Friday, February 19, 2010


It is not easy sharing a work space with a major celebrity but someone has to pander to his every whim and control his adoring fans so it may as well be me I suppose.

The legend that is Harrison the Box Turtle, was called upon again this week to grace the local media with his presence. This guy has more publicity than Paris Hilton (and he is far better looking!)

They wanted a reprise of his publicity role for our Critter Cam exhibit. Of course when it comes to getting more screen time, he is always happy to oblige!

We headed out to WGN and Harrison did a thorough tour of the studio, just to check everything out, introduced himself to the camera crew (just to make sure they got his best angle), met the presenters and then he was ready to do his piece.

And here it is. (you will have to excuse the first piece of film that they show, they mixed things up and showed the Blandings turtles swimming, not Harrison, he is terrestrial not aquatic.) I think you'll agree he did an excellent job. Of course he added another adoring female fan to his collection as the presenter was totally taken with him!
As a reward for all his hard work he was compensated in true celebrity style with some tasty snacks and a pretty young lady box turtle - well he does have his image to maintain!!!

Photo Credits - CJT

Monday, February 15, 2010


It is that time of year again when people all across the country can take part in a huge citizen science project called the Great Backyard Bird Count. It takes place over the Presidents Day weekend and it is a great way to become familiar with the avian species that call your neighbourhood home during the winter months. I always enjoy bird watching but I usually view this particular Bird Count with rather mixed feelings because February in Chicago is not usually a particularly pleasant time to be outside! Last year was typically frigid. So imagine my surprise when the forecast for the weekend was actually fairly reasonable.
On Friday I was busy at work so I had to make do with grabbing a few minutes watching the visitors to our feeders. A Hairy Woodpecker posed obligingly whilst I practiced with my new camera.

The Downy Woodpecker was a little more shy and kept its back to me most of the time. I did manage to get one shot that almost shows the beak which you can see is much shorter than that of the Hairy Woodpecker.

Another obliging character was this charming American Tree Sparrow who relished the easy meal at the feeder. You can't see it in this shot but one of the diagnostic features of this species is a single dark breast spot.

On Sunday I got chance to get outside and take a stroll along the lake front. As you can see, it was a beautiful clear day, still very cold so I was well wrapped up but this was infinitely preferable to previous years.

There were dozens of water fowl bobbing around amongst the ice and I nearly froze trying to count them but it was well worth it as I saw two new species that I certainly wasn't expecting to find. Unfortunately I didn't get photos of either of them but I was delighted to see several Redheads and a lonesome White-winged Scoter - SCORE!!
This beautiful pair of Common Goldeneye did come close enough to shore for a photo though

And I did feel sorry for this dear little American Pipit who looked very chilly as it hopped along the shore.

Here is my total list for the weekend:
Dark-eyed Junco
House Sparrow
Black-capped Chickadee
Northern Cardinal
Song Sparrow
American Tree Sparrow
American Crow
Canada Goose
Downy Woodpecker
Rock Pigeon
European Starling
Red-tailed Hawk
Hairy Woodpecker
Greater Scaup
American Pipit
Common Merganser
Ring-billed Gull
White-winged Scoter*
Common Goldeneye
Wood Duck

* = new species for me!

Photo Credits - CJT & DominickV

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Now I will be the first to admit that I am horribly indulged by my better half. Not only did I get these beautiful roses from him but also this............

A brand new, very swanky camera, just in time for our Morocco trip next month! All I have to do is learn how to use it, I am so hopeless with gadgets! As if all that wasn't enough, our Valentines Day consisted of going to the North American Reptile Breeders Show and then doing the Great Backyard Bird Count (more on that next post). For those of you who read my blog, I think you can guess who was being indulged with those two activities. Yes I am a very lucky lady but just in case you think it all comes too easy, I can assure you I did have to kiss an awful lot of these

before I found my perfect valentine :)

Photo Credits - CJT