Slice of Life #11- Out in Nature

Today was the annual field excursion for the middle school science enrichment course I co-teach with a colleague. We plan a 3 hour field day at the end of the winter session to look for patterns in nature and learn about nature on our school campus. For the last few years there has been snow on the ground on the March weekend we choose. But this year?


I think this was the coldest field day yet! We sent an email last night reminding the students to dress warmly and luckily they did!

When I got up it felt like 17°. Just a bit nippy! I wore leggings, lined pants, a Heattech shirt, sweatshirt, North Face parka, mittens, wool hat, scarf, and snood. I was still a little chilly but I was comfortable. 

We spent the morning looking at trees, orienteering, studying animal tracks, and learning about camera traps. We were able to warm up in the student center a few times but the kids were great! It was so nice to spend a few hours outside and I finished my 10,000 steps before 11:30am!

Slice of Life #10- Snow?!

Last night, Navan woke up at 3:30am to go outside. I was surprised to find I could step out to the patio barefoot. It was supposed to snow later in the day so shouldn’t it have been colder?

A few hours later, around 7am, I was in my way to work. It started to rain and I figured that the cold front wasn’t going to reach us. Not a surprise, in March. 

By the time I got to school it was snowing. 

By the end of first period I could see the trees outside my basement classroom window wore a dusting of snow. 

By the end of second period it looked like this: 

By the time I drove home the snow had stopped, the sky was blue, and the roads were dry. It was still cold (wasn’t it 70° just a few days ago?) but it was very pretty. 

Now the temperature is dropping and the snow is crunchy and icy. The weather in March is weird!

Slice of Life #9- A Banner Bird Day

It’s been an exciting 24 hours for my lifer bird list!

This afternoon, Mike and I headed out during third period to take a compass bearing for an activity we will do Saturday and to switch out the camera trap memory cards.  We walked across the sports field and followed the path into the fragment of forest that sits between our campus, the Little League Fields, and the elementary school.  It’s a wide path, lined by trees on one side and a man-made pond on the other.

Suddenly, a large bird took off from a tree on our right and silently flew towards the other side of the pond.  It was an owl!  I’ve only seen an owl in the wild once since I started learning about birding so I was shocked.  It was the middle of the day!

As I was contemplating this fact, Mike paused and called out to me.  He called my name quietly and said, “There’s another one.  In the hemlock right there!”.  And there was!  Another great horned owl was peering down at us from the hemlock tree right off the path.  They two owls must have been mates, as they are territorial birds who mate for life.  Of course, I did not have my real camera with me so I snapped a few very, very zoomed-in pictures with my iPhone before he or she silently flew off in the same direction as the first one.

At this point, I was giddy.  In 24 hours I had seen cedar waxwings and two great horned owl! And then the day got even better.  We switched out the cameras and brought the memory card inside.  Upon loading it onto the computer I saw that the camera had taken 3100 pictures.  Oh boy, I thought.  This is going to take a while….

I began scanning the pictures and saving the ones with animals and birds in them; there were deer, raccoons, woodchucks, birds, squirrels, a red fox, and maybe a flying squirrel.

Then I saw this.www.GIFCreator.me_Q7vFdz

At 2:19am on 3/6, an owl swoops in front of the camera!  Can you believe it?  I was shocked and thrilled.  The odds of the camera getting any pictures of an owl are slim to none.  But getting pictures of one hunting?  Incredible!


Slice of Life #8- Cedar Waxwings

Today was absolutely gorgeous.  When I got home and let the dogs out I decided that we would stay home instead of driving to the park to take a walk.  It was about 60 degrees, the sun was shining, and the dogs were all about playing outside.  After about 30 minutes in the yard we came inside so that I could finish a few things on my to-do list.  Once I made the dogs their Kongs for later in the evening and fed the cat Navan was read to go back outside.

As I opened the sliding glass back door and stepped outside I heard a bird song that I wasn’t familiar with. It was a high-pitched call and it sounded like there were lots of birds calling back and forth.  I’m a bit of an amateur birder so I scanned the trees, looking for the origin of the sound.  In the back of the yard I spotted a flock of birds, way at the top of the trees.  They were light in color, unusual for my normal backyard birds.  It was clear they were not starlings or red-winged blackbirds.

Then I realized what they were.  No way, I thought.  Cedar waxings? I’ve been trying to see cedar waxwings for two or three years but I’ve never spotted them. Once I thought I saw one at the park but it was too far away to be sure and I did not get a clear photo.  After that incident another birder told me that once I heard a cedar waxwing call I would never forget it.  After today, I agree with that birder!

I rushed back inside and grabbed my camera and scope.  The flock of birds was at the top of the trees so I needed to use my long lens and the scope to be sure that I was actually seeing cedar waxwings.  The din of bird song was even louder when I made my way back outside.  One look through the scope confirmed my suspicion- cedar waxwings!

There must have been 50 or 60 birds flitting back and forth in the trees and I must have taken 500 photos.  They were just slightly out of range but I did get some good shots.  And more importantly, I added a new yard bird to my list!




Slice of Life #7- The Best Vet Visit (for Navan)



After a disastrous (aka dramatic) vet visit last week, I’ve been taking Navan to visit the vet’s office as part of his training.  He loves everyone at the vet but does not love being restrained for shots or the exam.  We’ve visited two or three times now and he’s getting better so I am hoping that by hys next appointment at the end of the month he will be better behaved.

Today was definitely his favorite visit.  We spent about 10 minutes in the office and he visited a few exam rooms, got kisses from the techs, and had a few treats.  That would be enough to make his day, but it got even better when we walked out to the car.

The vet’s office is next door to a Dairy Queen. When I was walking Navan back to the car one of the Dairy Queen employees was emptying the garbage and saw us.  Navan (and Dublin) tend to elicit a lot of attention because they don’t look like many other dogs around here, so the employee came over to pet him.  Next thing I know, the dogs have been offered some ice cream!

The gif above is one of the few times I was able to get both dogs to sit before I gave them the ice cream.  As you can tell, Navan has the patience of a puppy.  No patience at all!

Navan had never had ice cream before so I put the cup on the ground and let Dublin eat first.  Dublin is very gentle and relaxed so he enjoyed the ice cream slowly.  Meanwhile, Navan was freaking out.  He wanted the ice cream NOW!

When it was finally Navan’s turn he did not waste time.


The remaining ice cream was gone in two bites.  Needless to say, I think he enjoyed it!

Slice of Life #6


Well, I made it to day 6 before hitting writer’s block.  It’s probably because I spent the last few days drafting a paper for my publishing class this semester.  I’m enjoying the class, not just because it caters to one of my strengths, and the science communication angle is great.  But I pushed myself to sort of “reach for the stars” when it comes to possible publication, so I’ve been drafting and drafting and drafting.  Now my brain feels drained of all words.

It’s also Monday.


Mondays are my long day because I have a middle school enrichment class from 6-8pm.  The good news is I woke up thinking we also had a faculty meeting after school so I was very excited when I realized the meeting is actually next week.  That made my after school routine much easier today!

And now it’s bedtime.  I’m determined to get to bed at a normal time and start the week off more well-rested than usual. Wish me luck!

Slice of Life #5- Library Card


As an avid reader I am embarrassed to admit this: I have not had a library card since I was  a little kid.  Ok, I haven’t had a library card for my local library.  I have a grad school library card (for e-access) and I have a library card for the community college library at school.  However, I have not had a regular old town/county library card in many, many years.

This weekend I decided to change that.  The town I grew up in has its own library system, independent of the county system, so when I moved here I never made it to the library.  My to-be-read pile, both physical and virtual, is huge an ever-growing so I didn’t need the card.  However, I’ve started to listening to audiobooks on my commute, in place of the news, and I burned through all of last summer’s free offerings.  I also used up my Audible credits.  When I realized I was running out of books to listen to I decided it was time to get a library card so that I could borrow books through Overdrive.

Saturday morning I headed over the library.  (The main branch is in the next town over). I walked in and headed to the circulation desk.  Imagine my surprise when a former student was behind the desk!  She’s 22 now (eek!) and I had her when I taught 6th grade.  I was definitely mortified, as she probably wondered why her voracious reader English teacher did not already have a library card, but we had a great conversation.  I love seeing former students who have grown into wonderful adults….even when it makes me feel old.

I walked out of the library a few minutes later with my new library card.  I’ve already borrowed my first audiobook (American Girls: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers) and I’ve jumped on the holds list for a few others.  I’m thrilled to be a card-carrying member of the library again!