A Better Gander Pt 2 of 2

Had an extremely productive night tonight.  Ron was able to stop by on his way back to Chicago and help me out with some Halloween animatronics I’ve been working on for this year’s haunted trail.  He was able to improve the sound on my Clown in the Box from last year (link here) and helped work out the kinks on my latest project Nightwing.  This new one uses a linear actuator and some fairly complicated linkages.  Will add the build details here once that gets finished off. Also have some other new props in the works – shaping up to be another fun trail this year.  Since it is going to be a bit hectic around here as the month progresses, figured I’d go ahead and get the second post of the Gander Mountain series out of the way. Going to start with the prize find from our first visit to Gander back in May of this year.

Birding Gander Mountain May of 2018

Mr. Red-Eye represents a +1 to my list. That colorful eye, white undertail feathers and the black downward curved bill indicates this medium sized bird is a Black-Billed Cuckoo.  These birds generally range in the eastern half of the US expanding a bit into Canada and then down into the eastern half of South America. A fairly broad range for a bird I’ve only seen twice now.  Even Cornell mentions how elusive and secluded this species is.  You might be able to hear them foraging through the tree branches looking for Caterpillars – getting eyes on and much less a focus point is a difficult task at best.  My first encounter was up at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie (or as I call it the bunker prairie link here).  I was able to get a few shots in the tin back then, but those pictures still need to be processed – those were really far away and not likely to yield better shots.  Instead, using this encounter as my official +1. The shot below gives a little better view of the white under tail and that ominous blood red eye.  This Cuckoo should be named the official mascot of late night bingers.

Birding Gander Mountain May of 2018

Since this is the first time this bird has appeared here, wanted to grab an interesting tidbit as a takeaway.  These Cuckoos love them spiny Caterpillars – see the first shot for proof.  Most predators are deterred by those spines, however Cuckoos gobble them up like Peeps during Easter (maybe that analogy only applies to me).  Cornell states that those spines end up sticking to their stomach lining.  Periodically, the Cuckoo will resolve this discomfort by coughing up their stomach lining in one giant pellet.  My apologies if you are having breakfast while reading this – nature be crazy ha.

Hit the jump to see more items from the tin that day.


A Better Gander Pt 1 of 2

Greetings from the wetlands everyone!  If you recall, last weekend my brother Ron and I were planning to do some birding near the Illinois-Wisconsin border.  My youngest poodle was running in an agility competition up in Spring Grove and we were camping at our favorite state park up there, Chain O’ Lakes.  Since Ron lives in Chicago it’s a fairly short drive to meet up and hunt down some birds.  I also mentioned we have the uncanny ability to force it to rain simply by planning the outing.  True to course, IT RAINED.. in fact it rained before we left, then rained on Saturday and again on Sunday and basically ever since.  Now, this also may be due to us just having a new well drilled – Murphy’s Law for sure.  The good news is we were able to get our birding in between the storms on Sunday!  One of the places we decided to visit was Gander Mountain Forest Preserve near Antioch IL.  Last year was an awesome outing netting a ton of birds and even a  +1.  However, this year … TOTALLY SUCKED!  Might go into how awful it was in the second of this two part post, but for now I thought I’d simply go back to our previous visit back in May and finally process and post some of those finds.

First off, the smallest find of the day.

Gander Mountain Birding in Antioch IL

We caught this Ruby-Throated Hummingbird hanging out on the right side of the main loop. This is pretty much the only Hummer we have in the Midwest so no trouble ID’ing it.  Note I will mention that it was mighty hard to get in the tin thanks to all the trees and limbs that wanted to grab focus over its tiny stature.   Near the start of the trail, we were met with Mr. Noisy.  Telling you, these Catbirds can make quite a racket.  Since they are of the Mockingbird family, they’ll blast away at whatever new song they learned to mimic.  If you wait long enough, they’ll go back to their standard mewing giving them away instantly

Gander Mountain Birding in Antioch IL

Hit the break to see ore finds from the Gander trip.


A Western in the Estes

Going with a quick post tonight.  We’ll be heading to one of my favorite birding locations in the northern part of the state for the holiday weekend – hoping to meet my brother Ron up there and see what we can get in the tin.  It seems like every time we head up there to bird their lakes and streams they get a multitude of storms that either outright flood the Fox River or squish up the place – neither situation ideal if you are trying to walk the banks.  Of course, for those of us on the well the rain is a welcome sight especially since it has been pretty dry lately.  Just had an interesting thought – maybe we can turn the ability to make it rain into a service.  You call us up, tell us when you want/need some rain and we’ll make it happen for a fair but hefty chunk of cash.  Then I simply call up Ron, schedule a trip to the Chain ‘O Lakes State Park and pump up our bank accounts while enjoying one of our favorite pastimes.  Will putting some noodle time on that – for now, decided to feature a bird that has already made its debut at Intrigued.

Western Kingbird shot at Rocky Mountain National Park, May 2014

hit the jump to see a couple more shots of this yellow hued bird.


Little Miss Yellow

Greetings All!  Once again I have to face the shame from lack of blogging production.  I’ll spare you the details since I’ve already mentioned my current workload in previous posts.  Taking a positive position I was able to break away from the toils of the day (or rather the wicked humidity of the day) to put out a quick post.  Back to the birds for today’s featured critter.

Female Common Yellowthroat shot at Jubilee State Park IL August 2014

Kind of cute don’t you think?  This little girl comes to us from a few years back.  I was doing some hiking in my favorite park – Jubilee College State Park all the way back in August of 2014.  I’ve featured this park in numerous posts being as it is where I spend a good part of my spare time either training for runs (every other day) or catch a bit of hiking or birding.  Safe to say I am familiar with just about every inch of that park.  Oh, and it doesn’t hurt it is only a mile from my house.  From a birding perspective, there are several good spots in the park depending on what you happen to be looking for.  Want Eastern Bluebirds or Indigo Buntings head up to the flats near the pavilion areas and simply close your eyes and take in their sweet songs from every direction.  Prefer raptors or woodpeckers, hang at the edge of the tree lines along the fields or make your way through the wooded trails.  It pretty much has an ideal environment for every Midwestern bird species somewhere in its 3,200 acres.

Female Common Yellowthroat shot at Jubilee State Park IL August 2014

Hit the jump to find out what kind of bird this is.


No Tears, but Definite Pain

I am always up for a challenge especially if it involves some physical form of activity.  My Life List chronicles a large number of those challenges all pretty much checked off since completing the full marathon a few years back.  With over 16 years of road running under my belt .. or should I say in my shoes, things were starting to get a bit stale.  That prompted a new List entry – trail running (link here).  Since I never know if a new endeavor is something that will stick or not, my standard operating procedure is to go big on the first one.  That way, if I end up hating it, I can at least say I came I saw I conquered. Turns out trail running is something that will definitely stick.  Some friends at work (the same one’s that told me about the Farmdale race) brought up another trail race that would truly test what I was made of.  Ladies and gentlemen, I bring you The Cry Me a River Half Marathon Trail Run.

Cry Me a River Half Marathon Trail Race July 2018

As you can tell from the interesting swag shirt (my favorite racing color by the way), the half was the SHORTEST race option they had that day.  They also provided a 50K, a 100k and the distance 99.99999% of runners consider the absolute insanity, the 100 miler.  Linda currently has a “hell no” status for anything at or beyond 26.2 miles.  Before going into this race I was probably on the same side of that argument .. more on that later.

Guessing you are not familiar with this race – yours truly wasn’t even aware it existed before a mere two months before the start of the race.  Hell, I’d just run 13.1 miles on a hilly nightmare of a  course, how much harder could it possibly be!?!


Hit the jump to read how this test of will turned out.


Stop, Drop and Scream

Hello everyone!  Been awhile since I have been able to break away from the grind to get a post out.  Truth is, I’m currently overwhelmed and trying to get back in control of my schedule.  Figure this will not happen until the second week of October when my race season finishes up (with 3 half marathons in about 5 weeks), our Annual Halloween party has past and some key projects at work should be wrapping up.  With all that, I’m still not willing to let my post streak go without a fight (wish me luck!).

Going with something a little different for today’s feature.  First off, I have to use pictures from my cell phone and to classify them as crap is almost too good.  Unfortunately, that is all I had with me when I stumbled on this colorful insect.

Tarantula Hawk Wasp discovered in Arkansas July 2018

Hit the jump to find out what this is .. if you dare!


Days in White Feathers

Other than a likely case of hopefully temporary ear damage we successfully made it through the first night of bands at the Mississippi Valley State Fair beer tents.  As mentioned last post we are playing groupie this weekend and checking out some new local bands and of course our long time favorite Love Dogs who will be taking the stage later tonight.  Just as a quick summary and to add to my memory banks when I’m old(er) and wondering where the hell all those years went – the Sugar Nipples ended up being a band with a “named” band than they turned out to be.  We have visions of them being similar to our favorite Vegas band Steel Panther but they fell short.  The capper was when they started repeating songs to fill the gap before the AC/DC tribute band Electric Shock came on.  Luckily shock ended up being really really good … if you like AC/DC classic sets.  One of my biggest accomplishments in life was converting Linda from country to real music.  We have traveled to several AC/DC concerts and our bar was set extremely high of someone wanting to monetize off their name.  Beyond some lead riff mistakes, Shock pulled off an excellent job.  The lead singer had the vocals down and imagine a 5’2″ Angus complete with school boy outfit shredding away the night for 2 hrs.  Oh, and he was from Australia and had devoted most of his life to exactly reproducing the abilities and styles of his mate from the home country.  Would recommend warming up a bit before tackling a song that starts out with such a hard solo – he eventually settled in or the alcohol compensated as the night progressed.  Can’t wait until tonight, and guessing you can’t wait to get to the meat of this post!

American White Pelican shot in Davenport IA on the Mississippi River in February 2014

Yes, once again featuring a bird from the backlog.  This one is slightly different though – the last one came to you courtesy of 2015 where this one, with a sigh, comes to you from the wayback machine of February 2014.  Wait a minute, “where the hell did all those years go”.   Noting how much grief my brother Ron gave me for being 2 years behind, can’t wait for the comments when he sees I am 4 years in lag.

American White Pelican shot in Davenport IA on the Mississippi River in February 2014

Hit the jump to see and read more about these bundles of white feathers!


A Weldon Springs Cuckoo

Well, my fellow blogger friends are putting me to shame with their output compared to my weak production as of late.  So much that I am writing this post from the car – anything to find a couple of hours to bang out a few thoughts.  We are heading up to my wife’s hometown in Iowa to see the Sugar Nipples.  Thought it was just saying that line that makes me chuckle, but turns out typing it is just as humorous ha.  Before you jump to any conclusions, that’s the name of a local band that will be playing tonight at their summer fair.  To be honest, we are primarily making the trip to see two other bands – an AC/DC tribute band and our favorite bar band the Love Dogs.  Someday the realization will set in on just how old we are and we’ll have to give up these young follies – but not tonight!

The miles are flying past (Linda must be driving).  Better get to the headline of the post.

Yellow-Billed Cuckoo Shot at Weldon Springs State Park, Clinton IL

Hit the jump to read a bit more about this rather interesting bird!


Thankfully Without Wings

Good news everyone, I survived the Bix7 run this morning.  I’ve ran that race for 16 years, now every inch of that course by memory and tried countless strategies to figure out the best way through it – no matter what I do, that race NEVER gets any easier and this morning was no different.  I’ve taken on some of the hardest nightmare courses this year all hillier and twice as long, but this out and back hill course along the bluffs of the Mississippi in Davenport IA still puts a hurt on me. Congratulations also to Linda who conquered the Brady Street hill for another year.  I’ll be putting the details up on my other blog as usual, but as of now I’m sitting here wondering how many days before I stop hobbling around.  While waiting for the Alleve to kick in, decided to go ahead and get my monthly quota out of the way. KK

Probably should have given you some advanced warning on tonight’s featured wildlife creature.  I know there are a lot of individuals out there that are not exactly fond of Snakes.  I can point directly to my wife who will likely be moving my pillow to the guest room for even considering featuring such a hideous creature.  Admittedly, Snakes can creep me out a bit if they manage to sneak up on me or catch me off guard by slithering through trees above me.  Otherwise, we get along just fine.   As you can see here, when one is encountered in the field, it’s shutter slapping time.


Hit the jump to read more about Mr. Slither both from this encounter and a couple of other experiences with these slithery creatures.


Redemption of Sorts

As a general rule, I try not to get more than two race recollections behind at a time.  I realize this may seem like a ridiculous amount of time between an event post for some of you, but this simply means those individuals have not spent a lot of time on this site… or look at any of the non-running posts seeing as how those tend to lag years (and that is not an attention grabbing hyperbola – nope, that is an attention grabbing embarrassment ha).  Guess what, this guy has another race this Saturday which means I better get on the stick err, perhaps more appropriately, in the shoes and get my recollection out on the Steamboat Classic 15K held back in June.

I could probably just start and complete this whole recollection in ONE picture.

Steamboat Classic 15K June 2018

How is that for a summary?  If you are curious on how I got to this point, hit the jump!