Friday, April 18, 2014

Nothing special...

Really, there is nothing all that special about my yard. Okay, so it’s bigger than a postage stamp (just under two acres if you don’t count the driveway) and there isn’t a lawn to speak of—and what remnants of grass are left don’t get mown. Ditto for most of the lot bordering my southern side (for now—fingers crossed). There’s Green Space to the east that houses some horses but the rest is “natural” and the Farmland Trust acreage to the north is still under agriculture of a sort… Then there’s the little pond just behind the tree line and the ditches in the old hedgerow that hold enough water to classify as wetlands. Western neighbors mow; hopefully that at least keeps the woodcock happy since my tangle is getting rather too thick for their ideal enjoyment.

But native vegetation? Sweet gum trees—lots of sweet gum trees (it’s an early successional species, so they’re to be expected on farm-returning-to-natural land). The American Holly is trying to re-establish itself, as is the bayberry. A few oaks and maples, a persimmon and a young sycamore; haven’t noticed a sassafras in awhile, though. Plenty of red cedar (juniper)—around here one might not be blamed for thinking seriously about calling it a weed. But the Japanese honeysuckle and multiflora rose and that lovely thick grass along the drive (which is apparently taking over a good bit of the county open space) and the list of invasive non-natives goes on—compromise a fair portion of the vegetative mass … Flowers? Hah. Can you say “increasing deer population”? All my wood violets are in pots and even they have been grazed.

So why Gray Treefrogs (of the Northern persuasion) love my property is beyond me. I’m convinced it is solely because of my treefrog gray colored house and sheds.

I heard the first-of-the-year treefrogs half-heartedly calling last week. I’ve spent the recent too-warm-for-April-but-after-this-winter-I’ll-take-it days puttering around my decks, cleaning up last year’s accumulated mess.

I nearly cleaned up this little one thinking a dead leaf had fallen on the pot since the last time I’d looked.

A bit later, I noticed another.

(View from inside my front door.)

Heard two more close by but couldn’t track them down.

As much as I’m at a loss to explain why I have such cute little neighbors who make somewhat frequent appearances, I’m not complaining. I loved having the green treefrogs all around when I lived in Florida. At least their gray cousins have (so far) kept out of window tracks and away from that horrible inadvertent death. Of course with so many grays around already this year I’m starting to get a bit paranoid about where I step and what I move around… (I once incautiously moved a cardboard box that had been sitting long enough on the deck to turn into a nice damp skink habitat—I really didn’t need to know firsthand what happens when a wee lizard loses its tail. Eww… Fascinating, yes—no blood? How can you break off a tail and not have a raw wound???—but definitely gruesome.)

The frogs spent hours baking in the sun—apparently these wee ones can form a clear coat over their skin to protect them presumably from moisture loss and perhaps it acts as a sunscreen as well? They actually went from dull-skinned to shiny-skinned as they sat in the sun (you’d think it would be the other way ‘round) and I actually watched the one on the pipe trellis rubbing off a clear, thin membrane as the sun shifted to shade—then they moved. The one on the pot rim had tucked itself down under the moss inside and the one on the trellis moved to a lower level. And probably called—a very loud treefrog “song” just outside my front door is what drew me back outside to see where they had gone a couple of hours after I first photographed them.

I am happy to report that at least one skink is out and about as well. Life goes on after a harsh winter—for the little cold-blooded critters as well as the winged things. (That blasted carrion beetle was back again!)

SPOKE TOO SOON. I simply must learn to keep my mouth shut. The flowerpot full of moss and little gray tree frog 36 hours later:

That’s a thick layer of very large sleet pellets from the “April shower” that accompanied an overnight low of 29°F. (The good news is I didn't see the frog when the pot thawed.)

Ah, April... You misbegotten month! *grrrr*