Once again, musical accompaniment may be found here.
Some bright morning when this life is over
I’ll fly away
To that home on Gods celestial shore
I’ll fly away
I’ll fly away, oh glory
I’ll fly away in the morning
When I die hallelujah by and by
I’ll fly away
These birds have a particular “dance” they do. It incorporates all the necessary elements necessary to impress a potential romantic partner: strutting, wing-spreading, hopping about, as well as the occasional tossing of straw or dirt clods into the air. We witnessed the last maneuver, but my shots of it were too blurry to be of use. Suffice it to say that witnessing this spectacle of crane dancing is worth getting up at six AM for.
Since this blog has taken a turn toward animals lately (both dead and alive), we’ll stay on theme with a post or two on Sand Cranes. These are large migratory birds that converge by the thousands on the same field in Indiana every fall and spring. Until this weekend, I had no idea such a sight was to be had within ninety minutes’ drive of Chicago. When a friend suggested taking a trip to see them, the Idiot Photographer and I jumped at the chance. After all, road trips are always fun, and we needed some photo opportunities since the urbex has been in a little lull of late. So 6AM this past Sunday found us on the road, trying to get to the wildlife preserve shortly after dawn when these birds would be most active.
Some quick lessons learned: the lenses optimal for shooting decaying buildings are not so hot when it comes to capturing birds in flight. I had thought my 250mm lens was quite the zoom; it was neither “zoomy” or fast enough to get the kind of shots I was hoping for. Live and learn. I will post a few more shots tomorrow, including a couple of the cranes’ famous mating dance.
Two shots of birds from last weekend’s trip to the Brookfield Zoo. First, the instantly recognizable Greater Delta Mardi Gras Bird. (Bourbonaisse Plumarius)
And a portrait of the handsome Tufted Blue Gargler (Indigo Emesis)
Sometimes you have stand in the danger zone to get the photo you want.
Hello down there!
Sometimes we know what we want, and see where we want to go, but know not how to accomplish either.
Much I marveled this ungainly fowl..
Given the loss of our guide we were left to our own devices and a basic understanding as to where the easiest to access locations were. We decided to start at the biggest of these known locations, the Candy Factory. I knew it was liable to be a big empty, echoing place but even the empty places have a magic of their own. Granted it wasn’t what we were looking for on this trip but it is a starting place, right?
At our approach we noticed some people in the alley behind the building, they were not interested in talking to us so we wandered around to the front before finding the entrance we were looking for. We could hear them quite well from the interior so figured they were probably scrappers and had access to the building. Not wanting to draw attention we made the choice to head straight to the top and work our way down. Given that all the windows were boarded from the third floor down this also gave us a little light to work with.
Up on the roof we received our reward. Pigeons. More importantly, pigeons that didn’t fly off when I decided I wanted a photo of them.
I consider this a revenge of sorts.
One of my favorite birds in the Lincoln Park Zoo’s aviary are the Inca Terns. Every time I am there I try to capture what it is that delights me so much about them, today I offer you a brief study of these charming and silly birds.
Well, given that this is a zoo bird he is a little more pink than red or scarlet. Like flamingos they get the red coloring from the crustaceans they eat so zoo birds tend to be a little less brightly colored than their wild counterparts.
The color comes about because they digest the shells, the chemical that turns your lobster bright red when you cook it is the same one that accounts for the coloring of ibis and flamingos. It travels through the body and gets deposited in the feathers as they grow, so the pigmentation is not from a dye process like some might assume.
Interestingly enough there is a similar process in humans that has been fairly well documented. There are people who drink a liquid solution of colloidal silver thinking that it will help prevent infections (pro-tip, it doesn’t), too much taken over your life span will result in gray-blue skin, it is a condition called argyria and this article explains the process. People are weird.
It is common knowledge that Australia has a wide ranging selection of venomous critters who can cause death in many nasty ways. In this case we’re going to take a look at a bird who is equipped with a spur on its wing that many believed was venomous (because what animal in Australia isn’t?) but has been proven to not be. It is, however, a pretty funny looking bird in a land of beautiful birds.
Meet the Masked Lapwing. They are a common bird found all over wetland areas, with heaviest population in Queensland, Northern Territories and New South Wales
It is reported that this wetland dwelling insect eater is shy, but my contacts in the Land Down Under report that during breeding season it is a fierce defender of its nest and chicks to the point of driving off cats and small dogs with a barrage of attacks using that wing spur I mentioned. It will try the “I’m injured over here” game to lure a predator away from its nest, but if that predator goes closer all bets are off and the lapwing will attack.
If they were a little more discriminating about where they nest this might not be such a terrible thing but from what I gather they will nest pretty much anywhere, including along sidewalks and in parking lots. This had lead to a slight decline in populations in urban areas where outdoor cats are more common and predation of the chicks happens a little more frequently. However overall they’re still pretty common, and about as silly looking as a bird can get. Why did nature decide this bird needed a yellow robber’s mask? I’m afraid to know.
Flamingos, are ridiculously colored, fluffy featherballs with stick legs and an angry looking curved beak, they remind me of those ladies who wish they were high society and make every attempt to give the appearance of it, but they aren’t. I suspect this is why hideous plastic versions of this creature adorn the yards of people who think tacky plastic lawn ornaments are classy and will make the place look spiffy.
Unlike the common depiction of flamingos, they are loud, quarrelsome and ungainly critters. Which makes watching one bathe extra funny.
Then you get that magical moment when all dignity is utterly abandoned and one falls over on its side.
I’ll be gracious here and mention that most creatures tend to squabble on a regular basis, especially when they are in large social groups that have nothing to do with how much the individuals actually like one another. I will point you to the corporate office dwelling sub-species of Homo sapiens as proof of that. With that said, flamingos are masters of being argumentative. Here we have a three way argument between birds that were all initially upset at other birds that were not even involved in this rather loud argument. Let me set it up for you:
Nesting flamingo was actually mad at one of the birds behind her for stepping too close to the nest. That bird retreated immediately but nesting was feeling cranky so she bit the foot of the next closest bird (on the left) who was squabbling with another bird outside of the shot. He turned around and yelled at the nearest standing bird (on the right) all while nesting bird yelled at both of them.
Conclusion: Flamingos are jerks.
Meet the Crested Wood Partridge, also known as a Roul-roul. He is the punk rocker of the partridge family, and you should see him dance!
The hammerkop is an African wading bird, one of its most notable traits after its hammer like head (hence the name) is that it is an obsessive-compulsive nest builder. A pair of hammerkops will often build 3 to 5 nests a year, even if they are not breeding.
You might think that isn’t a big deal, it isn’t like bird nests are that complicated. If that is what you’re thinking then you’ve never seen a hammerkop’s nest. They are massive, sometimes approaching 5 feet across, have dense walls and a domed roof that they decorate with bright objects and sometimes other birds (such as weaver birds) will attach their nests to the exteriors. The nest itself is so strong it can support the weight of grown human, all this for a pair of birds that combined weigh about 2 pounds.
Why can’t all pigeons be this pretty?
One of nature’s greatest jokes.
Stupid glossy paint, and stupid photographer for burning out the image. Oh well, perhaps next time around, right? If I can get in again.
Short back ground time. I was on my little mission to get exterior photos of this high school that had been closed down around 10 years ago when we realized there was an open door. We decided to go ahead and take the opportunity offered to us in hopes of classrooms full of empty and forlorn desks. Sadly this was not to be. The place had been throughly trashed and scrappers have had their way with it. We still managed to find a few good scenes.
The most impressive room in this school was the auditorium, chandeliers and all.
I’m given to understand that back in the day every student spent some part of his or her day in this auditorium though I am uncertain to what purpose.
I had to be careful here, my nemesis, the most dangerous animal to encounter while urban exploring, was present.
Before Illinois was hit with the spring monsoon that put every waterway into the highest flood stages seen in a very long time, Tabula Rasa and I found ourselves sitting on the banks of the Fox River, mesmerized by the flock of tree swallows dancing over the surface.
It wasn’t a great day for attempting to take photos of very small, fast moving, twitchy birds. The heavy rain clouds over head only dropped a little drizzle on us, but it sure did take away the light.
These birds are fast, and it took me a few minutes to get used to their pattern of flight. In the end I think I walked away with a couple of decent shots, considering I only had my wide angle zoom lens with me. I had not anticipated attempting a bird photo shoot on this trip.
It would seem that spring is indeed actually here, the crocus do not lie.
Already we’ve spotted a few brave mallards who have returned to claim the best nesting spots in the area.
In some cases, they are still looking for their lady loves, so band together in little bachelor groups.
The geese never leave, they are shocked, shocked I say! At the new arrivals.
I mentioned previously that when out and about exploring I really don’t fear wild or feral animals. For the most part if you let them be they will slink off and not bother you since the last thing they want is a confrontation. That being said, I do fear pigeons.
The most dangerous animal:
A few times now I come close to being killed by a pigeon. They tend to roost in these old unused buildings, they are perfect pigeon rookeries. The problem comes in when a startled pigeon launches itself off a perch and knocks loose a pipe or brick to come crashing down on your head or shoulders.
This fella nearly brained me with a brick at the Gary church.
Twice in the church I have come close to having a brick dropped on my noggin, it is enough to make a person consider a hard hat. At the power plant a startled pigeon dropped a pipe on my shoulder from about 20 feet up and I had one hell of a bruise for about a week. Not that I let it stop me of course, I just kept going and pretending it didn’t hurt until I got home and saw myself in the mirror that evening.
If you are considering urban exploring, even in well trafficked, well know buildings I’d suggest considering carrying a first aide kit, respirator (oh the upper respiratory infections I’ve gotten from this hobby, lesson learned there!) and a hard hat at minimum. That being said I still have to get the first and last on that list , shame on me.
In the event you do cross paths with a wild animal just back slowly away and don’t make direct eye contact, likely they will just shuffle off and leave you unless you are threatening their young. Same for feral animals, even feral dogs (though I’d be a little more cautious around them.)
If you see pigeons try to avoid being under them, poop is the least of your concerns.
So of course I had to take his photo.