Almost Robined Out of a +1

Howdy everyone out there in Blogland.  Just looked at the date and realized I am running a bit behind this month.  Made it into the 20’s this month with a weak showing on the posts so far.  The end of the month comes quick around here especially when it closes just after a race weekend.  “Need to train, no, need to get a blog out, no wait, HAVE to train, but I need to get a post out, no, what you need to do is run up that damn hill so you are ready for that demoralizing course, but the bl…” – maybe I should stop talking to myself during training runs ha.   Truth is, the answer is always train and sacrifice sleep for posts.  Speaking of posts, how about we get to tonight’s feature.

American Pipit - Texas Gulf Coast December 2016

Hit the jump to read more about this Robin-like bird.

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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.

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Kentucky Wood

Howdy everyone!  Been awhile I know.  Truth is this month has been unbelievably busy… hell, for that matter the last two months have been burning at both ends.  The summer months are usually filled with keeping the acreage under control and now with trails added to the running circuit my remaining evenings and weekends are spent on the hills or in the gym.  Figured I’d go ahead and throw a post out there to get back in the groove.

Red-Headed Woodpecker shot at Kentucky Lake April 2015

Technically, this is not a new bird to the blog and definitely not a new check in my birding list.  Nope, this colorful bird has been showing up here at random times since 2008 usually as part of a broader bird collection post or a side find while out birding Jubilee State Park or other nearby birding hotspots. Today, the mature male Red-Headed Woodpecker gets a post all to itself to show off those brilliant colors.

Red-Headed Woodpecker shot at Kentucky Lake April 2015

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

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Book Recollection: The Enemy is Within

Book Recollection: Dog CompanyI need to get back in the saddle and start producing some posts.  July has been hectic to say the least with a hard trail run (sure to make its way here seeing as how it almost killed me), a vacation crossing the entire state of Arkansas, traveling to a final training run for a race at the end of the month and then a mad scramble to get our entries to the local annual photography competition.   Makes me tired just typing that.  Still no excuse to let my readers down.  So without delay, I bring you a recollection from a recent read – Dog Company: A True Story of American Soldiers Abandoned by Their High Command by Lynn Vincent and Captain Roger Hill.  It is no secret that the military has always been a favored read – check the recollections listing and you will see that most of those are related to our loyal men and women who protect our great nation and its values around the world.  Part of this is a deep desire to understand what it takes to put yourself in harm’s way – leads one to wonder how they would fare in similar situations.  The other part is my father was in the Korean War (yeah, I said war and not conflict, I have no time for semantic games).  I can’t even imagine what that was like for him, but each read provides a bit more clarity.

Today’s featured book described the completely ridiculous rules of engagement that were placed on our fighters in Afghanistan and assume applies in all our military theaters around the world.  The story focused on Dog Company from the Airborne 101st.   They had taken some serious injuries since being deployed (1/3 of the author’s men had been wounded in action) including some who ended up paying the ultimate sacrifice.  It is in the aftermath of that tragedy they discovered there were traitors within the wire – Afghan’s that had been hired to provide services (including their interpreter) were giving information to the enemy.  Thanks to the 96-Hour engagement rule they were required to prove guilt within 96 hours our they had to be released… and by released, that means returned to wherever they were captured regardless of how hostile that environment might be.  Needless to say, if they could keep quiet for that duration… they knew they had to be set free.  Can I assume the Taliban had a similar rule? – rhetorical of course. The release scenario had played out numerous times already (in fact, EVERY TIME) for this unit.  Out of frustration Captain Hill and some of his leaders took it upon themselves to accelerate the admission of guilt process through some direct physical aggression and a staged scene that included separating a group of traitors from the others and discharging a weapon to simulate an execution.  Too far, possibly, but I am not about to sit in the comfort of my den surrounded by peace and quiet and try to judge a situation against an enemy sworn to kill everyone that doesn’t believe in their self serving interpretation of a “religion”.  This event resulted in investigators being dispatched to gather evidence of guilt, the participants were relieved of command and removed from the fight.  What transpired from there should make every citizen who believes in our military (especially those in the line of fire) absolutely sick.  The authors were essentially put in a position of having to prove their innocence – a stark contrast on how our legal system is supposed to work.  Traitors were trusted over soldiers and years of outstanding service ignored in favor of bureaucracy.  Details provided in the takeaways below, but in short, plea deals were involved that left little room for alternative paths.

When it comes to specific decisions, one must look ahead to truly understand the quality of that decision.  A fact that has been abused by so many especially in politics who rely on those they represent (the American Citizen) to forget the event and limit future judgement.  Think Benghazi, crates full of hard currency sent to Iran, artificial red lines and treasonous email practices … and endless other recent examples.  In this particular situation, the quality of the decision can be assessed easily – the 96 Hour rule was rescinded in 2010.  The enemy has not changed, the threat has not changed and our military might has remained as vigilant as before the rule was removed – what did change was the rule getting press (you wouldn’t believe which “news” outlet – now fallen to level of comical) which forced the removal.  Just to add a couple points of commentary on the structure of the book before leaving you.  First, this body of work had to be submitted for review by the Department of Defense.  There were numerous redacts that the authors did not agree with and opted to leave the redacts (black bars) in the context of the book and let you decide if you felt that gap was justified or not (you can tell the context from the words that were left).  Secondly, the book weaves in the actual dialog from the military trail.  With the details in the story, you can see how the questioning was played out and understand the answers in context to that story – this provided an interesting insight to how those courts operate.  The authors stated it directly, but the dialog leaves no doubt – guilty until proven innocent.  Lastly, I thought the recounts of the enemy encounters were chilling to say the least.  Want to understand PTSD better, try inserting yourself into their situation and ask yourself how you come out the other side (if you even do) without being impacted emotionally.  If you think dishonoring our men and women in uniform by kneeling in protest because you don’t like the view from your million dollar mansion is appropriate behavior, then consider yourself and your industry dead to me.

Hit the jump to read some of the details of my takeaways.

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The Trail of Sweat

Greetings from the road you all.  Linda and I are out on another photography trip in hopes of filling up are coffers for future blog material.  Hoping for the best, but so far it has been brutally hot which is likely why the bird opportunities are fairly slim at the moment.  As we head to our next location, thought I’d finally get around to recounting my new adventure in running.  In a few posts leading up to now, I allude to something new and likely difficult coming up.  Well, that time has come and evident by the fact I can still post about it – survived.
Blue Chevy Trail Classic Half Marathon, Farmdale Reservoir IL May 2018

I’ve been running on the road for 16 years straight now.  I remember the day distinctly when I had to admit to myself that the injuries were occurring faster than I could recover in my martial arts activities.  Having done that for so many years, it was tough to give that physical activity up, then Linda came to the rescue.  She told me about the Bix Race up in Davenport Iowa.  Sounded like a challenge so I bought some running shoes and ran all the way down my driveway and back (a bit longer than you might think, but still extremely short).  From that tired and winded effort, I added distance religiously until I could make it through the 7 miles in the hills.  In a little less than a month, I’ll but doing it again for the 16th year in a row, but now that distance seems short having complete a marathon and more half marathons than I can count.

Blue Chevy Trail Classic Half Marathon, Farmdale Reservoir IL May 2018

Hit the jump to learn about the new challenge I’ve recently conquered.

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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

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Keep Them Doggies Movin’, Rawhide

First off, wanted to extend best wishes to fellow blogger Paula who is paddling her way through some rough patches at the moment.  Stay Strong!

Ever have one of those things that seems to always be just out of reach.  Maybe it’s a running distance that is just beyond a wall you keep hitting, perhaps a butterfly that seems to be everyplace you are not, or, as in my case, it’s a bird that you just can’t get in the tin for one reason or another.  If so, I feel your pain.  Don’t get down, think of it as a challenge, keep working it and eventually things will fall into place.

Cattle Egret shot at Rockport, Texas in December 2017

This happened with my first nemesis bird, the Hooded Merganser (link here).  That duck was constantly getting reported on various bird tracking sites all around me … and by around, I mean never where I was.  Increasing the frustration is Ron already had this checked on his list.  If you recall, Ron and I recently went after a Ross’ Goose and came up empty.  Surprise, surprise, we found the Hoodie instead.  This unexpected scenario played out on our trip down the Texas Gulf Coast over our recent Christmas holiday.

Cattle Egret shot at Rockport, Texas in December 2017

Hit the jump to find out more about this cute little bird

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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)

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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

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One Goose, Two Goose, 10,000 Geese

I’m finally back!  Been struggling to get time to feed the blog thanks to an incredibly busy schedule.  When I am not trying to keep the acreage from getting too far out of control I’m out pounding the asphalt and now dirt trails to prepare for fast approaching races – in between that is honey-do’s about a mile long.  Luckily was able to give my other blog a bit of love and posted some recollections of recent races and readings.  More disappointing is how far I’ve fallen behind in reading the outputs of my fellow blogging friends.  If there was only a way to write and read posts while out on training runs – ha.  In an effort to try and right this ship, thought tonight’s post will focus on 10’s of thousands of these…

Snow Geese massing at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Texas in January 2018

Well, admittedly, that shot doesn’t really give the full effect of the experience.  It does give a better view of what made up this huge flock of birds we saw on our trip down to Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge along the Texas Gulf Coast over Christmas break 2017.  If you recall, our first unique encounter this year at Anahuac was the Zebra (link here).  Kind of hard to really top a creature more commonly seen at the Serengeti National Park than off the Gulf of Texas.  However, a close second had to be witnessing one of the largest massing of birds I’ve ever encountered.  Apparently those three Snow Geese above have a VERY large number of friends and relatives who flew in for the holidays.

Snow Geese massing at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge, Texas in January 2018

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