Last year, on March 18th, Kids Unplugged had a Wacky Wednesday at Greenburgh Nature Center and hiked down to Woodfrog Pond. As we neared the pond through the woods we could hear the woodfrogs, their loud croaking reverberating around the little woodland-wetland setting. Today’s hike was along the Eagle Hill Trail in Rockefeller State Park and at the beginning of the trail there is a lovely little bridge that crosses over a wetlands area and the Pocantico River–a wetlands area that seemed to be a happy habitat for local woodfrogs!
Having been walloped by yet another storm the previous weekend–this time with a barrage of rain and mighty winds–our area has again suffered some pretty devastating tree damage, and the park did not escape unscathed. The access path to Thirteen Bridges and Eagle Hill Loop was blocked in several spots by downed trees and branches and a loud, repetetive, cha-chugga, cha-chugga, cha-chugga sound off in the distance lead me to think that there was actually tree work being done within the park. As I was helping one of the smaller ones to untangle herself from a web of fallen branches my older daughter ran back down the path toward me and said, eyes wide, “Mama, it’s FROGS making that noise!” I looked at her in disbelief because the noise really sounded like machinery, that’s how loud it was. Another mom and her older son were approaching us on their way out and she said, “they’re mating like crazy–there are tons of them in the pond–you’ll see them as you go by.”
Sure enough, as we came upon the wetlands area there they were–croaking loudly and splishing about in their frantic attempts to procreate. At first they were difficult to spot, so camoflaged were they in the water, but when you concentrated for a few seconds suddenly you could see that they were everywhere. Anyplace there was a bit of movement in the water it was a frog or two or six all intertwined together tumbling around in an aquatic orgy. It was true showing of the primal, natural spring world. And the kids commentary was so innocent and delightful. “Hey, that one’s climbing on top of that other one.” “Look, over here there are a whole bunch of them climbing on the other one. “I think that one’s the girl.” “Why the heck are they all piling up together?” It was very funny and endearing.
As soon as I got home I looked up last year’s woodfrog hike and realized that the two hikes were only a day apart. It really made me wonder, yet again, about the way this incredible world of nature works.How do the frogs know? They don’t look at the calendar. I wondered if they would be splishing and croaking and mating all week or if the ritual was more shorted lived. I wondered how long it had been since they’d woken from their winter deep-freeze, if the bout of warm weather mattered, if they returned to the same pond to mate each year. I know that animals like salamanders and spring peepers tend to return to the same vernal pond where they came into the world to lay their own eggs. Was it the same for these woodfrogs. Lots to wonder about and lots of answers to find.
After lure of the frogs had passed (it would be renewed on our way back out) we headed up the hill toward the Eagle Hill Summit. From that point on the kids fell into their comfortable trail habits–a bit of bushwhacking here, a good walking stick to pick up there, a satisfying boulder configuration to climb her–before taking a break for goldfish and pretzels and water and granola bars in the grassy area at the top.It was a bright clear St. Patrick’s day afternoon (note all the kids in their green shirts from school that day!) and everyone enjoyed the views of the Kykuit Estate and the Tappan Zee in the distance.
While we were relaxing in the breeze, one little guy who was joining us for his first Wacky Wednesday came up to me and said, “Gina, I like this camp. I want my mom to sign me up.”
If that’s not a solid testimonial, I don’t know what is.
Debbie Allan’s Slideshow (please note the exceptionally cool frog photo!):