Rock-Flipping Day

International Rock-Flipping Day, held on a Sunday in September, is an idea that originated with a comment on this blog, but is now hosted by Susanna at the British Columbia-based Wanderin’ Weeta blog. We also have a Flickr group.

International Rock-Flipping Day logo by CepahlopodcastYou’ve read about my IRFD adventures. Time to check out what the other rock-flippers found. There’s some stuff at the Flickr group pool, and three photos on yfrog, but the main action is at the blogs…

A-roving I will go (New South Wales, Australia)
Peanut worms, a sea cucumber, and a blenny.

Outside My Window (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania)
Evidence of very stealthy rodents.

Rebecca in the Woods (northern Wisconsin)
Blue-spotted salamander and a shrew! But sadly, under logs. Boo!

Fertanish Chatter (Washington, DC area)
Termites actually look pretty cool close up. As do millipededes.

Bug Safari (southern California, I think)
Bitchin’ macro photo of the fossil-like white exoskeletons of sow bugs. Also, a black widow and a darkling bug.

Growing with Science Blog (eastern U.S.)
Very tiny snails, a beetle larva carrying a case, mites, spiders, springtails and Indian house cricket nymphs.

Wild About Ants (eastern U.S.)
Getting stung and bitten for science.

Powell River Books Blog (British Columbia)
A crushing experience.

Meandering Washington (Washington state)
Robert Browning, a wee spider, and warrior women jumping through fire, all in one blog post. Yep.

Cicero Sings (British Columbia)
Memory fails, but the ants, invasive slugs and a harvestman do not.

mainly mongoose (South Africa)
Fears and neuroses, rainbow skinks and flat lizards, and a giant plated lizard — some spectacular photos of creatures that obligingly emerge on their own from underneath rocks.

Chicken Spaghetti (Connecticut)
A frog and a possible banana slug.

Wanderin’ Weeta (British Columbia)
A whole lot of nothing, but then paydirt: spiders, flies, sowbug, snail and… rabbit pellets?!

Rock, Paper, Lizard (British Columbia)
The first piece of Rock-Flipping Day fiction, as far as I know.

_Cabin Girl (Northern Minnesota)
An African antelope with a beard and horns? No, but close.

Thanks to Susannah Anderson for collecting and distributing these IRFD 2011 links. Let’s do it again next year, shall we?

International Rock-Flipping Day logo by CepahlopodcastIt’s been unusually wet here in recent weeks, so for International Rock-Flipping Day this year I thought I’d try my luck up on the ridgetop. In the past, my style has been to flip lots of rocks and hope that I’d find something interesting sooner or later, but this year I decided instead just to find one or two especially charismatic or well-situated rocks and be content with whatever I found underneath.

cricket rock 1

After 45 minutes or so I found a rock that really appealed to me. It was up off the ground by about six inches, capping a skirt of moss-clad soil on the side of a venerable old rock oak (Quercus prinus). (more…)

International Rock-Flipping Day badge
That’s right, folks: it’s time once again to gird your loins, polish your cameras, and vulcanize your boots. The world’s largest annual rock-flipping blog carnival is almost upon us! British Columbian nature-blogger Susannah Anderson at Wanderin’ Weeta (With Waterfowl and Weeds) has volunteered to be the point-person again this year, which means that all blog links should be emailed to her, and she will then assemble, publish, and keep updating a list of participants, which all other participants will be encouraged to reproduce on their own blogs so everybody links to everybody, and we all have a rockin’ good time seeing what’s under everybody’s rocks. Er, you know. It’s actually a very family-friendly exercise in nature education, assuming you can pry the little wombats away from their video games and mobile devices long enough to go outside and flip a few rocks.

If you’re new around here, you may be wondering what this is all about. Please go read Susannah’s post and all should be made clear. (You can also browse past IRFD posts here at Via Negativa, where it all got started five years ago.) If you’re on Flickr (whence the cool badge in this post, courtesy of Jason at Cephalopodcast), please join the International Rock-Flipping Day group and add your photos and videos to the pool next Sunday (or Monday, if you have other things going on that day). We do allow schoolteachers only to adjust the date and participate on either the preceding Friday or the following Monday. Everyone else should do their rock-flipping on Sunday. If you are a religious Christian and are wondering if this kind of activity is permitted on the Lord’s day, Jesus assures me that it is.


In other blog carnival-related news, the latest Festival of the Trees is up at Slugyard. It’s a back-to-school edition: Slugyard University. As Dave Barry would say, I swear I’m not making any of this up. Here at Via Negativa, slugs, sowbugs, and other creatures that live under or around rocks are held in high esteem. As indeed they should be. Jesus said they are going to inherit the earth.

International Rock-flipping Day badge by cephalopodcast.comIt began raining right around midnight, the first real rain we’d had in more than a month, and I was happy, even though there was a good chance it would make for a soggy International Rock-Flipping Day. It was still raining when I got up around 6:30, but tapered off slowly into drizzle, then fine mist, then nothing at all by noon. Around 3:30, the sun came out.

my first rock for IRFD 2010
my first rock for IRFD 2010 (click all photos to see larger versions on Flickr)

So it was with mixed feelings that I slung the camera around my neck and set out to see what, if anything, I might find under some rocks. Due to the severity of the drought, I had a feeling that the answer would be “not much.” But I guess it all depends on what you’re looking for.

I started with a rock in the corner of the little herb/butterfly garden in front of my house, next to the concrete walk — a rock I placed there myself more than 15 years ago for decoration. If IRFD were held in the northern-hemisphere spring, I’m sure it would be good for an assortment of earthworms, sow bugs and ground beetles, but yesterday I saw nothing but shadows.

flipping the first rock
flipping the first rock

Still, they were interesting shadows, I thought.

International Rock-Flipping Day badge
Imagine you’re Godzilla, out for a stroll through the neighborhood. Curious about what the neighbors might be up to, you lift the roofs from their houses and peer inside — though to be honest, this isn’t always terribly illuminating, due to their lamentable penchant for scurrying back and forth in a state of panic, eventually remembering to grab the children and head for the exits. Still, it’s fun finding out who lives where and how funny-looking they all are. You’re careful to put each roof back, and try hard not to crush any of the soft, squirmy, grub-like inhabitants.

That’s kind of what International Rock-Flipping Day is like. Now four years old, this timeless holiday — celebrated this year on Grandparents’ Day — is fun for the whole family. Remember to wear gloves, watch for scorpions and poisonous snakes, and replace all rocks exactly the way you found them. Bring a camera, sketch pad or notebook and record your findings, then post the results to your blog and/or the official Rock-Flipping Day Flickr group. Any and all forms of documentation are welcome: still photos, video, sketches, prose, or poetry. Email your blog link to the coordinator, Susanna at Wanderin’ Weeta: wanderinweeta [at] gmail [dot] com.

You can flip more than one rock, but you should flip them on Sunday, Sept. 12 — unless this is a classroom exercise, in which case we’ll accept rock-flipping results from Friday or Monday. If you don’t have a blog, you can set one up in a couple minutes using the dead-simple Posterous or Tumblr platforms.

Susanna will compile and post a list of links, which participants will be encouraged to re-blog for maximum international rock-flipping camaraderie and link-love. If you’re a Twitterite, the canonical hash-tag is #rockflip. We encourage the sharing of links on Facebook, but would prefer IRFD posts to be fully public on the open web. For more information, read the official announcement at Wanderin’ Weeta.

Video link.

It’s International Rock-Flipping Day, so I thought I’d try making a poetry video with footage of the underside of rocks, shot this afternoon in the woods above my house. The poem is a couple of years old, and may be found at my online collection Shadow Cabinet.

UPDATE: Here’s the complete list of bloggers who participated in IRFD this year.

Wanderin’ Weeta
The Natural Capital
Fertanish Chatter
Roundrock Journal
Just Playin’ Around
What It’s like on the Inside
Growing with Science
Yips and Howls
Rock, Paper, Lizard
Outside My Window
The dog geek
Dave Ingram’s Natural History Blog
Unplug Your Kids
ORCA: Observar, Recordar, Crecer y Aprender
Will Rees Fine Woodworking …
The Marvelous in Nature
Pohangina Pete
Ontario Wanderer
Bare Baby Feet
The Homefront Lines
Crazy Maize World
Dr. Omed’s Tent Show Revival

And don’t forget to check the Flickr group, too.

International Rock-Flipping Day, September 2, 2007International Rock-Flipping Day is changing dates and coordinators this year. It’s going to be on Sunday, September 20th. Bev Wigney and I passed the baton to Susanna Anderson at Wanderin’ Weeta blog in British Columbia, who was kind enough to volunteer. See her announcement post for complete details.

Please direct all rock-flipping correspondence this year to Susanna: wanderinweeta [at] gmail [dot] com (email spelled out to foil the evil robot servants of the spam lords). Bev and I had a great time being IRFD coordinators the first two years, and we’re sorry we can’t continue,* but I’m sure Susanna will do a terrific job. Please help spread the word about the new date. Happy flipping!

*In case anyone is interested in our lame excuses: With all that’s going on these days at qarrtsiluni and the other sites I manage or attempt to contribute to, my online time is already pretty much spoken for. And Bev is in even worse shape time-wise, having just sold and moved out of her house and being on the verge of a new “journey to the center.” We both do plan to get out on the 20th, though, and flip some rocks!

For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field: and the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee.
Job 5:23

Dear Teju,

Rocks are the roofs of a city
we barely know. On a dry ridgetop
at the end of a dry month,
I find little under them but burrows
leading deeper into the earth,
a colony of ants frantic
at the sudden inversion,
and on the talus slope, more rocks:
a puzzle that was put together wrong
8,000 years ago, but over the millenia
has settled into its own kind
of rightness. I follow a bear’s trail
through the woods, marked by black
cherry-pitted cairns of bear shit,
& note the series of overturned rocks,
flipped by an expert claw.
Only a human, uneasy at the way
our grotesque bodies no longer
quite fit into the matrix,
would ever return a flipped rock
to its bed. Birds have nests,
foxes have holes; culture
is not a thing unique to humans.
The song that makes the songbird
must be taught. Instinct borrows
always from improvisation —
the true two-step. But watch
a human child, too young
to hunger for our made world’s
humdrum El Dorados, playing
in the creek with a stick —
how she projects her dreams
into the teeming, pulsing flow,
how she punctuates
& fabricates — & tell me
this is not more wondrous
than any gold, this human

International Rock-Flipping Day, September 2, 2007
It’s International Rock-Flipping Day! If you haven’t flipped yet, please review the guidelines. Be sure to replace all flipped rocks, and do so as carefully as possible: if rocks aren’t returned to their exact footprint, some of the creatures underneath them may be crushed. We also advise wearing gloves as protection against poisonous snakes, spiders, and scorpions, if that’s a concern in your area.

If you don’t have a blog (and even if you do), you can upload photos to Flickr (it’s free to join) and post them to the IRFD group there. I will also be glad to post photos and other material here for anyone who’d rather not bother with Flickr. (My co-conspirator Bev Wigney has been forced by circumstances beyond her control to step back from heavy involvement in the festivities this year.)

I will post about my own rock-flipping activities later today or tomorrow, but I will continue to add links at the bottom of this post to all the IRFD-related posts I can find — I’ll republish it multiple times a day for the next several days as more stuff comes in. And just like last year, we encourage everyone who blogs about Rock-Flipping Day to link to everyone else, as well. Let’s keep things as decentralized as possible, read and comment on each other’s posts, and share the link-love. If you email me with a link (bontasaurus [at] yahoo [dot] com, or use the Contact form on this site), I will include you in the list of folks to email daily for the next three days with all the links I can find. Alternately, you can simply plan on bookmarking and revisiting this post and copying and pasting from here; scroll down for the complete list.

Also, as I noted in this year’s guidelines, we’d like to award two prizes, one to whomever documents the greatest biodiversity under a single rock, and the other to whomever appears to have the most genuine epiphany as a result of flipping rocks. Bev and I haven’t had a chance to discuss how we will choose the winners, but it seems to me that the latter prizewinner in particular could be decided by popular acclamation. Leave comments here or email me with your nominations in one or both categories.

Here’s something you can sing while you’re out peering under rocks, from a Via Negativa reader and regular commenter who is tragically blogless.

The Rock-Flipper Song
by Joan Ryan

(with apologies to Fiddler on the Roof’s “Matchmaker”)

Rock-flipper, rock-flipper, flip me a rock.
Please do not knock
This game as “schlock.”
Rock flipper, rock flipper, look in the yard
And find me the perfect rock.

Rock flipping’s fun-dipping under a stone
Not far from home.
Hey, do not moan!
Day tripping, rock flipping yields so much fun
And even when you’re alone.


Our Johnny
Hopes for a lizard

Our Benny
Looks for some worms

Our Sara,
Just found a beetle

All kids like
Something that squirms.

Rock flipper, rock flipper
Find me a cache.
Careful! Don’t mash
Some of your stash.
Rock flipper, deep dipper
Into the loam,
Please find me a pet of my own.

* * *

Anticipatory posts (a selection)

Marcia Bonta — Rock-Flipping (summary of IRFD 2007)
fish without faces — the tanager and the scorpion (poem)
Fragments from Floyd — Today is Rock Flipping Day: Get Out There!
Going Like Sixty — International Rock Flipping Day: the First Sunday in September

* * *

Rock-Flipping Day Reports

Pohanginapete (Pohangina Valley, Aotearoa/New Zealand)
Blaugustine (London, England)
Nature Remains (Ohio, USA)
Pensacola Daily Photo (Florida, USA)
KatDoc’s World (Ohio, USA)
Notes from the Cloud Messenger (Ontario, Canada)
Brittle Road (Dallas, Texas)
Sherry Chandler (Kentucky, USA)
osage + orange (Illinois, USA)
Rock Paper Lizard (British Columbia, Canada)
The Crafty H (Virginia, USA)
Chicken Spaghetti (Connecticut, USA)
A Passion for Nature (New York, USA)
The Dog Geek (Virginia, USA)
Blue Ridge blog (North Carolina, USA)
Bug Girl’s Blog (Michigan, USA)
chatoyance (Austin, Texas)
Riverside Rambles (Missouri, USA)
Pines Above Snow(Maryland, USA)
Beth’s stories (Maine, USA)
A Honey of an Anklet (Virginia, USA)
Wanderin’ Weeta (British Columbia, Canada)
Fate, Felicity, or Fluke (Oregon, USA)
The Northwest Nature Nut (Oregon, USA)
Roundrock Journal (Missouri, USA)
The New Dharma Bums (California, USA)
The Marvelous in Nature (Ontario, Canada)
Via Negativa (Pennsylvania, USA)
Mrs. Gray’s class, Beatty-Warren Middle School (Pennsylvania, USA)
Cicero Sings (British Columbia, Canada)
Pocahontas County Fair (West Virginia, USA)
Let’s Paint Nature (Illinois, USA)
Sleeping in the Heartland (Midwestern U.S.)
Three Oaks (Ohio, USA)

* * *


IRFD group on Flickr
IRFD gallery on Via Negativa

International Rock-Flipping Day, September 2, 2007 International Rock-Flipping Day 2008 is now only a week away: Sunday, September 7 (with an alternate date for public schools on the preceding Friday, September 5th). If you missed IRFD 2007, or have forgotten how much fun that was, my mother’s nature column for September will tell you all about it.

Please help spread the word. For more information, see the complete Rock-Flipping Day file.


Festival of the Trees #27 is up.


Postal Poetry shifts to a M-W-F posting schedule, starting today with a postcard from Tom Montag and Marja-Leena Rathje, “blue.”


After briefly alighting at, the dynamic group of female online poets calling themselves the Poetry Collaborative have settled into beautiful new digs at This is an exciting, ground-breaking site: where else can you watch collaboratively written poems grow by the day and by the hour, and be privy to side discussions between the authors? Start following the PoCo now and you should have clear bragging rights in six months or so. Because it’s gonna be huge, the Huffington Post of the poetry blogosphere. You read it here first.