Ring ON the Tree

Finally back on the keyboard.  All I can really say at this point is the days have gotten a bit crazy since we embarked on our second exploration of the year.  First week was a bit tiring as that was primarily travel days.  Last week ended up being a birder’s paradise thanks to a bit of luck on the weather front.  We really tried not to continue our long history of tugging bad Midwest weather down wherever we go – unfortunately, it continued as horrible rains raced us to our destination.  Even hopped over us and pounded our first main stopping point so everything was nice and soaked for our arrival.  A bit bummed, we headed to the recommended birding spots expecting the worst.  Wow, were we wrong – imagine hundreds of birders standing on the roads, standing on the trails, standing under the trees, hell, hanging from the trees.  Appears we managed to experience our first fallout!  Will post more on that when we finally return, however, as a teaser I am at LEAST +22 for the trip so far.  Now to more pressing matters – getting to the end of the month and the post production is a bit light.  All hail the King of Kings.

As we are in the early part of the week, the promise is to deliver the fresher posts.  Thankfully, I worked up a number of newer images before we departed.  Today’s featured feathered friend comes to you from the first exploration trip of the season back in January.  Seems like a lot longer than a mere three months ago.  That excursion took us to Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park and to a new location called Edinburg Scenic Wetlands. 

Hit to read a bit more about our rather stout Kingfisher or is it a scissors with feathers.

Continue reading Ring ON the Tree

Bird Bullies

I think we are somehow cursed. Maybe that love of all things Halloween has finally overwhelmed my good karma or maybe it is all just a coincidence that bad weather tends stick to us like nettles on shoestrings. Regardless of the reason, we have once again brought a weather plague on the inhabitants of our exploration destination. On our southern Texas adventure we managed to bring unusually cold temps and rain to the natives and to further add in insult, managed to vacate the area just before the epic snow and ice storm hit them (please accept our apologies). Today we reached a primary destination and sure enough they are basically flooding out. Is it asking too much to have some “plain” weather !?!

Plain Chachalaca found at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park in January 2021

Ummmm, there you go Mother Nature, jinxing me again clearly I requested plain WEATHER and what do I get.. a Plain Chachalaca. Unless this is a play on raining cats and birds, we are not properly communicating. Might as well go with it as the birding is currently at a standstill until this downpour lets up. As we are past the older post days, going with something fresh.

Plain Chachalaca found at Bentsen Rio Grande State Park in January 2021

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of our featured bird.

Continue reading Bird Bullies

Mud Angels

Well, we are officially off on our exploration part deux for the year.  Just in time, it appears, as our hometown county is experiencing some unexpected high numbers of Covid outbreaks.  Not sure what is up with that, but at the moment, thankfully not something we need to worry about.  So far the birding has been a bit weak, however, I have been able to get a long run in on an amazing set of trails.  Told Linda it was like running on the set of The Last of the Mohicans.  Good for the soul and the long steep elevation climbs was a good reminder to the legs they are still in training.   As it is Flashback Friday, I get to pull from the front of the LIFO queue.  Meet today’s Featured Feathered Friend.  

Sandhill Crane Wisconsin April 2013

We have been experiencing some unexpected cold temperatures on our exploration.  Our destination should be significantly warmer – in the meantime I have to keep reminding myself we are officially past winter ha.   While looking through the queue, noticed these shots that were taken in the same month and still had SNOW on the ground. 

Sandhill Crane Wisconsin April 2013

Back in April 2013 we made a trip up to Wisconsin to visit the Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin.  One of our favorite areas to visit in our sister state to the north.  I know they hate the saying, but it really is Illinois’ playground.  While we were on our way back from visiting the foundation, we noticed a group of Sandhills hanging out in a field.  

Sandhill Crane Wisconsin April 2013

Now Sandhill Cranes are one of my favorite birds – their relatives the Whooping Crane (link here) holds the number #1 on the list which was the catalyst for us joining the International Crown Foundation and my renewed interest in birding.  Cranes are an amazing species.  Massive in size, truly a joy to watch especially during courtship rituals and surprisingly accessible at least on the Sandhill front.  The Whoopers will require you to travel a bit, but they can be found quite consistently if you do a little research on their wintering grounds.    

Take note of the whiter feathering the Sandhills have in the shots above and contrast that with the browner coloring in the following shots.  

Sandhill Crane Horicon National Wildlife Refuge Mayville Wisconsin September 2014

The shot above and below are from another shoot in September the following year.  Once again we were up in Wisconsin (time to play ha) and took a quick run over to Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Mayville.  Absolutely shocking I was able to get anything in the tin as we were in an epic battle to save as much blood as we could from the hordes of Mosquitoes that had amassed there.  Think these were the only two shots that made it out of that shoot before our drained carcasses were left sprawled on the trail.  Per the earlier comment, you will see that these specimens had taken on a browner hue.  

Sandhill Crane Horicon National Wildlife Refuge Mayville Wisconsin September 2014

This is where it gets a little interesting.  I have always been under the impression that the Sandhill Cranes get this browner coloring thanks to their habit of preening themselves with mud/dirt.  The iron rich material causes the iconic “rustic” coloring.  Went to Cornell for a quick validation and was surprised to find zero mention of that behavior nor the effects on the feathers – nada. 

Sandhill Crane Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove IL April 2017

Cornell did mention juveniles are grey and rusty brown and lack the pale cheeks and red caps.  I have had the opportunity to see juveniles up close and can confirm grey and there was some rusty brown, however, it doesn’t really dismiss the preening concept as surely the adults would teach the offspring similar behaviors.. resulting in similar color changes. 

Sandhill Crane Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove IL April 2017

Step inside my supercharged DeLorean and rev it up to April 2017.  This last set of Sandhill Shots (starting with the two shots above) comes to you from Chain O’ Lakes State Park near Spring Grove IL.   No snow on the ground this time and you can see the rust coloring just starting to cover the wings above.  Now the specimen below must have been making mud angels. 

Sandhill Crane Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove IL April 2017

Better get to closing this post out – tomorrow has some traveling in it.  Sandhills mate for life and can begin breeding as early as two.  Every year we have been up at Chain O’ Lakes we have seen the same pair of Sandhills wandering the campground area.  Usually with a couple of colts which makes for some great shoots (link here). 

Sandhill Crane Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove IL April 2017

Lastly, I was surprised when I looked at the region maps for the Sandhill.  Seems like I see them everywhere we travel and therefore wrongly thought they were abundant across the states.  Not true.  There is a heavy wintering population in the lower Texas, New Mexico and Florida regions.  From those areas there are really two large migration paths up to their breeding grounds in are fairly straight migrations paths to their breeding grounds in Canada and the upper states (except Montana – they HATE Montana thanks to a long standing feud with the Bison union).  

Sandhill Crane Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove IL April 2017

Will let you go there.  Hope you enjoyed a few shots of the big boys (and likely girls).  Hopefully will have connectivity to put up a few more posts while out on the road.  Until then, take it easy and be sure you live and not just exist.

Tree Swallow Goofy Ridge

Greetings everyone.  A little off my posting pace as we’ve been preparing for another extended exploration.   This put me in a bit of a bind with my earlier promise to get you more recent material.  Unlike the older queue material, the newer images need to be worked up on the fly which is difficult to do on the road, nor do I really want to take the time to transfer all the data to portable storage.   Instead, I’ve been working feverishly in the digital darkroom to finish up some production work to cover posts while we are out and about.   All of this while Linda wants my help packing the RV – the nerve hehehehe.  While getting all this squared away, thought I’d throw out an older set of images to hold you over.  

American Tree Swallow found at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge in July 2017

How about some cute cuddly Tree Swallows to brighten these pandemic days!?!   This is actually a sister post to one I made back in July of 2017 when the images were fresh to the month (link here).  I needed to work up an image for a photography competition at a local fair (first shot in that previous entry) and grabbed a couple of other random shots to fill out a post.  These are additional shots after I had time to go back and look at the entire shoot.  American Tree Swallow found at Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge in July 2017

Continue reading Tree Swallow Goofy Ridge

Industrial Birds

Greetings everyone!  We are nearing the end of another month and in the past I would be in a bit of panic to make up any difference in my self-imposed monthly post quota.  As you probably noticed, not so much an issue now with the retirement.  Don’t want to jinx myself though as there is a new exploration currently in planning that might impact my productivity.  As we are still in the early stages of week, wanted to get something to you that was fresh out of the tin.

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Our featured feathered friend … wait, just realized I can now go with … our fresh featured feathered friend – and yes, it was noticed it was “flying”, but that just seemed one ‘f’ too many or as they say “right out” ha.  As I was saying, our F.F.F, just came out of the digital darkroom solution bath.

Monk Parakeet found at Elmhurst, IL substation in March 2021

Hit the jump to see a few … err… better make that a lot more shots from our birding trip up north.

Continue reading Industrial Birds

Shrooms and Goslings in the Concrete Jungle

Every year I forget how much work it takes to keep the ol’ homestead up.  During the winter months I get a bit of a break as the tasks related to the woods are somewhat suspended beyond dealing with unexpected downed trees overpowered by the additional weight of snow and ice.  That all changes when spring starts to push its weight around.  Lucked out today as the clouds decided to pelt us with water balloons.  To the blogosphere!

Canada Goose and Goslings found in University of Illinois campus in April 2018

I tried my hardest to find some chickens or something equivalent in recognition of my Alma Mater choking away its number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, but no luck.  Crap, just realized I could have used an American Coot being that I always refer to them as water chickens.  Already have the Canada Goose worked up for today’s post so let’s stick with that.

Canada Goose and Goslings found in University of Illinois campus in April 2018

Hit the jump if you are curious about where today’s featured feathered friend happens to be sitting.

Continue reading Shrooms and Goslings in the Concrete Jungle

A Grey Day

Ever have one of those days in the field when you come up on a subject that just doesn’t want to cooperate with you no matter how hard you try.  Perhaps you are initially elated to witness a bird for the first time and as the encounter plays out that early jubilation fades away leaving a soured feeling behind.  Has that frustration embedded itself so deep in your psyche that you are willing to simply clear the digital record and forget the whole event?…

Grey Hawk found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, TX in January 2020

Yeah, me neither ha!  When the feathered friend is already in the tin, then that may be  different story.  When it comes to +1’s you take what you can get, work it as much as it deserves in the digital darkroom and be happy you can make the little mark next to a new entry in the check list.

Hit the jump to learn about one such experience – warning, the images  only get WORSE!

Continue reading A Grey Day

Be My Guest and Go First

Welcome everyone to hump day or as we now call it around Intrigued headquarters “What the Hell Brian!” Wednesday.  Translated… it’s the day where I set the wayback machine to full power and pull a series from the farthest reaches of the fodder queue free of shame, guilt, embarrassment and taunts for a second timah.  So, please return your seats back to their full upright and locked position – we are rocketing back to September 2017.

Cedar Waxwing found at Glacial Park Conservation Area in McHenry County, IL in September 2017

A little less than 4 years ago, Ron and I had the opportunity to do a little birding at Glacial Park Conservation Area in McHenry County IL.  Typically we spend part of the day birding Chain O’ Lakes and then make the short trip over to Glacial to see what’s hanging out.

Cedar Waxwing found at Glacial Park Conservation Area in McHenry County, IL in September 2017

Hit the jump to read a bit more about our young Waxwings.

Continue reading Be My Guest and Go First

A Splendid Encounter

It is a new week and you know what that means… yep, time for some LIFO popping off the photography queue.  We happen to be in the middle of a March ice storm and keeping one eye on the trees in our forest  to see what kind of damage we might be in for.  Usually not a problem as the density of the trees usually keeps the swaying to a minimum, but the wind is picking up and I am starting to see some ripples.  It is quite beautiful with the shimmer off of the ice covered limbs.  Speaking of beautiful, let’s get to today’s very special featured feathered friend.

Female Elegant Trogon found at Estero Llano Grande State Park, Weslaco TX in January 2021

How about that for a gorgeous bird!?!  Even for a female, this aptly named Elegant Trogon has an aura of nobility.  Be sure and check out the stunning color sported by the males if you want to see what it looks like to be clothed in splendor.  Today, however, we will be focused on this lady in the trees.

Female Elegant Trogon found at Estero Llano Grande State Park, Weslaco TX in January 2021

Hit the jump to see some additional images taken of this new check on my birding list and learn about what it took to get it in the tin.

Continue reading A Splendid Encounter

You Call that a Curve?

As this is officially Flashback Friday, I can finally get to the post I had originally planned for last Friday.  Before I do that, a quick self-pat on the back.  Runkeeper recently notified me I had reached the 10,000 total miles mark.

Runkeepr 10000 miles

99.9% of that was thanks to tracking my runs since April 2011.  That was about 10 years after I had transitioned to this hobby due to some serious injuries in my true love martial arts that signaled those brutal days in the dojo had run their course – new pains/bruises/breaks were coming faster than I could recover from the last ones.  So, in actuality, well short of the total miles covered in my brief running career, but those first few years were training to complete the 7 mile Bix7 race where now the roads have been replaced with ultra-trails.  My body definitely appreciates this lower impact hobby (although thanks to running I have had two trips via ambulance to the emergency room where I was able to make it there myself during the combat days ha!)  Enough about me, bring on the featured feathered friend for flashback Friday.

Curve-Billed Thrasher found at McAllen Nature Center in McAllen, TX in January 2020

Our rather menacing looking bird comes to us courtesy of our birding trip along the Texas Gulf Coast back in January 2020.  Seems odd to be talking about flashbacks for an outing that occurring a little more than a year ago – in the past that would have been considered fresh out of the camera.

Curve-Billed Thrasher found at McAllen Nature Center in McAllen, TX in January 2020

Hit the jump to read more about our menacing looking bird.

Continue reading You Call that a Curve?