Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Detonation Of Frogs

If you're a member of an exclusive group, and you are privy to information that people outside the group do not have, you may be able to see things other people don't see. Just before the World Trade Center towers came crashing down, while we were all going about our daily lives, the intelligence community, intercepting messages and trying to connect the dots, felt like their "hair was on fire." Likewise the various Chosen People note signs of the End Times everywhere, as enumerated in the Book of Revelation, and they scan the skies for that imminent visit. I know how all these people feel. It's a strange mixture of alarm and giddy anticipation and a thrumming undercurrent of excitement.

I know how they feel because we, the members of the Harborton Frog Shuttle, know something that people driving by on Highway 30 are oblivious to. We've been watching. We have data. We can predict.  And we look at the dark shoulder of Forest Park looming over the highway, and we know: some night very soon, that sucker is going to explode with frogs. It will be an amphibian detonation. And, like fundamentalists waiting for their personal comet, we'll be ready for them.

We've been paying attention for years. The frogs are going to come down to the vernal pond below the highway for their annual Mixer. Not all at once, generally. We thought they did it from January through March, but last year the biggest migration night was in early December, and this season we saw about seven of them a month earlier than that. But that's been it.

A salamander gets a ride, too.
Frogs are pretty specific about what gets them on the move. It has to be wet. It has to be dark. It has to be 45 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Cooler than that, they figure the big date can wait. Even the males, who are avid. Well, hell, they're all interested. The females are full of eggs, and the males are full of, let's say, verve.

Unfortunately, conditions have not been right one single day since that first sighting in November. It's been warm, but dry. Or wet, but cold. And so they're still biding their time up on that hill, hunkered down in the leaves under the snow, grumpy. This is late. First warm wet night, that place is going to erupt. And we in the Harborton Frog Shuttle will be there with our buckets to give them a lift across the highway.

Red-legged frog, eggs, and chillun sculpture: Steigerwald NWR
Not sure just when the females start piling up their eggs, but they don't look comfy. This is some serious bloat. Every hop slaps a bellyful of eggs on the pavement. They are probably plenty interested in going to the pond and getting those eggs squoze out. The males--by comparison, little bitty zippy guys with big thumbs--really, really want to latch on and squeeze them out. They love doing that. It makes them, let's say, cast their seed upon the waters. So by now, everyone's more than ready.

We've probably rescued most of them before, either as-is, or as eggs and sperm, with some assembly required. "Rescued" is how we put it: they probably see it as more "molested," "kidnapped," "thwarted." One doesn't sense gratitude. They'll take their first hop out of the forest and hit Harborton Drive and see our headlamps and they'll be all "Aw, man, really? Again with the bucket?" But they won't get by us.  The males will be too singleminded to veer out of the way and the females are hauling around a thousand eggs each and not set up to win a race with a damp, dedicated frog shuttler.

The hillside awaits us. Our hair is on fire. The rain'll put that out, though.

"Harborton Frog Shuttle: Where the ribbet meets the road!" Anyone need a t-shirt? Any profit from the sale of these will go to a fund to buy supplies (safety vests, headlamps, etc.) for the Harborton Frog Shuttle. We've got women's and men's. Click to have a look!

34 comments:

  1. What happens after the frogs have had their orgy? Do you shuttle them back to the other side, or do they go elsewhere? And what about the tadpoles once they sprout legs and move onto land? Do they need a ride eventually, or do they just wander off in various directions?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes we do! At one point we have to have teams stationed both below and above the highway. By March they're almost all headed uphill. I think the tadpoles don't frog out until June or something and I don't know whether they hang out or what. Maybe one of my intrepid Frog Shuttle friends will weigh in on this.

      Delete
  2. This is why I like your blog! This was a fascinating introduction to the upcoming frog orgy.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have often stopped for turtles and have yet to be run over. Thanks for helping the frogs even if the males don't notice. You know how we are.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Special spot in heaven for turtle rescuers. Thank you.

      Delete
  4. You and your frog shuttle team are awesome for making sure the ribbit meets the road instead of meeting the rubber!

    You're so lucky to have frogs there - I love them but haven't seen one in decades around the Calgary area. Now that I'm on the west coast, I'm hoping to see some again. It's still too cold for them to be out and about here, but I'll be ready when they are! :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hmm...seems like you could have wood frogs for sure...and if you haven't seen a sped-up video of a wood frog thawing out (they freeze solid in the winter) in the springtime, now's the time to consult Mr. Google!

      Delete
    2. We did have wood frogs in Alberta. They're such cute little guys, but I don't really think of them as 'real' frogs like the leopard frogs I played with as a kid growing up near the sloughs of Manitoba. There are probably 'real' frogs in rural Alberta, too; it's just that I never saw them. Either they're rarer and more elusive now, or I'm farther away from the ground and less observant (or both).

      Delete
    3. Seems to me I used to see little green snakes all the time. I don't know if there aren't any out here, they all went away, or I'm just farther away from the ground.

      Delete
  5. I have a friend as crazy as you. I get to read all her experiences as she shelters injured turtles and tends her backyard frog pond.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh I doubt you have a friend as crazy as me.

      Delete
  6. What happens to the traffic? How many frog handlers are run over each year?

    Seriously, this must be an amazing thing to be part of!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We're not allowed to go on the highway. We stay on this little side street that the hill funnels the frogs onto. So we have the width of that street to nab them. Not too many people live on that street and almost all of them are respectful of the frog shuttlers, but there is this ONE dude with a pickup truck...

      Delete
  7. I've done frog/toad crossing patrol, back in England, long ago.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am very, very glad to read about it. And would happily participate if only you were closer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it's you who would have to be closer...

      Delete
  9. Replies
    1. Tiny little heroes. So much opportunity to be a hero these days--which is kind of a shame.

      Delete
  10. Here's the thing that impresses me. I wasn't sure where you were going with this post. I thought you might be headed to Washington DC. But instead, you stayed in Oregon, and you wrote a hell of a story. Plus, people, MURR DID THE ART FOR THAT BEAUTIFUL T-SHIRT!! It's brilliant, and so are you, a gift to the planet. xoxox jz

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ...you didn't know that. Hey! Almost anyone else I know would have been able to photoshop Rosie the Riveter with a frog, but I don't have those skills, so I had to draw her. Julie, we all sing Little Soldiers at our meetings. "Pick him up, carry him across!" I'll send you a t-shirt.

      Delete
    2. Nice job on the Rosie w/ Frog art, Murr - You shoulda mentioned!

      Delete
  11. I remember reading an earlier post about helping the frogs, either yours or someone else's. I'm glad there are people like you who do these things.
    I'll pass on a t-shirt though, I have so many t-shirts already.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That was probably mine. I've written about this before. But holy cow: they're late this year.

      Delete
  12. Your galant efforts remind me of The Starfish Story. http://www.esc16.net/users/0020/FACES/Starfish%20Story.pdf

    ReplyDelete
  13. It sounds like a noble and worthwhile undertaking, but I think I need more details -- like a map or diagrams -- to fully understand what this is all about. You help the frogs hook up at mating time, by carrying buckets of them across a busy road? But then, do you carry them back after the orgy is over? :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes we do. At one point we are helping some down and the rest up. There are little-used roads on either side of this highway where we can intercept them. And it's a narrow band because they're all headed to the same vernal pond, which is not overly large.

      Delete
  14. Have you thought about getting the highway department to put in an underpass when they repair the road? That way the "funneling" could direct the frogs toward the underpass. It would depend, of course, on road width. Safer for you folks and would work for frogs in both directions. You'd have to design a different t-shirt, though....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We've looked into it. Evidently it's a million dollar proposition and the folks in charge might not value frogs the way we do.

      Delete