Saturday, September 13, 2014

Now THAT'S the Way to End a Week!

Up until today this had been a good week, even a very good week. I gave the first test of the year in Astronomy. That's always fun. In fact, I occasionally tell my students that it is in my teacher contract, that I must inflict as much emotional stress on them as possible. This is said with tongue firmly planted in cheek. I know that taking a test can be a nerve wracking experience, even stressful. I try to lighten it with a little humor, but I am sure it helps only a little. I still have to give them. Of course, this means I have to correct them and score them. It is part of the job.

Then we had Starlab on Thursday and it is impossible to have a bad week with Starlab in it. I get to play cool music while the room is getting dark and I get a charge out of showing them what they can see in the sky. I'm trying to get my students to pay attention to the sky more. I ask them if they saw the moon that morning. What is the phase going to be in a week? I want them to start looking up. Part of this requires that we have a star gaze, but the evening weather in Florida this time of year makes it nearly impossible to predict when we might have clear skies for viewing. Soon, I hope.

One thing I have noticed this week that I wasn't expecting. People at school (teachers, administrators, staff) have, upon seeing me, mentioned that they are reading my blog and have enjoyed it. (That's good, although I guess I shouldn't expect anyone to say they are reading my blog and hating it.) It has opened more discussions with colleagues than anything else I have done. Period. And I think that's a good thing.

But the best part of the week actually happened after school on Friday. One of my outside interests is birding, looking for and identifying birds, noting their behavior and characteristics. It is great fun. Well, there were reports of a Red-Necked Phalarope seen on Siesta Key Beach at the tidal pool at the north end. It was first reported Wednesday, Sept. 10. I could not go look for it until Friday. Now this little bird is about 8" tip to tail. It summers in the Arctic and winters in Argentina and Chile, so it migrates 10 to 12,000 miles every year. The migration routes are usually in the Atlantic Ocean and it is very unusual to see one in Sarasota, so local birders are excited and coming to see this intrepid traveler. That means that this little guy is resting after flying from northern Canada, feeding and fueling up for the remainder of his journey south.

I went to Siesta Beach straight from school and he was not to be found. I looked for an hour but no luck. I went home and after a while I asked my wife if she would ride along, I was going to go back to the beach. She came along and this time he was there. And very cooperative. I got some good shots. He is not very 'red' in this plumage, but come next spring he will be.This bird is what we call a 'lifer'. It is the first time I have ever seen one of this species. I have seen over 500 different kinds of birds over the years and they are all neat to observe.

And that's the way to end a great week.

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