Dorothy Harris

Oak toad invasion

I've mentioned we are trying to get more exercise lately, so it should come as no surprise we've started walking more in the evenings. Shuffling around the neighborhood has ceased to please our daughter who is running each day in preparation for fall sports. She needs somewhere she can log some distance. Thus, we find ourselves out at the state park, as she runs a few miles each evening. It's been years since we've seen so much water throughout this beautiful natural area. We haven't made it out to the catwalk yet, but judging from the brimming ponds all along the canals and ditches, I'm sure it's impressive. There are several places along the park's Loop Drive where the swamp is lapping at the roadsides. As we entered the park the other evening, the ranger reminded us to take care about the mosquitoes and sure enough, it was good advice. A thorough spray down of OFF should be considered a necessity. Once we had fumigated ourselves, we then applied an ample spraying of Adams to the dingo, and we were off. Entering the picnic area, we were delighted to see a herd of seven deer. With all the woods flooded, they seemed to be browsing for acorns under the oaks around the concession building. Our dingo dog seemed incredulous and kept looking back and forth between the deer and her family, as if to say, what the heck are those? She whined and carried on in her dingo-like dialogue, but they were oblivious. Continuing on our way, we saw a red-shouldered hawk as it swooped down to pick something up out of the roadway. It wasn't long before we figured out what it was and discovered an interesting seasonal phenomenon.
Mr. Harris and I were involved in a deep discussion about local government matters and didn't really pay attention at first. Getting closer to the park's first orange grove, I began to notice the dog acting a bit strangely. Then I saw them. As we walked, the tiniest toads were popping all over the road shoulders almost like minute popcorn. There were hundreds of them all around us, but they were so tiny, we hadn't actually seen them yet. Each time we visit the park, the oak toads have grown a bit larger and now it's just a riot to walk and watch them hop all over the place. The dog has become used to them springing out in front of her every which way, but we are still acclimating ourselves to the sacrifice of the hapless hoppers which end up under our shoes. It's sort of gross, but can't be helped - there are just too many of them. Biblical plague goes through your mind as you train your eye to these bumpy brown creatures all around you. We easily notice the ones on the roadway, but scanning the dirt of the woods just beyond the pavement reveals thousands more, creeping through the underbrush in their little toad-like way. If you've never experienced this, I recommend you go out at least once as soon as possible. It's been about 10 years since this has happened and you don't want to miss it. We also enjoyed the trilling of the narrow-mouthed toads, the booming of the bullfrogs and the abundance of deer. Last time we walked, we saw 14 of them. Immersing ourselves in wildlife has made exercising a lot more exciting. If you go, remember to step lightly and carry some bug spray.