Mud Angels

Well, we are officially off on our exploration part deux for the year.  Just in time, it appears, as our hometown county is experiencing some unexpected high numbers of Covid outbreaks.  Not sure what is up with that, but at the moment, thankfully not something we need to worry about.  So far the birding has been a bit weak, however, I have been able to get a long run in on an amazing set of trails.  Told Linda it was like running on the set of The Last of the Mohicans.  Good for the soul and the long steep elevation climbs was a good reminder to the legs they are still in training.   As it is Flashback Friday, I get to pull from the front of the LIFO queue.  Meet today’s Featured Feathered Friend.  

Sandhill Crane Wisconsin April 2013

We have been experiencing some unexpected cold temperatures on our exploration.  Our destination should be significantly warmer – in the meantime I have to keep reminding myself we are officially past winter ha.   While looking through the queue, noticed these shots that were taken in the same month and still had SNOW on the ground. 

Sandhill Crane Wisconsin April 2013

Back in April 2013 we made a trip up to Wisconsin to visit the Crane Foundation in Baraboo, Wisconsin.  One of our favorite areas to visit in our sister state to the north.  I know they hate the saying, but it really is Illinois’ playground.  While we were on our way back from visiting the foundation, we noticed a group of Sandhills hanging out in a field.  

Sandhill Crane Wisconsin April 2013

Now Sandhill Cranes are one of my favorite birds – their relatives the Whooping Crane (link here) holds the number #1 on the list which was the catalyst for us joining the International Crown Foundation and my renewed interest in birding.  Cranes are an amazing species.  Massive in size, truly a joy to watch especially during courtship rituals and surprisingly accessible at least on the Sandhill front.  The Whoopers will require you to travel a bit, but they can be found quite consistently if you do a little research on their wintering grounds.    

Take note of the whiter feathering the Sandhills have in the shots above and contrast that with the browner coloring in the following shots.  

Sandhill Crane Horicon National Wildlife Refuge Mayville Wisconsin September 2014

The shot above and below are from another shoot in September the following year.  Once again we were up in Wisconsin (time to play ha) and took a quick run over to Horicon National Wildlife Refuge in Mayville.  Absolutely shocking I was able to get anything in the tin as we were in an epic battle to save as much blood as we could from the hordes of Mosquitoes that had amassed there.  Think these were the only two shots that made it out of that shoot before our drained carcasses were left sprawled on the trail.  Per the earlier comment, you will see that these specimens had taken on a browner hue.  

Sandhill Crane Horicon National Wildlife Refuge Mayville Wisconsin September 2014

This is where it gets a little interesting.  I have always been under the impression that the Sandhill Cranes get this browner coloring thanks to their habit of preening themselves with mud/dirt.  The iron rich material causes the iconic “rustic” coloring.  Went to Cornell for a quick validation and was surprised to find zero mention of that behavior nor the effects on the feathers – nada. 

Sandhill Crane Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove IL April 2017

Cornell did mention juveniles are grey and rusty brown and lack the pale cheeks and red caps.  I have had the opportunity to see juveniles up close and can confirm grey and there was some rusty brown, however, it doesn’t really dismiss the preening concept as surely the adults would teach the offspring similar behaviors.. resulting in similar color changes. 

Sandhill Crane Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove IL April 2017

Step inside my supercharged DeLorean and rev it up to April 2017.  This last set of Sandhill Shots (starting with the two shots above) comes to you from Chain O’ Lakes State Park near Spring Grove IL.   No snow on the ground this time and you can see the rust coloring just starting to cover the wings above.  Now the specimen below must have been making mud angels. 

Sandhill Crane Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove IL April 2017

Better get to closing this post out – tomorrow has some traveling in it.  Sandhills mate for life and can begin breeding as early as two.  Every year we have been up at Chain O’ Lakes we have seen the same pair of Sandhills wandering the campground area.  Usually with a couple of colts which makes for some great shoots (link here). 

Sandhill Crane Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove IL April 2017

Lastly, I was surprised when I looked at the region maps for the Sandhill.  Seems like I see them everywhere we travel and therefore wrongly thought they were abundant across the states.  Not true.  There is a heavy wintering population in the lower Texas, New Mexico and Florida regions.  From those areas there are really two large migration paths up to their breeding grounds in are fairly straight migrations paths to their breeding grounds in Canada and the upper states (except Montana – they HATE Montana thanks to a long standing feud with the Bison union).  

Sandhill Crane Chain O' Lakes State Park, Spring Grove IL April 2017

Will let you go there.  Hope you enjoyed a few shots of the big boys (and likely girls).  Hopefully will have connectivity to put up a few more posts while out on the road.  Until then, take it easy and be sure you live and not just exist.

Wax Now Out

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.

Cedar Waxwing found in Wisconsin in July 2013

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.

Cedar Waxwing found in Wisconsin in July 2013

Hit the jump for an explanation of the deja-vu

Continue reading Wax Now Out

Phoadtography: Where Has the Year Gone Part Deux

And were back with the second (for those that are not versed in French) and final part of the Phoadtography series from our Wisconsin/Michigan trip back in July of 2012.  We’ll likely close out the month with the Year End Summary post  since I’m trying to pull together a larger than normal effort for next month’s blogging entries although it might make it to February if some loose ends fail to come together in the next couple of days.  Meanwhile let’s stay on topic and get right to the latest set of shots of things that caught my attention while Linda was flying down the road.

The first shot is really more of nostalgia for me.  My brother Ron invited me along to one of his ski trips while I was in college – sometime between ’85-’89 with big bet on the late ’88 time frame.  That date solely based on an odd memory – on that trip I rode up with some of Ron’s friends from college who were still in grad school at the time.  I met them for the first time on that trip and then realized one of them was in my LISP programming class.  That realization came after noting one of the students was in a full suit – not uncommon for the higher level classes since a lot of the days were spent interviewing with companies that come onsite to recruit.  This was not what caught my attention – he still had all the tags on the sleeves and the temporary stitch that holds the coat tails together was still intact.  I was chuckling to myself when I realized I knew that guy – never got a chance to warn him after class so sure hope they overlooked that at during the overview.   But I digress (a lot).   We actually went skiing at Big Powderhorn where this shot was taken.

Three things I remember from that trip.  The cops pulled over the car I was traveling in and let the driver off because he found out he was an Illinois grad and that was where the cop took his training – Go Illini.  Secondly, they rented a condo at the top of the mountain – the ski lifts/tickets were at the bottom and the ONLY path down was to go down blacks – that was rough going seeing as how I was not at that level at the time.  And third Ron and I spent most of our time enjoying a run called Smoke which was a pretty challenging run down  through the lift poles – on reflection, the things I tend to remember are rather strange.  Anyway, we ended up driving past the entrance and figured I’d capture the moment – think that dude would look more cool with a Stormy Kromer?

Thought this was a pretty interesting coal/ore train model, complete with a clever set of rails which brought the cars out of the grass.  Nicely done although for the record, the caboose seems disproportionate to the rest of the train cars.

Okay, here’s a test – which one of the following is the best investment, the most capable and versatile machine for all your construction/digging needs…

Hit the jump to see the answer and see the rest of the images in this Phoadtography set

Continue reading Phoadtography: Where Has the Year Gone Part Deux

Phoadtography: Where Has the Year Gone Pt 1

All you stats aficionados out there are probably salivating at the moment thinking the time has come when Mr. Blogger is going to blow it.  Something like 4 days left in the year and looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 posts still to go.  Of course this isn’t just to close out the month, this is to close out the whole year of blogging… to come so close to putting a check mark on the 6th year and let it slip through your grasp.  Normally I would be worried, but this holiday vacation has found me in the digital darkroom just about every day trying to close out a big chunk of 2012… and maybe a little of 2011 (shame shame) – The bad news is the processing chemicals are getting to me and my memory is taking a fish slap across the face.  The results of this effort are about 650 pictures ready to make their way on to this site in the upcoming year.  I was falling too far behind and I really want to get to our more recent photo shoots because I think you’ll like how those came out – I also know our friends in Billings are patiently waiting for our Yellowstone shots taken when we were out there recently.

While going back through the images I stumbled on a set of Phoadtography shots that dropped off my queue somehow.  I need to do some verifying, but pretty sure there wasn’t a single Phoadtography post this year which is shocking based on all the trip opportunities we have had over the course of 2012-2013.  This means I have the perfect close to the month since:

a) The pictures are all processed

b)  The Phoadtography sets tend to span more than one post

c) and .. most important of all .. they don’t really require a lot of mental work to get cranked out – just look at a shot, make some snarky response about it and move on to the next.

Linda says snarky comes easy to me so this quota thingy should be doable.  With no more delay, I bring you the Phoadtography shots from our trip through Wisconsin and Michigan back in July 2012.  For the record, I’m pretty good with details up to about a year – now 1.5 years and beyond things start to get a little fuzzy on the specifics so exact locations of where these were taken on the trips is somewhere in the fog.

Honey, Enterprise Rental called, they said you can have a midsize available or if interested their new line of Quackmobiles.  If you go with the latter you’ll be able to make better time crossing all the rivers .. not to mention the awesome gas mileage – one loaf of bread  should be all that is needed to get us where we are going.

I have no idea what is up with this next statue.  As far as I can tell, they have a weird breed of eagle up there that has massively fat legs and matching claws.  They also possess some strange craving for ummm.. let’s go with an apple only because it is red and there appears t0 be worm coming out of the side of it.  Oh, did I mention that these particular apples tend to be carried around by bears.  Feel free to weigh in on this, I’m at a loss.

Then there’s this dead American Indian we spotted off the road – guessing this was at a roadside stop based solely on the little bit of sign on the right side.  Actually a pretty good sculpture, but just seems a bit strange to have a severed head sitting at a rest stop – not to mention void of all blood.

Hit the jump to see more shots from the road

Continue reading Phoadtography: Where Has the Year Gone Pt 1

The Ducks that Got Away – Drats

Greetings once again all. I gave you a slight reprieve from the Wisconsin Birds Series at the end of the last month, but there are a few more to get through before closing out this series and moving on to Wisconsin Birds Series II (yep, thanks to taking so long to get through the first series, we’ve been back to the Land of Cheese and now have even more shots to share). Unfortunately, this particular post is bittersweet. On one hand it does provide support for a new checkmark in the bird list, however (head hung low, eyes wandering) it is also an unfortunate highlight of the execution fail.  Having exhausted the ponds and lakes around Baraboo, we headed up further North about 45 minutes to a County Park.  Neither of us can remember the name of that park but I do remember parking near a large observation deck positioned in the a middle of a field surrounded by a forest .  The trees here were experiencing distress from some form of bug, blight or maybe a fire – tough to tell other than an earlier walk down another supposed observation deck uncovered large construction vehicles in the midst of bulldozing some of the larger trees down.

Signs indicated a trail to a pond so we grabbed the gear and headed out.  After about 15 minutes we came upon a lonely pond and immediately thought PERFECT! Nobody around, secluded, and a clear view to the pond… and there was water fowl taking a leisurely paddle. I set the tripod down and went for the customary far shots so I would have something to show for the effort.

and…. we have come upon the very rare fuzzy duck!   Okay, okay, so it was a poorly executed shot. I am not sure exactly what happened other than likely a bad compensation for the now very overcast afternoon (the downside of now shooting only in Manual Mode) or weakness in trying to hand stabilize The Beast. In either case it was my bad and I take full responsibility for it. On further thought, it might have just been excitement knowing this bird hadn’t made it into my tin as of yet. Even with the fuzziness, you can still tell it is a Ringed-Neck Duck – both a male and his mate.  Here is another shot of just the male (no, the images do not get any better) that confirms it.

Hit the jump to read more about this new duck to LifeIntrigued.

Continue reading The Ducks that Got Away – Drats

A New Warbler Addition

Since you patiently read through the last somewhat boring bird (the Mallard) post, I figured it would be prudent to now offer the latest new bird to my collection (the one I promised at the start of the Wisconsin Birds series).  With that…. drum roll … I’d like to introduce what I believe to be the Yellow-Rumped Warbler.

This male Warbler was shot at Devil’s Lake near Baraboo Wisconsin.  As with the rest of this series it was taken over last Easter Weekend.  We were actually up on the very picturesque cliffs overlooking the glacier formed lake when this bird flew over my head and landed in a nearby tree.  At the time I trying my best to capture Turkey Vultures which were circling the cliffs.  The frustration levels were mounting trying to get The Beast zeroed in and focused on those birds which, due to the height of the cliffs, were actually speeding by below us.  The yellow markings on this Warbler were pretty unique which caught my attention immediately.  Screw the Vultures, we’ve got a new bird to track down.  One thing that became painfully clear with this Warbler (and likely generalized to all of these Warblers) is it did not want to stay in one place very long at all.  It would land, give me about 3 seconds to get the big glass in position, get the exposure settings right and finally take one shot.

Hit the jump to see more pictures of this new Warbler

Continue reading A New Warbler Addition

A Majestic Domestic Spotted in Baraboo

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

The X-Ducks of Wisconsin

Howdy all, I was recently reminded that we are half way through the steamy month of July and there is yet to be a post on the blog. You would think with how hot it has been in the last two weeks I’d be cranking out post after post in the comfort of my air conditioned den. On the contrary, I’ve been swamped with activities as of late which has included wrapping up phase one of my summer project (literally put the last piece in that phase a mere two hours ago) and a healthy (or not) dose of heat running conditioning needed for the Bix race at the end of the month. I do not want a repeat of the Steamboat race and it looks like there has been some improvement based on my recent Bix@6 training run (93-95 out when the training race started last Thursday and it went quite well). The good news is all the post processing work on this month’s series of posts is already complete!   …and just what is the topic this month…

After much thought and contemplation I’m going with the birds captured during our photo shoot taken  in Wisconsin over Easter. Tragically, this means another month (at least) will pass before getting to the Indy Zoo pictures and the birds of Banner Marsh.

It’s quiz time.  Any guesses as to what that water fowl is (note, these are all non-shopped)?

If you can identify it, please feel free to let me know.  As far as I can tell this is another mutant specimen.  If you recall, this is not the first mutant to grace these pages.  The mallard derivative from the Emoquon series certainly fits this category (link here).    This strange bird has more of the duck features than the goose characteristics in that previous one.  It was also easier to pick out the main ingredients that made that bird.

This on the other hand doesn’t really match anything.  The dominant white and the the black tail feathers would put it somewhere in the Snow Goose realm (or just the white neck and orange beak has traits of an Embden Goose), but it took the stature of a smaller duck.

it that wasn’t fun enough, let’s move on to mutant specimen number 2 and 3.  The one on the right looks like someone sawed the head off the one above and slapped a better Mallard head on it.  Those Mallards must really like to sow their oats.

Shifting to the one of the left.  They were hanging together so the assumption is they were mates.  The left is likely the female due to the dominant male Mallard coloring on the right one.  It looks closer to an Eskimo Sandwich than it does a duck.  The breast feathering almost has a turkey composition and nothing in the reference books really showed markings that chocolaty.

Hit the jump to see even more strange waterfowl.

Continue reading The X-Ducks of Wisconsin