several times along the Northern Coast of California.  THAT’S IT… THAT IS THE ONLY INTERESTING FACT THEY HAVE ABOUT THIS BIRD?!?  Wow, that is total crap.  Cornell, you have been found wanting.  Wait apparently the Southern variety nests in hanging Spanish moss, where the  Northerners prefer the old man’s beard lichen.  Again, total crap – I don’t remember any beard lichen anywhere near this spot. (truth be told I had to look up what beard lichen was).  That was totally weak.  They do carry a Least Concern Conservation Status and definitely observe a very rigid Eastern half of the NA continent.

On that note I’m calling this post.  I feel like I’ve let you down, cheated you out of your educational value and possibly soured you on the whole birding genre.  I’d feel bad but now I get to go add a check mark to my Birding Life List – at least one of us is damn happy hehehe.

L8r Loyal Readers!

The Star of Allerton

… and we’re back! I was able to get a bunch of to-do items checked off my list tonight and in celebration thought I’d crank out another post. Of course that will be short lived since this is core day and that self-imposed torture has a way of sucking all the joy out of you. Let’s stay in the moment and add another new bird to the North American Birding Life List. This particular bird is a surprise to me – based on how common these are … as in I see them EVERYWHERE I GO .. you would think they would already be checked off my list. Nope, much like that damn Crow this one has eluded my tin before now.

European Starling shot at Allerton Park in Monticello IL.

When it comes to colorful birds, the European Starling can hold its own – well, at least in the sunlight which is exactly the conditions I was able to shoot these specimens.  Ron and I were once again out birding – this time walking around the grounds of Allerton Park in Monticello IL.  If you are an Illini alumni, you know all about Allerton (unless you were spending too much time North of Green).  For those not familiar with this place, liken it to a showplace for a rich individual that was slowly losing his mind.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a wonderful place, but to say there is a strange collection of art and statues would be like saying all clowns should simply be shot – grossly understated.  Apparently the birds also enjoy this particular park based on the numerous +1’s we were able to add to the list that day.   Now, most of those birds were a struggle to get in the tin while under the tree canopy, but these Starlings were practically posing for us.  A regular old Zoolander!

European Starling shot at Allerton Park in Monticello IL.

Let’s see what Cornell has to say about these shimmering birds.  Hmm, I had no idea they were brought here by Shakespeare enthusiasts in the nineteenth century, European Starlings are now among the continent’s most numerous songbirds.   Apparently these enthusiasts wanted American to experience all the birds mentioned by Shakespeare.  From the 100 they released in Central Park back in the 1890s we now have over 200 million of them from Alaska to Mexico.  Thank you Shakespeare lovers for giving us a total pest!  Did they not realize we LEFT Europe specifically to get AWAY from them!  (note, my history may be a tad off but I blame my crappy early schooling).  They are great vocal mimics able to copy up to 20 different species.    Another thing I didn’t know is that Starlings wear molt – new feathers come in the fall with bold white on the tips.  This wears out over the year giving more visibility to the iridescent brown we see the rest of the year.


European Starling shot at Allerton Park in Monticello IL.

Also looks like they fall into the aggressive category – funny, I can usually tell that by which birds literally attack my brother (seriously!).  Oh well, post time is up and I need to get to planking.  I realize these birds are as pesky as they get and it doesn’t help they travel in hordes.  Oh well, still get to check another species off the list.

Happy Birding!

Yellow on the Exit

This has been one busy month so far, but guessing you already figured that out being that this is the 14th and the first post of the month.  Bad Bri, veeryyy bad man.  The good news is a lot of the busy time has been spent out in the woods looking for new birds to add to my list.  That included a nice weekend with my brother checking out the local spots! I managed to pull a plus one on that outing but he was able to go a full six – more on that in a future post.  Short on time tonight, I better get to today’s feature … wait for it .. wait for it .. yep, a bird!  I really need to get caught up on my bird list thanks to Ron cranking out new birds every weekend.  The only way they get checked on my list is if they show up here first.  Translated … prepare yourself for a barrage of feather posts starting with this plus one.

For the readers out there with sharp memories, this bird does look like another one featured over a year ago (link here).  That was a Western Meadowlark shot outside the Grand Tetons. This particular bird is of the Eastern variety.  Ironically, this shot came AFTER a day of birding (with Ron) at Allerton Park in Monticello IL.  A little foreshadowing – I’m just now getting to the fruits of that outing (soooo behind).  On our way out, Linda noticed my brother pointing to something on the side of the road.  It didn’t take long to spot this gorgeous yellow bird hanging out among some bare branches.  Guess I owe Ron a big thanks for spotting this one for me.  Something in the back of my head also says we might have been lost at the time so showing up there was luck in itself.

Eastern Meadowlark outside Allerton Park in Monticello, IL

Let’s see what our favorite birding website, Cornell, has to say about Mr. Yellow.  For the Trivia Crack addicts out there it may be interesting to know that the Eastern Meadowlark is not a member of the Lark family.  Nice name there eh?  They are kin to the Blackbird family.  Maybe the Yellow Blackbird name was causing too much confusion.  Males are typically so cool they keep two mates (heard they were advocating to the Supreme Court for marriage equality).  The Western and Eastern varieties don’t buy into that whole “Beat It” video concept preferring to fight it out for territory claim – the bird version of East Coast vs West Coast although both in a neutral yellow color!  They are primarily insect eaters which means they are fine by me.  They need to take a vacation up to Goose Lake on the Hebron Trail – they would east like kings!

Not a whole lot more that jumps off the fact sheet.  They have a Least Concern Conservation Status (yeah) and based on the shot above, they have no problem hanging out with female Red-Winged Blackbirds.  That right there shows you the degree to which other birds respect that dagger of a bill.  Red-Winged Blackbirds pretty much harass and attack every other bird (and my brother) that comes within 30 feet of them – here they were just sitting there behaving themselves.  Truth be told I originally thought they were female Meadowlarks but they didn’t match the reference shots.  Note, Ron and I actually tracked down a few more of these on our trip up to Starved Rock/Matthiessen State Park (lord, I am soooo behind).  Oh well, at least I can take satisfaction in another plus one for the list.

That’s all for tonight folks – stay cool!