Sunday, June 02, 2013
I choose a 40-minute drive to Croton instead of an hour-and-a-half drive to Clove Lakes Park on Staten Island for Brood II of the periodical cicadas this morning (Matthew Wills, the Brooklyn naturalist who writes the Backyard and Beyond blog, was heading to Clove Lakes and invited me to join him and his crew; I grew up near Clove Lakes and was tempted but the tolls and the pain-in-the-ass factor of driving through the city dissuaded me).
Colabaugh Pond was the general destination; I explain why here. We had the car windows down and heard them as soon as we turned onto Mount Airy Road from Route 127. At the intersection of Colabaugh Pond Road, I stayed on Mount Airy and turned right onto Pond Meadow Road instead. That’s when they were 17 years ago (duh). Today the noise came from high in the trees, all around us. It’s a small road, barely wide enough for two cars, and I pulled onto the shoulder. A young man was straightening up his yard.
When he looked over at us I called out, “We came for the bugs!” He said the sound was nonstop (“sound” is a better word than “noise” for what we heard). I asked how long it had been going on for, and he said for five or six days. Gina asked if it was annoying and he said no, he had gotten used to it. I asked if he had been here 17 years ago. He grinned. “No! I was only 15.”
We found a dead cicada on the black top and then found several live ones clinging to a barberry bush. Two or three flew by at eye level. They were toy-like in the way they flew. Gina photographed a few and one landed on my shirt-trail and then on my right hand when I reached out toward where it was flying. The sound was constant, almost frog-like, easing when we walked up the road and into a clearing, and then getting more intense again as the road rose into the woods. There seemed to be many more than 17 years ago but I easily could be mis-remembering.
Back in the car, we drove a short way up Mount Airy until we could no longer hear them, backtracked, and then turned left onto Colabaugh Pond Road and continued, again, until we could no longer hear them. Colabaugh Pond seemed to be the epicenter.
That was pretty much it. The sound was sort of pleasant, certainly not annoying (although I think the density per acre was much less than it is elsewhere). There wasn’t much to see. There are three species of periodical cicada that emerge as part of Brood II but I didn’t try to identify the Colabaugh Pond species. The thought that they were there 17 years ago, and every preceding 17 years going back for who knows how long, was awe-inspiring but the spectacle itself wasn’t.
I’ll be 76 next time and 93 the time after that. Although it wasn’t awe-inspiring it was interesting and worth witnessing. I’m planning to be there again.