Totem Spirit

Greetings everyone.  We recently made our way back from a week in Las Vegas which means the sleep counter for the month of November took a serious decrement.  Not complaining, of course, seeing as how that was pretty much self-inflicted.  From a birder’s perspective, Vegas is up there in the top 10 birding places we’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting.  Actually, should clarify that a bit, the birding is primarily a combination of the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve and the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area inside the Mojave Desert. We opted to rent some glass out there this time rather than hauling out the Beast. I wanted the prime Nikon 600 f/4 but the VR ended up being broken on that option, so settled for the 150-600 f5-6.3 Tamaron.  I am here to say, Tamaron glass is NOT Nikon glass.  Still need to go through the images, but it was a fight the entire time.  That glass is way to light to hand hold in the wind and extremely slow to focus compared to my rig making it impossible to nail any in-flight shots. Did manage to get at least one +1 and possibly a couple more.  More to come on that front.  For now, was totally shocked when I came upon this set of pictures in the queue.

Greater Roadrunner found outside Laguna Atascos National Wildlife Refuge in January 2017

This is not the first time the Greater Roadrunner has appeared here at Intrigued, first appearing way back in May of 2013 (link here).  That first encounter was at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve and took some effort to find.  It also didn’t allow us to get too close it.  Now this specimen was the Walmart greeter for Laguna Atascosa.National Wildlife Refuge.  We were navigating the absolutely awful road (if you can call it that) that leads into that refuge when our little feathered friend popped out of the brushline.

Greater Roadrunner found outside Laguna Atascos National Wildlife Refuge in January 2017

Hit the jump to read more about my favorite runner.

Continue reading Totem Spirit

White-Eyed Vireo

Greeting from the Winter Wonderland everyone.  Was able to get a good 7 mile run in this morning as the sleet was turning to snow.  As soon as I made it back to the house, it was pretty much a light snow that has managed to hang on for the last 9 hours… and by hanging on I mean stay light because now is it’s coming down hard for what they are expecting to be another 9 hours.  I can’t remember the last time we had two good snows with a little less than a week before Thanksgiving.  Also do not remember having to bundle up as much on my runs this early in November (couple of runs ago it was windchill of 13 – F for my international friends).   In an attempt to bring a bit of warmth to my office, let’s head back to Texas and check out my latest addition to the ol’ bird list.

White-Eyed Vireo found at Sabal Palm Sanctuary, December 2017

Hit the jump to find out what bird this is … apologies for the remaining shots.

Continue reading White-Eyed Vireo

Book Recollection: Shooter

Shooter: Combat From Behind the Camera

Decided it was time to finally start popping some items from the reading queue.  This particular book recollection has been staring me in the face for the last 6 months – yes, literally, it has been sitting 5 feet from my desk waiting patiently to be introduced to all my readers.  There it sat, passed over every day for something more important, left to collect dust alongside many other projects in a variety of finished states.  Fortunately for me, I am not easily shamed by my backlog, but rather embrace it as a badge of honor for all the things I do get through in a year (okay, maybe more like 3.5 years based on my photo backlog which is growing longer by the second).   Let’s go ahead and take care of this little bit of procrastination… still staring at me.

So, Today’s featured recollection is the product of Retired Staff Sergeant Stacy Pearsall.  Her work entitled Shooter: Combat from behind the Camera provides a glimpse into her career as a a combat photographer.  Oddly enough, a title also held by my brother Ron whenever he goes out in the field with Ticks, Bees, dive bombing birds and a particularly funny story about some harmless steers.  In contrast, Sergeant Pearsall was behind the camera while serving in the Air Force just north of Baghad in the very dangerous Diyala region.  I get stressed when we spot a new bird in a tree and try to quickly figure out the right setting to leave with an identifiable shot in the tin.  Sergeant Pearsall has to figure out settings while trying to keep from getting killed. Pretty much puts my piddly annoyances into perspective.  Shooter is a collection of her photographs taken in the war theater along with commentary about what it’s like to serve our country in this capacity.    Her photographs are a mixture of raw emotion and still point danger.  Page after page is filled with her vision, her viewpoint from the front seat of the war.  Thinking the military might be for you, want to see the world, then you might want to take a wade through time in her words a “worn torn apocalypse”.  After that,  give yourself a chance to reassess and make sure – still want to serve?  then you have my absolute gratitude.

Sergeant Pearsall noted that the Latin term photos translates to light and graphein means write.  This perfectly sums up what I thought of this book – the ability to write words with a collection of light that fell on her camera’s sensor.  As she puts it, the pictures she produces is the stand in when no amount of words will do.  She also leaves you with the chilling fact she might be taking someone’s last living picture.  Something to remember when you think your day is too stressful.

In summary, it is a quick read, but recommend taking the time to actually look at the pictures, imagine what it was like to be behind the camera and most of all, what must be going through the minds of the subjects at that very moment in time.  Thank you Staff Sergeant Stacy Pearsall, first for your service and second for sharing with the world your thoughts and photographs.

Hit the jump to see my takeaways:

Continue reading Book Recollection: Shooter

A Jay for a Long Day

Hello Everyone!  There are times that you think you are never going to get through and then somehow everything comes together and then start believing you have everything under control… then life throws you a curveball and you are back to trying to get wood on a difficult pitch.  That is how it has been here at LifeIntrigued over the last several months.  The hectic agenda was finally smoothed only to have a loss in the family.  With a heavy heart we laid my wife’s mother to rest today in a nice ceremony in her hometown.  We will miss her, but she is in a better place now, free from the burdens that weighed her down in her later years.

In Memory, Dorothy Barton

(12/3/1927 – 11/5/2018)

 

It has been said the best way to move on from a bump in the road is to simply continue driving forward.  Seems like sound advice to me, so in an attempt to move forward, thought I’d go ahead and put a post out on one of my favorite topics.  On this rather dark day, I bring you one of the brightest birds the aviary world has to offer.

Green Jay captured at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Texas January 2018

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of this stunning Jay!

Continue reading A Jay for a Long Day

Dead Eye Lincoln

I have used a specific quoted from a well-known photographer numerous times in this blog.  It is a bit in jest because Linda and I have listened to many of his blog podcasts and even had the pleasure of meeting him person thanks to a speaking engagement with our local camera club.  If you were into drinking games this would be a perfect situation where you get to choose what phrase they must down a shot to.  Sometime during a Rick Salmon presentation he will say some variation of “one blurry picture is a mistake, a whole bunch of them is a style”.  Drink up!  In the past post, we met Mr. Softie.  In this post you will also see Mr. Softie and well, by the third post on its way you are going to be thinking this is just my style hehehehe.  To my defense, all three of the posts in question probably covered a total of 5-6 seconds.  Incredibly relieved that enough characteristics made it to the sensor to be able to get a proper ID .. which means an official check on the list. There’s a lifetime of chances to get better pictures, but to be in the right place for the right second or two can make the difference of never getting the opportunity to make that mark.  Wife just hollered out to stop making excuses so better man up and get to tonight’s triple F (featured feathered friend).

Lincoln's Sparrow found at Harlingen Thicket World Birding Center January 2018

Hit the jump to learn more about this highly secretive Sparrow!

Continue reading Dead Eye Lincoln

New Stones for the Haunted Graveyard

Welcome to the first installment of the Halloween 2018 Haunted Trail of Tears Project Posts.  For those of you not familiar with my “addiction” as my wife refers to it, we host an annual Halloween cookout.  One of the main elements of that cookout is a haunted trail we set up in through our woods.  It is quite the event and has grown to epic proportions over the years.  My friend in haunt Paul and I tend to go overboard on our favorite holiday.  You might get the impression this is something that is thrown together in a week or so near Halloween.  Truth is, this is a 364 day a year activity.  Paul and I are constantly working on new decorations for the trail throughout the year.  The day of the cookout is simply the time when all our friends get to see what we have been squirreled away in our labs building all year.   During the next couple of months I am hoping to go through some of my new builds for the trail.  Keeping with tradition, I will also be posting about the overall haunted trail so  you get a better feel for just how labor intensive this is.  One of my projects this year was to improve our grave yard with some new headstones.

Project Head Stones for Halloween Haunted Trail of Tears 2018

How scary is that!  Pretty happy with how my stones turned out this year and figured I’d walk you through all the steps it takes to get one err.. three of these babies ready for the trail.  From a materials perspective, the base of the stones are made out of 2″ foam insulation.  A 4×8 sheet of that stuff is ridiculously expensive for what it is (~$22/sheet depending on the quality you get).  Look for sales and the 11% off at Menards events to bring that price point down a bit.  You should be able to get a number of good sized tombstones out of a single sheet.  One sheet yielded 5 for me – one from last year – link here three intricate stones and then the second from the left is just an extra from the remaining piece (if you look close you can tell is was left over from cutting out the cross).

Project Head Stones for Halloween Haunted Trail of Tears 2018

Hit the jump to see how this year’s stones were made!

Continue reading New Stones for the Haunted Graveyard

Swamp Thing

Thanks to the extra cycles in my schedule as of late, thought I would loop back into the spoils from the Texas Gulf Coast birding trips and see what’s left to tick that bird counter up.  I’ve made it through most of the quality shots in preparation for the multiple talks I’ve given on the subject to local groups.  I was shocked to still find a number of potential lifers in there.  Sent some samples up to Ron who was able to confirm my initial IDs – score!  Unfortunately, most of these encounters were momentary.  I’d be intent on getting a target bird in the tin and then catch a brief glimpse of something moving in my periphery.  Note to new birders – when you are away from the home base, if anything with feathers decides to crash your party – flip the shutter on it.  If it turns out to be a common maybe you’ll get a better shot for your portfolio.  You might just be surprised to find out its one that has been eluding you for years.  Worse case, you tap that little key with the Del label on it and that moment in history never happened.  I joke to myself that it was “Obelisked” in reference to the Egyptian structures that provided a historical accounting of the Pharaohs. Except that history was obliterated err deleted and a new manufactured history created in its place that put the new Pharaoh in better standing.  Obscure, but I like to get some use out of all my non-core electives in college ha.  Wow, drifted from the feature of tonight’s post.

Swamp Sparrow found at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge Texas December 2017

As eluded to earlier, when this shot was taken I was in the midst of tracking a Sora (link here).  That bird is a pain in the ass to get in the tin as it darts in and out of the reeds along the water banks.  Just spotting them is task number one.  From there you are trying to keep a focus on it as the glass bounces back and forth with every reed that comes between the two.  Sometime in that adventure, this little brown jobber darted in for a quick check on meal options.  Assuming it was just a common Sparrow, slid the barrel of the glass over, snapped a few for the record and then went back to being frustrated.  It wasn’t until the review a few days ago that something triggered renewed interested.  Actually that was the second trigger – the first was “Wow, Bri you need some photography lessons”.   Basically bled through some foreground stalks.  Honestly, lucky the glass didn’t start searching and completely ruin the encounter.  This Sparrow might have only been there for less than five seconds, but it’s now an official check on my list.

Hit the jump to find out what this darkly colored bird is!

Continue reading Swamp Thing

Where’s the Hat and Boots?

Greetings everyone, welcome to November albeit a bit late to the month.  I was sitting down after a night of traveling around the countryside assessing various Halloween haunts (picking up ideas for our annual haunted trail) and heard the clank of the blog counter resetting as the clock crested the witching hour.  That sound is definitely more intimidating during the September and October months thanks to an extremely busy schedule – November is a different story – it is actually welcomed since It means I can re-dedicate myself to something I enjoy second to experiencing the event itself – that’s talking (err typing) about the experiences.  A perspective that I believe most outdoor bloggers can relate to.  The only downside right now is I used up all my pre-processed images to get me through the previous months.  That can be easily overcome as in the case of today’s triple F (featured feathered friend).

Nashville Warbler found at Weslaco Valley Birding Center January 2018

I still have a tremendous amount of blog material from our trips down the Texas Gulf Coast.  Took a run through the folder last night and thought this cute Warbler would be worthy of introducing to my readers.  This particular specimen was found at the Valley Nature Birding Center in Weslaco, Texas.  You may be familiar with this location already as it was the place that gave me the national bird of Costa Rico (link here), the Inca Dove (link here) and that darling of a Warbler the Black and White (link here) to name a few.  The Birding Center is a neatly tucked away gem of a birding hotspot posing as a generic park in the middle of town – go through the visitor center and out the back gates and you find yourself standing in six acres of an elaborate forest ecosystem.

Nashville Warbler found at Weslaco Valley Birding Center January 2018

Hit the jump to find out what this new bird to my list is called! Continue reading Where’s the Hat and Boots?