July 28 – more ‘yakkin’

Tuesday morning I met Bob and Jamie early at the La Grange boat ramp.  We put Bob’s canoe on top of my truck and hauled both boats (my kayak already being in the bed) to the put-in at the old iron bridge.  Scattered thunderstorms were forecast, but all we had was light, overcast skies.  The usual put-in spot was blocked by downed trees, and we used the other side of the bridge.  About a mile downstream I realized I had left the tie-down straps in the truck instead of putting them in the boats.  That would make the shuttle back a bit challenging.  Anyway, it was a nice, cool day.  We saw herons, kingfishers, an eagle, turkeys, and a couple of deer in the stream.  I would have been better if there had been another foot or so of water in the stream, as we often had to get out of the boats and walk them through the shallow rapids.  This was especially tedious for Bob and Jamie in their canoe.  It slowed us down a bit, but the float only took 35 minutes longer than usual.  We stopped at a big gravel bar and hunted rocks for awhile  We found some really cool fossils and geodes.  Bob and Jamie were impressed with the bluffs, which appear to be about 100 feet high in places.  There were many firsts for them, especially Jamie–first time she dropped the paddle, first time falling in the stream on her rear, first time canoeing the Wyaconda and the Mississippi.  It was just sprinkling when we got out.  It didn’t matter to me, as I was all wet anyway.  Jamie used my phone in the steep bluff portion with only one little bar of signal, and it worked.  Go razr!  Jamie had to go take her mother to the doctor.  Bob and I shuttled the boats back to the put-in with only one good strap and a bunch of bungies.  They held.  When I opened the door of my truck, a monarch butterfly flew out.  It must have come from the caterpillar I lost in there a couple of weeks ago.   We went back to Canton and had a late lunch and a beer at the Riverside Smoke House.  That was a pretty good end to the day.

The serene Wyaconda.

Bob navigates the shallows while Jamie plays the Princess.

Damselfly spreading its wings on a holy rock.  I now own the rock.

Jamie demonstrates the butt dunking technique.

Our favorite gravel bar was covered with water willow, but only this one was in bloom.

Bob and Jamie provide scale for these bluffs, which are not even the highest along the stream.

The American Rubyspot, my favorite damselfly.

The deer on the right is wading and eating.  The one on the left appears to be pooping.

I put on the teleconverter for more magnification.  These deer didn’t leave until we were pretty close.

Wednesday morning I got up at 3:30 and let Boots out.  When we got up later that morning, he had killed a small rabbit, disemboweled it, ate half of it, and left the remains on the back porch.  This is the same cat that is supposedly suffering from a chronic condition.  Here we’re expecting him to die any day, and he’s still out there hunting.  The rest of Wednesday was yard work day.  I planted some bulbs Stacey had gotten and repotted a cactus.  Then came the fun:  I went all over the back yard on my knees lopping off trumpet creepers and dabbing Tordon on the stumps with a toothbrush.  This was very tedious, but it might actually work.  I took a couple of small branches to the brush dump and brought back a couple of logs.  I chainsawed those, plus a few others I had collected a few days ago.  The chain was pretty sharp and I figured it was a good time to shorten the stump on the old boxelder tree at the rental house.  I no sooner got started on that and the chainsaw ran out of gas.  I drove home, refueled and went back.  Of course, my cut went off track while going around the stump and I didn’t finish at my starting place.  I cut all the way around again and got it right.  I  propped up the butt log to let it air dry.  I’ll split it later when it starts to crack.  I parked the truck in the garage and walked home, stopping at Nancy’s to chat.  She hasn’t seen many butterflies this year either.  We saw a couple in her prairie, but nothing like we should be getting. 

Thursday I spent most of the day putting the finishing touches on a book chapter.  I need to get it done so that I can move on to other writing projects.  After lunch, Savannah and I went down to the Methodist church to give blood.  Savannah was immediately deferred because she’s stll on antibiotics from her recent bout with strept throat.  I had all my vitals taken (healthy as a horse, as usual), and we got to answering all the questions.  Have you been out of the country within the past year?  Yes, Ecuador–Quito, Mindo, and Galapagos.  It turns out that Mindo is now considered a malaria zone.  Ding!  I was deferred too.  Later, they called me twice and sent a letter to be sure I knew why.  Duh!

Friday morning I went out to Lowell’s.  At first, the bass weren’t interested in my big buzzbait.  Then I caught maybe one on a spinnerbait.  It was time to try something radically different, and I tied on a slug-go worm.  It worked immediately, and I caught 13 fish in three rounds of the lake.  Some were of decent size, but the small ones we saved and filleted.  After lunch I helped a little with the floating dock reattachment project.  On the way out I stopped in Lewistown.  I gave Jamie the photos of her and Bob from the float trip.  I also left some material and a pattern with her neighbor Charlotte to sew me a shirt.  The material has wasps all over it.

Green heron.

Red-spotted purple on dock.  This seems to be the only butterfly species at normal levels this year.

Painted turtle.

We were all surprised when Stacey’s Dad, sister and stepmom showed up that afternoon.  Stacey was apparently unclear on this.  I went to answer the doorbell.  Stacey was downstairs not feeling too well.  She said she would not see any visitors.  I said she pretty much had to come upstairs for these.  In any case, we had a nice dinner at the Smokehouse. 

Saturday morning we got up crazy early to go to swim finals.  Normally, August 1 here is hotter than blazes, with humidity to match.  It was already raining when we woke up.  It rained all the way to Pittsfield (over an hour).  We got a small break while setting up our canopy, a Coleman geodesic dome type.  At this venue, spectators can’t even go into the pool area.  We have to sit outside the fence and peer in.  Many people have Easy-Ups, and it was our experience three years ago that prompted us to get the canopy.  I expected it to shelter us from the sun, but this day it actually sheltered us from rain.  Good thing, or we’d have been soaked.  From our vantage though, we were able to get a good view of Savannah’s races.  She did
well in her races, taking first in medley relay and third in breast stroke (there were a couple of giantesses she couldn’t beat).  All of her races contributed to the point total, which allowed Can-Oka team to win the River Country Championships again.  That’s I think the twelfth time in thirteen years.  Quite a record.  Savannah slept all the way home.  We barbequed for dinner and hung out awhile.  Savannah and Krystal went to a movie, Phil and Rhonda went back to the hotel, and Stacey and I went to bed. 

Sunday morning Phil dropped off some doughnuts early, then went back to the motel to retrieve the ladies.  I read the paper and they came back an hour or so later.  We had breakfast and chatted.  Savannah went off to work, and the Nicholas family headed back to Indiana.  Stacey had a preaching job in Hannibal to make.  I went on my usual bike ride.  I saw another coyote right away.  Too bad I didn’t take my camera this time.  When I got back into Canton I still felt pretty good so I rode around the riverfront and stuff.  I came up the hill on the college concourse, which was a granny gear affair.  Curiously, there were no cicada killers in the flower beds where there hand been dozens last year at this time.  Once home I set up the canopy in the back yard to dry it out.  I showered and hid indoors the rest of the day.

Monday we woke to overcast skies.  It seemed to get only darker as the morning went on.  It thundered and lightninged, but we didn’t get a huge amount of rain.  By noon, the sun was shining and it was warm.  I spent much of the day analyzing data and working on a manuscript.  We’ve been working on the distribution of cicada killers for about six years.  This is going to be a monstrosity.  Stacey would have been home early, except that there was a fire call just as she arrived.  A house in town was on fire.  She spent all afternoon there.  I brought her some clothes and shoes to change into around 7 when it was time to clean up trucks and stuff. Right after I got home, they were called out again because the fire rekindled.  She finally got home around 9.  She wasn’t home 20 minutes before they were called out again.  Dang place won’t go out.  I was watching the Cubs game and working on my bike.  The Cubs won, and the bicycle is now ready to travel.  Part of the strategy of driving my truck on the upcoming trip is to be able to take my bike along.

July 24 – Shaw Nature Reserve

Tuesday morning I was woken at about 4 by Savannah, who was pretty sick.  I got her some pills and sent her back to bed.  When will this child sleep through the night!  That afternoon I left for St. Louis.  I stopped at the relatively new Cabelas at the giganto St. Louis Mills mall.  I bought a few minor items, grabbed some fast food for dinner, and went to the MoNEP meeting.  It was a pretty good one, and I learned some things.  I handed over my snake print and showed some fly pics during the show and share.  Afterward I went to Shaw Nature Reserve, only about 30 minutes away.  It was a little tricky navigating in the dark, but James Trager, a staff member there, met me and showed me to my cabin.  I had actually met him about 25 years ago at an ESA meeting.  He’s an ant guy.  My bed had sheets but no blanket.  I was a bit cold that night, which is weird for July.  I had forgotten how loud the katydids are down there too.  Wednesday morning I met Lydia, who had recruited me for this gig, and she took me to the building where I met the 8 high school students I would be leading that day.  I gave them the short version of the dragonfly talk and we headed out into the field.  Shaw Nature Reserve is a very large area, with huge prairies and nice wetlands.  I was in heaven!  The weather was overcast and cool, which was blissfully comfortable for us, but terrible for dragonflies.  Nothing was flying.  We spotted most of them perching in the vegetation around the wetlands.  We totaled only 7 species for the day, which I thought was pretty good under the circumstances.  We saw a lot of garter snakes and water snakes, mostly trying to sun themselves.  We saw a lot of area.  The prairies were in great color because of all the flowers.  Some of the other staff were pointing out other insects and plants we would find.  I learned a lot too. 

Spangled skimmer.  This may be the best D-fly pic I’ve ever taken.  It’s hard to tell at this resolution, but every wing vein is crisp.

A scorpionfly.  I hadn’t seen one in a long time.  Not sure what the red thingy is.

Bird poop?  It’s actually the caterpillar of the giant swallowtail.
Wheel bug.

Look, Mom, no hands!  Paper wasp with macerated caterpillar.

Cloudless sulfur caterpillar.

Prairie blazing star.

The Slaty Skimmer, a new addition to my virtual collection.

Slaty skimmer being eaten by praying mantis.  Predator vs. predator.
Fishing spider.  This is a different species from the one I had as a pet a few weeks ago (now pickled in alcohol).
Banded Pennant, the second new addition to my virtual dragonfly collection.

The kids left at 3:30 and went back to my cabin and took a nap.  It was a long one, but I was well rested afterward.  I had dinner with a bunch of Mo. Dept. of Conservation people that were there for an entomology workshop.  That was a lot of fun because they had collected some really interesting things, and we got to talk about bugs a lot.  They put up blacklights on white sheets that night and attracted a lot of insects.  Most weren’t that interesting, at least before I went to bed. 

When we got up in the morning there were a couple of nice imperial moths on one of the sheets.  I put one on a tree trunk and shot the heck out of it.  It was supposed to be a warmer, sunny day, but it started out raining.  We saw no dragonflies at all at first, and things were looking really bad.  Finally, we started seeing some perching on the plants, but only about two species.  We continued around the big wetland, the sun came out, and the dragonflies went absolutely nuts.  They were flying all over, mating and ovipositing.  We started seeing species we hadn’t seen the day before (though this was a different group of students).   I photographed a couple of species I had never seen before, and we spotted a few others that we could not confirm, but suspect are additional species.  Our efforts are the first to attempt to survey the dragonflies of Shaw Nature Reserve.  I think we confirmed 10 species: blue dasher, eastern pondhawk, spangled skimmer, widow skimmer, common whitetail, halloween pennant, slaty skimmer, common green darner, banded pennant, eastern amberwing, and black saddlebags.  I’m pretty sure we saw comet darner and red saddlebags, but I wasn’t able to photograph those, as they never stopped flying.  There are almost certainly more, as we recorded no clubtails. 

Imperial moth.

5-lined skink.

 On the way out I stopped at a nursery and bought a bunch of prairie plants.  They filled the trunk of the Lil Egg.  I drove home through some horrendous thunderstorms.

Friday morning I went out to John Berghofer’s again.  We fished the neighbor’s 20-acre lake, which is known for its 5-lb bass.  I caught about 10 bass, but no big ones.  I did catch a couple of catfish that gave me quite a tug, as well as a couple of bluegill.  I caught almost all on a white spinner.  We toured the lodge by this lake.  It’s so nice, I won’t even take the time to describe it.  From there I went to QU, where Leo and I planted all the prairie plants that were still in my trunk.  Leo brought a bucketful too.  It’s really filling in out there, and we are up to 41 species.  I ran some errands and went home.

The lake was covered in a layer of mist when we started. 

Saturday morning I went out to LaBelle for a Camera Club meeting.  They had coffee and delicious muffins.  We socialized a lot, and took pictures of flowers.  I saw a Great Golden Digger wasp that I wanted to shoot, but she took off and didn’t come back to her burrow during the lengthy period waited for her.  Nearly all of us had lunch in town.  From there I went to Lowell’s.  I gave him a hand straightening out the floating dock, then we fished two rounds of the lake.  I caught four bass and a large crappie–not bad for the middle of the day. 

Some kind of lily.

Sunday morning I read the paper on the back porch while drinking coffee.  Normally, this is a quiet peaceful moment that I cherish.  This time the neighbor’s little dog was yapping the whole time.  Stacey made pancakes for breakfast.  I planted a buttonbush and a passionflower vine that I had gotten Thursday.  I took a small amount of brush down to the dump, and brought back a few logs and bricks.  I put the truck away, played musical cars and went indoors for the day. 

An interesting exchange from the afternoon:
Stacey: Bo
ots puked on the bed, but the good news is that he did in on one of Savannah’s shirts.
Savannah:  Was it a good one?
Stacey:  Yeah, it was a good puke.
Joe gives Stacey a high five.

Monday I was feeling really lethargic and couldn’t get motivated to do much.  I took two naps.  I took Boots to the vet.  He’s lost some weight.  He’s 13 years old, which means he could have anything from diabetes to hyperthyroidism.  We ran a urine test, but it didn’t tell us much.  His kidneys were OK, but he was a bit dehydrated.  With a couple hundred dollars worth of testing, we could probably figure it out, but it’s just not worth spending that much on an old cat.  We couldn’t do much even if we did know what chronic condition he has.  All we can do is feed him wet adult food and keep an eye on him.

Savannah came home in the late afternoon and was going to go to the State Park with her boyfriend Matt.  I decided to tag along, and loaded the kayak into the truck.  I did hook one nice fish, but lost it as I was reaching for the net.  There were a lot of gar rising and busting little minnows at the surface.  I had one bite, but they’re hard to hook well, as their mouths have no soft tissue.  The kids tried swimming for a short time, then Matt caught a couple of fish from shore.  I let him try out the Coyak for a while.  They went on a hike while I kept on fishing.  I got off the lake before sunset as they were finishing up the hike.  They didn’t exactly know the way back to their vehicle,  I tried to direct them over the phone, but I had forgotten one new trail. They got semi-lost.  I drove over to their parking lot and went to retrieve them.  I saw the same three deer they did, two does and a nice little buck.  Savannah had always done that trail by bike or skis before.  It feels a lot longer when you’re walking!  They were pretty tired, and Savannah was definitely crabby.

July 15 – Sha-doo-bee, shattered

Tuesday I went in to Quincy.  First was an employees meeting to discuss our health benefits.  Costs are going up.  No surprise there.  I met with a prospective student and her mother.  It went really well.  I hope she comes to QU; I need the environmental majors.  I met Leo for lunch, then we went to a friend’s house to dig up some plants and transplant them to our prairie.  That added about 40 plants and two new species to the mix.  Overall, the prairie looks pretty good.  All the plants appear to be alive, and we’ve had some intrusion by weeds, but only small annuals so far.  It was raining lightly, so we didn’t have to water the plants.  It kept us cool, too.   I ran some errands, went home, took a nap, and went to a swim meet.  I volunteered to be a timer, since I hadn’t yet this year.  We had a 30 minute interruption after some lightning, which meant we didn’t get done until 9:30.  That was a long meet.  Savannah won breast stroke, as usual.  She won her heat in 50 yard freestyle, but not the race.  She had a new boy friend over after the meet.  Seemed like a nice guy.  At least he likes to fish.

Wednesday morning I woke with a big headache.  I don’t know if it was the swim meet or the lack of a proper dinner that caused it.  Maybe both.  I worked on the computer for most of the day, grading papers and stuff.  I did take the camera with macro lens and ring flash out in the yard for awhile.

My little honey bee.

If this is Royal Catchfly…

…this must be the royal fly.

Cosmo in the front yard.

Thursday I did little projects until the guy showed up to make an estimate on replacing our gutters.  After lunch I went down to Capps and played musical phones again.  Now I have a new Razr and Stacey has my old phone.  Not long after I got back, Fedex showed up to deliver Stacey’s 26 boxes of 43 lb each.  I stacked them in the garage.  The delivery person was one of my former students, so It was good to see and talk to her (in person, as opposed to on Facebook).   The boxes are full of big coffee mugs with Census 2010 printed on them.  Stacey gets to give them away.  I walked over to my truck, which I had parked across the street the previous night, to get my GPS.  My neighbor happened to be coming out to her vehicle and she mentioned that there had been a bag of trash on my truck earlier, but it had been removed.  She said she had been having problems with these other neighbors (renters of a beat-up old house).  I opened the door to get into the truck and noticed my windshield had been broken.  Right in the middle, like a big spider web going top to bottom.  Great.  I’ve never had a problem with these neighbors, but it’s possible they don’t like me parking next to their house, even though it’s a public roadway.  A little later the refrigerator quit.  Turned out the GFCI outlet had tripped.  Actually, Stacey figured that out.  I reset it and it tripped again a few hours later.  Something’s going on.  And then I was washing a snake water bowl and dropped it in the sink, breaking it.  My good luck trend is clearly over.

Friday morning I loaded up the kayak in the truck and drove out to Ewing reservoir, only to find it was closed.  I continued on to Deer Ridge, as I was more than halfway there.  It was an incredibly cool day, and lovely.  I saw lots of wildlife.  I went around the entire lake in the morning hours.  I was using a black buzzbait and a small, purple spinner.  I caught 10 bass, only one of which was over 12 inches.  That’s typical for Deer Ridge–no big fish.  I had the most fun in a shallow arm where a creek feeds in.  There were a bunch of minnows in there.  I think I pulled three out of that spot.  It turned out to be a windy day too, which is great when going with the wind, but difficult when going against it.  If I had had a sail I really could have made time across that lake. 

This Eastern Kingbird let me pull the kayak right under its tree.  Actually, it was chasing my lure on every cast.

After I came home and ate lunch I ran a load down to the brush dump.  I brought back a trash can full of dirt and a huge sheet of black plastic.  Also I found an old backpack.  There was no dead baby in it.  I found a thorn-shaped treehopper in the window and set him up in the home studio.

Sit still and act like a thorn.  It’s a good strategy if you look like one.  Also, it makes it easy to photograph.

I picked up this guy off the back porch.  Remind you of anything?  Ever seen Starship Troopers?  I think it’s a juvenile leaf-footed bug.

Saturday we went down to Hannibal to pick up Stacey’s power cord.  While we were there we went to see Harry Potter. It was very good, and faithful to the book.  We also went to the hardware store to pick up the screen door.  We flipped down the back seats of the Taurus, but the door was too big by one inch.  We left it hanging out the trunk and took it to Stacey’s office for temporary storage.

Sunday I went out to Lowell’s early.  On the drive out I hit a quail.  I felt really bad, and cursed myself, even though I had tried to slow down.  We did three rounds of the lake.  The fish were biting pretty well, especially early on.  I was using a black buzzbait.  We took a break and drove around in the mule, digging up a few plants for the QU prairie.  Lowell has completed rebuilding one bridge, which looks very stout now.  We got lunch in Ewing and went back for another round of the lake.  I caught a nice bass on a spinner, but that was it for the whole trip.  We cut free the old cedar trees that were hanging from a floating goose nest (fish habitats), and towed the next platform in, as it was in need of maintenance.  We went up and fished the catfish pond.  Lowell caught three bass and I washed my lure. 

Ladybug on rough blazing star.                                   Big fly with hairy butt.

Monday I took the truck in to Quincy to get the windshield fixed.  I dropped it off and rode my bike down to Quinsippi Island, took some photos, and rode up to QU.  I got my mail and went to North Campus.  They had returned my repaired computer to my office.  I got some work done, then Leo came over.  We picked up my truck, which had the plants from Lowell’s in it, and went back to North Campus.  We planted those, plus several more that Leo had brought.  We watered them, and showed the secretary how to turn on the water, as she offered to water after I’m gone.  Most of the plants, or at least those we put in with the first effort, are looking good.  Some are even flowering.  I stopped at Jed’s to talk to Laura, and ended up eating lunch there.  I ran some other errands, but the Ben Franklin store had not mounte
d my print.  So I took it back and bought some foam board and spray adhesive to do it myself. 

Leo pointed out this sow thistle, a weed with very interesting leaves.

When I got home Savannah was with her beau.  I was downstairs working on something when she yelled for me to come upstairs.  I was as surprised as her to see a deer in the back yard.  While I was photographing it through the sliding glass door, another appeared. I believe they were twin fawns.  Later I opened the door and used the big lens, for better results.

Curious deer in the back yard.

The time has come to tell this tale.  A few weeks ago, I received an email with the subject line, “Looking for an Entomologist for TV Show!”  I read with disbelief as a casting agent from California was asking me if I or someone I knew would be interested in hosting a TV show based on bugs.  “Female or male entomologist, 30-45 years old with super outgoing personality who is CRAZY about bugs!!”  I said I knew someone ideal for the job: ME!  So she emails back saying she’d like to set up an interview via Skype.  Meanwhile, I sent her a photo of myself, a brief biography, and samples of some of my work.  I was pretty excited.  She never emailed back to set up the interview.  She has also not responded to a follow-up email I recently sent.  I thought, “Geez, my photo must be really scary!”  They say opportunity knocks but once.  In my case, opportunity was playing Doorbell Ditch.

At least it didn’t leave a flaming bag of poo.

July 9 – Two-poem special

Thursday I decided it was time to take down the rest of the half dead box elder at the rental property.  I had my chains sharpened by George first.  I used big ratchet straps to pull the tree toward the still-standing silver maple.  I notched and felled the tree.  It came down right where I wanted it–not on the house or in the street, but in between.  I limbed and bucked for awhile, then hauled a load of brush down to the dump.  There were some good logs in there and I cut them up and brought them home.  Someone had dumped most of a large American Basswood.  This is excellent carving wood, and I set aside a few logs for future projects.  Guess I can always burn my mistakes!  I made three trips to the brush dump and back.  I didn’t quite finish off the box elder, but my firewood racks are nearly full.  What a relief.  We’ll be ready for next winter.  I used the new chainsawing helmet (with attached ear muffs and face shield) that I had picked up in Wisconsin.  It worked great.  I’ll cut up the rest of the box elder another day.

Returning from vacation produced a few surprises.  The home prairie is in full bloom, with purple coneflowers, monarda, and others flowering.  Savannah had shot a rabbit in the back yard with the BB gun, but left the carcass for me to dispose of.  Stacey noticed an odor in the basement but couldn’t figure it out.  After I smelled it, the logic circuits began to operate, and I deduced that we had caught another mouse in the remaining trap I had set.  The mouse had died sometime while we were gone and was beginning to produce decomposition gases.  I found it and threw it out.  The fishing spider also died while I was gone.  Too bad.  They say deaths come in threes.  We apparently got an inch of rain in our absence (on the 4th).  The trumpet creepers that I had sprayed with Round-Up was all dead.  So was the lawn around them, but I expected that.  Maybe I’m winning that war.

I forgot to mention that we had fried cheese curds in Wisconsin.  Even Stacey ate them.  Stacey put a bunch of the Wisconsin pics up on Facebook, for those who may be interested.  I went kind of long last week so I’ll put Ron’s poem in this issue.


Last year, “There are no fish in Ron’s River”, Joe said 

Further he said, “Ron’s River is dead” 

This year he may sing a different tune 

Because he knows Ron’s River is truly a boon 

He caught more northern than ever before 

And the rest of his fishing wasn’t a bore 

Over in the lily pads he got a big strike 

And immediately he knew it was something he did like 

He grunted and groaned with all his might 

And got really excited when the fish was within sight 

For on the end of the line was a 5-pound bass 

That he pulled from Ron’s River’s grass 

Remember, he used my boat, rod, reel, bait and I was the guide 

I just wanted all of you to know before he lied 

He’ll probably say HE caught the fish 

But without me he wouldn’t have fulfilled his wish 

Ron Cronacher, Owner of Ron’s River

Guide Extraordinaire

Friday we went to Quincy and ran errands.  I dropped off some stuff at my office, including the bear skull.  We were all the way back to main campus before I remembered that I had a phone message.  After getting my mail, we went back to North Campus.  The message was a hang-up.

Saturday was my birthday.  We didn’t know if Stacey was going to have to work the County Fair in the firefighting capacity, so we made no plans.  It turned out that she didn’t, and we had a relaxing day at home.  I reviewed a manuscript and got some simple tasks done.  I found out one of my photos was accepted into a show by MONEP members at Powder Valley Conservation Area near St. Louis.  In the first email they didn’t tell me which of my submissions had made it.  Surprise!  It’s a snake.

This red-sided garter was in the road right outside Lowell’s house last fall.

In the afternoon I went out into my prairie to see what I could shoot.  My goal was to capture the flight of the bumble bee, so to speak.

This was the best of many, many attempts.  Physics is against me here, as you need fast shutter speed to freeze the action and small aperture to get enough depth of field.  The darn sun just isn’t bright enough!

These bee flies (Bombylius) are a lot more cooperative.

I didn’t notice until later examination of the image that this robber fly was eating a tiny wasp.

This gorgeous jumping spider hopped into the vegetation after just three frames.

I bought a kaleidoscope-like toy at Shell Lake to demonstrate the insect compound eye in class.  I didn’t experiment with it long, but this gives you the idea.

Garden phlox through fly’s eyes.

Sunday morning I read the paper on the back porch with a cup of coffee.  I geared up for a bike ride, only the second of the summer.  I was riding past a house and saw a little dog on the front stoop.  He was so still I thought he was a statue–until he started running after me.  I figured with his short legs I’d outdistance him, but he wouldn’t give up.  I stopped on the Wyaconda bridge to let him catch up and greet him, so that maybe he’d go home afterward.  No such luck.  He’d get distracted by some roadside diversion and I’d think I’d lost him, then he’d come running up behind me again.  I decided to reverse my route and do the loop in the opposite direction.  That way when I went past his house he might stay there.  Nope.  He kept following, but I lost him by taking a short cut.  I did the loop out through Amish country and saw a lot of horses.  On the way back on route F I saw a coyote.  I got out my camera from a fanny pack without stopping and tried to follow him.  Of course, I had the short lens
on, and he had put some distance between us by the time I caught up. 

I shouldn’t show an image this bad.  It’s embarrassing. 
When I got back to highway 16, the dog picked me up at his house again.  Dang!  I encountered a couple of ladies with a flat tire.  They said they had help on the way.  The dog stopped to greet them and I kept going.  I stopped to pick up a rubber tie-down, and thought someone might be losing their load.  Twenty yards farther on I picked up another, figuring the load was significantly less secure. A doe came out on the side of the road like she was going to cross, then ran back into the woods.  Another twenty yards and I picked up a big draw bar pin.  Someone definitely lost their load!  Then the damn dog caught up with me.  I was almost back to 61 when I found a horseshoe, obviously from an Amish horse.  I picked that up too, glad that the ride was almost over with all the extra weight I was now carrying.  The dog followed.  I was almost home when the dog got distracted by something.  I rounded a corner, zipped into the garage and closed it. 

At the risk of breaking my policy of publishing no more than one Ron poem per blog, here’s another he wrote in honor of my birthday.


Happy Bugguyday, lover of the insect 

Like the Pied Piper, they come to your call and beck 

I bet you thought I forgot but not so 

The orgy ladies really had me on the go 

As the ladder of age we climb 

It’s not how far but what we do with our time 

No matter the age, you’re a young kid 

Since it’s obvious from Father Time you hid 

The next time you fish Ron’s River so great 

You will have to bring your own bait 

Since my gift to you is a 5-pound bass 

That you caught out of Ron’s River grass 

Anyway Happy Bugguyday, have a good time 

And I hope you enjoy your special rhyme 

Your Friend and Fishing Guide


I put the ring flash on the macro lens and prowled around the prairie.  It compensated for the overcast day, and made exposure faster and more predictable.

This caterpillar may be what’s eating the apical meristems off my cup plants.  I shouldn’t have let him live.

I’m really starting to like flies.  They have a lot of character.

This paper wasp worker was trying to carry this macerated bit of caterpillar back to the nest, and took a rest on the side of the house.  I’m really liking the ring flash now. 

Savannah has been going to the fair every night and enjoying the events and the live band.  She didn’t have to work Sunday, but went to the usual teen nightclub with her friend.  Since she was all dressed up, I asked her to pose for me to practice some portrait photography.  This is 3-point lighting plus flash.

This was a spontaneous moment between poses.  You can see our investment in her teeth has paid off.

Monday morning I took the kayak out for some local fishing.  I was given permission to fish these two farm ponds at an ATV run last winter, and hadn’t gotten around to it until now.  I tried the north one first, as it was bigger, maybe 4 acres.  Getting there was a challenge, as my truck wouldn’t fit down the ATV trail.  So I pulled the kayak maybe 100 yards down and up and through tall weeds to get to the pond.  I figured I’d pay with 10,000 chigger bites, but I hadn’t counted on paying with a rod.  One of my rigs stuck in the weeds, bent back, and broke in two places.  At least it was an old one I had gotten at a garage sale maybe 15 years ago.  That left me just the spinning outfit.  As it was early, I tried a buzzbait for a long time, then a spinner, then a rat-l-trap, then a topwater popper.  No bites.  At least it was lovely weather and a pretty place.  There was a lot of standing timber, deadfalls, and brush piles.   Finally, I tried an orange curlytail grub and caught a small crappie (I think) that got off next to the boat.  I gave up on that lake.  I pulled the kayak up on the shore and drove the truck around and down the hill on a route that I should have taken in the first place. 

I loaded up and moved to the south lake.  It was smaller, but just as attractive.  I used a chartreuse spinnerbait, and made it 3/4 of the way around before anything bit.  There was a shallow arm with some wood in it that reminded me of a spot at Lowell’s lake where I almost always catch a fish.  I cast up in there and hooked a good fish that measured 16 inches.  For this one, I used the new fish grabber I got for my birthday.  I took its picture and put it back, thinking that was the biggest bass I’ve caught out of the kayak.  I continued around, caught another small fish.  On the second round I cast up next to a log and hooked a big one.  It jumped and looked like it had a mouth I could put my fist in.  It pulled the kayak around and bend the rod over.  The line broke and the lure stayed with the fish.  I guessed it was 4 or 5 pounds.   I didn’t take it too hard, and found another similar spinnerbait in the little tackle box.  I caught another foot long bass in the same arm as the first fish, and a tiny one farther down.   It was getting toward lunch time, but I thought I’d try the spot where I’d hooked the big one.  Before I even got there I threw the lure over to a different log and hooked something quite large. It didn’t jump, and fought like a catfish.  When I got it up to the surface it was a bass, and it measured 20 inches.  A five pounder is supposed to be 19 inches.  This one was a bit thin, but probably would go 5.  Fortunately, I had done some experiments in positioning my camera on the bow of the kayak to take a self portrait.

This is definitely the biggest bass caught from the kayak. 

You can also see the new kayaking dork hat I bought in Wisconsin.  It
kept my nice and cool.  I look like a mushroom head, but I don’t get a sunburn.  I fished just a little more, then packed up and headed out.  I ended up with 5 bass and two bluegills.

I felt pretty good that afternoon and I cut up the remainder of the boxelder maple, stacked the wood and hauled the last of the brush.  Stacey and I had dinner at the Mexican restaurant.   I think I’ve said it before, but I’m having a pretty good year.

June 30 – Vacation

Tuesday I was invited to fish at John Burghofer’s.  I met he and his wife Liz at my POLIS talks.  They have a very nice place outside of LaGrange.  We started fairly early in the morning, and the fish in the pond were hitting topwater baits.  That’s always fun.  I caught a bass on my first cast.  Five more followed, plus a bluegill.  The fishing slowed down around midmorning and we quit.  John took me on a little driving tour of his place.  I was seeing a lot of dragonflies and butterflies, so I took a hike after that with the long lens on my camera.  I took over 800 frames.  A few proved viable. 

This is the common wood nymph.  Apparently, they taste good…

…because this is the cobra clubtail eating a common wood nymph.

Hemaris, the clear-winged sphinx.

Damselfly eating a small butterfly, I think.

Pipevine swallowtail on milkweed.

Halloween pennant.

Tiger swallowtail on the wing.

I changed my bug photography studio into a people studio, temporarily.

My alien clone.

This is the one I’m using in all official university correspondence.

That evening I went out in the back yard to try some long exposures on the fireflies.  It was much more difficult than I thought.  This was the best one I got, and closest to what I was shooting for..

It’s a little bit artsy, and I got three in the frame.

Japanese beetles are quite pretty close up.  Ember the Tokay gecko has been eating so many, her poo is iridescent green.

Wednesday I went out to Lowell’s.  The bass were biting on topwater baits there too.  I caught a total of 7 in two rounds of the lake.  More significantly, the average size of the fish seems to be going up.  Our years of culling and filleting foot-long bass are coming to fruition! 

Here’s the “big” one I caught…

…which was soon upstaged by Lowell’s.

From there I went to my office to pick up some stuff and water the prairie.  I mowed the lawn and watered plants when I got home.  Finally, I’m ready to leave on vacation.

We left Thursday morning.  Driving the full length of Iowa was only interesting for all the old barns and churches.

This one’s so impressive, they have a Spire Appreciation Day.

Our short stretch of Minnesota yielded this water tower in Rochester, home of the Mayo Clinic.

I’m not really big on photographing architecture, but this courthouse in Pierce County Wisconsin was impressive.

This is one of the best skies I’ve ever seen.

We got to Ron’s River Estate in the evening and went out to dinner.  Afterward, I couldn’t resist throwing a few casts from the dock.  I was using one of those funny, long buzzbaits.  Something hit it three times on the retrieve, but didn’t get hooked.  I tied on a normal, short buzzbait, and hooked a northern pike.  I haven’t caught one in about 25 years.  I caught another a few minutes later.

Joe & Ron on the dock at the RE.

Friday morning we went garage saling.  We found some bargains, and saw some things we don’t get down our way.  I got a camera kit for #2.  It was film gear, but the Canon flash works on my 40D.

This garter snake was at one of the garage sales.  We called him stubby.

We went up to Minong, which is the home of Jack Link’s meat snack products.  I bought a new fishing rod at a garage sale for $15.  Good deal.  I caught a fish on it (another northern) later with a reel that Ron provided.  I caught 4 more on a buzzbait, and a modest bass.  We did a little shopping that day, and Stacey cooked dinner.  We went to Shell Lake for the fireworks, but when we got there it was pouring rain and so crowded we didn’t think we could get a parking space.  We turned around and went home. 

Saturday (the 4th of July) morning we went to some more garage sales and to the Art Fair in Shell Lake.  It was really cool art, but mostly too expensive for us.  Afterward we drove around the lake and saw all the fine vacation homes.  When we got back to Spooner, we visited the farmer’s market and bought some veggies.

Pretty vegetables all in a row.  Rutabagas anyone?

Ron has many visitors to his bird feeders, including Charlie the Chipmunk.
We fished that afternoon, while Stacey stayed in the house sewing.  I caught a tiny bass and three more Northern Pike. 
We went to the fireworks in Spooner early, and had no trouble getting a good parking space.  I took photos the whole time, using Ron’s tripod.  A few turned out pretty good.  Mosquitoes were consuming my blood the entire time, but I never got the itchy bumps.  Stacey, however, got them on her feet.


Pretty wierd.
Sunday I woke early to the sound of Eagles  shrieking in the trees.  We always slept with the windows open.  I should say we thoroughly enjoyed the cool, dry weather.  It was a nice break from the hot, humid Missouri summer.  We had this idea that we’d catch a bunch of yellow perch and fry them up for dinner.  Ron and I went out and bought every kind of live bait and dug through all his tackle for perching gear.  We tried a number of rigs, baits and locations, but only Ron raised a perch, and that a small one. At one point I was putting out the front anchor and letting the rope slide through my hands when an ice jig went all the way through my thumb.  It actually was fairly shallow under the skin, so I smashed down the barb with pliers and ran it out backward.  After a few hours we gave up and fished back to the RE.  I caught another northern.

Most of the northerns I caught were about this size.  A couple were hammer handles, but one was a bit larger.  I kept hoping for the 10 pounder or better.
Stacey made dinner again and Ron and I went out for the evening fishing, which seemed to work best with the fish hitting topwater baits.  I caught a northern pretty quickly.  We were in a corner directly across from the RE when something big hit my buzzbait.&
nbsp; I thought it was going to be that 10-lb northern.  But when I got it close to the boat I saw it was a bass, and a nice one.  I netted it, landed it, and screamed like an idiot.

That is Ron’s River Estate, the white building on the left.  The fish measured 19 inches, which works out to 4.28 lb according to the chart, but this baby was fat.  Ron and I agree (on this, and little else) that it was pushing 5 lb.  Ron notes that this fish is larger than any largemouth bass that HE’s caught on Ron’s (AKA Yellow) River.  Also, that he only caught one tiny perch while I was there.  That makes him the superior guide, and me the big A-hole.  I can live with that.  This was the second or third-largest bass I’ve ever caught.  I’m having a heck of a year.
Some guy over on the public dock kept trying to get me to bring the fish over.  I’m sure wanted to kill and eat it, and he even said he didn’t believe in catch-and-release.  I maintained a friendly banter with him, but put it back in the water so Ron can take a crack at it. 

I did a little experimental night photography that evening.  I’ll let you guess how I did this.  It wasn’t with Photoshop.

Tuesday we drove north.  We stopped at Hayward to see the giant muskie at the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame, but we were a half hour ahead of their opening time. 

This is the best view I could get from outside.  Yes, that rail in the mouth means you can walk inside of it.
We stopped for a couple of garage sales at a town called Drummond (I think).  Now, all the time we’ve been talking about our odds of seeing a bear up in Wisc.  Ron’s only ever seen one.  We were at a garage sale and I found a small bear skull.  I bought it for two bucks.  This will make an excellent addition to our teaching collection at QU, as I have the students in Vert Field Bio learn a bunch of skulls by sight.  We also saw a dead porcupine by the roadside.  Too bad Stacey wouldn’t let me stop and cut its head off.  We arrived at Bayfield, on the shores of Lake Superior and took a ferry to our destination Madeline Island.  It’s quite beautiful.  The weather was perfect.  We went to the history museum, which was rather interesting.  We also visited a bunch of shops and ate lunch.  I had a whitefish sandwich, and it was good.

Lots of sailboats on Superior, or Gitchee Gumee, as the Indians say.

The museum has lots of interesting artifacts.  Stacey got a slight sunburn, though her large hat protected her face.
We took the ferry back to Bayfield and hit a bunch of the shops there, though our feet were tired by then.  We drove back to Hayward, but were way to late for the giant muskie.  We ate Chinese.  We passed the dead porcupine AGAIN without stopping.

Ron’s milkweeds have produced one monarch larva so far.

Runny Babbit, another frequent visitor to the bird feeders.
I took Ron’s kayak out for the sunset fishing hour.  It was a fun ride, but the fish weren’t biting.

We said our goodbyes Tuesday morning and Stacey and I headed south.  We stopped at Mall of America and spent about 4 hours there.  It was somewhat disappointing.  It’s just like all the other malls in this country, only bigger.  And there’s an amusement park in the center of it.  We went to the aquarium there, which is honestly pretty lame. 

Some gar in the freshwater portion.  Mostly it was too dark for photography.

LEGO dinosaurs in the amusement park.

The only thing that we really liked was a store call Ragstock, which was a lot like TJ Maxx.  We drove south and spent the night in Albert Lea, MN.  We ate dinner at Perkins, which was pretty bad.  Our drinks were bad, and Stacey’s “medium well” steak came to her blood rare.  We were going to go to a movie, but there was nothing playing we wanted to see.  I fell asleep early anyway.  Wednesday we drove home, mostly in the rain.  We really did not enjoy being back in the heat and humidity.  But it was good to be home, and to see Savannah again when she came home from work.  She had actually cleaned the house while we were gone.  She even scrubbed out the refrigerator.  Amazing!