Project Halloween UV Light Bomb Evolution

It’s the middle of August and that means the stress is starting to build fast. We are around 8 weeks before our annual Halloween Party and a big element of that event is the haunted trail (link here). The Haunt Factory lights are on and the machines are already running double shifts. We try to bring you a lot of our Halloween project, although due to the time crunch those usually come after the haunt. As I just finished the latest design for our Halloween Prop UV Light Bombs, l thought it would be a good time to feature them while the details were still fresh in my mind.

These UV lights have gone through several iterations over the years. I’ve never been happy at the price point of these units and each iteration was focused on trying to get the components as cheap as possible and still deliver the effect we wanted. Our first version was actually born out of a need to put some light on areas that required extra caution by our guests, a dip in the ground, a step up, maybe a low hanging branch. The safety of our guests is priority one. Scares are a distant second.

Hit the jump to learn how we have evolved the design our of our haunt lights over the years.

Continue reading Project Halloween UV Light Bomb Evolution

Project: Birds Got Me Cranky

A week into the new month and I am just now getting around to a post – I can see another last minute postapalooza coming toward the end of the month, big sigh. Seems like just when I get ready to sit back in the pool with an umbrella adorned drink someone (or something) drops a cinder block of to-dos in the water deviously tied to my ankle. Written on one side of that block was the words “Your Halloween Party is only 8 weeks away!” and the other side was some bizarre scribbling that looked like “Al yur seeds r belong 2 us” . I am painfully aware of the quickly approaching party date, but the other… no ide…wait, wait – THOSE BASTARDS!!!

Picked up the cinder block, grabbed my umbrella cocktail and leaped out of the pool …okay, maybe not leaped – those blocks can be heavy and awkward .. but I did get out and run to the bird feeder. Sure enough, those devil spawn Raccoons had done it – a frayed wire looking heartbroken having let my precious seed slip from its clutches. Apparently the devil spawn I caught going for my feeders the day before came back with vengeance on its mind.

As if I didn’t have enough to do, now I needed to reconstruct my feeder system. I knew this was going to happen at some point due to a design decision I had made that ended up biting me in the ass – more on that in a bit. The good news is the Feeder 2.0 is done.

Project: Birds Got Me Cranky

To make lemonade out of lemons – or maybe should say soup out of Raccoons, decided it was time to finally document the process and make a post. That is the real reason for the late post this month as I was busy taking pictures during the build and needed to get those collected and uploaded. So, if you are intrigued on how this project went, hope you enjoy the walk-through below. Almost forgot – this design is for a 2 feeder system. If you only want one, then a single wire system with one upper arm is all you would need.

Hit the jump to get to the nitty gritty details of my self-developed feeder stand (rights restricted to non-commercial use only unless permission explicitly granted).

Continue reading Project: Birds Got Me Cranky

Sitting Here, Taking a Walk in the Woods

Just sitting here relaxing a bit before tomorrow’s race. Giving the ankle one last rest before strapping on the Nimbus’ and walking to the bottom of Brady Street hill in Davenport Iowa for my 18th running of the Bix 7. Quite shocked the weather gods decided to take pity on us and give us some decent temps for a change. One of my faithful readers mentioned in a comment she was familiar with the race and noted the winners usually hail from Kenya (or Ethiopia). Don’t be fooled, they are all training at top tier schools in the US. It is true, they definitely dominate the podiums at this race, but typically they are not prepared for the humidity that accompanies this race (as well as the Steamboat Race in June link here). I am always surprised to see how hard they are having to push themselves as they are returning up the 2 mile hill as I’m coming down – yes, I’m at around the 2.5 mile mark and they are heading into their 5th mile. An elite road runner I am NOT! My speed days are long past replaced with the fun of grinding out ultra distances. There are not that many road races that interest my anymore, however, the Bix was the first race I ever entered and hands down it has the BEST post race party of any event out there. Linda is from Davenport and told me about this race when I was looking for something to fill the gap when I hung up my gi.

Good weather, a course completely lined with onlookers cheering us on (yes, even the slow ones like me), a distance that should be a walk in the park for me and a great afterparty – can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday. Oh, did I mention that Linda participates as well – they have a two mile option that takes you up the .8 mile long steep hill at the start and then directs you back down at the next block. Wish us luck!

In honor of the stress free Bix distance, thought I would feature a real “walk in the park” for today’s final post of the month.

Common Yellowthroat found at Jubilee College State Park in July 2022

Hit the jump to see this small collection of shots that normally would have gone straight to the archives.

Continue reading Sitting Here, Taking a Walk in the Woods

To Torture Limits and the Goodness of DEET

I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel – at least let’s hope it isn’t the light to the afterlife ha. Ironically, many of the events and tasks that have been consuming me of late are coming to their end. We closed out Mom’s estate today with the successful closing on the house and tonight I completed my last taper before Saturday’s Bix 7 Race. Now a bit of rest for the ankle and maybe some ice, although I doubt the swelling is going to subside much more before race time. It feels strong enough for a hilly road race and looking forward to testing it on the trails next week. The roots, rocks and uneven terrain that makes trail running so technical, has a way of finding any of your weak spots. We will cross that bridge when it comes – right now I need to focus on the blog as I’m just a few posts down and the end of the month is a mere arm’s length away. My original intent of featuring this feathered friend at this point in the month may not come true now.

Kentucky Warbler found at Tawny Oaks Field Station, Edelstein, IL in July 2022

The Bix 7 race in Davenport Iowa is always held on the last Saturday of July. If you are familiar with the Midwest, the last weekend of July usually means one thing – DAMN HOT! Not just the eh, its warm, rather the sticky, sweaty, sauna like, humid, pressure cooker temps that melt the bottoms of your shoes to the asphalt pavement and makes you look like you just came out of the washer. This is my 18th consecutive running of the Bix (I am not counting the missed one from two years ago that went virtual because of Covid) and I can count on one hand how many “nice” days we’ve had for this race. Note, pouring down rain does fall into the nice category. Just so happens the day Ron and I shot this Kentucky Warbler felt just like a normal Bix race day.

Hit the jump to read more about what it took to get this Warbler checked off for the year.

Continue reading To Torture Limits and the Goodness of DEET

The Midas Wing

Other than the quickly approaching end of the month and being down several posts to meet my quota, things are starting to look up. Dealing with Mom’s estate has taken a serious chunk of time, but that should wrapped up at this week’s closing – thankfully my oldest brother is taking the brunt of the financial aspects – Ron and I focused on the busy grunt work cleaning out the house etc. – which is pretty much the way it is around our house as well ha. The conditioning for the upcoming weekend race (Bix 7 link here) is nearly behind me as well. One more short taper and then just try to be as healthy as possible entering the chutes. Heat is usually a problem, however, I did punish myself on some very hot long run days – fingers crossed the internal thermostat doesn’t go bonkers. My training runs are well beyond the 7 mile distance so that isn’t a problem. That just leaves the ankle as the unknown wildcard. Feels strong, even made it through two trail runs without tweaking it again (yeah) …but still swollen. I don’t know, maybe that is just the new norm. I’ll try body shaming and hurling insults at that weak-punk-ass ankle for the next couple of days and see if it will finally give up the pity act!

Since we are talking about conditioning, thought this feathered friend would fit theme.

Golden-Winged Warbler found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary in May 2022

Hit the jump to read a bit more about this chance encounter.

Continue reading The Midas Wing

It Say’s I’m the Best

For the last two weeks I’ve woken up, looked at the day’s to-do list, covered my dog’s ears and let out a string of colorful words. In big bold letters is the word “POST”. Although that probably is obvious but it is short for “Get your lazy butt into the den and get a post out you lily-livered, bow-legged, flea-bitten varmint”. Yes, I’m retired, yes, I still have to-do lists and yes, my to-do list entries mock me. This month it isn’t so much procrastination, just too much stuff going on, but today we are going to take another bite out of the self-imposed monthly post quota.

Going to start with another brag introduction. I previously mentioned Raven did well in the TDAA National competition held last week in Minnesota. He is starting to slow down a bit, but he is getting the job done qualifying in 4 out of his 6 runs. I’d be sleeping on the couch if I didn’t give some of that credit to Linda ha!

Raven at TDAA Nationals in Maple Grove, MN July 2022

I think Raven is starting to feel the pressure from the newest member of the agility family. A long way from the steady runs of his brother, Ruger is just starting out, but showing amazing talent – Linda just needs to get him focused. We laughed at this shot of him “doing” his first ever weave poles. By “doing” we mean running right through them to get to his favorite obstacle the teeter-totter. “That isn’t how it’s done Ruger!” Raven was absolutely embarrassed and went and hid in his crate after that fiasco.

Raven at TDAA Nationals in Maple Grove, MN July 2022

As they Say’s, hit the jump to see today’s featured feathered friend!

Continue reading It Say’s I’m the Best

Baby Dogs in the Water, so Baby Geese on Land

Wow, has this been an event packed month and we are only halfway through it.  Just got back from the Teacup Dog Agility Association (TDAA) Nationals up in Maple Grove, Minnesota (just outside of Minneapolis).  Raven was the primary competitor, but Ruger got to run a couple of runs at the beginning of the event.  4 out of 6 qualifiers for Raven – Ruger… well let’s just say he still has a full head of puppy in him.  I’ll give more details in upcoming posts (waaaayyy behind on my July quota, that’s for sure).  On our way back we had the opportunity to get Ruger introduced to Dock Diving.  He has zero fear of anything and thought he would enjoy the sport – his brother is also getting his” feet wet” so to speak in the sport as they apparently both have a love for driving their owners crazy with their endless energy. 

This first session was just to start introducing him to deep water. His breeder introduced him to water features when he was just a few weeks old (part of his performance familiarization). This was the first time since then he had been in water beyond his groomer baths. By the end of the session he was getting much more comfortable with his swimming skills and would leave the dock to get his favorite ball and come back. Everyone was shocked when he put his head completely underwater to go after his ball – apparently that is an extremely good sign! Needless to say we will be signing up for more sessions and finally getting out and filling the 6’x10′ pool we bought him last fall. We can’t wait until he takes his first leap off that dock!!

Being that we just got home from the week long trip, I had to pull today’s featured feathered friend off the wayback queue.

Canada Goose at Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove IL in June 2017

Hit the jump to see more graceful swimmers.

Continue reading Baby Dogs in the Water, so Baby Geese on Land

Burning in the Dirt and the Trees

I just might have to go back to formally working as I can’t for the life of me figure out how I can be busier now that when I was spending over 40 hours a week fighting the ghosts in the machine. Those hours are being sucked up into the vortex somehow and it isn’t a result of naps! (truth is I have NEVER been able to take a nap since they stopped giving me a carton a milk and a carpet square in kindergarten). Admittedly, part of the time consumption is a slew of national and local dog competitions that have had us traveling to compete. Time for a proud pappa to do some quick bragging. Ruger had his very first agility ring showing last weekend. Now that he’s finally had his first birthday, he is ready to impress.

Ruger's first agility competition in Springfield, IL in July of 2022

Hit the jump to read more about Ruger’s debut and to see the latest add to my birding life list – hint, he’s a beauty!

Continue reading Burning in the Dirt and the Trees

A Hard Swallow

Yep, it’s broke! Wait, an astute reader might be led astray by that opener. I am not talking about my ankle thank god. That seems to be progressing nicely. After the re-injury, I’ve been able to get most of the new swelling down and recovering faster than expected. I’ve been testing it out in prep for Thursday’s big trial run for the Bix 7 – a nasty hill race held the end of July (link here). Only 7 miles long, but it will put a hurt on you if you are not ready for the heat and the constant hills. Pretty much the only flat spot is maybe 50 feet at the start and then a nice reprieve about 8 tenths of a mile into it after climbing one hell of a hill. 2 miles down, another more grueling hill just before the turnaround and then follow the same path back up before the ever welcome steep trek back down to a longer run-out to the finish. Not something I want to tackle with a mucked up ankle – wish me luck.

Bank Swallow found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago IL in May 2022

The broke comment was related to an event AFTER my run tonight. I’ve been chasing down a Scarlet Tanager (link here) that has been watching me from a roadside perch the last two training runs. I really need that check for our Average Year (link here) to claw back a point from Ron. Yesterday, post run, I grabbed the travel camera from the truck – a Nikon D90 with a 70-200 f2.8 glass that used to be my workhorse many, many moons ago. No luck seeing the bird. Saw it again today as I started my run – once again grabbed my camera after my 7 mile training run (did I mention how well my ankle is doing ha) – It was there, so I started taking shots – snap, snap, snap, THUNK. WTH!!! Shutter stuck open. First thought, “dammit if I didn’t get that bird I’m going to be upset”. Second thought, “oh no, my baby is broke!”. I’ve been through a lot with that D90 and learned a tremendous amount that helped shape my approach to wildlife photography. Not worth fixing as I still have the D7000’s I used before finally picking up the D7500 as a retirement gift. A hard pill to swallow… which brings us to today’s featured feathered friend.

Bank Swallow found at Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary, Chicago IL in May 2022

Hit the jump to learn more about this sand castle living Swallow.

Continue reading A Hard Swallow

Philadelphia Freedom

Quick note, the shell of this post was written a couple of days ago. A status has changed, but rather than rework the post, just added an addendum. Now back your regularly scheduled programming.

Par for course this year, the month of June is flying by. Really not sure what the reason is for that other than I am keeping busy, which is keeping my eyes off the clock. Linda assures me there are still 24 full hours in every day. I do know a chunk of time is being spent training. Per last post, it has been a grind with the ankle injury and now the arrival of Mr. Heat Miser. The lemonade out of lemons is the reduced mileage with the injury is allowing me to ease into the heat conditioning. After 4 consecutive Short 5 to 6 mile outings the ankle was feeling good, so added back in one of the many large climbs that are staples for my usual runs. Ankle held nicely – I decided it warranted a Philadelphia Museum of Art celebration. Yep, put my arms up and did some small circles – pretty sure I heard trumpets in the background. To those that know me, yes, I did look around first to make sure NOBODY would see me hehehehe.

Philadelphia Vireo found at Montrose Beach, Chicago IL, in May 2022

At that moment it occurred to me I had the perfect topic for the next post. I just needed to get back in the digital darkroom when I got back home as this series is fresher than Pepe Le Pew.

Hit the jump to read more about our specimen originally discovered in the City of Brotherly Love.

Continue reading Philadelphia Freedom