Sign Spotting: Part 2– Canadian Signage

For some reason, it seems like a lot of my sign picture collection comes from Canada. Maybe I just paid more attention to signs because I was traveling alone, and I had the freedom to take the time to stop and take pictures. But I also think that there was a greater number of interesting signage.

Whatever the reason, here are a few more signs for your sign-spotting enjoyment.



On the ferry to Grand Manan Island

safety sign on Grand Manan Island

What does this mean?

I think it has to do with emergency procedures, in the event that the ferry has technical difficulties and starts sinking or otherwise becomes unusable.

As far as I can tell, this sign is instructing you to do the following:

  • Gather in a group, small children in front. You will change from a small power-walking person into either a large white-bodied person, or a small or medium-sized green-bodied person.
  • Hanging lifeboat. (How is this an instruction? Do you gather at the hanging lifeboat? If so, it shouldn’t be in it’s own seperate square on the sign. Or is this just informative, to let you know that there is a hanging lifeboat?)
  • Run towards the white rectangle (I’m guessing this is the door). Question: is this the door out to the deck? Also, it’s a good thing that stick-figure is hunched over, because he definitely would hit his head if he wasn’t.

I’m confused by the order. Gather and then run? Shouldn’t you maybe run outside and gather at the lifeboat? The gathering of people and the lifeboat are seperate pictures, hence the confusion with the order. And aren’t you not supposed to run in case of emergency? Don’t they always tell you to calmly walk to the nearest exit? And in that running picture, are you running inside or outside? Though you can’t tell from this picture, the way out to the deck was actually to the right, not the left, as the arrow is indicating.


Anyway, here is where I believe you are meant to gather, in case of an event necessitating such measures:


Grand Manan Island ferry

At one of these fun-looking lifeboat pods. Well, I’m assuming that these are lifeboat pods, based on the pictures on them. To me they look like giant barrels, but apparently they open up into lifeboats.

Which, if you follow these instructions, turn into life boats. Not sure how that happens, but I guess it works.

Somehow this goes from being a white barrel to a giant orange lifeboat (See steps 5 to 6, 3rd row down). I guess when you pull the cord magic transformation happens.

Grand Manan Island ferry lifeboat

These seem to make more sense than that first sign at least. However, I’m not sure where you go to get the green suit which all the people in the diagram are wearing.

Luckily, we didn’t have to test this on either of my trips on the ferry.


Riverside Albert

One last picture, also from Canada, a tiny town outside of Fundy National Park, in New Brunswick.

sign for Riverside Albert Canada

The sign reads:

Welcome to Riverside Albert

Home Of

Heritage Buildings * Old Bank Museum

Crooked Creek Trail/ Park & Lookout

NB Trail System * Free Email


Free email?!?!?! Whaaaaat? No way!

I’m definitely stopping there!

(note: I didn’t stop there. Other than to take this picture. I didn’t want to be the one to them that you can get free email from anywhere with an internet connection.)

There’s a few more pictures yet to come, so stay tuned!




Sign spotting: Part 1- Personal Safety

My little brother loves the Signspotting books. He owns them all. I know this, because he has shown them all to me. Repeatedly.

He typically goes through phases where he is fairly obsessed with one particular set of reading and/or movie materials (sometimes there is a clear connection between the reading materials and DVDs in his stack, other times not). He’s really into series of things, like, say, all of the Star Wars movies, or Uncle John’s Bathroom Readers, or a stack of Cleveland Cavs paraphernalia and Media Guides from the past five years, from which he will regale us with various statistical tidbits, staring intently at me over his glasses, and talking as if I know anyone other than LeBron on the team– wait, he left, right? Haha, just kidding. That’s a terrible joke. I’m sorry).

Anyway, the Signspotting books are on regular rotation. Over the years, I’ve seen most of them. Repeatedly, as I may have mentioned. So I started taking my own sign-spotting pictures as I traveled. And here they are.

To make it even more fun, they’re going to be spread out across a few posts. Then you have to come back and read my blog for more. Though I’m sure you come back regularly and read it anyway. (Thanks Grandma, I love you 🙂 )


So here we go:

Lauren’s Sign Spotting: Part 1- Personal Safety


Grand Manan Island, New Brunswick, Canada

Grand Manan Island New Brunswick

Caution: if you run enthusiastically off the cliff, popcorn will fall out of your feet.


Somewhere in Florida, USA

no fireworks at gas station

“No fireworks discharge within 300 feet.”


This is a gas station, somewhere in Florida, that sells fireworks. And gasoline. One stop shopping. Because I generally want to buy fireworks and diesel fuel at the same time. Doesn’t everyone?

But at least there is a fire extinguisher handy. Just in case you don’t pace out those 300 feet quite right.

I took this picture a few years ago, as I was driving back to Ohio from Titusville, Florida, where I had an internship at Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge.

I am alarmed that this needs to be put up as a warning on a gas station. And why only 300 feet? I’m fairly certain I don’t want someone shooting off fireworks 400 feet from where I’m pumping gas, let alone 300. And does that 300 feet start from the door, or from the furthest gas pump?



Phi Phi Island, Thailand

phiphi island thailand


Remember, our body is not a life buoy. Because we, collectively, only have one body, and apparently it doesn’t float all that well.

Also, getting run over by a boat is bad.


Prince Edward Island, Canada

The signPrince Edward Island lighthouse sign

Interpretation: It is unstable to stand on a tilty platform on the edge of a kite, because you might fall on the floating rocks.

Honestly, that picture doesn’t make the bank look all that steep. That’s barely one body length. In real life, the drop is much, much, much steeper. Also, in real life you can’t even get to the edge because they put up a fence. Probably because all the tourists accidentally drive their cars off or something.

This is next to the East Point Lighthouse on PEI, which is on the northeastern tip of the island. It’s all open and exposed around the lighthouse (which I was too cheap to pay to climb, because as I visited on a rainy day, I suspected the view would be similar to the one from the ground– foggy).

If they’re so concerned about erosion, then they probably shouldn’t put unsecured platforms on the cliff edge. Or lighthouses, for that matter.

Conclusion: They are very concerned about you falling off the edges of things in Canada (see first sign).



Thác Datanla, Dalat, Vietnam

dalat vietnam waterfall

This sign was posted along the edge of the waterfall, either because the slippery rocks are dangerous and they don’t want you to fall and get hurt, or because it’s poisonous. Slightly different things. If you read neither English nor Vietnamese, I would think you’d be a little confused. Though I’m sure that if you drank the water in the waterfall you’d probably get sick, so maybe that’s what they meant.

Oh, and this was the waterfall where a man dressed in an elaborate red monkey costume stuck his finger in my ear. He almost got an elbow in the jugular (since I’m taller than most Asian men, the elbow meant for his gut would have hit a bit higher), which would have definitely knocked him into the “poisonous” area behind the sign. Because where I come from, we don’t do that. I do realize that I’m a visitor to your country, and that Ohioans can be a strange breed sometimes, but there are a few core values that I refuse to compromise. Such as having foreign objects and appendages stuck in my ears. That would be a no-no.

As my sister would say:

False. You will not be doing that. 


And there we have it. Look for part 2 coming soon!

For more entertainment until then, you should read more about Eric in this blog post:

Things My Brother Says 

It makes me giggle every time I read it.


26 Things I’ve Learned in My 26 Years

Here is the world.

Beautiful and terrible things will happen.

Don’t be afraid.

— Frederick Buechner

Canyonlands National Park Utah

Canyonlands, Utah

1. Not everything in life has to be hard.

Sometimes the easy path is the one you’re supposed to go down. Sometimes it’s the universe showing you where you’re supposed to go.

lily in sunlight


2. If you throw the candy wrappers away in the trash, Mom will never find them.

If you stuff them in the couch she will find them and you will get in trouble.


imageswhisper-words-of-wisdom_615x454 3. Let it be.

As in, the microwave/car/laptop/whathaveyou that is malfunctioning will probably start working properly again if you let it alone for a spell. Granted, this doesn’t always work, but sometimes it does. I have in fact “fixed” a microwave and a few car problems this way.


4. A sense of humor will take you far in the world.

I honestly don’t know how you’d get by without one. Life is ridiculous, there’s no getting around that. So just enjoy it. Laugh and be merry.

winter camping Wyoming

5. Go camping.

If you want to get to know someone really well, go camping with them. Hopefully you realize that they’re awesome, ‘cause if not it’s going to be a looong weekend.

Fundy National Park New Brunswick Canada

Fundy National Park, New Brunswick

6. Travel.

Traveling is imperative for any well-rounded individual. Even if you can’t physically travel to far-off lands, mental travel can be enough. Read a book, or watch a documentary/movie that transports you somewhere else and teaches you something about other people and the world around you. The world is a large place, but not as big as it seems. The people living on the other side of it are just like us. It is not as scary as you think out there. GO!

blue springs state park florida

Another travel perk: hugging manatees.

7. A good book is always worth its weight in your checked bag.

These are your reserve books for the travels home, because of course you will have finished the books in your carry-on bag. You should have a book to read on your person at all times.

8. It’s better not to tell Mom what you did until after you make it back safely.

Or ever. This includes skydiving, almost getting arrested in Washington DC for sleeping in your car, and picking up hitchhikers in foreign countries. Especially that last one.

skydiving Ohio

9. If you make cookies, they will be eaten.

Especially if you live in a bunkhouse with other field biologists. And especially if they are male.

10. If you simply expect things to work out, they probably will.

The world does not have it against you. It might not happen exactly how you planned, but it will work out in some fashion.

Adopt a kitten, get some sweet corn!

11. Going for a walk is an excellent way to generate thoughts.

galapagos islands

12. There are many people in this world who do not know how to put toilet paper on the holder.

Perhaps they purposely didn’t change out the empty roll because they wanted you to have the joy of doing so.

change toilet paper brain damage sign

13. Not speaking does not mean not caring.

Or not being intelligent. Sometimes we just can’t speak, or don’t know what to say.

Blue Ridge Parkway North Carolina

Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina

14. Just because that’s how it’s been for a long time doesn’t mean that’s how it’s supposed to be forever.

15. My family will always be odder than yours.

Therefore, there is very little you can do to weird me out.

Lauren and Grandad with hats

16. It is very hard for me to be happy if I can’t go outside every day.

Sunshine, trees, fresh air, blue skies, and some mountains would be preferable. That’s all I need. And some birds.

Nepal Annapurna

17. Sometimes you just want to do nothing.

And that’s okay. You don’t have to be working on something all the time. It’s okay to take a break every once in awhile and just breathe.

Teton Science School Wilson Campus bunkhouse

18. Though sometimes you might think otherwise, it’s probably better that you didn’t actually say what was on your mind.

Stupid can’t be taken back, and neither can unkind words (no matter how deserved they are).

Darn it, if only my parents hadn’t raised me to be such a polite and respectful person…

Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

19. Climbing up a mountain on your own steam is a powerful feeling.

The view is always better when you work for it.

trekking Mt. Kinabalu Malaysia

It is not always advisable to wear Teva sandals and socks to climb mountains. But I find them to be excellent hiking foot attire.

20. Be excited about something every day.

I learned this one from my dog, who, for all of his 14 years, was excited to the point of backflips for his food. I’m not sure I’ve ever been that excited about food, and, thinking about it, I’m not sure why not. Food is exciting stuff. Life is exciting stuff. So get excited about it, and don’t bother with what other people think.

food truck moab utah

21. You can’t outrun your past. Or a charging moose.

And of the two, I can personally attest that the charging moose is much more terrifying.

Fundy National Park New Brunswick Canada

22. Birds are cool.

Like really cool. For instance, migration. Ruby-throated hummingbirds fly non-stop across the Gulf of Mexico. RTHUs weigh 2-6 grams (0.1-0.2 oz) and are 7-9 cm (2.8-3.5 inches) long. At elevations of 2,000 to 5,000 feet, in 11-18 hours, the tiny birds fly 600 miles over the Gulf. Woah.


23. Send postcards.

Everyone loves to get mail. I mean really, is anyone going to say “Don’t send me any more mail, I don’t like getting a little personalized note that lets me know you’re thinking about me”? No.

24. People leave their brains at home when they go on vacation.

On that note, the middle of the road on a blind curve is not a good place to stop to take a picture when there is traffic coming from both directions.

Also, when the sign on the visitor center says “Hours 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.” that doesn’t mean we employees want to sit here another half hour while you use the bathroom, ask detailed questions about the refuge, and browse the gift shop. But by all means, go right ahead. I get the equivalent of 87 cents an hour for this internship, and no, I have absolutely nothing better to do with my time right now. I really don’t want to go home and eat dinner or anything like that.

south carolina hiking

25. Make music.

Sing. Play an instrument. Music is the language of the soul. And it just feels good.

Especially when it involves boomwackers and Call Me Maybe.

26. Love like sunshine.

Love should warm you, brighten up your day, help you to see things you didn’t before. It should be everywhere, illuminating everything.


Also, I wanted to mention that I have learned a great deal of other things in my 26 years, this is only a sampling. Just wanted to clarify.

An Unfortunate Reality


It is an unfortunate reality for innate idlers that our modern world requires one to hold a job to maintain a sustainable existence.”

— J. Maarten Troost, from the book The Sex Lives of Cannibals


Cape Breton Highlands NP, Nova Scotia, Canada.
One of the best places to spend a morning with a hot mug of chai and a journal.

Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”: the Owl Version

You may have heard the Daft Punk song “Get Lucky.” If not, here’s a Youtube video:

I enjoy this song, and find it very catchy. I also enjoy those snazzy sequin suit jackets they’re all sporting. Classy. However, I think they got the lyrics wrong. It’s pretty good as-is, but there’s a better way. One involving birds (therefore of course it’s better— see Portlandia- Put A Bird On It).

Here are the original lyrics, as best as I can figure. There is some discrepancy between the different sources I consulted during a quick Google search. Pharrell needs to learn to enunciate properly, then we wouldn’t have this problem. And what’s with the hand in the pocket in the video? Get your hand out of your pants, it looks weird.

“Get Lucky” (original version)

(first verse)

Like the legend of the phoenix

All ends with beginnings

What keeps the planet spinning

The force from the beginning


We’ve come too far to give up who we are

So let’s raise the bar and our cups to the stars


She’s up all night ’til the sun

I’m up all night to get some

She’s up all night for good fun

I’m up all night to get lucky

(repeat multiple times, changing the “I’m up all night…” to “We’re up all night…”)

(second verse)

The present has no ribbon (or possibly rhythm)

Your gift keeps on giving

What is this I’m feeling?

If you wanna leave I’m with it

(repeat the part about cups, then repeat the chorus a gazillion times. It’s a pretty simple song as far as lyrics go).

so cute_461x588

Why stay up all night if there are no owls involved?

Phoenixes, cups, presents, ribbons, all well and good. But owls? Better.

The first time I heard this song I didn’t really listen to the words of the two verses, just the chorus: “She’s up all night to the sun/ I’m up all night to get some…” Obviously, I thought, they’re talking about owl banding. Why else would you stay “up all night til the sun” unless you were catching owls?

So I rewrote the lyrics. Someone had to.

I used saw-whets in this version, as they are the only owls I have experience banding (and therefore the only ones I have decent pictures of), but I’m sure we could easily modify for other species.

“Get Lucky” (saw-whet version)

(first verse)

i am not happy right now_480x461

We are not amused.

We’re gonna catch some saw-whets

They’ll fly into our mist nets

And then we’re gonna band them

To study their population


They’ve flown so far to get to where they are

So let’s raise our nets and our poles to the stars


We’re up all night to the sun

We’re up all night to catch some

We’re up all night for good fun

We’re up all night to catch saw-whets

another saw whet_615x461

Bonding time.

(second verse)

Now hold your wing out lightly

I’ll shine my black light brightly*

What is this I’m seein?

Got my data, now you’re leavin’

(repeat bridge, which I am too lazy to type out again)

(repeat chorus)

*biologists use UV light (a black light) to age saw-whets based on molt pattern (the way their feathers have grown, and how old they are). They do this by looking at the underside of their wings. Young birds will have pinkish-looking feathers, and older birds will have a combo of pinkish and whitish feathers. Check out the McGill Bird Observatory’s Northern Saw-whet Owl banding page for more information and pictures.

trying to fly_614x461

What does an owl with an attitude have?
A scowl!

And here’s one more bad owl joke to send you on your way:

What do you call an owl with a sore throat? 

A bird that doesn’t give a hoot!

All pictures were taken in 2011 while banding in Presque Isle State Park, Erie Pennsylvania. 

How To Catch A Bird in A Mist Net

Or, How to Catch a Bird in 6 Steps



Black-and-white Warbler (juvenile). St. Andrews, New Brunswick, September 2013.

***For those who don’t know what a mist net is, check out this informative, well-written, entertaining, engaging blog post: What Is A Mist Net?***


1. Get up early, as in before sunrise, and get yourself to your banding station. Nets need to be up and opened (able to catch birds) by about a half-hour after sunrise. Coffee is recommended.

spreading the net_461x615

The spreading of the trammels. Much consideration goes into choosing just the right stick for this purpose. 

2. Set up your net. This will involve two 10 ft metal poles (electrical conduit poles work nicely) and a mist net. Slide the pole through one set of the end loops on the net, stand up the pole, and then walk down the net lane feeding out your net. Once all the net is stretched out, slip a pole through the other end and set it up.

2.5 If needed, tie guidelines from nearby trees, or stakes in the ground, to help keep your poles upright.

3. Spread out the trammels*. Make sure they aren’t twisted. Use a stick to get them up high enough.

4. Take a good look and make sure everything is set up right, that the net isn’t bunched up or stuck together, or too loose and saggy, and then go on to set up the rest of the nets.

5. Once all the nets are set up, check them at least every half-hour to see if you have caught any birds. If you have, gently untangle them, place them in a bird bag, and take them back to the banding station for processing.

6. Processing will be explained in detail in a following blog post, but here’s the short speal:

Once back at the banding station, we take a bunch of measurements/observations: wing length (called wing chord), weight, age, sex, how fat they are (by looking at the hollow below their neck, one of the places birds will store fat for migration), molt (are they growing in any feathers?), and flight feather wear (how raggedy are their wing feathers).

st andrews net a1_615x461

A mist net open and ready to catch birds.

It’s that simple!

Haha, just kidding. I wish.

Setting up mist nets extremely early in the morning is one of the few things that has the ability to make me instantly and irrationally angry. When the net is tangled, or your poles keep falling down before you can get them secured so the net falls on the ground and becomes a magnet for leaves and twigs you then must delicately remove, or when your stakes and ropes are missing, or when one of the trammels breaks… Let’s just say that I sometimes have the urge to chuck the net onto the ground, stomp on it until it’s dead, and then throw it in the river. And then punch a panda in the face. That’s how deep the rage can be.


I don’t care how cute you are. You’ve never set up a mist net, so you wouldn’t understand.

It takes lots of practice to be able to safely and quickly remove birds from mist nets, and to process them efficiently and quickly. Note the emphasis on quickly– being caught in a mist net is stressful enough, so we try to get the birds back on their ways ASAP while being as careful as we can while handling them.

As I’ve mentioned, I’m currently in Canada banding birds, so if anyone’s interested you should stop by the Huntsman Marine Centre and check out our banding station. I welcome the company!



Blue-headed Vireo. St. Andrews, New Brunswick, September 2013.

*refer to What Is A Mist Net?


Happy Birding! 

Oh Canada.

Oh hey everyone, I’m in Canada right now. Might have forgotten to mention that… whoops. Anyway, here I am!

water st st andrews

Downtown St. Andrews. This is pretty much it, though there are a grocery store and a few more shops behind me. There are no traffic lights, and the main drag takes up about four blocks. It’s a very pleasant stroll along the waterfront.

I’m working as a bird bander for the Huntsman Marine Science Centre, which is in the town of St. Andrews, which is in the province of New Brunswick, which is right on the Bay of Fundy, and a softball throw from the Maine border (as my mother put it).

Here’s a map:

Google map of HMC

Check out the Huntsman Bird Banding site: St. Andrews Bird Banding Station

My border crossing was not quite as easy as it could have been, since apparently the paper I had explaining my purpose for coming to Canada didn’t pass muster (though it worked perfectly fine for the other bander who flew in from California, and has worked in the past.) But whatever. It was Sunday evening, they must have been bored and wanted something to do. And I really, really, really wanted to sit at the border for over an hour after driving for 8 hours that day on 4 hours of sleep. Really.

After making multiple phone calls to two different people at Huntsman, who tried to explain it all to the guards (and eventually emailed them a differently-worded letter to let me get through, with the promise that it would be printed out and delivered the next day on the proper Huntsman letterhead) I was permitted to pass Go– after I paid for the $150 work visa. I don’t have a problem with this, it does make sense, but I wish they would just be consistent. Apparently this happens every year– some of the banders have no problem, others have hoops to jump through (my hoops were on fire, and I was on a unicycle). It’s easier for everyone if you have one set of rules and stick to them– and if you inform people as to what those rules are. Just sayin.

ship mural st andrews

Ship mural on the side of a building in St. Andrews (if you couldn’t tell from the picture). The town is also sometimes called “St. Andrews by-the-Sea,” probably because of the proximity of the sea.

During our multiple extended waiting periods (seems like just about every 10 minutes or so I’d get called back up to the desk to answer a semi-pointless question), I chatted a bit with the guy processing my papers. First, I explained a bit about what bird banding was. All he seemed to care about was that we put bands on birds. Period. He didn’t want to hear the rest of my spiel, which was slightly disappointing. I like telling people about mist nets.

As he was perusing my passport, he asked, Oh, so were you working in all these other countries? Last year I spent a couple months traveling around in Asia, and I’ve been to a few places in Central and South America as well. I’m very proud of my collection of assorted visas and stamps.

No, I said, I was just traveling for fun. I had a friend who had a Fulbright to study lobster farming in Vietnam and went to go visit him, and then we traveled around a bit. Nepal was my favorite, trekking in the Himalayas was amazing.

Oh, well they’re not countries many people go to just for travel, he replied.

I wasn’t sure how to respond to that one. Huh? I would think more people go there just to travel than to band birds. It did seem that all of the non-natives I met in Asia were there “just to travel” (other than that one weirdo studying lobsters), but what do I know, I’m just a lowly-paid field biologist.

He also mentioned at one point that if they couldn’t get everything figured out I might not be able to cross the border tonight, and I didn’t want to have to drive all the way back to Ohio. Again, not sure how to respond to that one. Because I probably wouldn’t have just spent the night in Maine and tried to get across the next day, but instead I would have turned around and driven the 15 hours back to Ohio then and there. Right.

view of the bay

Passamaquoddy Bay, which I think rolls off the tongue quite nicely. According to Wikipedia, it was the site of a large flour smuggling operation that peaked in 1808. After American flour had its heyday, British manufactured goods and then gypsum from Nova Scotia were the smuggles of choice. (Not sure if that’s a proper way to refer to smuggled items, but it should be).

I also was a little confused as to why I wouldn’t be able to cross as a visitor instead, if the powers-that-be didn’t like my paperwork. I could have signed some paper or something that promised I wouldn’t work until I got the proper forms filled out. I mean, if you can’t get a work visa, can’t you still visit the country as a tourist? I didn’t want to bring that up unless I needed to as I figured it would just complicate matters.

Though it started to get slightly challenging (mostly as I was about ready to fall asleep even though the benches were extremely uncomfortable), I tried to be as pleasant and friendly as I could. They probably feel better about letting a slightly odd, chatty girl into their country than one who has been giving the death stare and monosyllabic answers for the past hour and looks like she’s ready to pass out either because she’s had no sleep or been doing recreational drugs.

But I made it, and this first week has been interesting so far. I’ve seen some old familiar eastern birds that I’ve missed during my time out West, though not very many of them. We have a total of 14 nets in 2 different sites, and John and I each run a site. Mine has 8 nets, his has 6. Today, total, we caught 9 birds: John caught 8 of them, which means I had 1. My busiest day so far has been 6. We have the nets open for 5 hours each day, depending on the weather. At least I’m getting a lot of reading done- I’ve already finished one book (Bonk, by Mary Roach. I highly recommend it, though it’s a bit awkward explaining to your boss when she asks “What book are you reading?”).

I still can’t get over the fact that there are no Tetons in the backyard. The ocean is okay I guess, but I’m definitely more of a mountain girl. You can’t climb on the ocean, though there are some cool birds.

sunset on the water_615x209

And in other breaking news….

Happy Birthday to my fabulous Mother Dearest!

I know I say this every year, but you’re the Best Mommy I’ve Ever Had 🙂

I love you Mom!

lauren and mom grand prismatic yellowstone_615x461

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, 2012.