Greetings to all from the big white tundra we like to call the Midwest. A bit of an icebox at the moment as we are dealing with ~12″ inches of the fluffy stuff. Add to that a layer of ice that accumulated overnight from freezing drizzle and you have yourself a recipe for hilarity. Case in point. Our dogs decided that 4:50am is a perfectly good time to demand I take them out. Wipe the sleep from the eyes, remind the legs they were designed to move me from one place to another, put some shoes on and leash up the dogs – you would think by their expression I take evil enjoyment out of cinching up their necks as opposed to the truth there are “eyes in ‘dem trees” that think 4:50am is a perfect time for an early morning snack. Shut the alarms down and take a groggy step off the porch onto the wet concrete. Except it wasn’t just wet, nope, black ice quickly causing my feet to go eye level and my eyes to go feet level. Just got my back all healed up and now I’m being snickered at by sure footed furballs. Later that morning, a semi ended up jackknifing by the main highway exit I use to get to work shutting down that access and choking up all the alternative routes (which had their share of wrecks as well). Some days were just designed to stay in bed and enjoy thoughts of warmer locations.
Like for instance the desert – specifically the Mohave Desert in Las Vegas. The Rock Wren was not the only bird hanging out at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area back in November 2018. Unlike that bird (link here) and Abert’s Towhee (link here). that came before it, this bird possesses coloring that contrasts sharply with the desert floor. Yep, this one is adorned in a pretty blue and grey palette.
Hit the jump to find out what kind of bird this is!
Getting my exercise in alternative ways today. Seems Old Man Winter has decided the Midwest needed a serious coating of white. Snow has been coming down in our area since 9pm last night and not planned to let up until 2am tomorrow. Good for our wells, but not for the body. Finally got my back functioning again and was hoping to take an easier trajectory to the daily workouts. So far everything is holding together – did a mid-shovel this morning to get the pavements cleared, but will probably be heading out soon to clear off the 4 hours of new powder that has been dropped and break out the tractor to clear the 300′ of driveway.
In the meantime, thought I’d recall warmer times in the Mojave Desert.
Feel bad for bringing you another fairly dull colored bird, but the desert birds tend to inherit the hues of their surroundings. Nonetheless, this little bird represents the second +1 for the young year. Those that happen to be familiar with our feathered friends will probably recognize it as part of the Wren family. Although unable to bring this element to bear, the chatter these hyperactive birds emit is also a dead giveaway. All that is left to do is identify which type it is.
Hit the jump to find out what this new bird is!
Today I watched a Subway employee sort cheese. Actually, sorting might be the wrong word since that it implies there were multitudes of different cheeses thrown in a giant pile that needed to be properly organized. Yep, wrong word. Let’s go with “aligning” cheese. I was in somewhat of a hurry thanks to having recently injured my lower back during a run (interesting story, will save for another lead in). It basically hurt to stand (…or sit… or lie down) and therefore wanted to get back to the car and home before someone saw tears welling up. The Subway employee was standing at the counter directly in front of the lady ahead of me. There she proceeded to align the pepper jack cheese. One by one down the foot long stack of triangles. Ever find yourself staring at something and too mesmerized to look away? One eye was on the cheese dance, the other was on the lady ahead of me trying to predict her breaking point. Word to the wise, psych classes are NOT healthy for you. To her credit, she waited until the cheese was sorted and properly stored in the container at which point she gave her order and asked for .. wait for it ..wait for it .. Swiss. The Swiss bin was empty forcing her to go back and get new packages. To her credit, she just took 4 pieces and finished her sandwich. With that done, she came back in front of me to get my order .. umm no, she opted to take the rest of the Swiss triangles out of the bag, align and put in the bin not looking at me once. “Rest” is somewhat of a guess since I turned and hobbled out the store. Nothing like having a direct reminder not to leave my customers hanging … especially my loyal readers. So, without delay, I give you the first +1 of the year.
This would be the very rare Headstick Sparrow. These brown jobbers develop antler like protrusions in the middle of their head providing a built in defense against aggressive Owls and the ability meld into underbrush when land predators come calling. Don’t worry, Linda isn’t buying it either. I think the words “crappy photographer” just rang out from her den. Sigh, okay, this is not a Headstick Sparrow, but it is from the Sparrow family – the Abert’s Towhee. Here is a better shot sans stick.
Hit the jump to read a bit more about this secluded Sparrow.
Another full year of blogging is in the books! I guess more literally, in the Word document that contains the annual collection of posts. Hard to believe our little production at Intrigued has been going this long. Most of that endurance is thanks to all my readers whose time and comments make the effort so fulfilling. Over the course of this year I once again made new friends, some in far off lands (note, that includes basically anywhere outside the continental US). The world and the people in it continues to fascinate me on a daily basis. I get a bit more knowledgeable with each new observation, more intrigued with each new find and every resulting introspection or recollection. The experiment of breaking off my wildlife posts from the mothership has ended up becoming a flagship of its own taking command of a majority of blogging time. I still tend to the parent with posts covering my other hobbies, social observations and when required commentary on a broken political system. Meanwhile the Wildlife division has been busy bringing an amazing number of new birds to my life list along with forages into the larger and the smaller that walk, crawl, slither and fly past my camera’s sensor.
This year also brought new opportunities for me thanks to a lot of encouragement from my wife. I agreed to give two presentations, one focused on birding and blogging to our local Audubon Society and then again later in the year to the local camera club (thanks to the president of that club being present at my Audubon talk) with more of a technical photography slant. As I had feared those presentations took a tremendous amount of time to gather images and prepare the presentation, but in the end, extremely glad I took them up on those offers – two of the most enjoyable times I’ve ever had publicly speaking. I have spent a career giving very technical presentations to small and large groups as part of my day job. it was refreshing to talk about the hobbies that consume my free time outside of those hours. That event also got my butt in gear to finally get most of the Texas birding shots processed and posted (thus the huge boost in my birding list).
Admitted, I am a few days late on this assessment tradition. At the end of each year I like to take a moment to look back at the year’s output as a complete body of work. Did I hit my self-imposed monthly quota, was there any progression on my photography, what posts did my readers like, and where did I miss the mark. So with that, I bring you the 2018 year end summary. Hit the jump below to see the individual stats and accomplishments. However, before you do that, I do need to thank some people. First of all, those that take the time to read my musing. Without you, this would pretty much just be a long talk with myself. Knowing that others are investing time pushes me to try and put out the best product I can. It is also a way for me to share my experiences, learn from other perspectives and gather feedback on IDs and my photography – all things that add to my personal growth and for that extremely appreciative. Next on the list is my brother Ron. He was the catalyst for blogging and provides a tremendous amount of help with his post comments and even more behind the scenes. He helps me research IDs and critiques my shots allowing me to at least act like I know what I’m talking about. Not to mention a lot of the photographs that make it on the blog are a result of birding outings we go on together. The person that probably endures the most thanks to this blogging affliction is Linda. I cannot count of the number of times she has had to pull yeoman .. err yoewoman duties behind the wheel on long trips while I pounded out a post to keep my blog quota streak going. Not to mention driving me around birding hotspots while I hung my head out the window listening for bird calls or worse, subjecting herself to embarrassment while I pulled out my camera phone to capture something that made me laugh (happens a lot more that I am willing to admit). I need to do a better job in 2019 of making it up to her.
It is shaping up to be another big year at Intrigued. There are new goals for running, new target birds and hopefully a number of trips to keep the hopper full. Planning to make 2019 even better than 2018.
And now, the annual stats for the year’s worth of blogging.
Hit the jump to see the 2018 stats!
Welcome to the New Year everyone! Hope your holiday celebrations were fun and safe. I did take some time off from the wildlife posts to get through a backlog of Halloween Haunted Trail and running features on my other blog. Those were way overdue and I hate to leave loose ends hanging about as we cross into the new year. One loose end that still needs addressing is my year end blog summary. That takes a lot of time and I wanted to spend that instead getting ready to head back to work tomorrow. 10 days off is wonderful, but in reality, it just means twice as much work to greet you when you make it back to your office. It’s also college bowl day so enjoying some rare football (now that I’m in my second year of boycotting the professional version). It is pretty hard for me to just sit and watch TV – seems like such a waste of time. So, thought I would combine it with putting out my first Wildlife post of 2019.
Hit the jump to learn what my guess is for the huge Moth.
Happy New Year Everyone! I am still working on my year end blog summary – amazing how long it takes to go through and get the annual blog stats. While I am still working on that, figured I would go off topic a bit and highlight a trend that appears to be growing. Unfortunately, this trend is not a good one, in fact, one could say it is a downward spiral (an appropriate toilet pun) … at least from my perspective. I started seeing signs of this while shopping at various places during the earlier part of the year. It didn’t really hit home until the November-December timeframe while out picking up presents for family and friends. It seemed like in every store we bothered to go to this year, there it was, smelling up the aisles. Toy after toy, decoration after decoration focused on a particular theme. I decided it was time to highlight this on the blog as evidence in case any fake mainstream media wanted to go off on what a shitty year this was.
The weird thing is the thrust of the [bowel) movement seemed aimed at children. I bring you example number one found at Bass Pro – Doggie Doo: When you gotta go, you gotta go complete with exclamation point.
From the look of the packaging, this particular toy involves a wiener dog that farts out smelly bees. This results in not only the bystanders being offended, but the smell has apparently bored a hole through the ozone layer causing a fouling of the sun. I had to know what this game was about – deep down hoping this was just a typo and they were really not offering a game of clean up poop to our children. Nope, unlike CNN, there was truth to the story. This was indeed an exciting game of pick up excrement (making the CNN reference surprisingly accurate). Let me get this straight, they spin a wheel, squeeze a pump attached to a leash which eventually causes the dog to choke out pieces of crap which the kids happily grab up to earn themselves a fart token. The kid that manages to scoop up the most crap is crowned the winner. Linda, can I get this for our nephew and nieces!?!
Hit the jump to see some more crap!
Well, it has finally come, the grains of sands are just about finished falling for this year and the giant blog clock is just about to turn to year … wait for it .. wait for it .. TWELVE. So many years, so many words, so many photographs and still enjoying every minute of it. Well, maybe not those times when I am up against the wall trying to get the blog quota in before the turn of the month. I haven’t finalize plans for the New Year yet (do not like to rush into that due to my absolute commitment to fulfilling whatever resolutions I come up with), but it feels at this point the blogs will be once again a mainstay in 2019. As likely the last post of 2018, decided to close out the Halloween posts. So far I covered the prep and two posts on the trail itself. Only thing left is to talk about the tear down. The way this usually works, is it takes a couple of weeks to get it all prepped, another 3 or 4 days to get it set up and then excruciatingly tiring hours to get it all hauled back up the hill once all the guests have left for the night. This year it went a little different thanks to the rain that started falling as the party was winding down. We had to take the final pictures during the rain (thankfully the tree canopy kept us fairly dry). By the time everyone left, the rain was coming down too hard to get the vehicles down and up the now very muddy hill. Only thing I could do was put on the rain coat, turn off all the props, remove the sensor batteries and haul up a few of the smaller electronic decorations I didn’t want expose to the night of rain. That took over an hour to do that resulting in one rain soaked Bri.
Hit the jump to see a few more shots from the tear down.
The end of the year is approaching fast and I need to get some things wrapped up so I can start the new year with a clean slate. One of those loose ends is the recollection on the last run of the 2018 race season. This race season was a new record for me as I completed 7 1/2 marathons this year thanks in part to adding 3 very tough trail runs into my schedule. The first ever was the Blue Chevy Classic where I took 2nd in my age group (link here), then the Cry Me a River race where I placed in my age group (although they only rewarded the first 3 males and females overall – link here) and then the Sandhill Crane Half Linda found for me while we were looking for another 13.1 Wine race.
This one ended up being in Vandalia, Michigan back on the 13th of October. The element that caught Linda’s eye was the fact it was named for birds that were commonly seen at the park they were holding the race. That was pretty much a no-brainer in itself, but the fact this race only cost $27 was another. That was such a good price ended up giving them a $5 donation. Figured at that price, there wouldn’t be that much in the way of shirts or medals. Wrong on both counts. They recognized individual male and female divisions and the shirt ended up being a very nice long sleeve tech shirt. More on the awards later.
Hit the jump to see how the trail race turned out!
We are on our way back from a short trip to Tunica Mississippi for some birding and gambling. Birding absolutely sucked and gambling wasn’t that much better. Tunica has gone way down since our last visit there over a decade ago. There were at least 3 or 4 casinos completely closed down and the ones remaining are definitely on the decline. We won’t be planning a return visit. We hit the Wapanocca National Wildlife Refuge in hopes of getting another Bobcat or finding that Cougar we located last time, but missed getting a picture of – struck out on both counts and a lot of the refuge was closed for migration or hunting. Luckily we had a fun time at the Memphis Zoo so it wasn’t a total waste. The good news is I can finish the Halloween post I started from the casino a few nights back,. Yep, gonna take you on the rest of the trail so turn off all the lights and lock the doors – it’s the spooking hour.
Let’s start where we left off last time which brings us to the smoldering groundbreaker. Ron gave me this item as a gift last year. It jerks randomly while emitting wailing sounds and lights up. It is set up for a fogger to enhance the effects, but we didn’t have one to spare this year – picked up a couple more at end of season sales this year, so look for that addition next year.
Think I bought this hanging lady at last year’s clearance sale,. She lights up and has eerie sayings implying it was your fault she was left hanging on that tree. A lot of people missed this particular decoration this year due to it being somewhat hidden on a side of the tree.,
Hit the jump to see more sights from this year’s Haunted Trail of Tears.
Hope everyone had a safe and merry Christmas or related celebration! Thought I would continue my end of year stat pad .,..err, I mean Haunted Trail of Tears recollection posts. If you recall on Christmas Eve I pulled a Tim Burton and provided insights into what it takes to bring our annual Halloween event to life, All that hard labor is for a relatively few hours of entertainment for our friends and family. That and Linda says it satisfies my Halloween obsession for a couple of months, well at least weeks. This lights out tour ended up being a large post. To keep your browser’s image cache from burning up, I’ve decided to break this into two parts. Probably will keep the dialog to a minimum and focus on the images we took after the guests had left and just before that damn rain let loose. Flip the switch off on the moon and queue the scary music, it’s time for a haunting!
Our trail started with Paul’s new blow-up dragon. As mentioned previously, it was too big and too new to subject it to the woods. A perfect way to start, tame enough for the children yet still impressive to see in the blackness
Mr, Spider once again greets our guests as they begin the journey down to the bottoms
Hit the jump to see the rest of the pictures from the first part of the trail.