Wednesday, January 1, 2020

An Inconvenience Of Frogs

Around the holidays it seems like no one has enough time. There's too much to do. It doesn't feel as good as it should. It's stressful.

For instance, for the volunteers of the Harborton Frog Shuttle, late December is probably a time when there are still more gifts to buy, cookies to bake, family newsletters to mock, and holiday open houses to avoid. It's raining. Nobody is driving fast enough. The Frog Shuttlers are just like everyone else, with maybe better rain gear. But the frogs themselves measure time differently.

The frogs might look at the last Friday night before Christmas and think: Hey. It's raining. We're horny. Let's go downhill to the pond and score. And the Frog Shuttlers think: Hey. It's raining. Everyone's driving too fast. Let's go nab us some frogs.

The frogs we nab won't appreciate it. But they're going to get a lift across a four-lane highway with heedless traffic on it, whereas a lot of the frogs we don't manage to nab are going to turn into road snot. We're as motivated as they are.

The frogs are in a holiday spirit. There is nothing like a steady downpour in the dark to put a frog in a festive frame of mind. They're not stressed; they've got everything all wrapped up already. The dudes come down first, mostly. They're going to stake out their portion of the swamp and practice their moves. I've got your package right here, they say. Come let papa give you a hug and I'll show you how to open it.

If anyone can roll her eyes, it's a frog, but after a while, in the spirit of the season, the big females begin blooping down the hill bloated with eggs and look over the prospects.

And the thing about it is, they will do this without any regard whatsoever for the imaginary needs of Frog Shuttlers. You don't have Christmas wrapped up? Frogs don't care. You have your jammies and bunny slippers on and a Christmas movie cued up and are just starting to think about pouring yourself a nice stiff toddy because it's Me time and God knows you're tired because you've done every damn thing for this family but do they appreciate it? They don't.

Neither do the frogs. It's raining. It's dark. It's Go Time.

And that's the best thing the frogs do for us. They pull us out of our time, our concerns, our petty obligations, our artificial schedules, and put us on Frog Time. Pacific Standard Frog Time. When the air is fresh and the geese and owls and chorus frogs are in charge of music and the night might offer you fifty more plump, rubbery chances to do something for somebody that they won't appreciate.

It's a new year. Instead of marking time, find a new time zone. Mountain Chickadee Time. Daylight Saving Wildlife Time. Eastern Kingbird Time. Pay attention to their needs, and a lot of your own will fade away.

Friday, December 20, 2019. 224 male red-legged frogs assisted, 14 female. Happy New Year y'all!

25 comments:

  1. Your unique perspective is welcome any day of the year, many thanks. All the best, Murr.

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  2. Northern shrike time here. It will be months before the spring peepers start thawing out enough to sing their love songs. I can't wait!

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    1. We don't get peepers. We do get Pacific chorus frogs but it's not quite as deafening. I miss them!

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  3. A very Happy Pacific Standard Frog Time. And here's to many more - for you and for them.

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  4. I learned about moss time from Elizabeth Gilbert’s odd book, The Signature of All Things, and that’s been my favorite standard ever since.

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    1. I could easily be on moss time just due to innate lassitude. Around here you have to move every now and then if you don't want to green up.

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    2. Apropos of moss, my new favorite book is Gathering Moss: A Natural and Cultural History of Mosses, by Native American writer Robin Wall Kimmerer (Professor of Environmental and Forest Biology). In every platform I have looked at it gets 5 out of 5 stars. It is about so much more than mosses "the amphibians of the plant kingdom". Also a great audiobook!

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  5. You have posted about this volunteer effort before. I have always wanted to ask...how do you all keep safe? Or do you capture them before they reach the highway?

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    1. Definitely. The frogs come down on a very little-used side street hairpin. We are NOT ALLOWED TO GO NEAR THE HIGHWAY.

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  6. ALL HAIL FROG SHUTTLERS EVERYWHERE! And all the other two-leggers who go out of their way to keep the four and other leggers alive. All the hoppers and slitherers are in the deep freeze here, and will be until May. But Good on ya, and may the gods of the little things be with you and them.

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    1. I'm not completely sure we've even gotten to freezing here. Maybe one night.

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  7. It's an important job and some one has to do it, so I'm glad you're there with everyone else, scooping up frogs and getting them safely across. I don't know if such a thing happens out here, the only frogs I've ever seen are in a huge aquarium type home in the zoo.

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    1. I don't know what you've got. Let us know if you find out.

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  8. So is that one-sided total at the end (males vs females) just because of timing, as you pointed out (males first, females later)?

    Serious thanks for doing this. The little hoppers might not realize how important your work is, or be thankful for it, but many others of us do.

    One question, though. How do you avoid stepping on the little guys?

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    1. They're not THAT thick--that was 238 frogs over seven or eight hours!

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    2. Oh, yeah, also, every year until last year there was a roughly equivalent number of females to males, but the females definitely came down later. But last year we had ten times as many males. I'm not sure we've figured out what happened.

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    3. Regarding the frog density, if there was one nearby my foot would find it :( And doesn't this happen at night?

      Weird that the proportion of males to females has appeared to change.

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  9. I think we have a baby turtle thing way up north where people watch for the hatchlings and make sure they get to the water without being picked off by seagulls, but I'd have to properly look that up to be sure.

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    1. I know that turtles get escorts in a number of places!

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  10. We have an annual meeting of Toads on our water filled pool cover, they lay long strings of eggs, make a dreadful noise, then (like yours) get put into a bucket and taken elsewhere. They have an interesting life.

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  11. Frog Shuttling sounds like a more enjoyable activity than a lot of the stressful or obligatory activities that Holidays can Create. I've seen people helping Baby Sea Turtles make it to the Ocean before they get picked off by the Gulls, I always thought that to be noble as a Cause, tho' I'm sure the Gulls don't appreciate it as they count on the Feast as their part of Nature's Cycle I suppose.

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