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.
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.
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. (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….