Sunday, August 16, 2015

Summer Camp Is Over For Another Year

Summer camp is officially over for another year. The final week was a good one, with a number of veteran councilors on the job and some familiar faces among the campers, including at least one girl who has a polarizing effect on staff opinions. I admire her intelligence and adventurousness, while others can't get past the fact that she tends to be bossy and mean to other kids (maybe because they haven't been around her enough to see her good side shine through). In her case, I take the bad with the good and try to subtly guide her away from being too obnoxious. Sometimes it even works.

The last Thursday night barbecue/campfire (during which we don't actually eat anything barbecued or have a fire burning) of the season was an emotional one. It was the last campfire that my friend and longtime staff member, Scooby, would be attending as a full staff member. Back in the Spring, he had quietly announced that he would be quitting so he could focus on being a full-time dad. He goes reluctantly, and only because he has issues with his vision and back that are making it harder and harder to be a group leader. Due to this being his last campfire, people came out of the woodwork to be there, including old staff members, staff members from other camps, teachers from local schools, and various councilors from past years. Jeanine and Eva came up, as did Willow and all of her siblings. He the most well-loved person I know, and it's completely deserved. He is also perhaps the most humble person I know, which is just one of many reasons he deserves all of the accolades he receives. Somebody really should do a documentary about him. We'll all miss him, although he'll still be around in some capacity or other.

It's the end of an era.

Check out Scooby telling stories here.

Here are some photos from the final critter hunt of the week:

Ahead of me there are three weeks off.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Death From Above

A couple of mornings ago, the chickens started clucking up a louder than usual racket. I went out and looked around, but couldn't figure out what had them so bothered, so I went back in to finish my breakfast. They kept it up for long enough that I figured I'd give it another look. This time, I spotted the small Cooper's Hawk that was hiding in the upper branches of the avocado tree. Once it discovered that its cover was blown, it relocated to a nearby power pole.

It was small enough that it wouldn't be able to give the adult chickens much of a problem, but I'm sure it would love to get its talons on one of the new chicks. Speaking of the chicks, just the day before that, one of them managed to wiggle its way out of the coop. When I looked out, it was obliviously running around the yard. It's a good thing the hawk wasn't around then. Earlier today, Jeanine saw the chicks catching cockroaches, so they're definitely not quite at the bottom of the food chain.

Eventually, it gave up and darted off across the rooftops. Hopefully, it forgets it ever saw our yard. It's a good thing that hawks aren't as smart as crows.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Two More Weeks of Summer Camp Fly By

The final week of Trailblazers suddenly became the penultimate week of summer camp for the year, and just as suddenly, I find myself inhabiting the breathing space between the penultimate and the ultimate. The last Trailblazers week was a good one, with our lead teacher's daughter being in my group. She was the only one to find a snake all week too, although it was a tiny one. Plus, to the surprise of her dad, she held the dead Wolf Spider I found in the pool filter. Poor spider.

Once back in the warm clutches of regular summer camp, I reverted back to my usual habits of spending lots of time looking for snakes and other critters. I had 24 kids in my group, which is 7 more than I had in my biggest Trailblazers group.

There was a tiny rattlesnake coiled up at the base of a tree by the pond, but the usual ones in the hole near the field weren't in evidence all week.

We stumbled across a Red-eared Slider laying eggs near the pond as well. Despite the fact that Sliders are an invasive species hereabouts, this was a really cool thing to watch.

The Western Chorus Frogs are still very much in evidence (thanks to the local bullfrogs being eradicated), and my favorite discovery was a log full of them. Here they can be seen peeking out one of their windows.

Other critters were in evidence too, although not as many as some previous years.

Time was spent at the creek, and kids explored the tunnel under the trail.

Thursday night, we were treated to a spectacular sunset, and then, while I was telling a story to the campers before the night hike, a brief deluge. It's kind of distracting to get rained on while telling a story. The nearly constant lightning was also a head turner.

We made a quick, unprecedented decision to have the kids sleep in the picnic shelter and summer shack (our summer name for the old dining hall) rather than out on the field. This meant a lot of last-minute scrambling as around 150 people had to move all of their sleeping gear, but it was done smoothly. The night hike was delayed by only around a half an hour, and it was a night hike to remember, punctuated as it was by flashes of lightning and sporadic bursts of rain. Mine seemed to have extra lightning, but it was just some kid wearing light-up shoes. Friday morning, we were tired.

At the reservoir, we got to witness a Great Blue Heron chasing a Great Egret. Maybe they were arguing about who is actually greater. Maybe not.

At home, the fertile eggs that Jeanine purchased at Safeway hatched. We have five little fluffy chicks, which doubles the number of chickens living in the backyard. One has already proven to be more adventurous than the others, scrambling over the makeshift barrier that Jeanine erected in the doorway at the top of the ramp and following the big chickens into the yard.

Perhaps miffed at all of the new company, Henrietta has taken to hiding her eggs in the foliage.