March 21

Tuesday afternoon I went down to St. Louis.  First I stopped at Petsmart and bought some fancy cat litter that we can’t get around here.  Then I went to Petco, where their selection of fish was excellent.  I bought some Serpae Tetras and an algae eater.  These tetras are mostly red, and complement the colors of my existing fish rather well.  I had an inverter and air pump to keep them alive until I got home.  I ate at a Chinese place at the other end of the strip mall.  There was an alpine shop there too that had many high priced things that I’d love to have.  I walked out with a hat, in that usual goofy style I always get.  This one’s a Marmot, light colored, and floats! 

I proceeded to the St. Louis County Library for the meeting of the Missouri Nature and Environmental Photographers, where I was the guest speaker.  I talked about the different sting pain levels of various common bees and wasps.  I think it was the best presentation I’ve ever given.  It was a great audience, too.  I got a lot of laughs.  At one point I mentioned one of the pictures was from UC Riverside, my alma mater.  Incredibly, a couple in the front row started clapping.  They were alumni.  I gave them both high fives. 

I drove home in the rain (as I had driven down), and got in pretty late.

Wednesday afternoon I just took my class around North Campus and the neighboring park.  We didn’t see many species of birds, but we did see our first snake of the year.  It was a garter snake of modest size.  I picked it up for all to see, and it exuded its musk on me.  So for the rest of the hike my hands smelled like snake butt.  It must have been Robin Day, as they were everywhere.  We had to cross a small creek at one point.  Incredibly, no one fell in.  We also had to cross the railroad tracks.  I issued my standard warning: anyone who gets hit by a train will receive an “F” for the day. 

I was recently contacted via email by one Bridget Nicholls, who has a radio show in London, England.  She wants to interview me for her show.  I agreed to go on and talk about insects in rock music.  It will be live on May 14.  The station’s web site is   They have webcast capablility in three different formats.  For my friends here in the midwest, it starts at 8 a.m., but for my family in California, that will be six o-clock in the morning!  I forgive you if you don’t listen in.  I am able to receive the mp3 stream at home with DSL, but I cannot save it as a file.

I have 11 students signed up for the Galapagos Islands class.  There’s a good chance we’ll have enough to make a go of it this time.  We would go next December after Christmas.  I’ve been watching the specials on National Geographic Channel.   Getting psyched!

Friday I took Savannah to the doctor then the physical therapist.  She’s had agony during running track.  Looks like a typical case of shin splints.  She got ultrasound treatments and taping.  I went in to Quincy for a meeting.  I dropped off the recycling along the way.  When I got home I drove down along the river.  The water is way up because of all the rain we’ve had lately.  There was a flock of snow geese and a bunch of shovelers in the floodwater.  There was even a pair of bluewing teal, which I hardly ever see in spring colors.  I went down to Fenway Landing again.  I started taking pictures of a train, since I had to stop for it, then realized it was illegal to do so.  Oops.  There weren’t as many pelicans around, but I got the Savannah Sparrow.  On the drive out I saw a shorebird in the flooded field, the Greater Yellowlegs.  It turned out to be a new bird for my life list.  Woo hoo!  I don’t get those very often anymore. 

Snow geese, both color morphs, and a few Ross geese.

Drake shoveler coming in for a landing.

Savannah Sparrow

Greater yellowlegs.

Sunday I took the girls to the final class.  Savannah and Kelsey are now certified lifeguards.  Now they just need to find jobs for the summer.  While they were taking their exams, I was in meditation in the morning.  We had the windows open because it was so warm.  The distractions were numerous.  My brain is in bird mode.  Every time I hear a bird, I automatically identify it and add it to a list.  There were six species downtown that day.  The fire trucks and the life flight helicopter also got workouts.  After lunch I did some errands around Quincy.  They got out early and we went home.  I had time to do more stuff, so I went to see Nancy.  I got some more shrimp and some moss for my aquarium. 

Monday was fairly typical, except that in the evening I went to give a talk on bald eagles to the Mendon Lions Club.  I had to stop at the library first to get a digital projector.  It was pouring rain, and I hadn’t brought a raincoat.  After I got soaked, I noticed a slight smell of wet dog.  As there were no dogs around, it pretty much had to be me.  There was a good dinner, and the talk afterward went very well.  It was kind of a late night getting home, though.

Tuesday I met Stacey for lunch.  In the afternoon I dropped off the tax stuff at the accountant.  I drove the truck and stayed late again so I could take some students out for the first of our frog surveys.  It hadn’t rained all day, but when we headed out we could see we were going into the teeth of a storm.  We heard various combinations of four species of frogs at each of the ten sites.  Luckily, it seldom rained really hard.  In one direction we saw a roadkilled opossum, then on the way back we saw live ‘possum gnawing on the dead one.  Cannibal corpse!  Another highlight was when I missed a turn, couldn’t see the road properly and drove through the corner of the ditch.  Quite a jolt.  My dried apples were a big hit for those who hadn’t gotten a proper dinner.  One student kept making bullfrog noises, though that species should not be out yet.

Wednesday I took the class to Quinsippi Island.  We walked to the little lighthouse, which I had never seen before–from the island side, anyway.  We saw 24 species of birds, which is a record for this class.  There were many waterfowl species in the dock area.  It was hot though.  The carp were spawning in the shallow flooded areas.  Fish orgy!  I saw the first butterfly of the year, a mourning cloak.

Savannah called and told me she had won a writing contest.  She got to skip some classes and go to the Young Writers Conference at Culver.  She had 50 minutes to write a story.  The theme of the contest was “a story only you can write.”   She wrote about her experience with the tornado.  Perhaps I’ll post it here next week.  We are very proud of her. 

March 15

Friday morning I cleaned out the woodburning furnace and started it up again, as it had gotten cold out.  I got it going pretty well with stuff that had blown down in ours and the neighbor’s yards.   I gave both dogs a workout with retrieving a dummy.  I continued shaving Darby, since she was tired, and put the finishing touches on with the scissors.  I picked up a sackful of pine cones for future firestarter material, and scooped up all the bark and sawdust left over from woodcutting in the front yard.  I hauled it down to the brush dump and swept out the back of the truck.  I salvaged two branches for firewood, and several boards for various construction projects. 

After lunch I took a shower and had no intention of doing any physical labor.  I went down to Fenway Landing on the river to photograph pelicans.  The birds were there, and I probably took 100 frames.  Naturally, most didn’t work out.  I was about to leave when I saw a big cottonwood that had been felled and cut into convenient lengths.  You have to rationalize quickly in order to avoid ethical dilemmas in such cases.  The landing is state property.  As a resident of the state, I thought the wood well put to use in heating my home next winter.  Besides, if the river came up another couple of feet, it would all go floating downstream.  Maybe that’s what they intended.  So I loaded up all I could fit in the back of the truck.  After a brief nap, I unloaded and split it. 

Savannah went to the talent show at school, and Stacey and I went to dinner at Primo’s, and talked with various friends we ran into there.

Saturday was run around Quincy day.  Stacey had class and Savannah and her friend Kelsey had lifeguard training, while I played chauffeur.  I worked in the office in the morning, then went to downtown Quincy to watch the St. Patrick’s Day parade.  It was rather unimpressive, being dominated by car clubs, radio stations and small town royalty.  I was only there to see my friends’ Celtic band.  I did get to see and hear them, if briefly.  They sounded great.  The lighting was great because of the overcast, and I got some decent photos.

Here’s Steve playing banjo, and looking very much the part.

The entire band; left of Steve is Wanaree playing the autoharp, which she is just learning.  She sure has guts for playing in public already. 

I picked up the girls and we had Taco Bell for lunch, a quick trip to KMart, then back with everyone to their respective places.  I submitted a manuscript online while at the office.  I went to Hobby Lobby to pick up some matting and a frame, then went to the glass shops, but they were closed.  I stopped at some friends’ place who were having a St. Pat’s party, but I was only there 20 minutes before the girls called and it was time to go. 

Sunday it was the same drill for Stacey and Savannah, but I went out to Lowell’s.  We started by dragging some logs out of the woods.  That got us good and warmed up to go fishing.   We took one turn around the lake in the pontoon boat, but it was really windy and, therefore, cold.  Miraculously, I caught a 12 1/2 inch bass on the last point using a prerigged plastic bait.  That breaks the typical “first outing skunk” we’ve grown used to.  We fed the fish in the catfish pond, but they didn’t come up.  We filled the turkey feeder with corn, but that only keeps the deer happy. 

We cut up the logs and stacked them, at least until the holz hausen fell down, or a big part of it.  Good time to go to lunch.  When we returned I restacked it and decided not to make it any higher.  Apparently, a critical part of its construction is to make the sides plumb, or it becomes unstable. 

I swear this is the final picture of the darn woodpile!

While Lowell was walking across his field he found this broken spear point.  I guess the American Indians were trying to kill deer too.

When I got home I made a new wood rack and stacked all the wood that had been occupying Stacey’s parking space.  I hit my finger with a hammer, which is an extremely effective way of removing skin.  My glove was lying on the ground right next to me.  This is irony.

Today (Monday) I got an email from a British radio host.  She wants to interview me during her show–for an hour.  Insects in rock ‘n roll strikes again.  Maybe I’ll finally beat the 15-minutes-of-fame threshold.

March 8

Thursday morning I went out to Lowell’s to meet with him and the state forester.  On the way, I spotted these turkeys.  The light was all wrong, but they still look kinda cool in front of the foggy forest.  There’s a big gobbler on the lower right.

First we cruised the timber and got an idea of what was out there.  Lowell and I were both surprised that even the most open timber was actually overcrowded.  I know I had to recalibrate my eyes.  After that he went around with a squirt bottle and sprayed each tree that needed to be cut down.  There’s a lot of potential firewood out there now.  We all lunched at the diner in Ewing, and went back for a lesson in tree felling.  He showed us his technique, which I had never seen before, but it sure worked well. 

On the way home I saw this hawk.  I’ve seen whitish red-tailed hawks before, but this one is downright pale.

It was a day of great tragedy for Savannah, as her boyfriend broke up with her.  What kind of idiot breaks up right before she gets her braces off? 

Friday it rained so I didn’t go out and cut wood as I wanted.  I stayed home and worked on a couple of upcoming presentations. 

Saturday Stacey did homework, while Savannah went to her first lifeguard training class.  It included a 300-yard swim, and she hasn’t been in the pool since last August.  That wasn’t as much a problem, apparently, as bringing up the 10-lb weight from the bottom of the pool.  I replaced a light fixture in the kitchen.  I had hit it with my head and it stopped working.  Turns out a circuit breaker had kicked off.  Can you believe Stacey figured that out?  We wanted to change that fixture anyway–odd-sized bulbs, and didn’t cast any light on the table.

On Monday a girl passed out in Savannah’s class, and she “totally went into lifeguard mode,” stepping in to support her head, keep her airway open, etc.  Wednesday the same girl fainted again.  Savannah was doing the assist carry to the nurse’s office until the girl totally went limp, then she used the back carry (which she had practiced on me).  Not many people get immediate, real practice of their first aid skills.   

Tuesday Stacey had girls’ night out.  I got a start on shaving Darby.  Her age is beginning to show once you get all that hair off.  She has lost a lot of muscle mass, so her body resembles a big sausage.  She’s not too overweight, but her tumors are getting a bit large.  Otherwise, she remains healthy and cheerful.  Savannah’s new boyfriend came over and we watched a movie.  The new one is also, coincidentally, named Dustin.  Guess the old one is “Dustin the wind.” 

Wednesday I took my field class to a local park.  It was an unusually hot day.  We saw a few new species (Brown Creeper, Snow Goose), and I photographed some. 

Sweet Susie

We stopped at the Dairy Queen for ice cream afterward.  All field sites should be furnished with a nearby Dairy Queen.  I had a few minutes to spare, so I stopped at the fitness center to watch our chemistry professor take on a student in a racquetball match.  The student is an extremely athletic varsity basketball player; all my money was on him.  But the prof had much more experience, and smoked the student 15-0, 15-2 before I had to leave for a meeting. 

The gallery: Anna Harbin, Laura Hubbard, Angie Hermesmeyer, Jayme Fluchel, Emily Hermesmeyer

I had dinner at Lori Lori’s, with Vince and, uh, the other Lori.  Lori Lori had some flowers and I had my camera so…

Snap dragons


We all went to book club at the Jade Orchid.  We finished up the book and had more laughs than I’ve ever heard at this gathering.