May 23

Tuesday afternoon I drove 3 hours to Peoria.  It was a bit of deja vu, as half the trip was the same as I had done Saturday to go get the kayak.  I couldn’t believe the number of dead deer by the roadside.  I heard Illinois doesn’t have the funds to pick them up.  I gave a talk on The Galapagos to the Peoria Camera Club.  It went over really well.  After it was over, they asked me to judge the National Insect Photo Salon, which is a contest I usually enter.  They gave me a great dinner at Cheddars beforehand.  After, it was a long drive home in the dark.  I got home after midnight, pretty beat.

Wednesday morning I packed for our trip to AZ.  I had a dozen things to do, and couldn’t quite get them all in by the last minute.  Savannah and I took off and picked up Stacey in Hannibal, got a bite to eat, and headed west.  It was fairly uneventful until Kansas, which had a constant high wind, gusting to 30 or 40 mph, which makes it hard to keep a little car on the road.  We spent the night in Wichita at a fairly nice motel.

Thursday we got the continental breakfast and hit the road.  It was still windy as the devil.  Western Kansas is pretty flat and desolate.  We let Savannah drive the leg between somewhere and Liberal.  It was only her second time driving the stick shift.  We crossed the Oklahoma panhandle in no time, and the northwest corner of Texas nearly as quickly.  We spent the night in Gallup, NM.  It was getting cold already.  We found a motel on the old strip.  It probably dated from the 1950s, and the original route 66.  It was seriously in need of renovation, but it was cheap and the wi-fi worked. 

Snow-covered mesas.

When we got up Friday morning it was really cold.  We were at fairly high altitude.  As we drove, the rain turned to snow.  When we got to the middle of Arizona, it was a full-on snowstorm.  Fortunately, it didn’t stick to the road.  It was still not a very fun drive up and down the mountains.  It was a good thing we stopped at the Indian trading post and bought ponchos and Indian blankets (made in India).  We kept seeing elk crossing signs.  Savannah was hopeful of seeing one, especially after she spied a herd of pronghorn in one place.  I said if I saw an elk I’d probably have to change my underwear.  They can be very elusive.  We came upon one field with some large hoofed mammals.  Savannah said, “Ha, suck on that!”   I said, “Yeah, those are horses.”  We finally made it to Deon’s house at 2 or so. 

Saturday Stacey made French toast for breakfast.  We visited various specialty stores in the morning.  I think we were in what must be the biggest Joanne fabrics in the country.  We ate lunch at In-and-Out Burger, which we don’t have in the Midwest.  But when we got back to the house I had to sleep it off.

This mockingbird constantly harasses Deon’s cat.  The cat is largely unfazed.

Sunday Stacey and I went to the Desert Botanical Garden.  Everything was in bloom, and there was a lot of wildlife. 

Stacey looks cool in her summer hat.

This spiny lizard was a big dude. 

Whiptails were constantly criss-crossing the place.

A hummingbird in the herb garden let me get close, as did a dove nesting in the crotch of a giant saguaro.

And now for some token mammals.  The big ground squirrel was a beggar. 

Carpenter bees here are huge.  Milkweed bugs are about the same.
Cactus wren not too sure about me.  Pyrrhuloxia digging seeds out of a sunflower head.
Queen butterfly.  A large gopher snake crossed our path.  In the foreground there is a small squirrel which narrowly escaped death.

Paper wasp crawling about on a cactus.  Tarantula hawk nectaring. 

A final landscape.  One of the McDowell Mountains.

On the way back to Deon’s we stopped at a Cabela’s, had lunch, and shopped a bit.  We stopped at a Michael’s and a grocery store too.

Monday we went to the Science Museum.  One of their special exhibits was Grossology, based on the popular children’s book.  It was fun.  You could walk into a giant nose.  And who gets enough of making farting noises?  They also had an animal section, including bloodsucking invertebrates, slimy animals, and dung beetles.

After the kids had their naps we wandered the back yard looking for bugs.  I took along the macro lens.
We think this sweat bee stung Hayden.    A few of these tiny spiders were among the flowers.
This desert digger wasp, Centris pallida, has lovely green eyes and contrasty abdominal stripes.

Stacey made a nice pot roast and mashed potatoes, and one of Deon’s friends came over for dinner.

May 12

Monday I went out to Lowell’s and got there pretty early.  Fortunately, I had checked the regulations the night before.  Turkey season had closed.  It would have been bad to lose more sleep by getting up earlier to hunt turkeys, and even worse if I had shot one out of season.  The spring bite was on, and I caught 16 bass.

These Baltimore orioles were conspicuous.

Herons in flight: great blue and the green.


Eastern phoebe.  Two goose families have combined.

Female red-winged blackbrids.  Look carefully.  The one on the left (with nesting material in beak) is chased off by the one on the right, which takes its place.

I think this one’s a map turtle.   We found this little common snapping turtle in the road.  We put him in the wetland, where he’ll have thousands of tadpoles to feed on.

Damselfly                                         The clear-winged sphinx, a day-flying moth, and rarely seen sitting still.

Tuesday I just gave finals, so there’s little to report.  In the evening I did some macro photography in my home studio, starting with a beetle I found crawling across the basement floor.
I don’t know the identity of this beetle, but it has a heck of a set of jaws.  We have a supply of crickets around for lizard chow.

We always have the colony of Madagascar hissing cockroaches, and when they wave an antenna during a long exposure, it produces an interesting effect.

Cute as a June Bug? This volunteer was flying around the garage.

Wednesday was a hard day of finals.  I planted a bunch of flowers when I got home and worked on the rental house for a bit.  This fledgling robin was in the spruce tree in front of the house.

Speckled breast and tufts over the ears give it away.

Wednesday and Thursday were about giving exams, grading, and doing little bits to the rental house.  Thursday afternoon I showed the rental house to a guy, and he took it.  It was empty only 5 days.  I always worry about it going vacant, but it always fills.  Thanks go to Wanaree for the referral.  I mowed and trimmed, and Savannah helped out.  I think she’s going to mow the guy’s lawn for extra money. 

Friday I had to go in to the office to give a student a couple of exams and to finish figuring my grades.  I did my filing (mostly into the circular file), and cleaned up the office for the end of the year.  As students had cleaned out their dorm rooms, I scavenged a few items from the dumpsters.  When I got home I mowed and trimmed at the rental house.  I cleaned the gutters too.  In the evening Stacey’s Dad and Stepmom arrived.  We had dinner–pork chops that Stacey had grilled.

Saturday Stacey was in the LaGrange Appreciation Days parade, riding in our fire department’s ladder truck.  We all went down and watched the brief event.  While we were waiting, I tried getting BIF shots of the numerous chimney swifts.

I took maybe 50 shots, of which these were the best.  1/1000 s is probably too slow a shutter speed.

I got some nontarget species–common grackle and European starling (worm in beak).

We’re awfully proud of our ladder truck.  Clay and Stacey in the cab. 

This squab fell out of the nest, one that I’m tracking for Nestwatch.  We’re keeping Boots indoors.  It was on top of the wood furnace by nightfall.

In the afternoon I drove up through Iowa and over into Illinois for a canoe and kayak demonstration day.  Boy, did they have the proverbial boatload of them.  I test drove several kayaks.  It was a lot of fun.  I ended up buying the Ride 135 Angler  by Wilderness Systems.  See it here.  It’s well equipped with fishing hardware, and it really hauled across the lake.  Mine is “spruce” in color, much like my truck.  I strapped in on top of the Tracker’s convenient roof rack.  Some of the straps hummed in the wind all the way home. 

Sunday morning we went to Stacey’s graduation.  It was a good one, as QU graduations go.  The faculty speaker was a good one. 

Stacey in her cap, gown and hood.  For the record, she’s getting an MTS, Master of Theological Studies.  Stacey with the Theology faculty.  The tall guy gave the graduation speech.

My colleague Kim Hale (winner of the teaching award), me and some of our students: David Phillips, Jon Thoele, Angie and Emily Hermesmeyer.

Phil and Rhonda took us out to lunch, then headed back to Indiana.  We did some shopping before going home.  I spent the afternoon building a wheel carrier for the kayak out of a golf bag cart I had picked up at a yard sale for $2. 

Monday I went back to work on the dog kennel.  I was twisting wire and reinforcing for a couple of hours when I decided heavier wire would be better.  I went to Farm and Home and spotted a much better idea: a hog gate.  I brought one home, cut it to length with the angle grinder and wired it into place, saving myself hours of work I had planned to do.  He may break out again, but it won’t be through that. 

We leave on vacation Wednesday.  Hence, I don’t know exactly when the next entry will be issued.

May 6

Tuesday I took my Environmental Science class to Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage.  This is the capstone to our course, where we see how a community can live sustainably.  It’s grown a lot since I was there two years ago.  Apparently, it’s catching on.  It was a fascinating tour.

Two apartments converted from a silo.  Straw bale insulation.  This one was featured in the 30 Days TV series.  I like the sunburst pattern molded into the walls of this little house.

I just like the looks of this house.  They are culturing mushrooms using these logs drilled out and plugged with inoculating medium.  This is a project Lowell and I will likely try someday.

This house is made of cob: mud, sand and straw.  They incorporated bottles into the walls, which looks really cool both inside and outside.  This guy built a little chicken coop into the side of the house as well, with a little window in between for “Chicken TV”.

We stopped at the Mennonite store in Rutledge on the way out.  The students enjoyed snacks and drinks, and just seeing the place, I believe.

Wednesday I took the plant class out to Lowell’s.  We had an outstanding day. 

Indian Paintbrush: fairly rare, I don’t see it anywhere else, and there’s a bounty of it this year.

I think this is an elderberry.                          I know this is a stinkbug.

Wild Geranium.  Found a nice patch of it.                         Mayapple in bloom.

We found more morels than in any previous year.  Brian, Brent, Me; Laura, Emily, Johanna.

Thursday after class Emily took Johanna and me out to her uncle’s farm, where she had seen some interesting flora.  It turned out to be a real treasure trove, with many species I’ve never seen before.

Unknown fungus as big as your head.                           Stalked Scarlet Cup (Sarcoscypha occidentalis), smaller than a mouse’s ear.

Violet Wood Sorrel.                                                                                  Maroon flower of the paw paw tree.

False Solomon’s Seal.                                                                                 Hispid Buttercup.

Philadelphia Fleabane.                                                     Dwarf Larkspur.

Normally, phlox occurs in various shades of purple (left), but we found a rare plant that had all white blossoms (right).

Rock and log landscape.                                                  Johanna and Emily next to a big sycamore tree, obviously home to the Keebler elves.

Johanna has been hired as an Americorps Stream Team Assistant.  Emily will be student teaching next fall.  Both are my advisees and I’m very proud of them.

Friday was a day for meetings and the Faculty-Staff end-of-year party.  My colleague in biology, Kim Hale, won the prestigious teaching award.  My friend Bill Duffield won one of the Franciscan service awards for his efforts to get recycling going.

Saturday Stacey and I did the spring bird count.  Our designated area was the northwest corner of Adams County, Illinois–directly across the river from Canton.  We had hoped to take the ferry across, but they were closed on the weekend.  So we drove down to Quincy and up the other side.  Our travels took us throughout the boonies via some interesting terrain.  We did stop in at Meyer, directly across from Canton.        
Cliff swallows collect mud from a puddle on the levy.                                An old iron bridge.

We kind of liked this old barn.

We met Savannah in Quincy to buy some new swimsuits for the upcoming season, had lunch, went to the pet store, then home.  I was unloading the trunk when I noticed this tiny butterfly on our bush.  I knew immediately it wasn’t one I’d seen before.

The Juniper Hairstreak, my first good butterfly photo of the year.

Savannah and I went down to work on the rental house.  There isn’t much to do because the renters took care of it so well.  I gave her a first lesson in driving the Lil Egg, which has a manual transmission.  She did OK for just putting around town.

I forgot to mention that Savannah was on the front page of the Quincy Herald-Whig last week.  They photographed her while she was taking the lifeguard CPR class.  We got lots of compliments.  I said, “Yeah, and she’s great at saving those silver-skinned alien babies.”

Fall Creek

This is a special edition of Joe’s Blog.

I took three different classes to Fall Creek, a lovely natural area south of Quincy.  It has a great diversity of spring woodland wildflowers.

Phlox, a common wildflower.  Columbine about to bloom.

The old stone bridge that the pioneers used to cross the steep-walled creek.  Liverworts under the bridge.

False rue anemone was abundant, as was bellwort.

Waterfall under the bridge.    View from scenic overlook.
Jack-in-the-Pulpit                                                         First white trillium I’ve seen

An upstream waterfall that I’m sure kids try to use for a slide.   Plant field biology: Brian, Laura, Johanna, Liz, Emily, Brent.
Wild ginger                                                                                              Solomon’s seal

The common trillium or wake robin.                                                          Dutchmen’s breeches.

Ticks attacked us on our hike up the hill.                                                     My lab section of Bio II: Alex L, Jenn Z, Dante G, Sandy A (hidden), Torie B, Meghan R, Jessica V, Callie D, Jack W, Abe D, Anele N, Becca A, Austin G, Emily B, Allen M, John T, Kelsey J, Brittany F.

May 1

Tuesday was rather unusual.  I was supposed to be on main campus to interview a candidate for the math job when I got an email, then a phone call stating that the main building was on lockdown.  The police had chased a suspect (who it turns out had a meth lab a few blocks away) onto campus and he had hidden in our building.  When we got the all-clear, I took the shuttle down and got to my meeting a half hour late.  The guy had hidden in the office of my friend and computer science prof, Dave Robinson.  He called the cops and they caught the perp without incident.  This was all over the news the next day.  Turns out this is the first time we have ever had a lockdown.  Our system seemed to work well, and this was a good test of it following incidents at other campuses around the country.  The interview went well too. 
I took the Environmental Science class out to Lowell’s to determine whether any of the bird boxes we had put up earlier in the year actually had any birds in them.  The first box we checked was not one of ours, but one of Lowell’s older ones.  It had 5 eggs in it.  This was a good test of the borescope, which operates well once you get used to it.  Sadly, none of the rest of the boxes we checked had any eggs in them.  One had some nesting material.  That was it.  We saw some nice wildflowers, but no morel mushrooms. 

Michaela and Katie check out a nest box.                      The other Katie tries to probe an ant mound.

Orange puccoon                                                                   Tiger beetle

Whirligig beetles.  You can see their eyes, and they have another set under water.  A “microlandscape”, ferns and moss on a tree.

Wednesday I took the Plant Field Class out to Fall Creek.  We found another branch of the creek with a nice waterfall.  The Bio II class joined us later, after they got lost on the way out.  We found even more wildflowers than on Monday.  We walked up the hill instead of driving, and one student stopped and noticed that her shoes were covered in ticks.  We all stopped and were similarly covered.  We performed a thorough deticking, and only one student ended up bitten by the next day.  Some were a bit freaked out by the experience. 

Friday I went to Quincy with Savannah so she could get her hair done for Prom.  First we stopped at QU where she completed the paperwork to be hired as a lifeguard at the pool in the Student Recreation Center.  While she was getting her do, I walked around the mall.  Normally, I avoid malls as they are the same from coast to coast, and totally lacking in character.  Afterward, we got a bite to eat and went home.  She took the requisite hour or two to beautify herself.  Her date showed up and we took pictures.

Savannah and Alan.

They went out to dinner in Quincy and came back with Savannah all worried about a stain on the back of her dress.  Looked like a water spot to me.  They left for prom with our admonitions as to behaviors and activities they were to avoid.  We heard Savannah come home at midnight, change, and go back to After-prom.  We also heard her return at 4 a.m. or so.  We wondered why she drove herself to After-prom.  Saturday morning I learned that Alan had taken off in the middle of prom.  Though abandoned, she held up pretty well.  She danced with friends and got a ride home.  I think it’s a testament to her stoicism that she returned at all for After-prom.  I also learned that Alan had been arrested while attempting to go to After-prom.
Savannah had to go to a track meet Saturday morning, on one hour of sleep.  It turned out that Alan had not been drinking, but he had been with some guys who had.  So really he was just picked up, not arrested, and made it to the track meet the next day.

Saturday Stacey and I went to Quincy for a plant sale and garage sales.  We got a few bargains.  We went grocery shopping and ate at the new Mexican restaurant.  It was good, but I rolled out of there stuffed.   After a generous afternoon nap I planted the new plants in the back yard.  A couple of things were in bloom, so I set up the camera with the macro lens and an extension tube.  While I was walking through the side yard I was stunned to see a morel growing beside the path.  Further inspection revealed several more. 
They must have grown next to the wood pile because of old decaying bark and stuff under it.  Take a look at this one on the right.

Did you see the face of a lion in it?  If only it were Jesus, we could sell it on eBay.

Columbine.  The delicate, hidden flower of Wild Ginger.

Feathery tulips in the front yard.                                       Unknown bush in front yard.

Sunday I just could not muster the motivation to go turkey hunting.  I did odd jobs and some “homework.”  Maybe it’s a good thing I stayed around.  Before noon a guy stopped by to look at the canoe.  I sold it to him at less than my original asking price, but still more than the average canoe.  He went home to get the money and a trailer.  10 minutes later another guy stopped to ask about it.  I had to take the For Sale sign off of it.  In the afternoon I helped my friend Mohamed move.  He had already moved all of his boxes and books, so there was only the big stuff like beds and bikes to take in my truck.  That’s class.  Then he took us all out to dinner.

Fire pink, a recent addition to the prairie.                          Bird’s foot violet, just added to the woodland wildflowers

Lily of the Valley, in my new “studio.”