April 28 – Mermet Springs

Tuesday we had a meeting with an accreditation consultant.  Our program is in pretty good shape, but we need to clean up some of our paperwork.  In scuba class we took the final exam.  It was easy, but I had studied.  The instructor had video of some of his dive trips playing the whole time.  That was fun to watch.  My tanks had passed inspection and were filled.  He didn’t charge me for the inspections because it saves him a couple of fills while we’re at our open water dive site.  When I got home I photographed some flowers around the yard.  Savannah had a soccer game on a very muddy field.  They lost 10-0 (which is a skunk) with 43 seconds left in the game.  She’s tired of losing, she’s tired of being sore and injured, she’s just plain tired.  I don’t think our team has scored a goal all season.

Lily of the Valley, a nice ornamental.                                                 Creeping Charlie, a weed.
Bleeding Hearts, Stacey’s favorite

Columbine

Wednesday I took the vert class to Lowell’s.  A lot of good birds were hitting Lowell’s feeder, so we just watched them for awhile.  Lowell took us around the lake in the pontoon.  We saw a black-crowned night heron, which I haven’t seen in a long time.  The goslings had hatched out of the eggs, and were trying to jump out of the nest.  It was kind of funny.  The students left, but Lowell, Leo and I prowled around looking at wildflowers.


Wild strawberry.  Blue-eyed grass–hope to see it when the buds open.

Funnel web spider, moisturized.

These land snails come out in the rain every spring.

Hey, get us out of here!

Apple cedar rust.  Not really pretty, but interesting.

Another yucky fungus, called “judas ear” or “jelly ear”, and is apparently edible..

Pussytoes

We had a fun afternoon lab.  I held a quiz game to help them study for next week’s lab exam.  One student was doing really well, but when she hit the table to indicate that she had the answer, she yelled, “I banged first!”  She put her head down on the table in embarrassment.  A few minutes later, another student rang in first, but had only half the answer, which wasn’t adequate.  She exclaimed, “F*&$ me!” without any shame at all. 

Thursday was a long, crazy day, starting with seminar, then Bio II lecture, two meetings with students and my POLIS presentation on dragonflies in the afternoon.  I went well, but was followed immediately by a PR photo op with members of the Environmental Club.  We put flags out where the prairie is going.  They held a brief plant sale when POLIS was getting out and sold a good number of our leftover plants.  I met Stacey and we went to dinner at Buffalo Wild Wings.  We went straight to the reception for the photography contest at John Wood Community College.  A fellow member of my camera club won two third places, one in architecture and another in landscapes.  I took a first in the animals category with a butterfly photo.

The Goatweed Leafwing.

Friday I went to Carthage (IL) for Kids Conservation Day.  It wasn’t held at Kibbe because of all the rain, which is too bad.  It’s much more fun there.  I had skipped last year because I was kind of burned out on it.  Turns out it was cancelled anyway.  This I only agreed to do it because my trusty student Laura agreed to help.  We see about 15 groups of students, each of which gets 15 minutes of our time.  I usually talk about insects, using a big plastic bee, a box full of dead bees and wasps, and some live cockroaches for props.  The kids love it, but it’s draining.  With Laura helping it was a lot easier.  Still, at the end my voice was pretty shot.  It was kind of a cold day, and the cockroaches wouldn’t hiss.  They got dropped a lot too.  When it was over we went over to my friend Jim’s station.  He had three turtles and a bunch of snakes, and he was kind enough to get them out for my camera.

Hognose snake. Heterodon platyrhinos

Ringneck snake, Diadophis punctatus

Northern
Red-bellied Snake
, Storeria occipitomaculata

Blue racer, Coluber constrictor

It was prom night for Savannah.  She spent half the day preparing.  It’s been a month or more in the making, with the purchase, repair and cleaning of the dress.  This week it was decorating and having the nails done.  Fortunately, a soccer game was cancelled (due to our glorious rain), freeing up some time.

Savannah and Joey, ready for prom.  I told her date that all he had to do was not ditch her and get arrested.  In so doing he could exceed expectations set by last year’s experience.

Saturday morning I left early to drive down to Mermet Springs.  It’s a big old quarry with lots of interesting large vehicles sunk in it.  It was a lovely drive down, not raining as I expected.  The students had camped out that night and gotten rained on quite a bit.  We started our first open water dive by going down to a platform at 20 feet.  I had some trouble getting my ears equalized, but eventually adjusted.  We fed bits of hot dogs to the bluegills, which apparently grow quite large on a diet of hot dogs.  It had looked like the water was really clear because you could see fish swimming around from the dock.  But underwater, visibility was only about 3 feet.  It was very disorienting.  We did a few skills then ascended along a rope tied to a buoy.  This was when my ears really went out of whack and the whole world seemed like it was spinning.  This effect led shortly to the loss of my lunch and exit from the water.  I recovered while the rest of the students completed the dive.  I changed into street clothes and sat out the second dive.  We went to the hotel in Metropolis, Illinois, passing the giant statue of Superman.  And there was a coyote running in a field along the way.  We had dinner at Willy Jack’s, which has some great burgers.  A live band was supposed to play and film a video.  We waited quite awhile, but they never got started.  We gave up and went back to the hotel.  The students gave the hot tub a workout, then slept 5 in one room. 

Bluegills right in my face.  I even touched a few, but they feel about the same as when you’re filleting them.

Sunday morning my ears were still wonky, so after helping the others get ready and taking lots of pictures, I headed out.  I haven’t entirely given up yet.  The instructor is willing to give me private sessions at his pool to see if I can get my ears to cooperate.  I stopped at the Bass Pro Shops in St. Louis and bought some more spinnerbaits.  I had some points on my credit card and the batch only cost me $0.20.  Score!  I was really tired, so I crashed when I got home.  It was good to see the fam again.

Brent models the thick wetsuits required in the cold water.  Group photo at the giant catfish.  Laura, Brent, Ashley, Patrick, Naomi, Rob, Me.

Monday I set up a lab practical for my Bio II class.  I had to hike out by the railroad tracks to get some wildflowers.  Things have changed a lot in two weeks.  We kept the atmosphere loose.  Most of them did well.  There were even two perfect scores.  When I got home I mowed the lawn, which was insanely high, and did the string trimming.  N=1 for the season.  I photographed some subjects around the yard.

Wild geraniums from North Campus.

Robin nest in the spruce in the front yard.

Fire pink from the prairie.

April 24 – Canton in Bloom

Tuesday we were back in the pool for scuba class.  We practiced skills and goofed off.  At least the water was clear and clean.  I brought my camera.

Laura and Brent

Me, trying to relax.

Ashley–this one had the best image quality.

Wednesday morning I took the vert field class to Fall Creek.  We saw a few new birds right away, then it got rather slim.  It’s still a fun place to hike around. 

Shawn, Brian, Kassidy and me at the waterfall.

The earthworm and centipede had a lovely home under a trash can.  The overlook was better than usual this day.

In the afternoon I took the Bio II class out by Cedar Creek near North Campus.  I saw the first tiger swallowtail of the year.  There were a few more wildflowers out since Monday.  I think I had them going on the creepiness of the location, and started talking about an urban legend of a homeless serial killer.  There’s a big culvert where he put the bodies, and an old piece of canvas he used for a tent.  I said I lost a student there once.  As we were exiting the woods, I said, “There she is!”  where a deer skeleton adorns the ground. 

Dog-tooth violet.  Yellow violet.

Freshmen on the trail.  They’re not so naive.

This huge cross is front and center on A wing of North Campus.  Crows like to perch on it.  I finally caught one in the act while I was armed with my camera.  Kind of looks like a scene from “The Omen.”

Friday I went to Kahoka to speak to 50 5th graders.  A friend of mine is the teacher there.  I showed some pictures of deserts and the Galapagos where I’d been, with lots of animal slides.  I brought some cockroaches and let them hold them.  I answered a thousand questions about snakes and tarantulas.  I brought some Larvettes, and almost all of them tried one (seasoned, roasted mealworms).  It was a lot of fun. Kids have such enthusiasm.  When I got home I pulled stuff out of the basement and the boathouse for the garage sale.  I took the truck down to the brush dump and picked up half a load of wood.  I had most of it chainsawed when the chain jumped. I had lost a nut from the bar.  Craptacular.  I used a big magnet to try to find it, but had no luck.   I went to Arkitec and bought a new nut, plus a spare.  I got the remaining wood cut up and stacked.  I taped Savannah’s ankle for a soccer game, but I think her pulled quad is going to give her more trouble.  After Stacey got home we brought more stuff out for the garage sale.

Saturday we got up early.  A brief shower stopped us in the process of setting up our garage sale.  We weren’t quite done at 7 when I had to go.  I left Stacey to finish the rest.  I registered runners at the race in La Grange, and went back to Canton to set up my talk in City Hall.  After I had the computer and projector working, my students got to the park for the plant sale.  They’ve been growing things in the greenhouse since Spring Break. 

This is the first useful thing our greenhouse has done in the 5 years I’ve been at QU.  One day I came in and it was about 95 F in there.  I flipped a switch and the motorized windows opened to vent the hot air.  Cool!

Things sold quite well, although I think the turnout this year was less than last.  I only had five people in my audience, all of which were personal friends.  I guess butterflies (last year’s topic) are more popular then spring wildflowers.  I went home to help Stacey with the garage sale.  A lot of stuff had already sold, but people kept coming and buying more stuff.  I was thankful to sell the stationary bike and the bee hives.  The Amish bought a lot of our goods.  One stopped his buggy right in front of the driveway, and his horse peed about 3 gallons.  He must have been saving it up.  A guy and his little boy were looking over stuff and the kid discovered the silent dog whistle.  He was driving the neighbor’s dogs nuts, which I thought was hilarious.  I gave it to the kid after his dad bought our leftover dog food.  My students stopped by near the end.  I gave them the 50-cent tour of the back yard, and gave a pair of suspenders to one of them.  Stacey and I stowed most of the stuff in the garage and crashed.  Savannah came back from her soccer tournament bone tired.  I kept calling her the “bag of misery,” as ever part of her is injured or sore.

Sunday she had to go to work, though, and was at least a little recovered.  Stacey and I finished cleaning up from the garage sale.  I put a few things in the boat house.  I replaced the battery on the lawnmower, which involved a visit to Savannah at the Farm and Home store.  She seemed in good spirits, though hot.  After the cold weather abated we were plunged directly into summer.  It has not been that fun.  I mowed the lawn in front of the house, but not the back, as I wanted the violets to go to seed first.

I had noticed a knocking noise and feeling directly under the floorboards of my truck.  I thought there was something seriously wrong.  When I stopped to look, I found a heavy stick in the undercarriage.  It could wobble around, but I couldn’t pull the darn thing out.  It must have fallen out on my way home because when I went under for a second attempt it was gone.

April 14 – Wildflower time

Tuesday I gave an exam in my morning class and took all the answer sheets down to Main Campus, as usual, to use the machine that grades them.  Since the machine is in the mail room, I checked my mail.  There was a thin envelope with a single sheet in it from the Governor’s office.  It had all the hallmarks of a ding letter.  But when I opened it I found out my proposal had been funded.  We’re getting $500 to put in a rain garden (prairie) at North Campus.  Woo hoo!  I’ve been trying to get this done for a long time.  With this money, we can buy a lot of plants and do it right.  We need to get it done by the end of the semester, however. 

In the afternoon we went to scuba class out at Sheridan pool.  I’ve taken Savannah to swim meets there many times.  Their pool was overchlorinated and cloudy.  Yuck.  We did all the exercises for “confined water dive #2”, plus a few that must be done in deep water.  One girl opened the valve on her tank without the regulator screwed on.  Brent and the instructor ran to turn it off.  Shawn’s long hair look hilarious underwater.  The mask holds down most of it, except a strip front and center.  Looks like a long mohawk. 

The camera club meeting was that night, but our meeting place, a local coffee shop, was closed.  Forever.  Being adaptable, we went to the Mexican restaurant across the street.  A couple of latecomers followed the same line of logic and  found us there.  We showed some images on computers and some prints we’re entering in the contest next week.  We planned our next couple of meetings, one of which is a field trip.  They’re all good people, which makes it a fun club.

Wednesday morning was field trip time.  We went to the Soulard Access, a site on the Fabius River.  I hadn’t been there since last fall, where I pulled my kayak out there.  As soon as we got out of the car we saw a pileated woodpecker, followed shortly by a red-headed woodpecker.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a class see the pileated.  Then we saw the blue-gray gnatcatcher, and I know no class of mine has seen it.  There were a few more species as we walked down the road.  The woods were too muddy from recent floods to walk in.  We saw several more species on the drive back to North Campus, including a huge flock of pelicans.  Leo came with us, which was nice–like having another instructor along.

I met a student, but otherwise had no further obligations.  I wasn’t feeling too great, and headed home early.  I stopped in the woods to photograph some wildflowers.  I identified the species at our stream team site.  It’s very abundant there, but I haven’t seen it anywhere else.  Must like floodplain forest.

Spring Cress.

I saw about five species of butterflies this day.  It was the first warm clear day in a long time, which explains a lot.  So here’s the first butterfly photo of the season.


Spring Azure.

I took a nap and a couple of aspiring, and went to see Savannah’s soccer game.  She got to play a lot of minutes.  Not surprising, as we only have two on the bench.  We played Quincy Notre Dame’s JV team and only lost 0-8.  They have some tall girls.  It was fun to watch, and I sat next to Mohamed and Omaima, who I haven’t talked to in a long time.

Savannah is #5, same as her birthday. 

Thursday I had just one lecture to give.  I got some writing done on my book chapter in the afternoon.  I photographed flowers in the yard when I got home.


Two color morphs of common violet, growing next to each other.  Ah, genetic variation, the raw material for natural selection.

Virginia bluebells

Daff O’dill

Friday morning I went out to Lowell’s.  It was a sunny, warm day.  We did about two and a half rounds of the lake.  I caught five bass.  Lowell caught a couple, plus a crappie.  We did a quick ATV tour for wildflowers, but not that many species are up yet.  I went to the office afterward, took care of a couple of little things, then to a faculty meeting.  I learned some interesting things.

We watched this muskrat actually pluck the plant from the bank of the lake and take it to its burrow.

This pair of wood ducks may be using the nearby nest box.

A painted turtle, standing at her post.

Saturday was overcast, but it wasn’t supposed to rain until later.  I cruised around in the morning looking for targets.  The following were all taken out the window of my car.

American White Pelican on the Mississippi River.

Blue-winged teal hen stretching her wings in the wetland along the levy.

Blue-winged teal drake.

I was looking at these teal when a surprise appeared in the foreground.


American woodcock are seldom seen in daylight hours.  There were five or so hanging about the shoreline.

Canada goose comes in for a landing.

Common grackle makes a splash in a mud puddle.

A killdeer was hanging around this sandy/gravel area.

The mourning dove nesting in our pine tree by the garage.

Sunday was also rainy and cold.  I picked some violets from the back yard and attempted some macro photography. 
You can see all the reproductive parts of the flower in this section, though I’m not sure I got the lighting right.

Monday I took the Bio II lab out into the woods to see wildflowers.  What a bunch of sheltered city kids.  Some, even athletes, found the hills challenging to navigate.  Others were worried about every possible threatening plant or animal.  The real test came when we had to walk past an old deer carcass.  These are biology majors!  At least we saw a good diversity of wildflowers, also the first tiger swallowtail of the year.

April 9 – Scubalicious

Tuesday we had our first confined water “dive” in the pool for the scuba class.  The QU pool is not more than about 5 feet deep at any point.  I thought it might be a little scary breathing underwater with a regulator, but it wasn’t at all.  It was fun!  We did the first few exercises, and afterward just swam around in the pool.  I, having a wetsuit, did not get cold.  The others were running for the hot tub afterward.  Brent and I helped load the tanks and gear in the instructor’s trailer.   I drove home, or rather to the polling place to vote.  It was at the high school, which was convenient because I went directly to the cafeteria to eat a pancake dinner with Stacey. 

Wednesday morning I had a great outing with my vertebrate field class.  We saw
27 species in a little over an hour, including things we don’t often
get, like brown creeper, wood thrush, yellow-bellied sapsucker and
barred owl.  I’ve only seen the sapsucker once before.  I’ve never seen an owl while with the class in the many years of teaching it.  In fact, one year it was a running joke.  This owl was being pestered by a couple of crows.  We also saw it’s mate, which was unmolested.

 
Barred owl.  I think it was more bothered by us than by the crows.  That’s why I couldn’t get any closer than this.



Wood thrush.

Flicker

Thursday we did stream team with me, Lowell, and four students.  The water was a little high.  We couldn’t measure the discharge rate, but we got everything else done.  The stream rated “Fair” which is about normal.  We got some of those really pretty stoneflies too.  Brent ended up with the leaky waders, and got soaked and cold.  I felt bad for him.  I need to get more waders, as we always seem to be sampling in high water, especially in the spring.  Knee boots we have in abundance, but their not adequate at high flow.  We got the recycling out when we were done.  Makes for a long day. 

Sandy, Shawn, Laura, Me, Brent (giving me the bunny ears).

Picking (bugs) and grinning.
 

Stirring things up.

Friday was cold and rainy.  We did grocery shopping and then hung around the house.  I made a calendar from Great Blue Heron photos taken at Lake Taneycomo last month.  Someone will buy it next year. 

Saturday I went out to Lowell’s.  While crossing the dam I saw four blue-winged teal on the lake.  While we were fishing, they mostly stayed out of sight.  When a pair came around the point, I said, “Watch, when I pull out my camera, they’ll fly away.”  They did.  I managed to get some decent shots of a Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, a cute little bird I haven’t seen in about 25 years.  We also saw the Yellow-rumped warbler and another Palm Warbler.  We fished a round of the lake, then went around in the Mule clearing the old nest material out of all the bluebird boxes.  Two of them had deer mice inside, one of which jumped out and landed on me for a second.  If I get hantavirus you’ll know why.  We saw the first female Red-winged Blackbirds of the year.  We took a ladder out on the pontoon boat to service a bluebird box on the side of the floating dock.  I screwed the top off and found a nest with four eggs in it.  I guess they didn’t need our help.  I put the top back on.  We fished another half round of the lake.  After lunch in Ewing we were coming back and saw the four teal plus two wood ducks on the wetland.  This is the wetland Lowell built specifically to attract ducks–during the fall season.  At least this probably sets a record for live ducks on it.  We came back with the Mule and my camera and the darn ducks had left.  We fished another round of the lake and I caught one small bass.  At least I wasn’t skunked.  I haven’t been skunked yet this year, but just saying that surely jinxes me for next time.

Painted turtle, slightly muddy.

Double-shot of blue-gray gnatcatcher.

Easter Sunday we stayed home.  When Savannah got up (OK, when Stacey woke her up) we opened Easter baskets.  Stacey got some kitchen implements and a toy brush truck.  I got a case for my iPod and a fish holding device for filleting.  Savannah got two baskets.  One was a bunch of QU stuff.  I got a little yard work done.  While I was picking up pine cones in the side yard I found the first morel of the year. It was tiny.  Lowell came over for dinner–we had the traditional ham.  We watched 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, at least while we weren’t napping.  Pumpkin pie was for dessert.

Monday I went in to the office, even though I had no classes.  It was cold and rainy anyway.  I had to finish writing an exam and grade a huge stack of papers.  Mission accomplished.

April 1 – April Fools!

Wednesday morning I took my class out to Wakonda State park.  First we stopped at the launch ramp and saw a lot of birds right from the car: cormorants, ducks, coots and so forth.  This was going so well, I drove them around the RV campground.  I pulled up on one of the concrete pads and there were a bunch of cormorants all lined up on some logs below us…when the right front wheel on the Lil Egg went off an unseen ledge on the pad.  Thunk!  The wheel was a few millimeters off the ground and just spun.  I was high-centered.  One of the hazards of field courses is that you occasionally are very embarrassed in front of your students.  Fortunately, I’m used to this.  I flagged down some park personnel, who called their boss, the park superintendent.  When he pulled up he did not look very happy.  Fortunately, I sort of know him.  We met before and we have a mutual friend in Mike Irwin.  He had his men bring over some boards and I was able to back the car up to the level of the concrete again.  Whew!  We went over to the parking area and hiked down one of my usual trails.  We saw a brown thrasher, which was fairly lucky, and some brown-headed cowbirds.  We ended up with 25 species on the day, which was a near record. 

I said that the little craft angel the bus driver had given me that morning was bad luck.  The students said that was only because I dropped it on the ground.  The lesson: watch where you are going and do not be distracted by birds.

Later Savannah called to tell me I had left something important at home.  I couldn’t remember what it was and kept puzzling over it until she said, “April Fools!”

That night Stacey and I drove up to Mediapolis, Iowa to see a performance by Heywood Banks.  He’s a regular on the Bob and Tom radio show.  I’ve been a big fan for a long time.  I didn’t know that I’d ever have a chance to see him so nearby again, only a little over an hour away.  He did a lot of stand-up and several of his classic novelty songs (including “Wiper Blades”, “Toast,” and “Big Butter Jesus”).  I was in stitches the whole time.  He was so funny.  And his act is clean.

Thursday was fairly routine until the end.  I went to a meeting at main campus in the afternoon.  Afterward I was told that our Dean of the School of Education was “gone.”  I’m sure I’ll get the details later.  At least she was replaced by someone I really like.

Friday was the inauguration of our University president.  The ceremony was very nice.  Most of the speakers were blessedly brief, except for President Gervasi, but his speech was actually quite good.  On the short walk to the reception I was followed by members of the women’s volleyball team.  I turned and said, “Stop making me feel like a dwarf!”  They’re all really tall girls.  At the reception I talked to a lot of my friends from main campus that I hardly ever see.  When I got home, Stacey, Savannah and I went out to dinner at the newest eatery in Canton.  It was good again.  Afterward we went to the Canton Art Gallery where Savannah had some very nice pieces on display with the collected works of the high school art classes.  I’ll photograph them later and show them here.

Saturday I went out to Lowell’s.  First we planted some trees.  With the soaked ground, at least digging the holes was easy.  We fished a round of the lake.  I think I may have gotten one bite.  I was working the spinnerbaits hard.  I probably will use them exclusively for another month, since I caught the Leviathan on one.  We went to Ewing and picked up 26 catfish to plant in the catfish pond.  One was kind of golden in color.  I don’t think it was an albino, but then I don’t quite know what the heck it was.  We started another round of the lake, but it was getting quite windy.  My student Shawn and one of his friends showed up and were fishing from the dam.  We picked them up with the pontoon and went partway around the lake, but the wind got too strong.  Lowell had to tack into the wind to drop the boys off at the dam again.  We hadn’t caught anything, in spite of the variety of lures the other guys were using.  I had changed to a spinner with a horrible pink blade and jighead and a white skirt.  Lowell had the pontoon about 20 feet from the dock when I hooked a nice fish.  It was 16 inches–not bad.  We went to lunch in Durham.  The guys had left the dam before we got back.  It was too windy to fish the main lake, but we fished all the little ponds.  I caught one more bass.  Lowell caught two bass and a bluegill.  While we were driving about, I saw the first butterfly of the season, just a cabbage white.


We saw this Palm Warbler in a willow tree while fishing the lake.  It’s a life bird for me, and a new record for the E.L. Reynolds Private Reserve.


We kept flushing a pair of wood ducks at every pond we visited.  We’re fairly sure they’re nesting in a box my class put up last year.


This midland brown snake (first snake of the season) was swimming across the lake.  I let Shawn hold it while I photographed it because he’s a serious snake maniac.

Sunday was rainy and cold.  We stayed home and started getting stuff out for our upcoming garage sale. We also dinked around on our computers a lot.  I discovered that if I use the Google online calendar it works at home and at work, and will sync wirelessly with my iPod.  That’s pretty slick.  So I migrated my calendar from MS Outlook.  Then I discovered Google documents, which allows me to work on a document whether I’m at home or at work, at least as long as I have a functioning internet connection.  Finally, I got a Gmail account, which I set up to fetch all email from my other accounts.  Now I won’t hit the “Mailbox Full” limit at work all the time. 

Monday we did the flower lab.  It was a bit early and there weren’t too many species out.  Nonetheless, we got it done and had a lot of fun.  Some of the dissections showed really nice ovaries and ovules.