Wasp Week Day 1: Eastern Yellowjacket

Monday, October 22nd, 2007

Black and yellow wasp visitng a flower
Eastern Yellowjacket, Vespula maculifrons
Floyd Bennett Field, 2007-09-23

This is a female worker. Color patterns vary on drones and queens.

There are actually several yellowjacket species, and quite a few more wasps that look like yellowjackets. There are even flies that mimic this color pattern to scare away potential predators. Maculifrons used to be the most common “true” yellowjacket on the East Coast and still seems to be around New York City. However, in some areas it is losing ground to the invasive German Yellowjacket, Vespula germanica.

Zipless Car

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

Beth and I had planned a nice day in the Bronx today: first a trip to Coty Island for lunch and then a visit to the new York Botanical Gardens to see Kiku. However our plans were stymied when Zipcar lost the I had reserved. The nearest replacement they could offer us was in Queens, and it would have taken us almost as long to get there as to get to the Bronx in the first place.

It was a real comedy of errors: at first the garage attendant didn’t believe our car existed. Then we convinced him it did, he claimed it wasn’t in the garage. We called Zipcar on my cell phone, and they claimed the previous renter had checked it in at 11:00 last night. However the attendant still couldn’t find it. Zipcar called the garage while on the phone with me. On my line Zipcar was telling us that the car was there and that the garage said the car was there, while we could clearly hear the attendant on the phone telling Zipcar the car wasn’t at the garage. I’m not sure who we were talking to.

While we’re trying to figure all this out, another woman shows up to pick up her car. The attendant brings out the wrong car. After he points out that this isn’t the car she reserved, he then tells her that her car isn’t in the garage either so she gets on the phone too. Fortunately for her, the car she was supposed to have is just late, and drives into the garage five minutes later. That doesn’t help us much though.

When we gave up about half an hour after our reservation was supposed to start, Zipcar was trying to locate the previous renter to see if they could explain what happened to the car. However as far as I can tell it has been abducted by aliens.

We ended up going to Teddy’s Greek restaurant on Washington Ave. instead of City Island, and flying kites in Prospect Park instead of looking at chrysanthemums in the Bronx. I’ve had worse Sunday afternoons, but I am glad this wasn’t anything too important. Zipcar is clearly oversubscribed in New York, and really needs to hold some cars as backups. Right now you really can’t count on getting a car when you need one, even with a reservation made a week in advance.

Wasp Week: Day 0

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

I am declaring this to be Wasp Week here on Mokka mit Schlag. I’ll be presenting a new photograph each day of some of my favorite local New York wasps, like this Blue-black Spider Wasp from Hook Mountain. Wasps and bees are much maligned and feared, and consequently I don’t think we pay nearly enough attention to them. However, they’re usually quite harmless as long as you don’t get too close to one or step in a hive. I’ve taken some risks sticking my camera way too close to some of these individuals, so I wouldn’t be surprised if one stung me, but so far the worst that’s happened is that the wasp has flown off to the next flower. (Still, I am thinking it may be time to purchase a camera with a longer lens if I’m going to keep doing this. :-) )

Blue Black Spider Wasp; species not yet determined

American Bird Grasshopper

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

Large, colorful, grasshopper
American Bird Grasshopper, Schistocerca americana
Ridgewood Reservoir, Queens, NY, 2007-10-20

Steve Nanz found and later ID’d this monster yesterday at Ridgewood Reservoir. It’s one of the largest grasshoppers in North America. When spooked, it flies into a nearby tree, hence the name. It’s uncommon to rare this far north. Neither Steve nor I had ever seen one before. It seems to be more of a southern species. Possibly like yesterday’s Red-banded Hairstreak, global warming may be pushing its range north.

Red-banded Hairstreak

Saturday, October 20th, 2007

Small blue-gray butterfly with red and white band
Red-banded Hairstreak, Calycopis cecrops
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, 2007-10-20

This quarter-sized butterfly is only supposed to be a vagrant this far North, but its range has been increasing. I’ve seen it two weekends in a row now in the Botanic Gardens, despite the lateness of the season. It perches on a flower and rubs its wings together in opposite directions, though I’m not sure why. I’ve never seen any other butterfly do this.

Leopard Preorders

Thursday, October 18th, 2007

Apple’s announced that Max OS X 10.5 Leopard is one sale next Friday, October 26. Amazon seems to have the cheapest price: $109 with free supersaver shipping. However, if you order it direct from Apple for $129, it should arrive on Friday. I’m cheap so I’ll probably just wait for it to arrive a few days later from Amazon. I notice items shipped with Super Saver shipping usually arrive faster than the extra 5-9 days they say it will take. I suspect they’re mostly using the Super Saver as a way to distinguish their most price-sensitive customers.

Although I am looking forward to Leopard (especially Spaces, Time Machine, and the new Address Book and iCal) I may even wait till I buy my next Mac to upgrade. Apple may be releasing new MacBooks or desktops in the next few weeks as well, and if they do I may well buy one. If so, there’s no big reason to pay $109 for an OS upgrade for a machine I’m replacing soon anyway.

I do wish Apple would include the new version of iPhoto with the OS. GarageBand, iDVD, and iMovie I can live without, but iPhoto’s pretty important to me, and my version’s getting a bit old in the tooth. I’m not sure where I got it: with one system or OS upgrade or another. I can’t keep track of what’s bundled with what these days, and it’s always a pain when you have to wipe a disk clean or transfer files to a new computer and then discover some of what you thought were bundled apps are now missing. Then again I may be outgrowing iPhoto. It may be time to look into Aperture or Adobe Lightroom instead.