Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Wasp and Sky and Bye (for a while)

Does anyone know what kind of wasp this is? Every few weeks, one of these wasps appears inside my house. They're not very active and I can usually scoop them up on a piece of paper and release them outside. They are very robust and at least an inch long--they intimidate me (and my cats!). Sorry about the image quality; the wasp walked for cover as soon as I set it down outside and wouldn't cooperate for a photo op.
Saturday afternoon's (May 8, 2010) forecast called for thunderstorms, which fortunately never materialized. But, by late afternoon, the wind really kicked up and remained strong all day Sunday, too. Heavy clouds blew in with the wind and scudded across the sky. The heavens weren't completely overcast--there were breaks in the clouds that let light and blue sky through. I liked the effect. My yard and driveway are littered with small branches and twigs broken off the trees; they're too small to pick up by hand but too large to leave in place for the lawnmower to find.
Unless something spectacular happens in my natural world before Friday, this will be my last post until early June. We're off to southern Utah (Capitol Reef National Park and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument) for nine days, then San Diego and environs for another six days starting on Saturday. I hope I return with lots of good images to share.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

First Firefly--Really!

I know, I know... In my last post, I said that I wasn't going to make my blog phenological. But, I just have to report that, last evening, at 9:30, I spotted the first firefly of the year near the top of a large tree near my house. It's very, very early!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Crickets...and More!

I don't necessarily want this to be a phenological blog; that can get a little dull and prone to "one upmanship." Nevertheless, crickets began chirping for the first time this year on Friday evening, April 30. That, in and of itself, is a wonderful marker in my book of days. But, rather than just report on the crickets, I'm going to quote the final two paragraphs of a book that I read when first published in 1992, Crickets and Katydids, Concerts and Solos by Vincent G. Dethier. These two haunting paragraphs have stayed with me ever since I first read the book.
Three days before Thanksgiving, as I was hurrying through Harvard Yard, I heard a single cricket. The chirp sounded exactly like that which in early June had ushered in a sumer of song. This time, however, the call was a Fall Field Cricket that had found temporary shelter near the grating of a heating vent outside Thayer Hall. Whereas the chirping of the Spring Field Cricket had resonated with promise, had evoked memories of summers past and anticipation of summers to come, this song, with identical scoring and execution, evoked different emotions. Even as I let my imagination range, I realized anew how much the listener brings to the music, how music evokes moods complementary to its setting, and how moods close the circle by shading the music. I felt a sense of melancholy, listening to the cricket. He was calling, and there was no mate to listen. He was calling into the void of imminent winter. Yet in that melancholy, I experienced--if not the anticipation and assurance--at least hope for another spring.

Two days later it snowed.

In addition to the first cricket song, we were tumbled in the first real wave of spring migrants. Temperatures hit 93 on Saturday and 89 on Sunday (both records), and the birds thought they were back in the Central American jungle! Of note, first Wood Thrushes and Scarlet Tanagers, though there were plenty of warblers to go around, too.