April 25, 2011


As I was leaving the music building last night I noticed an enormous dragonfly perched on the wall outside...

This beautiful creature must have only recently emerged as an adult now that the weather has started to pretend to warm up. Maybe he even hatched from a nymph just this morning and soon after found himself scrambling for shelter from the cold and rain.

Not too far away, but much lower on the wall--about 6 inches off the ground and underneath a protective ledge--something else caught my eye. It could easily have been a crumpled-up leaf or piece of trash, but when I moved closer I was shocked to see a little bat clinging to the cement.

I watched it for a while without detecting any movement, but when I stroked it's fur with a long piece of dried grass I found lying nearby, the tiny furball inhaled deeply and stretched its head back to look at me for a moment before moving back into its protective huddle. I felt bad for this little guy too. He looked wet and cold and was likely very hungry. All species of bat found in Illinois are insectivores and I'm guessing it's slim pickin's during these chilly days of early spring.

There is of course nothing I can (or should) do but let nature run its course. I looked up some information about bats this morning and it looks like trying to capture and care for this one didn't seem like a very good idea for someone like me--even though that has always been my first impulse from the time I was little. For all I know, the reason he's perched so close to the ground is because he's sick--which might even make it dangerous for me to try to handle him. A more optimistic hypothesis is that he has reverted to a state of temporary hibernation where the energy demands of his system are low and he can bide his time until the temperature rises more consistently and every night becomes an insect buffet. Any species native to this area must have devised some method to cope with long, cold, miserable springs...right?

When I got to school this morning, both these critters were still there--though the dragonfly had fallen a bit lower on the wall and didn't seem to be hanging on with as firm a grip as he had last night. I'll keep watching and hoping they make it, though the continuing chilly and rainy forecast doesn't bode well.

April 24, 2011

New Art

Last night I finished a drawing! It's one on which I've been working for the past 3 days and is my first piece of art (aside from photographs) inspired directly by Lake Michigan. It's been stormy here for the past few days and I've spent a lot of time staring at large curling waves as they surge toward the shore...

April 13, 2011

Rough Around the Edges

There is the coolest little robin that lives just outside the music building...

When I first saw him, I assumed he was just a young bird whose grown-up feathers were still sprouting through leftover baby down. As I've been able to observe him more closely over a longer period however, it's become obvious that he is instead fully grown and that his white splotches are a permanent feature. I guess that strictly speaking (and maybe even to female robins on the lookout for a mate) this little guy looks a little rough around the edges. I don't know if the mutation that has changed the appearance of this robin's feathers signals deeper and more meaningful internal problems (as can sometimes be the case), but he does have quite an attitude! I've seen him go after other robins intruding in his territory (I have no idea if robins are usually territorial)...so I guess he really is just as scrappy as his looks suggest. He's also pretty fearless around people. When I took these photos, I was sure he'd eventually get spooked by my proximity and fly to safety, but he just continued to watch me like "yeah!...what are you lookin' at!"

I worried at first that his striking appearance and lack of inhibition would draw too much attention and tempt some twisted individual to torment or harm him. Every time I see him prowling the lawn for worms or staked out in a tree surveying his domain I smile and send up a silent cheer that he's still around.

I wonder if he's successful for a long period of time and eventually finds a mate, will his descendants take on this mottled appearance? Will the NU campus eventually be populated by mottled robins with an attitude?

I heard a radio story once about work done in Russia in the 50's attempting to breed foxes on a fur farm to be more tame (****IMPORTANT!!!!! I DO NOT SUPPORT THE RAISING OF SUCH ANIMALS FOR FUR!!!!!!****). The breeders continually selected young foxes with the most amiable dispositions (ones that didn't run or aggress toward their keepers) and in a surprisingly short period of time had a population of foxes that behaved and, unexpectedly, even looked more like their domesticated counterparts. It seems that by selecting for tameness, an unintentional consequence was the foxes had floppy ears (as opposed to straight and upward pointing ones), tails that curly-cued upward (as opposed to straight flowing ones), and a mottled coat (as opposed to a smoothly toned one). The tie in between demeanor and physical appearance existed because the tamer foxes tended to produce lower levels of adrenaline--which I guess is a chemical that plays a part in the development of certain physical traits.

Hmmm. So it is at least conceivable that this robin's quirky appearance does have a real tie in to its personality. It will be interesting to see if his characteristics are carried forward into a new generation.

April 2, 2011

Late Spring

I thought it was about time I changed my featured picture from something wintry:

To something a bit more warm and inviting--and perhaps one of the most sublimely arresting sunrises I've had the pleasure of witnessing...

I know I haven't written in an eternity--and to those who care: I am really sorry. Once again it's not because I haven't had anything to talk about, but rather seems to be just another facet of my general tendency to pull back lately--and for those who feel slighted by that: I am also really sorry.