An unscientific observation

First, a couple of poems.

The bright clouds

Go from sky blue to sunset pink

To vague gray smudges

As the sun sinks on the longest day.

Airplanes fly across,

Adding winged stitches to the sky.

Cicadas drone and fireflies glimmer

Adding accent

To summer beginning.

The heat has yet to come.


A chorus of katydids cranks up

Backed by the drone of cicadas.

Fireflies flicker and swoosh

On this longest day of the year,

Summer is here.

I’ve lost note of which years I wrote those but I have always loved watching the fireflies in my back yard. I’ve lived here 17 years.

I live in the middle of a large metropolitan area in Texas and I also live beside a heavily forested area with lots of wildlife in it. In that wildlife are countless mosquitoes. Last summer, there were cases of West Nile virus that were recorded in my city, one of them within a mile or so of my house. So, the city decided to spray for mosquitoes. I did not get notice of it happening on my street but I’m sure the wooded area was treated. I don’t know what poison they used but it affected more than mosquitoes.

For some reason, the only time we can sit outside without being swarmed by mosquitoes is the month of March. Well, this year we didn’t really get outside so didn’t notice the lack of mosquitoes until a few weeks ago, and then it was just noticing that we weren’t slapping bugs as much. They’re not as much of a nuisance in the daytime either and that’s when I’ve been being outside mostly.

Last Sunday evening, there was nothing but reruns on tv so we decided to sit outside for the evening. There were still very few mosquitoes. But then I noticed, there were also no fireflies. The backyard should have been a regular courtship blinkfest. There were NO blinks of light. Not. A. Single. One.

For the next few evenings, I looked for fireflies. Still no blinks. Nothing.

And then I realized I haven’t seen the little green lizards that usually are scampering around on the fence and porch roof. Now, I know my cat likes to catch and eat a few of them but the population has been able to keep up with his predation for every summer until now.

This can’t be coincidence that the mosquitoes, fireflies and lizards are all gone at once.

I also have a wren box on my front porch. Wrens eat bugs. Last summer, they raised four broods in that box. This year, they haven’t even moved in. I hear a wren fussing or calling once in a while but they just seem to be passing through.

Is being mosquito free worth the tradeoff? I would say no but I haven’t seen a friend or loved one go through West Nile virus. Zika was also recorded in this state last year. I would not wish microcephaly on anyone’s baby.

Then again, this is just one unscientific observation by one person in one backyard.

True story

Time stopped today

I have a bird feeder in the back yard and it’s not unusual to see birds flitting on and off of it, cardinals and chickadees. The chickadees rarely stay on it longer than the few seconds it takes to grab a seed and it’s not unusual to see a cardinal poking around in the grass below it for dropped seeds. The birds are all very active and never seem to stop moving.
Today, a little before 3:30, I looked out and saw a chickadee on the feeder and a female cardinal on the ground. As soon as I spotted them though, they froze. Stopped moving completely. I watched, they did not move. I watched longer, not a feather moved. I moved from the door to the kitchen window…no movement from either bird. I was starting to think I was in a science fiction movie. I looked for other things moving…yes, here a blade of grass moved in a breeze, the wind chime chimed. The clock was ticking. Then it struck the half hour.
I stood there for a good five minutes and the chickadee did not move AT ALL. The female cardinal moved her head a tiny bit a few times.
I was wondering what on this Earth was happening that would cause two wild birds to stop moving during daylight hours. For more than five minutes.
I checked the water in the fountain basin for signs of an earthquake. The water was still except for a tiny ripple caused by the breeze.

Then I started feeling like I had to break their trance somehow.
I stepped nearer the door so they could see me and the cardinal flew off. The chickadee was still frozen though. I watched another minute, and no movement.
I opened the door and walked out toward the feeder. It wasn’t until I was halfway to the feeder that the chickadee suddenly saw me, turned it’s head and then flew off, scolding me with every breath.
I halfway expect to turn on the news tonight and see we’ve had another massive earthquake and tsunami somewhere or some other disaster of equal or greater magnitude.

I’m still a little creeped out.