March 29 – A sort-of new semester

This week began the second 8-week session.  Marine biology is over, and Plant Field Biology has begun.  It was nice not to spend 8 weeks looking at trees in winter.  The way they’re budding out, we may only get one week of that.  We’ll have wildflowers before too long.  Meanwhile, I’m still working on our migratory waterfowl.

From Winter 2010

This goose is nesting on a muskrat house.

From Winter 2010

A pair of buffleheads.

From Winter 2010

A scaup drake.

From Winter 2010

This may be the ugliest bug I’ve ever seen.  It’s some kind of beetle larva.  Savannah and I found it while cleaning up outside.

Friday I took Gretchen to the groomer in Hannibal.  Carol is the same lady we first used when we moved to Canton. I hadn’t seen her in a few years, so it was nice to reconnect.  I got a lesson in grooming schnauzers, but I’m not sure how much of it I’ll be able to remember.  I thought Gretchen turned out great, but Stacey and Savannah took some time to adjust to it.  I went to Stacey’s office afterward, still largely covered in dog hair.  The solution to my itchiness was at hand.  I went to the thrift store in Stacey’s building and bought a long sleeved T shirt–with the Quincy University logo on it.

From Winter 2010

She’s still the cutest dog in the world.  Click through for a few more dog portraits.

From Winter 2010

Juvenile red-tailed hawk in Canton.

Monday afternoon Savannah and I took a drive around town with my camera.  I was going to hold on to Gretchen and take pictures, but all the targets ended up being on Savannah’s side of the road.  So she took some shots that turned out pretty decent.

From Winter 2010

Woodchuck with a mouthful of grass.

From Winter 2010

She got tired of shooting this sparrow.  Turns out it’s a Savannah Sparrow, and a nice, crisp shot.

From Winter 2010

I’ve been trying to get a good shot of these hooded mergansers, and she got one that exceeds all of mine. 

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March 20 – Spring Break

My buddy Ron sent me a really nice collector knife with eagle images on it.  Included was this nice poem:

Eagle Guy

Look, look up in the sky
It’s a plane, no a bird, it’s Eagle Guy
Is he a hero of the super type
No, that’s just a bunch of hype
He takes pictures of the noble bird
It’s what I’ve seen, not just heard
He’s even won a prize or two

And his reputation just grew
At the Mississippi he spends many an hour
Taking pictures and observing their power
So here’s a gift for your gift to commemorate
If you’d like to reciprocate, a new bass boat would be great

We have enjoyed a series of warm, sunny days.  One day I even took Gretchen for a run.  The last time I remember willingly going running was in grad school.  On Thursday I went fishing at Lowell’s.  We did two rounds of the lake before lunch, and I caught 4 bass, 3 of which were good sized.  Lowell caught 1 bass and 2 crappie.The turtles were out in force, soaking up the late winter sun’s rays.  After lunch we did one more round of the lake, but didn’t get another bite.  That evening I took the storm spotters course from the National Weather Service.  It was right down the street at Culver-Stockton College.  I learned about the different types of storms and how to recognize incipient tornadoes.  A lot of people from the fire department were there, as well as a few other friends.  The room was packed and WAY too hot.  We were all sweating.  At the end, someone said, “I have a stupid question.”  The presenter said, of course, “There are no stupid questions.”  I disagreed.  Stupid questions are ones that keep us there longer!  I was glad to get out. 

With the changing season, waterfowl have been moving through the area on the journey north.  They have provided some photographic opportunities.  Click through to see a few more online.

From Winter 2010

Swans

From Winter 2010

Eagle nest in Canton.  That makes at least three in Lewis County.

From Winter 2010

Successful cat.  It was poised on the edge of the pond, pounced, and ran off with its prize.

From Winter 2010

Splashing goose.  A bunch of them were showing off.

From Winter 2010

Groundhog day is over.  She swam across the pond

I got the Honda Minitrail 70 inspected and insured one day, then on the way out to Lowell’s I got it titled and registered in Monticello.  Friday night I I took it out for a spin in the evening.  The turn signals worked, but not the new headlight.  I need to spend some time checking the wiring.  I got it up to 35 mph, though it used to go 42.  It never got fully warmed up.  Had to keep it partly choked until I got back to the house.  It sure was a lot of fun, and I think it will be good for running errands around town. 

From Winter 2010

Flying shoveler

From Winter 2010

Eastern phoebe

From Winter 2010

Count the turtles.  Carefully.

From Winter 2010

Lesser snow goose.  He’d be a legal shooter if he wasn’t in city limits.

From Winter 2010

Hooded mergansers. 

One night Stacey brought home most of a crate of over-ripe pears.  She didn’t really know what to do with them, but I did.  I mashed them up and started a batch of wine.  There was a great potential for fermentation failure.  If any of them had actually been rotten, bacteria would have overwhelmed it.  But on the second day I smelled the heady scent of yeast activity.  Savannah helped me transfer the liquor to a 5-gallon glass carbuoy,  She added some sugar, and it started bubbling away.  Pear wine will be a new one for me.  

March 16 – Lake Taneycomo

Having planned for months in advance, Lowell, Jim and I left Canton on Sunday morning for our annual trek to Lake Taneycomo, which has a gazillion trout, all planted.  This is our “bridge” fishing event, between the ice fishing season and open water season.  We noted and commented upon the numerous skunk roadkills on the way down.  I should have taken that as a hint.  We made the obligatory stop at the Bass Pro Shops Mothership store in Springfield, MO.  I bought a couple of shirts and a new watch in the catalog outlet store.  We made it to Trout Hollow Lodge by 6:30.  Tom had been waiting for us for a couple of hours and was pretty worried by that time.  I baited up and ran down to the dock to test the waters.  A steady current was running.  In a couple of minutes I had hooked a fish.  I had it about half way in when it got off.  That was as close to landing a fish as I would ever get.  Nonetheless, I ran back up and delivered the good news, as first-night success has been a harbinger of good things in the past.  We went to dinner feeling fairly optimistic.  We played cards until bed. 

I woke up super early, according to the hotel room clock, and could not go back to sleep.  I listened to my iPod until others began to stir.  I noticed later that the clock had not been sprung forward for Daylight Savings Time.  Eeesh.  It was about 40 degrees, and I put on every layer I had.   After breakfast we went down to the dock and loaded into our rented pontoon boat.  There was no current in the lake, as no water was being released from the upstream dam to generate electricity.  It stayed that way all day.  Jim caught a couple and Tom caught one, but Lowell and I could not buy a bite.  We went to lunch with heavy hearts, and the hope that some water would be released.  But it was not to be.  The afternoon turned even colder.  I sat in the back of the boat trying to fish, but feeling very cold and nodding off to sleep.  When I could take the misery no longer, I suggested we head in early, or at least that they drop me off at our dock, and the rest could go fish for another hour or two if they wanted.  Lowell joined me on shore, while Jim and Tom went on to fish a bit more.  I took a nap, then a long hot shower that was absolutely heavenly.  The shower had the highest flow rate I’ve seen in forever.  Rested, warm, and clean, I felt like a million dollars.  Jim and Tom came back, with nothing to show for their efforts.  We went to dinner, then to the little Bass Pro Shops in Branson.  I bought a pair of rain pants to help break the wind and keep my legs warm.  A single layer of denim was not doing the job!  I ran into Bob and Jamie outside the store.  They were down there for a meeting, but we didn’t get to spend any time together, sadly.   On the weather report that night, we learned that we were in the coldest spot around, north and south.

Tuesday morning we went out and found that there was a slight current to the lake, which boded well.  Unfortunately, every time we put a line in the water, gobs of filamentous algae would accumulate on our bait and weights.  We spent more time clearing it off than actually fishing.  Even when we could get the bait down on the bottom, we couldn’t raise a bite.  When we drifted past our dock, the people fishing off the end of it were catching trout like mad.  Unbelievable.  At least I was warm with the rain pants on top of my jeans.  We carried on until about 10:30, when I suggested we give up.  The current had stopped, we weren’t catching fish, and Lowell wanted to get back a bit early.  We packed up and left, eating lunch in Lebanon at the Taco Bell.  When Lowell walked up to the table, his cup slipped out of his hand and he gave my leg a bath in root beer.  Wet clean-up, aisle two!  I thought it was pretty funny, and luckily I had an easily accessible pair of jeans in the trunk of the car.  We got back to Canton in good time, and both dog and wife were happy to see me.

One of the great things about Taneycomo is the usual hordes of great blue herons that tolerate human presence well.  When the fish aren’t biting, I can turn my attention to photographing the birds.  This year, we arrived a week later than usual, at my behest to match my spring break schedule (the others are all retired).   I think a lot of the herons had already migrated north, as there weren’t near the numbers we had in previous years.  Worse, the sun never shown, which makes photography difficult.  Nonetheless, I got a few shots in along the way.  Incidentally, the timing also meant more boats on the water and more tourist traffic in town.

From Winter 2010

GBH in flight

From Winter 2010

Mallard sex.

From Winter 2010

Heron eating fish.

From Winter 2010

Heron having just eaten fish.

From Winter 2010

Wood ducks on shore.

From Winter 2010

Old Crooked Foot.

From Winter 2010

Jim, Tom, Lowell, Joe

As usual, click through to see more photos, mostly more great blue herons.

March 6 – Shedd Aquarium

Friday the 5th I got up crazy early to catch the train in Quincy.  I was taking my Marine Biology class to the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.  It’s a long ride, but it was worth it.  We got to see a lot of the organisms that I talk about in the class.  We also got a behind-the-scenes tour of the marine mammal area.  The sea otters are sure cute, even the 80-lb one.  We had dinner at Union Station.  I had bourbon chicken at the Cajun Grill.  It was delicious, but, unfortunately I left my hat there.  That was my black, waterproof OR hat that I wear all winter long.  I think the students were more worked up about it than I was.  It has served me long and well.  I’ll eventually get another. 

From Winter 2010

A clownfish with its anemone.    Click through to see many more pics from the Shedd Aquarium.

From Winter 2010

My devoted marine biology students: Chris, Jenn, Pat, Sam, Kass and Brent.

I gave my talks for POLIS Tuesday and Thursday.  They went over very well.  It was fun for me to talk about all the stuff we did in Ruby.  I had never given a history talk before, and summarizing the complicated account of the mining district around Ruby was a challenge.  I’ve been busy interviewing candidates for the Vice President of Academic Affairs as well.  Looking forward to Spring Break next week.

I was thinking about the best songs I know that deal with photography and jotted down a list.

Kodachrome–Paul Simon
Take a Picture–Filter
Turning Japanese–The Vapors
Photograph–Def Leppard
Photograph–Ringo Starr

The first one wins as the best, hands down.  The second and third at least deal directly with the taking of photos.  The others are just about photographs already taken (and printed).  If you’re wondering about The Vapors’ song, it goes like this:

I’ve got your picture, I’ve got your picture
I’d like a million of you over myself
I want a doctor to take your picture
So I can look at you from inside as well

It’s kind of sick, I know.  Hard to believe it was a hit song.  If you think of any others, let me know.

March 3 – Spring peaks out

Last Saturday was the Science fair at Culver-Stockton College, where I judged the zoology sections.  One of the horse studies was quite good.  This girl had lost two horses due to overheating last summer.  She tested different types of saddle blankets for their insulating ability.  Neoprene mesh was best at keeping horses cool.  I talked to a lot of people, some of whom I don’t get to see very often.  Also, there was free doughnuts in the morning and free lunch at the end!

Candidates for the VPAA position have been coming to visit.  I really like the last guy, not only because he speaks Portuguese (a big plus for me), but also he supports faculty research and seems to be well qualified all the way around.  We did get to chat a bit in Portuguese.  I’m sure my colleagues wondered what the heck we were saying.

From Winter 2010

I love this shot because the nictitating membrane of the eye is exactly half closed.

From Winter 2010

This could be the last eagle photo of the season.

From Winter 2010

Seagulls are on the prowl, waiting for dead fish to thaw out of the ice.

From Winter 2010

Click through for larger versions of this and some other shots of common mergansers.

Not long ago I gave permission for a lady to use my bat photos in her blog.  She has published that edition, which you can find on heylittlebat.blogspot.com/.  I found it quite entertaining and informative. 

I submitted some images to the North Central Branch (ESA) photo salon.  All of them made the cut (were accepted), and one made honorable mention.  You may recognize some of these from entries over the past year.

From Winter 2010

Bee fly

From Winter 2010

Mr. Red eye

From Winter 2010

Tiny checkerspot

From Winter 2010

Flame Skimmer–Honorable mention