I put my blogging hobby in jeopardy tonight. Linda and I checked out a German Christmas Market (Christkindlmarket) in downtown Chicago or as I like to refer to it as – Ron’s neighborhood (cue comment ha). Really nice German/European themed market full of cultural foods and gifts. We took a special liking to the cider and hot chocolate in souvenir mugs and an amazing amount of really cool glass ornaments. Show me a colorful glass bird ornament and I switch into “here, take my money” mode. Problem was it was an OUTSIDE market. Start with the windy city’s namesake, add in a heaping amount of plunging temperatures gives you some mighty bitter conditions. Somehow made it back to the hotel without my fingers falling off – still tingle while I type. In an attempt to bring them back to room temperature, thought I would feature a bird found in much warmer conditions.
Actually this post features specimens found in multiple locations over multiple years and in different months of the year (yes, all warmer than the tundra conditions we experienced tonight). This featured bird is a member of the Sapsucker species. It is pretty easy to tell the Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker is a member of the Woodpecker family. Long, powerful bill, well clawed to support hanging on the sides of trees/branches and adorned in the common colors of black, white and red.
Hit the jump to read some more about Mr. Sappy Sucker!
Continue reading They Who Suck Sap
It is finally thawing out a bit here in the Midwest. Although we did get a nice covering of sleet followed by an inch or so of new snow, I am pleased to say we are up in the 30 degree range. Feels like a heat wave based on what this area has been experiencing over the last couple of weeks. Admittedly, we did escape some of that with a trip back to Texas over the holidays. I would have preferred staying around, but we had to head all the way down to the southern tip of Texas to find new fodder for the blog – the hardships we bloggers have to do to keep our loyal readers … sorry, I could barely type that from laughing so hard. Trust me, I jumped at the chance to get out of the negative double digit windchills even if Texas was experiencing colder than usual temps. More on the fruits of that labor to come. Right now, thought I would feature a surprising +1 to the Birding List.
Now, surprising not so much on the specific bird, because it is likely you have had the pleasure of seeing one of these anywhere in the US and a significant portion of Canada. The surprising element is the fact the Song Sparrow is so common in these parts I was shocked when I noticed it was absent from my birding list. This bird is so frequently encountered on my bird outings I typically do not even bother taking pictures of it anymore. Had I known it wasn’t checked I would have spent some extra time to get better shots (will keep this in mind next time out in the field).
Hit the jump to “See Spot run” errr “sit”!
Continue reading Spotify the Sparrow
As of last night, my busy October is now officially over. Most of that was taken up with our own Haunted Trail efforts which consumes my mornings and nights and everything in between and a number of races to close out the official run season. That gives way to some additional Halloween parties where we get to enjoy the Halloween labors from our friends. Two of those closed up this weekend leaving my calendar fairly free beyond a garage full of decorations that need to put away for next year (some of them are still drying out from the multiple days of rain they had to endure before finally getting them all pulled out of the woods). The last critical task for the month is to complete my blog quota and then we’re ready for whatever November has to offer.
Since we talked about the Yellow-Rumped Warbler in my last post figured it made sense to provide an immediate contrast with the other sub-species of this colorful bird.
As mentioned previously, there are two main classifications of the Yellow-Rumped. The one we covered in the last post was the Audubon variety as noted by their full yellow throat. The other variety is the Myrtle which you are viewing here. Yes, it has the yellow shoulder patches and the yellow crown in similarity with the Audubon version. And it pretty much goes without saying that it too sports the yellow patch on the rump. This wasn’t very easy to tell in the previous Audubon series, so let’s correct that now.
Hit the jump to see and read a bit more about this sun painted Warbler.
Continue reading Different but the Same
Pretty much doing some early Spring cleaning around here at LifeIntrigued. I have a bunch of processed pictures sitting in the queue I want to get through as soon as possible. Not that there is anything wrong with them, I’m just getting really antsy to get to all the trips we’ve taken since these were taken.
The good news is this set of shots is more recent than all the Yellowstone posts from May 2013 you’ve been reading for the last couple of months. To quantify the liberal use of “recent” these pictures were taken in .. wait for it … July of 2013. WOOT!
Hit the jump to see some more interesting birds!
Continue reading Crane Craniums
It’s a new month which means the blog counter gets reset. All is good though due to our recent trip out to Denver – came back with enough blog material to pretty much take me through the end of this year. That, of course, is under the assumption I can plow through the current backlog. Just need to get past a few more planned races and time should free up again. As of now I’ve managed to tweak a back rib which really luckily only hurts when I breathe or move. Making the best of a bad situation figured it would be a good time to sit in a chair and get started on the quota – holding my breath so if a long stream of letters shows up here get help for I’ve passed out.
Speaking of making the most out of a bad situation, that is just about what this particular post was titled. Why? because this is all about trying to cope with a wildlife photographer’s nemesis – the dreaded chain link fence. The International Crane Foundation has some very nice habitats for photography, but there a number of pens in the central area that rely on standard fencing. No need to fear…
There are plenty of opportunities to still come away with some nice shots and if nothing else, you can use it as practice when conditions are not ideal out in the field. In a previous post it was mentioned that the Beast (my 200 to 400 glass) is capable of limiting the impact fences have on a shot as long as the subject you are shooting is a considerable distance away from the fence. You might get some linear shading but that can be worked out in the digital dark room if really needed – most of the time people will not notice unless your composition tells them there was a fence there in the first place. When the subject is close to the fence, there is no way the glass is going to let that go. Instead you have to be a little more creative. The easiest approach is to simply go for dramatic detail.
These first two shots were simply a matter of cropping out those pesky fence lines and focusing on the core component of all wildlife photography – the eye! If you recall, this topic has come up before (link here). I really like those shots and planning to make them into a mini wall collage at some point in honor of Peter Lik who does a similar thing with textures. Thanks to the ICF trip there are now two more shots for the collection.
Hit the jump to see more examples of how to cope with fences in your composition!
Continue reading Round Shapes in Square Holes
What will he post about next…. hmmmm.. maybe a collection of observations at buffets including the lady at Jumer’s Casino who takes her bare hands, puts it on the top plate of a stack and pushes them out closer to the customers and then repeats with the remaining stack of plates next to it leaving me stunned. I took the top plate off one of the stacks put it on the now empty spot behind them and took the plate below it – making sure she noticed. As fun a topic as that might be it really doesn’t stick with this month’s theme. Idiots that throw trash on the ground at State Parks…nah, last year’s trek to get a rare bird (Ron wishes)… I know, how about some more CRANES!!!
What a great idea. The bad news is these pictures are not gallery quality, but it does feature one of the coolest Cranes (my personal opinion of course).
This regal looking Crane is called a Demoiselle. Every time I see it at the International Crane Foundation images of Roman Senators leap to mind with their leaf crowns. According to the ICF website, these Demoiselles occupy the low end of the Crane stature scale – 3ft, 4-7lbs and once again rockin’ Wikipedia nets me their wingspan of 61 to 71″ for a wingspan. Note to ICF, wingspan is a common birder attribute so highly recommend adding it to your descriptions. What they lack in stature, they make up in quantity. They are in the 200 to 240K range with a stable average population – yeah! As a result, they are listed as Least Concern Conservation Status.
Thought the composition of the shot above was cute. It was definitely taking an interest in the shape it had spotted in the grass – sorry, not sure what it was but let’s simply refer to it as “food”. Don’t be worried, I do have a shot that shows their entire profile
Admittedly, not a stellar shot since it lacks that faux in the wild feeling seeing their little man made hut. Did I mention these birds are cool looking! Pretty sure I have a better picture of them from a more recent visit so stay tuned and hopefully I’ll get caught up enough to get them on the Blog. Oh, reminded by the next shot, the Demoiselle is on of the few cranes that don’t sport the red patch on the head (which for those researching day and night does not match the red palette clue for my prize hunt).
Hit the jump to view two other Cranes we visited at the ICF
Continue reading Surprise, A Trifecta of Cranes
We are on a roll here at Life Intrigued – a Crane roll for clarification. I was going to vary it up a bit for this particular post, but the teeming millions of readers out there demanded that I stick with the International Crane Foundation shoot. Steady readers will recognize we are once again back in Baraboo, Wisconsin admiring the beautiful Cranes. This one happens to be even more ornate that rest.
This royal looking Crane, like the others this month, is making its debut on the blog. According to ICF’s website, this bird is referred to as a Black Crowned Crane. In a nod to the long time readers with an incredible attention to detail, you must might be thinking “Hey you ‘if you like your plan you can keep your plan period’ apprentice – that bird isn’t making its debut. You already have one of those from your visit to the Indianapolis Zoo.” Wow, that was harsh but unlike the reference, I was telling the truth.
A very similar Crane was posted previously on the blog back in Feb 2013 (link here). Although that bird had a similar palette around the face and definitely a match on the spiky head piece, that was actually a Grey Crowned Crane. Unless you saw these two birds together you probably wouldn’t be able to make the distinction, but as you can see in the shots of the Black Crowned Crane, the body is more … wait for it .. black. Those clever namers never cease to surprise me.
Hit the jump to read more about this royal bird!
Continue reading Another Royal Crane
Been an exhausting day pounding out a 12 miler in the Jubilee hills and then breaking out the mower for the first cut of the season. To give myself a bit of a rest, figured I’d take a seat and crank out a quick post. I warned you in the last post that there were a number of Crane entries coming from our visit to the International Crane Foundation (link here) nestled near Baraboo, Wisconsin.
This colorful Crane specimen is referred to as a Wattled Crane and like the Blue Crane from the previous post, is a native of Africa. Half the population of these birds (total ~8,000) take up residence in Zambia – a mighty long way from Wisconsin! Unlike the Blue Crane, this particular species is on the other end of the stature scale. If I recall correctly the Blue Crane tops out in the 4 foot range. The Wattled Crane tops out in the SIX FOOT range. Yes, this is one of those Cranes you can view at eye level while standing (unless you are short of six feet in which case you are immediately demoralized having to look UP to a bird.
Hit the jump to see more shots of the Wattled Crane!
Continue reading Another Day With The Cranes – 2 of Many
In case you might have missed it, we are now officially in May. Hard to believe around here seeing as how it has been like 46, windy and raining most of the week. Couple that with the current administration claiming our economy is hurting because of .. wait for it .. the unusually cold Winter and we officially call Globull Warming a policy of redistribution based on hogwash. But I digress, the real point about mentioning it was May is that it signifies the start a new set of posts (yeah, crowd goes wild!). Calm down, you might scare the bird of the day.
Pretty cool eh? Happened to catch this beautiful specimen walking across our backyard one morning. Believe that? Okay, I lied. This was actually taken while hiking in a remote and dangerous part of Baraboo, Wisconsin. Wow, tough crowd.. so it really wasn’t that remote… or that dangerous … but it WAS just outside of Baraboo Wisconsin so it wasn’t a complete distortion of the truth. Reality is this Blue Crane was taken while visiting The International Crane Foundation (link here). For those not familiar with this particular place, this foundation is focused on saving/restoring the various Crane species throughout the world. They were founded back in 1973 by Ron Sauey and George Archibald. From there they started a journey to conserve the Crane population that was in serious risk throughout the world. They are probably most well known for their ongoing efforts to bring back the Whooping Crane population by creatively employing an ultra-light to help young Cranes migrate from Wisconsin to Florida starting back in 2001. If you are a true birder, you owe it to yourself to make the trip to visit this awesome foundation.
On our first visit up there several years ago (when these pics were taken), we didn’t have very high expectations. Wisconsin didn’t seem like the appropriate place to go check out Cranes. Figured we’d stop by there, walk around the place for a bit and head out – maybe an hour tops. It is stunning how wrong we were – thinking we pulled ourselves out of there after about 3.5 hours and that was because we had other places to be. Not only did they have a number of birds on display, there were a number of habitats that were set up perfectly for photographers – in other words, they provided a means to shoot directly at some of the birds without having to deal with annoying linked fences. The Blue Crane featured here had a nice area complete with muraled walls to provide the illusion of being out in the wild. Each of the areas had some form of grazing area along with a structure they could seek shelter from the sun if needed. I spent a lot of time waiting for the shot above thinking the doorway would provide a natural frame. Decided to do a little more cropping on it to see which I liked better (see first shot). Been back and forth on that, but eventually decided I liked the tighter cropping – any opinions from your perspective?
Here is a shot showing the wall mural – also gives a better impression on the size of the bird. From a Crane perspective, the Blue Crane is on the smaller stature end. They run in the 4 foot and 11 pound range. Yes, I did just say they average 4 foot tall while also stating they are on the SMALLER end of the scale. You haven’t had a true Crane experience until you are staring at one of the species standing nearly at eye level.
Hit the jump to read more about this beautiful Crane!
Continue reading A Day With The Cranes – 1 of Many
Once again, we are back in Baraboo, Wisconsin but this time with specimens from the Goose family. First off, an apology. The title of this post really doesn’t fit based on a crap load of Internet research. After frying a bunch of synapse coming up with a clever title I hated to give it up so we are going with it. This series of pictures was taken on our way home from our Easter stay at Chula Vista Resort. just outside the Dells. Our trek home took us through the city of Baraboo which always makes me shudder in fright … who in their right mind would take the effort to make a Circus Museum?!? I’ll answer that, a DERANGED CLOWN LOVER that’s who. Give me a second to get the heart calmed down..
beatbeatbeatbe atbe atb e atb e atb e a tbe e a t b e a t b e a t ahhhh that was close
Continuing on, there is a nice stream that runs through that city which can be seen from the main thoroughfare (as it heads to Devil’s Head if you are curious). On that day we spotted a couple of birds hanging out along the shore. Not wanting to pass up a shot opportunity I had Linda turn onto a side road for some in vehicle shots – the Beast was on the camera so there was plenty of reach. Turns out we were stopped right next to a No Parking sign and some cars were giving us disproving looks. Not wanting to ruffle the locals, Linda dropped me off and started cruising around while I took some more shots from the banks. Turns out the final product had a nice surprise.
It was high day which put up a pretty good fight on the exposure effort. Admittedly, there is some blowout just below the neck, but was able to recover a lot of the feature detail outside that (embrace the RAW). At the time, the small LCD screen was not able to really show a unique feature of the bird, but once in the digital darkroom it came out crystal clear. Let’s move in a bit so you can see for yourself.
That eye is just plain gorgeous. The orange eyelids really make it pop against the white coloring. The sun angle even gave the highly desired glint. To do it again I would have backed the exposure off one or two stops and then brought the light back in post processing. Recovery restored a lot of the detail around the head, so a tighter crop would take out some of the blow outs, but there needs to be some of it left – otherwise it would look like someone took an ax to it (eesh). As an example, here is another tight crop which gives even a better view of the eye but again, a less appealing crop from an overall composition perspective… and yes, I needed to apply some additional recovery on this version to get the detail back in the head feathering.
Hit the jump to see more pictures from this post
Continue reading A Majestic Domestic Spotted in Baraboo