February 25 – Mystery solved!

Tuesday I had just one class, but, having no computer, I spent the early afternoon just reading.  We had a community meeting at QU.  With the economy crashed, the outlook of the University is not great.  At least we’re not undergoing major retrenchment.  I got my books and stuff for the SCUBA class from the bookstore.  I resisted reading it all the way through in one night.

Wednesday morning I had my computer back.  I took the vert field class to Moorman park.  Right as we arrived, a flock of snow geese flew over.  What a bonus!  We ended up with something like 15 species, which is pretty good for that site.  We also drove through Quinsippi Island, where there was a surprising number of eagles hanging about, as well as a few thousand gulls.   In the afternoon, I took the Bio II class out to look at winter trees.  We saw a bluebird hanging around the parking lot.   I went back later with my camera, but it was gone.  One of my really good students told me that she wants to change her major to biology secondary education, which is one of my areas.  That just made my day. 

Thursday we had an Environmental Club meeting, and five people showed up.  I think it’s a record.  We planned some events and finished up some recycled notebooks.  That night I went to a meeting to plan Canton in Bloom Day (April 25).   There were only two of us.  We get along well, though, and our planning went quickly.  She had an email about people we might want to get involved in the garden tour.  It mentioned the lady who had bought the old Hasner place.  They didn’t know who it was, but thought it might be my mother, who had moved here from California.  This misconception was moderately amusing on many levels.  The lady in question is Nancy Glisan, who receives this blog (Hi, Nance!).  I can see how someone might have jumped to such a conclusion, as I am often down there helping out.  Nancy is a friend and fellow plant freak, which is why I spend so much time there.   She does have an awesome prairie, as well as a little pond, and would make a good stop for the garden tour.

Friday I went into the office to catch up (from having been computerless).  I wrote an exam and some other stuff.  I went to the pet store and bought some mice for the coming week, as well as some crickets for our lizards.

Saturday morning I went to judge the science fair.  I was a little late, but ended up substituting for another judge.  I met the new biology prof at Culver.  She seemed perfectly nice and reasonable.  We have a lot in common, and I think there’s a possibility of future interaction.  Savannah and her partner Ayah took second place in their division.  After noon, Lowell and I went to the QU basketball games.  The women needed to win to host the conference tournament.  They did, but it was fairly hard fought.  The men had to win to get to the tournament.  They did, and it was tooth and nail right down to the end.  It was senior night, which I always find a little sad.

Sunday we all stayed home, except for a brief, in-town shopping excursion.  I spent much of the day putting together my talk (on spring wildflowers) for Canton in Bloom Day.  While I was at it, I sorted my flower photos.  I was paging through an older version of the Missouri Wildflowers book when I recognized one of the images as that of a species I was unable to identify last August.  I put it in this blog twice.  Here it is again:

It is known as Ladies’ Tresses, Spiranthes cernua, which means “nodding spiral”.  It is an orchid, and the first I’ve identified in the wild.  The reason it has no leaves is that they had fallen off the base by the end of the summer.  Mystery solved!  Apparently, this plant is not common north of the Missouri River — yet another organism that makes Lowell’s place special. 

Monday I saw the first big flock of American White Pelicans of the year.  Spring is knocking at the door.

February 18 – Boidz

Tuesday morning I worked on my truck.  I’d been having battery problems, so I got detailed instructions from Lowell about how to track down shorts.  I pulled the cable and it wasn’t drawing any current, indicating that there were no shorts.  I had had it on the charger two days and it still showed only 10.5 V.  Not good.  I took the battery back, even though it was only 3 years old.  I guess a lot of that brand are returned under warranty.  Rather than use the remaining warranty, I bought a different brand of battery.  It’s better to be worry-free.  The truck started fine with it.  I took the ashes down to the brush dump and picked up some odd logs.  I took them home and chainsawed them, even though I was still sore from the day before at Lowell’s.  I also cut up the parts of the whomping willow that had fallen in the last wind storm.  I think I spent most of the rest of the day recovering.

Wednesday was back to work.  Yeah, 5-day weekends are rough.  When I checked my email in the morning, I found I had been invited to write a chapter for a book on evolution and behavior in wasps.  I was high on that for pretty much the rest of the day.  Stacey and I went out to dinner to celebrate, probably spending more money than I will ever make on the book.  In vert field lab we studied the mammal skulls.  I pulled out the container of skulls that had lived in the woods in my back yard for a year, letting the bugs clean off the flesh.  I had the students clean the dirt off with toothbrushes and glue the teeth back in.  It was good experience for them.  One of the skulls was from a skunk that I had found as a roadkill.  I cut the head off with my knife and put it in the trunk that day two years ago.  Savannah was my only passenger, but she was NOT amused.  In my FYE class I read in the book that the Monterey Aquarium has a notecard with recommendations for fish you can eat and which you should not.  Then I remembered I had picked one up when I was there last summer.  I used it in class, naturally.  All day there were huge flocks of American Robins and European Starlings in front of our building.  Apparently, they collaborated in an international effort to redecorate my car.

The Spotted Egg

Thursday I just had my two classes.  In senior seminar our discussion of the paper morphed into a discussion of careers.  I think it ended up being more valuable for them.  Most of them at least have a feasible plan.  My desktop office computer was dead, however, which made it difficult to get much done.  Our IT people came and hauled it away.  It turned out that the video card was fried.  I hope I have one back by Monday.  I actually used the wireless connection on my iPod to record grades and stuff.  Makes a pretty good back-up for a handheld device.  It was also handy for showing people photos of the Galapagos while I was at the basketball games that night.  We won both games again, setting several records in the women’s game.  Most consecutive wins, steals (Keller), individual (Rosnowski) and team 3-pointers,  Keller’s amazing moment of the game was making a perfect bounce pass while falling down.   She was fouled on the play, making the pass a moot point, but it was still quite a feat.  It was faculty appreciation night, and they had us stand up at halftime of the men’s game.  My colleague the physics prof refused to stand.  They also had a little reception afterward with lots of pizza.  I had one piece, as it was late.

Friday I just had a meeting to attend.  I took in the recycling and stopped by the Jade Orchid to see Wanaree.  She had been to Thailand for a month.  I would have been jealous had I not been to the Galapagos.  Anyway, it was good to see her, and I went on to do other errands.  The meeting was informative but largely uneventful.  Afterward I went to the new career center office to talk about what I’d learned from our students.  My computer wasn’t back, so I graded some papers and went home. 

Saturday I took the ashes to the brush dump and picked up about half a truckload of good wood.  Some of it was honey locust.  I chainsawed it down there to avoid collecting sawdust around the house.  We had gotten a skiff of snow overnight, but not enough to bother about.  It was chilly, and that’s the best time to cut and haul wood.  Savannah had gone to Kirksville for the Science Olympiad and Stacey went to Jefferson City for a meeting.  I had the house to myself.  The birds were really hitting the feeder and the sun was out so I took lots of photos.

I finally got a decent shot of the Carolina Wren.

I thought I had a great series of shots on this cardinal–until I noticed the green post right behind it.

When they’re at the feeder I can zoom in tight.

This brown creeper gave me some opportunities.  They have huge feet for such a small bird.


Tufted titmouse at the feeder.

My Facebook status says, “Joe is shooting native songbirds out the back window–with a Canon.”

Savannah had a great time at the Science Olympiad.  She and her partner took 3rd place in one of the competitions, having something to do with global warming.  She was rather impressed with Truman State University as well.

Sunday Stacey was preaching at Lewistown.  I dropped her off at the church and went out to Lowell’s.  We cut down some dead trees and logged them out.  Stacey called so we picked her up and went out to lunch in LaBelle.  Good food.  She had a good first day at this church.  They seem to be very friendly people.

Monday I was once again without a computer at work.  I had my FYE class go into the computer lab and look up web sites with green products.  It was kind of fun.  In Bio II we walked around learning to ID trees in winter.  I think the students were OK with that, but not so much the cold.  They were unprepared for an outdoor lab.

February 10 – Happy Darwin Day!

I finally got around to editing the video of how I fillet a fish.  I’d been meaning to do it since last fall, when I wanted to teach some of my students.  I recorded myself filleting about 6 fish, and used the best of them.  I made some slides in Powerpoint for text, and added the narration in a video editing application.  I hate narrating, as I am awful at it.  The end product was not as good as I would have liked, but I didn’t want to spend any more time on it.  I am not a video production company! 
I will embed the video here.  If it doesn’t show up, you can click on the link, which will take you to the video on YouTube.

Best Fish Fillet Method

Tuesday afternoon I was interviewed by our NPR station on campus, WQUB.  It was actually a lot of fun.  He asked me questions that I could really sink my teeth into.  It was mostly a preview of my talk on Darwin’s Galapagos for Thursday night.  On the way home the sun was shining and there were more swans on the sand pit than I have ever seen.  I was kicking myself for leaving my camera at home.  I spliced the severed power cord in the back yard, and secured the plastic sheet on the south firewood rack.  We’re supposed to get high winds tonight.  I went to the Canton Camera Club meeting in the evening.  It was fun.  We have just a few hardcore members.  I showed some Galapagos pictures.  Another guy is a master of Photoshop.  He showed us some collages, and how to do High Dynamic Range by combining images.  Cool stuff.

Wednesday it was raining when I left the house.  It had stopped when I got to Quincy, and when I checked the radar online, it looked like we would have a couple of hours without rain.  So I took the class out on our weekly field trip. I rained on us most of the time.  We still saw some neat birds, like white-throated sparrows and common goldeneye.  They didn’t complain much either.  Tough group. 

Thursday I wore my Charles Darwin shirt, the one from the Galapagos with the signatures and sayings of all the students who went along.  It was Darwin’s 200th birthday.  I gave a talk on “Darwin’s Galapagos” that night.  It was part our QU’s Town and Gown series.  I hadn’t given one for a long time, since there were only about 3 people at the last one.  This time it was more like 20.  Some of them I knew, but many I didn’t.  The talk was well received.  I showed a lot of pictures, and fielded a lot of good questions at the end.  The timing came out about right too.  I had changed into a button-down shirt and a tie, as the Darwin shirt had too many naughty words on it for a general audience. 

Friday I did a bit of work outside, but mostly hung around the house and did little jobs like balance the checkbook.  Saturday afternoon Lowell and I went to the QU basketball games.  They were the best ever.  In the women’s game we started off cold and got way behind.  But we battled back in the second half to win by 12.  At half time of the men’s game, all the ladies on the team went out onto the court and had 8 inches of their hair cut to make wigs for cancer patients.  They were having a big cancer awareness thing.  Even the men were wearing pink T shirts.  Then during a time out, the women’s coach had three of the ladies guess how many inches of hair were cut.  The winner received a rose–and a proposal from her boyfriend in front of the entire crowd.  It was quite a deal. 

The men had lost by 20 points the last time thay played this team, which features a legitimate NBA prospect and another guy who’s 3rd in the nation in field goal percentage.  I was expecting us to get stomped, but we kept it close.  We even led by a point or two, right up to the end when we actuall won by one point.  That was a total shock.  I think their players were more skilled individually, but we played more like a team.

Sunday I mostly lounged about.  In the afternoon Stacey and I went out to the state park and did a 2-mile hike.  It was a bit muddy, and there wasn’t much wildlife moving, but we enjoyed each other’s company.  On the way back we stopped at Farm and Home to see Savannah.  She was working, and had called us earlier.  It was nothing urgent.  Someone had returned a Carhartt-like jacket, covered with dog hair, and she got a really good deal on it.  Since Carhartts were on clearance, I got a jacket myself. 

Monday I went out to Lowell’s.  Right before I got to his house, I stopped on the side of the road because there was a big hawk on a power pole.  I took the lens cap off, turned the camera on, stuck it out the window, and the hawk flew off.  Dang!  I thought it was probably evolved adaptive behavior.  Probably for many years, hawks that didn’t leave when vehicles stopping and pointed things out the window left no offspring with their incautious genes.  Lowell and I had a vigorous morning of chainsawing and stacking wood.  We haven’t done it for a long time.  More oak trees had died from the oak wilt disease.  Some were already down, but others I had to fell.  I’m kind of out of practice on that, and the majority did not fall where I wanted them to.  At one point Lowell had to move the Mule to avoid a potential accident.  We went to lunch at the Ewing diner, which was tasty.  When we returned there was a big red-tailed hawk on the raptor perch.  I ran to the car to photograph it.  I took out the camera sneaked around the edge of the shed, and it was gone.  It’s just not my lucky day!

It was the Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend.  Sunday I had pretty good species diversity.  Here are some of the more routine visitors.  I’d rather have gotten a decent shot of the brown creeper.

Downy woodpecker                                                                              Red-bellied woodpecker

Female cardinal.

Canton Eagle Day – notice!

I thought I would send out this quick message to regular recipients of this blog (I think of it as a column, even though it’s not published in any paper).  This Saturday (2/7) is Canton Eagle Day.  There will be literature, binoculars and spotting scopes at a tent set up in Mississippi River Park.  I will be giving a talk on eagle biology at the lockhouse on an ongoing basis from 11 to 3.  I will show lots of pretty pictures.

February 3 – The Meltdown

Tuesday I stopped at Quinsippi Island again.  There were a thousand birds there, including a ringneck duck.  A trumpeter swan was there too.  I never get tired of the antics of the canvasbacks. 

I finally got the sun at a decent angle.

Dive, dive dive!
When I got back to Canton, I went down to the river.  There were just a few eagles around and they weren’t very active.  There was one low in a tree, and I stopped right near it.  I had the 1.4x teleconverter and the bazooka lens.  It was the first time I got a good result from this combination.

In this head shot, you can see blood on the lower bill and fish scales on the upper.

The over-the-shoulder staredown.

On the other end of things, this is the best eagle poo shot I’ve ever seen.

This is another individual just enjoying the cold weather.

Next week I give a “Town and Gown” lecture on the Galapagos.  In order to get more than the usual, about three, in attendance, I have been attempting to promote it.  This is the QU press release:


Dr. Joe Coelho
            Quincy University’s
spring 2009 Town and Gown reading and lecture Series continues on
Thursday, Feb. 12, with “Darwin’s Galapagos,” presented by Dr. Joe
Coelho. This event will take place at 6:30 p.m. at Quincy University’s
North Campus (18th & Seminary Road), room 208.
            Dr. Coelho, an assistant
professor of biology at Quincy University, teaches a course in the
ecology of the Galapagos Islands and has also guided students in short
study-abroad tours of these islands. His non-technical slide-lecture
presentation will illustrate the unique animals of the Galapagos and
discuss their relevance to Darwin’s development of the theory of
evolution.  Some historical background will also be provided.  The
event is free, and the public is invited to attend.
            The Town and Gown series
is sponsored by the Quincy University English department, the English
Club, and Sigma Tau Delta (the national English Honor Society). All
events are open to the public and free of charge. For more information,
contact the Quincy University office of public relations at

That’s a really old picture–with few wrinkles or gray hairs!  I’m an associate professor now, too, but I forgive them that.

This is Savannah in her nifty work vest and big, tricked-out name tag.  Too bad she’s not allowed to wear any flair.

Later that same night she had a reaction to her makeup and her eyes swelled nearly shut.  This is as far as she could open them. 

With the application of ice and hydrocortisone cream (I suggested Preparation H) to her eyelids, she was back to normal by the next day.

Thursday I saw some swans out in a corn field on my way home.  There were more in the sand pit, and I stopped to photograph them.  I had the long lens with the 1.4x teleconverter.  The light was good and they were fairly close to the road. 

Simon says, “Lift your left leg and tuck your head in.”

Now everybody look to the left.

The only adult in the group.

One felt like stretching its wings.

A trilogy.

Look, Ma!  One leg!  And one wing.

Friday morning I went down to the river in the morning.  There was an eagle in a tree with a big fish, but when I parked under it and rolled down my window, it flew away.  That’s never happened before, but then there were two people on foot nearby.  So I took Route B through La Grange to look for hawks.  I saw one on the power line and pulled over, but it flew away before I could get my window down.  Just before the on ramp to the highway I saw a big, light-colored hawk in a tree.  The light was perfect.  I pulled over, thinking about my camera.  I didn’t even get the car stopped before it flew away.   I went into the office, mostly because of an afternoon meeting.  I did get some work done beforehand.  The meeting was surprisingly eventful, with two factions in a turf war.  Afterward I went to the pet store and got some more gold fish, along with the usual food for our zoo.  I had bought a dozen gold fish last week but a few died off.  One almost certainly croaked after the flask he was in exploded under the pressure of a football player forcing in the stopper.  It has happened before.  Oh, and I had a student show up to my FYE class this week for the first time.  He’s been going to the wrong classroom (and wrong class) the entire time.  This does not bode well.  On the way home I stopped at Quinsippi Island.  It was a record warm day (67) and the birds had mostly dispersed.  There were still a bunch of mallards around, but this is the only shot that turned out.

We three mallards be.  Asleep.

QU has updated a Study Abroad page for the Galapagos trip.  It has a short blurb and 10-pic slide show:


Saturday was Canton Eagle Day.  We had record attendance, with at least 60 coming to my talks.  I gave it 4 times, with short breaks between.  I met some new people, and some friends came as well.  It was really warm, which is great for people but bad for eagles.  There were a few around anyway.  Stacey was gone at fire training all weekend. 

Sunday morning I worked in the back yard a bit.  I was cutting up the limbs from the ice storm, and I was
almost done when I cut through the electrical cord that goes to Kane’s
doghouse and water dish.  Made a nice spark.  I let loose some
colorful language, as I had been trying NOT to do exactly that. I stacked all the wood and retreated to the house.  Savannah gave me a nice haircut and we watched a movie until Stacey came home.

For some reason, the Tokay gecko lets crickets live in her cage until she’s ready to eat them.  This one had just molted.

By request, here’s my full hippie mode.

Monday right after I left the house there was a vehicle that had 180ed on the highway.  Lying nearby was a freshly dead deer.  A few others had already stopped to help, so I continued on to the office.  I saw a flock of snow geese landing in a field right next to the road, which was kind of neat.  Not much happened at work except that most of the fish I had bought on Friday had died already.  I think the crayfish must have eaten the dead, as there weren’t that many floaters.  It has been quite warm here; Lowell says the lake is nearly iced out.  The old groundhog must have been wrong.  At least I’m not burning much wood.