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Poor Will's Almanack: October 22 - 28, 2013

Flickr Creative Commons user AndyArthur

This past summer, Sylvia sent me an effusive note about finding a toad in the grass. She was “feeling lucky,” she said. And she went on: “Oh yes, lucky, so I got down on my hands and knees…I didn’t want to miss a single detail…such serious eyes for one so young regarding me with great solemnity.”

Now, toads are relatively common where I live, and sometimes they mate in my garden pond in April or May. The young tadpoles reach land in early summer After that, according to my notes, they wander on cooler days and nights, hiding from drought and heat in dank corners of the woods, eating the insects that frequent those places.

Between the last week of August and the end of September I find them most often, and the increased frequency of my backyard sightings at that time leads me to believe that a toad migration takes place between late summer and middle fall. A little research on the Internet adds support to my myopic daybook.

As to the luck of finding toads, maybe it is more a matter of privilege to stumble onto fragments of their act of passage. Witnessing this and other local migrations, I feel that the world is still alive and well. And I travel, albeit vicariously, with the migrants, with the sandhill cranes coming down from Canada, with the boisterous flocks of robins that follow the river south, with the endless lines of blackbirds that often pass over my village.

Behind the “serious eyes” with their “great solemnity” that Sylvia discovered, I uncover, as any serious anthropomorphist might, my odd sense of purpose that seems to have no rational goal, a sense that is quieted in summer, then wakes up again in fall, and, when it is frustrated, can settle for watching toads and birds.

This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the final (fifth) week of middle fall. In the meantime, in your head and heart, follow the toads and birds.

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Bill Felker has been writing nature columns and almanacs for regional and national publications since 1984. His Poor Will’s Almanack has appeared as an annual publication since 2003. His organization of weather patterns and phenology (what happens when in nature) offers a unique structure for understanding the repeating rhythms of the year.