The Red-eyed Invasion in KY

They are called periodical cicadas and it’s happening right now in Louisville KY at the home of my daughter. These are the red-eyed cicadas that emerge simultaneously from the ground in 13 or 17 year predictable intervals, according to U. of Kentucky extension entomologist.  Only this is a year it wasn’t supposed to happen. I guess no one told the cicadas.

red-eyed cicadas

 

The nymphs live beneath the soil feeding on roots and emerge when the soil temperature is warm enough in the spring. They have been exiting the ground by the masses on her property and will continue to do so for a couple more weeks.

She first noticed the empty shells all over the ground one morning. Most were empty but some nymphs are unable to extricate as you can see the wing of the partially open shell.

cicada shells in Louisville KY 2017

After leaving the ground at night, they slowly make their way up any vertical surface and molt into adults, a prolonged overnight process. I’ve spent many a night as a child watching the annual cicadas, a different cicada, slowly struggle out of shells, and pump their wings out straight.

This cicada on tree bark is newly emerged and still wet:

Louisville KY 2017

After drying, their body will darken:

Louisville KY 2017

In the morning, shells will be hanging from a multitude of surfaces and lying all over the ground.  Most of the adults will have flown but some may still be there until their wings have fully expanded and dried enough to fly. It’s an amazing process to watch.

Louisville Cicadas 2017

Louisville KY cicadas 2017

Louisville KY 2017

The males are the ones you hear singing to attract the females. The adult cicadas will mate and the female lays eggs in small tree branches. The eggs will mature for weeks, then hatch and fall to the ground, where they burrow and start the cycle over.

Cicadas don’t bite or sting and are fairly benign to adult vegetation and trees….. rarely causing damage, unless you own an orchard or vineyard where they could possibly inflict some monetary damage, states the extension service. Generally, what follows is a smorgasbord of food for insect eating birds and mammals. It’s nature’s way….

Thankfully, this is a daughter who appreciates insects (taught by her mother!). She used the occasion as a teaching tool and took the kids outside to watch the mature nymphs emerge last night. Following is her ‘choppy’ video 😏 of her kids learning about the life cycle of cicadas as they watch the nymphs emerge from the soil and look for vertical surfaces… even my granddaughter’s leg:

Gobblers

I would think it’s a dangerous time of year for wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) to be wandering around in the open. Most of us have plans for their domestic cousins to be the Thanksgiving feast… but there are many who prefer wild turkey on the menu.

We’ve watched our little flock of 30+ turkeys for weeks as the juveniles have fattened up with several families banding together in the protected wooded areas surrounding our neighborhood. They slowly strut in single file down driveways, across lawns, along the edge of roads and back into the cover of the woods. They will saunter to the berm for cars but hardly move for people unless you approach too close. I’ve heard of Toms attacking joggers or mail trucks during the breeding season but our turkeys seem to be very well-behaved…. so far.

This morning they were foraging for acorns on the roadside near us.  I walked out but not close enough for a good photo. Only a male raised his head and seemed to pay me any attention. The iridescence of their feathers was beautiful in the sunlight but, when they entered the woods, I was amazed at how quickly they disappeared into the camouflage of leaf litter. Fare well, feathered friends.

Wild Turkeys

A Backyard Whodunit….

We have six hummingbirds at the feeder now. They eat a lot less than the dozens of hummers at my Virginia feeders so only one feeder is needed. All hummingbird feeders have small bee guards on the openings to prevent insects from crawling into the nectar. A few mornings ago I noticed two of the bee guards were missing. The next morning, another of the guards was gone. The birds were left with three gaping holes from which to feed and one bee guard. This is an obvious sabotage from some creature. But who or what could do this? Hmmm…..

The number one suspect is the squirrel. He’d been caught with his hands in the cookie jar many times.

So I moved the hummingbird feeder to the squirrel proof pole with the rest of the feeders. The hummingbirds didn’t seem to mind mingling with the larger birds and Mister Squirrel seems to be mystified by the baffle. In and out of the pole’s squirrel baffle he goes but has not yet found a way to the feeders. (He hasn’t given up so stay tuned for new tricks)

All was well for a day until I noticed the fourth bee guard missing. Jeepers! It wasn’t the squirrel after all! I quickly bought a second hummingbird feeder and organized a round-the-clock stakeout with camera in hand for the other. The hummers migrated to the new feeder and I watched the old feeder. It didn’t take long before the culprit appeared. Click…click…click….click.

A beautiful Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula) has claimed this nectar as his own. He’s the one who pulled off the bee guards, quite common I read, and he drains a feeder in a day and a half. We are delighted. Oranges and a new oriole feeder go up today. We believe Mister Oriole arrived on June 1, ahead of female orioles, to stake out the best territory for his lady. We are waiting and watching for her.

The Icterids are a group of birds, mostly black, often with splashes of yellow, orange or red. This group includes the bobalink, meadowlawks, and red-wing blackbirds that we see breeding and nesting across the meadow surrounding this property. Matter of fact, we have seen these two ‘cousins’ coming face to face atop the feeding station, each going to different feeders. Birdwatching sure is fun and full of surprises!

Baltimore Oriole and Red-Wing Blackbird

This just in….

The party’s over for my fine feathered friends. I didn’t expect news like this in our new habitat. I’m not taking any chances. Sorry fellas….

News from the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department

EXPECT BEARS TO EMERGE FROM DENS EARLIER THIS SPRING
RECOMMENDATION: TAKE BIRD FEEDERS DOWN BY MARCH 15
Mother Nature has not fooled the bears either, and they are ready to emerge from dens in search of spring foods.This knowledge should be a call to action for homeowners, who need to be proactive and take action now to reduce the chance of attracting a bear to their home. We generally use April 1 as the recommended time when bird feeders should be removed, says New Hampshire Fish and Game Bear Project Leader Andrew Timmins, however, this year we are suggesting that feeders be pulled by March 15. Homeowners should take action to reduce the chances of a bear visiting their home.
Avoid encounters with bears by taking a few simple precautions:

* Because of the mild winter, stop all bird feeding by March 15 or put away feeders as soon as you can.
* Clean up any spilled birdseed and dispose of it in the trash.
* Secure all garbage in airtight containers inside a garage or adequate storage area, and put garbage out on the morning of pickup, not the night before.
* Avoid putting meat or other food scraps in your compost pile.
* Don’t leave pet food dishes outside overnight.
* Clean and store outdoor grills after each use.
* Finally, never intentionally feed bears!need to be proactive and take action now to reduce the chance of attracting a bear to their home. We generally use April 1 as the recommended time when bird feeders should be removed, says New Hampshire Fish and Game Bear Project Leader Andrew Timmins, however, this year we are suggesting that feeders be pulled by March 15.