Reach Out and Grab It

The “Month of Variety” is coming to a close.  This is a good thing for me because the bird pictures are really starting to stack up as of late.  I’ve had a number of local encounters this month that I’m really happy about and Linda and I have been out on additional bird shoots that have have netted some nice opportunities as well.  Speaking of which, today’s shoot was unbelievably FRUSTRATING – well at least one large chunk of it.  We had been up and down the Mississippi River for most of the morning checking out whatever water birds we could locate.  While visiting a nature center at of the sites we came across a birding pamphlet that indicated the Pileated Woodpecker was COMMON in the particular area we were, Spring, Summer, Winter and Fall.  Let me restate that – they are COMMON to the area.  Needless to say, we tracked down a wooded nature preserve and headed right for it.  By headed right to it, I mean, drove all over the place trying to find it including backtracking like crazy trying to locate it.  Unbeknownst to us at the time this was going to be the theme for our prized Woodpecker hunt.  Eventually we located it and headed out on one of the trails.  Mental note, next time take a better look at the map.  In our haste to get the shot, we failed to set a proper course.  About 20 minutes into the trek we heard it!  You can’t mistake the sound of a Pileated Woodpecker.  Sure enough, about 5 minutes later it flew high over our heads and lighted quite some distance deeper into the woods.  In hindsight we should have just tracked it down, but instead we decided to continue on the trail back to the car.  An hour plus later we were lost thanks to absolutely pathetic trail markers.  It was awful, but eventually we found the proper trail and started our trek out.  At one point I joked to Linda that there will probably be 5 Pileateds sitting in the tree next to our car when we returned.  That didn’t come to fruition when we staggered out of the woods.  We got in the car and left dejected.  About .3 miles out of the park that damn Pileated (assuming at this point it was the same) flew past our windshield and into the trees by the side of the road.  By the time Linda got the car stopped and I got out it had disappeared again AAAARRRRGGHHHH!!!  All that work, 2 sightings and NOTHING to show for it.

But that really wasn’t the topic for today’s post.  Instead I am going with some shots that we took during our Mackinaw Island trip back in 2012.

It was actually a gorgeous night on July 3rd.  We were in the area to catch the Fourth of July celebrations.  As with our previous visit, we opted to stay on the mainland rather than fight the hassle with the shuttles.  The hotel we were staying at was on the lake complete with beach.   As the day was coming to an end, the full moon decide to grace us shrouded in a breathtaking orange.  The Harvest Moon shots in the previous post was what reminded me about these shots.

There is something about a serene water setting that completely relaxes you.  No more worrying about work or fretting about tasks to get done at home, just living in the now with the best nature has to offer.  I was standing out in the water enjoying the scene when Linda took this shot.  Was I thinking deep philosophical thoughts, the foundation of our existence or maybe the downfall of the greatest country in the world thanks to socialist agendas?

Hit the jump to see the answer.

Continue reading Reach Out and Grab It

A Prized Pecker

This week I’ve been focused on avoiding ANY activity that would cause some form of injury up to and including the very painful hangnail.  That means no working on Project Auuuunooollldd, no work to shore up Serenity, no constructing the new mailbox support structure and definitely no cleaning tubs or vacuuming (long story but that one cost me major damage to the shoulder some time ago).  Oh, and doing dishes and cleaning up after myself is right out (hehehe).  What’s left with all the fun stuff banned… well, you blog.  You probably already noticed I am way ahead of schedule at the moment, but sitting and typing is about the safest activity I can pick.  Luckily, the post topic hopper is pretty full.

I promised you a break from Henderson, but that didn’t mean you were free from birds.  This post has been on my mind ever since the day before we headed out to Vegas.  That Saturday a friend of ours (John Best) put a post on Facebook that he might have heard a Pileated Woodpecker while hiking out at Forest Park Nature Preserve.  The minute Linda relayed that message to me we were headed for the car with the Beast in hand.  If you are new to the blog, the Pileated Woodpecker was on the TOP of my bird wish list.  John’s wife actually thought she had seen one at our house one day but I originally dismissed it based on the mere fact I had NEVER seen or heard one in the area from the day we bought the land.  Not to long after that I was busy apologizing to her because one flew into our yard one cold Sunday morning.  That was followed by chasing that damn bird through our entire 15 acres trying to get a decent shot .. big failure on that endeavor – did I mention I was in my jammies at the time (Linda had quite the laugh).  My only other sighting of this bird was in the Porcupine Mountains (link here .. at the bottom).  Once again unable to get it in the tin so no checkmark.   Very frustrating, but maintained hope that one day I’d be able to shoot it.

So, there Linda and I were standing in the park trying our best to locate a large black bird with a red head.  Look to the left, look to the right, look up, look down, walk a ways and repeat.  Nuttin’!  Beginning to think John might have been mistaken we were just about to give up when we heard a loud call ring out from atop the hill to our left.  Pileated Woodpeckers have unmistakable calls that rivals the Sandhill Crane squabbles.  I need to stop doubting the Bests, that’s for sure.  Only problem was finding a way to it.  This isn’t a free ranging park and there didn’t seem to be any paths leading up in that direction.  A huge relief when we found a winding trail further down the main path.  The hunt was on.  Halfway up we stopped for a bit to wait for another call.  5 or 10 minutes later we heard it again this time followed by a jackhammer pounding against wood.  Of course, it was coming from the top of the hill so we continued our climb up the steep hill – kudos to Linda for sticking with me. Once at the top we started a more thorough scan.  all of sudden we see movement from a large black bird…

Ladies and gentleman, I introduce you to the reason for a very prestigious check mark.  There it was in all its glory, the long sought after Pileated Woodpecker.  The tree canopy put the Beast at a disadvantage both in the lighting conditions and the amount of interference.  The ISO was jacked up to provide enough shutter speed to keep most of the blurring down and there was a lot of foot focus going on in desperate attempts to get a straight line of sight to the bird.

This guaranteed there would be no gallery shots, but definitely good enough to qualify for a check mark.  You should have seen the blurred shot I got while running around our lot in my PJs – you could tell it was black and had some reddish in it, but saying it was a bird was reach.  Linda probably thought I was a kid in a candy store running up and down the trail trying to get as many shots as I could.

Hit the jump to read more about the prized Pileated Woodpecker

Continue reading A Prized Pecker