The Wheel of the Year continues its relentless turning, as we approach Lughnasa, an ancient holiday observed in many forms and cultures as the growing season approaches harvest time. Fertility, fire, feasts – all are celebrated in honor of Earth’s bounty. This year in Connecticut, the day coincides with a months-long drought – though nowhere near as dry as California and the west’s! Rainclouds build and hover, spit a few droplets and move on, as summer’s intense heat and humidity settle over the forest. Just as the constant procession of flowering plants halts its prolific bloom.
The Frogwatch nationwide project is also coming to the end of its monitoring season, something B. and I have participated in with joy and excitement since late winter. I learned about it thru a local natural history and science center, and anyone can receive training (online) and become a volunteer monitor. As the months have progressed, we’ve seen the marvelous wood frog, able to freeze almost solid to survive the harsh New England winter; minuscule grey tree frog, who popped up in our garden, no bigger than my thumbnail; and the green frog, who shows himself readily in the mucky wetlands by the river behind our yard. Watching (and listening) to these amazing sentinel beings who, as they change with the seasons, indicate the health of our planet, connects me deeply to this time and place.
My experience with wildlife monitoring began with amphibians, at Muir Beach, California, listening at a coastal wetland for the endangered red-legged frog amid a wild chorus of thousands of Sierran tree frogs. There I was stunned into speechlessness by the beauty of our surroundings, and how I felt we became one with our environment (as we truly are). I also learned the importance of citizen science in recording changes in conditions and species over time – as science writer Mary Ellen Hannibal captures in her compelling book, Citizen Science. Worldwide, anyone can access countless opportunities in person and online with projects like iNaturalist, and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon Society’s FeederWatch and Great Backyard Bird Count.
That simple excursion to a tiny beach brought me into the wonders of nature and helped spawn my growing interest in wildlife and conservation, activism, and spreading information I learned. Struck by the neverending return of waves to shore, I wrote in the California Coastal Conservancy’s Coast & Ocean magazine: “the thunderous ocean sounded like a locomotive headed for the middle of the world.”