Milw BIOME Project news


A few more days of banding left- Jenn is deciding about tomorrow depending on the weather!



Bat monitoring is over for fall 2011. Check back again for more news during winter!


The Harbinger of Autumn – Jennifer Callaghan

When I was a kid growing up in Florida, I had an obsession with cicadas.  I collected their exoskeletons and wore them on my clothes like decorative broaches.  It was a pastime of my brother and me to have “cicada shell hunts” and challenge each other to find the most “shells”.  I was protector of the cicadas.  No one was allowed to squish them in my presence or proclaim disgust for the bug-eyed creature.  I took great pleasure in rescuing them from our pool drain when they got caught and hoarded bag-fulls of their shed skins so I could study each one thoroughly and closely.

I get nostalgic when hearing cicadas singing in chorus together.  The clicking of the mating call emanating through the thick summer air reminds of childhood.  To me, the emergence of cicadas has always meant the dog days of summer.  As a child they symbolized the precious last days of summer spent playing outside till dark.  They symbolized the last days of freedom before heading back to the confinement of school.  I still remember the feeling of the scratchy St. Augustine grass as I lay on my back, staring at the pine trees as the cicada buzz diffused through my entire body.  The grass so rigid that it seemed to lift me above ground, bringing me closer to the winged creatures I loved.

I am not sure why I initially was so fascinated by cicadas.  I can remember learning about them in elementary school and being blown away by the fact that they spent years underground in a form hardly recognizable as a cicada.  I thought of them as warriors, stoic beasts that bided time until the day they could fly free and find a mate.  I felt reverence for the funny-looking insect that waited years beneath the dark earth for a chance at a few weeks (or days or hours) spent in the beauty of light.  The idea that the cicada would tackle such challenges to give life to a new generation was astounding to me as a child.

I still think fondly of the cicada.  I may not play bike tag amongst the hum of their tymbals anymore, but I still have a place for them in my heart.  While out for a run the other morning, I was stopped dead in my tracks when I noticed one particular greenish colored cicada in my path.  He had just shed his skin, with his wings hanging limply at his sides.  He sat there drying them, waiting for the moment when they were stiff enough to take flight.  I gently picked him up and moved him aside where he would not be crushed.  I found a nice tree where he could rest and gather strength before embarking on his next journey.

Yes, a cicada’s life after rebirth is brief.  I imagined a few hours for him buzzing high in the trees and a few more hours spent happily choosing a mate.  I romanticized what little life he had left and hoped that I had helped to make his last hours wonderful.  Respect to my stocky six-legged friend.  I promise to always be your protector.

Jennifer Callaghan
Research Assistant
Urban Ecology Center
1500 E Park Pl
Milwaukee, WI 53211

Phone: 414-964-8505 ext. 133


Avian monitoring on our study sites is proceeding, with some good diversity found today at Warnimont, some at Falk, but fewer spp found on the the Root River site. Warnimont, by virtue of its proximity to Lake Michigan, had more species. Falk had a single Blackpoll along with other expected residents; while Warnimont had a Blackburnian, many REVIs, AMRE, TEWAs, NOWA, SWTH (some of which were found after the timed transect).

April 2011:

Bat monitoring starts in April and continues through summer and fall of 2011 on all of our study sites. Contact  Anne Reis, at or call the Urban Ecology Center at 414-964-8505 and ask for Anne for more information if you’d like to help. Contact me, Bill Mueller, Project Coordinator, at with any questions regarding our avian monitoring projects – or for for more information.


One response to “Milw BIOME Project news

  1. Hi Jennifer, that is a great article & I really enjoyed reading it!!

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