Obviously a Woodhouse

Let’s do this!  I’ve had a pretty full day starting early and ending late packed in between with a healthy dose of exercise, yard work and some bonus time out on the range.  Now I am just sitting here catching my breath and thought what the hay, why not use some of that down time to take some future stress off.  Yep, the June monthly quota is finally conquered as of this post (please, hold your applause until the end).  How about we close this out with a … wait for it … wait for it… a bird post!

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay shot in Red Rocks Ampitheatre in May 2014

No big surprise there eh?  This particular post has a bit of a twist to it.  On one hand this Western Scrub-Jay has already been featured on here on the blog back in September 2014 (link here).  That would imply that this is not a new check in my North American Birding Life List.   However, thanks to a decision, this particular specimen has a nuance about it.  To set the stage, this Jay was shot at the Red Rocks Ampitheatre in Morrison, Colorado.  I have had the privilege of birding there a couple of times now and both times left quite an impression.

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay shot in Red Rocks Ampitheatre in May 2014

Hit the jump to learn the secret about this bird!

Continue reading Obviously a Woodhouse

Canvasing Kentucky

It’s coming down to the wire, but with this post, I am pretty sure I can hit the quota for another month.  Would hate to end a long multi-year streak because of Halloween decorations – wait a minute, that might actually be a valid reason seeing as how I was spending most of the night trying to learn how to make molds.  It is obvious to me that some key steps were left out of all the YouTube videos I was watching before trying it out myself.  As always, I’ll leave the details for a future project post (foreshadowing… after some trial and error I’ve now been able to fill in the missing details and a second attempt turned out very nice!).  Luckily, sleep isn’t that big of a deal for me so with the Halloween work out of the way, I can still bring you tonight’s featured duck…

Canvasback shot around Kentucky Dam April 2015

That there is what you call a Canvasback Duck.  This particular specimen was found near the Kentucky Dam while on a trip we took down there to do a little birding back in April 2015.  In case you are wondering, it is a well known fact in the photography world that you have to let images sit in the chemicals for at least two years before they will develop.  Talk about the disappointment when you wait that long, come back into the darkroom and find out your chemical balance was off – back to the drawing board – another 2 years and fingers crossed you have something good enough to post on your blog.  Admittedly, this set is a bit soft around the edges, but still better (mainly because they are closer) than the previous time I had a post on this duck (link here). If I recall correctly, that other post was from Henderson Bird Viewing Area in Henderson Nevada – If you  call yourself a birder and have not been there yet – shame on you hehehe.  As mentioned, this one was a little closer to home.  The Canvasbacks are pretty easy to identify in the field.  Although their coloring will pretty much lead you right to them, it is really their profile which makes them stand out.  If you look from the side they have a downward sloping profile from the crest of their head to the end of their rather large snoz.  You might have a tendency to get them mixed up with the Redheads due to the similar color palette, but if you pay close attention to the bill you will notice that the Redheads have a brighter grey bill that looks like they were used for writing instead of quills back in the day (they have a black tip),

Canvasback shot around Kentucky Dam April 2015

The Canvasback pretty much has all of Central America up through Northern Canada covered somewhere during the seasonal migrations.  Being April guessing this one was doing some final fishing to build up energy for the trek up North.  Not a lot I can really tell you about this duck due to my go to reference site (Cornell) being pretty light on the details.  Apparently they breed in prairie potholes – we prefer to call them muddles in these here parts.  They are clearly on the larger end of the diving ducks.  They also carry a least concern conservation classification – yea!

Canvasback shot around Kentucky Dam April 2015

Only other tidbit is they got their name thanks to being the preferred seat covering for old Model T’s.  Luckily, modern society found the fine rich feeling Corinthian Leather (Ze Plane, Ze Plane! – for the record, if you get that reference you are old)….. What.. you want me to check the accuracy of that?  Hmmm… oh wait, my bad, they were given the Canvasback moniker from their preferred food during the nonbreeding season – the wild celery buds and rhizomes.  You know you preferred my definition better .. come on … there you go.  Just to prevent any future uncomfortable moments  (for you!), I probably wouldn’t base your entire theme or post graduate thesis on the contents of this blog.  Somewhere along the line information in my head may get slightly distorted.  My brother knows I blame my grade school for filling my head with lies (take for example the Brontasaurus and who knows what the hell Pluto is these days).

All I have for you today – hope you enjoyed this “purdy” duck.

The Loony Bin

Hope you enjoyed the previous post on that creepy bug.  After that short break from the aviary features we are going to bring you right back to regularly scheduled programming.  That’s right, back to those feathered wonders we group into the category of waterbirds … because they are birds and often found in water, which is really just a clever way of not having to tell you if it is a Duck or not – Duck being what we call something two away from a Goose (okay, lame joke, but admission here is free).  Since no one is apparently laughing at my joke, let’s get to today’s feature.

Common Loon shot around Kentucky Lake - April 2015

I find these particular birds intriguing from the dead on perspective.  If you are not a birder, it is well known that most birds look like a total dork from head on – don’t believe me, look at a Green Heron from that perspective and you will immediately know what I am referring to.  Pretty sure the Loon is more appealing due to the eyes being more forward on the head and the fatter neckline give it a more beefy feel.  This specimen is from the Common Loon family and was spotted in a small river in Kentucky back in April 2015.  We were doing some birding in and around the Kentucky Dam area and found a nice trail that followed the river.

Common Loon shot around Kentucky Lake - April 2015

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of this sleek looking bird.

Continue reading The Loony Bin

Sorry Katy, You Ugly

I’ve been hitting you with an unhealthy dose of bird posts as of late … and for that I’m not sorry – ha.  Just kidding, I know there are loyal readers out there that prefer the non-aviary topics (and I know that from all the hate mail I get when their tolerance is crested).  The good news is I have tried to remedy that with a quick post on … wait for it… something that doesn’t have feathers.
Shield-Backed Katydid shot in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park back in July 2014

Something tells met some of you may have just taken a few steps back from the monitor just then.  I cannot lie, I am having to force myself to stay at the keyboard just to get through this post.  This bug basically looks straight out of a horror movie and it creeps me out staring just at the picture.  It took incredible willpower to stand there in person looking at it through the camera eyepiece.  Guessing you are wondering what this thing is and will not settle for the answer “It’s a bug!”.  Scouring the Internet (a fancy and technically deceiving phrase for basically going straight to Google), I came up empty.  By the way, just in case you get an inkling to do some Google oogling under the phrase “creepy looking bug” – DO NOT DO IT – you will not be able to go outside for a month!  Luckily,  my brother Ron had better luck and was able to successfully identify “the bug”.  This ladies and gentlemen is referred to as a  Shield-Backed Katydid. Coincidentally, that happens to be Latin for “creepy ass bug”.
Shield-Backed Katydid shot in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park back in July 2014

This specimen was found while chasing waterfalls in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  We were out there in July 2014 on our way to North Carolina.  Unable to remember the name of the actual waterfall Linda wanted to shoot, but if recalling correctly it was not that far from their extremely impressive visitor center. Do not pass checking that out if you are in the area.  While Linda dials in her silky waterfall shots, I’m generally exploring the area for birds (not a stretch there) and if that comes up empty, I transition to dragonflies, then bugs (then cool fungi if you are curious).  There are zero birds in the Smokies and the dragons were nowhere to be found.  Simply looked down at the railing (don’t tell Linda, but right behind where she was standing) this Katydid was hanging out likely annoyed we were disturbing its hunting grounds.  Sorry for the limited shots… was it mentioned earlier this bug creeps me out!?!

A quick fact before I leave you.  The Shield-Backed Katydid were given their moniker for the enlarged dorsal area of the prothorax (apparently also called a pronotum)  which extends down to the abdomen.  All I got for you tonight, hope you enjoyed the post.

Little Boy Blue is a Lucky Dude

Not exactly lighting up the stage when it comes to posting this month.  Seems like one thing after another as of late.  This weekend was mainly focused on the Illinois’ Toughest 15K race in Peoria.  I’ll leave the details for the race recap post, but I can safely say that race owned me this year.  Made it through, but the body let me down in the wicked humidity.  Need to retool the body a bit and hopefully get a lot more heat conditioning training runs in before the next July (expect it to be even hotter for that race ugh).  Regardless, there’s a quota to tend to and no time to waste.  Luckily I have most of the pictures processed for the rest of this month’s post so the hard part is behind me.  With that, let’s bring out the Blues.

Eastern Bluebird couple shot at Jubilee State Park in May 2015

To be more specific, that would be an Eastern Bluebird couple.  This elegant pair was captured not far from my house in Jubilee College State Park near Brimfield IL back in May 2015   That park is pretty much my stomping ground for birding and running (better bring your hill climbing muscles if you want to explore or run a lot of that park).  On that particular day I had parked at the end of the main campground road and spent most of the morning following a Kickapoo Creek feeder that runs through the heart of the park.  For the most part not a lot of birds made it into the tin that AM so decided to call it an early day and head back to the truck.

Eastern Bluebird couple shot at Jubilee State Park in May 2015

As I neared the parking lot I spotted the female (the more drab of the two if you are not familiar with this particular bird) staring intently at the ground from atop a nearby fence post.  Curious, I kept my distance and took in the scene wondering what was so interesting to Ms. Blue.  It didn’t take long to figure it out – after about 30 seconds she launched from her perch, took a low trajectory path just above the grass and scored a tasty morsel for herself.  For some reason I didn’t think to have the camera ready and missed it completely – sometimes you just have to live in the moment and simply enjoy life in motion. As if that wasn’t cool enough, not long after that, a bright blue flash came gliding through the same area of the field and demonstrated its predator ability as well.  Those two were going to eat well that day!

… but wait…

Eastern Bluebird couple shot at Jubilee State Park in May 2015

Turns out this Bluebird couple was taking care of a new brood!  The male was the first to deliver the special package while the mother looked on – between you and I, I think she was just showing off that her catch was bigger than her husband’s!  It is about this time that the male discovered The Beast pointed at it… and more importantly pointed in a threatening manner at his family.  Guessing I looked like a giant bug that would definitely one up his wife’s recent score.  Not wanting to disturb his family or cause any undue stress, the glass was lowered and officially called it a successful day.

Eastern Bluebird couple shot at Jubilee State Park in May 2015

It wasn’t lost on me that there was a bit of irony as I left the parking lot – hehehehe.

Time to hit the hay – no worries, I’ll be back soon.


Wow, I feel like a true slacker.  Something like the 15th of the month and I have not cranked out a single post yet.  Normally I would feel worse than I currently do when in this situation, but the calendar has been full to the brim as of late.  Getting close to Halloween (ask my wife, any day of the year is close to Halloween to me), so working hard on new animations for the Trail of Tears, grass up to my knees in our back lot and a big race coming up in a mere two days.  At least the last of the taper runs are done for that race – pretty darn hot out there as of late making those a total sweatfest.  Still shame on me for once again getting behind on my posts.  Maybe I need a swift kick in the nuts I mean pants to get me going!?!

Speaking of Nuts (hey, these lead ins don’t right themselves you know hehehehe!)

Clark's Nutcracker spotted in Rocky Mountain National Park in May of 2014

How do you like that fine specimen?  For those of you who don’t spend their spare time buried in bird reference books, that there is a Clark’s Nutcracker.  It was shot in the Rocky Mountain National Park back in May of 2014.  Yes, I know it was more than three years ago – I cringe every time I think about my backlog.  A backlog that has grown significantly as of late thanks to no less than two bird outings in the last 3 or 4 weeks and another one a few weeks away.  Of course, my brother Ron and I never came upon a Clark’s since those outings were local.  You have to travel a bit to see these charcoal creatures.

Clark's Nutcracker spotted in Rocky Mountain National Park in May of 2014

Hit the jump to read about and see a few more pictures of this monochrome bird.

Continue reading Nuts!