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. 

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