Eastern garter snake at Volo Bog.

Eastern garter snake at Volo Bog.

There was an almost two week period in early September that all of my talks were local. The Burpee Museum of Natural History, in Rockford, Illinois, holds over 100,000 specimens, almost a third of which are of a paleontological nature. This recent emphasis on fossils has enabled the museum to establish a national reputation in the field. The night I was to give my talk I met a paleontologist from University of California-Berkeley who was there doing research. Two of their outstanding specimens are Homer, a young triceratops, and Jane, “the world’s most complete and best preserved juvenile T. rex” (web-site). In the past, though, their leadership has been very bird oriented and the collection reflects that. They have a young passenger pigeon skin, of which there are relatively few. I regret not having taken more photos of my visit but Burpee is a fine museum which Chicago-area folks ought to make a destination. (It is also part of a complex that includes the Rockford Discovery Center Museum, ranked among the best children’s museums in the country.)

Burpee Museum auditorium.

Burpee Museum auditorium.

Making a film is challenging and expensive. Getting it aired is also challenging and expensive. But to maximize the benefits of the first part, people have to see it. The producers of Green Fire suggested to David Mrazek that a good way to proceed with From Billions to None was to contact Selena Lauterer of Artemis Independent. She has a well deserved reputation in getting PBS programmers to schedule independent films. Selena liked the film very much and has been a joy to work with; our movie has aired on stations from Boston to Los Angeles (an there maybe a national airing on Earth Day). Getting the film shown on Chicago’s WTTW (Channel 11) was something David and I especially wanted. We were thrilled that the movie was aired twice, plus twice on Chicago’s other public television station WYCC. The first Channel 11 presentation was on September 11, and as a build-up the producers of Chicago Tonight invited David, me, and Heinrich (my passenger pigeon) to appear on their show an hour or two before. Eddy Arruza interviewed us and it was a fun time. But the fun that night continued. Jeff Skrentny invited us to be the featured guests at their monthly Birds and Beer Night that was held at a Lincoln Park Pub. It was a rare pleasure watching the movie with old (and new) birding friends.

pp tour beers

The McHenry County Conservation District invited me twice over the year. The first time was last spring when I gave a talk at their volunteer appreciation lunch. And the second time was on Spetember 12 at their Lost Valley Visitor Center at Glacial Park, one of their larger preserves. This was my initial visit to the center. The talk went well . This segment doesn’t end though because my good friend Stacy Iwanicki, Natural Resource Coordinator for the Volo Bog Natural Area, has been a an avid supporter of Project Passenger Pigeon since she first heard about. One of the monthly activities that Stacy offers is Of Bogs and Books, where each session focuses on a different book, which the group discusses. She asked me if I would be interested in attending. As incentive, she and her spouse Mike offered to put me up for the night at their home. Since the distances were so close, it was easy to agree.

Swamp sparrow at Volo Bog.

Swamp sparrow at Volo Bog.

Volo Bog is the only open water tamarack bog in the state of Illinois. The watery “eye” is surrounded by rings of vegetation, including cattail marsh, shrubs like poison sumac, tamaracks, and the floating mat that gives way to open water. There was time between my arrival and commencement of activities, so one of Stacie’s volunteers took for a short walk. I wasn’t expecting a whole lot but we did see a couple of migrant warblers (this time we did identify them), a very accommodating family of young eastern wood-pewees, a patient swamp sparrow, and a lovely eastern garter snake. I am still getting used to my camera and derive great pleasure when I capture pleasing images of wild critters.

Eastern wood-pewee at Volo Bog.

Eastern wood-pewee at Volo Bog.

Slightly out of sequence, I want to end this blog with my trip to Beloit College on September 24. (September 23, I had just returned from DC). The morning started early when Cindy (who graciously agreed to come along) and I headed to Elgin High School to participate in the National Biodiversity Teach-In, conceived, organized, and implemented by the remarkable science teacher Deb Perryman, with major assistance from her colleagues and students. The teach-in offered 20 webinars by an assortment of speakers. The effort drew over 8,000 viewers over the 5 days. In addition to  the US, there were participants from Canada, Mexico, India, Germany, and England.

Ghost Flock at Beloit College.

Ghost Flock at Beloit College.

Beloit embraced Project Passenger Pigeon like no other college. They offered numerous activities and passenger pigeon were covered in a range of classes from dance to mathematics. That this happened was the convergence of several things. Gene Dillenburg of the University of Michigan’s Museum of Natural Hisotry and his team created wonderful downloadable panels that have been adopted widely by museums across the US and Canada. He posted news of their availability on a list serve for museum folks. This caught the eye of Dan Bartlett, curator of exhibits at Beloit’s Logan Museum of Anthropology, and he shared it with Christina Clancy, professor of English. This all happened at a time when the college had recently received a major grant to be used to facilitate inter-disciplinary programs. The perfect storm! Christina contacted me, and lots of things happened. She arranged for me to give a talk at the Urban Ecology Center in March and she, Dan, and others from the college met me for dinner in late July at a place between my home and Beloit. My crazy travel schedule prevented me from attending all the activities they offered but I did give a talk on September 24. Cindy generously came along to help with the two hour drive home, much of it on hideous Route 90 (subject to endless construction). And early the next morning, I was flying off to Toronto.

 

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