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Nature Notes: June 27, 2014 UPDATE

Annual firefly report. Profuse!! Brilliant! And very active! Mountain Laurel also profuse. Does this coorelate with wet Spring.

So far, Ticks pretty minimal. The Fordham University tick index is up to 10 (highest), but they are about 100 miles east of our Tick patch.  2012 Report   2011 Report  Not sure what happened in 2013. No fireflies?

UPDATE: Have I previously mentioned the wormwood invasion? Found a strapping youngster who pulled much of it in five hours. Had to let him use his double-threaded weedwacker in a few spots so he'd come back. Four days later those weed-wacked stalks are sprouting! I've been out there discouraging that. A bit like getting rid of minor faults.

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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I read just recently that because of the melting of the icebergs that we will get a lot more rain all over.  I wonder what this will do to the ecological systems.  Like the rest of the country we've had a lot more rain here.  

The pelicans on the bayou seem to be thriving, the cow bird flocks in the park are huge, and the new pair of black swans in the park are said to be doing well.  But where are the crows that used to live in my block?  

They are in our meadow chasing the squirrels, chipmunks and vols? or maybe they're ferrets. Should we send some crows back to you? A noisy lot!

Fireflies here are gearing up, but usually peak on the 4th of July. 

Crows seem to hang around in spring and fall. They disappear during most of the summer, maybe because there's food elsewhere. I could do without their cousins, the blue jays. Man those things are noisy, leave droppings everywhere, and eat the kibble I put out for the stray cat.

Most of my rose bush died back because of the hard, long winter, I presume. I pruned it back hard, and it's coming back up. Can't really kill the thing. Neighbors said it's been there for at least 45 years.

The oriental poppies continue to multiply. They always seem to want to self-seed and grow on the east side of the house. If I move some, they always die. Don't last long, but so pretty.


P.S., Thanks for starting this thread every summer, Margaret. I always look forward to it!

Ms. S. --

Please do send some crows.  One reason I'm fond of them is because their squawks are not too high-pitched and they're so LOUD that even deaf me can hear them.   And I love their shiney dark feathers.  So elegant.  And their elegance contrasts with their squawks and combines to make them sort of comical.

Anyone seen bats this summer? We used to have tons at dusk; kept the mosquitos in check. Recently we haven't seen any. But our sharp-eyed nature watcher thought he saw one! the other night.

Speaking of mosquitos: it appears that the non-buzzing kind have evolved sufficiently that there are few buzzing ones left. Reports?

Peggy,  The little brown bat has gone practically extinct in the northeast since the onset of white-nose disease in c 2006, first seen in caves near Albany; since then it has spread through the northeast and beyond.  One of the predictable results of the massive bat die-off is an explosion in the insect population.

White nose syndrome seems to be just hitting Michigan. There's a map with some info here:

Now that you mention it, our mosquitos don't buzz. They spray in the village, something that gives me the fantods because I'm not sure they know what they're doing. I've seen them spraying as early as 9 p.m. when kids are still playing in the downtown parks, and complained to the village council about it; they've been waiting now until after kids curfew. When I hear the bug truck go by, I close screens and bring the cats in off the back porch. 

Maybe the spray destroys the mosquits buzzy vocal chords, but leaves them fit to attack.

Fireflies in abundance, with pleasure.

Gnats in abundance, with angst. 

Bats and chimney swifts doing their parts with (human) gratitude. 

Rabbit kits to tempt the dogs. 

Crows on their morning reveille right now, along with the mourning doves, robins, wrens, cardinals, catbirds, sparrows, and the aforementioned swifts. (That's all I can suss out).

Busy, busy,  busy!!!

I guess I haven't seen a bee in my yard in 20 years, but I've seen an occasional wasp.  There's a  mud dauber's nest on the window frame of my bathroom window.  It's been there many years with no inhabitants.  This very week I noticed that it has gotten bigger -- another wasp has moved in :-) 

I saw the first firefly yesterday.  In the middle of a bodacious thunderstorm, no less.

We get large mammals in our suburban backyard once in a while: deer and coyotes.  And there is a black bear making its way across northern Illinois - spotted in back yards in the Rockford and De Kalb areas and various points in between.  It was thought that the range of black bears was a couple of hundred miles to the north, so this has been garnering a lot of interest.

BODACIOUS no less!  Must have been quite a sight. And then to produce/reveal/uncover the first fire fly!

Margaret - the sight of a firefly certainly increased the storm's bodacity. :-).  Although five funnel clouds were reported across Northern and Central Illinois, so it wasn't excellent for everyone.

The bees situation is really worrisome.

I still see bees in my herb garden, but certainly not as many as there used to be. A few hummingbirds. Do they pollinate the same way bees do? 

I saw three turkey buzzards today and what must have been a fox, but it ran back into the corn before I could get a good look. 

Bees: Last year while weed-whacking, I hit a hive/home/nest of ground bees. They were quite angry; one got under my glove and stung!!! I departed quickly. There seemed to be quite a few of them though I didn't stop to count. Do they polinate? Were they really in the ground or hanging around an old log? Maybe I'll cover up and go investigate this year. A chador perhaps.

Jean --

Do you grow corn?  If you know how, tell me this:  do you think it might grow it along my driveway?  It gets a powerful lot of sun, and the soil is good.  Does corn take a lot of watering?  What's the yield of one corn plant?  

I LOVE corn on the cob, and the younger and fresher the corn the greater the delicacy:-)

Oops, just got back to this thread after heavy commenting and monitoring of Hobby Lobby. Yes, corn is quite hardy and will grow along your driveway. The heartbreak of growing sweet corn, Up Here, anyway, is that raccoons will decimate it about a week before you're ready to pick it. Nothing short of a big dog on a long leash will keep them out of there. 

Fortunately, we have a neighbor who stocks his country store with homegrown meats and veg, including sweet corn. Surely is a delicacy! And good for you if you don't load it up with salt and butter.

P.S., Fireflies should be at peak here now, but a really skimpy crowd this year. So sad! We used to drive out away from the city lights and park on the dirt road at dusk to watch them. Not much to see this year. 

Corn: Just arrived in time for July 4. Not in our driveway (we really don't have one to speak of). Spent week-end eating corn and.... ribs, and chicken, and steak, and pork chope (No, I did not do the grilling). Given that meat overload, I am loathe to think that butter, salt--and pepper, are going to make that much difference in whatever they might make a difference over.

Sorry about the FF. Bumper crop in upstate NY. Week-end by the ocean, I saw one. Weather? Breeding grounds? Pesticides? What's the story here? This is not getting the attention bestowed on bees and bats. A pity!

It's been a relatively cool and very wet summer so far in Michigan. That has led to more mosquitos and more mosquito spraying. So any/all may contribute to the firefly population reduction.


The fireflies arrived late last week.

The chipmunks are sitting out and sunning themselves in the late afternoon.  A hummingbird moth has showed up again at our butterfly bush, along with some moths and a beautiful butterfly.  I haven't seen the deer lately, but there are signs they have been stopping by and using the hosta as a salad bar.

The woodchuck, or some furry creature, was living under our deck until it got flooded in the torrential rains a week ago.  The last I saw of him was when I was out the rain looking to find where the waterfall in our backyard was coming from.  He stood and looked at me, usually he runs and hides, but he had a look of 'now where will I go?'.  I haven't seen him since. Maybe he had insurance.

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