A Birder’s Answer to Go Fly a Kite

Damn, this has been a rough month! Whoever decided to short us a day in September had zero concept of what it takes to keep a blog greased and running. Otherwise, they would have put like 45 days in each month … maybe 31 in February. The good news is the last post put me at 5 which was a comforting position knowing I had a super cool post waiting in the blocks. By super cool I mean THIS BIRD!

Swallow-Tailed Kite Shot in Champaign September 6th, 2015

How awesome is that!?! I realize that non-birders out there may be untying their shoe about now in order to violently fling at their monitors, but those that enjoy the world of aviary are surely intrigued. Those individuals not lucky enough to live in or travel to the Florida costs or better yet to the heart of South America probably have no idea what this particular bird is. Actually, I have traveled to the Florida coat but never spotted one of these magnificent gliders. To save you hours of looking through reference books, this specimen is called a Swallow-Tailed Kite.
Swallow-Tailed Kite Shot in Champaign September 6th, 2015

Hit the jump to read more about this majestic bird!

Continue reading A Birder’s Answer to Go Fly a Kite

Something to Crow About

So, I’m back with another less than crispy post.  Well, actually the last two are far from stellar.  This one from the Denver Botanical Gardens isn’t too bad but I probably could have taken a little more sheen off of it in the digital darkroom.
American Crow taken at Denver Botanical Gardens

If you are not familiar with this particular bird you have probably been living under a rock.  With the exception of Central America and some shoots up into the Western states, this bird pretty much has North America covered.   The intriguing thing about this particular species is their well practiced ability to prevent me from getting a picture of them.  With the exception of the Botanical Gardens above, this bird has managed to evade my glass at every turn.  I’ll try sneaking up on them and they’ll spot me somehow and tear out of the area along with all their friends.  This will cause such a racket with their squawking that all the other birds in the area will take flight as well.  Every once in awhile one will fly by insuring that they are between my glass in the sun essentially torching the shot.  They also appear to have some allies in the field.

American Crow taken at Denver Botanical Gardens

Twice I’ve had the perfect opportunity to take beautiful pictures of them.  The first time I was with my brother heading to Allerton park to go birding.  As we were going down the entrance lane there were at least two American Crows sitting in perfect light 10 or 20 feet off the road.  I immediately announced the presence of that bird and my need to still get in the tin.  At the same time I was bringing The Beast up to get a bead on them as soon as the car would come to a stop… only problem is the car never came to a stop.  There is a theory out there that the car might have even sped up.  Before the glass made it to my eye those Crows were a spot on the horizon.  Has it been mentioned on this blog yet just how competitive my brother is!?!  Their other accomplice is Linda.  Once again we were driving by some Crows in perfect light.  Think I used our special code word for “stop the vehicle immediately, there’s something cool to photograph”.  Clearly that is too much to get out before the moment passes so we have a special one word code (which will not be revealed because of the nature of it – not for the kiddies or easily offended).  Out came the word and once again prepping the glass to get the shot.  Well, that was the plan but once again the CAR DID NOT STOP.  Just kept going in complete contradiction to the coded expectations.  Sure enough the Crows decided to move on to better grounds leaving me empty handed once again.  For the record, Linda’s comment was “It’s just a Crow”.  “Yes, I am fully aware of that but I do not have one in the tin yet!”  Sigh.  Luckily a few flew by while birding at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge.  Not the best shots in the world but enough to count it – thinking we might have to amend our birding rules a bit.  This “no count without a post” is putting some serious stress on me – meanwhile Mr. Competitive is racking up +1’s after +1’s.

American Crow taken at Denver Botanical Gardens

Guess I better get to some quick facts.  My apologies for the short post.  You already know how clever they are from the information above, but they are a very intelligent bird.  They are actually quite deft at problem solving and have the rare ability to figure out clever ways to get access to their food.  They are also fairly aggressive birds having no hesitation to drive larger birds from their area – this includes Hawks, Herons and even Owls according to Cornell’s website.  Crows do not breed until at least 2 yrs old and more often in the 4 year range.  They share social responsibilities helping their parents to raise their young.  I was surprise to see they really are not much of a carrion bird.  Seems like I’m always seeing them in the middle of the road holding vigil over some dead form or another.  Apparently this is due to a wimpy bill that can’t even break through the skin of small animals requiring them to rely on other more skilled hunters to open the skin up or wait until it decomposes enough to get that large, but apparently useless beak into the juicy parts.  And my favorite fact about the American Crow.  A gathering of Crows is considered a “murder of Crows”.  There appears to be a number of different explanations of this naming.  One being that there is a folktale that Crows will gather and collectively decide the fate of another Crow – sounds similar to Obamacare death panels.  Another reason is again their scavenger inclination – basically people often see them next to dead things and may associate it with the explanation they did the dirty deed themselves.  Then, of course, there are movies like Hitchcock’s The Birds that managed to collectively give all black birds a bad rap – pretty sure that was a mixture of Crows and Ravens, but it has been awhile since I saw that particular horror.  I will say that “The Crow” is one of my favorite movies which again perpetuates the association with the dead.

Well, that’s a rap on the Crow.  Quick and easy for the count but tried to make it worth your read.  See ya’ all real soon now.

Soft Hens

Back home now which means back to work on Project Auurnollllddd.  Good news is the ceiling grid is completely done now along with all the full panels installed.  Just need to cut all the edge pieces and get the lights installed and I’ll be good to go for the upcoming party.  If all this gets done before then it will be a huge miracle since in the midst of this we have to prep for a new shed and then there is that whole training thingy which will have me pounding pavement for hours and hours at a time.  This, of course, doesn’t get me out of my posting duties so let’s just get to that.

Common Gallinule/Moorhen taken at Emiquon Wildife Refuge

Today’s post is brought to you  by Mr. Softie.  Not sure what my problem was with these pictures other than just plain poor execution.  I’d be willing to accept failure a little better if it didn’t happen on TWO different occasions  at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge.  This bird is becoming a nemesis at the level of Wild Turkeys.  Not matter what I do, my Turkey shots are never up to par.  There are some more recent ones in the tin from a backyard encounter and a couple more while out on shoots that hopefully came out better (fingers crossed).  Rather than wait  until I get better shots of this particular bird, figured it was time to add it to my bird count.

Common Gallinule/Moorhen taken at Emiquon Wildife Refuge

Hit the jump to find out what this bird is

Continue reading Soft Hens

Celebrating 26 and 25 and 24

Time for another post from the road, but unlike last time, this time from a muuuuuch lower elevation.  Our mountain portion of the trip is over now and I should be back to work on Project Auuurrrrnnnnooold very soon.  The Annual Halloween Cookout date is approaching fast and so much to do before then.  My ambitions of animated decorations may be in jeopardy but at least all the Posey’s (link here) will be able to make their debut!

Living in the moment, let’s get to today’s topic.  Here’s a hint

AC/DC Concert Sept 15th at Wrigley Field

All classic rock fans out there should have just flashed up their devil horns!  That’s right, Linda and I had the opportunity to see one of our favorite bands in concert … again.  We had the privilege of seeing them in St. Louis a number of years back and we both consider that one of the best concerts we have seen (yes, that one equals if not tops the Stones concerts we have been too – sorry Jagger but your concerts are slightly tainted due to the price gouging you have to go through to be able to see them.  This time we went North to see them in a place that makes all Cardinal fans shudder.

AC/DC Concert Sept 15th at Wrigley Field

Thanks to Linda being on the ball and reserving early, we were able to get a hotel room less than 10 blocks from the field.  This took a lot of the pre-concert stress out of the equation by not having to deal with the Wrigley area parking.  The seats were not as close as they were in St. Louis, but still not too bad.  We opted for the outfield seats which were covered – rain wasn’t going to dampen our night.  This is the shot from our seats.

AC/DC Concert Sept 15th at Wrigley Field

I left the ladies arm in the shot at the bottom to remind me to mention how drunk this woman was in front of us.  There were two couples seated two rows down from us.  Both ladies had been drinking long before arriving – one lady (the owner of the arm above) was totally smashed and kept falling all over the place.  When she wasn’t picking herself off the ground she was dancing to the music in her head… and only in her head.  The lush was pretty much the jester for everyone that could see her.  People were even walking by specifically to take a picture of her on their phones.  It got so bad during the concert that her husband (I think) was continually yelling at her to sit – pulling her belt down into her seat when she didn’t comply.. didn’t matter, she would pop up 3 minutes later to continue dancing to her inner song.

Hit the jump to read more about this awesome concert!

Continue reading Celebrating 26 and 25 and 24

Springdale Redemption

Before I get into this post, I’m going to warn you that I am currently high and cannot be held accountable for how this post comes out.  Oh.. on second read I better clarify that before you get a wrong opinion.  By high I mean ALTITUDE, as in the neighborhood of 10,000 feet.  Unfortunately, my body is not taking it that well even though I’m probably in the best cardio shape in my life since hanging up martial arts.  I recall a previous discussion with a doctor in Breckinridge where I learned the better in shape you are, the worse altitude sickness can affect you – that time was a lot more serious than this trip (thus the prompt care visit).  My main problem this time is just a slow nagging headache and inability to get good sleep.  The latter is good for attempting to get caught up on my posts this month.  So, today I bring you an update on my race season.  On September 13th I once again participated in the Illinois Valley Striders Half Marathon in Springdale Cemetery.
IVS Half Marathon 2015 in Springdale Cemetery

Avid readers of my blog should be familiar with how difficult this race is.  There are three hills in each of the two loops of this race that can make a grown man cry – if they have not properly trained (or “practiced” as my brother likes to refer to it as).  Two years ago, this race put me on my knees (link here).  That was not a fun experience by any means and Linda will often reference that event when wanting to make a point about my obsession for long races.  She would of course refer to it more, but now she usually leverages “the episode” from last year to drive the point home.  Last year was suppose to be my redemption year.. supposed to be.  Once again Mr. Humidity showed up to remind me that he still owned me.  Sure, I made it through the race much better than the year before, but then I put a punctuation mark on it by throwing up on the way home (link here).  This year was going to be different.  I had trained too hard this season to let this happen again and then there’s that whole threat from Linda on the consequences if I pushed myself over the edge again.  Nothing like a little more pressure to pour on the day seeing how there is a bigger goal that would be in jeopardy should something go wrong at this event.

IVS Half Marathon 2015 in Springdale Cemetery

Unlike most of my races .. err…more specific all but like 1 short one, Linda wasn’t going to be there to cheer me on and more importantly keep me from getting too worked up about it.  Nope, she was leaving me to my own accountability, which quite frankly isn’t the wisest decision to make, but she had a dog commitment meaning I was flying solo.   On race day I woke up at 4:50am and took a gander outside to see what I was in for.  Unlike the last two times, there was a definite chill in the air.  The temperature read 48.  Good thing I was alone then because I broke out my very rare happy dance.  Things were looking up and I hadn’t even wiped the sleep from eyes yet.

Hit the jump to see how things turned out!

Continue reading Springdale Redemption

Snow at Emiquon

FINALLY! It has been like forever since I’ve posted. That is primarily due to a whole bunch of birding so far this month. So much that my queue has overflown. I still have to make my way through the Yellowstone pictures from like 3 years ago. Oh well, when the weather turns bad I’ll still have content to make my quota. The bad news is I probably will not remember a thing about the details surrounding the post event. Every once in awhile I get to jump ahead a tackle a topic more recent on the queue. Today is one of those time for I bring you this new entry on my North American Birding List!

Snow Geese taken at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

Pretty cool eh? This fine looking creature is a Snow Goose. I actually came upon this particular set of birds twice while birding at one of my favorite birding spots in Havana IL, Emiquon National Wildlife National Refuge. The first time came while I was alone trying to track down some shorebirds that fellow birders were reporting on a newsgroup. The bad news is it was a big fat blanking on the shorebirds, but spotting the Snow Goose ended up saving the trip.

Snow Geese taken at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of these Snow Geese!

Continue reading Snow at Emiquon