Not a Hummingbird

Yesterday I was pulling weeds out from under the lavender plants, half-drunk on the luscious scent of hummingbird moththem, when something small whizzed by my head on its way to the monarda. Too big for a bee, it sort of looked like a Rufous Hummingbird – its abdomen was reddish – but way too small, and I didn’t think we had Rufous Hummers in Michigan. On the other hand, it was definitely humming, and hovering over the monarda to sip, darting crazily between blossoms. It didn’t hold still very long, but I finally noticed two mothy antennas. What? I may have been “drunk” on lavender scent but I wasn’t actually drunk. A moth?

b bunnyI’d have liked to watch it longer, but it was a very busy creature, sped off, and I went back to weeding, and installing a few zinnias and petunias in bare spots. This is an experiment to see how the deer and rabbits feel about eating them. One of the does came through my yard the other day followed by a fawn so small he barely knew how to use his legs, and there are baby bunnies. Fawns are experimentalists in dining, eating things that make them sick until they become old enough to know better. The bunnies so far are ecstatic about the clover in the lawn, but that could change.rainy dayThis morning I turned to the internet, and there it was on wikipedia – wait, don’t they also have jackalopes? – a Hummingbird Moth. Monarda is a favorite food, and they lay their eggs on cherry leaves. I guess wild cherries, which I have in abundance, will do. Credit for the Hummer photo to Lonniehuffman at en.wikipedia. The Hummermoth was too fast for me.

rain shroomsSince then it’s been raining. Not thunderstorms, just steady, straight down, soaking, chilly  rain. If only we could get some of our water to California and get some of their heat here. These mushrooms sprang up, but before I could find out what they were, they were gone. I will be very interested to see if the birds come out in force again to bathe, after the rain. You’d think they got wet enough in these long, soaking rainstorms, but twice now I’ve seen them crowding each other out at the birdbath when the sun comes out. I want to see if they go for a third.

You Say Cicayda, I Say Cicahda

The noise has been going on for some time now, like a demented car alarm at a slight distance. Everyone said it was the much-anticipated 17-year cicadas but no matter how hard I looked, all I found was two or three empty shells and this racket. So where were they? Clearly not in my yard. Wondering how far their sound might carry, I turned to the Internet and discovered they could have been far away indeed: they produce sounds “up to 120 decibels… loud enough to cause permanent hearing loss in humans at close range.” Also, the racket is called a song, and is made only by males, which disable their own hearing mechanism in order not to deafen themselves. How selfish. Though it did say that when they have attracted a female they switch to a “courtship song, generally quieter.”

birdbathThat explained why I could hear but not see them, but why weren’t they here in my yard? Could it be my large number of birds, especially nesting pairs with babies to feed? In addition to the many birds casually passing through, I have robins, mourning doves, finches, wrens, and cardinals all raising nestfuls of voracious offspring. The robin is particularly canny, following me around as I weed, moving in on the turned-up worms and bugs as soon as I shift to a new spot.

molehillSpeaking of the ground, another possible wreaker of cicada havoc is the mole. Moles spend their lives underground, eating critters they find there. Could my mole have cleared out the cicada nymphs? As a lover of words and already deep in the internet, I looked up “mole.” In Middle English it was “moldwarp,” mold meaning soil and warp meaning throw. So, a soil-thrower. How cool that warp comes from throw. Warp speed, anyone?

baby tomatoCicadas do not, as far as I know, eat tomatoes or damage tomato plants so I wasn’t worried, but I went and checked the tomato plants anyway. They’re coming along. It will be a while, but I can almost taste the bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches.

cicadaFinally, I saw a live cicada! It was not exactly moving at warp speed, but also not singing – so, likely a female. Doesn’t she have beautiful red eyes? I hope wherever the singing males are, she finds one she likes the sound of. I hope I’m here in seventeen more years, to listen to their progeny.