Just sitting here relaxing a bit before tomorrow’s race. Giving the ankle one last rest before strapping on the Nimbus’ and walking to the bottom of Brady Street hill in Davenport Iowa for my 18th running of the Bix 7. Quite shocked the weather gods decided to take pity on us and give us some decent temps for a change. One of my faithful readers mentioned in a comment she was familiar with the race and noted the winners usually hail from Kenya (or Ethiopia). Don’t be fooled, they are all training at top tier schools in the US. It is true, they definitely dominate the podiums at this race, but typically they are not prepared for the humidity that accompanies this race (as well as the Steamboat Race in June link here). I am always surprised to see how hard they are having to push themselves as they are returning up the 2 mile hill as I’m coming down – yes, I’m at around the 2.5 mile mark and they are heading into their 5th mile. An elite road runner I am NOT! My speed days are long past replaced with the fun of grinding out ultra distances. There are not that many road races that interest my anymore, however, the Bix was the first race I ever entered and hands down it has the BEST post race party of any event out there. Linda is from Davenport and told me about this race when I was looking for something to fill the gap when I hung up my gi.
Good weather, a course completely lined with onlookers cheering us on (yes, even the slow ones like me), a distance that should be a walk in the park for me and a great afterparty – can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday. Oh, did I mention that Linda participates as well – they have a two mile option that takes you up the .8 mile long steep hill at the start and then directs you back down at the next block. Wish us luck!
In honor of the stress free Bix distance, thought I would feature a real “walk in the park” for today’s final post of the month.
Hit the jump to see this small collection of shots that normally would have gone straight to the archives.
It is likely you have noticed by now, but we here at Intrigued tend to focus on a single species for our wildlife posts. This gives us a chance to stretch out and bring a more thorough look at whatever bird, insect or animal that makes it onto our radar (and in or tins of course). We try to give you various perspectives and usually something interesting about the pursuit or intriguing facts you can take with you into the field. That also means a lot of shots go straight to archive if I didn’t get enough to fill a post. Going to change it up today and bring out some of those shots at the expense of depth. If you like the variety, let me know and I’ll try to do more of these in the future.
To start things off we have the Common Yellowthroat or as I like to say, the Hamburglar of the Birding World (link here). Second only to the Field Sparrow when it comes to easily identifiable songs, the Wichety, Wichety, Wichety chorus rings out across all our prairies. This specimen was busy singing away just a few weeks back at Jubilee College State Park.
Jubilee has a really nice prairie/wildflower habitat that is filled with the standard Midwestern fare. There has been a recovery of sorts of our next spotlight. The Eastern Bluebird was becoming scarce around here 10 or 15 years ago. A local birder/naturalist decided to try and do something about that and started putting up nest boxes at a number of local parks and wildlife sanctuaries. In tribute to his hard work, it is nearly impossible to go to places like Jubilee and not see at least a pair. This male was keeping a watchful eye on me to make sure I didn’t mess with his selected box.
In contrast, the American Goldfinch has has no population issues in this timeframe. Their sunshine coloring brightens up all our fields and brings smiles to our faces as they belt out their sweet chorus.
I also appreciate the fact they are quite comfortable with people hauling big glass into the field. A lot of birds will get a bit jumpy when they see a big o’l black barrel pointed directly at them, often taking flight just before you hit the shutter button. These Goldens will take perch in highly visible places and linger there while you get your settings dialed in – how gracious of them.
Completely opposite to the Goldfinches are the Scarlet Tanagers (link here). I noted in their feature post how surprised I was that the Scarlet we found at Dauphin Island was so accommodating to us. Low and close, two things not often associated with Tanagers in general. They are canopy birds and often heard but not seen. Even if you do finally spot one, getting an unobstructed shot is harder than finding an unbiased journalist. Ron and I were at Jubilee College SP defending our mancards from batsized Horseflies when the Scarlet song came up on our Merlin app. Ron already had this bird in the tin this year, but it was a huge miss on my list. We probably spent an hour plus trying to locate that bird – hear the song, move to the suspected tree, hear it down the trail, dash down to locate it, damn thing starts singing back up the trail… and on and on until Ron spotted it fly high over his head and off into another part of the woods DAMMIT. If I didn’t know better I think he was purposely trying to scare it off …just saying.
Frustrated, we finally had to call it as guests were coming over for a small 4th of July gathering. Annoyed, I went back to that same place two days later (without Ron) and once again Merlin signaled its presence. I was bound and determined to get this in the tin. At one point I was up to my armpits in weeds trying to get an angle on it. It finally took pity on me and dropped down just long enough for me to claim it for this year’s check. What a relief, clawed away some of the gap between us. “Competitive birding” who?, whaaa?, me? crazy talk.
Our next specimen comes to you courtesy of Tawny Oaks Visitor Center. If you recall, that is where the Kentucky Warbler was captured in the previous post. After being poured on, we were making our way down into the valley when we spotted this Thrush. Several Thrushes are already checked off our list for this year, but the Wood had eluded us this far. The problem with Thrushes, finding one is only half the battle, figuring out which one can be just as daunting. There are unique traits about each. Some you need to see the fronts, other the backs or tail feathering and one requires a good luck at the cheek. This one thankfully started singing for us and Merlin quickly verified we had found the Wood variety. A good check for each of us for the year.
The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird below was found while we were waiting under the pavilion for the two storms fronts to pass while at Tawny. As you would expect, there were plenty of dark clouds about, making for a dark setting. This Hummer came flying up and landed on an open branch maybe 30 feet from us. Grabbed The Beast, cranked up the ISO and took a few shots as a reference when we made our eBird entry. In the midst of getting those shots, the Hummer lit up its throat (yes, technically it just shifted its prismed feathers, but quite shocking to see it still have that much brilliance in such a drab setting. Must have caught a single ray of light that had fought through the cloud’s defenses.
Lastly, throwing in another new bird for the year, the Chimney Swift. This specimen was actually found in the Tawny Oaks parking lot and the first check on our field list. At first we didn’t think much about it as we have almost all the local Swallows checked off this year. Once again Merlin came to our aid and properly ID’d the previously overlooked blurs that were busy patrolling back and forth. Now we knew what it was… getting a picture of one was a completely different story. Over the years, Ron and I have learned to stand a few feet away from each other in the field – all that sweating, unexpected trips into horse patties, quick escapes if a stranger corners one of us with birding questions or extra distance should a Bear want a snack….or perhaps just because we value our skulls. Perfect example with aerial acrobats like these creatures you tend to whip your cameras all over the place just trying to get the autofocus to lock on one. Stand too close and WHACK – barrel upside the noggin.
Note, ANY comments that might imply this has or would be done intentionally to keep your brother from getting the check are pure lies (you know, like the ones that say we are not in a recession). Eeesh, getting late and probably should get some good sleep tonight. Hope you enjoyed the slight change of pace for today’s post. See you again after the race!