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Tag Archive: animals

Apr 07

The Day of the Frogs is here, and it is all about love. Ribbit! (First published March 19, 2009, in The Examiner)

The Day of Spring Frogs

The Day of Spring Frogs

“What is all the racket down by the backyard pond? Are those crickets,” I asked one morning this week.

My husband replied, “No, those are your frogs. Remember the tadpoles you bought late last summer from some catalogue pond supply house? They turned into frogs and hibernated all winter. They’re back.”

“Frogs! The frogs are here,” I rejoiced. “How could I possibly forget my frogs?”

Then, I wondered, did those cute little green amphibians hide over winter in the pond muck, or did they spend the winter under brush and leaves?

Wherever they took cover for the winter, I was delighted they came back. After all the Day of the Frogs means that Spring is conclusively, absolutely, and we-are-not-kidding this time, finally here.

Besides, the spring crooning of frogs is delightful, at first.

My delight lasted for three sleepless nights.

Make no mistake about it, these frogs are singing about much more than the return of spring. It is all about love, and the guy frogs are singing their hearts out trying to find the gals.

When the winter air warms, usually in March in the Midwest, the male frog starts to sing and call for a prospective mate or two or three.

I guess that is the point. Perpetuate the species.

Since I was awake anyway due to these love-starved frogs, I did some midnight research about their springtime mating calls. I learned that the sound of the male can carry for long distances and can attract female frogs from miles away.

I sighed with resignation, “Just what we need—more frogs.”

As I continued my frog research I learned that the male Spring Peeper is noisier than the Cricket Frog and is said to have the same decibel level as found on airport runways.

Wonderful. I think we have both these critters in our pond plus some of their cousins.

Some frogs in our small backyard pond make a whistling sound; the Cricket Frog chirps like a cricket; and the Peeper says “Peep Peep” like a baby chick.

To make matters worse, the male frogs in our pond have formed a singing group (I call them Froggies ‘N Sync), and their combined voices sound like a loud chorus of crickets. The serenade goes on all evening; sometimes well into the morning hours.

The only way I have found to stop their racket is to walk toward the pond. They either jump into the water or become blessedly silent.

Yes, there can be too much of a good thing, even the singing of spring frogs.

On the fourth sleepless night, my husband commented that he sure hoped our new neighbors are not trying to sleep with a window open.

“If they ask about the noisy frogs, better tell them the frogs crawled up from the creek,” he said. “Don’t tell them you bought them on purpose.”

Dec 10

A winter’s tale of a fox and a French baguette

As the snow began to fall, I noticed that the birds in my backyard appeared to be searching more furiously than usual for food.

Squirrels, too. They sensed a big storm on its way.

About then is when I remembered the French baguettes. These hard as brickbat loaves of bread reside in our garage ever since I forgot to serve them with soup on Thanksgiving Eve. Now, they await the trash truck.

Sending them out with the refuse would not do now since the birds quite obviously need some breadcrumbs.

And quickly! The snow is falling hard.

The idea of spreading baguette bread crumbs around two lonely cedar trees along our creek spawned another thought–those trees need some attention, too.

What if I wrapped the cedars with the old red, glittery garland stored in the basement, I wondered.

So, I trekked, French baguettes and sparkling red garland in hand toward the cedar trees.

Once there, I discovered that the trees were bigger than they appeared from my breakfast room window. I walked around the trees along the steep creek bank using broken tree limbs to stuff the garland as high as I could, rounding the trees many times.

Occasionally, I slipped on the wet bank, and my aging knees gave way a few times as well. At least I did not fall in the creek, I sighed with relief.

Satisfied that I decorated the cedars as much as I was physically capable of doing, I turned my attention to the French baguettes.

I tried to break the hard bread loaves into pieces for the birds and squirrels, but they would not break. I had no tools to help, no hammer, nothing at all, as I walked precariously along the creek bank in the new-fallen snow. Nothing would work, not even stepping on the loaves with my foot.

I tried pounding the concrete-like bread against a black locust tree trunk, but the loaves broke in halves and thirds, not in bite-size pieces as I hoped.

I gave up.

Next morning as I surveyed my handiwork, half-decorated cedar trees and half-loaves of hard bread strewn under them, I realized that neither squirrel nor bird found the bread.

It was then I noticed the red fox. Straight to the cedars he pranced searching for his breakfast. He meandered along the creek bank until he caught a scent, probably a ground squirrel or a mouse, I decided.

Incidentally, I never saw a fox dance before, but this one did.

He danced as he dug in the snow searching for the source of the scent. He danced as he held tight in his mouth his prey–an eight-inch French baguette. He nibbled and danced some more, and then carried the hard loaf down the bank toward the creek. Minutes later, he was back and grabbed another baguette.

Again and again he made his trip to his den with baguette in mouth.

I can only assume that Daddy Fox (and he was a big red one at that) was taking food to his offspring in a brush-covered hole somewhere along the creek bank.

I admit it, Daddy Fox made my day. Who knew foxes dance and who knew they like French baguettes? Not me.

I certainly wonder, though, if Mr. Fox happened to notice that festive red garland around the cedar trees.

Well, if foxes can dance…?

Apr 30

Everyone has a snake story in the spring

“Look before you leap, for snakes among sweet flowers do creep.” — Proverb

I am not talking about snake-oil salesmen when I say we have low-life snakes around in the spring; I am talking about the real thing.

Carnivorous reptiles of the suborder with no external ears and a lack of eyelids that can dislocate their lower jaw in order to swallow prey much larger than their own head.


I think there is one under our porch.

I guess you could say I am not particularly afraid of snakes though, but I do not want to see one slithering under the steps either.

Yes, I understand that it is springtime and snakes are coming out of their winter sleep. From what I remember from my childhood days living in the country, snakes spend the winter hibernating just under the frost line. When the temperature warms up, out they come.

And, it seems that everyone has a snake story in the spring. Everyone has a tale of these legless low-to-the-ground critters that can scare us silly.

Snakes in trees, snakes under rocks, snakes in the house. Hollywood even made a movie titled “Snakes in a Plane”.

But snakes in a car?

That, too, apparently. My niece-in-law recently discovered some black snakes under the frame of their car. Apparently, the snakes hitched a ride to town with her husband and then rode back with him.

He didn’t mind much. She did and went to find the gun.

But in defense of snakes, they do eat mice and rats, especially black snakes, and that is a good thing. However, if you have a mouse in the house in the attic or walls, a black snake can find a hole and have lunch there.

Sounds creepy indeed but happens all the time.

Additionally, there are those folks who adore these serpentine, Slytherin creatures. They have snakes as household pets and let them out of their cages to snuggle around their necks. You have seen the pictures.

I saw it happen in real life.

Back in the 60s, I had a college biology professor who required that everyone handle a snake before they could pass his class. He loved snakes and wanted students to know that they were endearing creatures and nothing to fear. He started passing a big green snake of some variety that I cannot remember around the room. If you did not touch it, you received an “F”. I grabbed it and quickly passed it on to my squeamish neighbor. She dropped the snake and bedlam ensued.

Today, that same professor would be jailed for endangering and abusing the snake. The school would be sued for forcing the students to handle it and causing them to develop Ophidiophobia, fear of snakes. A faculty committee would suggest the teacher be fired for his grading policy.

Ross Perot certainly would not agree with this snake-loving professor either and once quipped, “If you see a snake, just kill it—don’t appoint a committee on snakes.”

I am looking for a hoe as we speak and heading to the front porch snake hunting. Please do not form a committee on snakes and send me letters.

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