January 27 – Raptor time

Gretchen doesn’t always have great awareness of her surroundings.  One day she was on our bed and her rear end slipped off the side.  I saw her face as she went over the edge.  I didn’t know dogs could produce such a distinct look of surprise.

Thursday after class I went down to the river in Quincy to photograph eagles and other things, but by the time I got there the sun was largely behind clouds.  I happened to run into my friend Dan from the camera club, so we went to his house to hang out for a couple of hours.  He has a chocolate lab–very sweet and very well trained.  I went to our basketball games after that.  We won them both, but the men’s was an exciting, come-from-behind type of win.

Friday I had just one meeting to attend.  I took Gretchen with me to the office.  She met lots of students and had a great time with that.  I was hoping she would chase the ball down the long hallways, but she was too distracted by people and the need to explore.  On the way home I checked out the state park.  The lakes were pretty frozen.  There were some waterfowl out in the middle of Agate Lake, but it was too far away to see.  I was hoping to spot the swans, which I had seen in a field last week.  I went down to the river, and there were more eagles than I have seen all year.  I counted  about 30 on the wing, and there were many more in the trees on the Illinois side.  There could have been a hundred.  Too bad it was overcast, too dark for effective photography.  The eagles were landing on the ice floes and flying around a lot. 

Saturday morning was clear, and I went right down to the river right after breakfast.  There were plenty of them, and they were active, but they didn’t give me that many good looks.  I got a few interesting behaviors though.

From Winter 2010

Unwelcome visitor.

From Winter 2010

Lone immature.

From Winter 2010

Fracas on ice.

From Winter 2010

Dos Aguilas.

From Winter 2010

This belted kingfisher flew in and landed in a nearby tree.  Wish it was nearer, but can’t complain.  It’s rare to get a shot of one of these at all.

After I got cold enough I went to the motorcycle swap meet in Hannibal.  It was about what I expected.  The smell of freshly oiled leather and cigarette smoke.  Lots of old parts, new jackets, saddlebags and the like.  All I bought was a lighter with a cool spider on it.  At least three people actually rode motorcycles to the thing, and it was probably under twenty degrees out.  I went to the new Italian restaurant in Quincy.  It was very good, and close to campus!  I met Lowell for the women’s basketball game, and I got there right at the tip-off.  Perfect.  We won fairly easily.  The men’s game–not so much.  I left at half-time because we were well behind, and none of the breaks were going our way.  I was almost home when I pulled off on my exit and saw a kestrel eating a vole on a post next to the road.  No one was coming, so I pulled out the old Panasonic and fired off as many shots as I could before it flew away.  There wasn’t much light, but I got a decent few shots anyway.

From Winter 2010

Everyone loves a little vole.  It’s best rare.

Sunday morning I went down to the river again.  I got some decent sequences of eagles catching fish.  I had Gretchen with me and she was growling at the eagles flying around over the river.   Dan and John showed up and Gretchen wanted to tear them apart, judging by the growling and barking she was doing.  I dropped her off at home and headed out to Lowell’s.  I met my student Shawn there for some ice fishing.  The action was not fast, but we did catch a few fish out of the catfish pond.  Shawn pulled out a 5.5-lb catfish after a long battle.  I caught three lesser ones and a bluegill.  It was a relatively warm day, as far as ice fishing goes, but it started to get cold after the sun went behind the trees.  We packed up the fishing gear and drove to the other side of the field to load my truck with firewood.  I wish I were 22 and fit.  We were hauling armloads of wood uphill, and it was killing me.  In one pile we found a group of about 10 deer mice huddling together.  I whacked a few to take back to my snakes.   Guess they were too stiff.  The snakes wouldn’t eat them.  I almost hit a hen turkey on the way home.  Would have been great to have that in my freezer.

From Winter 2010

Reach for it.

From Winter 2010

Decent shot of a red-tailed hawk on the raptor perch at Lowell’s.

From Winter 2010

Angel.

From Winter 2010

Devil.

Monday I went to the pet store to get fish for my lab and food for my pets.  I had filled the aquarium that morning, but by the afternoon the goldfish were all lying on the bottom, obviously in distress.  Dang it.  Many died during the lab.  I’ve never had this kind of mortality before.  The other problem is that we don’t have enough flasks for the whole class, as there are 35 students.  It’s going to be a challenging semester.

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January 2 – Back to School

My classes started on Tuesday, and it wasn’t an auspicious beginning.  First, I figured out that I had been assigned an awful classroom.  I steamed about it for awhile before I decided there wasn’t much I could do about it.  Then I had computer problems.  I started my new marine biology class, which is kind of fun.  Thursday night Stacey and I went to a hearing about the expansion of our fire district.  I learned a lot.  In particular, there are people who would apparently rather go without fire protection than pay taxes.  I think that’s a failed intelligence test. 

Friday I just had one meeting.  I had one crazed moment and elected myself chair of the committee.  At least it’s a worthy cause–trying to solve North Campus problems.  I drove the truck in so I could pick up some free barrels that the recycling center was giving away. 

We had a chemical spill over the weekend that turned into an overhyped event.  Less than 20 ml of harmless material was spilled by a custodian, and security called the haz-mat crew.  It made all the local news.  Then they had taken a bottle of gunpowder out of the chem lab and had it taken away by the ATF.  Now our chemist will have to go buy another bottle of gunpowder to teach his lab.

I got in touch with the curator for the Canton Area Arts Council.  Our Camera Club will be able to present a show in June in the art gallery.  Pretty exciting. 

Saturday was a Discovery Day.  I talked to a couple of students, but they weren’t interested in my area in particular, just areas in my Division that I don’t know as well.  At least our Math prof got a live one, which is rare.  It was probably the best time just talking to other faculty that I seldom see.  I had the free lunch and went home.

Sunday I went out to Lowell’s.  I delivered the barrels I had gotten at the recycling place.  We went for a walk on mucky soil.  We saw the pileated woodpecker twice.  It flew right over our heads at one point.  We’ve been trying to create nesting habitat for them, but without success so far.  I also saw an eagle fly low across the lake.  The ice was too melted for fishing.

In the afternoon I watched the Colts/Jets game.  It’s the first and only football game I’ve watched all season.  Monday morning I woke with a horrible neck ache.  I guess while watching the football game my neck was bent too far forward–I was lying on the bed with about three pillows propping me up.  Ouch.  I got through my classes OK.  In Bio II lab everybody repotted a plant and took it home.  I had all the sotol plants from Arizona that we rooted last fall.  I made sure everyone got their hands dirty.  I have to find ways to make these kids feel closer to the earth.

We’ve had solid overcast for days, so when the sun came out on Tuesday I tried to get home early and get down to the river for some eagle photos.  I took Gretchen with me.  She was cooperative, but the eagles were not.  Since I didn’t have any pics of wildlife this week, I did some portraits of Gretchen.  She’s a little large (14 lb now)  for the insect studio, but we made do.  She’s a very cooperative model.  Click through to the Picasa web album for more images of my favorite dog.

From Winter 2010

She looks pretty harmless, even adorable, here.  That’s very deceptive on her part.

January 13, 2010

Tuesday I went to the Kiwanis meeting with Charlie.  The speaker was a guy who runs a big greenhouse operation.  I learned some interesting things, and got to talk to him afterward.  I ran errands in the afternoon, dumped ashes at the brush dump and picked up an old Xmas tree for Nancy.  I had Gretchen with me and when we stopped at Nancy’s she went ape-wild over Nancy’s dogs.  She tried to play with Tiko, but he doesn’t play.  Gracie was feeling a bit territorial.  Still, it was good socialization for Gretch. 

Wednesday I watched eagles for a bit before heading out to Lowell’s.  He wasn’t expecting me that early, but I went out ice fishing while he waited for delivery of his generator, so it all worked out.  Actually, it was a good thing I was there because the tractor got stuck in the driveway and we pulled it out with my truck.  I caught five channel catfish from the pond, including a 7-pounder, a personal best through the ice.  We went to lunch at the newly remodeled diner in Lewistown.  I ran into one of my old students there.  I fished the lake for bluegills after lunch.  They weren’t biting very fast and furious, but I kept 9 and threw back 6. 

From Winter 2010

The eagle landing.

From Winter 2010

Ice fishing the catfish pond.

Thursday morning I put the truck back in the boathouse and walked Gretchen home from there.  She did well, except for the big golden retriever in a back yard we passed on the way home.  She was mighty tired after that.  In the afternoon I went in to the office to meet with a student.  We got his schedule straightened out so he can graduate.   I went to our basketball games after that.  We won both games.  The women’s game was a blowout, as we buried the opponent under a mountain of 3-pointers.  It was nice to see the bench play.  The men were well ahead at halftime when I left.  We had gotten a couple of dunks already.  A couple of my students showed up and I bought them hot dogs.  They both are quitting smoking.  I promised to buy them a nice lunch if they kept off cigarettes for the whole semester.  That night one of my former students, Brittany, was on the TV news.  She’s been in Haiti for several months.  They interviewed her via Skype about the earthquake.  She was on my first Galapagos trip.  She was far from the quake, but certainly felt it.  She was about to go to Port Au Prince to deliver medical supplies and help out. 

Friday morning Bob stopped by to drop off some images.  We decided to go out to breakfast, then to find things to photograph.  Being a foggy/overcast day, it was hard to find suitable subjects.  I showed Bob some of my favorite spots and we had fun just hanging out.

From Winter 2010

Opossum track–looks like the imprint of a starfish.

From Winter 2010

Icicle reflections in Dead Dog Creek.

January 7, 2010 – Deep freeze

We’ve been nearly housebound with the cold temperatures and snow.  Tuesday Stacey worked in Lewis County.  We went to a nursing home to pick up some paperwork.  We took Gretchen, who enjoyed meeting the residents.  We went to Kiwanis for the lunchtime meeting.  Wednesday I did get out to Lowell’s.  I couldn’t get any bait for ice fishing.  All we accomplished was loading my truck with firewood we had cut last February.  With the ground being frozen, I could drive my truck around back there without getting stuck.

Thursday I finished compiling my year-end statistics. 
Days afield: 138 – highest ever, mostly because every day in Ruby counted.
Largemouth bass: 144 – second highest total, and includes 4 fish over 5 lb.
Northern pike: 12 – most ever, all because of the Wisconsin trip.

New additions this year included a couple of saltwater species: white sea bass and sculpin.  After 15 years of keeping records, I’ve caught 2754 fish.

I took 18,996 photos, about 5000 more than last year.  There’s been approximately linear growth over the past 4 years.

Gretchen lost two fairly large teeth in one day.  We noticed when she was bleeding on her favorite penguin toy.  She did seem a bit slower than usual that morning.  With the additional 6 inches of snow we got on Thursday, she had to jump around outside during her walks. She has no fear of the snow.  She thinks she’s a malamute.  She continues to grow.  We weighed her on the 7th and she was 13 lb.  She was 6.5 when we got her.  She is quite strong and still extremely resilient.

Saturday morning I went out early to photograph eagles.  There were plenty of them but they weren’t very active.  There was a huge flock of ducks, but they wouldn’t come in range.  I gave up after getting really cold.  It was -3 that morning.  In the afternoon I went to the high school basketball games.  Our girls team came back from 15 points down to tie the game with three seconds left.  I thought for sure we were going into overtime, but the ref called a foul on us with no time remaining.  We lost by one.  I never saw the foul.  Our boys lost too.

From Winter 2010

Overflying eagle.

From Winter 2010

Cedar waxwing with berry.

I’ve been wanting to photograph this bird for years.  I got some distant/poor images last year.  One day I was walking Gretchen and I heard/saw them in the back yard.  I ran back for my camera and sneaked up on one.  Then another came down and landed very close.  They were feeding on the berries of bush honeysuckle.  Good thing I didn’t pull them all out.  It’s quite an attractive species of bird.  Too bad about the one twig in front.

From Winter 2010

Best cardinal shot I’ve gotten in awhile.

Monday morning I stopped down by the river to check on the eagles.  It’s a good thing because they were putting on a show.  I had just read some tips for photographing birds in flight and changed some settings on my camera accordingly.  The birds were plenty active, and two caught fish right in front of me.  I got some of the best results ever.  Afterward I went in to the office.  It had been awhile.  I watered my plants.  None had died.  I filed a report on the prairie grant, but the email bounced back.  What now?  I went to a meeting on main campus, which was over fairly quickly.  I stopped at the pet store before leaving town.  They were out of crickets, and I got mealworms and superworms (both are beetle larvae) instead.  The lizards may appreciate the change in diet.  I went through La Grange on the way home and stopped at the bait shop.  He was open, and he had some nice waxworms.  I got three dozen.  Time for ice fishing. 

From Winter 2010

My best eagle shot ever?  As usual, click through to the web album to see them bigger.  And more images.

From Winter 2010

Gretchen has not lost her affinity for toilet paper.