Sunday, June 19, 2011

All God's critters got a place in the choir

That's a song by wandering troubador Bill Staines, lyrics posted here, rather strangely, by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Actually they don't all, but a lot of them do indeed make a racket.

As I reported some months back, in the winter here the dead of night is as quiet as the dark side of the moon except for the occasional coyote howl or hoo hoo, hoo hoooo of a barred owl. But by early spring bird song started by dawn. It gradually evolved from intermittent sparse utterances to a continuous sound track. Pretty soon the tree frogs started up at dusk and no I'm surrounded by a trilling, swirling symphony 24 hours a day.

Unfortunately I'm no expert on bird song so I don't know exactly what I'm hearing. There are many species of chorus frogs, and again I don't know exactly what I've got there either, although I can deduce that the spring peepers, Pseudacris crucifer, must have started the whole thing off, since "Spring Peepers primarily live in forests and regenerating woodlands near ephemeral or semi-permanent wetlands," and that is exactly where I am at; and they also can survive freezing temperatures so they're the first frogs to get going in spring.

What I also don't know is why these creatures make all this noise. I understand that one reason is to attract mates, but that must get over and done with after a reasonably short time, so why do they just keep on singing? It ought to help predators find them, which can't be good, so it must really be worth it for some other reason. Anybody know?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

You gonna believe your lyin' eyes . . .

or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service? I was going to post something a few weeks ago when they declared the eastern Cougar extinct, but then I said naahh, there's too much idiocy in the world to bother. The declaration acknowledged that many people had seem mountain lions in New England recently -- and I happen to be among them but what do I know? However, they didn't count because they must be strays from Colorado or animals escaped from captivity or something. Anyway, even if they're here, they aren't really here.

So a 140 pound mountain lion is struck and killed by a car in Milford, and the spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection says "We don't see a lot of those around here." Well actually you don't see a lot of them in Colorado either, or anywhere else, because they don't normally show up for the day-after-Thanksgiving sale at Target, but if you see any of them, that means they exist, right? No, this one must have escaped or been released from captivity. Now come on, how many people keep mountain lions as pets and have them wander off? Is this really going on all the time? Pish tosh, I say.

In other news, our downtown consists of a post office, a general store, and two churches. Or it did. A few weeks ago the proprietor of the General Store drove his pickup into a tree at 2:00 am, leaving no skid marks. Maybe I shouldn't speculate but he'd put some money into fixing the place up and installing a pizza oven, and with half the people in town being out of work and for sale signs everywhere I expect fewer folks were willing to pay an extra 50 cents for a loaf of bread. It's six miles to the nearest grocery store now but people are just working harder at planning ahead and not running out of stuff, I expect.

Now we have no restaurant or store in town, except for a chainsaw shop. So is this really a town? We do have a volunteer fire company, a library, and an elementary school -- we're part of a regional school district above that -- and we share the dump with another town but it's still a place to meet up. There are annual events at the historical society -- Farm Days and the Highland Games -- a farmers' market once a week and occasional flea markets and whatnot on the town green, and Little League baseball at a town park. But we only really exist because of the public sector. There's no Main Street. Shopping means going to one or another big box in Windham. I expect this is happening in a lot of places.