In the Midwestern United States, where I've spent most of my life, each August produces a symphony cacophony by insects known as cicadae. One of the little buggers is shown in the photo, below. Cicadae are the adult form of the nymphal June Bug - well, that's what the nymphal critters are called in these parts!
Just now, we are being invaded by species of cicadae that are periodic. As I was doing my early-morning yard work, today, I saw (and heard) hundreds of them. I had a hard time photographing them as my "good" camera has no lens capable of close-ups. My little camera has close-up capability, but I can't really tell where it is focusing and I cannot manually focus it. Excuses aside, here are the best photos of the lot showing a cicada on an elm leaf, another in the grass. Most of the cicadas that I saw were on cilantro - but - those photos were focused on the cilantro leaves instead of on the insects.
Note that in my opening sentence, I wrote of hearing cicadas in August - during the Dog Days of Summer. It seems weird to be hearing them in June!
More on Cicadae
Wikipedia has a great write-up on the insect that includes a wonderful series of photos showing their life cycle. Text includes the couple of paragraphs, below.
Cicadas live underground as nymphs for most of their lives, at depths ranging from about 30 centimetres (0.98 ft) down to 2.5 metres (8.2 ft). The nymphs feed on xylem sap from roots and have strong front legs for digging.
In the final nymphal instar, they construct an exit tunnel to the surface and emerge. They then molt (shed their skins) on a nearby plant for the last time and emerge as adults. The exuvia, or abandoned exoskeleton, remains, still clinging to the bark of trees.
This is what "normal" house finches look like (Lady, first):
This (photo, below) as you've probably seen on this blog before is our aberrant female house finch, Patches, who has nested in the tiny swing on our front porch. The first photo was taken in March 2014, the second, in December 2014.
As we observe in the two photos of Patches, above, each molt brings more white in the plumage.
This (photo, below) we've lately determined, is the mate of patches. I first photographed him in February or March of 2014. He doesn't qualify as being aberrant, but he certainly isn't cut from the same cloth as most male house finches. As you can see, he is golden where the usual male house finch is raspberry red.
And here is a (poor) photo of our "Odd Couple" (below).
As far as we can tell, the babies are "normal" (photo, below) but it's really too early to tell.
Back in late December, I posted photos of a Pretty strange bird that was frequenting our feeders. It is nesting on our front porch. It is pretty difficult to catch the bird visibly near the nest, let alone to photograph it. When Patches is on the nest, all that can be seen of her from the entry hall of the house (through the window above the front door) is the top of her head. Without climbing a ladder, even the nest cannot be seen from the porch.
BTW: I've just this morning learned [from an entry in KSBIRD-L Digest - 5 May 2015 to 6 May 2015 (#2015-126)]that the preferred way to describe such a bird is as "patchy leucistic". I'll be pleased to adopt the "patchy"; but, my spelling remains "leucastic" until there is wider agreement on the word's spelling.
As I wrote, above, "When Patches is on the nest, all that can be seen of her from the entry hall of the house (through the window above the front door) is the top of her head." At least I was able to get an acceptable photo, today!
“Data were obtained from a stratified random sample of veterinary practices throughout Great Britain, and questionnaires were sent to owners of dogs with tail injuries and owners of a randomly selected sample of dogs without tail injuries…. Two hundred and eighty-one tail injuries were recorded from a population of 138,212 dogs attending 52 participating practices….. Dogs with a wide angle of wag and dogs kept in kennels were at significantly higher risk of sustaining a tail injury. Dogs with docked tails were significantly less likely to sustain a tail injury.”
See the problem with the logic? One hundred percent of the "Dogs with docked tails...." were injured (ask your dog!); thus, they cannot be "...significantly less likely to sustain a tail injury."
The strange little bird (SLB) is undoubtedly a semi-leucastic house finch. The un-strange little bird is, indeed, a female house finch. The SLB has come to our feeders several times this afternoon. I seem to recall that, a couple of months ago, we had a female (or immature male) house finch that sported white patches on its cheeks. I suspect this is the same bird; but, I've no clue where it's been hiding, lately. I'm anxious to see if the SLB sticks around.
Aside: Evening-before-last, as our family were leaving the house, one female house finch (perhaps, even, the one in the photo?) flew down from the old nesting site near the ceiling of the front porch - into the house. It flew from perch-to-perch in the dining room and living room for about one minute. I turned off all of the interior lights and one of our guests enclosed the finch between her hands while it was perched on a wall sconce. It was happy to fly away, outdoors.
Addition of 1/2/2015:
This bit (below) isn't worth a separate posting; but, I just knew that my blog friends would wish to know. From Slashdot.org:
Posted by samzenpuson Friday January 02, 2015 @05:10AM from the how-dry-I-am dept.
An anonymous reader sends word of researchers getting zebra finches drunk for science. "In the latest example of strange science, researchers at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland got some finches drunk and watched what happened. Their main finding? Like drunk humans, boozed-up birds slur their 'speech.' For the study, the researchers gave grape juice to one group of zebra finches and an alcoholic juice cocktail to another group. The cocktail-quaffing finches became somewhat inebriated, with blood alcohol levels of 0.05 percent to 0.08 percent, according to NPR. 'At first we were thinking that they wouldn't drink on their own because, you know, a lot of animals just won't touch the stuff,' Christopher Olson, a researcher at the university, told NPR. 'But they seem to tolerate it pretty well and be somewhat willing to consume it.'"