The Case of the Hen-Pecked? Frog

Submitted by Art and Barb Straub

“I should have known enough to stay in bed!”
Thus sayeth the Northern Leopard Frog as rigor mortis took its hold on it. The March 13th day had begun quietly enough at Vern Bienfang’s poultry farm. Oh, yes, a ripple of rejoicing wavered through the air as the ducks laid their first eggs of the season. Geese grumbled as they felt wronged, as the ducks beat them to that honor. Pullets were proud that their tiny tasty eggs were virtually pouring forth, yet the bunnies were waiting until warm days could be dependent upon, maybe Easter Sunday would see bunnyettes in the nest.

Then down by the chicken coop, there arose such a clatter, that Vern sprang from the breakfast table to see what was the matter! North toward the henhouse, chaos had let loose. The noise was so great that it scared an old goose. Chickens were in a tizzy, hopping about, as though a giant mink was invading their space. Hens scattered here and there, fairly filling the air with clucks and wild screeches. Vern’s dog scratched his ears, as the din was greater than usual poultry yard clamor, then he and the master spotted the source of the wild fray. A frog had decided this sunny day would be a good day for swimming in the nearby creek, a fatal mistake to take a shortcut across a poultry yard. Although Vern tried to save the amphibian, only mouth to mouth resuscitation might have sufficed. Have you ever tried to kiss a frog in springtime? Most would decline.

Very little surprises Vern, but the week was full of unusual early spring occurrences, including a foot-long garter snake wriggling from under a rabbit pen March 11th. It was brought to safety before the hens did their dastardly deed. The murder of the frog was unusual to say the least, perhaps the March 10th cloudburst, precipitated by small hail, wild winds, lightning and crashing thunder had dislodged both snake and frog from peaceful hibernation. Measuring five inches in body length, and eight inches from tip of nose to toenails, the frog was a huge specimen. That’s the Minnesota amphibian you hear when stopping by ponds in late March, early April, and think that Uncle Ben was fishing but fell asleep near yon area pond, and is snoring. Minnesota has 14 species of frog/toads, each differentiated by size, sound, coloration, but all clamoring for the same fuel, insects. Poison the insects with chemicals; poison the frog and other animal species. But in the case of this frog’s demise, it was a clear-cut example of being hen-pecked.

Migrating American robin reports poured in like salt from a shaker the past week. In one instance, with orange feathers flying in the breeze, two males were duking it out on a Henderson lawn…an early fight to the finish. Similar behavior was occurring on the small waters east of Coachlight Pond. Canada geese and beloved Sylvia and Sylvan, fabled Trumpeter swans who have raised batches of cygnets for the past four summers on that body of water, arrived on March 12th. They were greeted by a dozen Canada geese which immediately began honking insults across the shallow waters. Swan pair calmly moved south to the smaller of the three ponds, and began dreaming swan dreams for refurbishing their former abode, a rather huge muskrat hump. The geese weren’t satisfied. Evidently they’d not heard of social distancing, thus on Sunday morning March 21st, a drama occurred worth describing. The two stately swans swam placidly in mid-pond, but a male goose paddled as close as discourtesy allowed, then lunged at Sylvan while Sylvia had her long neck craned under the turbid water seeking cattail roots. The battle was short and sweet. A loud splash, green water plummeting high, Sylvan smiled and stated, “Better luck next time, buddy boy.”

March 21st, first day of spring, found an abundance of fresh bird and animal life in the valley. Bruce Bjork captured a great photo of a sandhill crane a short distance off Highway #6 near the gravel pits, along with a beaver swimming right off the Bucks’ Lake landing. Common and hooded mergansers, mallards, golden eye, and wood ducks showed off their dazzling feathers on many a water body. Huge ribbons of blackbirds plied the skyways, some staying in the area for the summer. If you haven’t noticed the bald eagles from St. Peter to Henderson to Blakeley, it’s a good deal…you’ve been keeping from distracted driving, otherwise you might have counted as many as fifty magnificent birds in less than an hour.

Welcome spring by watching for the unusual, like garter snakes and hen-pecked frogs.