Wednesday, April 28, 2010

full moon frogs

A full-time job is nice for the whole regular income thing, but it doesn't leave a lot of time or energy for frolicking (or, for that matter, laundry or dishes or cooking real food or...)

Nevertheless, I got out for a small walk tonight. I volunteered to survey frogs in Hartley this spring, but have so far been a very bad frog counter and only got out once. It's been such a warm and dry spring that I really should have gone frogging a couple times in the earlier part of the month, but later is better than never, I guess. Too bad the frog survey isn't done city-wide, because doing the Antenna Farm would be a snap for me, and I think those frogs deserve some kind of official recognition, too.

Spring continues to gallop along. The trees are leafing out more fully, and now there are flowering forbs. I've seen marsh marigold at work for the past week, and it was flowering in Hartley today, too, along with white and lavender violets. Mayflowers leaves are lush and verdant, with flower buds just starting to form, and a few wood anemones were budding out, too. Currant bushes are flowering, too, and although I must admit that I haven't previously taken specific, phenological notice of when currants normally flower, that seems insanely early to me. (Checking records now, I guess I have a picture of currant flowers from May 5, 2006, so maybe it's not all that early.)

But the frogs were the reason I went out there, and the frogs did not disappoint, even with as dry as it's been. After dusk, the air vibrated with frog songs, which made the darkness seem more friendly and cozy (it was too cloudy for the moon to cast much light). Chorus frogs were the loudest and most prevalent, singing from almost every vernal pool within earshot, and in the marsh below Rock Knob there were also spring peepers and exactly one lonely wood frog. The peepers were loud enough that there must have been some just a few feet off of the trail, and waves and waves of chorus frogs played behind them. It was so dark that I could only see the outline of the trees, trail and water, and although it would have been neat to be able to actually watch the frogs sing, I also feel like bringing a flashlight would have ruined the magic of it.

This video is pitch black, and the microphone on my camera is not that great, and of course it doesn't capture the actual experience of standing out in a marsh at night enveloped in music, but I still feel the need to record and share the frogs from Hartley tonight.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

miscellaneous spring

I went out to Lester and Amity in search of spring ephemerals today, because I've only ever seen hepatica and bloodroot in gardens, and I'm not sure if I've ever seen spring beauty. But alas that ephemerals have thwarted me once again. I have it on good authority that hepatica was blooming in Jay Cooke last week, but getting out to Jay Cooke without a vehicle is a significant undertaking. At least the maple flowers were pretty.

There were lots of downy woodpeckers, and some brown creepers, juncos, and nuthatches, plus a mystery raptor that I did not get a good look at through the trees (bigger than a crow, smaller than an eagle, dark (or maybe just in shadow) with upturned wingtips). I also saw a chickadee hunting a moth, and while I know that they'll eat bugs if the bugs present themselves, I've never seen one actively hunting an airborne insect. The chickadee was not successful.

I saw my first bumblebee on March 31, but in the past few days they are suddenly everywhere, and there were plenty in Lester. My first butterfly of the year was a mourning cloak on March 23, and there have been cabbage whites around the yard, and then today in Lester I saw a little blue butterfly, probably a spring azure, but he wouldn't let me get a good look or a decent picture. Possibly saw a dragonfly today, but it was just a zipping something at the edge of my vision, and I'm not willing to commit to an ID.

In regards to the calender and the weather, this past winter was short and mild, but spring this year has come on so early and so quickly that it feels unreal or imaginary. I was expecting another two months of cold and snow and grayness, so to see the trees leafing out, a blush of green against a bright blue sky, feels startling and miraculous.


On a side note, I'll sometimes backdate entries like this (I'm writing this on Sunday, not Saturday the 17th) so that relevant information will have a post date for the day it actually happened. This is for the sake of my own record keeping, but I was thinking--does this screw things up for feeds/RSS/whatever or otherwise complicate things for anyone? (I think I have all of three regular readers.)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

frog depot

Today I had the opportunity to walk from the mall to Home Depot (because the bus does not go directly to Home Depot anymore). Past the parking lot, on the other side of the frontage road, there is a puddle of a pond, maybe 10 by 25 feet. Today, at 3:30 p.m., even with temps around 40-45F, there were wood frogs singing in the Home Depot pond. I wonder how many people ever notice them. There's no sidewalk, and no reason for a person to be over there unless you're trying to get to Home Depot on foot (or unless you're doing a Miller Hill frog survey).

Monday, April 5, 2010

wood frog pandemonium

Finally got up to the Antenna Farm at dusk, and as predicted, it is teeming with frogs. The tiny vernal pools were quiet when I started out (around 6:30 p.m.) but at the pond it was wood frog pandemonium, then by the time I was heading back (7:45 p.m.) the frogs in the vernal pools had started up, too. I might have heard a spring peeper, too, but over all the wood frogs it was hard to tell if the peeping was from a bird or a frog. I got some video from the pond, although the sound quality isn't as nice as I'd like. The video starts off following a brown creeper up a tree, so visually it's not just scenery.

The snowmobile trails are unsloppy enough to walk down again, and now that the snow's gone I can see that there's tons and tons of garbage in the woods. Mostly of the rusted metal variety, which'll eventually rust into nothing, but lots of plastic, too. Next time I'm out I'll have to bring a garbage bag with me.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

lost blackbird

On and off all day long I thought I heard a red-winged blackbird outside declaring his territory. I couldn't see him anywhere, and I didn't really take the noise too seriously, because I'm about half a mile from the nearest wetland or patch of cattails. A red-winged blackbird just passing through would be one thing, but sticking around all day and acting like he's going to set up shop? So it's just a funny sounding grackle, or a very determined starling doing a blackbird imitation over and over--right?

Nope. Around 6 p.m. I was in the kitchen kneading bread, and there was Mr. Blackbird gleaning seed from under the feeders. His shoulder patch was more yellow-ish than red, and I thought I read somewhere that epaulet color was related to diet and that males with redder epaulets had larger territories and attracted more females, but now I'm having trouble digging up any research on it. All the same, I think it's a pretty safe wager that if this particular blackbird decides to make my yard his territory, he's probably not going to have a lot of mates. Maybe I could plant some cattails around my birdbath for him. Red-winged blackbirds are very, very common, but it still not a bird I was expecting to add to the yard list.