Brood I Cicadas Mapping Project - Day 2
News Category: Cicada Missions
Brood I Cicadas Mapping Project - Day 2
Hi Folks, I can tell you that writing articles after a long day of driving around and taking geocoordinates can be very tiring and time-consuming. Not only is it a lot of stopping and starting, there are also a ton of things that need to get done afterwards. Things like sorting through tons of photos taken during the day, killing, sorting and labeling live cicada specimens, answering email and Facebook inquiries etc. All these things need to get done every evening even before any thought goes into writing an article.
But it is what it is so let's get started. If you remember yesterday, I set up a base of operations at Douthat State Park located in Millboro Virginia. I had rented a cabin for 10 days with the hopes of being able to drive close by to map the local cicada populations. This ended up not working out the way I had planned. For one thing, there were no cicadas around!
This is no doubt due to their early emergence back in late April and early May. The southern portions of Brood I seemed to have completed their life cycle and have since died off. So that is one strike against staying at Douthat State Park. Another is that the closest populations of Periodical Cicadas that were still around are an hour north of my present location which would make for a rather long drive before I would even get into any sort of cicada activity. But the third strike and the most important one was that there is absolutely no cell phone or internet service to be found anywhere inside the park. The closet place for access was outside this hole-in-the-wall town known as Clifton Forge. But that was like 15 miles away.
So this morning after spending one night in the cool cabin, I had to call off my stay. Suffice it to say the park rangers were really understanding and only charged me for the one night.
But that is only the beginning of my adventure. As the day wore on, it got really strange. But more on that later. After repacking the car with all my gear, I soon set out to begin to map from Douthat State park working my way north along Douthat State Park road. Driving along the western slope of Beards Mountain I soon made my way "off the beaten path" on this back mountain road known as FR 184 ("FR" stands for Forest Road).
It was a long and slow journey especially in a rental car not equipped for off-roading. I slowly made my way along this road for approximately 30 to 40 miles. All along this route there were nothing but negative sightings - no cicadas to be found. I followed this road all the way to Route 39 where I quickly turned off and followed another mountain road (this one paved with asphalt) where I stopped to take a little breather.
Outside of a sleeply little town known as McClung on River Rd, I stopped to take some rather nice photos of the mountains.
Tiger Swallowtail makes for a Good Subject
I noticed this Tiger Swallowtail butterfly Papilio glaucas came sailing along and landed along the roadside so I took the opportunity to snap a few regular and close up photos. It looked rather beaten up and road weary as the ends of its wings were missing.
While I don't know much about them, I still find flowers fascinating to photograph. Here are a few photos of some wildflowers that were along the side of the road outside McClung, VA
After taking a few minutes to rest and take some photos I continued on my journey. River Road soon changed to Old Plantation Way which again changed to Indian Draft Road and then finally Cowpasture Road. Following along this same route for miles upon miles while slowly heading north
Other Cicadas heard!
As I'm cruising along Cowpasture Road, I come into a town called Headwaters, VA. As I'm driving with the windows down, hoping to hear the calling songs of Brood I periodical cicadas, I am surprised to hear the call of one of my old favorites, Okanagana canadensis. I recently discovered these cicadas around the outskirts of North Conway, NH just last year. (I've yet to write an article on this but its coming I promise!) This is quite unusual to hear this species so far south since they are considered a northern species. Like so many cicada discoveries from years gone by, some cicadas to live their entire lives in an area and go completely unnoticed. This is sure the case with these specimens.
Remember that adventure I mentioned above? I was so startled from hearing the familiar call of Okanagana canadensis so far out of its normally perceived range, that I immediately pulled my rental car over. But I was blocking a driveway, and thought better of it, so I decided to pull up the road only a few feet and park on the side. Well, when I did this, I didn't notice the four foot deep drainage hole that was completely covered in grass. My right-front passenger tire went into the hole which was approximately 4 feet deep and the rear end of the car went immediately up in the air! Let me tell you, when you are used to being prone at 180 degrees to the road surface all your driving life, finding yourself at any other angle can be a bit disconcerting! Its really amazing how things can change in an instant.
After getting over the initial shock I was glad that I was all right. I had worn my seatbelt which held me in place. I forced my way out of the car and took stock of my situation. I pulled out my phone and yep, you guessed it, no cell service. I was in the high country in the Blue Ridge mountains without a phone. I thought that the car was totally wrecked and that maybe I "should've" gotten the optional car insurance from the rental company (even though I am fully insured from my own car insurance company). I could just imagine the crap I would be in if my vacation came to an instant and abrupt end and have to explain this to the rental agents back home. Take a look at the photos below, and see if you agree.
The Locals to the Rescue!
So after sitting there wondering what I should do, a local guy driving on the road in a red pickup truck stopped and asked if I needed assistance, I told him most definitely. He said he would go back home and get a few of his friends and a bigger truck to pull me out.
As I was waiting and wondering if the car had a lot of damage and if it was still drive able several other people stopped and asked if I needed assistance. I indicated that help was coming and they indicated that this sort of thing happened quite often on the back roads.
Eventually the guy came back as promised with a few of his friends and another passerby got out of his car to lend a hand. After discussing the best method to pull the car out, they attached a nylon strap with a "J" hook on each end around the rear axle. The driver of the bigger truck put tension on the strap and another guy got in the car, started it up and while he put the rental in reverse the driver of the truck pulled it out! After thoroughly inspecting the car, it was indeed deemed drive able with no damage!
I was so grateful to these guys and their help that I gave them each 20 bucks and told them to buy themselves each a case of beer. These guys were so cool and they were very professional and really knew what they were doing and they indicated that "yes" this sort of thing happens there all the time. The people in the southern states are so nice, polite and laid back. That is why I like coming here.
On the Road Again
As I drove away, I was hopping that there wouldn't be any strange shakes, rattles or rolls or even funny sounds coming from the car. I am happy to report that the car is none-the-worse-for-wear. It still drives very smoothly.
I can also tell you that not only did I hear Okanagana canadensis on Cowpasture road but I also heard another species, Okanagana rimosa- another species not know to be this far south - and also Neocicada hieroglyphica! Unfortunately, all were high up in the trees. I am hoping that I will have some time during the remainder of my trip to hopefully snag a few voucher specimens.
Brood I Periodicals Found Again
Eventually, I followed Cowpasture Road all the way to the Virginia/West Virginia border and the road name changed to CR-21 (County Road). Just over the border, I could hear the distinct calls of Okanagana rimosa and Okanagana canadensis again along the road but still no calling Brood I cicadas. After several miles further north, I finally picked up the cicadas calls just south of Sugar Grove, W. V.
I stayed in Sugar Grove for an hour collecting specimens. I was surprised to notice that a lot of the M. cassini cicadas were infected with the Massospora cicadina fungal infection a condition that seems to affect all Broods of periodical cicadas both 13 and 17 year varieties.
Time to Head to Harrisonburg, VA and a New Base of Operations
After my short collecting foray, I continued on CR-21 and followed it into a town called Brandywine where I picked up Route 33 east which leads back to Virginia. Route 33 goes up and over Shenandoah mountain where at the very top (above 3,000 feet) is a nice scenic overlook. I took the time at the summit to snap some photos of the mountain range. See the photos below.
Well, that was my adventure for Sunday. If you read this far then perhaps you enjoyed it. Stay tuned for more updates and thanks for reading.