Hop Along Now, LittleToadie!

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

“Now what?” muttered Frances, the normally patient and laid-back Ford Focus as she observed her master speedily mowing lawn on the back forty. She saw him suddenly stop the mower and begin hopping about as though stung by a bumblebee. Frances knew he had a bum leg, and here he was thrashing about in the uncut green foliage crawling on the ground like a wounded snake. Then he shouted at the mistress, “Bring the camera, bring the camera!!!” The mistress dropped the armful of weeds she was carrying and came rushing to the scene with the photo apparatus which is always in easy reach due to a continual barrage of consequential experiences.

Grasped tenderly in the master’s mitt was a tiny wriggling and trembling tan frog with a distinctive black face mask, the body measuring about two inches in length. The mistress quickly snapped photos, the amphibian was placed gently in the moist grass of the forest edge where, within seconds, snuggling into the grass roots, the frog became perfectly camouflaged. Had the grasses been dry for any period of time, the Wood Frog would squeeze under leaves or beneath a log, plenty of which were available. What was amazing is that the nearest wood frog pond habitat is over a mile away, meaning that the fascinating creature had traveled through forest, field, prairie and deep ravines to forage on flies, beetles, plus other insects, without becoming a supper meal for snakes, birds, raccoons and opossums.

While frogs are taking their favorite brunches in the grasses, toads have manifested themselves in great numbers…little weentsy black toads that is. We are assuming they are American Toads until someone corrects us, and they are ‘all over the place’ as someone described it. Nature Neighbors canoodlers caught and released many of the little buggers in late June, and scattered reports continue to flow in from many miles apart from one another. We recall the Nature Neighbor who gathered dozens of the wee toadlets in a plastic bag, then set the bag down. He returned days later and asked, “Where did I leave my toads?” The sun had changed the toads to soup! I

Each late May, sweet one-toned toad trills can be enjoyed by listeners near area ponds, lake edges, and especially the flood plain. Those two words, “flood plain” might be the explanation for the massive toad explosion. According to various researchers, female toads may lay 4,000 – 8,000 eggs while they are at it…thin long strings of eggs, hatching into tadpoles in 50/60 days, eventually becoming toadlets. Yes, they have a high mortality rate. Consider autos, lawn mowers, birds, mammals, children and pets, ad infinitum!

Change of season sightings continue unabated. Stoic pearly surprises met Frances on Saturday, August 16 at her favorite viewing area, the three former waste-water ponds near LeSueur and north of Highway #169. A large flock of white pelicans, over 200 in numbers were standing still as stone in the still water, perhaps resting following breakfast. This scene repeated itself through the weekend…eat, rest, and sail. Vibrant white birds, what tales they might have to tell of their summer adventures. If the fishing is good, they’ll remain about, along with hundreds of their friends, enjoying a peaceful southerly sojourn south.

When one thinks of swans, as in elegant trumpeter swan, one imagines white, like sheets drying on a clothesline; or white, as in winter snow; or white, as in a clean sheet of typing paper. One does not conjure up pasty gray, muddy, messy, unkempt, ashen, murky…yes ‘murky.’ The former descriptors describe the four young cygnet scudders. Still clinging to their parents’ wings, the youngsters are almost the same size as the pen (female) and cob (male) hiding out in the cattails on the western edge of Pond # 2 of the Coachlight. One might say, “They need a good bath!” But, they spend twenty-four hours … in scuddy ominous ishy mustard green waters. Soon and very soon, the six will gracefully transport themselves to the largest nearby lagoon, and elegance will heal the unsightliness. For now, they are “Ugly, muggly, swans.” One, two, three, ‘Lift Off!’

Citizen Scientists: Please check large area chimneys five minutes after sunset, as swifts are ‘on their way.’ Hundreds are observed five minutes after sundown at two chimneys in LeSueur. Simply phone 665.2658 with your observations.

This writer really goofed in the August 12th issue of the Indy. The flower pictured was NOT a Joe Pye Weed. However, Joe IS pictured in today’s issue. Joe can be found in the wild in ditches, is a favorite on the monarch butterfly menu, and is easily tamed and grown in a backyard. Sorry for the goof-up. Corrections are always welcome here.