Sora Doubletake

Greetings everyone!.  Been a fun day around here thanks to a spontaneous decision to celebrate our 27th anniversary by hunting down some birds and sunflower fields.  We were not sure if the weather was going to hold out our not as some storm clouds were rolling through the area most of the day – thankfully we didn’t get hit with the tornado swarms that were doing significant damage to our Iowa neighbors.  Looks like Linda’s relatives made it through without too much trouble.  We ended up making a run down to Havana IL so I could get a nice bird in the tin (looking forward to getting that posted here) and Linda was definitely able to add to her flower portfolio form the two sunflower fields we successfully located.  Those were both still in their bloom stages where the fields down the road from us have officially wilted.  Tired from the long day, so opted to rest a bit and push out a post.

Sora at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge December 2017

For ease, going back to our recent trip to the Texas Gulf Coast for this post.  A lot of those pictures were processed already and easy to simply pull them into a new post.  I find the largest chunk of time in any of my posts is getting the pictures in a shape I’m willing to share, so having that part out the way is a huge benefit when you have a short time to get one of these out.  Today’s featured post is our friend the Sora.  Like the last post, the Sora is not a new bird to the blog.  That previous posting (link here) featured a specimen found down at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge.  We ended up swinging through there today on our way to Havana.  Unfortunately, the dry summer has really impacted that place.  For those familiar with it, the water has receded way beyond the observation decks at the back of the refuge.

Sora at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge December 2017

Hit the jump to read more about my encounters with the Sora.

Continue reading Sora Doubletake

A Green Double Take

My Cardinals just blew another late inning lead for the loss.  Rather than sit her and seethe through the post game excuses, decided to simply turn off the source of my frustration and immerse myself in another blog post.  Bring a bit of calm to my night and productivity at the same moment – can’t beat that… well you could if those damn Cardinals could keep it together… calming breadth, serenity now, puppies… okay, back under control.  Thought I’d simply keep the theme from the last post going and feature another Heron family member.

Green Heron encountered at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center in January 2017

Today’s effort is a combination post consisting of the same species, at the same spot, but a year apart.  These first few shots were taken a little less than 6 months ago at the South Padre Bird Viewing and Nature Center.   The Green Heron is not a new bird on my list – in fact it was featured all the way back in September 2012 (link here).  Ironically the specimen back in 2012 was just down the road from our house in a state park.  Seems like a bit of an overkill to drive all the way down to the tip of Texas to see the same species hehehe.

Green Heron encountered at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center in January 2017

Hit the return to see a few more shots of the Green Heron

Continue reading A Green Double Take

Rednosed Reedbird

Welcome to race day eve.  Tomorrow the alarm will ring at 4:45am to signal the start of another day of racing.  Fortunately, this one is a slight downgrade from the half to a 15K – now, for the record, it is the toughest 15K in Illinois thanks in part to a repeat loop with a wicked hill.  That doesn’t concern me much thanks to a lot of hill work during training, but what does concern me is that two word weather term HEAT INDEX.  Earlier this week the night temps dropped into the high sixties.  No luck keeping that around.  The heat index is supposed to get around 105F.  Wish me luck, ever since the heat stroke episode, my internal thermostat has been very touchy.  Always helps me to relax to sit down and get a post out.

Common Gallinule found at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center, December 2017

Unlike the  bulk of the posts lately (more like this year), the featured waterbird is not a new bird for my list.  Nope, they were previously featured not once, but twice here already (link here and here).  Not to mention, every time I see this bird the first thing that pops into my head is the image of my brother Ron trying to get into a good position to get a picture of one only to end up falling halfway down a large embankment and rolling to the bottom.  Think my laughter ended up scaring the bird and for all that work, nothing to show in the tin – although a memory to last a lifetime.

Common Gallinule found at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center, December 2017

Hit the jump to read more about this red nosed bird (apparently heavy drinkers ha)

Continue reading Rednosed Reedbird

Little Miss Green

Sometimes adversity results in finding yourself balled up on the floor trying to keep your eyes from floating out of their sockets (so people tell me).  Of course, then there are difficult situations that turn out to be opportunities in disguise.  Now the latter I have experienced multiple times and that includes this week!  I’ve mentioned recently that my days and nights are packed at the moment with work and training devouring the few chances I have to get my posts out.  The month was churning away and my quota counter wasn’t moving nearly fast enough.  Decided to forego some sleep last night and get back into the digital darkroom and work some images up.  At least with the most time consuming part out of the way, I could find smaller chunks of time to get something out there for you.  While combing through my image cache, a pleasant surprise greeted me.

Green Kingfisher encountered at South Padre Island Nature and Bird Viewing Center, Texas in December 2017

Turns out I had somehow overlooked a number of additional discoveries on our recent Texas trip over the Christmas holidays.  One of those discoveries was this beautiful specimen.  I think one of the brain fog contributing factors was my Audubon Chapter speech earlier in the year.  Most of my blog posts were in preparation for that talk.  Must have gotten confused thinking the work up of images for that presentation had already been posted here.  A quick search of the blog came up empty – long story short(er), this cool looking Green Kingfisher was inadvertently skipped.   So glad this was found, this Kingfisher is one of my favorite finds from the trip to South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center.

Green Kingfisher encountered at South Padre Island Nature and Bird Viewing Center, Texas in December 2017

Continue reading Little Miss Green

Clap So I Can See You

A little late getting this published, so first off, wanted to extend my appreciation for the families that have served (those in theater and those that keep the home going so they can focus on their task at hand) and to those that will choose to protect this great country and her values abroad in spite of those that continue to tear it down from the inside.  To those that gave the ultimate sacrifice, there are no words sufficient to thank beyond you will never be forgotten

Now back to your regularly scheduled content.

Good news, I survived my “new endeavor” in running.  I still need to get my recollection post out (on my other blog), but as a quick summary I decided to add more challenge to my running passion and decided to move into trail racing.  Probably wouldn’t recommend to others to start out in this version of the sport with a half marathon… in a hilly reservoir… with technical sections … and creek crossings.  That run is only second to my marathon run in terms of toughness.  It also happens to be one of a very few races I had a smile on the entire time.  Amazing and needless to say, totally hooked – a round of claps for trails!

Clapper Rail at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center, Texas in December 2017

Well, actually more like a Clapper – and not the trail kind – rather the Rail kind.  This rather large bird is the latest to bear the check mark on my birding list.  We came upon this specimen on our birding trip to South Padre Island over the holiday break last December.  The South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center has easily become one of my favorite birding locations adding new birds to my list every time we make it down there.  If you have spent any time at all on my Wildlife Blog you already know how amazingly productive that location is thanks to an extensive boardwalk that allows access to the marshes without disturbing the birds.  This one was found in nearly the same location where we spotted the Virginia Rail on a previous visit (link here).

Clapper Rail at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center, Texas in December 2017

Hit the jump to read more about this interesting bird!

Continue reading Clap So I Can See You

Less Bitter

First off, Happy Easter to everyone!  If all goes well today, I’ll be adding a check on my birding list thanks to a quick trip up north.  Ron has alerted me to a bird hanging out around Joliet that I still need to get in the tin.  Apparently this particular specimen has decided to get chummy with a local flock.  The current plan is to catch some birding at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie.  The wind is supposed to die down, but the mercury dropped as well.  Hmm, guessing the younger generation doesn’t know what that means anymore – I remember as a kid having mercury races on the school bus – put a drop in each of the channels of the rubber mat that ran the length of the bus between the seats and see which one made it to the back of the bus by the end of the trip – then again, somewhat amazed it didn’t cause serious health damage.   In honor of going after a new bird, decided to feature another new check on my list.

Least Bittern discovered at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center in December 2016

That there is a Least Bittern discovered at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center in December 2016.  By now you should be very familiar with that birding sight on the South Texas Gulf Coast.  Someday I should count up all the +1’s my two trips to that location have netted.  Guessing it rivals the impressive counts obtained at the Henderson Bird Viewing Preserve in Nevada.  That isn’t even considering the improved pictures I was able to get in the tin for birds already on the list.  This particular find almost went unnoticed in the digital darkroom.

Least Bittern discovered at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center in December 2016

Hit the jump to see another version of this picture and learn a bit (ha) more about this Bittern.

Continue reading Less Bitter

Expert Assist

There are times when you look at a bird and go hmmm. Then you look at the bird a little closer and go hmmm. You reach into your pocket, start up your favorite bird identification app, do a bit of searching and then go hmmm. Desperate you ask every person with a camera or binoculars slung around their neck what they think of said bird and now everyone collectively goes hmmm. Pretty soon there is quite the gaggle of humans staring at pretty bird simply sitting on a fence watching the sun go by.

Tropical Kingbird found at the South Padre Bird Viewing Center in December 2017

If you haven’t guessed already, this is exactly one of those times. Linda and I were visiting one of our favorite birding locations along the Texas Gulf Coast – the South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center. This is our second time to this jewel of a birding place and each time it gets better and better. Oddly enough, we managed to show up there at the one year anniversary of being there back in December 2016. Ever get one of those times when you ask yourself if time travel might be possible and the unexpected side effect is you can’t remember initiating the time travel? (I have dibs on that idea before you get any thoughts of using that in a script hehehe).

Tropical Kingbird found at the South Padre Bird Viewing Center in December 2017

Hit the jump to find out more about this pretty bird!

Continue reading Expert Assist

Pigeon Paper Scissors

Had a bit of a scare last night.  I had just started into a training run on the treadmill – weather has not been conducive to outside runs as of late either due to a deluge of the fluffy stuff or dangerous single to subzero temps.  Trust me, if I could run outside, I would, rather that subject myself to the modern day torture machine my fellow runners and I refer to as the killmill.  Less than 2 tenths into the planned 7 mile run a sharp stab hit me just below the ankle nearly throwing me off the deck.  Managed to stick an ugly landing that brought me to my knees.  Tried rubbing and stretching it, but the foot was locked up and wouldn’t hold weight.  Had to call it for the night and thinking it might be a stress fracture.  Found out from the chiro today, likely not a fracture but had dislocated a bone in the area – that was snapped back into place (that was near equal to the pain of when it happened).  Foot moving now – gonna wait for a couple of days before pushing it again.  Thought I would get a quick post out there before applying some ice.

Today’s featured feathered species is one I had to go all the way to the southern tip of Texas to get.

Rock Pigeon shot at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center in January 2017

On second thought, I guess technically I didn’t need to go all the way to Texas for this one.  Nope, I could have simply walked a quarter mile down our road and snapped one hanging out on some nearby power lines.  You know what I say, why do something in the cold when you can simply drive for two days and do the exact same thing, but in warmer weather.  The region map for this species looks like someone grabbed a can of purple paint and just threw it on the US and let it drain all the way down to the tip of South America.  It also includes a line up to Alaska so our isolated friends to the northwest get to experience them as well.  Problem is, they are not really a prized bird, unless you are historically bad at Roshambo and need a confidence builder –  these birds absolutely suck at it opting to pick Rock nearly 100% of the time. (in a rare move, they’ll through a Spock out thinking they’re playing the expanded game developed by Sheldon). It is actually their stubbornness in always throwing rock that has given this species their name – Rock Pigeon (you can even the one below this about to clinch those talons and do it again – never ever learn – Paper .. you lose).

Rock Pigeon shot at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center in January 2017

This particular Rock Pigeon was spotted at the South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center.  “Spotted” in this context being it walked down the railing toward me until it was less than a foot away promptly challenging me to a game of claw wits.  It couldn’t match my $10 bet so I declined – not going to take the risk of humiliating myself to a Pigeon without some skin in the game.  I did take the opportunity to create some distance between us in order to get a picture.  I had The Beast out there and that was waaaaaay to close for me to focus.  Laughing at how long it has taken to get this fairly common bird in the tin, grabbed a few shots before it headed off to find a more willing challenger.

Rock Pigeon shot at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center in January 2017

As far as facts go, Pigeons are well known for the ability to find their homes – some say through magnetic fields along with senses and sun positioning.  Must be a handy talent after a night of drinking at the local bar.   Cornell mentions these Rock Pigeons carried messages during the first and second World Wars.  I was not aware that the various variations of their coloring are given names – the blueish-gray version with the two black bars shown here is referred to as the blue-bar variety – will have to keep a look out for the other patterns (one is rusty red, some have spots, others solid and then there are splotched, mostly red and mostly white etc.).  I was always under the impression these birds carried some pretty nasty diseases, but unable to confirm that on the Cornell’s site.  Wikipedia did have a blurb about them harboring a diverse parasite fauna (which they started to name causing me to quickly go for the back button before getting the crawlies.

That’s all I have for you tonight.  Definitely not a rare bird by any means, but happy to finally be able to officially add the +1 to my list.

From Virginia by Rail

For the second straight day I have had to plow our driveway thanks to a near non-stop snow storm that has decided to take up residence in the heartland of Illinois.  It was coming down pretty hard on our way back from our “dinner with a skunk” Valentines dinner last night – think I mentioned that event on my last post.  Our local Wildlife Prairie Park holds the event as a fund raiser for their now privately funded park (thankfully taken back from our fiscally weak state).  Yes, they do have a live skunk to visit and get pictures with.  In the past they have had two, Tink and Tank, but this year we were sans Tank.  Not sure why, but hope all is well with the little guy.  If you haven’t made the association yet, this is a play on Pepé Le Pew who would likely be enemy #1 for the Metoo movement based on his aggressive behavior in those old cartoons.  As expected, we had a great time socializing with our good friends and partaking in the festivities.  Maybe I’ll even pull out our pictures with the Tink for a future post.  Now that the effects of a free bar have worn off, time to get back up on that saddle and ride the [fence] posts.

Today’s featured bird and new notch on my camera strap is…

Clapper Rail found at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center in January 2017

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of this elusive bird.

Continue reading From Virginia by Rail

There’s Elmo

Today we are back at my favorite South Padre Island birding spot, the Bird Viewing and Nature Center.  In case you have not been keeping track, this incredible site has been spinning the wheels on my bird counter as of late.  May just have to get the can of WD 40 out and give the gears a drink to cool them off.  Once again, we are getting hit with another blanket of snow here in the heartland.  Considering we have been fairly dry this winter, we were due for a good covering.  There is one benefit to the harsh conditions – more time for blogging!

Keeping with the Texas theme and for that matter the bird theme and well the +1 theme I present to you Elmo.

Redhead at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center December 2016

Okay, maybe not THE Elmo, but it does have a red fluffy head at least.  Not very difficult to figure out this particular duck is called a … wait for it … yep, a Redhead.  It would save me a lot of time digging into reference books if all the birds could be named after their key feature.  While taking the pictures it occurred to me that something might be wrong with this particular Redhead.  The Wing was carried lower than I expected and looked a bit underdeveloped.  Not being familiar with the Redhead, I tried to find some reference shots on Google – surprising how few pictures there are of this duck standing.  Even Cornell was sans standing reference shots.  Of the two I did find, their wings were folded neatly along their body.

Redhead at South Padre Island Bird Viewing and Nature Center December 2016

Hit the jump to see more of the Redheads!

Continue reading There’s Elmo