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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