Is That Double Stuf?

Well, the latest exploration is nearing completion.  Time to turn the RV northward and begin the return leg.  Like a good Oreo, our trips tend to be a bit crunchy on the ends, but sweet and delicious in the middle.  This year the special ingredient was our first fallout resulting in a Warbler extravaganza.  Before you get too excited about the future posts, be patient. On a normal outing I can be a bit heavy on the shudder – after this trip I will likely need months of therapy to simply uncurl my index finger.  Not to mention I haven’t even scratched the surface from the January trip.  Getting way ahead of myself – focus Bri, focus!

Killdeer found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in April 2017

As we are officially over the hump, I can dive back into the older captures.  Tonight’s featured feathered friend comes to us from Havana.  Ummm, before you start having a flashback to a bad Patrick Swayze sequel, that’s Havana, ILLINOIS.  A rather nondescript small rural town that happens to sit near Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge – the jewel of the Midwest when it comes to birding.

Killdeer found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in April 2017

Hit the jump if you have a sweet tooth.

Continue reading Is That Double Stuf?

Ring ON the Tree

Finally back on the keyboard.  All I can really say at this point is the days have gotten a bit crazy since we embarked on our second exploration of the year.  First week was a bit tiring as that was primarily travel days.  Last week ended up being a birder’s paradise thanks to a bit of luck on the weather front.  We really tried not to continue our long history of tugging bad Midwest weather down wherever we go – unfortunately, it continued as horrible rains raced us to our destination.  Even hopped over us and pounded our first main stopping point so everything was nice and soaked for our arrival.  A bit bummed, we headed to the recommended birding spots expecting the worst.  Wow, were we wrong – imagine hundreds of birders standing on the roads, standing on the trails, standing under the trees, hell, hanging from the trees.  Appears we managed to experience our first fallout!  Will post more on that when we finally return, however, as a teaser I am at LEAST +22 for the trip so far.  Now to more pressing matters – getting to the end of the month and the post production is a bit light.  All hail the King of Kings.

As we are in the early part of the week, the promise is to deliver the fresher posts.  Thankfully, I worked up a number of newer images before we departed.  Today’s featured feathered friend comes to you from the first exploration trip of the season back in January.  Seems like a lot longer than a mere three months ago.  That excursion took us to Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park and to a new location called Edinburg Scenic Wetlands. 

Hit to read a bit more about our rather stout Kingfisher or is it a scissors with feathers.

Continue reading Ring ON the Tree

Bird Bullies

I think we are somehow cursed. Maybe that love of all things Halloween has finally overwhelmed my good karma or maybe it is all just a coincidence that bad weather tends stick to us like nettles on shoestrings. Regardless of the reason, we have once again brought a weather plague on the inhabitants of our exploration destination. On our southern Texas adventure we managed to bring unusually cold temps and rain to the natives and to further add in insult, managed to vacate the area just before the epic snow and ice storm hit them (please accept our apologies). Today we reached a primary destination and sure enough they are basically flooding out. Is it asking too much to have some “plain” weather !?!

Plain Chachalaca found at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park in January 2021

Ummmm, there you go Mother Nature, jinxing me again clearly I requested plain WEATHER and what do I get.. a Plain Chachalaca. Unless this is a play on raining cats and birds, we are not properly communicating. Might as well go with it as the birding is currently at a standstill until this downpour lets up. As we are past the older post days, going with something fresh.

Plain Chachalaca found at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park in January 2021

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of our featured bird.

Continue reading Bird Bullies

Mud Angels

Well, we are officially off on our exploration part deux for the year.  Just in time, it appears, as our hometown county is experiencing some unexpected high numbers of Covid outbreaks.  Not sure what is up with that, but at the moment, thankfully not something we need to worry about.  So far the birding has been a bit weak, however, I have been able to get a long run in on an amazing set of trails.  Told Linda it was like running on the set of The Last of the Mohicans.  Good for the soul and the long steep elevation climbs was a good reminder to the legs they are still in training.   As it is Flashback Friday, I get to pull from the front of the LIFO queue.  Meet today’s Featured Feathered Friend.  

Sandhill Crane Wisconsin April 2013

We have been experiencing some unexpected cold temperatures on our exploration.  Our destination should be significantly warmer – in the meantime I have to keep reminding myself we are officially past winter ha.   While looking through the queue, noticed these shots that were taken in the same month and still had SNOW on the ground. 

Sandhill Crane Wisconsin April 2013

Back in April 2013 we made a trip up to Wisconsin to visit the Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin.  One of our favorite areas to visit in our sister state to the north.  I know they hate the saying, but it really is Illinois’ playground.  While we were on our way back from visiting the foundation, we noticed a group of Sandhills hanging out in a field.  

Sandhill Crane Wisconsin April 2013

Now Sandhill Cranes are one of my favorite birds – their relatives the Whooping Crane (link here) holds the number #1 on the list which was the catalyst for us joining the International Crown Foundation and my renewed interest in birding.  Cranes are an amazing species.  Massive in size, truly a joy to watch especially during courtship rituals and surprisingly accessible at least on the Sandhill front.  The Whoopers will require you to travel a bit, but they can be found quite consistently if you do a little research on their wintering grounds.    

Take note of the whiter feathering the Sandhills have in the shots above and contrast that with the browner coloring in the following shots.  

Sandhill Crane Horicon National Wildlife Refuge Mayville Wisconsin September 2014

The shot above and below are from another shoot in September the following year.  Once again we were up in Wisconsin (time to play ha) and took a quick run over to Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Mayville.  Absolutely shocking I was able to get anything in the tin as we were in an epic battle to save as much blood as we could from the hordes of Mosquitoes that had amassed there.  Think these were the only two shots that made it out of that shoot before our drained carcasses were left sprawled on the trail.  Per the earlier comment, you will see that these specimens had taken on a browner hue.  

Sandhill Crane Horicon National Wildlife Refuge Mayville Wisconsin September 2014

This is where it gets a little interesting.  I have always been under the impression that the Sandhill Cranes get this browner coloring thanks to their habit of preening themselves with mud/dirt.  The iron rich material causes the iconic “rustic” coloring.  Went to Cornell for a quick validation and was surprised to find zero mention of that behavior nor the effects on the feathers – nada. 

Sandhill Crane Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove IL April 2017

Cornell did mention juveniles are grey and rusty brown and lack the pale cheeks and red caps.  I have had the opportunity to see juveniles up close and can confirm grey and there was some rusty brown, however, it doesn’t really dismiss the preening concept as surely the adults would teach the offspring similar behaviors.. resulting in similar color changes. 

Sandhill Crane Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove IL April 2017

Step inside my supercharged DeLorean and rev it up to April 2017.  This last set of Sandhill Shots (starting with the two shots above) comes to you from Chain O’ Lakes State Park near Spring Grove IL.   No snow on the ground this time and you can see the rust coloring just starting to cover the wings above.  Now the specimen below must have been making mud angels. 

Sandhill Crane Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove IL April 2017

Better get to closing this post out – tomorrow has some traveling in it.  Sandhills mate for life and can begin breeding as early as two.  Every year we have been up at Chain O’ Lakes we have seen the same pair of Sandhills wandering the campground area.  Usually with a couple of colts which makes for some great shoots (link here). 

Sandhill Crane Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove IL April 2017

Lastly, I was surprised when I looked at the region maps for the Sandhill.  Seems like I see them everywhere we travel and therefore wrongly thought they were abundant across the states.  Not true.  There is a heavy wintering population in the lower Texas, New Mexico and Florida regions.  From those areas there are really two large migration paths up to their breeding grounds in are fairly straight migrations paths to their breeding grounds in Canada and the upper states (except Montana – they HATE Montana thanks to a long standing feud with the Bison union).  

Sandhill Crane Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove IL April 2017

Will let you go there.  Hope you enjoyed a few shots of the big boys (and likely girls).  Hopefully will have connectivity to put up a few more posts while out on the road.  Until then, take it easy and be sure you live and not just exist.

Tree Swallow Goofy Ridge

Greetings everyone.  A little off my posting pace as we’ve been preparing for another extended exploration.   This put me in a bit of a bind with my earlier promise to get you more recent material.  Unlike the older queue material, the newer images need to be worked up on the fly which is difficult to do on the road, nor do I really want to take the time to transfer all the data to portable storage.   Instead, I’ve been working feverishly in the digital darkroom to finish up some production work to cover posts while we are out and about.   All of this while Linda wants my help packing the RV – the nerve hehehehe.  While getting all this squared away, thought I’d throw out an older set of images to hold you over.  

American Tree Swallow found at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge in July 2017

How about some cute cuddly Tree Swallows to brighten these pandemic days!?!   This is actually a sister post to one I made back in July of 2017 when the images were fresh to the month (link here).  I needed to work up an image for a photography competition at a local fair (first shot in that previous entry) and grabbed a couple of other random shots to fill out a post.  These are additional shots after I had time to go back and look at the entire shoot.  American Tree Swallow found at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge in July 2017

Continue reading Tree Swallow Goofy Ridge

Cadbury Tryouts

Happy Easter everyone! This morning I was out on my 16 mile training run on the trails of Jubilee State Park when I came upon not one but TWO Easter Bunnies. At first I was admittedly a bit startled. Not so much that I would come upon them in the middle of running the woods, but they didn’t exactly fit the model. Sure, both had two rather large ears, but wasn’t expecting them to each have 6 legs, 2 arms and stand 6 feet tall! One of them extended a Happy Easter and then offered me a chocolate rabbit pulled from a leather pouch. “We are playing Easter Ambassadors and offering treats to everyone we see in honor of our Savior’s rising.” I extended my appreciation for the thought, but passed – can’t imagine the gooey mess that would be by the time I finished the run. We said our goodbyes and went our separate ways. Note, this happened at mile 14.5 so assuredly the synapses were experiencing some fatigue, however, the large “U” shapes and the ummm… let’s go with presents left on the rest of the trail provided some evidence to the encounter. By the way, those bunnies must east a LOT! Made it home and thought I would get a post out in recognition of the special day and, of course, relay the events from earlier in the day. Spent a significant amount of time going through the 3+ years of backlogged images only to come up empty – NOT A SINGLE BUNNY PICTURE IN THE QUEUE. At a loss, I decided to hold a Cadbury tryout to see what would be the official substitute for the ’21 Easter Bunny. First up…

WTH, that thing doesn’t even have fur.  “..but look at my big cute round eyes and I have Praying right there in my name”.  Uhhhh nope.  Next.

Continue reading Cadbury Tryouts