New Hampshire Nature Notes
by Eric Orff
Bring on the frogs. Where are the frogs? Where have they gone?
It's quiet. Awfully silent around here lately. I can't help but wonder "Where are the frogs?" Bring on the frogs. The peepers were very muted here this year and didn't call for long. And the American toads were even more muted and their breeding season was even more truncated. And now it is the missing tree frogs. Not a peep from them in two weeks since a few were in the trees around the house and as I figured in the usual trek to the wetlands down back. But they have not called from there yet. And they should be in full song now. Something is wrong!
We have had an early and somewhat dry spring save for the cool damp and way below average temperature for the last week of May. But that was just a short stretch of time and the frogs should be calling in full force on either side of that anomaly. But they are not and that has me worried. The frogs are missing from here this spring. Not a single call yet from a green frog either. Bull frogs should be calling too, they were at my camp in Maine two weeks ago. Something is wrong... here.
When I first moved here some thirty years ago as of July 4th of this year, the meadow below me was full of frog calls all spring long. Now for the first decade or more the dam boards were not removed over the winter at the Buck Street Dam about 4 miles south of me on the River in Pembroke. Consequently the river level remained constant over much of the year save for the high spring flows. The frogs thrived.
But over the last decade the Dam Bureau has been drawing the river way down over the winter by opening the gates at that dam. The closing of the gates is something that I have had issues with them for close to a decade now since they leave this stretch of river low then stop the flow of water by closing the gates at the dams on Northwood Lake and Suncook Lake up stream and suddenly this part of the river is without water by mid May right after the frogs have laid their eggs in the shallow waters in the back water below my house. Same goes for the fish eggs like perch and pickerel. The simple solution would be to close the gates at the Buck Street Dam BEFORE closing the dams up river. So perhaps part of the loss of my frog population has been the simple mismanagement of the dams over the last decade. It appears that the Department of Environmental Services just doesn't care to manage our rivers with any thoughts of the fish and frogs that live in them. I have brought this to their attention several times to no avail. And now since the floods of 2006 and 2007 the Buck Street Dam has been left open more than closed as it is right now. Perhaps this isn't a bad thing since at least the water level is not dropped dramatically when the dams up stream are closed. But the important back waters where most of the fish and frogs have traditionally laid their eggs is now dry all the time.
And then there is the world wide loss of frogs due to some widespread bacteria. But I am hearing frogs call in great numbers in other places. So it really is the niche of habitat along the Suncook River that seems to be impacted.
Then there was the floods and river avulsion of 2006 that has dramatically changed the Suncook River. Each rain storm brings another smothering coating of silt down river. Perhaps the frog eggs are being smothered each spring.
But in any case it is the frogs, or most importantly the LACK of them from my back deck and from my bedroom window that has me worried. The ecology of the Suncook River has dramatically changed right out my window. At least that what my eyes and ears are telling me. I wonder if anyone else is listening?
We have had enough rain to keep things growing and green. There was another frost alert for the northern half of the state last night. So we are still running a bit cool. I haven't seen a turkey brood yet though I have seen a couple of lone hens. And I think I may have seen a New England cottontail rabbit on a lawn nearby a few days ago. A neighbor mentioned about a rabbit out on a lawn nearby at dusk. I spotted it a couple days later and it sure looked like a cottontail to me, but I need another look to confirm it. I have seen them not far away twenty years ago or so and a track in the snow that looked right for a cottontail in Bear Brook State Park two winters ago. So as the crow flies this one does make sense. It would be exciting to have them close to me. They are a federally endangered species.
From a rocket launching to launching into summer.
Chilling out after a long dry spell.