A Jay for a Long Day

Hello Everyone!  There are times that you think you are never going to get through and then somehow everything comes together and then start believing you have everything under control… then life throws you a curveball and you are back to trying to get wood on a difficult pitch.  That is how it has been here at LifeIntrigued over the last several months.  The hectic agenda was finally smoothed only to have a loss in the family.  With a heavy heart we laid my wife’s mother to rest today in a nice ceremony in her hometown.  We will miss her, but she is in a better place now, free from the burdens that weighed her down in her later years.

In Memory, Dorothy Barton

(12/3/1927 – 11/5/2018)

 

It has been said the best way to move on from a bump in the road is to simply continue driving forward.  Seems like sound advice to me, so in an attempt to move forward, thought I’d go ahead and put a post out on one of my favorite topics.  On this rather dark day, I bring you one of the brightest birds the aviary world has to offer.

Green Jay captured at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park, Texas January 2018

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of this stunning Jay!

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Dead Eye Lincoln

I have used a specific quoted from a well-known photographer numerous times in this blog.  It is a bit in jest because Linda and I have listened to many of his blog podcasts and even had the pleasure of meeting him person thanks to a speaking engagement with our local camera club.  If you were into drinking games this would be a perfect situation where you get to choose what phrase they must down a shot to.  Sometime during a Rick Salmon presentation he will say some variation of “one blurry picture is a mistake, a whole bunch of them is a style”.  Drink up!  In the past post, we met Mr. Softie.  In this post you will also see Mr. Softie and well, by the third post on its way you are going to be thinking this is just my style hehehehe.  To my defense, all three of the posts in question probably covered a total of 5-6 seconds.  Incredibly relieved that enough characteristics made it to the sensor to be able to get a proper ID .. which means an official check on the list. There’s a lifetime of chances to get better pictures, but to be in the right place for the right second or two can make the difference of never getting the opportunity to make that mark.  Wife just hollered out to stop making excuses so better man up and get to tonight’s triple F (featured feathered friend).

Lincoln's Sparrow found at Harlingen Thicket World Birding Center January 2018

Hit the jump to learn more about this highly secretive Sparrow!

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New Stones for the Haunted Graveyard

Welcome to the first installment of the Halloween 2018 Haunted Trail of Tears Project Posts.  For those of you not familiar with my “addiction” as my wife refers to it, we host an annual Halloween cookout.  One of the main elements of that cookout is a haunted trail we set up in through our woods.  It is quite the event and has grown to epic proportions over the years.  My friend in haunt Paul and I tend to go overboard on our favorite holiday.  You might get the impression this is something that is thrown together in a week or so near Halloween.  Truth is, this is a 364 day a year activity.  Paul and I are constantly working on new decorations for the trail throughout the year.  The day of the cookout is simply the time when all our friends get to see what we have been squirreled away in our labs building all year.   During the next couple of months I am hoping to go through some of my new builds for the trail.  Keeping with tradition, I will also be posting about the overall haunted trail so  you get a better feel for just how labor intensive this is.  One of my projects this year was to improve our grave yard with some new headstones.

Project Head Stones for Halloween Haunted Trail of Tears 2018

How scary is that!  Pretty happy with how my stones turned out this year and figured I’d walk you through all the steps it takes to get one err.. three of these babies ready for the trail.  From a materials perspective, the base of the stones are made out of 2″ foam insulation.  A 4×8 sheet of that stuff is ridiculously expensive for what it is (~$22/sheet depending on the quality you get).  Look for sales and the 11% off at Menards events to bring that price point down a bit.  You should be able to get a number of good sized tombstones out of a single sheet.  One sheet yielded 5 for me – one from last year – link here three intricate stones and then the second from the left is just an extra from the remaining piece (if you look close you can tell is was left over from cutting out the cross).

Project Head Stones for Halloween Haunted Trail of Tears 2018

Hit the jump to see how this year’s stones were made!

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Swamp Thing

Thanks to the extra cycles in my schedule as of late, thought I would loop back into the spoils from the Texas Gulf Coast birding trips and see what’s left to tick that bird counter up.  I’ve made it through most of the quality shots in preparation for the multiple talks I’ve given on the subject to local groups.  I was shocked to still find a number of potential lifers in there.  Sent some samples up to Ron who was able to confirm my initial IDs – score!  Unfortunately, most of these encounters were momentary.  I’d be intent on getting a target bird in the tin and then catch a brief glimpse of something moving in my periphery.  Note to new birders – when you are away from the home base, if anything with feathers decides to crash your party – flip the shutter on it.  If it turns out to be a common maybe you’ll get a better shot for your portfolio.  You might just be surprised to find out its one that has been eluding you for years.  Worse case, you tap that little key with the Del label on it and that moment in history never happened.  I joke to myself that it was “Obelisked” in reference to the Egyptian structures that provided a historical accounting of the Pharaohs. Except that history was obliterated err deleted and a new manufactured history created in its place that put the new Pharaoh in better standing.  Obscure, but I like to get some use out of all my non-core electives in college ha.  Wow, drifted from the feature of tonight’s post.

Swamp Sparrow found at Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge Texas December 2017

As eluded to earlier, when this shot was taken I was in the midst of tracking a Sora (link here).  That bird is a pain in the ass to get in the tin as it darts in and out of the reeds along the water banks.  Just spotting them is task number one.  From there you are trying to keep a focus on it as the glass bounces back and forth with every reed that comes between the two.  Sometime in that adventure, this little brown jobber darted in for a quick check on meal options.  Assuming it was just a common Sparrow, slid the barrel of the glass over, snapped a few for the record and then went back to being frustrated.  It wasn’t until the review a few days ago that something triggered renewed interested.  Actually that was the second trigger – the first was “Wow, Bri you need some photography lessons”.   Basically bled through some foreground stalks.  Honestly, lucky the glass didn’t start searching and completely ruin the encounter.  This Sparrow might have only been there for less than five seconds, but it’s now an official check on my list.

Hit the jump to find out what this darkly colored bird is!

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Where’s the Hat and Boots?

Greetings everyone, welcome to November albeit a bit late to the month.  I was sitting down after a night of traveling around the countryside assessing various Halloween haunts (picking up ideas for our annual haunted trail) and heard the clank of the blog counter resetting as the clock crested the witching hour.  That sound is definitely more intimidating during the September and October months thanks to an extremely busy schedule – November is a different story – it is actually welcomed since It means I can re-dedicate myself to something I enjoy second to experiencing the event itself – that’s talking (err typing) about the experiences.  A perspective that I believe most outdoor bloggers can relate to.  The only downside right now is I used up all my pre-processed images to get me through the previous months.  That can be easily overcome as in the case of today’s triple F (featured feathered friend).

Nashville Warbler found at Weslaco Valley Birding Center January 2018

I still have a tremendous amount of blog material from our trips down the Texas Gulf Coast.  Took a run through the folder last night and thought this cute Warbler would be worthy of introducing to my readers.  This particular specimen was found at the Valley Nature Birding Center in Weslaco, Texas.  You may be familiar with this location already as it was the place that gave me the national bird of Costa Rico (link here), the Inca Dove (link here) and that darling of a Warbler the Black and White (link here) to name a few.  The Birding Center is a neatly tucked away gem of a birding hotspot posing as a generic park in the middle of town – go through the visitor center and out the back gates and you find yourself standing in six acres of an elaborate forest ecosystem.

Nashville Warbler found at Weslaco Valley Birding Center January 2018

Hit the jump to find out what this new bird to my list is called!

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A Better Castaway Companion

Did you hear that!?! If you just heard a huge sigh of relief loud enough to be heard from the Netherlands, that would be me successfully putting a cap on one of the busiest two months I have experienced in a looooong time. The Annual Halloween Cookout is officially in the books (all the decorations are officially dried out, packed and stowed away), the 4 scheduled Half Marathon medals are hanging on the wall, the new well is awaiting final health inspection and as of Wednesday night, my presentation to the local Peoria Camera Club was given. Whew, that blurb sure doesn’t sound as difficult as it was to get all those checked off the to-do list. All of those tasks had been outlined in previous posts, with the exception of the presentation. The president of the Camera Club (Julie) attended my presentation to the local Audubon Society Chapter earlier in the year (link here).  After that talk she offered up the opportunity to come and speak to the camera club.  Honored to be considered, I quickly accepted and began fretting about it almost immediately.  At the Audubon speech, I was in a room full of better birders and likely better photographers.  In the new setting I was among a room full of better photographers and likely better birders.  Definitely more comfortable in the former being a self-learned photographer.  When Julie reached out with the October date, my heart skipped a beat and immediately went to work revamping the Birding Texas Gulf Coast talk to focus on the photography aspects.  Apprehension remained up until the point the lights went down and the slide show started.  Ended up running out of time to get through all the bird detail (due to favoring camera setup, field philosophies etc), but the audience seemed to enjoy the talk and received a lot of good comments afterward.  Also got to talk to a few of them later thanks to a chance decision afterward to catch a bite to eat at the same place.  Again, extremely honored to have the chance to present my craft to them and to meet a wonderful group of similar enthusiasts.  Huge appreciation to Julie for making all that happen.

While preparing for this speech, I noticed a picture was included of a bird I had not featured on the blog yet – and by definition, one that did not have the official check by it on the bird list.  This seemed like the perfect time to remedy that!

Wilson's Warbler found at The Valley Nature Birding Center, Weslaco Texas January 1st, 2018

Hit the Jump to find out what this new addition is!

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A Thrashing Surprise

Decided to give my loyal readers a break from all the running posts – and by “deciding” I mean bowing to the crap load of hate emails and phone calls I have received from those of you that believe the only running distance worth completing begins with a 0 and ends with a 0 with a single period between them.  The good news is we can turn this post into a win win.  First off, I spare you the last remaining run post and instead feature another catch while on our Texas Gulf Coast Birding Trip back in December 2017 – on the 30th to be exact so just a few days from the current year.  This makes this an extremely fresh post based on my normal wildlife recollections.  Recently  I was offered the opportunity to speak at our local camera club.  Their president saw my speech to the local Audubon Society and thought the camera club would enjoy it as well.  This has added to the overall whirlwind of activities that has been consuming me over the last two months (if you have been reading my posts, you are well aware of how I’ve been struggling to get posts out).  With the completion of the season’s last scheduled half marathon trail run past Saturday (yeah) this is the final task on my to-do list ahead of my favorite day Halloween.  The win on my part is this post allows me to pad my bird count by an extra tick before speech – yep, this is another new bird!

Long-Billed Thrasher found at Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, December 2017

Hit the jump to find out what this mystery species is!

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Daddle Daddle Do

Getting tired of the run posts yet?  If so, my apologies for this one and well, likely the next one too.  The good news, is when that next post is done the official running season should be done.  That is if a trail race doesn’t catch my eye in the next couple of months.  The great thing about being trained up for the 4 half marathons that closed the standard race season  is you are pretty much ready to go if anything at that distance comes along.  Will probably cycle back to maintain mode for training and start working more on getting the body fully recovered from another grueling year pounding pavement and new for this year.. the dirt.  Guessing if you read the previous post, you are wondering how the final piece of the 2 race event went.

WhiskeyDaddle Half Marathon Daddle Deluxe Oct 7th, 2018

That pretty much gives it away – successfully finished the back half of the challenge.  I forgot to point out that the 5K actually gave a really nice and classy looking long sleeve tech shirt very similar in design to the pull over they gave for last year’s half.  This race is on the expensive side when you sign up for the double event.  It has the absolute worst after race party outside of the typically much much lower budget trail events. Basically provided water, a few bagged snacks, a loose cookie and a banana.  Really bummed this year they were not giving out the free Whiskey samples like they did last year (yum).  I can get over the weak food offerings thanks to their incredible medals.  They are just slightly smaller than last year’s barrel version (link here), but still nice and heavy.

WhiskeyDaddle Half Marathon Daddle Deluxe Oct 7th, 2018

Hit the jump to see if I survived another half marathon!

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One Shot Down

Welcome to the Run Recollection Month as I’ve decided to call it.  Already cranked out three race posts this month – figured might as well go for a whole month full of sweat hehehe.  Today’s featured run (also in chronological order if you are keeping track) was the second running of the WhiskeyDaddle.  It used to be called the Peoria Marathon, but they decided to take on a theme based on the Peoria whiskey heritage as well as pump up the overall festive element of a race that was starting to lose its luster.  The event now spreads across two days with race distances to meet any level.

Whiskey Daddle 5K - The Shot, Peoria IL Oct 6th, 2018

On Saturday, they hold The Shot.  This is the shortest distance for the two days coming in at 5K or for you non-runners out there, 3.1 miles.  As a general rule, I usually do not run races that take me less time to run that it does to get myself out of bed and ready to toe the line.  If you see me participating in a 5K, there is usually some other reason – in this situation it was to feed my inner medal whore.  That’s right, if I double up the race (for a hefty price of course), they give me an EXTRA medal.  Now that is what I am talking about.  This is similar to the Illini Marathon which also gives out three medals for completing two races.  This year, like with the Illini (link here), opted for the 5K + the Half Marathon or the Daddle Deluxe as they called it.  That’s the Shot (5K) plus the Bottle (Half).

Whiskey Daddle 5K - The Shot, Peoria IL Oct 6th, 2018

hit the jump to see how the warm up race turned out!

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No Chucks for Moonlight Run

Things are finally humming here at LifeIntrigued.  With almost all of the stressors that were queued up for September and October finally behind me, the blog can get some badly needed love.  Just have a big speech coming up (will talk about that more when we get closer to the date) and a few other odds and ends to get cleaned up and I’ll finally be able to sit back, relax and breathe a huge sigh of relief.  One of those big stressors just got completed yesterday.  It also had a running theme and the reason I am pushing so hard to get current all my competed runs that have been sitting on my desk since July.  Sticking with the chronological order, going with a run that took place after the IVS Half from last post.

Moonlight Miles Half Marathon, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield IL September 2018

Now this run holds a special place in my heart… err, make that my stomach.  It is also the race that gets my wife the most concerned – that may be rightfully so.  The race is held 6 days after the IVS half on a Saturday night.  The race started out as a prediction race in the same vein as the Screaming Pumpkin race (link here).  In fact, so similar in that it also started out as a Marathon distance with relay options and held ..wait for it .. in an old cemetery.  It was a natural fit for our seasoned Pumpkin relay team.  Unfortunately, they backed off the prediction element, but added a half and quarter marathon to accommodate the shorter distance runners so they wouldn’t have to partner up.  Last year Ryan and Sung were able participate with  me, much to the relief of my wife (link here).   She is responsible for a dog competition event that weekend and has been unable to travel down to the run.  This is also the reason this race brings the biggest concern.  Why? Well, for two years in a row I’ve left a bit of myself there.. and not talking about sweat.  Something about this race ends up getting to me around the 9 mile mark that ultimately causes me to be seriously sick after the race – like throwing up sick.

Moonlight Miles Half Marathon, Oak Ridge Cemetery, Springfield IL September 2018

Hit the jump to find out how the race turned out!

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