Friday, April 8, 2011

Harbingers of Spring

Spring has sprung. . . barely, it seems. When I awakened this morning there was frost on the roof below my bedroom. But the frogs are in full din in the several wetlands around where I live. In the past they've often begun to pipe up toward the end of the first week in March, but they've begun their song a week or two later in the two or three most recent years. Early on, cold nights apparently inhibit their ardor, though once they've gained momentum a frosty night doesn't seem to curb their enthusiastic song.

Above is a photo of one of these characters, a different species, I believe, from the more common variety who raise their multitudinous voices in the wetlands every spring. This particular variety I've observed occasionally perched on leaves in the flower beds around our house. One of them, in fact, actually paid us a more intimate visit than that a couple years ago. I was sitting in our kitchen enjoying a cup of tea.  The silence of the kitchen was suddenly interrupted by a subdued CREEAAK issuing from somewhere behind me. The sound was so sporadic that it took me some time to discover its source, which turned out to be beneath the dish drainer. Upon lifting the drainer's rubber base, I spotted the green vocalist, an individual just like the one pictured. Thinking his chances of finding a mate in this venue were limited, I gently carried him outside, all the way to the opposite end of the house, and set him on a leaf.

That wasn't the end of the story, however. A week later, again while sipping tea in the kitchen, I heard the selfsame CREEAAK as before. Sure enough, there was my green friend, once again under the dish drainer. Now, I can't prove it was the same critter because I hadn't banded a leg or anything, but I don't see these frogs around very often, so I like to think that he somehow made his way around the house, climbed through the kitchen window, which was cracked open only an inch, as had been true the previous week, and reclaimed his hiding spot in the damp cave under the drainer.

The other harbinger of spring in the many wetlands on Lummi Island is the skunk cabbage. They're one of the first flowers to show their faces, usually just a week or so before we hear the first frogs commence their song. Over the years I've watched one patch on the west side of Lummi expand, now covering a good quarter acre on a wooded, swampy hillside. When the flowers first poke up their heads, they're irresistible to photographers like myself. I must have accumulated a couple hundred photos, captured as I slogged around in the mud, now and then losing a boot to its grip after becoming immersed in it to well above the ankles.

The skunk cabbage is an unusual plant. It's reputed to generate enough heat of its own to be able to melt its way through a snowbank. Check out this article on the web site of the Nature Institute for more information. While you're at it, explore their site farther. It's one that I've visited periodically for years, and which I discovered after becoming a subscriber to Steve Talbott's Netfuture series of essays.

In closing, best wishes for a happy spring to all our readers and visitors.

Kevin Jones

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