Slice of Life #7

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Today it was beautiful.  Sun shining, birds singing, flowers blooming beautiful.  After school I came home, changed, grabbed the dogs, and headed to the park.  I threw my pack over my back and we set off down the trail in search of the elusive pileated woodpecker that I’ve seen and heard over the last few months.  Pileated woodpeckers don’t usually live here, thanks to habitat fragmentation, but this guy (or guys) has been around for a few months.  Of course, the only time I see a pileated woodpecker is when I don’t have my camera with or when it is too far away to get a decent picture.

It’s been about a month since I saw my last pileated, though I do think I’ve heard him/her/them a few times in the last few weeks.  I’ve only gotten a few terrible pictures, but they represent my current goal:

I didn’t have any luck today.  The dogs and I walked about two miles, including off the trail and a little deeper into the woods.  No pileateds, but we were pulled off the trail when I heard what I thought were ducks.

Turns out I was hearing wood frogs in the vernal pools.  The first sign of spring! Then I saw skunk weed starting to pop up out of the ground.  Spring really has sprung!

 

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Slice of Life #6

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After I got home from tutoring this morning I made my way to the window on the far side of the house  Outside that window I can see my bird feeders (all eight of them).  Saturday and Sunday are my Project Feederwatch days so I make sure to spend a few minutes each day observing the feeders and writing down the species I see. I always keep my camera nearby so that I can photograph any new or exciting species that visit the yard.

As I settled in to spend a few minutes relaxing and watching my feeders something caught my eye.  Under the feeders, mixed in with a flock of blackbirds (grackles, starlings, and red-winged blackbirds), I caught sight of something different.  Something the color of a burnt orange crayon and about the size of a female cardinal. It hopped around, in between the blackbirds, and I suddenly realized what it was.

I turned to grab my camera and it wasn’t there!  Ahh!  That’s right, I had taken it on the field excursion yesterday.  It must still be in my field bag!

I flew out of the room, rushing past Chris.  “New bird!  Need the camera!” I explained. He didn’t even blink.  He’s pretty used to my bird antics at this point.

I grabbed the camera and rushed back to the room.  No!  The bird was gone!  I scanned the tree line and tried to see into the bushes.  Nothing.  Arg!

I was pretty sure I knew what I had seen but without a photo to get a closer look I felt guilty  counting it and adding it to my Project Feederwatch data. With a sigh, I packed up  the camera and headed out to run errands with Chris.

We returned about an hour later and I figured I’d give it one more go.  Not expecting to see the bird again, I sat down and started to count the juncos flitting about the feeders.

Then I saw it.  Red.  Orange.  Grey.  It was back!  I grabbed my camera and began clicking away through the window.  The bird hopped around, cracking sunflower seeds and safflower seeds, ignoring the other birds doing the same.  After taking a lot of pictures I grabbed my phone and opened up the Merlin app.  After inputting the size, color, and location of the bird I was vindicated.  My rare sighting was confirmed!

Meet the fox sparrow.  A first of the year, a first in the yard, and a lifer for me!

Slice of Life #5

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Happy Friday!  It’s been a long week and because I’m working on Saturday and Sunday I spent this afternoon relaxing.

My favorite part of every Friday is when I sit down on the couch, cue up DVR, and settle in to watch that week’s episode of Law and Order:SVU. I’m a huge fan of SVU!  I’ve been watching for years and I never miss a new episode. It’s one of my go-to chill out shows. It may not seem like a relaxing show but I love how each episode contains it’s own narrative arc while still advancing the overall plot of the show. It’s one of the shows I can turn on and watch regardless of the episode currently airing. It’s perfect!

For the record, this week’s episode was incredible. Kudos to the writers who had me gasping and on the edge of my seat. Unfortunately, it’s a two-parter and the next episode won’t air until March 23!

Good thing Netflix released season four of House of Cards today….

Slice of Life #4

27°. Not exactly what most people think of as “a beautiful day”. But it was perfect today.

My colleague and I teach a middle school enrichment class each spring that focuses on patterns in nature. Each week a different guest teacher comes to share their knowledge (and some fun activities) with the students.

The last class is always on a weekend and it’s a field study. We meet around 9am and spend the next three hours traipsing through the forest and fields with students. Today was no different. It was 27°, snow was on the ground, and the sun was shining. We had a beautiful day!

Slice of Life #3

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Happy World Wildlife Day! The UN’s World Wildlife Day aims to “celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants.”  As a grad student studying biology whose campus includes the Wildlife Conservation Society’s NYC zoos and aquarium I was very excited to learn about this day!

As the weird English teacher who is always spreading the word about cool science stuff I decided to celebrate World Wildlife Day by sharing book titles in the eco-lit genre, books that will help inspire conservation ideas.  The theme of the day is “The future of wildlife is in your hands” and eco-lit can help ensure that the future of wildlife is in the hands of capable individuals.

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Slice of Life #2- Counterfeit Claim

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After school I checked my mail and was happy to see the rent check had arrived.  Because of issues with the bank that just purchased the loan on my rental property (LoanCare LLC is awful), I needed to cash the check at the bank it was drawn on so that I could deposit the cash in the rental account.  Then I would pay the mortgage online.

I packed up the dogs and my plan was to take 15 minutes to cash the check at one bank, drive 5 minutes down the road, and then deposit the cash in the other bank account.  Simple, right?  Then I would head to the park to walk the dogs.

The first part worked out fine, other than the fact that Santander was slow.  I cashed the check and took the large bills they offered me.  With the money in a bank envelope I got back in the car and headed to PNC.  I figured I’d use the ATM to make the deposit as I had the dogs in the car and didn’t want to leave them alone again.

Unfortunately, the ATM spit out my money.  After getting frustrated I realized, “Wait, I bet there’s a limit on how much I can deposit into the ATM!”  Not something I deal with very often, so I let it.  No big deal- I could run in and still make it to the park in time.

Once inside I filled out the deposit slip and handed it over to the teller.  I watched him count the money.  The bills flew from one hand to another, until he stopped suddenly.  He pulled one $100 bill out and waved over another teller.  My heart started racing- this did not look good

“Ma’am, we can’t deposit this bill.  It’s counterfeit.”

Cue me passing out.  Figuratively, of course. In reality I was mortified and freaking out.

“What?  What do you mean?  I literally just picked up this cash at the bank branch up the street!  How is that possible? Are you sure!?” I spit out.

He held the bill up to the light and then turned around to run it through a machine.  “Yes, counterfeit,” he confirmed.

Cue me melting into the floor.  Are you serious?

“So what do I do now?” I asked.  I was waving the Santander envelope around. “I have had this cash for less than 10 minutes.  And I need that money today!”

He looked at me, looked at the bill, then whispered with another teller.  He then surreptitiously slid the bill across the counter. “You got this from a bank today?  Ok, we don’t usually do this but I advise you to bring it back there immediately.”

I nodded. “Yes, I will do that right now.  In fact, I’ll call them right now to let them know”.

The teller finished my transaction while I looked up the number.  It was 4:45pm and the bank would close at 5pm.

As I got to the car I turned on my bluetooth and dialed the number.  Actually, I pressed ‘call’ on the cell phone screen.  Times really have changed!  Anyway, a woman picked up the call and I began to tell her my story.

“Hi.  My name is Sarah and I just left your bank a few minutes ago.  I don’t have an account with you but I cashed a $x check.  I just tried to deposit the cash at my bank branch and one bill, it seems, is counterfeit.  I’m on my way back now to take care of this.”

There was an awkward pause. Then, “So you left our branch already?”

“Yes, about 15 minutes ago. I drove half a mile down the road to PNC. When they….”

She cut me off. “Oh, well we can’t do anything once you leave the bank.  You need to check the bills before you leave because once you leave the property we have no way to know if you created the counterfeit bill”.

Yes, she accused me of counterfeiting money.  Needless to say, I flipped out.

“Hooooold on.  You are telling me that as a financial institution you put the onus on me, the customer, to determine if the bills you give me are counterfeit?!  That’s your job!  And one of your tellers just passed me a counterfeit bill.  Someone messed up and it was not me!  As a result, I will not be the one who loses here.  I will be there in 5 minutes to take care of this.”

“Ma’am, you are welcome to come in but there is nothing I can do.  In fact, I will have to call the Secret Service when you try to use a counterfeit bill here.”

And cue me flipping out again.

By this point I was pulling into the parking lot.  I slammed on the brakes, grabbed my bag and the $100 bill, and marched into the bank.  I didn’t know who I was meeting with so I may have loudly proclaimed, “I am here to speak to someone about the counterfeit $100 bill a teller here gave me.”

A woman suddenly appeared and ushered me into a side room.  I handed over the bill and started explaining, again, that I would not be the one to lose money here.

The manager picked up the bill and ran her fingers over it. While I was still talking (loudly, I admit), she looked up and announced, “This isn’t counterfeit.  PNC was wrong.”

Now look.  I worked in retail, I had training in counterfeit bill detection, and I watched the teller at PNC put the bill through their machine.  It came back as counterfeit.  But you know what? I don’t care why the manager at this bank was denying it.  I stood up and said, “In that case, I’d like a new bill so that I can avoid repeating this mortifying experience.”

The manager paused and then got up and walked out.  I heard whispering a few feet away before she came back, new bill in hand.  As she placed the envelope in my hand she pointed out that technically she should have called the Secret Service and allowed them to deal with she was willing to do the switch.  I’ve never grabbed currency that quickly.

I made it home with the full rent payment and a story that seems even more unbelievable now that I am typing it out. It was a bit of a day, to say the least.

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