Friday, September 16, 2016

Why did the frog cross the road? #phenology

The question came up last night. The answer is NOT "to be with the chicken."

Driving through Carlos Avery, along County Road 36, in last night's rain, I think I missed most or all of the frogs hopping on or across the road. Their movements were more animated, and they "flitted" higher, than the few wind-blown leaves we saw, although both leaves and frogs showed golden ivory in the headlights. I did notice that many frogs from the south side of the road were hopping north, while those on the north side headed south. Since it seems a little early for an Autumn migration toward hibernation, maybe they know something we don't, or maybe they were just out moistening their skins.

frog crossing a rail
frog crossing a rail
Photo by J. Harrington

Autumn is a restless time of year. Farmers hustling to harvest crops; ranchers and shepherds moving from Summer to Winter pastures; birds and bees and butterflies, and frogs and turtles, starting to migrate toward Winter homes. Joni Mitchell has wonderfully captured in her lyrics our natural human Urge for Going along with the rest of nature as we all enter this season each year.

Canada geese, going
Canada geese, going
Photo by J. Harrington

Depending on the weather and resulting snow cover and open water, waterfowl often hang around until Thanksgiving or so. Some years migration stretches out over months, other times it comes as a burst just before a major storm with winds blowing out of the North helping to carry the birds to warmer, more hospitable, climes. With luck, we've still plenty of time to enjoy leaf colors, blooming asters, jack-o-lanterns, miss the smell of burning leaves, pick apples and wonder about frogs migrating and how monarch butterflies will fare in Mexico this Winter before we have to turn our attention to snow shovels and blowers and holidays, after which we can start to look forward to Spring.

Autumn Movement


Carl Sandburg 1878 - 1967

I cried over beautiful things knowing no beautiful thing lasts. 

The field of cornflower yellow is a scarf at the neck of the copper 
   sunburned woman, the mother of the year, the taker of seeds. 

The northwest wind comes and the yellow is torn full of holes, 
   new beautiful things come in the first spit of snow on the northwest wind, 
   and the old things go, not one lasts. 
                        


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