Blew My Streak and My Fuel

Getting in some final camping for the season this weekend. Had a chance to spend some time birding with my brother Ron and Linda even caught a local agility show to make sure Raven stays in practice. Dog shows mean I have extra time to get some to-dos off the list and one that always bubbles to the top is my blog quota. Always good to get ahead of the curve seeing how the end of the month usually comes faster than expected. Plus, we are creeping up on the witching hour which sucks up every available minute getting ready for the Trail of Tears (link here).

A few posts back I relayed the strenuous running activities that I once again have subject myself to – at some point I will learn. As a quick reminder I scheduled 4 half marathons (not to mention a 5K) in little over a month. This started with the 13.Wine race (link here), then the IVS Half Marathon (link here) and most recently the Oak Ridge Cemetery Moonlight Half Marathon in Springfield. Keeping with the theme, thought I would give a recount of that latest hell, I mean race.

2017 Moonlight Marathon September 16th Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield IL

Unlike last year (link here), this time Sung and Ryan were able to go down to Springfield IL with me and take part in this year’s activities.  They were both familiar with the course having teamed up with me to do the prediction race Marathon two years back (link here).  That year we took third … thanks to two cheaters but hey, that is water under the bridge now (or not hehehe).  The prediction aspect of the race is gone now along with the team Marathon.  In its place are individual races – 5K, Quarter Marathon and the Half Marathon.  Choose your poison at this point.  We had them all covered this year.  Sung opted for the 5K, Ryan the Quarter and your’s truly decided to punish himself with the Half variety.  There is a theme to the first three races of the 4 ‘peat.  HILLS.  The 13.Wine was a grueling battle through long rolling hills that seem to last forever trying to get to the crests.  IVS is well known in these parts to be one of the toughest courses you can take on due to their 6 shorter but much steeper hills.  Then there is Oak Ridge which combines the length of the Wine hills with the steepness of IVS.  Basically pure hell.  This double loop that beat me last year – my find an exit, throw up, continue the drive home, find an exit throw up cycle that plagued me the entire way home.  Time for redemption this year!  If nothing else, I had friends with me that could help me get home so had to be better than last year… well, I thought.

I was scheduled to go off at 6:30 due to having two loops on my course.  Ryan went off at 6:45 to cover his one loop and then Sung launched at 7 for his shortened loop.  Sung took my finisher picture below.

2017 Moonlight Marathon September 16th Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield IL

Worth noting the genius of taking the finisher picture before I even started the race – look how relaxed and refreshed I looked!  A far cry from the reality over 2 hours later.  Seems this year the race coordinators thought the previous course was just too easy for us – that we might be getting soft.  To remedy that situation some masochist decided to move the starting line to the top of a big hill.  I remember seeing that and turning to Sung going “WTF!?!”.  Seriously people, that course through the Oak Ridge Cemetery would already make a normal guy sink to his knees.  It would be bad enough having to negotiate that hill at the halfway point, repeating that again at the end when the legs are jelly is just plain rude.  Time to worry about that later, one mile at a time, one foot in front of another.

Hit the jump to read how this race turned out – foreshadowing … not good

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Junco the Gray

Sorry folks, been a little bit lax on my postings as of late.  Actually I have been making non-wildlife posts on my other site, but doesn’t get me off the hook for not showing the wildlife some love.  In my defense, this has been a hell month which has included massive work preparing for this year’s Haunted Trail and the three half marathons with one more to go in just over a month has definitely left me blog shallow.  To help remedy the situation figured I’d go ahead and throw out a set from May 2014

Gray Headed Junco captured at Rocky Mountain National Park in May of 2014

You couldn’t ask for a bird to be more cooperative when it comes to getting them in the tin.  I swear this particular specimen was actually trying to work with me to get the best angles and background settings.  Hell, I can’t even get my Poodles to cooperate this much with me and we even FEED them!  As mentioned, this bird was shot a few years back on a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.  Believe we were out in Denver for the Poodle Agility Teacup Nationals and made a point to catch the park on our way back.

Gray Headed Junco captured at Rocky Mountain National Park in May of 2014

Hit the jump to see a few more of the Junco.

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Is She Even Sweating?

Well, I’m just sitting here resting the legs because once again, the road is beckoning me.  Yes, it’s time for my fourth half marathon of the season and more importantly, the third since August 20th.  If you recall, the last post from me chronicled that endeavor.  If you happen to be good at math, you are probably thinking thumb 13.Wine, 2 ummm and index finger tomorrow’s run.  One thumb + one finger equals … wait a minute… wait a minute… use some new core math techniques and carry the pinky .. HEY, THAT’S ONLY TWO races and he just said it was THREE.  First off, congratulations on your STEM training.  You are correct, I am a race behind – shall we remedy that … of course.
IVS Half Marathon September 10th, 2017

Hit the jump to read about the race recap.

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Time to Wine

Busy, busy, busy!  Pretty much the story of my days at the moment.  If I’m not at my day job, I’m working on Halloween decoration projects.  If I’m not doing that I’m getting caught up on yard work and in between all of that, I’m on the road wearing rubber off my running shoes.  Probably not going to let up anytime soon, so might as well embrace it. The toughest part of all of this is a series of 4 half marathon races in something like a month and a half.  Seeing as how I just completed the second of that set two days ago, figured it was prudent to blog about the first one!
13.Wine Half Marathon in Baroda, Michigan August 20th 2017

The first of the half marathons happens to be a new one for me.  At the expo for the Illini Half Marathon back in April, they had placed a card in our packets advertising a 13.Wine run in Baroda, Michigan.  That was quite intriguing having never heard of a wine based race and it really wasn’t that far away – on a normal day looking at about 4 hours worth of driving.  Best of all, Linda was more than willing to take on the 5K if there was wine to be had at the end.  Ended up signing us both up for it (with the advertisement card there was a discount code yeah!).  This would also give a half marathon check in another state – a new life list concept I’ve been kicking around.  So up we went to Michigan to earn us some wine … after an overnight stay at the Joliet Casino campground – opted to cut the drive time a bit so we could pick up the race packets the day before.

13.Wine Half Marathon in Baroda, Michigan August 20th 2017

I must admit, having been spoiled by the like of the Bix7 race and other large events, my expectations were probably way too high.  After winding our way around traffic backups on the main highway between Chicago and Baroda and then fighting closed roads in that little town we finally arrived at the packet pick up located at the starting line of the course.  We drove up and it was just a small pop up tent in the middle of a field (literally in the middle of a field).  It was also a little concerning that there was only one other participant picking up their bibs.   Pretty apparent that this was not going to be a large event as was originally assumed. Again, part of this assumption was fueled by the fact they were advertising at a race in a different state which is fairly large – their marketing campaign at least worked on us.

13.Wine Half Marathon in Baroda, Michigan August 20th 2017

hit the jump to read how the race turned out!

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Deceived by a Juvenile

Let me start with a huge cleansing breadth!  Hell, let’s all partake in a giant cleansing breadth.  Ready…set…go  breathe in breathe in a little more, just a bit more, fill every cubic millimeter of those lungs, hold it, hold it, just a bit more.. now let it all out in a big whhooooossssshhhhh.  Unless you took this relaxing moment a little too serious and passed out, you should be feeling relieved, refreshed, rejuvenated and rambunctious.  Not sure about the last feeling there, was on a role with the R’s.  channeling my inner high school Spanish class. I’m sure feeling a lot better now.  Three days ago I was 4 days from the end of the month and three posts away from my self-imposed quota.  Thanks to some elbow grease this post releases a whole bunch of pressure.

I know, I know, you don’t want to read about my problems, you want some of that special bird sauce.

Juvenile Red-Eyed Vireo shot at Bellevue State Park in Bellevue IA July 2017

This little specimen was shot while visiting Bellevue State Park in Iowa.  Back in July (this year), we were on our way back from a Minnesota bird and waterfall shooting trip and stopped by Bellevue’s lock to see what it had to offer.  If you are keeping up with my little off-ramp on the information highway, you may recall that this is the same place we spotted the Peregrine Falcon making the skies very dangerous for anything with wings (link here).  After shooting the Peregrine, we made our way up to the state park on the bluff overlooking the lock.  While standing there checking out the scene, a very intriguing song rang out from a nearby tree.  The hunt was on.

Juvenile Red-Eyed Vireo shot at Bellevue State Park in Bellevue IA July 2017

Hit the jump read more about this mystery bird.

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It’s Their Tern

Greetings everyone!  First off, our hearts and prayers go out to those impacted by the weather events in Texas.  Kind of shocking when you think it wasn’t too many months ago Linda and I were vacationing down in South Padre Island.  Every time I see someone walking in waist high water down there, all I can think of is the huge alligators we encountered while birding down there.  Hope to god the rain and flooding doesn’t bring those beasts up into the communities.  In no way glossing over the human impact that has resulted, but as a birder, it will be interesting to see how the birds handle this change in environment.  The SPI area was such a wonderful birding location it will be disappointing if that element doesn’t recover right alongside the lives and other wildlife already experiencing tragic displacement.  We will keep an eye on how things are going there.

For now, thought I would go with the following for today’s featured post:
Black Tern shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis, MN. in July 2017

That dark and mysterious creature is referred to as a Black Tern.  This is not a new bird to the blog having first appeared back in July 2015 (link here).  If you recall, that encounter with the black arts took place at Goose Lake.  For the record, that was my first encounter with this bird having made my way up there thanks to an IBET post followed by a recommendation from my brother Ron who had made his way down there.

Black Tern shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis, MN. in July 2017

Hit the jump to see and read a bit more about this acrobatic sky hunter.

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Fuzzy Always Equals Cute

Guessing you might have thought I had dropped off the planet by now.  Truth is I am uber-busy at the moment.  Halloween is fast approaching and by proud admission, that’s my day!  The problem is to get to that day, my schedule becomes a living hell.  If you spend any time around LifeIntrigued you already know we host a haunted trail for our friends and family.  Each year it gets a little bigger and based on my current plans – this year will be more of the same.  Unfortunately, with all the decoration building my commitment to my loyal readers suffered.  So… without further delay I bring you fuzzy creatures.
Common Merganser offspring shot at Grand Marais, Minnesota in July 2017

I purposely went with this particular post today because no matter how upset you are with my lack of posts … no heart is spurned enough to resist the warming effects of “cuteness”.  Give me a cuddly puppy, a furry kitten or a fuzzy chick and you can kiss my worries goodbye.  Wait a minute, on second thought, scratch that furry kitten option – them be killers!  Not the case with these Common Merganser chicks.  Pretty harmless unless you are a fish.

Common Merganser offspring shot at Grand Marais, Minnesota in July 2017

Hit the jump to see and read a bit more about this encounter.

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That Dude Knows His Birds!

“Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun
But mama, that’s where the fun is”

Seemed like an appropriate intro based on yesterday’s special event.  Hoping all my loyal readers in the States had a chance to witness the solar eclipse.  I opted to stay in the area, so we were only able to experience a 93% reduction.  Somewhat disappointing since 7% of the sun’s light is well… still pretty bright – surprisingly bright.  Still something cool to experience.  Some of my friends traveled further south to witness the total eclipse.  That sounded intriguing until they recounted how horrendous it was to get home after that.  What would normally be about a 3.5 hour trip ended up taking over 6.5 thanks to going 10-15mph on the main highway back.

In light of that (see what I did there – literary genius I tell you hehehe), I spent some time thinking about today’s post topic.  After some deliberation opted to go with something that had a similar “dark” theme. With that said, I bring you this colorful little bird.

Northern Parula Shot at Grand Portage, MN while visiting Grand Portage, MN in July 2017

So you are probably thinking .. “How the hell does this have anything in common with a darkness”.   Or possibly you just realized what song that lyric at the beginning was from and instead thinking to yourself “that has to be the WORST song ever written!”  Either option is definitely appropriate – and sorry for the fact that song is now stuck in your head… “And little Early Pearly Came by in his curly-wurly”  Don’t blame me… thank Springsteen.  Rather than leave you in the dark on this (I kill myself), these shots were taken in near blackness.  Thanks to some fast work on the manual settings, I was able to save it.  This is a prime example why photographers need to embrace the M mode. (I can already anticipate the comment I am going to get from my non-Manual shooting brother Ron)

This Northern Parula was captured while Linda and I were visiting Grand Portage MN back in July.  We are headed out to photograph the waterfall there.  As mentioned in the fox post previously, it was starting to drizzle.  As we were walking the path there, an interesting sound came from a nearby tree.  By then the rain was coming down harder and the thick forest was blocking out what little light was trying to break through.  There are times when you have to focus on someone other than yourself and this was one of them.  Linda had recently done something very nice for my birding checklist and therefore opted to focus on the task at hand – waterfalls.  Onward we went.  Then a stroke of luck happened – Linda couldn’t find here phone.  Hmmm maybe I can cleverly disguise a self-centered act as a chivalrous act for the one I love.  “Oh no, let me run back to the RV and see if it is there… just for your dear.. wink wink”.  Holy crap it worked.  I think she even felt bad I had to run all the way back to the RV.  Off I went with credits in the bank and an opportunity to solve a mystery.

Northern Parula Shot at Grand Portage, MN while visiting Grand Portage, MN in July 2017

Yes, I made the first priority to get the phone.  However, on the way back I kept my eyes and ears on the trail’s edge.  Near the spot I originally heard the mysterious song was a young couple also looking up into a tree.  Turns out they had heard the same song and was investigating the source as well.  Like us, they were unable to spot it.  That is when the young guy mentions that it was the song of a Northern Parula.  Wow, that dude definitely knows his birds.  He then stated, I always love hearing their song, but I rarely ever get to see one.  A quick look at Cornell’s site confirmed they tend to hang out in the canopy.  Seconds after he mentioned that, the source of the melodic chirps decided to come out for a brief visit.  There I was holding big glass in dark forest conditions with a gorgeous bird on full display.  No worries, made some fast adjustments and did my best to focus through the various limbs and leaves.  Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it goes horribly wrong – that day experience came through and the Northern encounter can be forever remembered.  Note, the couple couldn’t believe anything came out on the image  – showed them my LCD and she showed me the black silhouette she got with her camera phone.  I thanked the guy out for the assist on the identification and proceeded on to meet up with Linda with a great sense of satisfaction.  She got here waterfall shots, we found her phone, she loves more even more and I now have a much better picture of a Northern.  Again, the great thing about bird photography is you always have the opportunity to improve on your shots.  If you are curious, here were  my previous inferior captures (link here).

Have to go work on Halloween decorations now – hope you enjoyed reading about our brief encounter with a cute little bird.

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Out Foxed

Today’s post is a bit of a deja-vu for Linda and I.  If you recall, back in March of this year I recounted an encounter with a Red Fox (link here).  That observation involved pulling into the parking lot of the Red Rocks Ampitheatre.  Soon after getting the gear out of the car, a human acclimated fox strolled across the parking lot in front of us –  dismissing the myth that wildlife photographers risk life and limb to hone their craft (well, at least not ALL the time hehehe).  Well guess what…

Fox shot at Grand Portage, MN at Grand Portage State Park July 2017

This exact same scenario played out on our recent trip to Minnesota back in July (yes, this year and yes, I know a post that recent is pretty rare around here).  Eventually, we made our way to Grand Portage MN to let Linda shoot another waterfall.  It was overcast with only a slight drizzle which actually works in Linda’s waterfall silk favor – not so much for my wildlife shots so wasn’t expecting to get much in the tin.  That all changed the minute we stepped out of the RV.  As if on command, this Red Fox came strolling out next to the far end of the parking lot. “Well how do you do my little friend?”

Fox shot at Grand Portage, MN at Grand Portage State Park July 2017

Hit the jump to see and read more about our furry friend.

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Now Checked 3 of 4

You probably noticed last month I focused a bit more on non-bird related posts (evident by the limited posts to the wildlife version of this blog).   My readers have a diverse range of interests thanks to the many transformations this site has gone through over my 10 years of blogging.  To keep everyone interested, I try my best to provide a range of topics, but clearly our feathered friends get the heavy feature lifting on this site.  That means a bird post is never too far away… take for instance today’s featured subject..

Red-Breasted Nuthatch shot at ?? MN in July 2017

This post comes with a word of caution.  A typical post workday consists of combing through thousands of backlogged images trying to locate something interesting to share with my loyal readers.  Additional time in the digital darkroom making it all pretty like and then some intimate time with a shelf full of reference materials.  Once convinced of the probable ID, a quick screen grab is taken and a request for validation goes out to my brother Ron.  He being a birding aficionado will take a quick look and confirm or call me out for trying to claim a fuzzy picture of a Robin as a Puffin (damn him and his crazy bird skills hehehehe).  That is how it usually works.  As of late, the request goes out and nothing comes back.  Request goes out and nothing comes back.  Sure, there is some claim about him being super busy with his day job, his analytics software, his book writing, his cult .. whoops make that nomography work, his blog, his bird excursions, his Halloween prop building, his family time, his photo process blah blah blah – I need my validations!!!!!  Just kidding of course, he has so many irons in the fire now guessing he has given up all aspirations of sleep.    In the meantime, going with an ID that is pretty certain.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is a Red-Breasted Nuthatch.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch shot at ?? MN in July 2017

It helps of course, that it a) actually has a red breast and b) was spotted walking DOWN a tree.  If you don’t know much about birds, it is a good bet if you see a bird making its way headfirst down a tree trunk, it’s a Nuthatch.  Creepers will do that from time to time as well, however, they are very distinctive brown where the Nuthatches sport a spiffy grey.  Common to my stomping grounds here in fly-over country is the White-Breasted Nuthatch.  That one has … wait for it … wait for it .. wait a bit more for it … just a bit more .. and now .. a white breast.  It does sport some chestnut on the shoulders and lower belly but for the most part white.  Already have the White-Breasted version.  Then there is the Brown-Headed variety.  Yes, they do have a brown head (more like a brown cap from my perspective).  Next time you see a brown capped bird walking straight down a tree – think Brown-Headed Nuthatch.  If not already, you are going to become a birder if you continue reading this blog whether you want to or not.  A little secret – there are photos of this variety in my queue as well so yeah, that one is half checked only waiting to make its debut on this blog.  The last of the 4 is the Pygmy.  That one is still on the hunt list.  Still extremely happy with 3 out of the 4.Hatches.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch shot at ?? MN in July 2017

Just realized the shot location hasn’t been mentioned.  We found this on our recent trip along the Minnesota Lake Superior coastline back in July 2017.  To be specific, at

Yikes, way out of pictures – let’s hunt up some facts.  First off, the Red-Breasted Nuthatch is nimble enough to walk  straight down tree trunks, but you know that now don’t you hehehe.  Only other worthwhile tidbit from Cornell’s site is they utilize “resin globules” obtained from coniferous trees to protect their nests from predators.  Immediately thought Ghostbusters and being slimed.

Time to wrap this post up.  Hope you enjoyed reading and seeing the pictures of my new +1

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