The playa that I drive past to and from the school now has water in it. So does every low spot, ditch, gutter, and grass-stem, as best I can tell. We’re bordering on 20 days in a row with rain or very heavy fog/drizzle. The good news is that it feels more like mid-September than late August. The not so good news is it also feels like July in Houston when you poke your nose out the door or open the window. And with moisture comes . . . mosquitoes.
The playa has been dry for just over a year, but not bare. Plants grow in rings, sort of like a living bathtub ring, based on how long the soil holds moisture. So, as you can imagine, it took a lot of rain and inflow to get standing water, which we developed two weeks ago. Yeah! The playa looks like a wet playa! Boo! It’s been dry for so long that the bug-eating predators all left.
You know it’s a bad sign when you step out of your car to take a photo and you hear mosquitoes humming the theme to “Welcome Back, Kotter” in harmony.
None of the students want to go outside for lunch because they become lunch. A few smaller students swear they needed blood-transfusions after waiting for their parents to pick them up after school. The track team and PE students are setting new state speed records to get away from the clouds of mosquitoes rising in drifts from the grass and the ditches and the playa and… The teachers pray we won’t have a fire-drill because that means going outside.
Part of the reason why the playa was dry for so long was because two years ago, when it got so wet, the county needed to do roadwork on the opposite side of the lake. They arranged to have it pumped lower. “Lower” turned into “down to the mud.” No mosquitoes, but no more dragonflies, the swallows departed for moister locals, and other insect-eaters wandered away. Now we have a perfect combination of water, wet grasses and forbs (lots and lots of amaranth), no predators yet, and lo, skeeter paradise arises. Oh, and there’s not been much wind to blow the little blood-sucking b@stards away.
In another week or so, I suspect we’ll have a surge in the number of dragonflies. And we’ll have more birds, if the golden eagle mozies on. Yes, golden eagle. It was eating a mouse by the road into the school last week. I thought I’d seen it earlier, but we have the occasional red-tailed and sharp-shinned hawks that pass through. Nope, this is a golden eagle, probably wandered down from the breaks. It is part of the reason why the doves, pigeons, meadowlarks, sparrows, grackles, starlings, finches, ducks, and other avians are sparse all of a sudden.
But for now, no one lingers outside the school, and you drive slowly and with lowered windows at your own peril.