Field Notes

Lots to talk about in the natural world this week, so let’s take a quick look-see at the world around us.
First, an update on the cavity nesting season, which started out so well with a dozen Bluebird nests in our 20 observatory boxes, tells us that Nature shows no favorites and can be heavy handed in pursuit of that constantly changing balance.
Up to this point, two nests were relieved of their eggs by predators such as mice or squirrels. Then late last week three nests of six-to-eight day hatchlings were all found to be dead on the same day. Like a virulent flu from a Stephen King novel, their future was cut short, possibly by Avian Flu, West Nile or some other disease. There was also some scarring on the dead young that could indicate the presence of blowflies, although no fly larvae were found. The dead had been well fed but wet, rainy conditions over the last few weeks probably favored the pestilence.
But if the other seven boxes hatch and fledge, it will be a good season. And the second nesting of Blues will begin in mid-to-late June. Better luck next time around.
Speaking of luck, the Wood Ducks at the wastewater ponds are far below par this year. Three known families have shown up, each hen with nine-to-ten young ducklings. After two weeks, one hen and two young are all that’s left. They get hit hard by hawks, turtles, owls, and, worst of all, crows. There could be a second nesting show up in early July, but until then there appear to be few “lucky ducks.”
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The Cicadas are coming, the Cicadas are coming.
There seems to be a lot of noise about the arrival of the sometimes call “Periodic Locust.” Brood V is scheduled across a broad swath of the middle of the state for their first appearance in 17 years. They will leave a path of destruction as they lay their eggs on small limbs, killing fruit trees and ornamentals. Also the noise from their buzzing calls, as they announce their availability for mating, can be ear splitting.
I have seen the damage and heard the noise in areas north of here but have never really seen or heard it here in the Arbovale area. The cicadas may be in the southern end of the county, but this writer has lived through the last two cycles in the center/northern part of the county and has not noticed any locusts. We seem to be in a hole or void, so hopefully we won’t be affected locally.
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The Spring Gobbler Season ended on May 14 and was considered a big success. Statewide, 10,369 gobblers were harvested, an increase of about 14 percent over the year before. The season opened a week earlier than in the past and that may have helped that increase.
Pocahontas County checked in 145 birds, the same as the 2015 harvest. Let’s hope that the cold, rainy weather of early May hasn’t been too hard on the young, just hatched turkey poults.
Also, it’s fawning season again. Some fawns are already here and more will come over the next two weeks. So, keep an eye open whether it’s in the hayfield or back yard. If you see a fawn, don’t touch. Momma will be back around shortly to take care of her young.

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