Friday, November 29, 2013

Raven Eats Wasps

Did a quick image search for this sort of behavior but nothing turned up.

(Caveat:  Never birdwatch while driving.)

Way in the back of the long office parking lot, there is a pass-through driveway to the supermarket next door.  The back of the parking lot is a bit overgrown, and in the curbside underbrush grows a tree. And on that tree, there hangs an impressive and unmistakable paper wasp nest.  Big and grey, it waves, heavily on a windy day, on the tip of a delicate branch.

I was taking the shortcut through the supermarket lot on my way to the office when I saw a big black bird fly over the car and land on the nest.  I thought it was a crow at first, as ravens are not as common in these suburbs.  But this was a big glossy bird with a heavy bill, and it was making no sound, unlike the boisterous local crows.

The pass-through is narrow, and I hit the high curb as I was looking at the bird.  Two cars leaving the office lot stopped to stare as I backed off the curb and let them pass.  I drove through when they had gone and pulled into the nearest space, hoping the bird was still there.  It stayed as I stepped out of the car and into the lot.  A guy drove up behind me and honked impatiently until I moved to the side.  A woman drove up behind him and smiled indulgently as I snapped a few shots.

All I had was my Samsung tablet.  It takes photos, but not like the Nikon does.  With no zoom lens, and only a screen which reflects the sky on a bright day in such a way that one cannot tell what one is photographing, I took a few blind shots while the raven picked at the nest, sending shards of the soft gray paper fluttering to the ground. This is the good one:

This one wasn't too bad, either, left uncropped.  It was a gorgeous cold day, and the raven is beautiful black bird.

Since it was a sub-freezing,  I imagine the raven got a few tasty torpid wasps for its trouble.  Ravens are the largest of the perching birds, members of the crow family, and quite stunning up close.  Paper wasps are nasty, stinging insects.  I'm thankful for ravens.

Want to learn more?  Here are some raven books:
Mind of the Raven (Heinrich)
Ravens in Winter (Heinrich)
The Raven (Poe!)
Raven and the Red Ball (picture book)
Raven (Native American tale)
Arabel's Raven (Aiken)
Charlie's Raven (George)
Clem (true story)
The Seven Ravens (Grimm)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

10 Cool Gifts for Earth Science Students

...and some books, of course.  Since I am teaching earth science this year, I thought I'd pull together a quick list of small gifts, bigger gifts, or stocking-stuffers for the enthusiastic rock lover.  Of course, nothing says Merry Geological Christmas like a lump of coal.  But here are a few other suggestions. Books for earth science are listed at the end.


Small sample boxes

Rock hammer

Loupe set

Rock Tumbler

UV flashlight

Safety glasses


Prospecting pan

Stereo microscope for rock samples

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ye Olde MacBeth's Opinion Website

Seems as though the home page has been taken over by some equally olde web entity.  I changed the link (left sidebar) to the nature study page. All links except the homepage are available through the nature study page.  If you have encountered problems in the past, try visiting now.  Meanwhile, I hope to get back to moving the whole mess to the blog, and revitalizing the links.

Hope you are all enjoying autumn!

Monday, November 4, 2013

St. Andrew Chaplet for the Terminally Forgetful

Raise your hand if you have started the St. Andrew prayer during Advent, planning faithfully to follow the prescribed prayer series only to forget.  Every year, I do the same thing.

Fortunately, for those terminally forgetful among us, there is a solution and solace to be found in the simple chaplet...put it on your wrist for a constant reminder of the devotion.

Pretty, isn't it?

Made by my friend Ruth, who anticipated my need, this beautiful chaplet can be found find on her website, along with the prayer.