Sunday, April 25, 2021

Cicadas Are Coming!


This is an annual cicada. They are also called dog day cicadas because they appear during the hot humid "dog days" of late summer. We see some of these big green guys every year. Click to enlarge.

This is a periodical cicada. Black body, red eyes, orange trim. This kind is famous for emerging in large groups at intervals of 13 and 17 years. Lucky for us, different groups are on different schedules so we don't have to wait that long to see them. Brood II (two) emerged in 2013: you can read my eyewitness account by clicking here. This spring we're expecting Brood X (ten) -- also called The Great Eastern Brood -- to emerge over an area that spans from Georgia to New York and into the Midwest. Click here to link to a 2021 cicada map published by Newsweek.

The cicadas of Brood X have been underground in wingless nymph form for the past 17 years, feeding on tree root sap. But this year, when the soil temperature is just right, probably in May, they'll begin to burrow upward. They'll dig out of the ground, climb a tree or whatever seems good, attach to it, shed their skins and emerge as winged adults. That's an empty skin pictured above. Then they'll call, fly around, find mates, and lay eggs. They've got just a couple of weeks to make a racket and reproduce after which they die. Another few weeks and their eggs will hatch in the tree branches and this year's tiny nymphs fall to the ground and hunker down to suck sap for the next 17.

We see Brood X again in 2038.

Sunday, April 18, 2021



Yesterday was National Haiku Poetry Day. In celebration I give you the view from the bridge at Batsto Lake in Hammonton, New Jersey, and the haiku below from poet Kobayashi Issa. 

"stillness -- 

in the depths of the lake

billowing clouds"  


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Spring Song

The white-throated sparrows that have quietly spent the winter scratching in the underbrush are now bright faced and singing for spring. Click to enlarge.

    Birdwatchers make mnemonics to help them remember bird songs, mnemonics that mimic the cadence and count the syllables of bird songs. Black-capped chickadees seem to say chickadee-dee-dee chickadee-dee-dee. Brown thrashers sound like they are saying drop it, drop it, pick it up, pick it up. And chestnut-sided warblers politely repeat pleased pleased pleased to meet cha! 

    White-throated sparrows sing something that sounds like Po-or Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody, or O-old Sam Peabody Peabody Peabody. North of the U.S. border I’ver heard people  say it’s more like Oh sweet Canada Canada Canada. The song is a loud, clear, attention-getting whistle that stands out among the other sounds of spring: a long note, a lower note, a third even lower note repeated in two or three sets of three.

    People who know I’m a birdwatcher sometimes whistle this song to me in spring, wondering what they’ve heard. Rachel Maddow once recorded it on her Blackberry while walking in the woods and played it on her news show, seeking identification. It is that kind of sound. 

This sentence links to a Cornell Lab of Ornithology recording of a white-throated sparrow singing – click to hear the song. 


Not quite as flashy at other times of the year, but still cool.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Happy Easter!

This is Phil, one of three famous peacocks that live at The Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City,1047 Amsterdam Ave at 112th St. The other two are conventional peacock blue and green colors. They all roam freely around the grounds. White Phil stands out and he looks like an Easter bird to me. The sign says no dogs on the grass but absolutely nothing about peacocks, right? Happy Holiday!  Click to enlarge.