Q: I am interested in seeing the 17-year locusts [cicadas] and don't want to wait another 17 years. Can you suggest places to see and hear them? Will they be around here, and if so, when? I know the annual ones are always noisy here when the hot August summer days get underway.
— Randy J., Pittsfield
A: Unfortunately for those of us living in the Berkshires, we are too far north. Regardless if we have been waiting 17 years since 2004 for the last locust cycle to see locusts, or since 1970 for three cycles, we are going to be too distant for a day trip.
New York state was the destination the first and last time I searched for them and what numbers we found. The late Rick Oltsch was a brilliant and noted naturalist who later became a respected Pittsfield High School science teacher. As a child, Rick was a student in the Berkshire Museum's nature classes. In 1970, we were unable to see the locusts in Massachusetts, so Rick suggested a trip to New York state to find them. We headed south along Route 22 to around Millertown, N.Y., and with windows open, we began hearing the sound of lawnmowers along both sides of the road — only they were not mowers, they were Brood 10 locusts. I recall turning off the highway to open woodland, and there, everywhere we looked were the locusts by the hundreds. Despite their large up-to-2-inch size, they do not pose us any threat.
Their coming emergence this spring will be the first time they will have seen daylight since 2004.
And to see them, sadly enough, Berkshire residents will have to go to one of 15 states, with the closest being New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. And one source states they are no longer as common as past broods in New York state.
Q: Almost all of last fall and winter since we set up a couple of bird feeders, we have had goldfinches. All of a sudden last week, they vanished. Can you explain? They had turned from dull birds in the fall to natural beauties later in the winter.
— Charlet, Pittsfield
A: Yes, it is easy; during the late summer molt, the males assumed their winter or non-breeding appearance, and in the latter part of winter, they began changing to their breeding garb. By now, they are probably off to find or return to their breeding grounds.
SOME ITEMS OF INTEREST
- Cornell has released an article “Is bird migration getting more dangerous?” by Marc Devokaitis. Find it at www.allaboutbirds.org/news/is-bird-migration-getting-more-dangerous.
- A free bird-watching program, offered by Mass Audubon, will be held from 7 to 8:30 a.m. Friday, April 30, at Canoe Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary in Pittsfield. Pre-registration is required; www.massaudubon.org/pleasantvalley. Canoe Meadows' grounds are ideal for spotting migrant species, especially colorful wood-warblers, orioles and thrushes. Explore wetlands, meadows and woodlands while seeing different bird species each week.
- For anyone interested in The Hoffmann Bird Club, another way to contact the Club is to email email@example.com and Audrey Werner (HBC eNews) will see to it the right person gets it.
- Before you panic at the sight of a baby bird (mostly robin) or rabbit (mostly cottontail) alone in the wild, turn on the computer or cell phone and go to www.mass.gov/news/what-to-do-when-you-find-young-wildlife. You will learn that nearly all wild birds and mammals are protected by law; they may not legally be taken from the wild or kept as pets. You will also learn that most baby birds are under the watchful eye of a parent — the same for baby bunnies.