As we are practically at the end of November, I’m starting to feel the pressure as I’m in a race against time. December is a mess with a planned travel early in the month, all the holiday events and then we head south to give our bones a rest from the harsh Midwest chill. That leaves little leeway to everything I “need” much less “want” to get done. The Average Year (link here) is coming to a close and what I thought was an impossible mark to hit – 300 – it now feels incredibly close. Currently sitting at 288, a mere 12 new birds away. Unfortunately, my easy options are pretty much tinned. Linda has a plan that might just push me over. The other race is more literal. For several years now, my running goal has been at least 1200 miles per year. Took a hit when I badly injured my left ankle and my running days were put on hold helping Mother the best we could (link here). With all that. I am still only ~64 miles away which should be doable (predicting a couple long runs in the snow). Lastly there is the sprint to get my “official” NA Bird Life List increased to hit a year-end goal. I have a lot of new lifer birds in the tin thanks to our trip to Texas in January and as a result of our efforts in the Average Year (51 in the latter alone). In a personal decision often regretted, “official” checks also require a featured here at Intrigued.
Not sure how many I am going to have a chance to get to before January, but I did want to at least get through the rarities from the January trip (to make room for all the new rarities in our upcoming trip ha). Let’s start by racing for a gold medal err, make that a crown.
Hit the jump to read more about this rather rare Warbler to the US.
You would think that someone who is retired would have plenty of extra time over the year to get stuff done – especially items sitting on the top of his to-do list since the first day of the new year. What has turned out to be a surprising development, it feels like I am BUSIER than when I was in the career grinder. No idea how this is happening … but it is. Every day I’d wake up, check the list of things to get done that day, tell myself that it is finally time to get the 2021 blog summary done and then somehow get to the end of the night without it being checked off. Procrastination isn’t a trait I would willingly label myself with, but when I choose to .. I like to think I’m the best at it ha. 11 months later we can finally scratch that item off the list. One big catalyst is we are nearing the time when I need to produce the 2022 summary – which needs the calcs from the 2021 summary to complete – what a sticky mess.
Unfortunately, 2021 isn’t as fresh as it once was and thus difficult to really go into detail. I can call out the highlights. Covid was starting to lift and the race season was trickling up to speed. Managed to erase a large blemish on my ultra race record by completing the 30K CMAR race (link here). No worries about the heat this year, but it was replaced by 6 hours of nonstop raining that flooded the course. At one point I was thinking the heat would be better ugh. With that success, upped my game and took on the 50 mile Farmdale ultra. Can honestly say the 50K was a cakewalk compared to the 50 miler (link here). Made it through, but it took a LOT out of me and added another doctor’s visit to my list due to a badly injured ankle.
The birding front went very well this year. Set a stretch goal of hitting the 300 mark for lifers. As you probably already know by now, it requires a recognizable picture and a feature here on Intrigued to officially get the check. Took me until the last part of December, but got it done! Excited for what ’22 will bring.
Following on from the previous year’s goal, a heavy emphasis was placed on increasing the awareness of Intrigued. This was the 14th year of blogging and feel we are really hitting our stride in both overall image products and content. Really seeing that effort pay off this year with the huge increase in readership and comments. Note, we even figured out that WordPress has been undercounting those stats and were shocked how good they really were – we will be doing our own stats from now on. For the existing fans as well as the new followers, we are truly thankful and honored you are willing to spend the one thing that is the most valuable in our lives – ‘time’. I am also thankful for all the great bloggers out there that keep me entertained, push me to get better on every post and motivate me every year to keep going.
A few quick shout outs. Ron is a big part of the Intrigued operation. We often get the chance to get out in the field together where he is continually finding birds I might have missed, always willing to help me in the ID phase and graciously there to take on any predators that might attack us…well, he’s there, I won’t be hehehe. Brad M. is always there to point out syntax errors that somehow still make it through the gauntlet of checks each post goes through prior to release. In my defense, I graduated from an engineering college where we dealt more with numbers and letters that were primarily of Greek origin hehehe. There are rumors Brad might become a full time Intrigued member in ’22 …. shhhhh, don’t tell anyone yet! Then there is Linda – our birding whisperer, travel guide, itinerary planner and overall business coordinator that keeps this site stocked with topics. She won’t admit it publicly, but she has become quite the birder as well.
Well, it is time to look back on ’21 and bring you the performance stats. If you are curious about the details, hit the jump to see the 2021 Life Intrigued blogs stats and accomplishments (mothership and the wild side).
Thanks again to all my readers that keep me committed month after month.
To our readers based in the States (or at least hailing from the States) we extend a hearty Happy Thanksgiving! For those of you that do not officially celebrate this particular holiday, or at least maybe not at this point in the year, we wish you a Happy Thank’Em Day – basically a “Festivus for the Restofyou”. In the official Holiday, we typically adorn our tables with feasts of plenty anchored by the traditional plump, flightless domesticated Turkey. While partaking in said feast, we pay respect and gratefulness for those who helped us become what we are today, those that continue to keep us on the right path and for all those that we may never meet in person, but whose sacrifices, insights, creativity and other benefiting acts that contribute to our current state of living. Thank’Em Day is nearly equivalent. We still extend our appreciation for all the same things, just doesn’t include the bountiful feast (10 out of 10 Turkeys surveyed much prefer this alternative ha!).
Without further ado, I would like to start by giving my “Thank Yous” to our family. This has been a really tough year for Linda and I as we have both lost close and cherished family members. It’s the deep family bonds that really shine during these times and having their kind shoulders to lean on when times are darkest is the clearest definition of love. The same goes for our friends – some we’ve had the honor of building upon from childhood playgrounds, others gained later in life, all there to lend a hand when you need it, convert a frown to a smile, provide valuable advice when decisions need extra scrutiny and, for those in the close circle, even willing to ride along on a late night run to the “Train Station”.
And to our faithful Intrigued readers, many of them who have become dear friends over the years thanks to this forum, we want to let you know just how appreciated you are. Your interest in our tins and ramblings keeps us motivated in the field and continue to make this blog thingy just as exciting as it was when we started out nearly 16 years ago. Your kind comments and insights helped us to successfully grow the Wildlife side and will continue to guide us as we expand into more nature related themes.
None of this would be possible without Linda (shhhh, don’t tell her though) who is more often than not our field guide, bird whisperer, personnel transporter, trip planner, food provider and predator distracter … I mean LOOK OUT. My brother Ron is a huge contributor to Intrigued. Not only was he the inspiration for starting this whole blogging adventure, he’s always willing to head out into the field, helping to educate me on birds, assisting with difficult IDs, tick magnet and continually pushes me to improve my “skillz” (“You call that a picture of a bird, I painted better images with finger paints in kindergarten”). A heaping amount of gratitude to our Intrigued staff who toil away night and day to make us look good. (eh, with exception to our Pain-in-the-Ass lawyer pool ha). That includes a special thanks to Brad Marks (and his support staff) who recently came on board and is already giving us fantastic posts from his many adventures (not to mention catches a lot of my typos). Oh, and I can’t forget to express my appreciation for my intern (Linda “you can keep trying all you want, but I already told you a thousand times you are NOT getting an intern!!”) – think of that as a future shout out hehehehe.
Now for the most important thing I’m grateful for today ….
I actually have new pictures of Wild Turkeys for today’s post!
Hit the jump to find out some quick background on our honoree of the day!
While Brad is at the controls on the wild side, I’m trying my best to get caught up on the race posts for the ’22 season. This was a relatively light year for official races with only three. Linda had a number of out of state agility shows which conflicted with some of the local races and, to be honest, most of my focus was on the 100K ultra race (link here). Road races have lost their luster with me now that the call of the trail has taken hold. For nostalgia purposes I still like competing in the Bix 7 race as that was the first race that kicked off my running career (link here). The plan was just two races, but then Linda noticed the Screaming Pumpkin had come back for the first time since 2014. After years and years of practically begging, one of my favorite races themed in my favorite holiday was once again open for business.
Hit the jump to read more about this haunted cemetery run
Howdy folks! Not sure what it is like in your setting, but in our parts – it’s damn cold. As a gauge, my last two training runs have been on the treadmill. Guess what I HATE more than anything else…Christmas commercials before Halloween has arrived, BUT, running on a treadmill is easily second highest on my multi-volume set of things that make my blood “boil”. I enjoy running in the snow, tolerate running in sleet and fight through temps into the teens, however, 20mph winds pushing windchills into the single digits can freeze-“burn” the lungs right out of my chest. Reluctantly, tied on the Summer shoes, cranked up the conveyor belt and caught up on several streaming shows – harder that it sounds since I had to strain to hear over the body constantly nagging “Can we go OUTSIDE now!, how about now, I know what we should do..let’s go out there, please, please, pretty please, you know, real mean train outdoors, the ballet called, they want their tutu back, is that your picture next to the ‘wuss’ entry in the dictionary?!?” My body doesn’t even whine that much during ultra races. In an effort to save my sanity and maybe help push the mercury up (do kids even know what that means anymore?) let’s all toast our toes over lava with the second part of Brad’s post on Hawaiian volcanoes.
Take it away Brad…
Brief recap. Twenty years spanning vacations to the Big Island. Halema’uma’u crater relatively stable. Blah Blah Blah. At the end of our last episode as we left our intrepid volcanic crater in the Spring of 2018, hell was breaking loose. Literally.
The first sign that something big was happening in 2018 was on April 30th when the lava in the Overlook crater at the Kilauea summit dropped significantly. This meant that the magma had rapidly drained away from the summit and, based on the earthquake trail, was moving rapidly to the East Rift Zone. To help with the scale of the next part of this article, please visit the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) site to see a map of the East Rift Zone. I’ll wait while you go check out the map (humming a popular game show theme song). Halema’uma’u crater is to the lower left of this graphic. Here’s a re-post from a prior article. It is a wildlife and adventure blog after all. This trio was captured flying over the caldera on our last day on the island this year. Remember, Nene prefer to walk everywhere and do not normally need to fly. Just goes to show how large the caldera really is.
In a bit of a surprise, Brad has managed to bring us a two-part post. I have no idea how he had time to crank out not one, but TWO posts with all our new Intrigued employee required training that is just short of 30 online classes, two instruction led workshops and a week long retreat. Included in this curriculum: Information Security, Data Privacy, GDPR, Data Classification, Industrial Waste Management, Prohibitive Harassment (unless target is a lawyer), Insider Trading, Office Ethics: How Not to Embarrass Your Boss in Public (there are some Twitter employees that would benefit from our 2 day course), Corporate Assets Usage (jet, carpool, yacht, big wheel, unicycle, pogo stick, jacuzzi), Lawyer Hell Week (first rule of Hell Week, don’t talk about Hell Week), Performance Reviews, Incentive Compensation (I see Brad already added another “craptastic” check in this post!), Intrigued Birding Rules (link here), a complete viewing of the Monty Python comedy series and Field Safety 101 which includes a very useful workshop on how to properly swing (and if needed avoid) a tripod to escape a wild animal attack – hint, you do not use it on the animal. I’m exhausted just thinking about the workload. While I head off for some rest and a fruity drink with an umbrella in it, enjoy part 1 of Brad’s very “hot” topic.
Take it away Brad….
By now you may have noticed a few guest posts about birds and turtles on the Hawaiian Islands. We have been fortunate to have been able to visit the islands several (more than a few, less than many) times. We’ve also visited Volcanoes National Park each time we are on the Big Island of Hawai’i. Who doesn’t like walking around on an active volcano?! We’ve seen dramatic changes inside Volcanoes National Park. I’m not talking about new parking stripes, or the remodeled Volcano House. I’m talking about geological changes that can take thousands or millions of years to occur. For example, Pikes Peak in Colorado looks pretty much exactly the same as it did 100 years ago, except for the new Visitor Center at the summit and the kitschy shops around its base. The same could be said about the Kilauea caldera on the Big Island the prior hundred years. Even Tom Sawyer’s creator, Mark Twain, seemed unimpressed at first with the Kilauea caldera saying it was “a wide level black plain” and that it was like “a large cellar – nothing more”. Twain was unimpressed until he realized the scale of what he was seeing. The “place looked a little larger and a little deeper every five minutes” he said. Since the Halema’uma’u crater appeared in the early 1920’s there have been precious few large-scale changes. That’s why after reviewing photos from our most recent visit this past August, I realized how much had changed since the prior visit in 2015. And how much had changed from the visits prior to that. Here’s my attempt at explaining or illustrating the changes we have witnessed over the 20 years of visiting Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. (time for a gratuitous volcano photo from 2010)
Howdy everyone! Big thanks to Brad for his latest contribution to the wild side. Apparently those Crabbies can be devious – you bad Crabbie, very very very bad Crabbie! (my end of year bonus also includes Seinfeld references, not just Monty Python .. cha-ching link here). The plan was to get both my race recaps done while Brad held down the fort – lazy Bri only finished one, but it was a biggie. If you need some material to help you get to sleep the long and dry recap of the bittersweet 100K ultra attempt is now posted (link here). Should get the other race done by the end of the week. With all the hoopla around the acquisition of a certain “blue bird” company, thought it would be a perfect time to bring out today’s featured feathered friend.
Let me guess, you thought it was going to be a “blue” bird – well, maybe at least some bluish hue to it. Nope! Our bird is colorful, but no blue. So, why is this such a perfect time to feature this particular bird … could it be Elon’s favorite bird..hit the jump and I’ll explain everything.
Brad is currently holding down the fort over on the wild side of Intrigued giving me a chance to tie up some loose ends here on the mothership. Two of those pressing items are recent race recaps that took a backseat during the Halloween season. The first of these is the big one for the year – the attempt at the 100K ultra (a bit over 60 miles for those not familiar with those units). As a side note, this week I finally came to terms with my interest in this self-torture cleverly sugarcoated as mere “trail running”. In the past I’ve always quipped it was really training for dangerous encounters while chasing wildlife in the field. That isn’t exactly true, as all I really need to be is faster than the slowest person in the group – if Ron is with me…well, let’s just say I don’t need to run for over 14 hours to make it to safety. After this week I’m changing my response to “So I can deal with the fall leaf cleanup”. Pretty much 5 days straight for 5+ hours at a time battling the tree carnage – legs spent, arms spent, abs spent matching how I felt after the Farmdale Ultra Trail Run.
This year the race was held on October 9th/10th which puts it exactly one week after our big Halloween Haunted Trail event. Definitely not ideal timing as the haunt takes a lot of out of me. Adding to the difficulties, we had to make a trip out to Wichita, KS for a wedding, forcing taper a week earlier than usual. Managed to get the trail taken down during the first part of race week and added in a few small runs just to make sure the body was still oiled. By the time we headed to the course (day before the race start) everything was feeling relatively good – a big relief.
Should probably set the stage with some details on the race strategy. Technically, this particular ultra does not have an official 100K, instead, they offer a 10K, 1/2, 30M, 50M and the pinnacle 100M. Two years ago I completed the 30M (link here), last year my first 50M (link here) and this year I was officially signed up again for the 50M – yep, that’s short of the 62 for the 100K mark. As tradition goes, they offer upping to the 100M once you complete the 50M – one catch, if you take their offer, you give up the 50M accomplishment (and the buckle) and if you do not finish the additional 50M, then you go home with a big ol’ DNF for all your hard work. Get where I’m going here? Correct, I was going to toss the 50M finish and add an additional loop to put me at the 100K distance and then take the DNF because at the moment, that 100M is beyond my abilities (maybe in a year or two). This also gave me a safety net, if for some reason the extra loop was out of reach, I could simply take the win at the 50M mark – as Linda will attest, I like options!
Hit the jump for more details on how this race strategy played out!
With the day after day pressures subsiding I’m finally getting to work on Linda’s .. I mean my to-dos. Tops on that list is to battle the leaf invasion that has managed to break through my first line ranks and now pouring over the castle walls with reckless abandonment. The paired night (or high wind/rain) task is to get caught up on the Mothership with some very late race recaps and more than likely some haunt tutorials sprinkled in. While I’m tending to those, S.W. Brad is ready with a “ghostly” observation from the Hawaiian Islands.
Take it away Brad!
On the first morning of our first ever vacation to a tropical island in 2000, the last thing you might think to do is to rise early. However, when your body clock is off by five hours and thinks it’s noon, you get out of bed even though the sun isn’t up yet. (BTW, in the tropics there’s only a little more than 13 hours of sunlight in the summer, and up to 11 hours in the winter time, go figure) Ambitious you say? Jet lagged I say. At the time, I was in the habit of having a mug of honey ginseng green tea with a dash of local honey in the morning before work. Jan had already been awake and moving for an hour or more. After steeping my first mug of tea for the day, I walked the 100-feet from our condo to the beach. Lucky for us, the condo on Kauai was on a beach on the east side of the island, which means we’d get a perfect view of the sunrise each morning. My primary goal that day was to watch my first Hawaiian sunrise and see if the green flash was a myth. (It’s not a myth, by the way, check here as one of a hundred potential resources)
As I stood watching the sky brighten in anticipation of sunrise, I noticed a lot of sand seemingly moving by itself. I worked my way closer to see if I could figure out what was happening.
Welcome to November everyone! Granted we are a few days into it, but I’ve finally managed to make it to surface for some badly needed air. Halloween has past (long live the haunt!), sadness has been overwhelmed by cherished memories and, as of last Saturday, my race season has likely come to a close unless a race in the snow happens to catch my fancy. Although we are likely a ways from the ground sticking fluffy stuff, Bri needs some time for rest and healing – the 100K race left its mark. Now the focus turns to getting back to “normal” and the first order of business is feathers.
I know some of you were wondering when we were going to get back to our featured feathered friends .. after all, this is a blog that is supposed to be about all things wild. In my defense, zombie encounters can get a bit wild if you don’t have a long pointy stick to pop them in the head with. Today’s featured shorebird has absolutely no fear of running into the walking dead. They just causally walk up to the animated corpse and “bill” them in the head.
Hit the jump to learn more about our natural born “zombie killer”.