March has turned out to be a very good month and we still have several days left! Thanks to our quick trip to Vegas, my Average Year status is now at 239 (link here) – that includes two local finds yesterday thanks to standing out in a large tree lined meadow waiting for the distinct peent of horny male American Woodcocks (link here – more sad memories). Call me 12, but I still laugh every single time I say or type out that name hehehe. The other +1 was more of a twist as it “found” me. I was just standing there noting it was getting surprisingly chilly as the sun was preparing for bed, when I noticed a fast moving bird heading across the meadow directly at me. Ever witness people just standing there taking it all in as a car or other potentially dangerous object speeds in their direction? This bird just kept coming, I just kept standing there, bird continues to close the gap, I continue to gawk, bird appears to be on a mission, I continue to ponder the history of flight, bird undeterred, I wonder if Ron is standing next to me (birds hate him), bird proceeds to whiz past my right ear and land on a nearby branch, I nearly crap my pants. What the hell was THAT! I turned to give it a stern talking to when I noticed it was a Fox Sparrow. Took a few snaps to get the +1 for the year and politely informed it a Top Gun flyby wasn’t necessary, a friendly wave would have been sufficient. I don’t speak bird, but I think it called me a ground hugging troglodyte and pointed to its wings – sigh.
That puts me a mere 61 birds away from the 300 goal for the year. Hoping to take a huge chunk out of that next week as we are heading down to Dauphin Island (and along the Panhandle) for some migration action. During that time we’ll be bringing you several posts from Brad including an adventure to a place Intrigued has never been before. Actually, Brad also influenced today’s featured post.
As promised, it is time to pop another offering from Brad’s growing queue. He has been working overtime to bring you a number of new adventures, many of which we will be releasing during my fast approaching migration trip. To wet your whistle, here is an adventure which happens to be closer to home. Note, I thought monopods were just for whacking faster runners when wildlife decides to make a S’more out of photographers. Who knew there was another purpose ha.
Take it away Brad…
Usually, these posts include some sort of travel or exotic location where there just happens to be a bird or three worth photographing. Brian heads to a bird sanctuary near the border in Texas. Jan and I have normally just returned from a fantastic vacation location. This time was a little bit different.
During our last trip to Colorado, I noticed my monopod (an aluminum Manfrotto 680B from the mid 2000’s) was slipping. It was having trouble supporting the weight of my Nikon 200-500 plus the D300 with battery grip. The middle section would slide down 4-5 inches, followed closely by the top section sliding 1-2 inches. I tried to tighten the joints with the plastic tool included with the monopod; no luck. When we arrived home, I discovered that parts are no longer available for this particular model. I also found several people on-line that had simply tightened the joints beyond what may be prudent. While that was not something I wanted to do, I wondered if the bolts had loosened because of usage. I grabbed my favorite metric socket set and loosened all the joints to look for debris. Finding none, I slowly tightened the bolts on the locking levers, about 1/16 of a turn each time. Try the joint. Adjust as necessary. Repeat. At some point I hit the magic friction point because the monopod stopped sliding with the lens/camera combo mounted on top. And it didn’t feel like I was going to snap off the locking levers. Now I had to verify the results.
Hit the jump to see the results of Brad’s verification efforts!
Howdy everyone! Good news, had my annual physical today and based on the results, I can, indeed, confirm I am still alive. It was touch ‘n go there for a while – especially when they had three nurses holding me down while another stuck a railroad spike in my arm to suck out gallons and gallons of my precious life-juice. I have to find out what strength regiment those ladies keep, holy cow, they’d mop up on the Steer wrangling circuit. A lot of stress to go through just to hear those sweet sounding 5 little words “Keep doing what you’re doing”. My doctor is trained well, as long as my numbers remain impeccable, he overlooks the occasional visit for ultra “mishaps”.
While I sip on some orange juice to recover from the earlier bloodletting (before heading out on today’s long training run), thought I would go ahead and get another post out for the month. This will buy me a few days as I verify everything is ready to go for Brad’s upcoming post. Since I introduced you to Guadalupe River State Park in the previous post, figured I would feature another feathered friend captured at that same location.
Hit the jump to read more about our buffy colored friend!
If things go as scheduled in the coming weeks (and that is a big fingers crossed) we should be back on the hunt come April. Last year we received some very sad news at this time requiring us to cancel our plans to catch the bird migration at Dauphin Island, Alabama (link here). To be honest, the loss has yet to transition from the “difficult” stage – every holiday, every noteworthy experience and every milestone that has happened since has been paired with a sour element knowing we wouldn’t be able to share it with her. That trip has now been rescheduled, although something tells me I’ll be thinking less about the Gulf crossers and more about the time spent trying to express the appreciation for all she had done for us. It is what I didn’t get the chance to say that saddens me the most.
With the coming travels, I am trying to stay on top of the posts in between working on the latest batches of images from Texas and now Vegas. I do have a pretty good safety net thanks to a number of really nice features Brad has added to the queue. I’ll definitely be rolling a few of those out this month and then leverage his larger efforts while we are traveling. Found this series of images from last year’s Texas shoot. This beautiful white Duck is what triggered the memories.
I’ve mentioned it before, but I generally refrain from featuring “domestic” waterfowl. That doesn’t mean I do not fill up my digital cards when we encounter them, rather tend to put them to the side assuming our readers would rather read/learn about wilder encounters. Every once in a while, the end products turn out pretty nice and I go ahead and add them to the queue (link here). I think this series fits that select category.
Hit the jump to see a few more shots of our Duck in white satin.
After a seriously bumping landing in Vegas and a similar rough landing on the way back, I can now proclaim we had a successful birding trip in Sin City. During the course of outing, I am quite religious about copying all the contents of the digital card(s) to two separate portable drives at the end of each day. Recharge the battery(ies), format the card(s) and get ready for the next day. I am careful about only using one drive to do any quick validations and count tallies to insure one copy stays pristine. At the end of the trip, those two drives end up being uncomfortably close together, causing a high degree of worry until the contents of one of the drives is copied onto the highly redundant NAS drives and another copy on the work drives for later digital processing. Can you tell I’ve lived an Information Technology life – TRUST NO ELECTRONIC DEVICE MADE BY HUMAN HANDS ha. Everything safely copied – stress levels return to normal. I did get a chance to update this year’s Average Year stats (link here). Official count comes in at +26 for the Vegas trip with 9 new lifers bringing the current total to 237 with 14 lifers (Ron currently sits at 158 with 12 lifers). 35 birds ahead of last year’s pace – not too shabby only a few months into ’23.
Hope you all enjoyed Brad’s Yellowstone series – it definitely has Linda and I motivated to book a trip back out there. It is time for me to get back on the post horse and earn my keep. Ironically, with the prior notes about how well this year’s birding is going, I’ve decided to feature a bird that successfully eluded us this year.
As you will see later in the post, the Grey Hawk (Technically Gray Hawk) has a very limited presence in the United States. Not to be confused with the male Northern Harrier which is often referred to as the Grey Ghost (link here). This Hawk one of the top When we head down to Texas each January, this is one of the targets at the top of the list.
Hit the jump to read more about this relatively rare visitor to our southern border.
Body hurts, eyes red and very exhausted, I must be in Sin City! Most of that condition is due to non-stop birding since we arrived – the rest of the time, well, as the say, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. The birding front has been incredible. Already +22 for the Average Year (link here – not updated yet) with a number of lifers in the mix, all of which will assuredly be featured here sometime in the future. Meanwhile, I wanted to get the 2nd part of Brad’s Yellowstone adventure out to you.
Take it away Brad…
In the last episode our intrepid travelers had arrived in Yellowstone National Park in June. It was June . . . remember that. There was a blizzard on the first night. They scraped snow from cars, endured closed roads, saw geysers, bison, birds, rotten egg smells, etc.
Now you are up to date. Time to continue on after our second of three nights in the park. This is our last full day at Yellowstone. Here’s the map to help set the stage again. (It’s a big one a takes a few seconds to open.)
It is still mid-June in Yellowstone. Another 4” of new snow fell overnight (second night in a row) at Lake Lodge, though much more snow fell in the higher elevations. Again. All of the park roads were closed until about 10am. When some of the roads were finally opened and the car was cleared of snow (same benefit card snow scraper) we headed to Fishing Bridge a few miles up the road. However, when we arrived, there was only one car in sight with the ranger inside her car frantically waving and yelling for us to stay in our car. After about 10 minutes, she came out of the car to check the area. She motioned it was OK for us to get out now. We learned she was in her car because a grizzly sow and her cub had ambled through about 30 seconds before we arrived. Their tracks were still visible in the early morning snow.
We walked out onto Fishing Bridge to get a view up and down the waterline. We’d only been there a few moments when this pair of American white pelicans went flying by.
Hit the jump to learn more about Brad’s Yellowstone adventure.
Well, we are officially off to the West. During our absence, I am turning the keys to the Intrigued Headquarters over to Brad. He will be keeping you entertained while Linda and I quest for the Holy Grail…eh, more like a bird or two or fingers crossed 20. Figured this would be a perfect time to roll out one of his two-parters from probably my favorite destination – Yellowstone National Park. Enjoy!
Take it away Brad and remember, no mega-parties at HQ until AFTER the work is done …
Many years ago, our family (Jan, Allyson and I) took a trip to Yellowstone National Park. You may remember me telling you that our daughter Allyson didn’t want to spend so much time looking at rocks in this prior post. Based on the pushback from a tweenager, I only booked three nights at a lodge in the park, giving us two full days for exploring. Accommodations inside the actual park are limited and usually fill up 8+ months in advance for summer visits. Two full days is by no means an extensive amount of time in Yellowstone (we still drove hundreds of miles inside the park and barely saw anything, IMHO). Taking the advice of a fellow traveler, photographer, and friend, we had flown into Salt Lake City and rented a car for the drive to Yellowstone. Our trip was in early June, hoping to miss most of the tourists with their kids still in school. We approached from the west entrance through West Yellowstone in Montana. Literally within a few minutes of the park rangers checking our annual park pass, we stopped along the road and were greeted with this view.
Hit the jump to read more about Brad’s Yellowstone experience.
Howdy folks. I have good news. Brad has checked in and thanks to a harrowing escape from a very agitated splinter tribe of the Baka, he’ll be returning to home base soon yeah! Best of all, he has digital cards full of future post fodder sure to entertain our readers. I’ll have to wait to hear the full office report out – dodging poison darts sounds like some serious popcorn munching stories. Linda and I are heading out into the field ourselves. Just a week stint for us, although I contend it feels a lot longer with limited amounts of sleep in Sin City. Expecting a big boost to my current Average Year count (link here) currently sitting at a respectable 210 thanks to two recent visitors to our feeders. Just to set the schedule, this will be the last post of the month from me in order to give me a chance to respond to comments etc. before we jet out. Brad will then take the helm to close out what is left of February and the first post or two in March.
With the admin work out of the way, how about we get to today’s featured feathered friend.
Completely opposite the sun soaked issues I had to deal with in the previous Cattle Egret post, today’s series is more of a literal drenching. Rather than having to battle the exposure gods to keep from blowing out the brilliant whites of that Egret, I found myself trying to suck in all the light I could to pull this Green Heron out of darkness. Rain had just passed, the sky was still thick with overcast and the waters around the South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center (and now Alligator Sanctuary) had taken on a dreary tone.
Hit the jump to see a few more pictures of our rain soaked shore hunter.
Quick change of post plans. Originally scheduled to have a two-parter from Brad for these next posts, but I forgot we are sending him on assignment to a dark foreboding destination in a forgotten corner of the world in search of new post fodder. Sure, he was reluctant at first, but got onboard when I explained it was for the good of our loyal readers at the cost of relatively minor inconveniences (Malaria shots for starters). Personal concern for safety was quickly replaced with thoughts of National Geographic level grander and notoriety. Let’s all thank Brad for his dedication and commitment to you and the Intrigued family. If he makes it .. I mean when he makes it back we’ll pop some posts off his queue to feature while Linda and I are sipping umbrella drinks around the pool in a popular desert destination.
In the meantime, you are stuck with me and this here rather gruff looking Egret.
Hit the jump to read more about this blocky Egret more apt to be found in a dry field than standing in the water alongside the rest of its kin.
Just a quick note before we get started. I intentionally let my birthday pass without fanfare last month, but I was planning to make special note of an accomplishment that did occur – As my Dad would quip, must not have been that important or you wouldn’t have forgotten ha. As a quick self-pat on the back, January was the start of my 16th year blogging here at Intrigued. 15 years of observations, wildlife encounters, ramblings and whatnot. Been a blast so far and all the credit goes to you, my wonderful readers, and our staff that keep this little project going. Hippity Hip Hooray! Now staff, let’s get back to work.
Apparently my home state decided to welcome me back with a bit of a warm spell. Admittedly, it was a bit brutal the first week, but mid 40’s for most of this week (possibly in 50’s Sunday), in the Midwest, in early February…I’ll take it. Best of all I’ve been able to train outside and catch back up from the annual lazy January. A bit shocked I’m already up to 9 mile outings, but there’s a long runway to this year’s goals. Already signed up for a midyear 50K which already has the distinction of sending my sorry ass to the hospital (link here and here) and as you probably expected, another attempt at the 100K in the fall (link here). What can I say, I don’t deal very well with failure. There will probably be a few races scattered in here and there, but the training will be designed around these larger events. Today’s featured feathered friend is also fond of running albeit more of a sprinter specialist (you can view larger versions by hitting the image links).
Last post I brought you a ubiquitous resident of Texas (and many of the other southwestern states). A full bodied, dark feathered bird with quite a sassy mouth. Similar to the Great-Tailed Grackle, the Sanderling can be found in Texas. You will not find them at inland Walmarts as these cute birds all have Salt Life plastered on the back of their Jeeps. Tops off, Maui Jims on, cooler in the back, sandal to pedal with the wind whipping through their white/grey toned nonbreeding plumage.
Hit the jump to see a few shots I took of them driving their Jeeps on the beach.