Burning in the Dirt and the Trees

I just might have to go back to formally working as I can’t for the life of me figure out how I can be busier now that when I was spending over 40 hours a week fighting the ghosts in the machine. Those hours are being sucked up into the vortex somehow and it isn’t a result of naps! (truth is I have NEVER been able to take a nap since they stopped giving me a carton a milk and a carpet square in kindergarten). Admittedly, part of the time consumption is a slew of national and local dog competitions that have had us traveling to compete. Time for a proud pappa to do some quick bragging. Ruger had his very first agility ring showing last weekend. Now that he’s finally had his first birthday, he is ready to impress.

Ruger's first agility competition in Springfield, IL in July of 2022

Hit the jump to read more about Ruger’s debut and to see the latest add to my birding life list – hint, he’s a beauty!

Ruger not only qualified in his first run, but he also took first! He was truly burning up the dirt course to the complete awe of his fellow competitors – well, honestly it was a combination of awe and laughter. Let’s just say his incredible speed was an asset as he probably ran an equivalent of three courses and still made it through in time.

Linda: {pointing} Jump

Ruger: Hey, that ‘A’ frame looks like fun, let’s go do that
Linda: {stern faced holding back a chuckle} Ruger, get back her and do this jump
Ruger: Fine {jumps}, Hey, look at that tunnel, now that looks like fun, let’s go do that
Linda: {trying not to join in with the crowd laughter} Ruger, FOCUS and do this other jump
Ruger: Fine, {sprints from now the complete opposite side of the ring and does the jump} Hey, that judge wants to pet me – I must oblige
Linda: Leave him alone and do this teeter totter
Ruger: But I’m too cute for my fur
Linda: You are embarrassing your dad
Ruger: Oh crap, where’s that teeter…wait, did I just smell something interesting in the dirt, why yes, yes I did!
Linda: We will have a talking too when this is over!
Ruger: Did she say treats, yes, I heard treats – this sport rocks

Kudos to Linda who managed to corral him enough to get through the rest of the course. Although, I think she could have done a better job of his ribbon picture – the bad angle makes him look like he drinks a 6 pack a day and hangs out on the couch watching Married with Children reruns. Ruger was busy strutting around the house showing off his ribbons when Raven came into the room and told him to take a seat.

Raven's agility competition in Springfield, IL in July of 2022

“You’ve got a long way to go before you’re ready for the big leagues you agility noob!” Raven definitely has bragging rights at the moment, but Ruger is waaaaay ahead on his development. Linda got herself a gem… now just needs to polish it up.

Okay, daddy bragging over. In honor of Ruger burning up the dirt, thought it would be appropriate to feature a burn in the trees.

Blackburnian Warbler found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago in May 2022

When in comes to Warblers, there are few that dazzle as much as the Black”burn”ian Warbler. The bold black lines, the blazing orange hood with the delicate white highlights is a sight to behold. This series of shots really does not do it full justice as they were taken pointing up into the high tree canopy on a very bright day. 3 feet down and the lighting dimmed significantly against the density of the leaves, 2 feet higher and it looked like a winter whiteout in the Colorado mountains. Like all Warblers, this specimen wasn’t about to give me time to adjust settings on the fly so split the difference and took whatever hit the tin.

Blackburnian Warbler found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago in May 2022

It also didn’t help this Warbler prefers the delicacies hanging out at the top of the larger trees and probably would have missed it if it didn’t have that orange spotlight. These shots are heavily cropped – bird probably only took up half of my center focus area. Being that this is my first “official” +1 for this species, I’ll definitely take these results – I actually had a female/immature specimen tinned like 5 years ago from another trip up to Montrose Point – this is definitely one of those species you want to focus on the male.

Blackburnian Warbler found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago in May 2022

For those of you who read the post on the Philadelphia Vireo (link here), Ron and I spotted this dude immediately after tinning the Vireo. Definitely a good day when you can get two lifers in a matter of 5 minutes. Add in the Bank Swallows (link here) and then another +1 which I hope to feature in a coming post and it almost makes up for having to drive through that godforsaken Chicago traffic. Now, I make Ron do the actual driving part since he is technically “from” Chicago, but I still have to grit my teeth, hold onto the “Jesus Bar” and stomp the virtual passenger side brake the entire way.

Blackburnian Warbler found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago in May 2022

Yikes, out of shots, better get to the interesting facts before I let you go. As mentioned earlier, the females and immatures do not have the bright orange hood or the heavy black lines. They, instead, have a yellow wash which is much more common in the Warbler family. To help you in the field, they will still have that triangular shaped ear pattern that is easily distinguished in the males (will be solid unlike the orange highlight below the male’s eye). The Blackburnian is a New World Warbler that spend their winters in northern part of South American before migrating up to the eastern US/Canada border and a swath from Kentucky up through New England. Fortunately, this one was hanging around a little bit later than usual giving us a chance to claw another one back from having to cancel the April Dauphin Island trip. For those of us battered and beaten by the Sparrow identification process, the Blackburnian is easily identified thanks to being the only NA Warbler with an orange throat (noted by Cornell). Lastly, also according to Cornell, the males can be extremely territorial during their nesting season often seen carrying out their own “Top Gun” training as they chase each other through the tree canopy.

Will put a bow on there. Heading to Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge tomorrow to hopefully add some more checks to the list – wish me luck!

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