Giving Thanks with Bearded Ladies

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 ….

Wild Turkey found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, TX in January 2022

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!

Continue reading Giving Thanks with Bearded Ladies

Victory in a Screaming Defeat

Screaming Pumpkin Half Marathon Prediction Run October 29th, 2022

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

Continue reading Victory in a Screaming Defeat

Tweety Bird

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.

Social Flycatcher found at University of Texas Rio Grande Valley in January 2022

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.

Continue reading Tweety Bird

Natural Born Zombie Killer

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.

Long-Billed Curlew found at South Padre Island in December 2016

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.

Long-Billed Curlew found at South Padre Island in December 2016

Hit the jump to learn more about our natural born “zombie killer”.

Continue reading Natural Born Zombie Killer

A Face Only a Mother Could Love…by Brad Marks

Welcome everyone. I have to apologize for being a bit out of pocket lately and probably going to be spotty for an unknown amount of time going forward. Linda’s oldest brother is not doing well and need to focus on helping her and the family where I can. In the meantime I am going to put you back in the very capable hands of Brad for this and likely a few others as we close out the month.

Take it away Brad!

When I was in middle school (summer 1977) my dad took my sister and I to see Yellowstone National Park and the American West.  He wanted us to experience the park as he did in the summer of 1960.  After driving from central Illinois for what seemed like weeks we arrived at Yellowstone.  He took us on a Readers’ Digest tour of the park, driving the whole loop in just one day.  We did get to see Old Faithful, the Paint Pots, lower Yellowstone Falls, and a bison or hundred.  But as night fell, we exited the East entrance for my great aunt’s house outside the park.  (BTW, after he passed, I found the slides he took while we were there in 1977 as well as those from his trip in the 1960.  Now I have photos of Yellowstone from 1960, 1977, and 2008.  While the park structures haven’t changed much, the car styles and photo quality sure have.)

Fast forward a bit to 2008, I thought it might be fun to take our family on a driving tour to see a few of the larger National Parks in the western United States.  Since they are so far apart, we wanted to see as many as time and patience allowed.  My daughter said “Dad, it’s just a bunch of rocks, do we have to spend so much time there?”  Being the parent, and rather enthusiastic about the parks I said “Of course we do, it will be educational!”  Instead of driving we flew to Salt Lake City where we rented a car and drove to Yellowstone to stay for three days.  When we were leaving Yellowstone, my daughter asked if we could stay a few more days.  I said “I thought you said it’s just rocks”.  She said “yeah, but these rocks are so cool!”  We drove 700 miles from the June snows of Yellowstone to the 100+ degree temps of Moab, UT for Canyonlands and Arches National Parks for a few days.  More cool rocks!  And the finale, not because of grandeur but mostly because of geography and our travel route, was two days at the Grand Canyon. 

Fast forward to Spring 2022.  When we were planning a visit to western Colorado with our daughter and her boyfriend, she asked if we can visit Arches National Park.  I said it’s just a bunch of rocks. But she then said “yes, but they are really cool rocks!”  Actually, it has been very fun and rewarding to watch her grow into a very cool adult. I could write a whole series of articles on that original six state 4,000-mile driving trip, but that’s a whole different story (maybe a future multi-part series here if Brian starts training for another 100k run).   This article is on one solitary creature; the largest living land bird in North America and some say so ugly it has a face only a mother could love.

California Condor by Brad Marks

Hit the jump to read more about Brad’s ug….hmmmm… let’s go with “inner beautiful” feature.

Continue reading A Face Only a Mother Could Love…by Brad Marks

Hell’s and Bell’s

Greetings my blogger friends! Pretty much a hodge podge of a post today. It has been very busy here at Intrigued and wanted to do a bit of housekeeping to get everything “cleaned up” before we start transitioning into colder temps – well, should probably clarify that as “consistently” colder temps as we had our first flurries of the season a few days ago and we’ve been dipping into nightly frost zones. Been some cold runs lately as well. Good news is it will be back in the 70s for the weekend and then after that, who knows.

While recovering from the ultra beat down, I’ve been able to tick off a few items on the to-do list. First, I finally got my Birding Life List updated – per the updated nav-bar on the left, sitting at 317 (plenty more already in the tin, but they have to be featured here to get the tick). Then went and updated the Birding Chronicles page (link here) with the latest on the “Average Year” efforts. Ron has closed the gap and sits at 280 to my 284 (he might even have two more from a recent outing).

With that out of the way, I moved onto the newest signature prop for the Haunted Trail of Tears. This year, there was a new fancy entryway to set the stage.

Haunted Trail of Tears Pumpkin Arch 2022

It took a good 10 months to bring that arch to reality and admittedly pretty proud of it. I’ve spent a lot of time learning how to produce video tutorials on my new YouTube channel (link here), unfortunately, wasn’t versed enough to bring it to bear on this build. If you are interested on how this arch came to be, I’ve put a 4 part series up on the mothership which goes through every detail.

Part 1 – Pumpkin Creation (link here)
Part 2 – Pumpkin Arch Structure (link here)
Part 3 – Arch Columns (link here)
Part 4 – Putting It All Together (link here)

Next up was starting to chip away at the Haunted Trail Recap. Probably going to be a while before I can get to the detailed walk throughs, but I did manage to get the Gallery published with shots taken during the prep, build, day walker and night scare. Those captures can be found on our Smugmug site (link here). Note, there are several pages with over 300 images. My partner in haunt, Paul, made another great video to give you a feel for what the trail is like – Beware, someone opened the Gates of Hell!

Bri’s been one busy guy! A big thanks to Brad for filling in with some great posts while I was recovering and getting caught up on the to-do list.

Didn’t want to leave you hanging without a wildlife post, so hit the jump to read about today’s featured feathered friend.

Continue reading Hell’s and Bell’s

Bat Country

Hello my wonderful readers!! It has been a while for me – at least on the wild side of Intrigued. Before I go any further, want to give a big thanks to Brad for filling in while I focused on the haunted trail and more importantly, trying to get back on my feet after last weekend’s beat down. He has really upped our game and brought us some great adventures. Based on all the positive comments, we hope to transition Brad from “lifeline status” to regular contributor. Hoping he is up for it! Just need to negotiate some of the details (hazard pay, office size, profit sharing percentages, film stipend, number of ultras required to compete in a year, access to corporate jet, bonuses for weaving “craptastic” into posts etc.).

I will likely cover the race in more detail in a future post, so I’ll just sum it up with “imagine being stapled to a chicken trying to cross an eight lane highway”. Cold, wet, beaten, bruised, blistered and at some point you eventually ask yourself why they hell am I stapled to a chicken. The results were bittersweet. I came up a mere 10 miles short of the 100K, but shaved nearly 2 hours off my 50 mile time and won my age group. Pretty bummed I didn’t hit the main goal, but when I hit 50M Linda gave me the stern “you’re done” look. Normally I’d fight her, but essential parts were bleeding/oozing and that last loop would have likely been 3 hours of intense pain. This one smarts a little as I rarely miss a goal. I owe a big thanks to the encouragement everyone extended leading up to the test!

Okay, back to why you are really here – to read Brad’s latest adventure ha! Time for me to suck it up and get back to work. Bringing you a special feature today that I’ve been saving for this very month. Give a great big welcome to my latest +1.

Bat Falcon found at Santa Ana NWR, Texas in January 2022

How cool is that!!! Eeesh, guess it is a little hard to make out. There’s a good reason for that – Ron and I were standing in near darkness at our southern border trying to get this uber-rare bird in the tin. I was trying every trick in the book, crank up the ISO, ratchet up the aperture, drive shutter speed to dangerous levels, stand on one leg, blood sacrifice to the camera gods…pretty ugly. How about a visual aid.

Bat Falcon found at Santa Ana NWR, Texas in January 2022

There, now you can at least tell it is a bird – and with a major clue to what species.

Take your best guess and hit the jump to reveal the mystery guest.

Continue reading Bat Country

Best of the Rest While I Rest to be the Best

I’m back, well, kinda. As the saying goes, rumors of my demise are [somewhat] exaggerated. The good news is I am past the first of the two events that have been consuming every available second night and day. We held our annual Halloween Haunted Trail event over the weekend. I am rating it as a complete success based on some of the feedback we have been receiving on various social media outlets. Some of my readers made it to the event, so I’ll let them chime in on the comments on how they think it went. Ron and his son even came down a day early to help me out as some of my usual volunteers were unable to help this year – that was a huge assist along with Brad providing guest posts so I could focus on the trail. Finally got the haunted trail torn down and in our outbuilding late this afternoon – will move to packing phase after the second of the two stressful events is over. Focus now shifts to the 100K ultra that launches at 5am this coming Saturday. Need to heal some tweaks, get some rest and see what I can do about the 5 pounds I lost putting the trail together. I don’t mind being a little lighter to carry the large hills, but that is a bit more than I am comfortable with. I’ll cover these two endeavors in future posts, right now I just wanted to get something out so you don’t forget about me ha! The good news is Brad has been gracious to give me a few more features to use as I get closer to race time. Enough gabbing, time to get on with your regularly scheduled programming.

Dickcissal found at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie, Wilmington IL in May 2016

Hit the jump to see more of the rest.

Continue reading Best of the Rest While I Rest to be the Best

Guest Feature: Hawai’i State Bird…by Brad Marks

Well, the good news is we made it back from Witchita..I mean Wichita yesterday after 10 long hours passing through corn field after cornfield. Pulled into the driveway, bolted into the house, changed and managed to get another training run in. Perfect conditions for the latter half of the actual race – dead tired, legs and back sore from sitting so long and temps dropping as fast as the sun. Now it’s Halloween trail 7×28 (need to find a way to squeeze a few more hours out of each day). Clearly going to be a struggle to get my required posts up with the current pace of things, so pressed the bat signal once again. Brad once again came to my aid – actually, more than came to my aid, brought me not one, but TWO features to help fill the gaps (and I think he is working on another one for you). Cannot thank him enough for the assist and I know you will enjoy this second adventure. I’m going to head back into the woods now and try to get a nasty clown infestation under control – happens every year right before the big party, sigh. Time to step aside and let Brad take the helm once again. Take care and see you down the road.

……Take it away Brad

We were fortunate enough to recently enjoy a lengthy vacation on the Big Island of Hawai’i.  Our daughter and her boyfriend were able to join us for the first week.  We spent time on the beaches, snorkeled, took coffee & chocolate plantation tours, and went to a luau.  We drove to the mountains and stayed overnight on the volcano.  We hiked many miles over hardened lava and through the rainforest and near the coast to see 500-year-old petroglyphs.  We watched every sunset possible and caught a few sunrises as well.

We probably went through a gallon of reef-safe sunscreen (OK, I probably did by myself).  We maximized the “unlimited mileage” on our rental car (a little over 2,000 miles total) even though the island is not much more than 90 miles across.  You would think the Hawai’i state bird would be as obvious as the Northern Cardinal is in our home state of Illinois.  You would be wrong.  We couldn’t see more than two up close until our last five hours on the island.

Nene from Brad Marks

Hit the jump to read more of Brad’s adventure.

Continue reading Guest Feature: Hawai’i State Bird…by Brad Marks

A Chick from the Land of Witches

Coming to you tonight from Wichita, Kansas. Had to pause my Haunted Trail efforts in order to run out here for a family wedding. Could not have come at a more inconvenient time, but I have been working night and day to hopefully get far enough ahead on the trail work to compensate for the loss of 4 crucial days. I have to admit, it has given me a bit of a rest – was starting to get drained, especially with trying to finish off the rest of the pre-taper training runs. Quite fitting we ended up here as Wichita is a Choctaw Native American Indian word that means “Land of Tall Witches”. Just guessing that they were good witches or this place would have more likely been called Wicheville. Before this mountain gets any bigger, how about we turn our attention to another kind of mountain.

Mountain Chickadee found at Lake Tahoe in May 2019

Hit the jump to see more shots of this tiny mountain of a bird – oh, and I should probably clear up some liberties as well.

Continue reading A Chick from the Land of Witches