City Creek Nature Notes – Salt Lake City

December 1, 2016

December 1st

Filed under: Bald-Faced Hornets, Gambel's Oak, Insects, Nests, picnic site 4, Seasons, Weather — canopus56 @ 10:13 pm

Another Wasp Nest

1:30 p.m. It is the third day since the last major storm; temperatures have remained low; and as a result the trees are still covered with unmelted snow. Where the Sun does come out from behind scattered clouds, the melting process only just begins: it is so cold that a few isolated clumps of snow drop from tree branches. This is another marker for Fall: when it becomes so cold after a storm that snow does not melt from the trees for several days. Even though it is cold, a group of about 50 middle school children are on a field trip up the canyon.

Today, for the first mile, I travel slowly and systematically scan the leafless trees for birds nests. I find no additional nests beyond the hummingbird nest at mile 0.25 (October 27th), but I am rewarded by finding another large Bald-faced Hornet nest, about one and one-quarter the size of a basketball, across on the west canyon side from picnic site 4 at mile 0.5. Unlike the nest at picnic site 9 at mile 1.2, this nest is in an oak on the slope about forty feet above the road, and since it cannot be easily reached by people, the nest is still in excellent condition. This nest was probably the source of the carnivorous wasps seen feeding on a snake carcass near this location on August 20th.

I take the temperature of the stream in order to see what the trout must contend with. The air temperature is about 31 degrees Fahrenheit, but after immersing the inexpensive mercury thermometer into the stream, the mercury rises to 42 degrees Fahrenheit. In such water, a human would loose dexterity in less than five minutes and would become unconscious in more than thirty and less than sixty minutes.

In Thoreau’s “Journal” on December 1st, 1850, he dissects a hemisphere of moss and describes its growth layers.

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