Exciting times, as the temperature hits the 80s again. In the span of about 5 minutes last night we had a Schizocosa Wolf Spider roaming the hallway, a Stink Bug terrorizing the wife while she worked, and outside visiting the light as I l freed them on the porch, a large Crane Fly and several generic moths, one of them about Gypsy Moth/Isabella Moth size, but very bland and unmemorable. Now, that’s writing efficiency – getting 4 sentences worth of material into a single sentence! This “new normal” of hot springs and hotter summers is not to my liking. I’m thinking hard about emigrating northwards as the kids move up through the school ranks into college. I miss my youth, when April was more a 50s and 60s temperature month, with occasional trips into the 70s toward the last week. Anyway, let’s see about birds before I forget: House Wren and White-throated Sparrows singing in the backyard last week; both have moved on now. The weekend featured Flickers starting to call and drum on siding, and Catbirds back and adding their squeaky songs to the peak singing mix. The Robins are brooding on their nests, and since I only now see one of the Cardinal pair at a time, I assume the Cardinals are as well. I wonder if they’re up to 3 broods a year in the south, now? If they start this early up here, 2 broods is easy, and 3 might even be possible. I’ll have to keep my eyes open. Oh, yes – Yellow Warblers are back as of last week, but I haven’t heard any other warbler noise yet. Not that there has been much in recent years; one here, one there where back in college there would be dozens. Well, at least we have lots of Ring-billed Gulls, rats and roaches.
Another beautiful morning; my evil twin side enjoys calling to the Mourning Doves from inside the house, where they can’t see me. It gets them even more flustered than usual. I heard the first Cowbirds of the season, so I deduce that the Robins will be laying eggs soon if not already. The clear skies have already given way to high haze, but it’s still a nice Spring day. One sure sign of Spring in the city: a fellow riding his bike down the middle of the main drag as I came in to work – against traffic on the one-way street. Luckily we were pretty near the hospital so that when the inevitable happens he won’t have too far to go. The other day the EMTs from one of the trucks at the ER were loading up a back-board just a block and a half away from the entrance; if you have to get hit by a car while strolling through traffic, next door to the hospital at least saves the city on gas. Be considerate!
Sunday, 4/17: beautiful sunny, clear, cool early May day. Wild Mustard is about to flower in our last-year’s tomato patch, and on cue, a Cabbage White is fluttering drunkenly around the area looking for a good host. First butterfly of the year; so much for the little Blues we used to have to start the year off. The Periwinkle and early Bugleweed are in flower, but not a single Bumblebee to be seen. That’s not encouraging. Perhaps the reports of colony collapse affecting wild native bees as well are disturbingly accurate.
Monday. Taxes. Appropriate. I’d feel less angry about it if the wealthy were pulling their weight, but here I am slipping into the “working class” and no matter what my “taxable income” happens to be, I have to pay more every year. $800 right now, $1500 property tax, part 1 in 2 months and another $1500 property tax, part 2 at the end of the year. On take-home pay of $650/week. That’s about the monthly cost for the kid’s school, even after financial aid. Meanwhile, all I hear is that the poor, down-trodden super-rich need even more wealth, because that’s what Jesus wants. Feh. Oh, well – blame it on the “work-crew effect” (except in this case, I really _am_ doing more than my fair share..)
Tuesday, 4/19: even though the day has turned dreary and drizzly, the Chimney Swifts were back in town today. That always cheers me up, although it also reminds me that the Nighthawks are gone for good. Times change, some good, some bad.
Almost forgot – this morning showered with the window open, and listened to some White-throats quavering in the fence-line. In past years I’ve had both Swainson’s and Gray-cheeked thrush this way, so I’m always kind of hopeful when I pop the window and prepare to get sprayed into relative awakenessosity. Usually just the same stuff, but hope springs eternal in the human breast – what oft was thought before Pope, but never so well expressed. Funny how I like Pope; it’s like liking baroque music, I guess; I just find the rhythms and patterns in his stuff both soothing and refreshing. Like beer, I guess.
The Barn Swallows were back on the 12th, although they might have been here before that and just passed unnoticed. They have pulled into town rather earlier in past decades. The 14th had a pair of Ospreys circle northwards over the hospital, and yesterday in the morning, before the lively storm, we had a Towhee singing in the back yard. The storm itself was almost as blowy as the big wind a couple months back, but as far as I know we had no buildings get blown down this time. We lost power for two hours, but that was a minor inconvenience. A nice excuse to haul out and light the candles, but not much more than that. Today is shaping up pretty much as one would expect after a good front like that – coolish, dryish and clear blue skies. Nothing much in the way of new birds; probably most of them ended up in Canada or out at sea..
4/12, Carolina Wren and Carolina Chickadee singing in the back yard. 4/14, The Flickers returned (2 pairs seen in different places), and a pair of Ospreys circled northwards over the hospital about lunchtime.
Heading down into the Shenandoah, a Pileated Woodpecker following a Black Vulture (one of many on Saturday) across 340 just north of the Potomac, and then another Pileated visiting the yard in Winchester looking for some suet. Always a thrill. Still a number of White-throated Sparrows hanging on in the Valley, although they have left Baltimore (at least our yard). Another oddity – plenty of House Finches down there, but I still haven’t seen or heard any back in the city, where they used to be abundant. Also, a lone Fish Crow flying overhead. I usually think of them as coastal or ‘big-river’ birds, but I suppose the Shenandoah is big enough even up at Winchester. Otherwise, a nice, quiet weekend. And so, to work.