So last year was the Summer of the Botflies as far as my backyard wildlife was concerned, as those of you who followed the exploits of Lumpy & Co are well aware. (Gimpy is the only squirrel I’ve been seeing recently–all the others are doubtless trying to beat the heat somewhere else, but Gimpy still likes my railing as the premier crash spot.)

But not much botfly activity this year. A few suspicious bumps, a comma-shaped scar on Gimpy’s flank, but not the Quasimodo-esque excesses of last year. No, this year would appear to be the Summer of the Feather Mites.

From Kojak the completely bald-headed male cardinal to Scruffles the bald titmouse, we’ve got parasites or mange or something. There’s two female cardinals that went from elegant, understated tan to scruffy patched grey, large bald patches filling in with ragged grey down. Kojak is still around somewhere, still bald as an egg from the neck up. Scruffles has vanished into a sea of identically mussed titmice, and the mottle olive pine warblers are looking distinctly motheaten.

Now, some of this may be due to molting of one variety or another, but I can’t believe that Kojak’s absolute alopecia is a natual process. Some of these poor things look like they’ve been inexpertly tarred and feathered.

Who knows what parastitic horrors next summer may bring?

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