Cyrano de Water

I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas  We lucked out here in the Midwest and managed to pull off a white Christmas thanks to around 4 inches of snow on Christmas Eve.  I think it just makes it a little more special when you can open your presents surrounded by a fresh batch of the fluffy stuff.  What I wasn’t ready for was the deep freeze that followed immediately after.  We really didn’t have a Fall so my body hasn’t really conditioned to cold.  From the looks of it, this polar vortex is going to be hanging around for a while.  Lucky for me I can always recall (and share) memories of warmer times.

American Avocet shot at Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, Henderson NV, August 2013

Today’s post features another +1 in my North American Birding List.  They also come from two locations that are both definitely warmer than what we are experiencing now.  The first set of pictures came from a trip back in August 2013 to Las Vegas, Nevada.  If you have been following this blog for any length of time, you probably read Las Vegas and immediately thought Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve.  If you are new to the blog, that preserve is a gold mine for birders.  I should sum up all the +1’s I’ve pulled out of that location – guessing it is somewhere in the 30’s if not the 40’s.

American Avocet shot at Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve, Henderson NV, August 2013

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of the American Avocet

Continue reading Cyrano de Water

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Everyone and Best Wishes for a New Year!

Just wanted to extend some holiday cheer from  my wife Linda, our boys (the poodles) and of course myself.  It has been an exciting year and looking forward to what the next has in store for us.  Hoping to get a few more posts in before the end of the year yet – need to pad those blog stats ha!  Stay tuned and most of all if you happen to be spending the season in the Midwest, stay warm.

Christmas 2017

… well that is what our tree looked like last night before we went to bed.  Raven woke us this morning and said a green Santa crawled through our fireplace and informed him “there’s a light on the tree that won’t light on one side. So I’m taking it home to my workshop, my dear puppy. I’ll fix it up there, then I’ll bring it back here.”  WHAAAAAaaattt!?!

Christmas 2017


Circle of Life Plays Out in a Theatre Far Away

Merry Christmas Eve everyone!  Not sure if I am going to get around to posting tomorrow, so thought I would go ahead and put one out there today.  Finally feels like Christmas in the Midwest thanks to a lot of white stuff coming down at the moment.  Looks like 2-4 inches when it is all done for the day.  A perfect dusting to add to the holiday atmosphere – not to mention our well could sure use some recharging.  Today’s post is actually inspired by a recent set of pictures my brother Ron posted from his recent Florida trip.  He was able to witness and get in the tin the brutality of the Loggerhead Shrike. You have to feel a little bad for whatever creature crosses its path at feeding time.  I wonder if he would be willing to guest blog on that series of shots – think you would enjoy that in a squeamish sort of way.  .

In light of that, thought I would roll out my example of the circle of life.  Warning though, bunny lovers might want to skip this particular post.

Cooper's Hawk Dining on a Rabbit in Red Rocks Ampitheatre - Colorado May 2014

That there is a Cooper’s Hawk that I encountered while visiting Red Rocks Ampitheatre back in May 2014.  We were out in Colorado for a Teacup Dog Agility Nationals.  Linda knows how to bribe me to go with her.  Simply mention Red Rocks Ampitheatre and my bags will be packed in a jiffy.  I’ve posted a number of shots from my explorations at that place in the past.  A number of those were +1’s on the birding list.  Even got a nice fox while out there (link here).

From the birding list perspective, the Cooper doesn’t represent a +1 having posted most recently from an encounter in Champaign IL (link here).
Cooper's Hawk Dining on a Rabbit in Red Rocks Ampitheatre - Colorado May 2014

Hit the jump to see some more images from the Ampitheatre.

Continue reading Circle of Life Plays Out in a Theatre Far Away

The Haunted Trail of Tears 2017 – Part 2: Soul Crusher

Well folks, today we officially close out the Halloween 2017 blog series.  I wanted to get this done before Christmas arrived and thanks to a quick check with the calendar it looks like I am coming just under the wire.  To be honest, there is a good reason for the delay thanks to trying to wrap up all the prep work on another series I’ll be introducing very soon – as a foreshadow, if you do not like birds you are going to be seriously disappointed.  I’ll try to break that up a bit with some other topics, but I am not going to pull punches on that – it is going to be hard uppercut of feathers coming your way.

Hope I didn’t scare you with that foreshadowing, because I’m saving the nightmares for THIS:

Scenes from the The Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

Yes folks, it is the second part of the legendary Trail of Tears Haunted Trail.  In the last post I took you through the first part of the trail (link here).  I purposely broke that post off at the point where the trail content delves deeper into hell.  Just in case you are new to the trail, my friend in haunt, Paul, and I set the trail up to be scarier the farther you go along the trail.  This gives parents and the faint of heart the opportunity to drop tail and head back for the safety of the house.  As with the previous post, I am going to let you enjoy the photos we took right before tear down (about 2am) rather than go into much detail.  Rain was coming fast preventing us from really taking the time to get the good low light camera out – luckily we were able to make a quick run through with the cell phone and capture what we could,.

My brother Ron got me the smoldering ghoul below.  It comes with a fogger attachment to give it a real burning effect.  I still need to pick up a fogger for next year, but it looked sufficiently creepy on its own!

Scenes from the The Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

Thanks Ron!

Scenes from the The Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

Hit the jump to see and read a bit about the rest of the props on the 2017 Trail of Tears Haunted Trail.

Continue reading The Haunted Trail of Tears 2017 – Part 2: Soul Crusher

The Haunted Trail of Tears 2017 – Part 1

Happy Halloween Everyone!  Oh, I seem to be a bit late on this one.  Let’s go with Nightmare before Christmas – yes, that seems much more appropriate.  I’ve taken you through all the new props and even walked you through the build process.  What I have not done is actually taken you through trail itself – well, at least give a glimpse of the experience.  There are too many decorations to take you through the entire trail, so just going to touch upon what we were able to capture before it was all tore down that night.  Thanks to everyone who contributed to the gallery.  We were so pressed for time this year that we didn’t get around to taking the camera through – next year hoping to have a 360 experience thanks to new technologies that are hitting the market.  Until then, we’ll go old school.  Not going to comment too much so enjoy the shots.

Paul’s giant pumpkinhead towered over the start of the trail – remember, the trail gets scarier as you go.

Scenes from The Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

New this year was the Minion blow-up.  I picked this up for Linda since she is always referencing their memes.

Scenes from The Haunted Trail of Tears 2017

Hit the jump to see the rest of the first half of the Trail of Tears!

Continue reading The Haunted Trail of Tears 2017 – Part 1

Trumpets in the Band

I have had the pleasure of birding heavily for a number of years now and in that time I have taken 10’s of thousands of pictures (honestly, likely more than that).  Let’s all give a round of appreciation for the geniuses that brought us the digital medium otherwise the cost of developing them would have cut that number by 75%. Kind of a shame that Kodak didn’t see a winner in that patent.  The only reason I mention that number is that it seems staggering when considering this is the first time for this

Banded Trumpeter Swans located in Elmwood IL March 2014

Sorry, might have just steered you in the wrong direction.  This is not the first time I have photographed a Trumpeter Swan.  Nope, the species made its debut back in December 2011 (link here).  You might want to just skip going back to that link.  We were in Yellowstone and so far off from them you can barely tell they are pictures of actual birds – more like pieces of cotton floating on a large pond.  That was remedied when they were featured again back in February 2015 (link here).  Muuuuch better pictures of the Trumpeters.  Believe I mentioned in the last post, a blog is an excellent way to see your progression behind the shutter.

Banded Trumpeter Swans located in Elmwood IL March 2014

hit the jump to reveal the interesting element of this post.

Continue reading Trumpets in the Band

Maggie May

“You lured me away from home, just to save you from being alone
You stole my soul and that’s a pain I can do without”

So, as the adage goes, stories of my demise are greatly exaggerated.  Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for one of my 3TB work drives.  It no workie anymore.  Work drives are my day after day use – digital darkroom processing, searches general access and always connected to my main computer for ease.  Luckily, all of my photos are backed up on a fully raided NAS drives.  So nothing lost (relief).  However, it took 6 nonstop days to copy back from the NAS drive onto a brand new working drive.  Yes, there is a tremendous amount of finger crossing that nothing goes wrong with the originals while copying back.  All done now, nothing lost but my time away from the blog.   Let’s remedy that now!

Black-Billed Magpie shot in Colorado, May 2014

Today’s featured feathered friend comes to us courtesy of Red Rocks Amphitheatre on a trip to Colorado back in May 2014.  The Black-Billed Magpie is not a new bird to the blog having been previously featured back in July 2008 (link here).  That also happens to be the first time I had ever encountered this colorful bird.  We were passing through South Dakota on our way to visit Yellowstone.  One of the great things about having a photography blog over the last 10 years is you get a firsthand look at how you are improving your craft.  Those initial first shots are quite the fuzzy mess.

Black-Billed Magpie shot in Colorado, May 2014

I did get a little better when they appeared for a second time back in February 2015 (link here).  There is always room for improvement, but these are a far cry from that initial effort.  Those were taken from a good distance, where this third installment had much better foot zoom.  Thing is, the closer you get to these members of the Crow family, the more you realize just how menacing they look.  Something about those dark hoods that energizes the flight instincts whenever they show up in my viewfinder. Truthfully, my encounters with this large bodied birds has been quite cordial.  They simply go about their business as if I am not even there.  In this encounter on the outer loop of the Red Rocks trail, I heard a weird rustling sound under a bunch of sage.  Not wanting to move off the trail, the next 20 minutes was spent trying locate the moving sound.  Thinking I was on target, then engaged in some birding yoga in an attempt to find an angle giving a glimpse of the ruckus source.  Hear sound, move to approximate location, peer through the brush only to hear it a few feet in another direction.  After numerous search cycles it became a quest.  I was either going to be eaten by an annoyed coyote or get something in the tin worth blogging about.

Black-Billed Magpie shot in Colorado, May 2014

During the course of this hunt people would walk/jog by with inquisitive looks.  You get this a lot when you are standing around with big glass out in the wild.  Embarrassingly my repeated response to their inquiry was “I don’t know” with a couple of “Yeti” just to spice it up a bit.  After the fun of taunting me wore off the mystery animal flew up on a nearby post.  Yep, a Magpie was just foraging for food in the thick underbrush. At least something went into the tin so it was worth the time … I suppose.  Interesting creatures these Magpies – apparently enjoy making fools of us humans.

That’s all I have for you today folks.  Just wanted to knock the cobwebs down a bit since it has been a couple of weeks since posting.  Take it easy everyone and hopefully my technical difficulties are resolved.