We’ve been enjoying the nice weather the past couple of weeks and have been sitting on the porch or patio as much as possible before the much-touted emergence of the 17-year cicadas, aka Northern Illinois Brood (Marlatts XIII) in our area. According to the University of Illinois Extension, it has the reputation of being the largest emergence of periodic cicadas anywhere. There are reportedly anywhere from 133,000 cicadas per acre to 1-1/2 million per acre in heavily forested areas (a city block contains about 3-1/2 acres).
They had been predicting the emergence to occur around May 22nd, and there have been some reports of it, but no sign of them at our house yet. A friend who lives across the street from the Cook County Forest Preserve and about a mile away from me said that she has seen a number of shells on her bushes and plants and is starting to hear them. Supposedly the noise they will make can reach 90 decibels, equivalent to a kitchen blender.
These cicadas are much different from annual cicadas that emerge every year around here. The periodical cicadas have red eyes whereas the annual ones have green eyes. The annual variety are also called dogday cicadas because they emerge later in the summer. They are one of those markers of late summer for me and the sound can be quite deafening at times. They sing in the late afternoon to early evening; the periodical ones sing during the day.
I vaguely remember the last occurrence of 17-year cicadas in 1990. I mostly remembered shells lying around the lawn, but I think we missed most of the hoopla back then because we were on our honeymoon in Europe at that time.
Maybe it’s the impending abundance of food well have around soon, because babies have been popping up everywhere in our backyard. There’s the cute little baby bunny, who I’m sure will soon be not-so-cute and large, ready to make more babies.
Several days ago I happened to notice that a robin flew into a hole in the Gum Drop Tree (that’s what the yew bush has always been called by Pete’s girls because it was shaped like a gum drop). Pete pulled down the branch slightly and her nest was right there near the edge. It looked to be filled with 4 baby robins. You can just make out the yellow open beak of one of them in the photo. Our dining room window is right next to the Gum Drop Tree and yesterday I was watching Mrs. Robin feed them numerous times (Mr. Robin was always nearby keeping watch). Later on it seemed that one of the babies was getting ready to leave the nest. I saw him preening and stretching out his wings from the edge of the nest.
Sitting on the patio later in the evening, I suddenly noticed that he had managed to fly to the wire leading to our house. He sat there frozen for the rest of the evening, not knowing what to do next. Mrs. Robin flew to him a couple times and seemed to be trying to coax him. She also fed him a couple of bugs. Sometimes he would squat on the wire and sometimes hed stand up and stretch his legs and wings. I don’t know when he finally flew off. I haven’t noticed if anyone else has left the nest yet.
We also have a little birdhouse hanging from our magnolia tree. My grandfather made the birdhouse and I remember it hanging outside their garage when I was a kid. I love that it now hangs outside our garage. We have a couple inhabitants each year, usually sparrows. When we walk to the garage you can hear their soft little peep, peep. Yesterday Pete tipped it downward so I could take this shot. I could swear we’ve been hearing them for a couple weeks now, so I was surprised to see how naked they still were!
There is currently no garden at all outside the bungalow, only weeds and a thatch-y lawn (and now no grass at all underneath the storage pod that is STILL sitting on D’s front lawn), and I fear that it’s going to take a long, long time to get it to the level of garden that we have at our current house.
The only trees are in the front of the house, so one of the first things that I’d like to do is plant a tree for some shade in the backyard. I’m thinking about a Bur Oak: the quintessential tree of the prairie. It is one of the fastest-growing oaks, anywhere from 1 to 2-1/2 feet per year. I also don’t want it to overpower the yard so I’ll need to do more research and make sure that it will be suitable for the size of our lot. But it would make a nice spot for Grandpa’s birdhouse.