For weeks, now, every time I come out from work and don’t hear a White-throat singing or ’sweeting’ at me from the bushes, I figure they’ve finally headed north. Then the next day, there one or two are again. I have no idea if it’s the same ones or whether they’re ‘trickling up’ or what. I didn’t hear or see a single one over the weekend, so I thought along with Rocky, “This time for sure!” Naturally, coming into work this morning, a single White-throat was whistling his fool head off in the bushes. Will they never leave? Meanwhile in the past couple weeks, the oaks have _finally_ finished flowering (the downtown oaks, especially the Willow Oaks, finishing almost 3 weeks ago, now). The Red Maples have finally largely lost their repulsive flesh-toned look as they’ve shed the masses of seed-copters and leafed-out to a large extent (the other maples have sometimes had big seed loads, but nothing like the Red Maples this year). Everything has pretty much leafed out or started to (my 4-year-old Black Walnut has finally started showing some serious bud action this week, but he’s a late bloomer. *rimshot*). Around the area, we’ve had at one time or another over the past 3 weeks, a Lacewing, a Red Admiral, both Whites and Sulfurs, a Mourning Cloak, a Carpenter Bee (but no Bumblebees!) and a Leaf-cutter Bee. Also, the porch light was attracting a load of smallish pointy-ended beetles which look familiar, but I’ve forgotten the name of (Dermestids?) and a couple of what look suspiciously like Carpet Beetles. We had a couple of smallish nondescript moths as well. The few Bowl-and-Doily Spiders are full-sized, and one had a male hanging around in her web. The Tent Caterpillars are in mid-season form and almost all over the Cherries and Crabapple. In bird news, the Purple Martins and Chimney Swifts were back last week, along with Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and a young Peregrine. The House Wrens have left after about a week of singing, and the Carolina Wrens are back in place. The Pigeons have been doing their F-14 and V-wing displays for weeks now, so they should be popping out babies very soon if they haven’t already. The Robins are well along in their nesting, and our porch-nester popped out of the bush the other day with what looked suspiciously like a fecal sac. The Cardinals seem to be nesting well, the Cowbirds have been courting for over a week, and the Mourning Doves are finally getting serious about our porch as well. We’ve had one or more Turkey Vultures over the city most days recently, and a couple of Black Vultures last week as well. It wouldn’t surprise me if Black Vultures actually nest in the city, possibly in one of the rotten houses around the east or west side. I haven’t noticed any warblers yet, but then again, we don’t get many warblers any more. I think I had no more than 3 species in our yard last year, a real drop-off from when we moved in over 15 years ago. No thrushes, either, although they’ve always been pretty spotty (*rimshot*). It turns out that the rabbits aren’t completely gone, because I’ve had reports that there is a single rabbit still living on our block, although he can only be spotted at dawn or thereabouts. I still haven’t seen him even though I’m up and out by 7 most days. Pretty clearly predation is the factor here, because even only 5 or 6 years ago there were something like 3-4 rabbits for every three houses, and they were visible all day. Pretty fearless, too (for rabbits). The foxes don’t seem to have increased, I haven’t seen our local Redtail for weeks, and we don’t seem to have any more free-ranging dogs and cats than we did a decade ago. Beats the heck out of me what could be doing it. On the opposite side, we have apparently traded in our difficult-to-catch White-footed Mice for impossible-to-catch House Mice. The little buggers seem to be extremely trap-shy. I got one the other day by putting down a row of Tanglefoot traps across his run between the kitchen and dining room, but I haven’t caught any since then, despite seeing at least 2 different ones. I’ve even gone so far as to handle the traps only with gloved hands, and use a special “mouse attractant” in the bait, but so far no go. I don’t know – maybe it’s time to do a real fumigation (maybe get the cockroaches and ants at the same time?). We’ve used 4 different kinds of snap-traps, 2 different kinds of live-traps, the sticky traps and poison, and we seem to have reached a dead end catching these varmints. You get one, then they avoid the traps. I never thought they were that smart.
Oh, yes – the other day, driving down Belair Rd, I passed a lone runner heading south, holding a large, Olympic-type torch. “That’s funny!”, I thought; “Doesn’t that go from Greece to England this year?” I had images of the international news the next day: an accident scene a few blocks further down, with tire tracks indicating that the runner was hit by a car that travelled diagonally across the road and through a display window before swerving back onto the road and being lost in the distance. A normal Belair Rd driving event, in other words. As it happened, however, no accident made the news, and it turned out to be the other Olympics – it was the Special Olympics torch en route to the opening ceremonies of the Maryland Games. Still nice, of course. One more for the list!