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Old 04-21-2010, 09:19 PM
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Default Re: Spring is Sprung!

I went back to the arboretum after my last class yesterday, to enjoy the Spring weather. As I was wandering around the swampy area, I spied two girls, one of them maybe 10 years old and the other 9, I'd guess. The elder of the two ("Elaine," as I later learned) was carrying a bucket.

Upon seeing me, Elaine immediate demanded, ""Are you a cop?" I told her that I wasn't. But then I thought to ask why she wanted to know. She told me that there were some boys in the park who had a dog with them, and they were breaking all the rules. Well, there is a big sign at the entrance which tells you that dogs are not allowed, and there are good reasons why that's so. I agreed that I'd speak to the boys if I encountered them. Apparently, the girls had mistaken me for some sort of authority figure.


I asked what they had in the bucket, and they proudly announced that they had caught a snake. I thought that perhaps I should investigate this, so I looked into the bucket to see that they had indeed captured a rather large Garter Snake. They weren't certain that it was safe to handle, which I thought was kind of amusing: they had caught it somehow, and were carrying it around for whatever reasons, but they didn't know if it was dangerous or not, and so were afraid to touch it.

So I gently picked the snake up, while explaining to the girls that it was perfectly harmless. I pointed out, however, that like pretty-much any animal, it would certainly defend itself if it felt threatened, which was why they shouldn't squeeze it too tightly or move quickly and startle it.

They thought that was pretty neat.

I then began my campaign to discourage them from picking up random animals and hauling them around for the heck of it. I began by pointing out that it can be bad for an animal to move it out of its home range. "After all, how would you feel if some gigantic creature grabbed you and carried you away from home. Even if it didn't hurt you [and how would you know that it didn't intend to?], how would you find your way home if it finally set you down far away from your home? How would you find shelter? How would you find food?


So, I soon extracted a promise from the girls to release "Henry" exactly where they'd found him? Him? I explained to them that "Henry," as they were calling the snake, would perhaps better be referred to as "Henrietta," since the snake was a girl.

I also noted that Henrietta had a distinct bulge in her midsection and had probably eaten fairly recently. I didn't point that out to the girls, however.



One thing about "natural" areas that get a lot of human visitors is that the wildlife often becomes quite tolerant of humans. The girls were determined to lead me to the law-breaking scoundrels who had brought a dog into the park, and so we went up the trail from the swamp to the pond. As we were walking along the pond edge, a furry critter could be seen swimming toward the shore. The girls were convinced that it was an Otter (Lontra canadensis), but I explained that it was actually a Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus). I told them that if they moved slowly and carefully, they might be able to get a good look at it.

The muskrat was swimming toward a patch of newly-erupted grass on the shore, and I figured it would come out of the water there. Sure enough, it emerged from the water and began to munch on the grass. The girls got within a meter or so of the muskrat, and it merely glanced at them. (I made sure they didn't get any closer, or try to touch it.) They thought this was pretty neat.


On the hill above the pond, there are three concrete-lined catch basins. A small, shallow concrete channel links each one, so that if any of them overflows during a rainstorm, the overflow flows down into the next-lower catch basin. The final catch basin empties into the pond.

The highest basin is large-enough and deep-enough to be more or less permanently filled with water. As such, its leaf-lined bottom is patrolled by hundreds of bullfrog tadpoles. Frogs of various species can be seen floating in the water or lounging on the rocks that line the basin.

The second and third basins are much smaller and shallower, and so they don't support any tadpoles, since they dry out from time to time. Plus, the second one in particular was almost completely filled with dead leaves left over from the fall and winter.


There were three boys at the uppermost basin, and sure enough, they had a Pomeranian with them. One of the boys had a net, and they were trying to catch frogs in the basin.

I explained to them that having a dog in the park is against the rules, and that, more to the point, it's a bad idea. I managed to extract a promise from them to leave the dog home in the future. In the meantime, they agreed to tie its leash to a convenient tree, rather than allowing it to run free.


The boys had a bucket themselves, with two frogs and two tadpoles in it. They were attempting to catch a large Bullfrog that was floating in the center of the basin. None of the boys was willing to wade into the basin after the frog, and it was well out of their reach, so the frog appeared to be quite safe. They were referring to it as "Godzilla," and were loudly debating how they might catch it. The frog didn't seem overly concerned.


I identified the boys' catch for them, and began my campaign to convince them that it wasn't good for animals to be caught, handled, and then carried some distance away from home. (This is especially true of amphibians, with their thin, delicate skins.)

They had two bullfrog tadpoles in the water-filled bucket and -- suprisingly -- an adult male Wood Frog. The Wood Frog was forced to tread water, and couldn't get out of the bucket. Fortunately, I was able to eventually convince them to let it and the tadpoles go. The other frog was a rather large female Green Frog. She was quite gravid, and looked just-about ready to pop.

She was also evidently quite used to people, because this was just-about the most laid-back frog I've ever encountered. She evidently didn't like being forced to tread water any more than the wood frog did, but being much larger, could get out of the bucket. It seemed almost like a game. She'd jump out of the bucket and then sit there calmly, making no attempt to go anywhere else. Presently, one of the boys would notice that she'd escaped, would pick her up, and would deposit her back into the bucket. And after a minute or two, she'd leap out again.


When I picked her up to show them how to sex a frog, she made no objection whatsover, and seemed quite content to sit on my open hand for several minutes. Unfortunately, the boys were quite reluctant to release this remarkable frog, despite my increasingly-unsubtle hints that it was not good for the frog to grab it and carry it around. The youngest boy, in particular, threw a fit every time one of the girls or the other boys insisted that the frog would be happier if returned to its home. (He was about seven, I'd guess.)



I'm guessing that each of these kids lives on or very near the college campus, since I had neither seen nor heard any signs of any of their parents. It soon became evident, however, that each of them was carrying a cell phone.

The youngest girl got a call and it turned out to be her father, who was coming to get her. She insisted on picking up Henrietta and carrying the snake down to the arboretum entrance, so that she could introduce Henrietta to her father. On the one hand, I certainly didn't want to discourage the girl's obvious love of wildlife, but neither did I want her to think that it was a good idea to grab any random snakes that she might encounter. Perhaps more to the point, I was trying to impress on all of the kids that wild animals are best admired from a distance.

The girl [I never did learn her name] did at least promise to return Henrietta promptly as she dashed off to show the snake to her Dad. Presently, she returned, and all of the kids became alarmed when Henrietta opened her mouth. They thought she was threatening to bite, but I explained that this wasn't what was happening as I hurriedly took Henrietta out of the little girl's hands.

I explained that what was about to happen was a common reaction in snakes when they're stressed -- like when people grab them and scare them -- and that this is why it's bad for wild animals when people insist on grabbing and holding them.

After some writhing, Henrietta regurgitated her most recent meal, which was just recognizable as a partially-digested frog. Relieved of this burden, Henrietta became much more active, and began to quickly make her way into the nearby trees. After I pointed out that losing a meal like that was a big deal to an animal which might eat only once every few weeks, the kids were quite willing to let her go. (One of the boys insisted on taking her picture with his phone camera though.)


After that rather graphic demonstration that wild animals can become rather stressed when people catch and handle them, even the youngest boy agreed to release the frog. Hopefully, a lesson was learned by all.


Most of the kids left at about this time, but Elaine and one of the boys remained and asked if I'd help with a project of theirs. It turned out that they were hoping to empty the middle basin of dead leaves and to re-fill it with water. As this basin supported no permanent animal populations and was indeed more or less completely filled with dead leaves, I agreed that this was a worthy project. So I agreed to at least supervise.

Each of them found an old, discarded plastic cup and began to scoop muck out of the basin. (Sadly, plastic cups discarded by careless visitors were all too easy to find.) You couldn't help but admire the kids' enthusiasm and energy, but it was going to take hours at the rate they were going. After awhile, I took the bucket and, with a few scoops, had the whole basin cleaned out in a couple of minutes. There are advantages to being a bigger kid, as it happens, and my two companions were duly impressed.

I finally decided at about this time that I had to call it a day. When I left, the two kids were racing up and down the hill -- down to the pond to get a cup of water, then up to the basin to dump the water. I seriously doubt they got anywhere close to filling the basin, since sunset was arriving fast. It would probably have taken a couple of hours for them to fill the basin. Still, you couldn't help but admire their energy, enthusiasm, and dedication.

They were convinced, incidentally, that they were going to be featured in the newspaper for their good deed, and they spoke of it often. I'm not quite sure why they thought the newspaper would be eager to print the story, nor do I know how they thought that anyone from the newspaper would learn of their deeds. Still, they seemed quite sure that there would soon be a story in the local paper about their good deeds, and I saw no particular reason to burst their bubble.


Cheers,

Michael
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Last edited by The Lone Ranger; 04-21-2010 at 09:43 PM.
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  #27  
Old 04-14-2014, 06:30 AM
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Default Re: Spring is Sprung!

The Chorus Frogs, Wood Frogs, American Toads, Northern Leopard Frogs, and Spring Peepers are all calling away lustily tonight. Spring has finally sprung!

I found a pair of Wood Frogs by the water's edge, in amplexus. They made no protest or effort to escape when I gently picked them up to have a look at them, and indeed, seemed perfectly content to sit for a time on my nice, warm hand. I thought it best to set them back in the water after a few minutes' time, and let them get back to business.
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  #28  
Old 04-14-2014, 10:38 AM
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Default Re: Spring is Sprung!

One day last week I was taking a short drive and took a turn down a road I'd never been on. It was one of those cooler spring evenings, but still warmer than it had been all winter so I put the windows down to enjoy the weather. As soon as I did I was hit by an incredible chorus of fauna songs. I had no idea who was singing but there was a lot of them. And any time I hear things like that I think about recording them so I can get a lecture from you of what I'm hearing.
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  #29  
Old 04-14-2014, 12:48 PM
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Default Re: Spring is Sprung!

Net time, don't just think about it, record it!
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Old 04-14-2014, 01:52 PM
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  #31  
Old 04-15-2014, 03:39 PM
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Default Re: Spring is Sprung!

Oops! We got a couple of inches of snow overnight. It was kind of surreal last night, listening to the frogs calling while snow was falling.
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  #32  
Old 04-15-2014, 11:46 PM
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Default Re: Spring is Sprung!

My violets survived the snow last night, but it's supposed to be colder tonight. Hope they make it.
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  #33  
Old 03-12-2016, 10:56 PM
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Default Re: Spring is Sprung!

On Wednesday there were flowering cherries, daffodils, forsythia and a dandelion.

Spring somehow manages to maintain its stimulating quality.
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  #34  
Old 02-26-2018, 02:06 AM
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Default Re: Spring is Sprung!

On the 15th of February I spotted a dense patch of smallish white flowers. They seemed like some kind of diminutive bulbs, maybe, I was driving by. I think the location may have been part of a yard many years ago. There are great vines of wisteria there as well in summer. It's a pretty swampy area. That same night, it snowed.
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  #35  
Old 03-02-2018, 06:47 AM
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I drove by there again and now there are some diminutive blue flowers too. I had the impression they are some old variety of crocus, they seem more delicate and with a paler color than ones I usually see.

Can't gawk too much, it's on an ess turn with a narrow bridge on it.
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  #36  
Old 03-03-2018, 01:33 AM
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It has only been relatively warm for two days and it looks like I need to mow the grass already. Too bad my mower is out of commission. I will probably have to rent a brush hog to mow by the time it gets fixed.
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