Howdy all you wildlife fans! The oven has reached max out here in the Midwest with the temps back in the nineties. By itself, that is pretty bearable, but when you add in the humidity levels and the feels likes levels cresting in the 105s to 110s then it gets more punishing. Of course, this is also a sign the annual running of the Bix7 road race is on its way and sure enough yesterday was the day. After a year’s absence due to that ass Covid, it was once again time to get really sweaty traversing the bluffs of the Mighty Mississippi River for delicious Whitey’s Popscicles (link here) at the post race party. There will be a full post on the mothership site, but in short it was a hot one (high 80’s before the gun went off with the heat index that day topping out at 103). A big congratulations to Linda for completing the 2 mile Quick Bix this year. She missed an additional year as she had her heart surgery prior to the canceled year.
Will have to check the finish line pictures, but pretty sure my legs were as red as today’s featured feathered friend.
Over the last few years I’ve retooled my body to handle the long grind of ultras letting go of the fast turnover indicative of the shorter road courses. Had to put those old skills back into play with the 7 miles of the Bix and the legs let me know they didn’t appreciate the amped up pace – good news is the big hills were a hell of a lot easier. While the legs take some time to recover, thought I’d put out a quick post continuing the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park “Dove Parade”.
Hit the jump to learn about the next entry in the Dove Parade.
Welcome back everyone! Had my first run this morning since the long event and the body is a little better than expected even though it was a short 7 miler. Most of the kinks are out and just need to work a bit more on the heat conditioning before hitting it hard again. All this rain, as of late, has been keeping the temps down – with the wet stuff moving on, the mercury and humidity are starting to creep up again. You could almost mistake this for summer again ha! Speaking of mistakes…
…tonight’s featured feathered friend managed to fool me in the field. This specimen was found at the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park back on our holiday trip to Texas in the beginning of the year. Ironically, we were there in hopes of tinning a rarity that had shown up. Eventually got that bird, the Ruddy Ground Dove and already posted on that experience (link here).
Was on the fence about what to feature in my upcoming post. I happen to be in one of those rare times where I have plenty of options with images all processed up and ready to go. Then an interesting thing happened which tipped the scales in favor of this rather stoic looking Hawk.
I happen to really like the shot above and purposely let the barrel of The Beast out to give you the full view of the sight that caught my attention. Linda was the one who spotted this one while we were standing outside Quinta Mazaltan in McAllen, TX back in January. For someone who denies being a “birder” or as she puts it, one of “those people” she is certainly gaining an eye for our feathered friends. Linda can also identify a large swath of birds just from following me out into the field – another fact she will deny in public. Back to the image, the scene made me smile – from the Hawk’s perspective. “What ya’ feeling like for dinner honey? How about some Purple Martin. Yes, and I know just the place to get a carry out!” For the concerned, you can rest easily knowing no Purple Martins were hurt in the making of this post.
Hit the jump to find out what got me thinking about this Hawk – hint A SNAKE!
Those that follow the Intrigued mothership are already aware of the good news, but the mere fact there is a new post here officially confirms to all my readers that the running demons were left slain last Saturday. The redemption is complete as my one blemish on the race record has been officially erased. Yep, the 2019 PR for failure at the Cry Me a River (CMAR) 50K Trail Race (link here) has been superseded by the successful completion of this year’s running (2020 was canceled for obvious reasons). To say I’ve been fretting about this event would probably be considered an understatement by my wife. Although I had trained my ass off, the inevitable doubts were coming to a crescendo as I walked to the starting line. The standard neurotic runner fare “Why was this body part hurting, did I taper to quick.. too long, should have done more double days, damn vacation days cost me valuable runs, hey, there’s a squirrel”. More details than you would ever want to know are up on the mothership (link here), but for a quick summary the temps stayed well under the 100+ heat index experience in ’19 that were responsible for taking me out. Unfortunately, that issue was replaced by RAIN, a LOT of rain, really, I mean torrents of rain coming down for the entire back half of the 11 hours it took me to complete the event. That course is brutal enough dry – having to negotiate the continuous climbs and descents in slick mud made for one hell of a day. Two of the usual stream crossings turned into a step and pray game through 2+ foot rapids. Proud to say I never went down the entire 34+ miles (yeah, their course was long adding to the punishment). Couldn’t be happier with results and owe a lot of that success to Linda who coordinated the multiple chase points to keep me hydrated/nourished and spirits up through the entire challenge. I did think about the blog while navigating my way through the endless downpour – ‘cuz that’s what I do ha! Decided the perfect post to follow that race was this featured feathered friend.
This bird fit on many different fronts. First off, the obvious as it literally has water in its species name. In case you are not familiar with this pink footed bird it is a Waterthrush. Like the course, it is deviously deceptive. You would think it was part of the Thrush family by the name alone, however, it is really a Warbler. As with the race map it certainly looks flat until you are trying to figure out exactly where the “flat” part of Illinois is. Lastly, like the run, this bird was difficult both trying to get in the tin and harder still was trying to properly ID the specific Waterthrush species. The difficulty of the 50K goes without saying.
Hit the jump to learn more about this newly designated CMAR mascot.
Linda is getting some dental work done which means I’m sitting in the car with some free time on my hands. I guess to be truthful, I am really confined to the car due to being in “Bubble Mode” as Linda refers to it. Traditionally, I like to avoid people starting a few days prior to a race – nothing like training your ass off for months only to haul a cold or some other debilitating disease to the starting line. Linda used to call me neurotic, however, in this crazy world I’ve now become the norm – just call it Covid quarantine now ha! Anyway, until she returns to my protective bubble, thought I’d spend the time taking you back to the border.
In a previous post, I took you through the ordeal of getting the immature Vermilion Flycatcher in the tin (link here). If you recall, we were visiting Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park back in January, when I noticed that Flycatcher hanging out on a wire above the border patrol. As luck would have it, another member of the Flycatcher family decided to take its turn on the border watch.
Hit the jump to see a few more shots of our colorful Flycatcher.
First off, a quick bit of housekeeping. I kind of left everyone hanging after the first part of the Foam Coffin prop for the Haunted Halloween Trail (link here). That has been remedied now with the publishing of the second part, which brings it all together for last year’s signature prop (link here). Feel free to check that out if you are a fellow Halloween aficionado or would like to know what I do when I’m not running or hauling The Beast around.
Now back to your regularly scheduled programming. Today’s featured feathered friend comes to you from Sunday’s run. Well, maybe not technically, but the choice definitely originated over the course of that outing. Long distance running has to be one of the few athletic activities where it is in your best interest to keep your head “out” of the game. The last thing you want is to be mentally aware of every foot strike when you will be at it for hours and hours. My go to distraction is to plan out my next post. It didn’t take very long on that run to know this specimen was the perfect choice.
Not only was it a new bird for my checklist, it fit the theme of the day. For those not familiar with this intriguing looking bird, it is called an Ovenbird (note, admittedly, I always thought that was two words before doing the research for this post). Regarding the theme part, Sunday’s run was H-O-T. The cooler rain driven temps have left the area heeding to the unrelenting heat and humidity that dominates the Midwest in the heart of the summer. I was definitely feeling that heat on the later parts of my 50k simulation run (1/3 of the course). Whenever I made it to the bottoms of the deep valleys along the Illinois River bluffs it felt like I was in an oven.
Hit the jump to read more about our plump Warbler.
For some reason Mother Nature has designated this official slip and slide week as it has been pretty much raining every day. Definitely a welcome relief for our two wells, but a total pain in the ass on the ultra marathon training front. Somehow managed to get my 55 miles in mostly between the rain showers – today I just got poured on for at least half of my 13 thanks to a ridiculously bad forecast (not even close a mere 2 hours ahead). Hoping the trails dry out soon so I can get some more dirt work in as the 50k is a mere two weeks away. Lot of pressure on me – if I repeat and end up in the hospital again, Linda is going to take my shoes away. While slogging through the rain today, decided I would go with this dude for today’s featured feathered friend.
Probably wondering how this decision came about as our specimen is neither a duck (per the rain conditions) nor would I have seen it anywhere near where I train. Truth is, it is a bit of a loose association. The rain reminded me of the conditions we experienced while trying to bird Bentsen Rio Grande Valley State Park back in January. Not as hard of a drenching as it was today, but like running in soaking wet clothes equally annoying trying to get something decent in the tin. The other reason this particular bird came to mind was all the talk about the southern border this week.
Hit the jump to read a bit more about our transitioning specimen.
I now know what my hell would be like – plenty of downtime, but NO internet. We just got back from UKC Premier held in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Basically Dog-A-Palooza as there were dogs competing everywhere you looked, prissy confirmation dogs in the midst of working dogs – dock diving, luring coursing, precision coursing, drag racing, weight pulling, nose work, obedience, rally and our specialty agility. A lot going on, but huge gaps between Linda’s runs which I usually fill with posts… granted I have decent access. What’s gives Kalamazoo, still relying on two cups and a string? Instead, being in Michigan, decided to ponder who has the worst governor. Both our governor and Michigan’s used pandemic as an excuse to destroy their economies (ours to get federal bailout for systemic fiscal failures, Gretchen tried to be VP). Both felt they were above the lockdown protocols they forced on their constituents (after trying to lock us down, our governor sent his family to Florida and then Wisconsin, Gretchen went to Florida with her daughters). Both are habitual liars except Gretchen can’t stop doubling down after being caught in lie after lie about her trip. Ours is a tax evader and Gretchen is so vindictive she repeatedly goes after a barber even though their state judicial system clipped her. Honestly, I can’t decide – looks like the only option is to head to the polls.
Blackpoll Warblers that is! ILL-noise is way too far gone to fix the political corruption – there actually might be more Illinois governors now that have served time than those that managed to weasel their way out without being caught. Michigan, you are on your own up there. The good news is Warblers could care less about our politics. Assume they worry more about how to complete their migrations every year. The Blackpoll pictured here is one of those that put my distance running to shame. Imagine having to fly nonstop from the eastern coasts all the way to South American every fall. Interesting enough, Cornell noted that they take a less intense spring trek opting to pass through the Caribbean Islands before heading to Canada and Alaska.
Hit the jump to read a bit more about our long distance flier.
Pretty much on the go these days. We had to leave the great-nephew’s graduation/family reunion a day early in order to make our way up to Michigan for the UKC Agility Nationals competition. Raven and Linda qualified for the national ranks this year and was invited to compete with the rest of the ranked boys and girls. Planned on leaving the reunion on morning rise to give us sufficient time to repack us and the dogs – that was the plan until we heard the words “water balloon fight”. Decided we could spare a few hours to experience the perfect way to spend a hot Midwestern summer day. Quickly learned the old days of trying to slip the rim of a balloon over a water spigot without it breaking, trying to cut the water off before the balloon overfills and finally getting it successfully tied without dropping it are LONG GONE. A clever engineer (guessing) looked at the struggles of a kid trying to rain bombs on his enemy and came up with a better plan. Have you seen the new water balloon system (link here). Unbelievable! Hook up a bunch with a single nozzle, let the water flow and presto 35 perfectly shaped bombs. They even fall off when they are full or simply jerk the nozzle down and they all plop off perfectly sealed thanks to a rubber collar that slides off the fill straw. I watched in horror as the kids prepared over 1,000 water bombs in probably less than 15 minutes. Ummm, honey, thinking it might be time to go ha! What followed can only be defined as perfectly engineered fun – well, after the first barrage of bombs from the kids directed at the still stunned adults. Luckily some of the kids were still developing their arms allowing us to catch and retaliate. That worked great until those little bastards realized they could throw above us and let the balloons bust on the RVs and shower us. We finally got the upper hand, but there wasn’t a dry set of clothes anywhere to be seen – just miles and miles of smiles.
In honor of that experience, thought I’d go with this featured friend for today’s post.
Why go with this rather odd looking bird? Well, the first reason was pretty easy. I was flipping through my backlog of images specifically looking for a bird that is commonly associated with “water”. As we are in the later part of the week I allowed myself to go back in the catalog and found our rather odd looking friend. It also luckily met my second criteria of being purpose built – correctly engineered (or evolved) if you will.
The oven is on here in the middle of Iowa. Over here celebrating the high school graduation of one of my many great nephews (-in-law this time). Good food, good drinks, good greets, good times and good god a lot of sweat. Have a hot trail run coming up in about four weeks, so the extra heat conditioning will definitely come in handy. For the record, Linda still thinks I’m thoroughly Cuckoo for trying to redeem myself at the Cry Me a River 50K (link here). Question is – would that be a Yellow-Billed or a Black-Billed!?!
Getting real used to Linda’s eye-rolls at my bad jokes now that we are both retired and spending extra time together. I will get more than an eye roll if I go down in the heat again so I better keep on her good side. To answer the question in regards to today’s featured feathered friend, it is a Yellow-Billed variety. Not a new bird to the blog as it was already featured first back in 2015 (link here) and again in 2018 (link here). For a bird I saw for the first time only 6 years ago, I am surprised how often I’ve encountered it this year. Wondering if I’m just getting lucky on our expeditions or if there is an explosion of sorts in their population. This particular series comes to you from Dauphin Island – went ahead and processed these when I saw them while working up the Fish Crows in the last post.
Hit the jump to see a few more shots from our brief encounter.