March 26

Tuesday I went downtown to run some errands.  I drove around the riverfront, but there wasn’t much wildlife.  The water’s high.  I ran into my friend Lew, and we went to the coffee shop to BS.  We ended up staying there until lunch.  I’ve never seen the place so busy.  That’s a good thing.  In the afternoon I worked on a manuscript and a web page for awhile, but didn’t accomplish much otherwise.  That night I had a meeting of the Canton in Bloom committee.  Looks like I’ll be giving the butterfly talk when the day comes.

Wednesday I took the last of my ashes to the brush dump and picked up some firewood.  I built a new wood rack in the back yard and restacked some older logs.  I chainsawed the new ones and stacked them as well.  I de-winterized the dog kennel and filled up the 5-gallon water buckets for the summer water supply.  There was an ant colony in one of the logs.  I used one ant for a photo subject, and spent a long time playing with the exposure, flash, tripod, and every other variable.

Big carpenter ant.  I don’t want her to build a nest in my house.  I’ve been there and done that.

I went to my office for a bit to take care of plants and pets.   Book club followed.   We started a new book, which was interesting. 

Thursday I went out to Lowell’s.  We fished two rounds of the lake.  Not only were we skunked, but we got really cold.  There was a pair of greater scaup and a pair of wood ducks on the lake.  The geese are nesting already too.  We warmed up inside, watched an episode of X Files, and went to town for a good hot lunch.  I went home and took a long nap.  When I got up Kane was wandering around the back yard.  He had made another hole in the kennel.  He’s one determined dog.  I let him stay in the garage with me while I changed the oil on the Lil Egg.  He stayed there until it was time to put him to bed in his crate.

Friday I spent half the morning working on the dog kennel.  I reinforced the upper edge of the panel Kane’s been escaping from.  It already was more structurally sound because it has a heavy wire reinforcing the edge of the chainlink.  I disconnected the panel and flipped it upside down.  I put heavier brackets on the short section that goes over the dog house.  He’ll have a tougher time getting out of it now.  Then again, he has all day of almost every day to work on it.  I changed the oil on the tracker too.  I was pretty cold after all that outdoor work.  After lunch I went downtown to run errands.  When I came out of the bank there was a small crowd gathered around a storefront.  I walked over to see what was going on.  They asked if I was the guy coming to take care of the bat.  I said no, but I’d take care of it anyway.  First I was going to photograph the booger though.  He was pretty agile and flew around the store.  I was going to get my net from home, but the guy from the little sporting goods store came over and caught it with a fish net.  He does it all the time for many of the old downtown buildings.

It’s reddish fur made me think it was the eastern red bat, but it turns out to be  Eptesicus fuscus, the Big Brown Bat.   The “Big” is no joke with a wingspan of about 12″.  I tried to get a shot of him flying around the room, but most were out of focus.  He was released without harm.

A pair of Canada geese are nesting in the wetlands by the river.  This great blue heron had just landed when I got down to the riverfront.

My neighbor’s crocuses came up.  Finally, flowers to photograph!

Speaking of flowers, on Saturday morning Lowell, Nancy and I went to Jefferson City.  I don’t think I’ve been through there since I came back from California last summer.  Anyway, we went to Runge Nature Center for a big native plant sale.  It was outdoors, and it was cold!  Most people just bought their plants and left.  We each got a nice flat full of prairie plants and shrubs, but we stayed for a talk on prairies in the visitor center.  We wandered around the display area for a bit before we left.  They have some actual live animals.  I don’t normally like to photograph animals in captivity, but then it does give you some rare opportunities.  If you crop them right, you can’t tell they’re caged.

I wouldn’t normally get this close to a rattler…or to an alligator snapping turtle.

We ate at Chili’s and stuffed ourselves.  Sadly, I had forgotten that Stacey, Savannah and I had planned to go to the ElBermawy’s for dinner.  As usual, that night Omaima cooked an awesome spread of delicious Egyptian food.  I still ate a fair bit, and we stayed late talking about a variety of subjects.

Sunday I planted all the new stuff.  First I cut down all the dead stems from last year’s prairie plants.  I picked up dead sticks around the yard and took them down to the brush dump.  There was nothing worth picking up so I drove down to the river.  There were a couple of teal on the wetland, along with the nesting geese. While I was shooting the teal, a couple of wood ducks came in and landed. 

The bluewing teal were eating algae and aquatic plants.  The drake wood duck kept displaying this way to the female, who was just out of the frame.  The dabbling teal don’t seem impressed.

Redwing blackbirds had the place surrounded.

In the evening Savannah and I went to see Sweeney Todd at the newly restored old theater in Canton.  It is quite nice inside, but the audio and video could use some upgrading.  The movie was good, even though we knew it would be gory and couldn’t possibly end well.

Monday Spring Break was over.  It was back to work for me! It rained like mad in the morning.  Kane goes into maximal escape mode during thunderstorms, and we had a big one.  He had pushed the kennel halfway off the concrete pad before I left for work.  I straightened it out, but had no chance to make countermeasures.  The day started off reasonably well at the office, but ended badly.  When I began my afternoon lab, I found that our laptops were not loaded with the software I needed, even though I asked for this weeks ago.  I was not happy.  We had to haul everything down to the cramped computer lab.  It still kind of worked, but we had to make some shortcuts.  A few of the plants were positiv
ely photosynthetic anyway.

March 19

Tuesday I took my class to Quincy Recycle Paper.  It’s a fascinating place.  They actually package and resell all kinds of stuff, not just paper.  I love the straight talk.  The guy said you don’t have to take the labels and caps off of plastic bottles and rinse them out.  None of that matters.  They had bales of shredded Harry Potter books and all kinds of plastics and cans.  It rained almost all day.

Wednesday was a much better day weather wise.  I took my class to Sunset Park, where we saw a couple of new trees and practiced our plant photography technique some more. 

Sunset Park provides a great western view of Quinsippi Island.  Someday I need to stop there during an actual sunset.

No flowers are out yet, so tendrils and thorns provide us with some opportunities for artsy shots.

Brent took this one in the lab before we left.  Elizabeth has ten horses and, I would say, a devilish grin.

I had a quick, late meeting at the School of Education.  We were reaccredited.  All the work was worth it (although I admit many others worked much harder than I).  Strangely, someone stole some of our files from the evidence room, which made things difficult during the visit.   I know no details yet.  I’m lizard-sitting for a couple of my students.  Their bearded dragon “Bob” is like their baby.  He’s living in my lab over spring break.

Thursday I went to Lowell’s.  We started with some vigorous chainsawing, cutting up some logs we had dragged out last fall.  We also cut up a large branch from a hickory that had fallen in the neighbor’s pasture.  After the hauling and stacking, we planted some gooseberry bushes and loaded the truck with seasoned wood.  A hearty lunch in Ewing was followed by the first fishing outing of the year–for me anyway.  The fish were not exactly cooperative, but I did land the first bass of the year. 
This 13-incher breaks the traditional first-outing-of-the-season skunk.

Goose-stepping!  The resident pair have established themselves on Lake Lowell.

Not many insects are out yet, but this spider was chilling on Lowell’s dock.

Speaking of signs of spring, I saw the first turkey vulture on the first day of spring.  American white pelicans are moving upriver, but not many are hanging around.  Grackles are here, and our silver maple has broken its buds.

Friday was spring cleaning day.  Stacey, Savannah and I worked on the upstairs for most of the morning.  We don’t have a housekeeper anymore, and things back up.  After lunch Savannah and I unloaded the wood from the truck.  I worked on the dune buggy for a while.  I drained the gas and put in two gallons of precious premium.  It still doesn’t run right, but it’s going up for sale anyway.  Next I only have to clean it up and photograph it.  I have prepared a web page to market it.  Stay tuned.

I downloaded an icon-making program.  It’s fun, but I haven’t done much with it.  Here’s a 16 x 16 pixel icon I made illustrating our family cattle brand.

It’s small but not a bad representation.  Now that I look at it again, I think I got the direction of the spikes reversed.  Dang!

Saturday we all went to Quincy.  We got a prom dress for Savannah, crickets for the lizards, a new wireless router, groceries, and probably a lot more.  We ran into people we knew everywhere we went.  Fortunately, my former student Paula had a coupon that saved us a bunch on the prom dress.  We stopped to get Savannah’s phone fixed and one of my friends from book club was the technician.  He did what he could, but it has to be sent in.  When we got home I took a nap and hooked up the new router.  I let Savannah cut my hair and I shaved off my goatee.  Spring cleaning for my head!  We opened our Easter baskets that night because Stacey was going to be gone in the morning.  All were pleased with their goodies.

American robin on sweetgum tree.

Easter.  I remember in my youth so many years we’d go up to Grandpa’s cabin in the mountains for our traditional Easter egg hunt in the warm California sunshine.  This morning we got up to quite a different greeting: snow.  Stacey had a sunrise service at her church to give.  I was reading the paper when Savannah got out of bed, walked into the kitchen, looked out the window and said, “Are you kidding me right now?”, as snowflakes steadily fell and covered the ground.  We played some Guitar Hero that morning.  She almost always beats me when we play in Face-off mode.  In the afternoon we were working on getting some stuff listed on eBay when she noticed Kane running around in the back yard.  He had pulled on the chainlink fence of his kennel and made a hole he could fit through.  That explained last week’s mystery, when he had gotten out with similar damage to the panels.  I decided emergency repairs were necessary or he was going to keep tearing up his corral.  We dressed warmly and headed out with a roll of thick wire and several pairs of hefty pliers.  As soon as we got out there, it began to snow big pellets of heavy stuff.  I had to go back for a better hat, and Savannah had to get more layers.  We reinforced the bottom of each panel, wiring the chainlink to the pipe at frequent intervals.  I’m not sure how he was doing it, perhaps with his teeth, but it will be a more difficult trick now.  The pellets changed to big snow flakes that covered everything.  Later it warmed up and it all melted off.  Easter surprise!

Monday I pulled out the dune buggy.  Savannah and I washed it and scrubbed the bugs off.  I vacuumed it out and photographed it from every possible angle.  I made a web site to facilitate the sale.  It’s here:

I’ve posted an ad in a couple of the obvious buggy sites.  More may follow.

March 13

Tuesday on the way to work I wanted to photograph that picnic table in the river.  But when I got to that point of the bridge there was a car following fairly close behind me.  I couldn’t stop, so I held the camera up to the window, aimed by instinct and shot 3 frames in burst mode. 
Anyone for a picnic?

That evening I met Stacey in Hannibal for a big banquet.  It was the American Cancer Society at the Quality Inn.  There were a lot of people there, and I knew a few.  Incredibly, the guy who sat next to me was the doctor who had examined my ears a few weeks ago.

Wednesday in senior seminar we were goofing around before class.  One of the things I have learned to appreciate is sitting around talking with my students informally. 

Cameron Murkey looks good in my hat.  I don’t think I’ve had a nicer student in my life.  He last appeared here using a turbidity tube during stream team–it looked like he was peeing.

In the afternoon the plant field biology class went to the veteran’s home.  My students were goofing so much I thought we were going to get kicked out.  One guy, Brian, had in his notebook, “Brian smells like cat litter.”  It was written by Kristen, one of the Galapagos students.  We got a few laughs out of that.

They used to have bison in this corral, but now they have these exotic cattle.  This one was really mean, and would charge the fence when you got too close.  Made both me and Brian flinch.

Thursday I asked Kristin about writing in Brian’s notebook.  She said she always does that when he falls asleep in class.  Normally, she writes things like, “Wake up, dumb ass!”

Friday I hauled wood and ran errands in the morning.  I went down to work on the dune buggy for awhile.  When I backed out I ran over the telephone pole (which is laid down like a landscape timber) at the edge of my lot.  When I got home I heard the hissing and saw my right front tire going down. Sidewall damage!  I must have clipped one of the old car valves that hold the pole in place.   The tire was unfixable, but the warranty was still good.  My spare had a nasty bubble in it, so I had that replaced too. 

In the evening we took Bill and Betty Jo Lloyd out for a nice dinner, as it was Bill’s birthday.  Yum.  Stacey had been coughing all week.  She finally saw a doctor.  Walking pneumonia.  We got her prescriptions filled while we were in Quincy.

Saturday morning it was raining when I got up.  That changed to sleet then snow.  It snowed hard for most of the day, but it was too warm for it to stick.  I did odd jobs around the house and went to a faculty reception at QU in the afternoon. 

This house finch didn’t mind a little snow on her head.   Cardinals like sunflower seeds.

Sunday was warm and sunny, but I had to go to QU again.  I had several meetings with the visit team from the state.  Our School of Education is going through accreditation.  Since I’m the bio-ed guy, I’ve been involved in this process for a year or more.  This is the final step, and I’ll be glad when it’s over.  My program showcase was well received.

Monday I had a meeting about the next Galapagos trip.  We will probably do it a little differently next time, perhaps a boat-based tour.  Sure to be interesting.  I went to the pet store to get some aquatic plants that I always use in my Bio II lab.  For the first time ever, they were out.  I racked my brain a bit, then stopped at the grocery store and bought an onion.  It worked nearly as well, along with samples of various house plants I keep in the office.  I had hoped to stop by a friend’s place who was hosting a St. Patrick’s day party.  I was just going to say Hi and go, but I got a call that the kennel had blown over and Kane had gotten out.  When I got home I found that the kennel was more like pushed to one side.  There was a sizable dent in one chain link panel, and we couldn’t figure out how it got there.  There were no tracks or anything.  Somewhat mysterious.

March 5

I didn’t have many photos last week, so I’ll compensate by starting off with a couple right away this week.

Tufted titmouse at the feeder.  

Tuesday on the way to work I saw this juvenile red-tailed hawk.

In the afternoon I took my class out to Lowell’s.  We put up the six bluebird houses.  It was cold, but after the walk, we were all warmed up. 

Brent, Katie, Emily, Katie, Stephanie

Wednesday I gave my plant class a quiz.  Not too tough, I don’t think.  I received in the mail a borescope that I had ordered.  It’s basically a 3-foot fiber optic cable.  We’re going to use it to check the nest boxes out at Lowell’s to see what, if anything, is nesting there later in the spring.  I got some step-down rings so it can be connected to a camera.  We experimented with it at home.

Savannah’s mouth.  Looks somewhat artsy.                            Savannah’s uvula.  Looks rather yucky!

At 100% magnification you can see the individual optical fibers.  Looks like a honeycomb.

Stacey writes a lot of letters to our soldiers overseas.  They don’t write back often, but she did receive a postcard on Thursday, and I read it at the table.  The last sentence is, “Good luck w/ the Grand baby!”  I turned to Savannah and said, “Is there something you should be telling me?” 

On the way in Friday morning I stopped at the marina on Quinsippi Island, where a thousand ring-billed gulls were feasting on dead shad that were thawing out of the ice.  It’s funny; even though there is more food than they all can eat, they still fight over it.  I love their agonistic behaviors.

The scale of the problem.                                                   Digging in.


Mine, I told you!                                                                The one in the back is displaying, briefly pointing the beak to the sky.

Note the wide margin of space around the eagle.  That’s respect.

Saturday it was really cold.  9 degrees when I got up.  It was 71 a week ago.  I worked on the dune buggy, and various other odd jobs.  I went down to the river.  A huge flock of snow geese was milling about.  They eventually landed in a field on the Illinois side.  Some eagles are still hanging about too.

This is just a portion of the flock.

Head-scratching feels good.

On Sunday I did a lot of odd jobs around the house.  I fixed the bathroom cabinet, which had been losing tiles for years.  I mounted a couple of prints and painted two frames.  In the afternoon I knocked a few more dents out of the Tracker.  The crunchy spots are still wrinkled because I’m not that good at it. 

Stacey has been losing weight via Weightwatchers.  They told her I would start treating her differently as she shed the pounds.  I said, “What, I’ll be able to carry you again?”  Miraculously, I survived. 

Monday on the way to work I noticed that there was a picnic table lodged on a wing dam on the Mississippi River.  I died laughing.  I’ll try to photograph it in the coming days, but it may be tricky, as it involves stopping on the bridge–generally ill advised.  In the evening I went down to the fire department to photograph all the people in the department.  They were down there for training.  They cut down half a tree, and we loaded it into the back of my truck.  More firewood for next year. 

February 29

Thursday morning I asked my freshman Bio II class how many would like to take the Galapagos class, and 17 signed up, even though they knew the cost.  Looks like I’ll be going again.

In the afternoon I gave a presentation on butterflies to POLIS.  I’ve never done this one, but it went over really well.  My favorite part is when I show them about 8 images of the monarch butterfly, teach them male from female, then ask them to sex the next one.  And it’s a viceroy.  I never get to use trick questions in my regular classes.  Later I went to our women’s basketball game.  I missed the end because I had to go to our pizza party for the Galapagos class.  We won anyway.  The party was fun, though I do see most of them at various times during an average week.  Afterward I went back for the last half of the men’s basketball game, which was close all the way, but we won in the end.  My students played really well.

Friday I had to go in for a couple of meetings.  The first was rather uneventful, except when I described my Program Showcase for the upcoming accreditation visit.  I have lots of pictures of my students doing things in the outdoors.  I put them on a poster with minimal text.  My theme is “No Child Left Inside.”  That got a few laughs.  Stacey and I went to lunch, as she was in Quincy for meetings too.  Afterward I went to my office for a bit, met a student, signed some papers, and went back to main campus for another meeting.  We revised our biology curriculum somewhat.  I went to another office and printed off my poster.  They just got a large-format printer that can print 24 inches wide and as long as you want.  I also had him print a couple of my panoramas from Ecuador that I had conveniently formatted ahead of time.  It’s a slow process because it takes 5 minutes for the ink to dry.  They look great on that glossy paper though. 

Oh, get this.  On the Culver-Stockton web site’s page on the Science Fair, they have a picture of me.  That’s really ironic since they fired me four years ago!

Saturday at about 5:30 a.m. the pager went off.  Stacey went to a house fire and was gone for hours.  I stopped by to deliver some juice and a dolly while I was running errands.  I ran out to Lowell’s for a load of wood.  The snow geese were migrating.  We must have seen a few thousand.  In the afternoon I went to our QU basketball games.  Against the odds, we won both.  They were riveting games.  I spent much of the evening mounting a print.

Sunday morning I worked on the Tracker.  I’m not much for body work, but I got the thing drivable and working again.  I did some work on the dune buggy too.  While test driving the Tracker, I watched for targets of opportunity.

Ducks are migrating along the river.  These were going in the wrong direction.  “Dead skunk on the side of the road” just doesn’t sound as good.  Loudon Wainwright III had it right.

Savannah had another incident on the way back from driving Dustin home on Sunday night.  The victim: a large raccoon.  Too bad I wasn’t there to see that.  It wasn’t her first roadkill (she hit a squirrel before), but she was a bit traumatized.  At least she remembered not to swerve.