Happy Being Bitterned

It has been awhile, but finally back at it. I took some time off to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and to get rested up for the big push to the end of the year. Purely based on the 1100+ emails sitting in my inbox from WordPress I was the only one that has been slacking – will attempt to catch up although at some point the hole becomes insurmountable. To my credit, I have been busy away from the keyboard – got all the exterior Christmas decorations/lighting done (not at the Halloween level, but still significant), finished the interior decorating along with the big ass Xmas tree (just under 14 feet) and addressed the annual leaf horde. That latter one is probably more exhausting than my last two ultras put together. There are times when living in a forest has its down point. One being when the moles mount their counteroffensive to take back the relatively small part I cleared for a yard. It is fierce, nerve-racking, messy and bloody. Those bastards are getting smarter on every attack – next time I am fully expecting archers with flaming arrows and oil filled catapults to be rolled up to the forest edge (a mole army led by Merlin himself). Woods living also gets interesting when winds crest over 30mph, but it is the fall effect that could make one bitter. 2 full days of raking and burning in November to get the early drops taken care of and now another 3 full days/nights dealing with the final dumping – Consider me eternally grateful for Prometheus’ gift to humanity.

The good news is, no matter how tiring it might be, being outdoors will never make me bitter. Come to think of it, few things in the birding world get me more excited than being outdoors and discovering a Bittern in the wild.

American Bittern found at Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center in Port Aransas, TX in January 2021

How’s that for a contrived lead in to today’s featured feathered friend? Per my comments in the November posts I am desperately trying to get my unique species birding life list to 300 by the end of this year. Although the left sidebar running count isn’t updated yet, that number stands at 295 giving me.. one sec, subtract that..carry the one, multiply by the inverse, find the limits, solve quadratic…x=5 – yes, that gives me 5 species to go and a little less than a month to get that accomplished. If you read my Blue-Winged Warbler post (link here), then you already know that today’s American Bittern feature brings that gap down to 4.

American Bittern found at Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center in Port Aransas, TX in January 2021

Hi the jump to read more about the guzzling drunk.

Continue reading Happy Being Bitterned

Tuck It or Man Up

I’ve been posting a lot about checking items off of a list lately, but today’s post is not about birds. Nope, we are going to cover another one of my precious lists – this time it is another notch on the life list. I was a bit tardy on my last notch thanks to the dreaded Heat Miser inflicting a heavy toll. The goal was to get the 50K trail ultra prior to my retirement – a gift to myself, if you will, while I still had full medical coverage ha! You already know how that first attempt went (link here). Add in the pandemic and it took two years to wipe that blemish off my record. Missed the time goal, but at least got it crossed off. That brings us to the other running entry on the life list – the 50 miler by 55. With everything shifted a year thanks to the worldwide shutdown it was getting pretty tight – it was this year or be late AGAIN.

Farmdale Ultra Marathon 50 Mile Trail Run, East Peoria, IL on October 9th, 2021

Opted to go with the Farmdale Ultra again – same place where I ended up getting my first 50K out of the way (link here). The cool October weather takes most of the heat concern out of the equation and I knew (well I thought I knew) the route like the back of my hand. By the way, the irony isn’t lost as I make a post on a run now sponsored by a running organization that goes by “No One Cares You Run Ultras”.

Farmdale Ultra Marathon 50 Mile Trail Run, East Peoria, IL on October 9th, 2021

Hit the jump to see how this latest life list endeavor turned out!

Continue reading Tuck It or Man Up

Turkey Incognito

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  Even if you are not from the states, hopefully, we all have something to be thankful for even if there isn’t a designated holiday in your neck of the woods.  This year is a bit of redemption for me from the last couple of years.  If you happen to recall, two years ago I was shocked to learn I didn’t have an appropriate topic to honor the day.  Ended up going with a substitute featured feathered friend – the Turkey Vulture (link here).   To my credit, at least it had the name of the traditional protein right in the name (and large, with some red, funny looking… you get the picture).  Last year I was so embarrassed I completely skipped the topic and announced I was unofficially stepping out of the corporate arena (link here).  Simply skipped right over the day itself and picked back up with part two of the Cedar Waxwing series (link here).  The hope being no one noticed I didn’t have a bird in the hopper that even remotely related to a Turkey – sigh.  Well, this year you are in luck.

White Wild Turkey found at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Mission, TX in January 2021

Hit the jump to find out about our incognito Turkey

Continue reading Turkey Incognito

Why I Try to Spot the Y

Greetings everyone! I must say, this has been a great month for my bird count. At the end of October I was sitting at 290 which isn’t stellar by ANY means when it comes to the birding community, but something that has taken a decent amount of work to get to – note each of those had to be photographed at an identifiable level of quality. That number put me a mere 10 from a goal I set at the beginning of the year. For simplicity I spread that over the two remaining months making intermediate goals of 5 new additions to my count for each remaining month. I learned early in life to set a goal and then immediately focus on smaller accomplishments that get you to the end point. That strategy has served me well at work, home and my numerous hobbies. Want to get through an ultra-marathon race – NEVER think about the total amount of miles to the end – focus on getting through maybe 5 miles marks or hell, the next tree when the mental darkness starts to set in. The uplifting feeling of accomplishment on the little goals is what keeps you motivated to keep pushing. Well folks, I am happy to say with today’s featured feathered friend I’ve made it to November’s target.

Blue-Winged Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Today I am excited to bring you #295, the Blue-Winged Warbler. It should be no surprise by now, this cute little Warbler comes to you thanks to our trip to the Alabama Gulf Shores. We made our way down there back in April of this year. Like several of the recent posts, this addition to the life list was found at Dauphin Island. I would have been in a world of hurt if we had not caught the fallout down there as that visit really gave a steroid shot to my count. I have to give big kudos to Linda who planned our spring trip around this previously unknown birding location.

Blue-Winged Warbler found on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Hit the jump to read a bit more about the “Y” bird.

Continue reading Why I Try to Spot the Y

A Chesty Trivecty

Before I get into today’s post, just wanted to mention I finally got my ’21 pumpkin carving project post out. I know some of you enjoy the Halloween related posts which I keep up on the mothership (link here). Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

I was able to get a cold weather run in a few days ago. The first one of the fall/winter season is always a jolt to my system and it didn’t help that this time there was sleet involved. A majority of my race season is in hot weather which the body, barring any extremes, is perfectly happy with. It’s the transition to the colder season that takes a bit getting used to. The temple requires a lot of replenishing oxygen especially on the trails and gulping air is the norm – taking cold air (especially with the sub-20sF, hell, sub zero) directly into the lungs can be a shock to the chest – I call it freeze-lungs.

Speaking of chests, you may have been wondering what was up with the post-a-palooza that recently occurred. We went up to Mayo for Linda’s annual checkup post heart surgery. This gave me some extra cycles in the waiting areas as she went through her battery of pokes, prods and the terrifying let’s see how close to death we can get her by turning off the pacemaker procedure – that one makes me cringe and I’m not even the one going through it. In the end, we received really good news, after two years, everything is working perfectly (when they are not purposely shutting things down) and her heart specialist is good with her getting into a new study involving a more natural blood thinner. Linda actually selected her valve type because of this feature, but she had some complications during the surgery that warranted the extra validation time. All great news!

How about we go ahead and make it a chesty trivecty with today’s featured feathered friend.

Chestnut-Sided Warbler found at Shell Mounds on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

How is that for a beautiful bird (keeping my promise to CJ). There are a lot of Warblers to choose from, but this color burst of a bird is definitely in my top 3 and top 10 across all the birds currently checked off my list. Maybe it’s the dainty size, possibly the brilliant white feathering that makes their strategic coloring pop or the whole package, but this species brings a smile to my face every time I encounter it in the field.

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of this distinctly colored Warbler.

Continue reading A Chesty Trivecty

When Birding Gets Stressful – for Ron

Well, I was all ready to head out and get my run in this morning when I opened the door to sleet. Umm, where the hell did that come from!?! Normally that wouldn’t bother me much, but the sleet was essentially horizontal thanks to the 20mph wind that was accompanying the ice balls. One view of that and Inner Bri (I call him Ibbie) was quick to point out “Hey dude, you know you are retired right?”. Now Ibbie has a habit of getting me in trouble, however, this time he was right. Quickly checked out the forecast and sure enough, likely better (slightly) conditions in a few hours so waffles it is! In the meantime, what to do, what to do. Hey, I know, how about we get ourselves closer to the list goal.

Kentucky Warbler found at Shell Mound on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

I hit you with a few of the duller Warblers the last couple of posts and thought it was time to start stepping it up in the color arena – plus I promised CJ (link here) I would give her something brighter to enjoy her morning coffee with. Will quickly admit, these are not shots that will ever make it on our house walls or the galleria ledge (link here), but this featured feathered friend almost cost my brother Ron extra nights in Alabama. To set the stage, this yellowish bird with the unique highlighting comes to you from our April trip to Dauphin Island along the Alabama Gulf Shores. I’ve previously noted the incredible birding we had that vacation thanks to the fallout and this is another treasure that came home with us.

Hit the jump to read a bit more about how this one almost didn’t make it into the tin.

Continue reading When Birding Gets Stressful – for Ron

They Be Ballers

Good news, I successfully got back out on the trails the other day! Well, sort of. The important thing is the ankle held up during a 7 mile test run on one of the harder trail courses in the area. I’ve been slowly building strength back on the road and only dabbling on uneven ground up to this point. The crazies were starting to claw their way to the surface. It was time to put those demons to rest and assess the progress. A couple of twinges thanks to a few roots and rocks lurking under the heavy blanket of leaves and some extra gasps of air from the never-ending hills reminded me to keep the pace under control. Made it back to the truck with a giant smile on my face with thoughts of doing it again … until the voice in my head that sounds just like Linda immediately screamed “NO!”. On the down side, a injury that I’ve been dealing with for a majority of this year is starting to get very angry so that is the next item to address. As they say, wrestle one worm at a time, which brings us to today’s featured feathered friend.

Worm-Eating Warbler found at Audubon Bird Sanctuary on Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Hit the jump to read more about our quad striped specimen.

Continue reading They Be Ballers

Puddle Bouncing

It would appear as I am easing into November!  I’d blame it on the laid back life of a retired person, but truth is I am probably busier now than I was when I was living the daily grind.  Actually, coming up on my one year anniversary of my last day at work (not my retirement date thanks to strategic use of my vacation time).  I can say the replacement “work” is far more enjoyable and usually consists of spending time in our woods, running, building Halloween props and pouring through thousands of images in my massive backlog of photography trips.  Cannot remember the last time I called it a night when I wasn’t completely exhausted – I take that as a win.  Part of this drive is due to a deadline and this post gets me one step closer to that end. 

Northern Waterthrush found at Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Honestly, deadline may not be the appropriate word now that I’m in the last phase of my life and technically there is only one of those technically left and that is literally in the name. Let’s go with “goal” instead – much better sounding and at least in the sports world, traditionally paired with people cheering when you accomplish it – yep, whole letter better. Don’t get me wrong, goals are serious business around Intrigued and I’m no stranger to medical attention trying to insure I don’t fail. Luckily, this particular one will not require that kind of physical commitment, as it simply means several more of these.

Northern Waterthrush found at Dauphin Island, Alabama in April 2021

Not specifically more of these Waterthrushes, rather more of what it represents, a new addition to my personal birding list. Back in January of this year I committed to the goal of getting my life list up to 300. Not a number that is going to turn any heads in the birding world for sure – probably illicit more snickers than applause. It is what it is and hang my hat on the small hook made from the fact the species needs to be photographed and get its own official post before the tick is awarded. Question remains whether there are 9 more after this to get me across the finish line. That’s a future issue, let’s live in the moment.

Hit the jump to put the moment in motion.

Continue reading Puddle Bouncing

Happy Halloween Everyone!!

The official haunting day has finally come … or as we say around Intrigued.. The best day of the year!  I am still processing all the images from this year’s Haunted Halloween Trail and hope to get the official posts out sometime next month as I am still exhausted from all the work it takes to put on that event ha.  With this being the official day and all, thought I’d give you a sneak peek – especially for those on the wildlife side of Intrigued since those posts are usually not published there. 

My friend in haunt, Paul Rybarczyk, did create another fantastic video which covers some of the sights and sounds from this year’s trail.

Grabbed a few of the images we took just to celebrate this special day. As mentioned above, the full walk through will be coming soon. Our resident witches were brewing up a tasty batch of toad stew for the night – it was a bit under spiced this year as they were unable to trap any children this year.

Hit the jump to see more… if you dare!

Continue reading Happy Halloween Everyone!!

Pygmy Pirates – the Nastiest of Them All

Let’s just go ahead and make it an even 290 shall we!  If you have been checking back for the latest posts, then you are very aware I finally invested time to update my bird count.  One of my goals this year was to make it to the 300 mark by the end of December.  We are quickly approaching that deadline as apparent by my favorite orange and black sections in the local stores are quickly becoming scrubbed from sight in favor of the over-commercialized red and white fanfare.  I can’t even describe the level of sadness and disappointment this brings watching my holiday being pushed aside by greedy merchants.  If there is a upside to this travesty it is the fact they tend to clearance their remaining items allowing me to scoop them up at a reasonable price point.  For those new to haunting NEVER buy items at full price (advice that, ironically, probably fuels the desire to push the accelerator pedal to Christmas).  Enough ranting, show me the meat!

Pygmy Nuthatch found at Davis Creek Regional Park, Lake Tahoe, CA in May 2019

Hit the jump to read a bit more about the latest Lake Tahoe pirate find.

Continue reading Pygmy Pirates – the Nastiest of Them All