Sunday, July 20, 2008

July 20 Happy Birthday Dad and Connecticut

Happy Birthday Dad!
My day started at 4:30am, after a quick check of e-mail to make sure the day was a go, I jumped in the shower, dressed and woke Mike, who wanted to see me off. I got out the door right on time (5:30am) and headed north up 495 to the Mass pike. The morning was hazy, and being a Sunday at 6am, there was no traffic. Just me, the road, rolling hills, and fog laden ponds. Knowing that Gerry would be taking the Mass pike as well, I deemed the transition into Connecticut a good time to check on his where abouts. I was about an hour early so I thought he'd be behind me, but instead he was 5 miles in front. Great minds think alike. After a short conversation we agree to meet at the park behind the Wethersfield high school in Wethersfield, CT. It was an easy drive, on well marked roads. I pulled down a dead end street named Folly Boulevard which emptied out into a small parking lot, shut off the van and open the door to stretch a bit and as I did the most eerie, amazing sounds fill my ears. I immediately knew what I was hearing was choloromera go to the right hand bottom corner under cicada to find Swamp - Tibicen chloromera to hear what this Cicada sounds like. There's also a video at the end of this blog. I was always baffled when someone said they could hear more then one species calling. It seemed like they would all blend in together, but alas I found this not to be the case as I could distinctly hear Lyric - Tibicen lyricen as well. I was so excited that I needed to call someone and chose Gerry as the most receptive. "Gerry" I said, "I'm so excited I'm going to wet my pants" (I know Gerry well enough that I can say such a thing) "Gerry, these things are everywhere" He chuckles knowingly at this Cape Cod housewife who's just now starting to explore the world again and says "Well, go catch some!"
I arrived at this park little after 8am so I had a good amount of time to hunt before the others arrived at 9am, but had no luck. I would hear a call and walk towards it, but as soon as I got close it was quiet, but another would start up nearby so I would starting going for that one just as the first one would start calling again. It was maddening I felt like I was torn in two trying to catch these things.

Gerry and John Cooley showed up, I was introduced to the UCONN entomology master, and Gerry gave me a Tibicen exuvia he found that morning in Chelmsford, since I've been unable to acquire one of my own. Gerry immediately went off with a net and within a minute we had our first specimen. This is going to be easy I thought! Gerry took great pains to show me every part of this chloromera that was worth noting and I was amazed at the size. This thing was at least 2 inches from head to end of wings. Looks much different then the periodicals I'm used to seeing. The guys and I took off in different directions with our nets. While in the woods I heard a car approach, I was in pretty thick, but could make out the voices of a male and female and concluded that our Long Island contingent had arrived. I decided rather then venturing out and introducing myself that I would continue the hunt alone.

It occurs to me after 30 or so minutes of no success that I should probably be hanging out with the guys that know how to catch them, since they do and I don't. I found John, who also hadn't caught anything, and walked and talked with him for a while, we came upon Gerry who also had failed to catch another bug. Feeling a little better at not being the only one not catching I took toward a different path across the park. Walking through the woods I suddenly felt and heard a squeal! I carefully pickup up my foot to find a chlormera under it, what luck, who needs a net, these things are on the forest floor! I quickly used my newly sewn net and put it over my catch, carefully made sure it was secured and quickly make my way out of the clearing with my prize. I arrived in the parking lot only to find out that my bug had escaped in transit. Seems my choice of fabric was poor, because on closer examination I found not one, but several holes. Of course, everybody was starting to come out of the woods and I had to tell the story of the big one that got away. I don't think they believed me. Derke and Mike Neckermann had shown up by this point and our group was complete.

I heard my name and turned to meet Elias and Barbara. She was grabbing something from the car, but Elias walked right over kissed my cheek and gave me a huge hug, he's such a sweet guy! He called Barbara over, and immediately I was drawn to hug her as well. I think it was the Polish accent that hit me most, and let me know she's not just a blond NY bimbo after this cute sweet cardiologist. I'm relieved.

John hears a call in a tree and requests Mike's 16 foot net. Mike arrived, passed it off to John who told us spectators to look out. In one violent swoop, John connected with the cicada and smashed the net onto the ground. The alarm squawk of this chloromera let us know he had a direct hit. Derke decided to brief Mike and Elias on the testing while Gerry and Barbara took off down the path, interesting I think. I poked around for bugs but was more curious about what the guys were doing. Eventually the group started bug hunting again in earnest. Hmmm.... As the morning gave way to afternoon and the sun rose higher the repore grew. Barbara is terrific, she's funny, smart and seems to think much like I do. 4 hours of hunting yielded 3 specimens and Derke concluded that it would have to do. I wasn't sure how this testing was going to go, because they're not like periodicals where you can do a simulated call and they'll call back. I assumed that Derke would be attempting to record the alarm squawk, not nearly as impressive a venture. Our caravan of 5 stop off at Tim Horton's to grab lunch, then we make our way back to John's house. We helped Derke unload equipment and then Elias, Barbara and I sat out front to eat while the others set up. I packed a lunch/dinner. Strawberries, raspberries, carrot sticks, grilled summer squash and zucchini, sweet potato and a piece of grilled salmon. Barbara commented on my diet which eventually led to the story about the last three weeks of no alcohol, diet and exercise. You can tell these two are good health care professionals, they listen well, and only ask questions for clarification. Barbara came here from Poland when she was 18, she didn't know the language, and didn't know anybody. She took a job caring for an elderly person while she went to school, worked her way through college and now she's a nurse practitioner. She's amazingly strong, and said she'd support me in anyway she could. Now I have two great friends on Long Island, and great people to visit if ever I want to go to the city.

Testing went poorly. After an 3 hours of trying to figure out where the vibration on one of the lasers was coming from. We unplugged every electrical outlet in John's garage, had his wife shut off the washer and drying in their basement and even the ceiling fan in the attic, it was deemed that the laser was broken. 6 people hunting bugs for 4 hours in 95 degree heat, driving at least 1.5 hours each way, some as many as 2.5, and 3 hours of pseudo-testing only to find out the major piece of equipment is broken. Sometimes it happens. Mike and Derke stayed in the garage and the rest of us took a break on the lawn. John brought out a specimen box with rare and bizarre cicadas that we were totally engrossed in. Derke came out and announced that he was going to do some sound testing which quickly sent all but Elias and I into the garage with the door closed. He and I were pretty consumed checking out this glass bottle with a clear liquid which contained 2nd and 3rd instar nypmhs. We took pictures, and I held the bottle while he videoed it while turning it ever so slowly. After about 5 minutes we looked up to find we're alone, we had a very nice conversation about life, love, work, etc. 20 or so minutes later, Derke announced the day had ended, testing was done, and we packed up. John, his wife and three young children had their garage back. We hugged and said our goodbyes.
I turned to Gerry, and said lets go home. He and I were both headed back via the Mass Pike and I had no idea how to get to the highway from there, so I followed him. The ride home was uneventful. Mass Pike backed up for 5 miles or so but smooth sailing from there. I was happily greeted by Danny when I pulled in and he was excited to see what I brought home. One chlormera and one lyricen cicada. We decided since we had no place to keep them where they would survive, and Danny didn't want to let them go, that we would let them live in the house with us for as long as they could. We urged them onto a Pathos plant that lives on our beam in the kitchen where one of the promptly began to feed. It'll be interesting to see if they call tomorrow! Emily is more then a little unhappy but oh well, if life here were a bowl of cherries she'd never leave!
All in all a great day. I got to be involved in something fun and made some nice new friends along the way. Tomorrow is another day, much like the ones before today, but I think I can go into it with a better outlook. What I do is very important, raising kids to be smart, secure, happy, well adjusted, and contributing members of society will hopefully make for adults with the same attributes. What more can the world ask for in a mother.

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