My Beautiful Wickedness

February Thaw
February 9, 2009, 2:21 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Warmer weather has a sound. The gentle dripping of water, the creaking and groaning of ice, the exultant sound of birdsong and the chatter of squirrels.

As much as my eye yearns for color, my ear has missed the sounds of life. It won’t last, but today’s thaw has made for a nice respite.


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Did you hear the woodpecker yesterday? I just stood on our porch for a minute and took in the sounds of life.

As much as I dislike the muddy mess that is Spring, the earth coming back to life always gives me hope.

Comment by Angela Gordon

Yes, I did hear the woodpeckers out. We’ve got a woodpecker who’s a pretty steady fixture in my neighbor’s tree; I know that means that there are insects moving around in the tree, even if I can’t see them. The red-tail hawks are also out in force patrolling the edge of highways for unwary mice. One thing that’s surprised me about downtown Albany is how much wildlife there is wandering around.

Comment by bridgett

I’m worried here about the *lack* of wildlife…well, in particular, the lower life forms. Usually in the summer and fall, we can reliably expect a few things: dozens of snails and slugs on our walk after a rainstorm; small amorphous clouds of little gnatlike things at dusk in the front yard for a couple of weeks; and just enough mosquitoes to make one twitchy. This last time around, we had *none* of that…and not as many bees, either. When things that low on the food chain aren’t making an appearance, it can’t be good. Maybe this sort of thing happens every once in a while and I’ve never noticed it before…I sure hope so, anyway.

On a totally unrelated (and happier) note, the birder in my department told me yesterday that he’d spotted his 75th bird of the year–a yellow-bellied sapsucker. He described how it was drilling a line of holes into the bark of a tree so it could feed, which excited me no end because at my previous house (which was in the forest on the side of a mountain in a town with a population, once we’d moved in, of 58), I’d seen a number of trees with half a dozen neatly spaced holes bored into the bark, but had no idea what was doing it. Now I’m smarter–yay!–and our bird nerd seemed delighted that someone in the building actually seemed interested in any aspect of his hobby (birders, while not anoraks on the level of trainspotters or evangelical Republicans, still seem to have a tough time of it socially).

Comment by John Gruver

There’s something strange going on in your part of VA. I hear you have almost no acorns either (which is cyclical); sounds like everything is on a down cycle all at once. Bees are, of course, dying off everywhere. (Or leaving the planet, if you’re a Dr. Who fan.)

I’ve never actually seen a sapsucker live — it’s the punchline of many a nerdy joke in 1930s and 1940s movies, but I hadn’t really thought about how they would suck sap. If I was confronted by a series of holes drilled in wood, I would have probably guessed carpenter bees (and I would have been wrong), because they drill tunnels into trees with what looks like a 1/2 inch bit. They are as big as bumblebees, so the holes are pretty huge.

My mother-in-law is a birder. It’s one of the things that I enjoy talking to her about. I don’t think there is such a thing as a casual birder, though, is there?

I love the use of “anoraks” as a collective noun.

Comment by bridgett

The bee population took a big dive here a number of years ago, but had been on the rebound for a number of years–though many of the new bees had such tiny wings that I’m amazed they could fly at all (if I recall correctly, the stunting was a side-effect of the fungus that was killing so many of them). But this last year, they’ve been as few and far between as ever.

Our old house (the one in the tiny town) had carpenter bees. About four months before we sold it, I saw large numbers of chunky, buzzy bees flying up under the eaves over our front deck. Worryingly, though, they weren’t coming right back out from underneath. I looked around and found a hole just like the ones you described, saw bees going in and out of it over the next few days, and figured out what I was dealing with.

I hate killing *anything*…but it was either them or the house, and it was either me doing the extermination or me writing a check to pay someone else to do it so I could contrive a moral distance from the act. So I got a can of hornet spray and took advantage of the fact that their sole entrance was also their sole exit. Problem miserably solved. When we sold the house, the home inspector saw the hole, asked me about it, and then became I’m pretty sure the only person ever in my life to tell me that I’m a clever and careful homeowner. It’s not me, none of that. (And ask me sometime about how I emptied half a can of hornet spray into my own face…)

Comment by John Gruver

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