Wildlife

A Rough to Get Ruffed

Hello strangers!  Been awhile since getting a wildlife post out and for that I apologize.  This has been a crazy month already and as of tomorrow I officially enter crunch time on the Haunted Trail (only have ONE more week left to prep).  I’ll post on it as soon as I can, but I did finish my final race of the season last weekend… well more like finished the last raceS of the season thanks to a two-race combo event.  I can officially say that I completed my 4 half marathons in a little more than a month and a half.  Must say, it about killed me (recall the last race recollection), but like they say, that which doesn’t kill me just makes me want to try harder hehehe.  Oh well, plenty of time to talk about running later – we have a bird to get to!

Ruffed Grouse shot on highway 61 outside of Grand Portage in Northern Minnesota in July 2017

Pretty cool eh?  I have to go it alone for this one due to my Brother Ron being uber-busy himself these days.  I usually like to confirm my bird ID’s with him just to make sure.  Bird IDing can be a bit difficult thanks to several bird species buying their coats from the same tailor.  Always good to have an extra pair of eyes to spot nuances and Ron is really good at that.  After doing some diligence on the web with some additional thumbing through my reference books I’ve decided this particular specimen is a Ruffed Grouse.  More importantly, for those of you keeping score, this (if correct) represent a new +1 for my birding list – YEAH.

Ruffed Grouse shot on highway 61 outside of Grand Portage in Northern Minnesota in July 2017

Hit the jump to read and see a bit more about this cool bird.

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Junco the Gray

Sorry folks, been a little bit lax on my postings as of late.  Actually I have been making non-wildlife posts on my other site, but doesn’t get me off the hook for not showing the wildlife some love.  In my defense, this has been a hell month which has included massive work preparing for this year’s Haunted Trail and the three half marathons with one more to go in just over a month has definitely left me blog shallow.  To help remedy the situation figured I’d go ahead and throw out a set from May 2014

Gray Headed Junco captured at Rocky Mountain National Park in May of 2014

You couldn’t ask for a bird to be more cooperative when it comes to getting them in the tin.  I swear this particular specimen was actually trying to work with me to get the best angles and background settings.  Hell, I can’t even get my Poodles to cooperate this much with me and we even FEED them!  As mentioned, this bird was shot a few years back on a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park.  Believe we were out in Denver for the Poodle Agility Teacup Nationals and made a point to catch the park on our way back.

Gray Headed Junco captured at Rocky Mountain National Park in May of 2014

Hit the jump to see a few more of the Junco.

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Deceived by a Juvenile

Let me start with a huge cleansing breadth!  Hell, let’s all partake in a giant cleansing breadth.  Ready…set…go  breathe in breathe in a little more, just a bit more, fill every cubic millimeter of those lungs, hold it, hold it, just a bit more.. now let it all out in a big whhooooossssshhhhh.  Unless you took this relaxing moment a little too serious and passed out, you should be feeling relieved, refreshed, rejuvenated and rambunctious.  Not sure about the last feeling there, was on a role with the R’s.  channeling my inner high school Spanish class. I’m sure feeling a lot better now.  Three days ago I was 4 days from the end of the month and three posts away from my self-imposed quota.  Thanks to some elbow grease this post releases a whole bunch of pressure.

I know, I know, you don’t want to read about my problems, you want some of that special bird sauce.

Juvenile Red-Eyed Vireo shot at Bellevue State Park in Bellevue IA July 2017

This little specimen was shot while visiting Bellevue State Park in Iowa.  Back in July (this year), we were on our way back from a Minnesota bird and waterfall shooting trip and stopped by Bellevue’s lock to see what it had to offer.  If you are keeping up with my little off-ramp on the information highway, you may recall that this is the same place we spotted the Peregrine Falcon making the skies very dangerous for anything with wings (link here).  After shooting the Peregrine, we made our way up to the state park on the bluff overlooking the lock.  While standing there checking out the scene, a very intriguing song rang out from a nearby tree.  The hunt was on.

Juvenile Red-Eyed Vireo shot at Bellevue State Park in Bellevue IA July 2017

Hit the jump read more about this mystery bird.

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It’s Their Tern

Greetings everyone!  First off, our hearts and prayers go out to those impacted by the weather events in Texas.  Kind of shocking when you think it wasn’t too many months ago Linda and I were vacationing down in South Padre Island.  Every time I see someone walking in waist high water down there, all I can think of is the huge alligators we encountered while birding down there.  Hope to god the rain and flooding doesn’t bring those beasts up into the communities.  In no way glossing over the human impact that has resulted, but as a birder, it will be interesting to see how the birds handle this change in environment.  The SPI area was such a wonderful birding location it will be disappointing if that element doesn’t recover right alongside the lives and other wildlife already experiencing tragic displacement.  We will keep an eye on how things are going there.

For now, thought I would go with the following for today’s featured post:
Black Tern shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis, MN. in July 2017

That dark and mysterious creature is referred to as a Black Tern.  This is not a new bird to the blog having first appeared back in July 2015 (link here).  If you recall, that encounter with the black arts took place at Goose Lake.  For the record, that was my first encounter with this bird having made my way up there thanks to an IBET post followed by a recommendation from my brother Ron who had made his way down there.

Black Tern shot at Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge near Minneapolis, MN. in July 2017

Hit the jump to see and read a bit more about this acrobatic sky hunter.

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Fuzzy Always Equals Cute

Guessing you might have thought I had dropped off the planet by now.  Truth is I am uber-busy at the moment.  Halloween is fast approaching and by proud admission, that’s my day!  The problem is to get to that day, my schedule becomes a living hell.  If you spend any time around LifeIntrigued you already know we host a haunted trail for our friends and family.  Each year it gets a little bigger and based on my current plans – this year will be more of the same.  Unfortunately, with all the decoration building my commitment to my loyal readers suffered.  So… without further delay I bring you fuzzy creatures.
Common Merganser offspring shot at Grand Marais, Minnesota in July 2017

I purposely went with this particular post today because no matter how upset you are with my lack of posts … no heart is spurned enough to resist the warming effects of “cuteness”.  Give me a cuddly puppy, a furry kitten or a fuzzy chick and you can kiss my worries goodbye.  Wait a minute, on second thought, scratch that furry kitten option – them be killers!  Not the case with these Common Merganser chicks.  Pretty harmless unless you are a fish.

Common Merganser offspring shot at Grand Marais, Minnesota in July 2017

Hit the jump to see and read a bit more about this encounter.

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That Dude Knows His Birds!

“Mama always told me not to look into the eyes of the sun
But mama, that’s where the fun is”

Seemed like an appropriate intro based on yesterday’s special event.  Hoping all my loyal readers in the States had a chance to witness the solar eclipse.  I opted to stay in the area, so we were only able to experience a 93% reduction.  Somewhat disappointing since 7% of the sun’s light is well… still pretty bright – surprisingly bright.  Still something cool to experience.  Some of my friends traveled further south to witness the total eclipse.  That sounded intriguing until they recounted how horrendous it was to get home after that.  What would normally be about a 3.5 hour trip ended up taking over 6.5 thanks to going 10-15mph on the main highway back.

In light of that (see what I did there – literary genius I tell you hehehe), I spent some time thinking about today’s post topic.  After some deliberation opted to go with something that had a similar “dark” theme. With that said, I bring you this colorful little bird.

Northern Parula Shot at Grand Portage, MN while visiting Grand Portage, MN in July 2017

So you are probably thinking .. “How the hell does this have anything in common with a darkness”.   Or possibly you just realized what song that lyric at the beginning was from and instead thinking to yourself “that has to be the WORST song ever written!”  Either option is definitely appropriate – and sorry for the fact that song is now stuck in your head… “And little Early Pearly Came by in his curly-wurly”  Don’t blame me… thank Springsteen.  Rather than leave you in the dark on this (I kill myself), these shots were taken in near blackness.  Thanks to some fast work on the manual settings, I was able to save it.  This is a prime example why photographers need to embrace the M mode. (I can already anticipate the comment I am going to get from my non-Manual shooting brother Ron)

This Northern Parula was captured while Linda and I were visiting Grand Portage MN back in July.  We are headed out to photograph the waterfall there.  As mentioned in the fox post previously, it was starting to drizzle.  As we were walking the path there, an interesting sound came from a nearby tree.  By then the rain was coming down harder and the thick forest was blocking out what little light was trying to break through.  There are times when you have to focus on someone other than yourself and this was one of them.  Linda had recently done something very nice for my birding checklist and therefore opted to focus on the task at hand – waterfalls.  Onward we went.  Then a stroke of luck happened – Linda couldn’t find here phone.  Hmmm maybe I can cleverly disguise a self-centered act as a chivalrous act for the one I love.  “Oh no, let me run back to the RV and see if it is there… just for your dear.. wink wink”.  Holy crap it worked.  I think she even felt bad I had to run all the way back to the RV.  Off I went with credits in the bank and an opportunity to solve a mystery.

Northern Parula Shot at Grand Portage, MN while visiting Grand Portage, MN in July 2017

Yes, I made the first priority to get the phone.  However, on the way back I kept my eyes and ears on the trail’s edge.  Near the spot I originally heard the mysterious song was a young couple also looking up into a tree.  Turns out they had heard the same song and was investigating the source as well.  Like us, they were unable to spot it.  That is when the young guy mentions that it was the song of a Northern Parula.  Wow, that dude definitely knows his birds.  He then stated, I always love hearing their song, but I rarely ever get to see one.  A quick look at Cornell’s site confirmed they tend to hang out in the canopy.  Seconds after he mentioned that, the source of the melodic chirps decided to come out for a brief visit.  There I was holding big glass in dark forest conditions with a gorgeous bird on full display.  No worries, made some fast adjustments and did my best to focus through the various limbs and leaves.  Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it goes horribly wrong – that day experience came through and the Northern encounter can be forever remembered.  Note, the couple couldn’t believe anything came out on the image  – showed them my LCD and she showed me the black silhouette she got with her camera phone.  I thanked the guy out for the assist on the identification and proceeded on to meet up with Linda with a great sense of satisfaction.  She got here waterfall shots, we found her phone, she loves more even more and I now have a much better picture of a Northern.  Again, the great thing about bird photography is you always have the opportunity to improve on your shots.  If you are curious, here were  my previous inferior captures (link here).

Have to go work on Halloween decorations now – hope you enjoyed reading about our brief encounter with a cute little bird.

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Out Foxed

Today’s post is a bit of a deja-vu for Linda and I.  If you recall, back in March of this year I recounted an encounter with a Red Fox (link here).  That observation involved pulling into the parking lot of the Red Rocks Ampitheatre.  Soon after getting the gear out of the car, a human acclimated fox strolled across the parking lot in front of us –  dismissing the myth that wildlife photographers risk life and limb to hone their craft (well, at least not ALL the time hehehe).  Well guess what…

Fox shot at Grand Portage, MN at Grand Portage State Park July 2017

This exact same scenario played out on our recent trip to Minnesota back in July (yes, this year and yes, I know a post that recent is pretty rare around here).  Eventually, we made our way to Grand Portage MN to let Linda shoot another waterfall.  It was overcast with only a slight drizzle which actually works in Linda’s waterfall silk favor – not so much for my wildlife shots so wasn’t expecting to get much in the tin.  That all changed the minute we stepped out of the RV.  As if on command, this Red Fox came strolling out next to the far end of the parking lot. “Well how do you do my little friend?”

Fox shot at Grand Portage, MN at Grand Portage State Park July 2017

Hit the jump to see and read more about our furry friend.

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Now Checked 3 of 4

You probably noticed last month I focused a bit more on non-bird related posts (evident by the limited posts to the wildlife version of this blog).   My readers have a diverse range of interests thanks to the many transformations this site has gone through over my 10 years of blogging.  To keep everyone interested, I try my best to provide a range of topics, but clearly our feathered friends get the heavy feature lifting on this site.  That means a bird post is never too far away… take for instance today’s featured subject..

Red-Breasted Nuthatch shot at ?? MN in July 2017

This post comes with a word of caution.  A typical post workday consists of combing through thousands of backlogged images trying to locate something interesting to share with my loyal readers.  Additional time in the digital darkroom making it all pretty like and then some intimate time with a shelf full of reference materials.  Once convinced of the probable ID, a quick screen grab is taken and a request for validation goes out to my brother Ron.  He being a birding aficionado will take a quick look and confirm or call me out for trying to claim a fuzzy picture of a Robin as a Puffin (damn him and his crazy bird skills hehehehe).  That is how it usually works.  As of late, the request goes out and nothing comes back.  Request goes out and nothing comes back.  Sure, there is some claim about him being super busy with his day job, his analytics software, his book writing, his cult .. whoops make that nomography work, his blog, his bird excursions, his Halloween prop building, his family time, his photo process blah blah blah – I need my validations!!!!!  Just kidding of course, he has so many irons in the fire now guessing he has given up all aspirations of sleep.    In the meantime, going with an ID that is pretty certain.  This, ladies and gentlemen, is a Red-Breasted Nuthatch.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch shot at ?? MN in July 2017

It helps of course, that it a) actually has a red breast and b) was spotted walking DOWN a tree.  If you don’t know much about birds, it is a good bet if you see a bird making its way headfirst down a tree trunk, it’s a Nuthatch.  Creepers will do that from time to time as well, however, they are very distinctive brown where the Nuthatches sport a spiffy grey.  Common to my stomping grounds here in fly-over country is the White-Breasted Nuthatch.  That one has … wait for it … wait for it .. wait a bit more for it … just a bit more .. and now .. a white breast.  It does sport some chestnut on the shoulders and lower belly but for the most part white.  Already have the White-Breasted version.  Then there is the Brown-Headed variety.  Yes, they do have a brown head (more like a brown cap from my perspective).  Next time you see a brown capped bird walking straight down a tree – think Brown-Headed Nuthatch.  If not already, you are going to become a birder if you continue reading this blog whether you want to or not.  A little secret – there are photos of this variety in my queue as well so yeah, that one is half checked only waiting to make its debut on this blog.  The last of the 4 is the Pygmy.  That one is still on the hunt list.  Still extremely happy with 3 out of the 4.Hatches.

Red-Breasted Nuthatch shot at ?? MN in July 2017

Just realized the shot location hasn’t been mentioned.  We found this on our recent trip along the Minnesota Lake Superior coastline back in July 2017.  To be specific, at

Yikes, way out of pictures – let’s hunt up some facts.  First off, the Red-Breasted Nuthatch is nimble enough to walk  straight down tree trunks, but you know that now don’t you hehehe.  Only other worthwhile tidbit from Cornell’s site is they utilize “resin globules” obtained from coniferous trees to protect their nests from predators.  Immediately thought Ghostbusters and being slimed.

Time to wrap this post up.  Hope you enjoyed reading and seeing the pictures of my new +1

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The Deadly Skies

Amazing how fast this month went.  Seems like days ago when I was relaxing by the pool with a smugness born out of knowing I had successfully made it to the standard post quota for another month.  Add in  a healthy dose of training runs, a local birding run, an out of state birding vacation and an agility dog show we find ourselves right back in the fire trying to closing it out.  The good news is I have plenty of fodder to choose from these days having done some overtime in the digital darkroom.  If you thought the last post was fresh, this set of pictures still has the chemicals dripping off them.

Peregrine Falcon spotted in Bellevue Iowa Locks July 14th, 2017

First off, a bit of an apology.  This set of pictures is not my best work.  Even with The Beast (200-400mm) I was barely able to reach the subject.  The fact it is good enough to even tell it is a bird is amazing in itself.  However, I was not going to leave without getting something to verify my new +.5 encounter.  Hopefully, you are in agreement that the shots that were obtained are sufficient enough to ID this deadly feathered predator as a Peregrine Falcon.  Technically this isn’t the first time a Peregrine has appeared on the blog so giving myself just a .5 instead of a whole 1.  While closing out a Yellowstone trip back in February of 2016 (link here), I added a single shot of a bird and asked for verification of whether it was a juvenile Peregrine.  My brother Ron did provide feedback confirming the juvenile.  Now I officially have the adult version producing the full +1 yeah!

Peregrine Falcon spotted in Bellevue Iowa Locks July 14th, 2017

Hit the jump to read a bit more about this deadly bird

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Fly In Food

I’m back!  Sorry for the long delay in getting a wildlife related post out.  It isn’t that I haven’t been productive this month, just decided it was time to  give a little love to my loyal readers on my other blog.  Since those posts were neither furry nor feathered animal related, they were not replicated to this more narrowly focused social outlet.  In an effort to provide some compensation you get to experience something rather rare in my blogging world…
Tree Swallow Feeding, Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge, Goofy Ridge IL July 01, 2017

Ummm, definitely not rare in the sense this blog has a very heavy leaning to our feathered friends.  Nope, this oddity relates to “when” not “what” nor even “where”.  Typically the shots featured here are produced from a queue that currently spans over 2 years.  This a result of a horrible backlog that makes me break out in cold sweats every time the thought of that queue comes to mind.  No need to find a towel to dry off for this post! (keep telling my wife I need and intern ha)

Tree Swallow Feeding, Chautauqua National Wildlife Refuge, Goofy Ridge IL July 01, 2017

Hit the jump to read more about this incredible birding experience!

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