Quoddy Nature Notes

by Fred Gralenski

A sign of the times.

Many years ago when I was a young student I was supposed to read that “April is the cruelest month” by some famous writer or something.  I don’t remember that it had to do about nature, so I guess I didn’t pay much attention.  Now that I’m an old geezer, I think that April, especially after tax time and here in the Quoddy region, is pretty neat.  I even read that April is National Frog Month.  Hard to beat that.

 

The frogs were in an amorous embrace, but still 100 yards from the pool. I was tempted to carry them down there in that i didn’t feel it was fair for the guy to hitchhike all that way, but I left them alone. Maybe it was her idea.

The wood frogs, after the snow and ice have melted over the place where they individually overwintered, somehow head for the pool where they changed from tadpoles into frogs.  Now nature has, what I call, a 95% rule.  About 95% of the frogs head for their home pool, but the other 5% explore the area for new digs (or splashes).  This feature works for most returning spawners, including Spring Peepers, the mole salamanders and other critters like salmon and alewives. One can understand the usefulness of this characteristic for the species to survive in case something drastic happens to the original pool like a shopping mall or parking lot being built on it (more likely now than before), or conversely, to populate a vernal pool that some amphibian lover (like me) built for additional habitat.  From what I can gather our amphibians seem to be in good shape.  My casual checks of our critters look favorable and so far I’ve seen a good number even though the season is just starting.  It is interesting that the Chytrid fungus that is devastating many western and tropical frogs does not seem to be affecting our animals here in Maine, although the fungus is commonly found here especially in the Northern Leopard frogs.

Big Momma wood frog

Anyway, after watching the snow disappear during the day, take a little stroll in the evening along some boggy areas and look and listen for the critters.  The amphibians out now  are very relaxed at night so people can watch them.  There are other critters too. The other evening on one of my perambulations there were quite a few millipedes looking for something dead to scavenge.  Millipedes generally have two sets of legs for each body segment, and centipedes have one set of legs for each body segment.  My millipedes were pretty tolerant of examination (they didn’t bite me)and were probably of the family ‘Julidae’, and are an introduced species.

Spring Peeper

Millipede of the family Julidae

Other critters that are interested in romance besides frogs and salamanders here in South Pembroke are the Snowshoe rabbits.  They start changing color from white to brown in early April and are pretty tame by now.  I don’t know why.  We seldom see them all winter, and even their tracks in the snow are usually at a distance from the house.  With April they come out in the open areas near the house and graze on the emerging green shoots of grass and dandelions, in between romps of chasing each other around.  I guess they do this to endear themselves so that when the garden greens come up they can help themselves to those also.  Sometimes I feel like my middle name is ‘Elmer Fudd’, being outwitted by a ‘wascally wabbit’.
Of course we must not forget the birds of April.  My ravens have set up shop, and wait for me to drop kitchen scraps in the hollow stump by the bird feeders, although they are very cautious and timid.  The robins here are still all males, and I haven’t seen any nest building activity, and the colorful birds, the warblers, are still pretty scarce.  As of this writing I have seen only one warbler, a Palm warbler snacking on the flies in the washed up seaweed at Gleason’s Point.  Well, April showers bring May flowers and May warblers.