Summer Invasions: Cicadas & Geese

My grandson got out the car and covered his ears with his hands. “What’s that noise?” he asked. Then he answered, “I think it’s a monster waking up.” We’ve been reading the myth about Papagayo, the noisy parrot whose raucous cries disturb the nocturnal animals that sleep during the day. Only when Papagayo figures out how to protect the creatures from the ferocious moon-dog that eats a part of the moon each night do the others accept him.  51ABgXzNeIL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_

No, it wasn’t the moon-dog. We showed him the cause: the cicadas, which haven’t yet dug themselves out in their part of New Jersey.  Like Papagayo, these insects, large like locusts, red-eyed and crunchy underfoot, make noise. Lots and lots of it.

Just last week, before the short spring jumped into summer, before I’d succumbed to air conditioning, I’d woken one morning, convinced that there was some motor inadvertently left on, some water tap running. Or perhaps the town was engaged in a drainage project, causing this constant headache producing sound.  Then I realized; the cicadas had arrived. 

CIMG2573(Cicada on front step)

These pesky critters come out about every 17 years. The males serenade potential mates with this song, an incessant insect opera. They’re harmless to humans and even beneficial to trees, aerating the soil.

While the sound  makes me a bit crazy, others don’t seem to mind. One guest at our family party, a city dweller, found the sound “soothing.” And another liked it more than crickets. (I’ll take crickets any day.)

What I do like about the cicada phenomenon is that it’s a part of nature.  Their appearance creates an excuse to learn more about them; and they’re fascinating.

I’d spent the week before reading about geese; particularly the affect of geese poop. We’d heard that the community association that manages our lake in Pennsylvania had permission to reduce the geese population by shooting them. The geese, and mainly their abundance of poop, were overtaking some areas of the community.   We imagined residents bringing out their firearms, gathering lakeside and having a shooting party. Our neighbors there dubbed it “goosecaust.”  Alarmed, I made a few phone calls. Yes, it was true.  They had received permission to shoot no more than 10 geese to cull the population.  Members of the maintenance crew conducted the hunt in the early morning hours. After this year, the state Fish & Game folks return and re-evaluate the situation. The lake board was also allowed to find the geese nests and shake the eggs, essentially aborting the gosling fetuses.  images(animals.nationalgeographic.com)

Geese not only mate for life, they return to same place every year after migrating. So these geese that were being shot were locals, many born there.  They can live about 24 years.  We love waking to their honking as they swoop from the air, gliding on the water. We love seeing the babies, like fuzzy yellow tennis balls, being herded by their watchful parents in and out of the water.  We don’t even mind when they arrive at dusk, alight from the water onto our lawn to eat. And poop. Every day, geese eat about four pounds of grass and produce nearly two pounds of poop.

Therein lies the problem.  Inhaled or ingested, goose feces could cause health problems. Too much of it in the lake could affect the water.  A bit calmer, I conceded that managing the geese population isn’t so bad. As a federally protected species, geese can’t be shot by the average gun owner from his/her home’s front porch.

Yet when I kayak past an outcropping of granite, covered in shrubs, that my kids dubbed “Goose Crap Rock” years ago, I shudder a bit. I don’t like the idea of killing the birds.  I’ve joked about bottling the lake water, convinced the goose poop infusions make the best hair conditioner ever.

A message from our neighbor cheered us:  This afternoon I counted 16 survivors happily swimming in Spruce Lake-7 adults and 9 babies– Go nature!

Now if they’d only munch on some cicadas….

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About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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27 Responses to Summer Invasions: Cicadas & Geese

  1. Nathan says:

    Clearly the most holistic approach to controlling the geese population would be to introduce a natural predator. I suggest alligators they’d most likely take care of the geese overpopulation in short order!

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  2. Wildlife! Ms Bean just killed a squirrel that was caught inside our deer fence around the vegetable garden. It’s exhausting 🙂 I know how you feel about the geese – I helped organize some Jersey readers to attend boro council meetings; we were against a projected Bill to stop people from feeding migratory wildfowl! Imagine not letting your kids feed the ducks?! It was defeated thankfully, but the origin of the Bill was the same poop problem.

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    • We haven’t had a big problem on our property. It’s more the public areas of the community (where we never go anyway…)

      On Mon, Jun 3, 2013 at 2:36 PM, cyclingrandma

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  3. I remember in 1981 there was a horrific gypsy moth infestation, all over the East coast. Unlike cicadas, there isn’t much good about them. The sound of their chewing, day in and day out for weeks, nearly drove us mad! Trying to walk home from the bus, when there would be an 8’wide swath of them, that I had to walk across… oh, the willies! Right now we have an infestation of Sack worms (I believe they’re called), really caterpillars that are very destructive, eating so many trees! It makes your cicadas sound so charming. 😉

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  4. great video!

    On Mon, Jun 3, 2013 at 2:21 PM, cyclingrandma

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  5. I can understand your concern when you first heard this. I can also understand why action needs to be taken! I am glad, however, that there is not some animal out there measuring the affect and toxins we as humans produce and culling our species as we probably are the biggest offenders of all!

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  6. Hmmm. We have lots of geese here, but I never realized their poop could be dangerous. I like the idea of it as a hair conditioner though. Did you discover it after swimming in the lake. :).

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  7. Coming East says:

    Cicadas come out every 17 years in your part of the country, but in San Antonio we had them every year. The first year we moved there from Philadelphia, I had know idea what the racket was, but I loved it because it was a new sound. I actually never tired of it because it was the sound of summer. We usually only heard it in the late afternoon.
    I feel bad about the geese, but I know it is a problem, just like the deer population is in San Antonio.

    Like

    • The deer are a problem everywhere. What makes the deer issue worse is that people feed them or put out salt licks. They don’t have any natural predators except there have been mountain lion sitings in PA.

      On Tue, Jun 4, 2013 at 12:58 PM, cyclingrandma

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      • Coming East says:

        In San Antonio, as well as most other places that have deer problems, I’m sure, is that people are encroaching on the deer’s territory, leaving them with less and less land to live on.

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      • That’s the issue with the geese as well. They’re not hunted in the wild as they once were. Think about how we could solve world hunger if these animals/birds were hunted for food.

        On Tue, Jun 4, 2013 at 1:04 PM, cyclingrandma

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      • Coming East says:

        Seems like a no-brainer, Lisa, but what do we know?

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  8. tchistorygal says:

    Wild life. You can’t live without them, and you can’t always live with them. I’m reading a book about the Dust Bowl Survivors. They killed rabbits, thousands of them at a sitting because the rabbits were eating what little plant life was growing at that time. I saw an historic picture of a rabbit hunt in our area, and thought, what a shame, but I wasn’t living with their damage. I buy my vegetables at the store. Nonetheless, these starving people weren’t using the rabbits for food either. Amazingly we still have rabbits here! (And they had better stay out of my husband’s garden!) Rabbits Beware! 🙂

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    • We have rabbits too– so cute. I think if we could find a way to use the rabbits, geese, and deer that are over populated to feed the hungry would be amazing. Just an idea, who’s listening?

      On Thu, Jun 6, 2013 at 4:54 PM, cyclingrandma

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      • tchistorygal says:

        I do agree with you, but if the dust bowlers wouldn’t eat them when they were truly starving, and killing them themselves, I don’t know how much more desperate one has to be than that!!!!

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  9. Pingback: Twister! There’s An App! | cyclingrandma

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