As the summer of 2019 slows and the fall approaches there are a few critter notes to share.
The Japanese beetles (Popillia japonica) were not too bad this year. Not absent, but not obnoxiously present either. I’m confident we’ll fall far short of the 5 gallons of beetle carcasses we collected a couple years ago. Perhaps to take their place on the pestering front we had more than our share of sweat bees to keep us company. I’ll not venture a Genus and species identification… there are many hundreds (thousands?) of identified sweat bee species. And if you are interested in sweat bees I should point you to others… though to make some readers curious I can offer there are some kleptoparasitic species . among the horde of these little pests. Kleptoparasite or not, a sweat bee up the nose is not pleasant for either of us.
My personal contribution to the rise of sweat bee abundance this season may be from nutrient provision. I can be a fairly prodigious source of sweat. Like our friend at the South Roane Agrarian, I too can soak more than a couple shirts in a day.
We are being serenaded by crickets again, though I’ve no data to compare this season’s cricket count to any prior season. Grasshoppers seem to be down in numbers; like the Japanese beetles, not absent, just less obtrusive.
Barn swallows (Hirundo rustica) seem to be on an upswing here in 2019. Always welcome guests when working ground, planting, or walking plots to take notes – in the past I could usually count a mere handful of swallows swooping around at various times. But this year the numbers seemed many multiples more. No complaints – though I do wish they’d eat some sweat bees.
Killdeer might be off a touch. We still see some occasionally. We’ve never had large numbers; a few nesting pairs is typical. Our local vixen had a large brood this spring – five kits – and her success may spell the ground nesting Killdeer’s difficulty.
No red-tailed hawk this year. In the past we could count on having one keep a lookout on the overhead power line that runs across the farm. There are still plenty of hawks in this region, and if the foxes are on the ascent in our immediate surroundings then the fields here might not be as rewarding for a hawk. Other birds one can find in this part of Ohio but very rarely at the farm include Canada geese, turkeys, great blue herons, pheasants, and bald eagles.
Racoons, groundhogs, foxes and white-tailed deer count for the majority of the mammalian critters on this landscape. Some squirrels, and an occasional mink can be seen. I haven’t seen a rabbit on the farm in years, and I give the foxes credit for that.
Reptiles are very rare here as well. One snake earlier this year. We have seen several toads this summer – perhaps the very wet spring was to their liking.
The farm sits in a wide expanse of fertile agricultural land, corn and soybean fields on all sides. The nearest timber lines the Big Darby creek about a mile and a half north. There are some tree lined fence rows south of the farm, but very little habitat for songbirds and others more common where trees and shrubs are abundant. Surface water is available – a county ditch runs through the eastern half of the farm and another runs through the neighboring farm to the west (almost a mile away). There are no ponds or small lakes any closer than the Big Darby (unless one counts the temporary ones we suffered with last spring).
I can’t really speak to the longer-term changes in the fauna and flora of this site. Even though I’ve worked at this location for nearly 20 years now, it hasn’t changed much over the period compared with the changes it has witnessed over a couple hundred years. There would have been much smaller farms, more people, more livestock, and likely a different mix of wild critters.
One might recall, from a couple posts back, how I don’t spare the milkweeds when preparing fields for planting on this landscape. In late July, while making crosses, we did happen to see this pair of Monarch butterflies being all romantic. The pigweed they found to host their courtship was only a few meters from our crossing block. She would eventually need to go in search of some milkweeds I’d not killed (the ditch is another 50 meters east of this and would have something for her). We took their picture, and left them to themselves. Tis a shame the sweat bee isn’t a part of their diet either.