This summer we have sighted a numerous American toads (Anaxyrus americanus) in our yard. There have been so many that occasionally it can be difficult to walk through the yard without stepping on one.
Whenever Lizzie shows interest in a toad, we tell her to “leave it” because we don’t want her to harm it. However, their prevalence and their using her water bowls to relax in makes that task somewhat difficult.
Every year, starting around mid-July, the cicadas emerge to serenade us. We typically have at any given time, what sounds to my ear, to be two or three cicadas in our yard. This year, however, there have been so many that I am unable to count them by listening. And they emerged earlier than usual, with the first being heard at the tail end of June!
Near a stump in our yard, I counted nine shed exoskeletons and at least one live cicada.
While cicadas and crickets aren’t attractive insects like monarch or swallowtail butterflies, I enjoy the buzz of the cicadas and the trill of crickets, especially at night when I have the bedroom windows open.
It is an annual event where our sewer mainline will become plugged, causing sewage to backup into our downstairs bathroom shower and laundry room. It happens with enough regularity that the sewer guy and I are on a first name basis. Starting about three years ago, the frequency increased from once to twice per year. We had the sewer mainline unclogged early in December 2017 and, now, just this week, it clogged again. So, once again, I called up Juve, our sewer guy.
Juve was puzzled by the increased frequency and said, “It is always about 30-40 feet out that it is plugged. Can we look down the manhole in your backyard?” After we had popped the cover off of the manhole, he looked down and said, “Oh no! That is no good!” The city sewer was plugged! It was barely flowing and it was rising up the manhole.
The plugged city sewer would explain the increasing frequency of our mainline being plugged. We determined that probably what was happening is that when Juve would get his cable down 30-40 feet it would be at the point where our mainline entered the city sewer. He would then break loose the clog at that point and our mainline would drain. That would be good for awhile until something else plugged the mainline.
To remedy the plugged city sewer, we found a pole, about 20 feet long, and used that to push and move the sewage around. This broke up the clog in the city sewer, resulting in the sewage draining from the manhole.
After most of the sewage had drained out, we saw various items that had been part of the clog. Using duct tape, we taped a bow rake to the pole and used that to retrieve items from the manhole. We pulled up a corroded metal rod which was about three feet in length, a chunk of asphalt, a mass of tree roots, tampons, “flushable” wipes, plastic wrappers, fibrous pads of some kind, and other items that should never be flushed down a toilet.
I suspect someone dropped the metal rod through the hole in the manhole cover but I’m baffled by the chuck of asphalt. There was no way for it to get in there unless some had removed the manhole cover and then dropped it in.
Those two items, when combined with other items that do not break down, such as “flushable” wipes and plastic wrappers, were what it took to plug the city sewer. I don’t know where most of that junk came from because we don’t flush anything down the toilet except bodily waste and toilet paper.
Our mailbox was taken out once again. Lizzie and I were relaxing in the living room when we heard a loud bang. She ran barking towards the front door and I was close behind her. When I looked out the front door, all I could do is groan with resignation.
Our game camera has captured plenty of daytime images but what interests me the most are the images captured at night. During the daytime, I frequently see the squirrels and birds that frequent our yard during the daylight hours. Below are a few images captured at night.
We occasionally see Easterncottontails in our yard during the day but I had hoped the presence of Lizzie in our yard would scare off the rabbits. However, the amount of images of rabbits captured by the game camera made me realize the real party is at night!
Prior to the erection of our fence, nighttime sightings of raccoons were a regular enough occurrence that I thought nothing of it. After our fence went up and we saw no raccoons during the day, I naively hoped they were not frequenting our yard. The image below informed me that they were still visiting our yard, even if only on an irregular basis.
Prior to our putting up our fence, a red fox (Vulpes vulpes) made regular rounds through our yard. On one occasion, I saw it lift its leg and piss on our garage. I also found the remains of several rabbits under shrubs and bushes that, I assume, belong to the fox. I thought that maybe the fence would dissuade the fox from entering our yard. Apparently, that is not true. Hopefully, the fox will eat the rabbits that have been frequenting our yard.
I bought a game camera with the hope of recording the coming and going of a nesting pair of White-breasted nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis) that were nesting in one of our nest boxes. For various reasons, that didn’t work out to my satisfaction. Looking for a use for the game camera, I placed it in various locations in our yard to discover what it might record. Below are a few images captured by it.
Another frequent visitor to our yard is the American robin, often with an eye towards the ground, looking for worms to eat. While gardening, I place any grubs I find on a stump for birds to eat. Robins are usually the first to snatch them up.
The Chipping Sparrow is a regular summer-time resident. I frequently see them hopping through the grass, looking for seeds and insects. They appear to be fairly bold birds, approaching within a few feet of Lizzie. Lizzie, for the most part, ignores them preferring to hunt for rodents.
This weekend was a good weekend for observing raptors. On Friday, I noticed a large hawk high up in the branches of an oak tree. Using binoculars, I confirmed it was a rough-legged hawk (Buteo lagopus). Supposedly the rough-legged hawk winters here in Minnesota but I have only seen it in the spring as they pass through on their way to northern Canada.
The camera on my phone couldn’t do justice to this bird, so I downloaded the image below from Wikipedia.
I’ve occasionally observed sharp-shinned hawks (Accipiter striatus) in our neighborhood and yard, but, last year, a pair of sharp-shinned hawks moved into the neighborhood and they returned again this year. While they are interesting birds to watch, I’m concerned they will scare off the chickadees, nuthatches, and other small birds that have made our yard their home.
Again, I couldn’t get a good photograph of the sharp-shinned hawks with my phone, so I downloaded the photograph below from AnimalSpot.
Later on Saturday, we were relaxing on the patio when a bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) flew over head. When we moved into our current place, we rarely saw bald eagles flying over head. We now regularly see bald eagles flying above us.
The following photograph is from Wikipedia.org because I haven’t got a picture of a bald eagle flying over us.
There are two bird feeders hanging under the eaves outside of our living room, one for seed and the other for suet. I placed the feeders there so that we could enjoy the coming and going of birds as fed. I recently installed a game camera to photograph the birds that frequent those feeders. While I was happy for the photographs of the birds, I was disappointed with the quality of said photographs.
American goldfinch (Spinus tristis) are beautiful summer visitors. Unlike chickadees and nuthatches, goldfinches tend to hang out on the feeder for as long as it takes to eat their fill.
White-breasted nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis), like the black-capped chickadees, are year-round visitors. Also like chickadees, nuthatches dart in for a seed and then quickly fly off. Nuthatches are the upside-down bird. They can frequently be seen walking upside down along tree trunks.
Our mailbox is a curbside mailbox and, as a result, gets knocked down on a regular basis by snowplows. After having our mailbox taken out two years in a row, we got a PO box at the local post office and now have most of our mail delivered there.
After the city had replaced our mailbox several years in a row, they must have talked to the snowplow drivers because the snowplow drivers now leave plenty of room between their plows and our mailbox. We haven’t had any snowplow mishaps with our mailbox for a few years now.
But the good can’t be allowed to stand. Last fall, I came home to discover our mailbox had been hit and knocked askew. After carefully inspecting the damage, I determined that some jackass backing out of our driveway had probably backed into it. It is a daily occurrence in which a driver pulls into our driveway to turn their car around to go the other direction. I’ve watched many of these lost souls and it is clear to me that they are more than just lost. Indeed, they are barely in control of their vehicles and that operating them in a safe manner is a great challenge for them.
After I had straightened out the mailbox, we had no incidents for half a year. I was beginning to hope the mailbox would survive winter when one last snowstorm came. It was one of those rare April snowstorms we seem to get every ten years or so. The night of the snowstorm, some jackass lost control of his vehicle going up the street. By up, I mean that the street inclines towards the west. Since we are on the south side of the street, this jackass, who was either drunk or driving a vehicle with bald tires or both, crossed over into the oncoming lane and drove up onto the curb and took out our mailbox.
The reason I suspect the driver was drunk was that it takes a lot of effort to lose control of a car on our street such that it crosses over into an oncoming lane of traffic, hops the curb, all while going up a hill! And, on top of that, the driver got out of their car, walked up our driveway and around to the side of our garage to relieve his bladder!