You looking at Me !?!

It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but the reduction in days in this month has a tendency to cause stress in my blogging activities.  Those precious days between the 28th and say 30/31st is often my “get down to business” days.  That’s when I take out my trusty TI60 calculator, punch in 6 for my self-imposed quota of posts per month (note, that includes post on the mothership Intrigued site, not just the wildlife blog), count up each of the posts made in the current month, hit the minus button and then insert the recently summed number of posts and hit equals button.  After a burst of electrons through an array of ands/ors/nands/nors logic gates the liquid crystal is signaled to delivers the painful blow.  Then the scramble begins to address the missing posts.  Granted, this year, gives me an extra day this month.. but that has already been earmarked for birding (need to keep the hopper full for the 2025 posts hehehe).   Linda enjoys teasing me while I am trying to stay focused on the posts – I shall let the Great-Tailed Grackle demonstrate the look I give her.

Great-Tailed Grackle found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas, December 2016\

That pretty much sums it up!  I will admit, this has absolutely zero impact on my wife’s behavior beyond extra volume to her laugh.  Then she’ll start touching my stuff and moving it just enough to cause my OCD to fire – evil woman!  The good news is I wasn’t far off this month and was able to close the gap pretty quickly – for the record this is the 6th so all is good.  I might feel better, but this rather torqued looking creature is likely still holding a grudge against me.  In fact, every time I come in contact with the Great-Tailed Grackle I get the feeling I wronged its ancestors in some way and it’s taken a lifelong blood oath to extract a compensating revenge.  Is it just me or do others have this same experience with this disgruntled bird? – Ron you don’t count as all birds basically hate you.

Great-Tailed Grackle found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, Texas, December 2016

Hit the jump if this Grackle hasn’t already scared you too much.

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Scares and Calms

Apologies to my wildlife readers.  It has been a while since I’ve had the chance to feature one of our feathered friends.  It’s not that I haven’t been busy – in fact just the opposite. Decided it was time to bring you a little haunt for February – screw you mushy and smoochie Valentine’s Day, we scare aficionados are putting our zombie masks on and shuffling all over this shortened month.  Thanks to many hours (and days) later the full Haunted Trail of Tears 2019 series was released.  If you want to know how we do Halloween … wait.. how about Februween … then take a gander at the tour posts.  Warning check your fears at the door ha!

Hoping that didn’t scare your feathers up.  Maybe a therapy duck will help calm the nerves.

Mottled Duck found at South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center December 2016

There now, breathe in, breath out while staring at the purdy duck.  Immerse yourself in the warm comfort brought by the tranquil waters of the Texas Gulf Coast.  By the way, let me know if that worked to calm your nerves – I’ll pick  me up a bunch of Mottled Ducks and hit our local ICU and pay it forward for the great therapy dogs they let Linda enjoy while she was up at Mayo.  If there is any chance of convincing a hospital director to let me bring a duck into their establishment, it better be clean.  Of all the ducks I’ve come across I think the Mottled might have the best chance.   I’ve never seen one of these specimens that didn’t look like it came straight from the salon.

Mottled Duck found at South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center December 2016

Hit the jump to learn about my new business idea!

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Haunted Trail of Tears 2019 – The Big Event!

Well, I’ve brought you 2/3rds of the Haunted Trail of Tears 2019 over the last couple of posts.  That included the prep, staging and day tour for the 2019 version of Halloween here at Intrigued.  As our guests continually mention, it is hard to really put the trail in perspective unless you are there to experience it.  There’s a natural spookiness brought on by being deep in a woods with little ambient light making for a pitch black backdrop.  Not to mention the sounds of a night out in the country that can make a city dweller shiver and bite their nails.  Now add to that hundreds of decorations and you have yourself a night of fun and scares that rightfully honor our favorite holiday.  One thing for sure, by the time the sun goes down and the trail fires up, my friends in haunt and I are pretty exhausted.  All that is left to do is grab a beer, stoke the bonfire and sit back and enjoy everyone have a fun night out.  Your image cache would catch fire if we showed everything on the trail, so instead, just going to hit on the highlights and provide a few comments where needed to close out the trail posts.  Hit the lights… its show time

“Halloween

You can finally see the latest addition to the trail in its full glory.  Super happy about getting that life-size horse on closeout from Home Depot the following year.  Linda had to put up with it put together in our basement for a whole year – totally worth it.  The Headless Posey also looked awesome illuminated by the flaming pumpkin.

“Halloween

Hit the jump if you are prepared for a few scares.

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Haunted Trail of Tears 2019 – Day Tour

It is time for part two of the Halloween Trail of Tears 2019 posts.  Last post I took you through the multi day..err..weeks…err months process just to get ready for the one night event.  That doesn’t even cover the work that goes on non-stop throughout the year to bring new additions to the trail.  That pretty much just gets us to the starting line.  Once everything is put together (to a point it can still be transported into the woods), it is time to start creating the experience.  Up to a few years ago we did this all in about a day starting after work on Friday and then through until ~5-6pm the next  day literally adding new and fixing stuff that wasn’t working right up to the point guests start arriving.  With the size this has grown into since then, I have to take at least two days off of work to even have a chance of getting done – still a battle against time. The way the trail works is it gets scarier and more adult the further you go.  The guests are responsible for how far they want to take it and more importantly how much to expose their kids to.  We spend a lot of time making sure the kids and squeamish adults can have a good time if they only get a portion of the trail.  Go the whole way and the nightmares are on you ha!

Keeping with tradition, bringing you the daylight tour.  There is one caveat this year.  We were too busy to get the shots done before the event started – as I said, a battle against time and Mr. Murphy.  These shots were actually taken the next morning before tear down and thus some of the props had already been through a night’s worth of wear and tear as in the shot below.

Halloween Haunted Trail of Tears October 2019

New for this year was the life size zombie horse and companion homemade headless horseman.  There was a lot of concern about a) fire deep in the woods, b) stability of the flaming pumpkin, c) how flammable the decoration might be and d) how hard it was going to be to get this monstrous prop down the big hills to the haunted trail.  As a result, I added a solid stand to hold the flaming pumpkin and opted to keep the decoration up by the house.  This way everyone could experience it and I could still keep an eye on it.  You will see in the after dark post the stand merged into the darkness quite nicely.  We received a lot of compliments for this new prop addition and can’t wait to take you through the build (upcoming post).

Halloween Haunted Trail of Tears October 2019

Hit the jump to see some scenes from the Haunted Trail day tour.

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Halloween Haunted Trail of Tears – The Prep

Well, it is time to get this set of posts out.  I have been avoiding it due to some emotional memories that come along with this year’s Halloween extravaganza.  Waiting any longer isn’t going to change the situation so I need to get the Haunted Trail of Tears 2019 taken care of while I can still remember all the work it takes to make this thing happen.  Original intent was to slam this into just two posts, but there are way too many images to force on you all at once.  As a result, went ahead and extracted the prep series out separately – this way you can ease into the barrage of photos that’s coming your way!

With Linda’s surgery, in August, we opted to push the date a week to give her extra time to recover and more importantly me time to make up for the lost weeks being up at Mayo.  I had spent a large part of the summer building the new all-weather prop sensors.  Think by the end I had produced over 60 of those devices building on our previous design with an added feature of being able to put the batteries in ahead of time so we could simply switch them on come event start – I cannot even begin to explain how great that was both in savings during the activation step and then more importantly being able to turn them off at the end and not have to worry about getting them out of the woods if bad weather hit us (like last year.. and year before that …).  Unfortunately, that meant rewiring all the props to use the new sensor.  Thankfully, Ron came to my aid and helped get everything converted over!

Halloween Haunted Trail of Tears October 2019

I also had to finish up a number of new props that where being worked on since a month after last year’s effort (yep, there is no Halloween downtime here at Intrigued ha).  Here’s Ron with a major addition for this year’s trail.  Something tells me you can guess what that is.  Linda was excited about finally getting that life size horse out of the basement after 10 months.  Ron actually came down a week ahead of the planned date which was greatly appreciated.  It is hard enough to get all of last year’s props out and each year it grows bigger and bigger.  The zombie horse was just one of the new items making its debut this year.

Halloween Haunted Trail of Tears October 2019

Hit the jump to learn what happens behind the scenes of the Halloween Haunted Trail of Tears extravaganza.

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Stoner Bird

Greetings my friends!  Been a bit of time since my last post (well at least on the Wildlife side of Intrigued as I did take a cue from CJ and put a Hmmm post out link here).  I thought things would lighten up at the turn of the decade, but I find myself surprisingly busy.  Some of that was due to a recent loss in the family as my Aunt is now once again united with my father.  I did get an opportunity to catch up with the extended family and even had a chance to spend some quality birding time with Ron.  He stayed overnight at my place on the trip back from the funeral allowing us to head down to Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge the next day.  This netted Ron a +1 and a new birding experience – both of which I’ll let him feature on his blog (nudge, nudge).  Maybe I’ll get around to those captures in say .. oh, I don’t know… let’s go crazy fast and say 2-3 years ha!

In the meantime, let’s travel back in time and see what’s moving on the Texas beaches.

Ruddy Turnstone found on Galveston Island, Texas January 2017

Well, lookie there Mr. Orange Legs strutting its stuff.  This particular series comes to you from our January 2017 trip down to Galveston Island.  The Ruddy Turnstone featured here was busy running up and down the shoreline trying to convert all that migration fat into a beach bod that drives the chicks wild.  For those new to these creatures, they fatten up prior to heading out on their impressively long migration.  They spend their breeding months in the arctic tundra and then gorge themselves before making the massive trek to the North and Central American coastlines.

Ruddy Turnstone found on Galveston Island, Texas January 2017

Hit the jump to learn more about this yo-yo diet bird.

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Hmmms and Fails Cornucopia

Hello everyone!  Decided to bring you something different to start the new year off right.  The cell phone has revolutionized how society communicates on a daily basis.  Some would say that we have come too far as it permeates every aspect of our lives (well, at least the newer generation’s)  You cannot deny that these super computers that we hold in our hands have had a positive impact, the ability to call for help, private navigation help for those too proud to ask for directions or dread having to fold up those damn paper maps and of course the benefit of having your runs tracked and analyzed is a godsend for those of us who strive to go further/faster on every training run.  However, there is another big benefit – BLOG FODDER!  Thanks to those convenient built in cameras, mistakes, oddities and things that make us go hmmm (credit CJ for coining that term) can be captured with ease.  I find myself taking pictures of things ALL the time in hopes of finding time to sharing a few laughs to help get us through stressful days.  So, have a laugh or two on me:

Holy crap, there’s an opening for my dream job – the Chick-fil-A Cow Mascot.  If they only knew I’d do it for free. It does make me wonder about their leadership opportunities – I pictured their corporate office being filled with people in cow costumes.  Note, my brother Ron has been invited to tour their corporate offices thanks to their reward program and his love for chicken.  Hoping he will be able to confirm the above vision… and get pictures!

Fails

We stopped to get a quick bite at one of our local McDonald’s.  Truthfully, I can barely stomach their hamburgers these days.  We do not put extra salt on any of our foods so we might be more sensitive than usual, but their hamburgers taste like salt blocks.  While there I notice the giant “take the survey on your receipt” signage plastered right behind the register.  Didn’t think much about it until I looked around the corner and saw their handwritten results.  Apparently the surveys says 61% – good job there…NOT.

Fails

Hit the jump to see a bunch more finds over the past year or so.

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An Even Dozen

Lifeintrigued Blog Summary 2019

At some point in the previous year I must have forgotten how much time these blog summaries take.  Not so much the high level commentary, but gathering up all the year end statistics rivals the daunting 50K. Oh, did I mention I checked the 50K off my life list -yeah, I did that ha!  Truthfully, 2019 turned out to be one of those years I’ll probably try hard to put past me.  Something tells me it will keep flashing into conscious for some time.  The running addiction sent me to the doctor earlier in the year thanks to a marksman hornet/bee that nailed by spine and then I lost a battle with the Heat Miser that landed me in the ER with a set of shiny new staples.  Watching Linda go through her surgery and recovery still takes the top spot on my stressful experiences – a distinction that doesn’t come lightly based on some of life’s challenges that fill the rest of that list.  Then there’s still trying to keep my emotions in check whenever a random event triggers a cherished memory with my father.  Fortunately for me, blogging is the best therapy for the money.  It has been a fantastic grounding that allows me to document my thoughts, events, opinions, adventures, accomplishments and progression on the things that intrigue me in this thing called life – the fact that the completion of 2019 represents the 12th consecutive year of producing the flagship LifeIntrigued and its offshoot WildlifeIntrigued is testament to the joy it brings me.  Through this effort, I’ve been able to meet new friends across the world, share experiences, explore differing perspectives and learn about their cultures and hobbies from their own blogging efforts – ex: CJ has introduced me to the world of canoeing/kayaking, adventures in the Netherlands and St Louis zombies (https://thecedarjournal.com/blog/ ) – B has been ramping up my Butterfly/Dragonfly/Birding knowledge from the UK while taking me to places like the Berlin Wall that seemed so far away from my stomping grounds in the broke state of Illinois (https://blhphotoblog.wordpress.com/blog/).  A big thanks to all you birding bloggers out there that challenge me every day to get better at my photography craft and special gratitude to all those that take the time to read my musings, comment and show your appreciation through likes. Shout out to Brad M. who catches all my typos so I at least appear halfway credible.

Even with some of the downsides in ’19 there were still some very bright spots that I can’t overlook.  Seeing Linda on the upside of her recovery brings a big smile to me every time I see her.  Can’t wait to witness her tear up the dog agility competitions now that she can keep up with Raven.  On the personal front, getting the 50K trail checked off was big for me.  Failure doesn’t sit well with me and being able to recover and redeem myself in a little more than 3 months took some pushing (especially with all the chaotic things happening during that time).  Add to that the 17 (at least) new checks on the NA bird list (link here) which kept me in striking reach of Ron (yes, he who owes me bigly ha!).  Was able to meet up with Ron for some local birding adventures (and one not so local) – always fun times to be had in the field and going through the tins trying to ID the day’s haul.  Goal this year is for me to get him posting more on his own blog (link here).  He was the catalyst for me to start this whole blog endeavor 12 years ago.  Although the surgery limited us on our usual travel, Linda and I were able to  catch a few short trips allowing for some good birding opportunities that have filled up the blog hopper for likely years to come (Lake Tahoe, Henderson NV, St. Louis) as well as quick excursions to local hotspots.  I promise to try and get those tins posted at a fresher rate this year.  If nothing else, having just celebrated another birthday it is starting to limit how far back I can easily recall.

Keeping with tradition, it’s time to look back at the year’s output and self-evaluate. Did I hit my self-imposed monthly quota, did my photography show progress and what posts intrigued my readers ..or more important which topics missed the mark.  So with that, I bring you the 2019 year end summary. If you are curious, hit the jump below to see the individual stats and accomplishments.  Thanks again for all your help throughout the year and for spending precious time on my little project.  Can’t wait to see what intriguing things 2020 throws at us.  Fingers crossed I’ll be able to get you crispy pictures in the tin to share.

Thank You!

And now, the annual stats for the year’s worth of blogging.

Hit the jump to see the 2019 stats!

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Standing Tall in the Aftermath of Tragedy

Greetings from the white tundra.  For those curious (and hopefully in warmer climates) it is currently 3F out with 18 mph winds with warnings of windchill temps below 20F.  A far cry from the relative desert like conditions the Texas Gulf Coast is getting at the moment – although I did think it would be warmer than high 50’s/lows 60’s.  Time for Linda and I to get back in our RV and get our butts to some warmer settings ha!  I have been holding off on talking about our holiday activities, but most of you know we once again headed back to the Texas border for a little R and R after a rather rough ’19.  Kicked the year off right birding the Gulf Coast and checking our favorite spots along the Rio Grande.  It will be a while before the fruits of that endeavor get fit for consumption 3..4..5..6 years…hehehe..

Whooping Cranes in Rockport, Texas December 2017

In the meantime, thought I would go with the bird that has a lock at the top of my list for favorite North American birds.  Now, a bit of this decision was based on the fact if you read my previous bird post you should already be standing about 10 feet away from your monitor.   Hoping that is sufficient distance to make these pictures somewhat viewable – keep thinking to yourself that there’s at least one bird somewhere in the shot  – to help you out, it is white and really tall.  These birds top out in the 5 foot range and command attention whenever in their presence.  Reminds of the traveling basketball team for the Great Egrets.

Whooping Cranes in Rockport, Texas December 2017

Take a few brief steps toward the keyboard and hit the jump to read more about these Cranes (then quickly take a step back).

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Hang Fire

Christmas is officially over and the New Year festivities have calmed down.  That can only mean one thing around here at Intrigued – yep stress time as we only have about 9 months to get prepped for this year’s Haunted Halloween Trail.  Already looking tight and worried we will once again be scrambling to get all the new decorations built and the haunt layout planned in time.  To help get me in the mood figured it was finally time to get a post out on a decoration I built for the 2018 trail.

Haunted Halloween Trail 2019

I already walked you through the witch construction (link here) – those made their appearance back on the 2017 trail.  The initial scene just had a cauldron sitting on the ground in the middle of the circle.  Had an idea to kick it up a bit for the 2018 version.  A cauldron isn’t going to get too hot if it is just sitting on the ground… what to do … what to do… oh yeah, let’s add some fire (append your own Tim the Tool Man grunts).  Getting the cauldron off the ground was pretty easy – thankfully because I left that design to the very end.  Ron and I were busy finishing up the final decoration prep the night before the main event.  After a quick build of the Nightwing stand – if I remember correctly that was around midnight (link here) – looked down at the to-do list and remembered the cauldron stand.  Happened to look over and noticed a bunch of 3/8″ grey PVC conduit laying against the garage wall.  Problem solved.  Grabbed three pieces and some twine and went about connecting them at one end.  Finished if off with three more lines to hold the cauldron.  Patted myself on the back when I remembered I had adjustable eyehook connectors laying around from a previous build.  Hooked those on the end of the support strings and then connected to the cauldron in the three newly drilled holes.  In case it didn’t click, the adjustable hooks allowed me to get the cauldron leveled without playing games trying to get the strings tied evenly.

Hit the jump to see how the fire prop was constructed.

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