August 28, 2011 – Birds & Bugs

I’m the only one I know who keeps wasp nests on his back porch.  Of course, these are specialized “trap nests” which are attractive to only a few species.  Although I haven’t collected any data on carpenter wasps in years, I still find them fascinating.  From my kitchen table, I can see them bringing in caterpillars to feed their young and mud balls to seal off the cells in their nests–1/2-inch diameter holes bored into foot-long boards.  Sometimes when I see one arrive, I’ll run outside and try to photograph it.  I’d like to get one in flight carrying a caterpillar or mud ball, but I haven’t gotten it yet. 

I was outside watering what’s left of our garden with rainwater when I found a Rainbow Scarab in a bucket.  It was still alive, so naturally I saved it for photography.  This is a large, striking species of dung beetle.  It’s not uncommon, just nocturnal.  I see one every couple of years.  I used an entomologist’s trick of shooting my flashes into a styrofoam bucket to even out the lighting.

Today I went out to Lowell’s.  We fished a couple rounds of the lake and I caught a couple of foot-long bass.  I photographed another green heron, and a deer that spooked after it got a good look at me.  After lunch in Durham (where I had the world’s best chocolate malt) we worked on the canoe trailer.  I had brought out the first canoe I had obtained back in April, a 15-foot plastic Coleman I call “The Spirit of St. Francis.”  We loaded it on the trailer and found that the vertical spacing was just barely adequate to accommodate it.  We noted the trailer was lacking in lateral stability, whereupon, Lowell described the relevant physics.  He said, “You can’t have zero moments.  Zero moments require infinite force.”  I said, “I love it when you talk dirty.”  Lowell had planned some braces reduce the moments (wobbling).   We decided it would be good to test fit the other canoes on it first.  We towed it over to the shed and loaded a few on, where we found that the bottom ones would rub the trailer in front, and that they wouldn’t stack properly without considerable overlap of the curved bows and sterns.  We need a redesign and slight rebuild.  While we were at it, we measured all the canoes.  I was supposed to get five, fifteen-foot Osagian canoes, but I got more than my money’s worth.  For one thing, one boat is a Grumman, and we knew some were longer than others.  It turns out that only two were 15 feet long.  Two were 17, and one is a monstrous 19 feet.  You can mount a major expedition in a 19-foot canoe. 

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August 14, 2011 – two trips to Lowell’s

I went out to Lowell’s on Wednesday and again on Sunday.  Wednesday the fishing was good.  I caught several bass and a large catfish, as usual, on a spinnerbait.  The channel catfish had a big overbite.  I was watching a green heron at the edge of the lake, holding the camera on it and waiting for it to come out from behind some weeds.  Suddenly, it turned and grabbed a frog out of the water, then ran back in the opposite direction.  I hit the shutter button and caught a burst of frames.  One of them turned out to be in focus.  Look for it in the slide show below.  Turtles, dragonflies, and muskrats rounded out that adventure.  Oh, and a fawn. We also spent some time with the chainsaw cutting down an old dead tree and clearing a trail.

Sunday the fishing was again pretty good, at least for me.  I caught seven largemouth bass in two rounds of the lake.  We took an early lunch, came back and worked on an old boat trailer that Lowell had out back.  We took the old deck and other extraneous parts off of it.  I was amazed that the tires were still good, quite good, in fact.  It will be part of a future project that is under development.  Afterward I stopped at Bob and Jaime’s to drop something off and photographed a cicada killer and some butterflies in their yard.
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Aug 14, 2011 Lowell’s

August 7, 2011 — Florida Vacation

We took our family vacation this summer to stay with Bob and Jaime at their condo in Lake Wales.  From there we made many short trips to interesting destinations.  First, we hit the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, where we met Bob’s daughter Robin and her husband Brian.  It’s quite a nice aquarium. 

The next morning I was stung by fire ants while walking about the back yard.  While I am a hymenopterist, I don’t go out of my way to experience these events.  The stings themselves were inconsequential, rating barely a 1 on the Schmidt scale (which ranges from 0 to 4), but the pustules and itching that followed were very inconvenient.

We went to the Lowry Park Zoo that day and met Bob’s other daughter, Rochelle, and her daughter Riley.  It was a really good zoo, and we got a lot of cool photos.  From there we went to Venice Beach, which is known for its shark teeth.  I actually found a shark tooth while walking along in the surf.  The gulf water is much warmer than that in California or the Galapagos.  Savannah found half a shark’s tooth.

As we drove home that night  I saw a big bird cross the road to
avoid the car (it had been eating a road kill).  Recognizing it
immediately, and having wanted to see one for some 30 years, I suddenly
yelled, “CRESTED CARACARA!”  This awoke Savannah from a dead sleep.  She
was not amused, especially since I had done the exact same thing about
10 years ago for a scissor-tailed flycatcher.  The flycatcher has been a running joke in our family, and the caracara is becoming one, usually modified as “crested caca.” We turned around to have a better look.  I have murky, distant images because  it  was already sunset. 

The next day we drove down to Fort Myers and spent the night at a motel.  On the way, we stopped at Manatee Park.  There were no manatees, as they mainly hang out there during winter.  Incredibly, Savannah spotted a bobcat.  I hadn’t seen one in the wild in 25 years.  I took a stab with my camera as it ran through the brush, but all I got was a blurry shot of a palm frond.  Bob, me, and Bob’s friend Tom went downtown and did some night photography.  The following morning we drove out to Sanibel Island to get an early start shelling.   Sanibel is well known for the diversity and abundance of shells that wash up on its beaches, and Jaime has been hunting them for some 25 years.  She took us to her favorite spot and we began our walk down the beach.  Unfortunately, it was high tide, which covers up a lot of shells.  We found quite a few by wading the shallows, rather than walking on the sand.  We even saw a couple of small stingrays in the surf.  Savannah really enjoyed finding shells, and has spent hours cleaning and curating her collection.

The last day we went out to Bok Tower Gardens, which is only 6 miles away.  It is a fascinating place, full of flowers, plants, butterflies and other wildlife.  I’m not much into architecture, but the tower itself was pretty awesome.  I fell in love with the place.  Bob and I spent the afternoon relaxing while the ladies went to the mall.

I almost forgot to mention that just after we arrived at Bok Tower, an employee said that a woman was on the floor and they had called 911.  I had lost track of Stacey, and spent several panicked minutes looking before finding her in the visitor’s center.  Stacey and Savannah sprung into firefighter and lifeguard mode, respectively, and took care of the lady until the paramedics arrived.  After it was over, the manager gave us two passes for our next visit and free lunch.

Here are my best photos from the trip, more or less in chronological order.

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Florida 2011