Okay, I’ve decided to try and look on the bright side of this pandemic crap. Now that I am unofficially officially retired. I’ve decided to try out a bit of optimism. Not that I consider myself a pessimist by any means – more of a realist. Sometimes when things are brown and ugly.. you gotta call it crap, pure and simple. Covid-19 is crap, no way around it – but it has made one American tradition a LOT more civilized. Yes, I am talking about Black Friday. The annual day where capitalism and frugality duke it out at the cost of all human decency and altruism. Admittedly, as a person who truly enjoys studying behaviors both in society and out in the wild, Black Friday nationwide petri dish treasure trove. Pick some strategic locations (number 1 being Home Depot as they pass out donuts and drinks to those standing in their line) and then stay up all night until 4am and rush out to stand in line while your wife hangs out in the car or RV at the back of the lot. Breakfast, a show and if there happens to be some really good item I don’t have to lose my humanity for, then bonus. I’ve seen it all, screaming matches, toy tug-o-war, adult fights, adults getting trampled, kids getting trampled, trips, falls, my wife walking briskly up to me with a hot sale item in her hand telling me we have to head for the checkouts immediately … will leave that story right there ha. All good blog fodder for the other flagship Intrigued blog. Not sure what the standard behavior is other countries – just assumed this is just a US stigma. Regardless – the pandemic has accelerated a new era for Black Friday – one more focused on sitting in your most comfortable living room chair and dancing down the aisles with a mouse and keyboard. I suspect that the emergency room visits outside of Covid cases plummeted this season as a result – maybe some carpal tunnel or extra eye strain cases, but those shouldn’t take up precious ER beds. So there you have it – the pandemic has brought more civility to the US – who would have guessed that could have happened. Then there is the benefit of successfully ending the concept of hugs which I’m all for!!! Yikes, my intro got away from me today. The good news is the animal wildlife part (not the above wild human part) is more of a picture than a word post. You might recognize today’s featured feathered friend.
No, your browser cache is not acting up and bringing in images from the last post. Over the past 13+ years, this might be the first time I’ve featured the exact same bird species in back to back posts. I try to be a bit more creative for my readers. However, in this special case, I wanted to follow-up on a missing element from the last post.
Hit the jump for an explanation of the deja-vu
Continue reading Wax Now Out
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
Good news everyone, I survived the Bix7 run this morning. I’ve ran that race for 16 years, now every inch of that course by memory and tried countless strategies to figure out the best way through it – no matter what I do, that race NEVER gets any easier and this morning was no different. I’ve taken on some of the hardest nightmare courses this year all hillier and twice as long, but this out and back hill course along the bluffs of the Mississippi in Davenport IA still puts a hurt on me. Congratulations also to Linda who conquered the Brady Street hill for another year. I’ll be putting the details up on my other blog as usual, but as of now I’m sitting here wondering how many days before I stop hobbling around. While waiting for the Alleve to kick in, decided to go ahead and get my monthly quota out of the way.
Probably should have given you some advanced warning on tonight’s featured wildlife creature. I know there are a lot of individuals out there that are not exactly fond of Snakes. I can point directly to my wife who will likely be moving my pillow to the guest room for even considering featuring such a hideous creature. Admittedly, Snakes can creep me out a bit if they manage to sneak up on me or catch me off guard by slithering through trees above me. Otherwise, we get along just fine. As you can see here, when one is encountered in the field, it’s shutter slapping time.
Hit the jump to read more about Mr. Slither both from this encounter and a couple of other experiences with these slithery creatures.
Continue reading Thankfully Without Wings
Welcome back everyone! Still busy as hell around her at LifeIntrigued. I have a half marathon race tomorrow in a creepy cemetery, Halloween is just around the corner and my basement is “finish me” shaming me every time I go down there. Luckily almost all the materials have arrived to finish out the trim in the basement, so hoping to get through most of that this weekend barring any issues with the run tomorrow night. Making some progress on the decorations but still a lot to do there .. not likely to get to everything I was hoping to have done, but it should be another good display with what appears to be in my means. Of course, if that isn’t enough, I have blog quota demands to deal with as well – so far those have not been writing themselves, so let’s get to today’s feature.
When it comes to Dragonflies, they really do not get much cooler looking that the one above. Well, except for the one below, but we’ll get to that in a second. Decided it was time to get this post out there. I’ve been sitting on these red dragons for a while now. It occurred to me that they themed well together because they are both Dragons, and well… they both feature the color red – albeit the one above is more of an orange than a red. One thing about them is they were shot in completely different locations. The one above I believe is called a Flame Skimmer. As with all posts on this site, corrections, confirmations, complaints are always welcome in the comments. This particular Flame was located at Red Rocks Canyon near Las Vegas Nevada. There have been a number of posts for this particular site on this blog due to its huge diversity in photography options. Linda enjoys taking shots of the gorgeous red hues in the rock terrain and I spend my times hunting for anything that moves on the ground, in the air and guessing water if they actually had any water there. I mention the latter because ironically, this particular dragonfly prefers hanging out near water supplies such as hot spring out in the Southwest. Note as a unique trait, the Flamer doesn’t actually seek out prey. They basically hang out around the house waiting for the food delivery guy to pull up and hand them dinner. A good life if you can get it I guess.
The dragon above has to be my favorite so far. The deep red body accentuated by the orange tinted wings and the gorgeous red pattern on the lower abs and tail. Going off of images my brother Ron sent me and some quick searches on the internet, this appears to be a Red Saddlebag. The only thing that leaves a bit of question on that is this one has a very distinct red pattern on the back. The reference images I see have a much more blotchy red coloring – what do you think?
Hit the jump to see a couple more shots
Continue reading The Red Dragons
I am officially an owner of an empty shell of a body. Tonight’s run was quite the struggle with the gas running out at the 2 mile mark. Forced my way to a total of 8 miles but there were some dark side of the moon moments that made me think back to the last section of my Marathon. Pretty much overdid it digging the trench yesterday. Not good seeing as how I have a training run in the Quad Cities this Thursday evening prepping for the Bix 7 later in the month. Tomorrow just might be a take it easy day (for the record, I HATE those days). I promised another update today so broken body and all (ha), I’m here to serve. Today I bring you a collection of shots of the Eastern Kingbird.
These first two were taken at Lake Andes in South Dakota. We were passing through on our way to Yellowstone National Park back in May of 2013. The Eastern Kingbird happens to be one of those species that is easy to identify in the field… even if you are not a seasoned birder. They have a fairly slim profile with a brilliant white underbelly up through the neck. This contrast with the black overcoat (some say it wears a business suite) is easily recognizable from afar – especially when spotted in their preferred marshy habitat. Similar to the Phoebes and Flycatchers, these birds put a serious hurt on the insect population wherever they roam. Watch them for a bit and you will see them dart out from their perch, do some amazing acrobatic moves and return to their starting point with the fruits of their labor clinched tightly in their beaks (like in the shot above).
Oh, I should probably point out there is another easy way to identify them in the field. If you check the shot above you will notice their tail feathers look like they were dipped in white paint. This is usually my first identifying mark depending on the viewing angle.
Hit the jump to see a few more shot so the King.
Continue reading Here Comes the King
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
So how’s everyone doing out there today? Will it make you feel better if I tell you this is the last post in the first International Crane Foundation series? Although if you are a birder you might be saddened thinking this might be the last of the bird posts for awhile. If you are in the latter, no worries. The Denver trip produced at least 6 new checks on the bird list and thinking at this moment of jumping to the back of the queue and processing them so I can claim the full check. I feel a little embarrassed when I tell people there are only 70 some birds on my life list – keep in mind that means photographed and blogged on so far. Hoping to be over a hundred by the end of the year. A few more trips like Denver’s and I’ll be in good shape.
Truth be told this post is somewhat bittersweet. I do like Cranes (as noted by my brother Ron) so knowing this is the last of the First Series is a little sad. On the sweet side, I purposely saved the best for last – this bird is in the top echelon of my favorite birds.
The title should have given it away, but this is indeed a Whooping Crane. One of two Linda and I spent a healthy amount of time photographing on our first trip to the International Crane Foundation. Unlike the previous post that talked about the issues with fences, these Whoopers live in the nicest habitat they have complete with natural enclosures and a pond that comes up right alongside the viewing area. There is also elevated bench seating for visitors to sit back, relax in the shade and listen to the ranger educate them on this wonderful bird.
We are generally there early in the season giving us the entire area to ourselves. No problem setting up the tripod wherever we want, right up to the waters’ edge. A fantastic experience for any bird photographer – even ones that claim they are not bird photographers ….like my wife who on the contrary has been upping the competition as of late. Every time we have been there, we’ve been able to witness two of the resident Whooping Cranes. I can’t say for sure it has been the same couple all those years, but they are pretty oblivious to our presence and mirror slaps. Calm birds and nice settings – what more can you ask for (well, if you insist, could have used some overcast that day to help cut down on the harshness of the sun).
Hit the jump to see and read more about the Whooping Crane!
Continue reading Whoop Whoop Whoop
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