If you’re a member of an exclusive group, and you are privy to information that people outside the group do not have, you may be able to see things other people don’t see. Just before the World Trade Center towers came crashing down, while we were all going about our daily lives, the intelligence community, intercepting messages and trying to connect the dots, felt like their “hair was on fire.” Likewise the various Chosen People note signs of the End Times everywhere, as enumerated in the Book of Revelation, and they scan the skies for that imminent visit. I know how all these people feel. It’s a strange mixture of alarm and giddy anticipation and a thrumming undercurrent of excitement.
I know how they feel because we, the members of the Harborton Frog Shuttle, know something that people driving by on Highway 30 are oblivious to. We’ve been watching. We have data. We can predict. And we look at the dark shoulder of Forest Park looming over the highway, and we know: some night very soon, that sucker is going to explode with frogs. It will be an amphibian detonation. And, like fundamentalists waiting for their personal comet, we’ll be ready for them.
We’ve been paying attention for years. The frogs are going to come down to the vernal pond below the highway for their annual Mixer. Not all at once, generally. We thought they did it from January through March, but last year the biggest migration night was in early December, and this season we saw about seven of them a month earlier than that. But that’s been it.
|A salamander gets a ride, too.|
Frogs are pretty specific about what gets them on the move. It has to be wet. It has to be dark. It has to be 45 degrees Fahrenheit or above. Cooler than that, they figure the big date can wait. Even the males, who are avid. Well, hell, they’re all interested. The females are full of eggs, and the males are full of, let’s say, verve.
Unfortunately, conditions have not been right one single day since that first sighting in November. It’s been warm, but dry. Or wet, but cold. And so they’re still biding their time up on that hill, hunkered down in the leaves under the snow, grumpy. This is late. First warm wet night, that place is going to erupt. And we in the Harborton Frog Shuttle will be there with our buckets to give them a lift across the highway.
|Red-legged frog, eggs, and chillun sculpture: Steigerwald NWR|
Not sure just when the females start piling up their eggs, but they don’t look comfy. This is some serious bloat. Every hop slaps a bellyful of eggs on the pavement. They are probably plenty interested in going to the pond and getting those eggs squoze out. The males–by comparison, little bitty zippy guys with big thumbs–really, really want to latch on and squeeze them out. They love doing that. It makes them, let’s say, cast their seed upon the waters. So by now, everyone’s more than ready.
We’ve probably rescued most of them before, either as-is, or as eggs and sperm, with some assembly required. “Rescued” is how we put it: they probably see it as more “molested,” “kidnapped,” “thwarted.” One doesn’t sense gratitude. They’ll take their first hop out of the forest and hit Harborton Drive and see our headlamps and they’ll be all “Aw, man, really? Again with the bucket?” But they won’t get by us. The males will be too singleminded to veer out of the way and the females are hauling around a thousand eggs each and not set up to win a race with a damp, dedicated frog shuttler.
The hillside awaits us. Our hair is on fire. The rain’ll put that out, though.
“Harborton Frog Shuttle: Where the ribbet meets the road!” Anyone need a t-shirt? Any profit from the sale of these will go to a fund to buy supplies (safety vests, headlamps, etc.) for the Harborton Frog Shuttle. We’ve got women’s and men’s. Click to have a look!