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Of out-of-sorts fish, frogs, salamanders, weather: When lilacs last bloomed

A robin hunts food Monday in the snow at Mount Hope Cemetery on Chicagos Southwest Side.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Even frogs are screwed up.

While I tramped along with Allison Sacerdote-Velat, curator of herpetology at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, to monitor frogs and salamanders in Lake County Friday, she said I should have been there the day before. Chorus frogs, wood frogs, spring peepers and leopard frogs were all calling.

“It is so unusual to have them calling together,’’ Sacerdote-Velat said. “They been wanting to breed. It has been a long cold spring.’’

Thursday was in the 70s, by the time we finished Friday afternoon, it was back into the 40s.

“They’re explosive breeders, but they are also attuned to what is going on here.’’ Sacerdote-Velat said of our odd spring.

Some tiger salamander eggs have been aid, despite the wintry spring.
Credit: Dale Bowman

Those who spend time outdoors are attuned to how odd our spring has been. We’re on the way toward a record cold April. It’s not normal to have this many spring snowfalls.

And let me get this off my chest. Few things piss me off more than those who pooh-pooh talking about weather when it’s knocking on record oddities. Chicago-tough my butt, more like outdoors-stupid.

I digress.

Land or water it’s odd. Snow cover greeted turkey hunters in Illinois’ north zone for the opener on Monday. It’s not usual to have water temperatures regressing to or holding near 40 degrees instead of climbing through the 50s.

On March 28, I followed biologist Rob Miller and his crew on collecting brood stock walleye. Instead of the 50 degrees on the Kankakee River he would have liked, it was in the mid-40s. In a quirk of nature adjusting, at least one female was already spent, cold water or no.

On April 4, I drove through a snowstorm to meet biologist Jeremiah Haas for walleye collection on the Mississippi River, where the main channel was down to 40 degrees and walleye breeding progression behind schedule.

Last week, biologist David Wyffels delayed muskie netting at Shabbona Lake with the water holding in the low 40s.

When it comes to Wisconsin’s gamefish opener, guide Kurt Justice emailed this in his weekly report for Minocqua, “Things look grim, with upwards of 30-34 inches of ice covered by two feet of snow and only 19 days ‘til May 5th, forecast is bleak. Weekend’s heavy snow fall quashed the hopes of even the most optimistic of us for open water come early May.’’

Not sure if sarcastically or not, but on Friday, John Vukmirovich sent a note linking to Walt Whitman’s long elegy, “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.’’

One line stood out more than usual–“Stands the lilac-bush tall-growing with heart-shaped leaves of rich green,’’

Some day.

Lilacs blooming are more than a literary device. That also signals smallmouth bass spawning and white bass running.

It will come.

Artificial flowers stand out in the snow Monday at Mount Hope Cemetery on Chicago’s Southwest Side.
Credit: Dale Bowman

HIGH SCHOOLERS: Stevenson’s senior Samantha Hartman-Stackhouse had the top individual score (296) at the National Archery in the Schools Illinois State Tournament at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. . . . Minooka senior Alec Berens was one of 12 named to the Bassmaster High School All-American Fishing Team.

WILD THINGS: Ken Gortowski noted on Friday the hummingbird migration map and the map of reports of morel mushrooms in Illinois (“Illinois Morel Mushrooms’’ Facebook page) nearly matched.

STRAY CAST: Our spring or Dan McNeil’s broadcast schedule? Light’em up.