February 20

Tuesday was the last of the four day weekend.  I cleaned house, emptied the ashes out of the wood furnace, and worked on the glass cabinet doors I had salvaged.  I ran some errands downtown.  In the afternoon I went down and took pictures by the river.  I thought I was out of luck until I saw the ducks downstream. 

I caught this one as it splashed down.

I watched this eagle circle three or four times.

It finally caught a small fish.

It made one pass at the trees, circled around a second time, and landed.  I saw the little fish immediately fall out of the tree and hit the ground.  I laughed and thought I heard the eagle say, “Shit!”

Ducks are always stealing fish from each other, and size matters.  Here, the canvasback drake seems to be saying to the goldeneye hen, “I WILL take your fish.”  He did.

That night Savannah went to the last home basketball games.  I installed a new keyboard in my laptop.  This blog was brought to you by the letter “F”,  which has made a triumphant return.

The brutal cold has passed, and we’re having the great meltdown.  It’s good to get rid of the ice and snow, but my back porch is turning into Lake Coelho.  I have a serious drainage problem back there.   At least with the higher temperatures, we’re burning a lot less wood.

The duck watching has been so good in Canton that I brought my class to see them.  Ultimately, we saw all the species I wanted to see, including canvasbacks, ringnecks, and buffleheads, plus some bonus birds.  A kingfisher put in an appearance, then above the dam we saw a pelican standing on the ice and flapping its wings.  I spotted a white lump on the ice above the lock.  We went up to check it out.  It was a dead pelican–a little creepy.  We drove along the river by the campground on the way out, and stopped to look at some scaup.  I kept hearing quacks, then I saw some more goldeneyes farther out.  there were two males and a female between them.  The males were performing their courtship behavior.  They start with head turning, side to side, followed by rearing the head back, flaring the head feathers, quacking, and finally kicking some water backwards with the feet.  They were brilliantly illuminated by the sun.  It was quite a spectacle.  I told the students to remember the scene, as they might not ever see it again.  My only regret was not having my camera handy to record it.

I hosted my book club that night.  I gave a little tour of the woodburning heating system.  I think we had a record turnout, certainly the most I’ve had at my house.  We had a lively discussion.  Stacey went to the fire department and Savannah went to choir practice and church, returning with a dirty spot on her head (Ash Wednesday). 

Thursday afternoon I went down to the river to try to capture on film (or memory card) what I had missed the day before.

The end of a pelican.

The drake Common Goldeneye on the right is rearing back as part of the courtship display.  The female, left, is ignoring him.

There was a bunch of males surrounding two females.  All the males were displaying.  I caught some of it on video.  Have to figure out if I can get that on here.  OK, I got it, but you probably have to go to the original blog to see it (http://joesblog.showmejoe.com/).  MPG files should play on any computer.  Here are the sex videos:

One drake makes one display.
Several drakes display.

If you listen closely you can hear some quacks. 

It started raining Saturday morning, and kept it up pretty hard all day.  Saturday afternoon I went with Lowell and Savannah to the last home QU basketball games.  I love senior night.  The women’s team lost, unfortunately, which I think puts them out of the playoffs.  Savannah got a free T shirt and rally towel.  There’s a guy on the men’s team who played 4 years and never scored any points.  That’s dedication.  They started him, as well as the other seniors, but he didn’t get a shot.  It was a tight game, and very exciting, with a couple of slams by our high-jumping guy.  At the end we had a pretty big lead, and the other team was fouling us on every possession.  So with one minute left the coach put the guy in who’s never scored.  They fouled him, he went to the line, and missed both shots.  I think everyone in the arena knew what was going on.  It was disappointing.  But on the next possession they fouled him again, he went to the line and made them both.  The crowd went crazy.  Afterward we went to the big Chinese buffet.  Savannah had frog legs, but wouldn’t try the sushi.  
   Stacey called during dinner and said she had a severe migraine.  On the way home I figured I’d be driving back to Quincy to the emergency room.  But her drugs had taken effect and she was in the sleep of recovery.  When Savannah I went downstairs to let the dogs in we discovered the basement was wet.  I wouldn’t say flooded, but there was a half-inch of water in places.  Worst of all, it had soaked through the carpet on the finished side.  I thought perhaps the water had come in under the door, but that area was dry.  Savannah actually led us to the source of the problem by asking why it wasn’t going out the floor drain.  That’s because it was coming from the floor drain.  Outside I found that the outflow pipe had frozen up.  The water coming in the perf pipe that surrounds the house had backed up into the basement.  I used my spud bar (from ice fishing) to chip out the ice plug, which must have been 2 feet deep, from the pipe, and it all came gushing out.  We took the big wet/dry vac and the carpet cleaner and sucked up as much as we could from the carpets.

Sunday morning we were back at it again.  We blew the circuit breaker a couple of times.  We attacked the unfinished side of the basement too, throwing out old boxes and rugs, and mopping up the excess water.  We set up a bunch of fans to help dry things out.  Now we have condensation all over the insides of our windows.  The basement has that unique musty odor for now. 

When carpet gets wet in this way, it sets up a large-scale chromatography experiment.  The solvent (water) carries the solutes (dirt) through the medium (carpet) along its leading edge.  The water dries, leaving a large, lovely stain.  Savannah and I worked on it repeatedly with the carpet cleaner, but some areas remain stubborn. 

Tuesday morning brought us a fresh dose of cat vomit on the dining room floor.  Stacey suggested I examine it before she cleaned it up, as it might have parasites in it.  Sure enough, it contained some of the biggest nematodes I’ve seen.  I saved them for the vet, if necessary, and perhaps for the collection that I use in Invertebrate Zoology class.  We picked up some cat wormer that day. 

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