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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