International Rock Flipping Day 2012

The scene:

A rock, unflipped:

A rock, flipped:

A tiny ant (nests of these, about 2mm long, were the only living things I found under my rocks):

A crappy photo of the beaver that kept slapping its tail until I left:

I get bonus points for the beaver, right?

The full report on 2012 participants can be found here. Be sure to check out my previous years of rock flips – in 2010 I found crabs and brittle stars among the rip rap on a beach in Georgia, and last year I found a blue-spotted salamander here in Wisconsin.

Reminder: International Rock Flipping Day Is Coming Up

Just a reminder, International Rock Flipping Day 2012 is coming up on September 9. The full details are here, but basically in order to participate you need to flip a rock on or about September 9, record what you find (photo, haiku, do what you want), put the rock back how it was, and post your findings online. Twitter hashtag is #rockflip or #irfd, or there’s a Flickr group, or you can do a blog post and send the link to wanderinweeta(AT)gmail(DOT)com. Be sure to check out my rock-flipping posts from 2011 and 2010.

International Rock Flipping Day 2011

Today’s the day! It’s not too late to participate – if you haven’t yet, grab a camera and go find some rocks to flip. I have a confession to make, though. I started out flipping rocks and only rocks, determined to play by the rules. But after walking quite a ways flipping rock after rock and only finding dirt, leaves, and the occasional beetle…

…I started eyeing the inviting-looking decaying logs that cover the forest floor here. If I were a small creature in this forest, I think I’d make my home under a log. For one thing, there are many more logs than rocks, and for another, you have all that soft wood to burrow into. The areas under the logs also seem moister, important when we’ve had such a dry summer.

The last straw was movement catching the corner of my eye as I walked: something small and dark scooting off of a log and disappearing into the leaf litter. When I poked around the spot where it had vanished, I found what looked like an entrance to a tiny burrow, and seized by a hunch I reached out and flipped the log that the little whatever-it-was had been on.

Under the log, its long nose quivering, was a tiny shrew. If only I’d had my camera at the ready I could have gotten a pretty good photo, because it sat there for several seconds, stunned by the sudden removal of its roof, before vanishing into the same hole as its companion. Well, there’s something you don’t see every day! I carefully replaced its home and continued down the path. After looking at some pictures online I’d guess it was something in the genus Sorex, but I’m not going to hazard a more specific identification than that.

A little way farther along I found this perfect, irresistible chunk of log. Having learned my lesson, this time I held my camera in one hand as I lifted the log with the other.

At first when I saw the glistening blue-black something I thought I’d found an enormous millipede or worm, but then my brain caught up to my eyes and I realized I’d found the holy grail of rock- and log-flipping (at least as far as I’m concerned.) That’s right… a SALAMANDER!!!

Specifically, a blue-spotted salamander, Ambystoma laterale. I’m not sure what it is about finding salamanders that is so amazingly exciting, but I know I’m not the only person that feels this way. Salamander, salamander, salamander! This was the first one I’d seen in over a year, actually, and I was pretty dang happy.

So, I’m sorry that I technically broke the rules by flipping over non-rocks, but it was worth it. Actually… come to think of it, I’m not sorry at all. See you next year for International Rock Flipping Day 2012!

Save the Date!

International Rock-Flipping Day is coming up on September 11. Wanderin’ Weeta promises to write a post with more information soon and when she does I will link to it.

In the meantime, enjoy these photos of a dead Northern Pearly-eye that have been sitting on my hard drive waiting to be used.


International Rock Flipping Day

Today is International Rock Flipping Day 2010!  I heard about this celebration of things that live under rocks a couple weeks ago and really wanted to participate, but there was just one problem: I live on an island made entirely of sand.  Where was I going to find a rock to flip?

Then I remembered: there is one place on the island that’s rocky, although it’s not that way naturally.  The beaches on the north end of the island are eroding, thanks to the longshore current, and the powers that be have seen fit to deposit rip rap on them in an attempt to stop this process.  “Rip rap” is a technical term for “chunks of rock.”  Perfect (although I won’t go into whether rip rap actually works, or whether beach armoring is wise)!

The first few rocks I flipped yielded only wet sand.

However, I persevered, switching to an area where the rocks were sitting in about an inch of standing water, a sort of minimalist tide pool.  There I started having better luck, turning up this small crab, species unknown…

…and a couple tiny brittle stars, flexible-limbed cousins of the sea stars.

At this point thunder started to rumble in the distance, and since I wasn’t dressed for rain and didn’t particularly want to be caught on the beach in a thunderstorm regardless I returned to my car.  See you next year for International Rock Flipping Day 2011!