Last Thursday,  June 12th,  Mike Niles and I each took two students and competed
in what I have coined the first “KHS Vertebrate Pentathlon”.  Basically, it
was a contest I devised where we try to catch, see, or hear as many species of
fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals.  Obviously, we only tried to
catch the fish, amphibians, and reptiles but we also looked for bird nests and
mammal skeletons. 

We started at 5:00 a.m. and finished at 8:00 p.m. and had a great time despite
the occasional heavy rain  and the tornado/thunderstorm watches/warnings.  We
stayed within approximately 30 miles of Kearney High school and the primary
areas were Cooley Lake CA, Crystal Lakes, a wilderness camp near Lawson, 
Watkin’s Mill SP, local farm ponds, an abandoned rock quarry, and Smithville

Mike Niles and his two students beat my team out by a few points on the score
sheet I devised.  We both had a great day, although exhausting with the
humidity, and the following is a summary of our efforts:

Birds – 64 and 66 species respectively. Notables were White Pelican,
Double-crested cormorant, Green heron, Great Egret, Red-shouldered Hawk,
American Coot, Herring gull, Western Kingbird, Bobolink, Great-tailed grackle,
Scarlet tanager. 

Active Bird nests found --- Cliff swallow, Barn swallow, Red winged Blackbird,
Purple Martin, Great Blue heron, E. Phoebe, Cardinal, Carolina wren, E. 
Bluebird, Red-shouldered Hawk, House wren, Am. Robin, and one unidentified
small nest with two blue eggs with dark markings on the larger end. 

Fish species caught --- Large mouth bass, green sunfish, bluegill, white and
black crappie, yellow and black bullhead, and channel catfish. 

Amphibians seen or heard only --- Leopard frog;    caught --- bullfrog,
Blanchard’s cricket frog, W. Chorus frog, Am. toad, and gray treefrog. 

Reptiles seen --- red-eared turtle, N. Water snake;      caught --- E. 
yellowbellied racer, three-toed box turtle, ornate box turtle, W. painted
turtle, snapping turtle, brown snake, E. COLLARED LIZARD. 

Mammals seen --- WT deer, cottontail, white-footed mouse, fox squirrel, gray
squirrel, groundhog, raccoon, and a coyote. 

Obviously, that much time spent in the field provided some great memories and,
hopefully, an experience for the four students that will last a lifetime and
encourage them “to keep their eyes open to the beauties and joy of

Terry L. Miller
 Clay Co, MO
     Kearney High School
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