Under the Cliff's Curtain

This, from Maggie Rudy, children’s book author/artist, frog catcher extradinaire:

There are a fair number of frogs getting squished on Hwy 30 just south of the Harborton Road exit. I think the cliff and sidewalk should be checked every night that there's a Harborton patrol.

Last night we collected 35 frogs on Harborton; half of them (including the only gravid females found) were caught in this area. It's particularly important to check at the beginning of the shift because it seemed as though the frogs we found were queued up and waiting to make a break for it. There'd been a big movement the previous evening, and Rob and I speculated that many of the frogs had been too late to make that crossing and were waiting for the next opportunity. The skin on many of them was quite dry, as if they'd been in the open for some time.  We also wondered if they were attempting to skirt around our patrols and coming out further south.

I followed the sidewalk until there were no more dead frogs to be seen on the highway, just beyond the second lamp post. I find most of the frogs under the curtain of ivy where it meets the ground, and they're easiest  to see if you squat down. We often find frogs huddled up against the sidewalk curb, so it's important to check there, too.

Not every team member will feel safe checking this area, although I feel comfortable walking there with the sidewalk and the highway shoulder.

To Maggie’s comments I’d like to add:

When I was young I did a great deal of hitchhiking. A highway patrolman in, I think, Maryland, gave me a ride, mentioning that there was a guy who’d slow and pull over for a hitchhiker, then speed up and run him over. I don’t know if this was true, but since then I’ve never let a car pass me on a road without eyeballing it. When catching frogs in the Burlington area, or the sidewalk Maggie mentions, I pay close attention to the cars, so a drifting, text-messaging sport won’t find me. I walk and bike across this highway frequently, and it’s dangerous, so I’m hyper careful.

When frog migrations have fallen on nights I’m responsible for, I’ve focused my effort on the highway sidewalk because that’s where between 15 and 50% of the frogs will be. Again, I’m hyper-attentive, mainly nabbing frogs against the curb, as they huddle there before making a break to cross the highway. I understand why some folks don’t want to be next to the highway, and wouldn’t think of allowing anyone to be there who might be less than vigilant.

When these frog migrations were huge and unimpeded by modernity, before colonization, mortality was likely high, as the many predators surely feasted with many thousands crossing the landscape. (Many species use great numbers to confuse and overwhelm predators, but some among them won’t make it.) What has changed is now there are so few frogs, each can seem weighted. Still, frog death is natural to these migrations, and some will occur on our watch. Sentiments that apply pressure toward no frog dying are unrealistic, and I think, take us out of the realm of compassion -- for the frogs, and each other -- because we may be forgetting that we’ll soon be migrating across the horizon as well, as we should.