Tuesday, May 3, 2011


Wow! Time is flying by and a lot is happening and there is no time to write. I sort of love/hate the end of the school year. There are so many activities and extra things to do. On top of that, this is busy season for weddings and other parties at the zoo so I have to work late often. This week and next I have work or school obligations almost every night. Lots of exciting, fun stuff, but I won't lie, I really just want to come home from work, shower and rest my aching feet!

I have so much to write about I'll start with the weird... Friday afternoon I was filling bird feeders and noticed my suet feeder was low. It had been several weeks or even a month since I had put that suet cake out. I put in a brand new suet cake. Saturday morning I left home at 6am and didn't pay much attention to the bird feeders. When I returned home at 6pm, the entire suet cake was gone! At first I thought the kids must have messed with it and looked in the bushes, but the wire caging was covered in suet as if it had actually been pulled out of the cage. What on earth eats an entire suet cake in one day?! I'm guessing somewhere there is a very sick cat or raccoon or something because my birds didn't do that! Yuck!

Both kids have terrible spring fever and can't wait for school to end. This year it goes until June 10th and I don't know how they are going to make it. Fortunately, Logan's teacher seems to be easing up on the homework a bit because the ONLY thing he wants to do is go outside and hit baseballs. Even in the rain! Logan has proclaimed that video games are for winter and the rest of the year is for playing sports outside. Hurray! I hope he somehow keeps that attitude. Kaylin is going nuts wanting school to end. She is like me (and probably the majority of the population) in that she loves to read, but hates to read anything she's forced to read. She was driving herself insane trying to get through The Diary of Anne Frank. She liked the book, but couldn't handle the forced reading of so many pages per night. She was whining about it so much and reading it so little I finally told her to just skim it enough to pass the test. She did and she did. Ugh. It's going to be a long month.

Friday night Kaylin's friend Zoe was in the school play. Kaylin begged me to take her and I caved. I usually hate stuff like that. School plays are an obligation, not something I want to attend. A school play my kid isn't even in? No thanks! ESPECIALLY if it's a musical! Well, this time I was wrong. This was nothing like Kaylin's drama club last year where they did a musical but 3/4 of the kids couldn't sing. The kids in this play actually tried out to get their parts and they were good. This director likely didn't spend 3/4 of her time disciplining rowdy boys. The play was funny and good. I didn't want to rip my hair out waiting for it to end. And more importantly, Zoe was THRILLED Kaylin came and they hugged and hugged and were so happy to see each other. Next year I'll have to figure out a way for Kaylin to be in the play. My work schedule is rigid, but maybe Gene can arrange his schedule so he can pick her up from practices. She would love it.

Saturday I spent the day with my former coworker Ashley. She's doing a research project on skinks at Sand Ridge State Forest near Manito. Sand Ridge is an interesting place because it's very sandy soil and the prairie areas are covered in cacti. The unusual conditions bring animals normally found in southern Illinois to central Illinois. This weird little pocket is home to skinks and pocket gophers found nowhere else in central Illinois. It's also home to zillions of ticks I still imagine crawling all over my body. Every time I think of the ticks I check my hair again. Yuck.

Anyway, Ashley has 6 different areas she monitors for skinks. She checks these areas 4 times a day (7, 11, 4 and 9) every Saturday. She has twelve sets of three boards set up in each of the 6 areas and samples 3 sets in each area at each check. The hours in between checks she spends exploring surrounding areas, looking for wildlife. I stayed for the first three skink checks and between checks we went to Spring Lake and Lake Chautauqua looking for birds and snakes. At Spring Lake we saw at least a dozen water snakes, a muskrat, nesting swans and lots of ducks and geese and coots. Ashley went all Crocodile Hunter and jumped into the lake to catch a snake that bit her boot repeatedly before pooping all over her arm and biting itself. I was too busy watching another snake trying to eat a huge fish and will always regret my failure to get this capture on video because it was hilarious. Oh well. At the 11 o'clock check we found two skinks and I got to hold one while Ashley measured it and marked it. The other was too fast and escaped before she could grab it. Following that check, we went to Lake Chautauqua to go birding. This is somewhere I've been wanting to go for a long time and I have to admit I was disappointed. The place isn't just big it is vast. There could be hundreds of ducks and they'd be so far away they'd just look like black specks even using binoculars. I guess I was expecting something much more intimate, just crawling with birds. We did see a lot of Baltimore orioles (my first of the year), one pelican and lots of wood ducks, mallards, red-winged blackbirds and house sparrows (whoop) but the concentration of birds I was expecting wasn't there because they had miles and miles of river to spread out. Oh well. It was still a really cool place and we saw dozens of turtles. By 4 it was windy and cloudy. No sun and cool temps usually mean no skinks. It was a fun day but I was exhausted when I got home. I don't know how Ashley stays until 10pm AND does this marathon once a week! (Oh- her fiance came as I was leaving so I didn't leave her in the woods by herself...)

This weekend I think I'll try to hit Banner Marsh. My new goal is to see river otters in the wild and I'm never going to accomplish that goal if I don't get out there!

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