May 26 – Stop the rain

Tuesday morning I bottled the wine.  It’s been a few years since I did this procedure, but I managed to do it all from memory.  There’s a lot of cleaning and washing involved.  The blackberry vintage was tasty–not too dry or too sweet.  It has a lovely color in the bottle too.  I was one cork short, which I made up with a champagne stopper.  A couple of the corks popped out later.  Fortunately, I had spotted them emerging and tipped the bottles upright.  I hammered them back in.  They should seal.  I went to the Kiwanis meeting with Stacey, where she gave a presentation on the unmet needs committee.  I volunteered to give the butterfly talk in a couple of weeks.  Afterward we went to Quincy, ran errands, and bought crickets.  The Tokay gecko was pretty ravenous.  I think she’s recovered from her illness. 

Wednesday morning I slept in late.  When I finally got moving I went down to the river to fish.  At the bridge there were a lot of tiny minnows, but nothing hitting them.  When I went to step over the guard rail I hit my knee on the steel I-beam.  Ow.  I didn’t lose much skin, but there’s an egg-sized swelling.  Bending it is difficulty.  This is going to put a crimp in my biking for awhile.  Anyway, once on the other side I saw a fish jump and cast right to that spot.  I caught a modest largemouth bass.  Kind of unusual.  I moved down to the launch ramp area and fished the inlet.  There were many larger minnows, but still no predators working them.  Most curious.  When I got home I went to the neighbors and fixed her screen door.  Then I got inspired and went into the back yard with the macro lens to see what I could accomplish.  Wind and clouds made things a challenge, but I had a lot of fun. 

The spiderwort in bloom was what I went out to capture.

This fly was hanging out in one of them, eating pollen.

Another beardtongue is in bloom.  I liked the fuzzies on all the buds.

The neighbor’s flowering shrub was improved by this pollinating wasp.

We always have these iridescent flies in the back yard.  I love ’em.

Thursday I did yard work in the morning–did some pruning and took a load of brush to the brush dump.  I tried fishing the river for a bit, but nothing was biting.  I printed the labels and put them on the wine bottles.

Friday I went to the license branch and got a new driver’s license and registered the boat.  From there I went right to Lowell’s.  We fished a couple rounds of the lake, and the bass were actually biting pretty good.  I caught a dozen largemouths and a crappie on a white spinner with a bright pink blade.  While circling the lake we kept hearing a periodical cicada–a lone straggler without a hope.  We had lunch at a barbecue fundraiser, then tried fishing with worms for bluegills.  We caught a couple, but didn’t really get the size or the numbers that we wanted.  I had knocked down a wasp nest in the boat and used the larvae for bait.  I caught a tiny crappie on them.   I filleted all the fish we had kept that day, plus those we had saved up in the fish cage.  No catfish came up to claim the carcasses, at least while we were there.  We went to the catfish pond and tried fish skin and worms for bait.  I wasn’t having much luck with the spinner, which I was casting while I had some fish skin out on a rod with an open bail.  I was trying to photograph a dragonfly on the wing when Lowell yelled across the pond that I was catching a fish.  I looked at the fish skin rod and something was pulling out line.  I set the hook and felt a nice catfish on the other end.  I only had 6-lb monofilament on, and took my time reeling him in.  It wasn’t the biggest ever, but it weighed 4 lb 6 oz.  Lowell cleaned it later and got a pound and a half of meat from it. 

This painted turtle was basking on the surface next to the pontoon boat.

Male common whitetail with partial adult coloration.

Jade clubtail.  Still awaiting the ideal photo of this species.

Fairly large snapping turtle at the lake surface.

House wren at the floating dock.  Lowell has a video camera inside a different nest box that also has a wren. 
Water scorpion.                                                                                        Common Woodnymph.

When I got home I showered and we all went to the spring athletic banquet.  Savannah got a certificate for playing soccer.  At least her coach was brief.  Some of the others went on and on about every darn player.  The food was good though.

Saturday Stacey and I went to Columbia so I could attend a Stream Team workshop. We passed a freshly rolled dumptruck on the way, which was pretty exciting.  We learned about aquifers and karst and confining layers and lots of interesting stuff.  Afterward we took a field trip and saw a losing stream disappear into the ground, a region of sinkholes (with houses planted between them, of course), a spring and a wet cave.  It was neat to see these features after learning about them.  Meanwhile, Stacey was out shopping and stuff.  I had had a big lunch at Chipotle (love that barbacoa), and I didn’t eat dinner at Red Lobster, but Stacey did. 

Sunday I dropped Stacey at the church in Lewistown so she could preach again.  I went out to Lowell’s to fish.  We only had time for one round of the lake, but I caught two bass, one of which was a nice 14-incher.  When I picked up Stacey someone was having a garage sale in the park.  I got a couple of ax heads and a good snake aquarium. 

Monday I did odd jobs around the house in the morning, and went to a meeting of the La Grange Garden Club in the afternoon.  I gave a talk on Monarchs, which seemed to go over well.  They actually had some caterpillars in jars already, as the lady there had lots of milkweeds.  We had cake and punch.  It was quite a pleasant gathering.  There was a drawing for plants, and I got some black-eyed susans–perfect for the new QU prairie.  One lady offered to let me dig up her prairie garden for the plants.  The meeting was held in screened room, a part of a pool house.  They had 10 acres with horses and a lot of flowers (and an old airstrip!).  Afterward, I prowled around the place looking for subjects for the camera.

The Cobra Clubtail, a new dragonfly for me.  Woo hoo!

Spring Azure on oxeye daisy.

May 21 – Let summer begin

Tuesday I drove down to St. Louis.  I was following the directions to Kyle’s house, heading south on 270 when a “Motorist Assist” truck passed, then a fire truck, then an ambulance.  Traffic began to slow down and merge to the right.  I thought I would be OK, as I was in the far right lane.  I was only a few miles from my exit when I saw that all lanes were closed and all traffic was forced to exit on 44.  Dang!  A truck was jackknifed and a van was totaled.  They were loading a guy into the ambulance when I passed.  I got onto surface streets and navigated through Kirkwood back onto my route and to Kyle’s place without too much difficulty.  We went to lunch at a Chinese place that was really good.  I got way overstuffed.  We went to a couple of nearby stores to take advantage of big city shopping opportunities–a head shop and a dive shop.  We watched a movie, No Country for Old Men, that afternoon.  I went to Powder Valley Conservation Area to the meeting of the Missouri Nature and Environmental Photographers.  I  bought some prairie plants from one of our members. 

Before the meeting started a guy showed an image of a bag of Coelho’s Gold coffee.  I was astonished at never having heard of it before and wrote down the web site,   Later I visited said web site, where I learned that their coffee plantation is in India and the founder was Gregory
Joseph Coelho.  The old dude had such an awesome mustache; I only wish I could grow one like it.
  I ordered 5 pounds of whole bean roast from Marlton Coffee.

Joseph Coelho

After a few announcements I gave my talk on dragonflies.  I went longer than I wanted to, but no one complained.  In fact, received many positive comments and lots of good questions.  There were some good photos in the show-and-share portion of the program.  We went to O’Charley’s afterward, and Kyle met us there.  We ordered dinner and it took an hour before we were served.  Afterward we went back to Kyle’s and watched Taken, which was quite good.  I was up way past my bedtime.

Wednesday I slept as late as I could, then read and watched some TV.  I saw a new show called “Hook and Look.”  First they fish, then they scuba dive the area they fished.  Interesting concept.   Kyle has a greater capacity for sleep, but after he got up we watched Live Free or Die Hard, which has many creative action sequences.  I got out of St. Louis without difficulty and went to Stacey’s office in Hannibal.  I found a few bargains at the thrift shop.  We had DQ hot dogs for dinner, then went to the opening of Terminator Salvation.  This was a special one day early opening happening only in 5 places around the country (woo).  Stacey had gotten free tickets at the grocery store.  They had door prizes before the movie started, and Stacey won a shot glass (second woo).  The movie was good.  It has many action sequences with cars, trucks, motorcycles and, of course, robots.  Bring ear plugs. 

Thursday I took my time in the morning but eventually went to my office.  I caught up on some work and met with a student.  When I got home I mowed the lawn (second time this year), and mucked out the goldfish pond.  I’m glad that job only comes once a year.  At least I found a dragonfly nymph in it, which I saved for future use.

Algae-covered dragonfly nymph.  I put it back in the pond.

I put this minnow in with the d-fly, but he ignored it.  I think it’s a juvenile green sunfish.

Friday I loaded up the kayak and headed to the state park.  It was a warm, clear, calm day.  Perfect, except that the fish weren’t biting.  I had picked up some minnows in LaGrange and was heading to a favorite crappie spot when I saw there was a couple there already in their jon boat.  I anchored nearby and tried my minnows, to no effect.  I did hook a decent bass on a spinnerbait, but it got off.  I tried various other places to no avail.  It got hot and rather uncomfortable.  I did see a few Caspian Terns, which made the day, as well as a mockingbird, most unusual in this area.

Saturday we did a little yard work.  This is the year I make war on the trumpet creeper.  We did grocery shopping and ran errands.  I photographed some yard flowers.



Sunday I dropped off Stacey at the Lewistown Christian Church to preach, and I drove on to Lowell’s.  We did one round of the lake in the hour we had available.  I caught three bass, which wasn’t bad. 

This Northern Water Snake came by while we were fishing.

Monday we were supposed to have our annual Memorial Day picnic at the park.  Instead, it rained like mad all day.  We canceled.  We made the best of a day indoors, and cleaned all lizard/snake/cockroach/fish habitats.  For awhile I smelled
like every one of them.  The cockroach job and the goldfish pond are about the dirtiest jobs I do every year.  Later I prepped for bottling the wine.  I got some corks soaking and scrubbed the labels off two dozen bottles.  Savannah and I watched a couple of episodes of the old Land of the Lost series.  I think SciFi was running a marathon.  I can’t believe how incredibly lame it was.  Let’s hope the movie is better.

May 12 – Final exams

Tuesday I gave one final, did some grading, and wrote an exam.  I also cleared all the plants out of my office and the greenhouse.  Some don’t appear to have much of a future.  I started draining the aquarium.  It’s time to put the office into summer mode.

That afternoon was Savannah’s last home soccer game.  It had been sunny and warm up until then, but clouds moved over and the wind picked up.  We were pretty cold by the end, but there was a barbeque honoring the seniors so we stayed.  At least the food was good.  We lost 7-0.  Worse, our goalie went out with an injury.  Savannah saw limited playing time.

Savannah waits during the injury time out.

Wednesday I went in to give a make-up final, then ran a bunch of errands around town.  We had tornado warnings again that night.  The sirens went off and everything, but we didn’t get hit.  Kirksville got it bad, with about 4 tornadoes.  Three people died.  We did get enough rain that it backed up into my basement a bit. 

Thursday morning was my last final.  I should have been done by noon, but tying up loose ends took me well into the afternoon.  We did the recycling for the last time of the season.  I got all the grading done and turned in my grades.  I adopted out a snake to Laura, and brought the other one home.  The office is now devoid of living things.  Stacey had country jam night.  Savannah’s friend Erin came over.  I took photos of hummingbirds out the back window.  We watched Speed Racer.

The female hovers over our feeder.  A male has since taken over the territory.

Friday I had planned to go fishing at Lowell’s, but was rained out.  I sneaked out between showers to do yard work.  Got some
things planted, and made fencelines (posts) around the prairie and
wildflower garden.  Found a big garter snake under some sheet plastic.  We were both surprised.  She had the grace to wait while I went to the house and got the camera.  I call it a she because it was so fat it was probably a pregnant female.  I carried her to the garden pond and she hid in the rocks.

Saturday morning I met the camera club at the casino in La Grange.  We had a nice breakfast and drove down to Fall Creek.  We photographed flowers, waterfalls, snails and a whole variety of things.  This is a really fun group and we were having a good time.  We all went to John Wood Community College afterward to see the photos from the contest hanging on the walls.  We still can’t understand the winner of Best of Show.  It really is a picture of peeling wallpaper.  We had lunch at Maya, a Mexican restaurant.  After that I went to the graduation party at Jed’s (a bar).  There were hardly any students there, but Cheeks McGee was playing, and I had been wanting to hear him for a while.  I had a couple of beers then went home.  That evening we lit the chimenea and sat outside and read for an hour or so.  We used the end of the fire to cook some hot dogs for a light dinner. 

Columbines were in full bloom along the stream.                     The stinkbug is a study in green-on-green.

The clover head was pretty; the spider, a bonus.                         White beardtongue was in bloom on the roadside.

The waterfall down near the parking area.  Heavy rains made for high water.

I woke up at three a.m. hearing that cat horking.  I got up and, in the darkness, tried to flush him off the carpet and toward the kitchen and it’s linoleum floor.  I lost him in the hallway and stepped in his fresh, warm pile of cat puke.  This is exactly how I don’t like my sleep interrupted.  Then I got to clean up the mess.  I think there was a mouse in it.

Sunday was graduation day.  I read the paper in the morning then drove in to the University.  The pattern was the same as in previous years.  The faculty line up on the indoor track, walk via a circuitous route into Pepsi Arena, and sit in front.  The speeches were good this year, and the overall ceremony relatively short.  We had a strong class of biology majors.  I enjoyed meeting the parents of my advisees afterward. 

When I got home I ate lunch.  Stacey and I went grocery shopping.  I finally cleaned out the gutters, which really should have been done before our torrential rains. 

Cinco de Mayo

Tuesday evening I went to Savannah’s soccer game.  It was against a team that had skunked us 10-0 last time.  But we held them off for awhile.  They still scored and led 5-0 at the half.  We didn’t fold, and got some chances.  About midway through the second half we got the ball downfield with advantageous numbers.  It was a little crowded in front of the goal and hard to see, but the ball bounced around some players and one of ours knocked it in.  Goal!  Our girls were all screaming and I was doing a dance on the sideline and yelling like an idiot.  It was the first goal our team had made all season.  They had a celebratory dinner out afterward, though we lost 6-1.

Savannah fields the ball.

Savannah chests the ball–for the first time ever.

Wednesday was the last field trip for vertebrate field biology.  We took a quiz then went to Quinsippi Island.  We saw a lot of turtles and many birds, a few new to the class.  I noticed I had gotten 435 miles out of my tank of gas when I got home.  When I filled up and did the calculation, I found I had gotten 47.7 mpg, a record for the egg.  Most of that was with two scuba tanks and a full gear bag in the trunk.  Must have had a heck of a tail wind.

Thursday I took the Bio II class out for a final walk.  We crossed the creek, and many got wet feet.  It is amazing the range of abilities and attitudes in that group.  In the afternoon I ran out to Lowell’s.  We did a couple of rounds of the lake, while it alternately rained and shined.  I caught 3 small bass and a crappie.  Lowell caught a couple of small bass and a huge bluegill.  I hiked around awhile looking for morels, but didn’t turn up any.  I did find some wildflowers, and a most unusual bird.

This stuff is blooming out by North Campus.  I think it’s Woolen Breeches. 

Water gun truck at the training grounds.

Blue-eyed grass–or what it looks like when the flowers open.

Dewberry, another new one for me.

This Whip-Poor-Will flew up from the ground and landed on a nearby branch.  It let me change lenses, but not approach any closer.  I never expected to get a picture of this species in my life.

A green frog in the little cattail pond.

That evening while I was preparing to get a hair cut from Savannah, we got a tornado warning.  I thought it best to put off the haircut rather than get halfway done and have to stop.  Some really scary clouds came over, and we had a brief period of torrential rain, but no tornado, fortunately.  The sirens went off and everything.  I really thought we could be getting one.  Again.  So afterward I had Savannah cut my hair.

Looking over the top of our house.  Savannah says this cloud was rotating, but I didn’t see that.

Taken from our driveway, this formation looked more ominous.

Friday I went in to the office, got some work done, then to a lunch meeting.  I went to Hannibal and gave the Spring Wildflowers talk at Stacey’s Mothers’ Day Tea.  It seemed to go over well.  We went to Quincy to see the opening of Star Trek.  I thought it was really good.  We got a bite afterward and did a bit of grocery shopping.  Savannah was at a soccer game in Kirksville.  Apparently, she nearly scored a goal.  As usual, our team scored no goals.  Her soccer buddy Hannah spent the night.

Saturday I got up early and went to meet Leo for the Spring Bird Count.  We were assigned a choice location: Fall Creek.  We started at the base of the overlook and walked a trail that I didn’t know existed.  Right away there were lots of great birds.  It’s also a super spot for wildflowers.  We drove up to the overlook and walked around.  Out on the overlook trail we found a couple of large trees that seemed like bird magnets.  There we saw the American Redstart, Scarlet Tanager, and several others.  The Tanager was a life bird for me.  We also walked down by the creek and saw two more tanagers and the Nashville Warbler.  After that we mostly drove around the perimeter of our area, which took the rest of the morning.  We ended up with 57 species.  By comparison, the best my class did this semester was 27 species.  Clearly, the class ends too soon.  The semester needs to go another two weeks to catch the warbler migration.  The tanager and the Bobolink were new species for me, and the Dickcissel and Orchard Oriole were new ones for Leo.  That’s a pretty good day. 

Distant, poor image of the male bobolink.

We saw two blue racers crossing the road.  This one needs to stay off it–his head’s been mangled once already.

When I got home I wanted to see if there was a white bass run on so I loaded up my rods and tackle box.  I tried the usual spots down on the river.  At the launch ramp area there sere a few minnows jumping, and I actually hooked a small white bass.  It was obviously not the time for a great run yet. 

Ron sent me an oriole feeder.  I set up that and the hummingbird feeder in the back yard.  I got hummers right away, but I know it will take awhile before the orioles get interested.

Sunday morning I went out in the back yard to begin my day of yard work.  I found that someone had completely mown down my spring wildflower garden, as well as a big chunk of my prairie.  I was absolutely incensed.  I’ve been bringing these along for years, increasing their size and diversity, investing time and money.  The irony is that I had the prairie fenced off until recently, when I figured it was too big for the bunnies to do it much damage.  I didn’t expect idiots with mowers.  Turns out it was the landscapers the neighbor hired.  She told them where the boundary was, and they went way over it.  Did they fail to notice the cactus they chopped up?  Or the plastic sheet torn to bits?  Tomorrow, the landscaper gets an earful, and a bill.

So that got the day off to a poor start.  I took the truck down to the brush dump and picked up a few logs.  Most of what was there was too small or too rotten to be worth picking up.  I ran into a friend though, and the conversation lightened my mood.  I unloaded that stuff and cut up the neighbor’s pine for more wood.  I ran into Nancy, so after lunch I dug up some of her coneflowers for the QU prairie and cut down and chopped up some of her problem trees with the chainsaw. 

Monday I gave my first final and did a lot of grading.  Savannah called me while I was driving home to tell me there was an oriole at the feeder.  Success!  I stopped at the landscaper and told him his guys had mown down my flowers.  We worked out how his guys had misunderstood the property boundaries.

I think this hummer is the territory owner.   This oriole likes Ron’s feeder and Stacey’s grape jelly.

Savannah and I were bored after dinner so we went down to the river.  I brought a fishing rod and tried some of the usual spots.  I actually caught the world’s smallest white bass, but there was not much action to be had.