Monthly Archives: October 2020

What’s Better than One Flaming Pumpkin

Happy Halloween Everyone!!!

Happy Halloween 2020

My favorite holiday has arrived.  Following the tradition from last year (carried over from our Haunted Trail feature introduced by my partner in haunt Paul several years back… it was time to slice into some pumpkin and grab the kerosene.  Except this year we amped it up a bit because if there is one thing better than one flaming pumpkin.. .well, clearly it is TWO flaming pumpkins.  Unfortunately, we didn’t anticipate the increased light would bring out the creatures of the night.

Happy haunting, see you in November.

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Have You Some Grey Poupon?

It has been a fun, but admittedly long weekend.  Our trip to Wisconsin for the agility dog show is now officially in the books and we’re back home – just in time for me to get a quick 7 miles banged out in rather cold damp conditions.  This morning Wisconsin managed to give us our first snow experience of the coming winter – mid-October!  Last year it snowed here on Halloween so the white stuff keeps pushing west on the calendar every year.  The good news is Raven rocked it at the dog show going 5 for 5 on Saturday and then earning his second level Teacup Agility Champion certification this morning.  Proud of the little guy … and Mom of course.  To close out the weekend post-a-palooza, decided to feature another find at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge.

Northern Pintail found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in November 2017

At the same time I was trying to get shots of the Horned (or Slavonian if you hail from the other side of the pond) Grebe back in November 2017, Mr. Pintail decided to drop in and rest the wings a bit.  Of all the ducks we have the privilege of being able to experience in our area, the Northern Pintail has to be tops when it comes to elegance.  Clean crisp lines, stylish feather palette and a posture that eludes “Sorry sir would you happen to have some Grey Poupon?”.

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of our stylish visitor.

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Recollection: You Call Yourself a Birder?

Kingbird Highway by Kenn Kaufman

I’ve been staring at a book by Kenn Kaufman that has been laying on my desk for several months now.  Having read it in a couple of marathon sessions it was simply waiting for me to get around to posting a recollection of it.  There it sat, begging night after night for some time to meet the world.  Problem is, these recollection posts take a significant amount of time to a) to capture what I thought about it, b) review various pages to remind myself of compelling takeaways, c) do some research to personalize the takeaways and then d) get it all down in black in white.  Thanks to the first official day of the Wisconsin dog show, the procrastination has come to an end.  Today’s post is about a body of work on a famous birder.  Kenn published his book, Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life  of an Extreme Birder, back in 1997 (2006 for my paperback copy) covering his endeavor to complete a Big Year back in 1973.  Tops of my list of birding related reading is Neil Hayward’s Lost Among the Birds (link here).  That book is an incredible read focused on the emotional healing that birding can bring.  Kingbird is now solidly anchored in the number 2 position. Like Hayward’s, I found myself unable to put the book down.  I’d pick it up for a quick nitecap and next thing I know I’m looking at very small numbers on the clock.  If I remember correctly, Ron had the exact same opinion when I originally bought him this book – he liked it so much he ended up having a copy sent to me.  After I turned the last page I said to myself “I’m not a birder!”.  Kenn sets an entirely different standard, embarking on his Big Year when he was 16 years old.  His mode of transportation – standing on the side of the road with his thumb out.  69,000 miles later he had tallied up 666 birds – three short of Floyd Murdoch, but they didn’t count his + 5 from the Baja’s which would have put him over. The stunner in all of this… the amount of money that he spent in this mission.  $50K?,  $100K?, hell $200K doesn’t sound out of reason based on all the criss-crossing you have to do across North America to even have a chance of getting the needed level of checks.  In truth, Kenn spent a staggering $1K – that is travel and living expenses for the entire year – with nearly half of that in two flights in Alaska.  Getting by on less than a dollar a day.  That my friends is an individual that can stand in front of anyone past and present and claim they are a birder.  One that is willing to eat dry cat food for sustenance and endured several run ins with police who didn’t appreciate his mode of transportation and/or his road weary look and even fended off a knife wielding mugger trying to get his cat food.  A different time for sure.  These days, traveling by thumb to see birds has a good chance of you ending up being circled by Vultures.  I did find myself asking what kind of parents he had that was okay with him dropping out of high school and heading off on a solo adventure to every coastline and everywhere in between.  He did thank them at the end of the book stating how grateful he was for them having the faith to let him follow his dream.

Kenn is a tall oak in the birding field and a regular contributor in our primary birding magazines.  Birder’s World refers to Kenn as “the person who knows more about bird identification than almost anyone on the planet”.  He didn’t get there by burying his nose in books – instead, he put himself out there and gained his knowledge the old fashioned way – experiencing it.  Do you enjoy birding, maybe even thinking about a big year yourself ?- grab a copy of this book – guarantee you will have problems putting it down, eagerly turning page after page to learn how Kenn was able to get another check on the list.

If you can’t wait to get your own copy, hit the jump to see a few of my takeaways.

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Always Shoot the Loners

And now for edition 2 of … drum roll please.. Dog Show Weekend!  Our boys will be running for the ribbons tomorrow and right now pretty much passed out in bed.  To their credit it has been a pretty demanding day.  Up at 8am, a leisurely stroll outside, breakfast, another saunter loop around the RV at noon, a nap in my lap while we checked out the local wildlife parks, another pre-dinner exploratory trek around the RV, dinner, another long nap, a taunt fest with a campground Cat from the safety of the RV, ANOTHER jaunt around the RV to make sure that damn Cat learned its lesson before calling it a day and curling up in bed next to Mom.  Let’s all hope there are enough hours left in the night to get their legs/lungs sufficiently recovered from such a hard day.

In the meantime, let’s go back in time and visit today’s featured feathered friend.

Horned Grebe found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in November 2017

I’ve been trying my best to bring you fresher posts – well, fresh by my standards.  Today we need to head back a bit further to the fine year of 2017 – when men were men and Covid was only a concept in a C grade horror.  In November that year we found ourselves down at Emiquon to see what the cold winds would bring to the area.  The key to good finds in those flooded wetlands is to look for the loners.  The ones keeping to themselves are usually the rarities that are simply passing through to their final vacation spots.  No time to check out Santa Anna’s leg in Springfield or the pink elephant in Livingston and certainly no time to meet penpals at the local watering hole.  Nope, find a quite location, rest the wings/lungs, replenish the nutrition stores and get back on the road…err wind.   If we are lucky, we just might be standing on the shore with some big glass at that exact moment.

Hit the jump to see a few more shots of our little loner Grebe.

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Dark Waters

Drum roll please… it’s dog show weekend!  That is good news for my readers as that typically means – post-a-paloosa.  There is a lot of down time with these events and I cannot think of a better way to fill them… except of course, some ultra trail training.   Unfortunately, running for a lot of miles in unfamiliar places can get you lost or worse, find yourself reliant on your survival skills.  I’ll leave the trails for closer to home.   So posts it is!  This show might be a be interesting for Linda.  She managed to dislocate a toe a few days ago.  I came running in to help at first call.  On second thought that might be a stretch.  I waited out the standard oouch ooochie ooochiiiii calls assuming it was a stub which just has to be ridden out.  Problem was.. I thought that was just about to run its course when it took a dark turn to a much higher pitched series of “OH MY GOD”s.  Okay, time to ride in on the white pony.  I was not expecting to come into the room and see 9 of her toes staring at me and one outlier pointed 90 degrees to the right.  I think I might have laughed – not my best moment from a husband perspective… sorry, it was funny and Linda’s eyeballs out of their sockets by about 2 inches was just amping the humor.  Say what you will about my sympathy gene, my personal experience with resetting wayward appendages during sporting events was just the ticket.  Deftly moved the crooked toe in line with the others and then went to work on the emotional part.  Not to be deterred, our trooper will be taking on the courses with a mighty purple toe.  Oh, and big thanks to our call a friend Dr. G. for setting her mind at ease that she will indeed live to run another day – apparently Linda believes the word of a real doctor over my personal experiences (I’m hurt).   Sorry for the long lead in.. how ’bout a bird with big toes!?!

Great Egret found at Widewaters near Joliet, IL in April 2018

A bit of a departure for me in the digital dark room.  There are some standard treatments I do to all my images to get them into my preferred style.  Every photographer has their own signatures, some more subtle than others.  One of the areas I do not tend to rely on is hard contrast.  My eyes view life more on the soft side versus cold sharp edges. As a result, that area is used primarily to slightly dampen unintended jitters.  However, there is one time when I do like a bolder pop.

Great Egret found at Widewaters near Joliet, IL in April 2018

You happen to be looking at one of those times.  Beautiful white birds in dark, dingy settings has a natural contrast that truly intrigues me.  How do these birds manage to keep themselves so clean while strutting around in the muck.  Suspect there is a local distributor of Oxy Clean making a fortune.

Hit the jump to experience some more shots from the dark waters.

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Honorary Bird of Spartan Races

It has been a busy weekend so far, but elated to say we have pretty much finished putting all the decorations away from the 2020 Haunted Halloween Trail of Tears event.  The excitement and anticipation when getting all the items ready for the trail tends to mask how much work is involved.  Now that we had a successful execution, it feels more like swimming in concrete to get all the batteries taken out, props disassembled and serious mental acrobats getting everything efficiently stored away for next year.  Big thanks to Linda who took on battery removal this year – huge help.  Now just need to work on a few props that failed in the field and then to start building next year’s epic scary features.  In meantime, how about we get another post out.

Eastern Meadowlark found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in April 2018

Today’s feature is a nice compilation of shoreline pebbles and spring foliage.  Somewhat calming wouldn’t you say?  A meadow setting that puts the heart at ease… wait, wait, wait… not to interrupt such happy thoughts, but this is a blog primarily focused on wild”life” – I doubt you came here to see rocks and grass.  Nope, you are likely looking for Spiders or Snakes or Elk or Deer or BIRDS!  Truth be told, this is Bird post… let’s try this again…

Eastern Meadowlark found at Emiquon National Wildlife Refuge in April 2018

Hit the link to read a bit more about our hidden bird.

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Comedy on the Boardwalk

Greetings everyone!!  As a tremendous surprise to myself, I’ve once again managed to survive the most stressful part of the year.  The regulars here are well aware that my year pretty much revolves around one event, a celebration dedicated to my favorite holiday – yep, the night of the Great Pumpkin.  Around here, we do it slightly different as we celebrate at the beginning of October and instead of one night, this year we opted for not one, not two, but three nights of epic spookiness.  In an effort to keep our guests as safe as possible, we extended the days to keep the numbers down each night, removed the food element to eliminate congestion points and set up the trail in a manner to maximize social distancing.  Another Halloween Haunted Trail is officially in the books!  All that is left is to finish putting away the items for next year and the all important rest to recoup the strain on the body.  Decided I would do a little resting first.

Little Blue Heron found at South Padre Island, Texas in January 2017

Going back to the Texas Gulf Coast for today’s featured feathered friend.  South Padre Island is one of our favorite winter destinations and looking forward to being able to spend some extra time down there towards the end of the year.  I need to hit the books and figure out what the target bird is going to be this year – early favorite is on the Groove-Billed Ani.  That bird has been tops on the list for the last three trips and each time came away with an empty tin.  The Chihuahuan Raven is mighty tempting as well and let’s not forget about the Mangrove Yellow Warbler… wait, did he say Mangrove Warbler… thought we already had tha…..shhhhhhh…. we promised to wait until Ron starts posting on the He Who Owes Me Bigly event.

Little Blue Heron found at South Padre Island, Texas in January 2017

Hit the jump to see a few more pictures of their local comedian.

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