To Torture Limits and the Goodness of DEET

I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel – at least let’s hope it isn’t the light to the afterlife ha. Ironically, many of the events and tasks that have been consuming me of late are coming to their end. We closed out Mom’s estate today with the successful closing on the house and tonight I completed my last taper before Saturday’s Bix 7 Race. Now a bit of rest for the ankle and maybe some ice, although I doubt the swelling is going to subside much more before race time. It feels strong enough for a hilly road race and looking forward to testing it on the trails next week. The roots, rocks and uneven terrain that makes trail running so technical, has a way of finding any of your weak spots. We will cross that bridge when it comes – right now I need to focus on the blog as I’m just a few posts down and the end of the month is a mere arm’s length away. My original intent of featuring this feathered friend at this point in the month may not come true now.

Kentucky Warbler found at Tawny Oaks Field Station, Edelstein, IL in July 2022

The Bix 7 race in Davenport Iowa is always held on the last Saturday of July. If you are familiar with the Midwest, the last weekend of July usually means one thing – DAMN HOT! Not just the eh, its warm, rather the sticky, sweaty, sauna like, humid, pressure cooker temps that melt the bottoms of your shoes to the asphalt pavement and makes you look like you just came out of the washer. This is my 18th consecutive running of the Bix (I am not counting the missed one from two years ago that went virtual because of Covid) and I can count on one hand how many “nice” days we’ve had for this race. Note, pouring down rain does fall into the nice category. Just so happens the day Ron and I shot this Kentucky Warbler felt just like a normal Bix race day.

Hit the jump to read more about what it took to get this Warbler checked off for the year.

Kentucky Warbler found at Tawny Oaks Field Station, Edelstein, IL in July 2022

Before I go on, I will let you know that I might have to start using TWO hands to count the good Bix days. Did a quick check on the forecast up in Davenport for Saturday – 60’s overnight then 62-73 degrees (F) during the race with only a 4% chance of rain. Perfect would have had some cloud cover, but that’s just getting demanding. Contrary to that surprisingly positive weather outlook, this Kentucky was taken in a sticky, sweaty, sauna like, humid, pressure cooker valley at Tawny Oaks in Edelstein, IL.

Kentucky Warbler found at Tawny Oaks Field Station, Edelstein, IL in July 2022

Ron had come down for a small Fourth of July gathering on the 3rd. We caught a little birding in Jubilee College State Park earlier that day before the guests arrived and planned a full birding day on the 4th. Actually we also did some post-midnight birding at Jubilee after the guests had left in an attempt to get Ron a Barred Owl for our “Average Year” (link here). I think the local fireworks might have scared them off as we came up empty. The last time I was at Tawny Oaks (looking for American Woodcocks link here), I found a Barred Owl out and about in late afternoon. Never really birded the trails out there and figured it was a good opportunity to explore. Probably should have checked weather out before picking that place. It didn’t take long for it to get ridiculously hot… and kept getting hotter and hotter as we made our way to the valley floor. That was not the worst part. The Mosquitoes were swarming, licking their stickers for some well-cooked flesh. Always good to know your torture limits – tie me to a chair, rip off my shirt, spray Axe body spray on me and bring in a plexiglass container full of f’n Mosquitoes while emitting a maniacal laugh. “Yes, I admit it, I like watching Pitch Perfect – now get me out of here!!!!!!”. I jest of course (while looking around like the members of the band Stillwater recovering from weather turbulence hitting their tour plane).

Kentucky Warbler found at Tawny Oaks Field Station, Edelstein, IL in July 2022

We did stop and put on another coat of DEET. Having learned about Merlin from a lady up at Montrose, both our phones were out scanning for targets. All of a sudden the Kentucky Warbler flashed on both of our displays. The heat took a backseat, there was a +1 for the year hanging out here that we assumed was missed for the year after canceling the Dauphin Island migration trip.

Frustrating! We were not able to locate it. It is pretty dense down there and it sounded like it was a bit off the trail. Gave in and started the climb back up. Came to a split in the path – one went further out, one continued on to the parking lot. Probably a hundred yards down the trail opposite the parking lot, Ron jinxed us and mentioned it looked like rain. You know it, I know it and now the damn clouds know we know it AAARRRRGGGHHHHH. A quick check of the radar showed one nasty storm heading our way, so we retraced our steps and took the other fork….ten feet later we were absolutely poured on. That was when my ankle was still really sore and trying to hold traction on the steep muddy hills was incredibly painful. Soaking wet we made it to the pavilion where we waited out what turned out to be two fronts.

Kentucky Warbler found at Tawny Oaks Field Station, Edelstein, IL in July 2022

Still had some day left, so we dropped back into the valley in one last attempt to find that … should probably go with “this” Kentucky Warbler. It was hanging out in the same place as before, but this time it came out alongside the trail giving us a few chances to tin it. Probably hoping we would stir up some insects for dinner. They are known for following Army Ant marches and snatching any prey that scatters on their approach. What little light that was able to make it through the lingering clouds was having a difficult time cutting through the dense canopy. You can see the grain from the high ISO, but amazed we could get uncluttered shots of it in between the black swarms of Mosquitoes.

It took a lot of sweat, some strain on the ankle, a hell of a soaking and a dunking of DEET, but we got it done and got the check for the year! Need to wrap it there to start packing for the race. Hoping to get the final post out sometime before the race..until then, stay cool!

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