Thursday, June 02, 2011

Among the Cicadas

The sound is primordial, that constant drone of the 13 year cicadas that begins every morning just after dawn. Doug likens the chorus to the sound of the alien spaceships in the 1953 The War of the Worlds --an eerie resemblance, actually. It sounds like summer sunsets in Louisiana to me.

I wasn't the only one concerned with the ability to conduct point count bird surveys this summer, I learned recently. Some of the most astute birders in Missouri also expressed their worries of hearing chipping sparrows and black and white warblers amid the undulating sounds of thousands of cicadas. So I set out early this morning to determine if it was even possible to hear early morning birdsong with the cicada chorus.

Not only was it possible, but I had one of the best birding mornings I've had all season. Gobs of Eastern wood pewees, summer tanagers, prairie warblers, chats, chippies, turkeys, the whole suite of great woodland birds, they were singing loudly enough to even determine a general distance from my location. The cicadas were talking among themselves all around me at dawn, but they were not calling in the nice 600 acre burn unit--it was as though the area I was birding was immune to cicadas. I could hear them in the distance, but their chorus certainly didn't interfere with my ability to hear little chip notes of indigo buntings.

Cicadas signal summer in the deep South, much as fireflies usher in June in Missouri. I've recently overheard several conversations about cicadas (while camped out watching tennnis) in which someone at the table asks the rest of the table "what's the purpose of cicadas?" to which I would like to ask all of them, "and what is your purpose?"

1 comment:

Bill Duncan said...


I'm so tired of listening to people complain about this. I recently spent several hours watching nests of Western Kingbirds in the St. Louis area. The only insects I saw them catch were these cicadas. Very easy prey. Tell them THAT is their purpose.

Keep writing and I'll keep enjoying this great blog of yours.