Close Encounters with Nature during Creek Week
by Laura Webb Smith
This post is about one of the events during Durham’s Annual Creek Week. Visit www.durhamcreekweek.org to see all of the great nature, art, volunteer, and educational events that happen in late March each year.
I fervently hoped I wouldn’t get pulled over on the way home. I really didn’t want to have to explain to the officer, or anyone really, why my children were naked in the back seat--that the heap of brown, soaked clothes on the rubber mat represented a couple of hours of pure nature bliss.
Frog Watch has become a Creek Week favorite. Experts from Duke lead groups of explorers decked out in headlamps, mud-worthy clothes, and the tallest boots you can find. We wade into the Sandy Creek Park pond shallows to search for the frogs we hear calling out for mates. We celebrate when one is netted, secretly keeping score on who found the most. Sometimes we find more than frogs: insect larvae, tadpoles, tiny fish. It’s all catch, observe, and release. No critters are harmed in the name of Creek Week (at least not on purpose).
My kids and I absolutely loved it. By the end of the night, we could identify the more common spring callers by sound and sight. We enjoyed soaking in the expert knowledge, spending time in nature with each other, and yes – getting wet and dirty.
Once upon a time, finding frogs at Sandy Creek Park would not have been such a pleasant experience. Nicknamed “Old Stinky,” the site served as a sewage treatment plant from the 1930’s to 1984. The State and City worked to restore wetlands and develop park trails in the late 1990’s, but it took the interest and volunteer commitment of many individuals to make the park what it is today. A haven for birds, butterflies, amphibians, and mammals, the park features native trees and wildflowers that support the diverse habitat. Trails and viewing platforms make the park easy to navigate, and fun programming geared to both kids and adults make a trip to Sandy Creek Park worthwhile.
Frog Watch is one of more than two dozen events during Creek Week. The week features indoor and outdoor activities for folks of all ages and abilities. You can join a cleanup, attend a free parks program, visit water-related art installations, go on a canoe trip, and so much more. Visit www.durhamcreekweek.org for all the details. Over 20 organizations work together to plan and lead events that help us all discover and take better care of our local waterways. So dig out your boots, and be sure to grab a change of clothes for the way home!