January 27 – Flickr fusion

I have joined the online photo sharing site Flickr.  So far, I have uploaded one gallery of eagle shots and another of dragonflies.  The best bald eagle shots from the past few years are here:
Selected dragonfly images are here:

Tuesday I picked up the remainder of my poster prints at Sam’s Club.  It’s quite a bit cheaper to have them printed there than at Walgreen’s, where I used to go.  I mounted most of them when I got home.  I also got the BirdJam software working.  This is a really cool application that puts bird calls and images on your iPod.  You can choose the bird from a list, play its song and see its picture at the same time.  I got a little speaker so that we can play it in the field during my class and possibly call some birds in.  Can’t wait to try it.  I had some spare time and got on my Hotmail account, where I had seen you could get 25Gb of free storage online.  I thought that would be a great way to back up my files.  After I got to the right page, I found that it was legit, except that you have to upload your files one at a time.  What a freakin’ value.  I will most likely never use it.

Wednesday it was about 6 degrees when I left the house, but that didn’t stop me from taking my class out to look at birds.  They’re a pretty intripid group (even Brian, who was sick).  First we stopped at Quinsippi Island, where the open water was occupied by numerous geese and, more importantly, canvasbacks and goldeneyes that I wanted the students to see.  From there we went to Lowell’s, where in heated comfort we watched birds out the sliding glass door for a good long time.  When we first got there, no birds were at the feeders,  As usual, they trickled in until there was a regular feeding frenzy.  We saw all the species that I really expected to see and wanted the students to learn.  Then the neighbor’s three cats showed up.  All the birds scrammed.  I took that as a sign that it was time to take our little hike.  We walked around and looked at tracks in the snow and listened to bird calls.  We opened one of the snake dens and found a big mouse nest made of cattail fluff (the plant, not the domestic pet).  A mouse actually ran around inside.  So we got to add the deer mouse to our species list.  By then my nose was fairly numb. 

On the way home we saw some bonus birds: a kestrel and a northern harrier.  After my other classes I saw on my way home that the swans were back at the sand pit.  I turned around to go back and take some photos.  A cloud had blocked the sun, but the images came out better than I expected.

The abundance of juveniles is a good thing.  The population is growing.

Thursday I was explaining radiocarbon dating to my freshman class when I said that we can date strata in part by knowing an isotope’s half-life.  The student’s, who detest chemistry, said, “Don’t say that word!”  I said, “What word?  Half-life?”  They said, “Yes!”  I paused a moment, then said loudly, “Ni!”  The 4 or 5 that had seen Monty Python and the Holy Grail were cracking up.  The others were presumably mystified.  I’m going to try embedding a YouTube clip of the relevant scene here:

I fed the snake during my senior class, as there were a couple that had never seen a snake eat.  Some didn’t think it could swallow the mouse, but they wouldn’t my take bets on it. 

Friday I had no classes.  While I was out loading the furnace the president of MONEP called.  I’ll be giving a talk for them in May.  First I took the Taurus in to have the heater checked.  I drove the truck the rest of the day.  I went down tot he river to shoot eagles.  Conditions seemed right, but they just weren’t active.  I ran into a guy who was really into photography.  We talked about cameras and lenses and stuff.  I went into Quincy and stopped at Quinsippi Island.  There was a large assembly of ducks and geese, including one Ross goose and a swan.  I saw a guy walk onto the bridge.  The birds didn’t spook much so I walked out there too, camera in hand.  I talked to him a bit and it turned out I knew him.  Al Dierkes–he runs the spring bird count.  We talked birds and I took photos.  I picked up some wax worms at the bait shop and some goldfish at the pet shop.  I put the goldfish in the aquarium in my office.  The little crayfish thought he was in for a bonanza, but he didn’t catch any while I was there. 

This juvenile eagle was right next to the road, which made for close, crispy photos.

Canvasbacks were all over, but the best image was of this hen.

I was shocked to see this wood duck drake.  he spent a lot of time courting this hen, but I’m pretty sure she’s a mallard.  Guess he doesn’t believe in the biological species concept.

One goose seems unhappy that another is landing.

This guy was showing off with a lot of flapping.

It was homecoming at the high school.  We were playing a really
small school, and both games were blowouts.  The girls game was
practically embarrassing.  The other team couldn’t do anything right,
even against our bench.  By the way, our homecoming is basketball, as we have no football team.

I did the Facebook thing where you write 25 random things about yourself.  Many recipients of this blog are not on Facebook so I thought I’d post it here:

1. My middle name is Raymond, after my uncle who got out of the army on the day I was born.
2. I am full-blooded Portuguese.
3. I am a rare Californian transplanted to the Midwest.
4. I delight in finding ways to implement low-intensity mental torture to my daughter.
5. I have been married almost 18 years.
6. I once had a job taking care of frogs.
7. Aside from my wedding day and the birth of my daughter, the peak
experiences of my life include being published in Natural History,
visiting the Galapagos Islands and hiking the Grand Canyon.
8. I enjoy cutting firewood.
9. After a lifetime of working with, teaching about, and studying animals, a few years ago I fell in love with plants.
10. I wore a leisure suit to my 8th grade graduation and wore a disco outfit for two years while working as a busboy.
11. I enjoy reading really old books on my PDA.
12. Both my grandfather and my godfather were blacksmiths.
13. My siblings are Matthew, Marlene, Mike and Mark. I’m Joe. So who’s
the black sheep? Hint: the others all still live in California.
14. I was named after my grandfather (and blacksmith), who was hoping for a girl (to be named Michelle).
15. I grew up in a house next door to my grandparents, who were immigrants from the Azores.
16. I have a lot of experience programming in BASIC–a dead computer language.
17. I used to keep dead rats in the freezer to feed my previous snake, a python.
18. I have a snake that I hatched from an egg.
19. I have really bad feet and will wear whatever shoes are comfortable regardless of social convention.
20. I don’t like mustard, green beans or root beer.
21. I am exactly what I wanted to grow up to be, have a great family and social life, and have never been happier.
22. I love the look of surf boards and electric guitars, but both are useless in my hands (or feet).
23. I’m a rock-and-roll maniac, but cannot play an instrument.
24. I may call myself a Buddhist for convenience, but whatever I am cannot be easily defined.
25. I have too many hobbies, especially outdoor ones: hunting, fishing,
bicycling, photography, kayaking, hackysack, cross-country skiing, etc.

Saturday morning we went to a breakfast at the Ewing fire department.  It was good food, but crowded.  It was a warm day, over 50.  I hauled the ashes and got some firewood out of the brush dump.  I got the yard straightened up, folded up some tarps and restacked some wood.  In the afternoon I went in to Quincy to see our college basketball games.  Our women won and our men lost.  All three freshman women in my class got to play, which was fun to see. 

Sunday I went out to Lowell’s for ice fishing.  My student Shawn joined us.  We started out at the catfish pond, but the catfish weren’t biting.  I did get a big bluegill out of there, and several small ones that I threw back.  We moved down to the big lake and began catching bluegills right away.  It was Shawn’s first time ice fishing, but he took right to it. 

This is the big one I caught out of the catfish pond, probably 9 inches.

Lowell spotted this frozen frog on the big lake.  I wonder if he came out yesterday, hopped around and got stranded in the middle of the lake.

Lowell, me and Shawn on Lake Lowell.

We went inside and had lunch.  Afterward we watched the superbowl pregame while filleting the fish in the basement.  I was teaching Shawn the fillet technique and letting him take turns with me.  At least, that’s what I led him to believe.  The birds were just mobbing Lowell’s feeders, and I commented on that while taking some photos.

Female purple finch.

Female cardinal.

I was upstairs rinsing fillets and looking out the window when a hawk swooped in and tried to take a bird off of the feeder.  That was pretty exciting.  I didn’t see whether he got it or not, but there were no birds at the feeder or even anywhere near the house for about a half hour.  We loaded my truck with some firewood.  I let Shawn help with that too.  Good kid.  I went home and Stacey helped me unload the truck.  I showered and took a nap, way longer than I expected, and I missed the beginning of the Superbowl.  THAT was an interesting game.

Monday my freshman class had to come into my office to get goldfish.  They were all grossed out by the Larvets on my desk–seasoned and roasted mealworms.  That is, they were grossed out until I offered extra credit to all who ate one.  All but about two did.  We see how easily they are bribed.  We had basketball games that night.  Both the men’s and women’s were close, exciting games that we won. 

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