The Cicadas In Full Force

The Cicadas seem to have ramped up their numbers and activity these days. It got so loud one afternoon that we could not even follow the conversations on the TV show that we were watching in the living room with the patio door open. We had to close the door! The trees in the backyard and in the front are full of these creatures. This is how it sounded one afternoon from the deck.

If you look at a capture of the volume levels for the above audio recording (processed using an app called Audacity), it looks like this!There is a real pattern here. They are actually communicating in their own way.

There are dead cicadas all over the ground in the outdoors these days, anywhere you walk. It is difficult to avoid stepping on them. The birds must be having a feast. You can hear the cicadas buzzing in the air, and watch them flying all over the place. You may even get hit by a cicada every once in a while if you are outside for a long time. While there can be a somewhat panicky reaction when this happens, with some frenzied flapping of the hand(s) where you thought the insect made contact with you, they are actually quite harmless!

We continued to experience the presence of the cicadas during for our walk from Edwards Ferry last weekend. Here is a picture of one of them.This is also the time for dragonflies and butterflies. Here are some pictures. We saw a few different kinds of dragonflies, but I had a difficult time getting them in a position where they could be photographed properly. I was successful with this Common Whitetail male.

You can see two Cabbage White butterflies in the picture below.

This is a a Question Mark butterfly. As you can see, I had to be happy with getting a picture from a significant distance away.

The picture below is of a Northern Pearly Eye butterfly on the trail. It might be sitting on the remains of a dead field mouse. That was the conclusion I drew when looking at the rest of what lay around it. Interestingly enough, we saw a couple of dead frogs on on the trail. The sight was surprising enough for me to give a yelp and leap into the air on one occasion to avoid stepping on it.

Here are a few of the newer flowers this year.

This is the flower of what seems to be a somewhat common weed. It is easy to miss because the plant is very small, and I did not realize how common it was until looked around more carefully this year. I have seen it in other, very different, locations. I have also seen it in the past years but have been unsuccessful in identifying it so far. The flower looks like a sombrero to me.This one is called Deptford Pink. It is a real tiny plant.

And this is Chicory. We will be seeing much more of this all around us from now on – as the weather heats up.

I thought these mushrooms on the trail were quite pretty. They were tiny. You may be able to make the size out from the size of the stones around them.

Another week passes by as we quickly head towards the Summer Solstice and the official start of summer in these parts. Outdoor activities, including the barbecues, the lazing around swimming pools, the visits to the beaches, etc.., have already begun since Memorial day. The increased vaccination rates have made it possible for people to gather together in a safer manner than was possible last year.

Unfortunately, there are still many who do not want to be vaccinated in our country. Some do not “believe” in the vaccines. Some talk about their “freedoms”. Perhaps there are also some who still even refuse to acknowledge the reality of the pandemic. It is a pity that people do not understand the concept of living in a society where we all need to pull together and look out for each other. It is also a pity that there are people living in an “advanced nation” who do not even recognize that the science and the technology that was responsible for providing us these vaccines is the same thing that is allowing us to exist and also enjoy our current lifestyles at the current moment in time in the earth’s history. It is especially a pity when people in our country do not realize how fortunate they are to have vaccines freely available. They still do not want the vaccines, even while other countries are suffering because they do not have enough, or any.

The Magic of All Creatures Great and Small

(With apologies to James Herriot..)

I was keeping a steady pace on my bike, slogging out the last few miles of the ride in the shade of a canopy of tall trees, when I happened on a section of the trail with blackbirds.  A song about blackbirds came to my lips immediately, a song not exactly appropriate for the time of day that I was riding,  but it did not matter (except that Sir Paul would probably have disapproved of my enthusiastic efforts).  As I rode into the section blackbirds rose from the trail, and around it, and started flying ahead of me. And the further I rode, the more blackbirds rose from the shrubbery and trees.  Soon the section of the trail in front of me was full of blackbirds all flying away from me over the tree-covered trail.  I felt like I was keeping pace with them.  The volume of my singing increased while the quality decreased and the birds kept rising into the air in front of me.  This probably lasted a few seconds but it felt like a long time to me.  It was like magic!

But there was more magic that I experienced earlier on during the ride.  Summer is the season for dragonflies and butterflies.  The butterflies were everywhere, while the dragonflies seemed to be concentrated in certain areas.  I had to stop by the canal at the Dickerson Conservation Park to take pictures of the plentiful dragonflies and the few butterflies around.  Here is a sample.

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The magic actually happened at the Monocacy Aqueduct as I was pushing my bike on the walkway across the river.  I had nearly crossed the aqueduct when the butterfly landed on the seat of the bike.  It was quite comfortable in spite of the movement of the bike.

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The butterfly then decided to land on the fingers of my right hand and stay there.  I was unable to take a picture since that is the hand I hold the camera in for taking the pictures.  At some point I parked the bike.  I persuaded the butterfly to move to my left hand and tried to take a picture with that hand extended out, but I could not focus because of the nature of the lens on the camera.  So I placed the butterfly on the metal handlebar basket, pulled a different lens out of the camera bag that was in the handlebar basket (without scaring the butterfly away), swapped lenses on the camera (placing the lenses on the ground in the process) while the butterfly continued to sit on the handlebar, convinced the butterfly to come back to my left hand from the handlebar, and finally got the pictures below.  The butterfly did not even try to fly away during the whole process.  It was magic!

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But these were not the only creatures I encountered during the ride.  Here are a few of the pictures I took.

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Yes, that is a bald eagle in one of the pictures, but the picture did not come out well because of the lighting.  I encountered plenty of life on and around the trail during that ride!

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all
Anglican Hymn