International Rock-Flipping Day

September 2 is International Rock-Flipping Day. Mark your calendars.

How is it possible — I said to myself on Monday afternoon when I was putting together my post about flipping over rocks — that I don’t have a single good photo of the rocks in our woods? Even more unforgivable, I don’t have any photos of the creatures that live underneath them: no ant colonies, no salamanders, no caddis fly larvae from underneath the rocks in our creek. Nada. So I was very receptive when Fred Garber suggested in a comment that we pick a day for everybody to go outside — go as far as you have to — and flip over a rock (or two, or three). We could bring our cameras and take photos, film, sketch, paint, or write descriptions of whatever we find. It could be fun for the whole family!

I emailed Bev Wigney, the doyenne of invertebrate bloggers, and discovered that she shared my enthusiasm. But we thought we’d better act fast, for the benefit of folks here in the northern hemisphere, and go with September 2. Any later and things start dying off or going down below frost line.

Fred had suggested trying to get everyone to flip over a rock at the same moment, but that would end up being the middle of the night for some people, so let’s just stick to a calendar date. I would like to restrict it to rocks, though they wouldn’t have to be on dry land — they could be on the bottom of the sea if you have a way to get down there.

The point is simply to have fun, and hopefully learn something at the same time. We don’t want to over-determine what that something should be: those of a more scientific frame of mind might focus on i.d.s or ecological interactions, while those of an artistic or poetic bent could go in a different direction entirely. Pictures alone would suffice, of course. But whatever you do, please be sure to replace all rocks that you flip as soon as possible, so as not to disrupt the natives’ lives unduly. (Unless, that is, you plan on incorporating some of what you find into your next meal — crawdads? escargots? — which would also make a interesting subject for an International Rock-Flipping Day blog post, I’m thinking.)

We want to try and keep this as decentralized as possible. Everyone who blogs about it can link to everyone else at the bottom of their post, or in a subsequent post if they prefer. I’m willing to act as coordinator and send out a list of links that evening or the next morning, with all the HTML tags in place for people to copy and paste. Send your links to me as soon as you post: bontasaurus (at) yahoo (dot) com, with “Rock Flipping” in the subject line.

No blog? No problem. I’ve also set up a Flickr group,, anticipating that bloggers and non-bloggers alike might want to share photos that way. We’re interested mainly in pictures of whatever you find under the rocks, but pictures of people flipping rocks are also permissible. The grand prize goes to anyone who can get a picture of a non-human critter, such as a bear or a raccoon, flipping a rock on September 2. (I don’t know what the grand prize will be yet, but trust me, it’ll be good.)

For those who would rather not bother with Flickr, Bev has volunteered to create a gallery within her Pbase photo site: simply send your images as email attachments to her, bev (at) magickcanoe (dot) com, again with “Rock Flipping” in the subject line.

I think that about covers it, but if other ideas occur to you, leave a comment and I’ll update this post if need be. If you like the idea, please help spread the word. And if anyone feels like designing a logo, be my guest.

55 Replies to “International Rock-Flipping Day”

  1. I will take this opportunity to take the family to Lehigh Gorge and flip a few rocks. I think my middle kiddlet, Bob, is now old enough to walk up to the falls by himself.

  2. so many bad joke fragments pop into my mind, like turning over a mental rock to find all these squirming half-thoughts, none complete enough to share.

    grand idea. i like it. my favorite rocks to flip are exposed by low tide, but i’ll try rocks in the garden or woods too.

  3. I am exited. Now I have to find the right rock to flip. And I need to practice. My neighbor has a flower garden with concrete stepping stone. He is on vacation now. So if I sneak over there tonight and look under some stepping stone, I could get a few practice flips in before the big day.

  4. suzanne – Great!

    Keith – You know, I’m not sure I”ve ever been to the Lehigh Gorge. Sounds like a spectacular place, but a bit too far for someone from central PA to get to in one day and still have time to hike. Anyway, good plan.

    Fred – I’ll bet you were one of those kids who just couldn’t wait until Christmas, weren’t you? Checking out the presents before they were wrapped…

    Brett – Glad you’re on board. Damn, I think we already have enough people committed to this project to make it interesting, even if it doesn’t spread virally across the blogosphere (which would be cool too, of course). Will you tell your kids in advance, though? They might be like Fred, unable to contain themselves!

  5. This has already created a blog post: my post today was orginally built around the image of turning over the rock of the mind, and looking at all the thoughts wriggling around under there. But the image turned out to be scaffolding; when I was done building I tore it down. Hopefully I’ll turn over other rocks by September 2nd :-)

  6. Sounds great, Dave. I’ll be visiting friends in Connecticut that weekend, but I’ll do it if I remember. If it’s a beach stone, there may not be much under it. Will try to find something suitable. One could always stretch it to something more metaphorical, I suppose. Looking forward to what everyone finds.

  7. I’ll flip, too.
    Maybe by that time, we’ll have had a break in the heat. We’re getting a series of 100 degree days right now and not a drop of rain–I think everything’s gone deeeeeeeeep!

  8. I will try to represent the UK with honour on the great day. Maybe ‘rock’ might be a bit of grand description for what I shall have to settle for. Large-ish domestic stone is more likely to do it.

  9. I’m a life-long rock picker and flipper, so count me in. I’ll flip some rocks here in Kin.

    (learned about your blog from Brett’s)


  10. Dave, do you allow cheating? I mean, could I do the flip sometime this weekend, take the photo and save it to upload on the official date? The reason is that I have to walk to a park to find a rock and I won’t have time to do this on The Rock-Flipping Day. I do have bowls full of lots of small stones I’ve saved from trips to various beaches but the only thing underneath them is more small stones.
    I love the project.

  11. dale – I’m glad to hear that the project is inspiring good blog posts already! I even ended up smorgasblogging that one.

    leslee – Metaphorical stretches are entirely up to the participants. The main purpose of having fairly strict rules, in my mind, is to keep the thing from becoming too unfocused and amorphous. But rules should always be treated merely as guidelines, I think – well, you know my politics. :) One way or another, I hope you can participate.

    Nina – Congratulations on a very beautiful blog. You raise a good point; I don’t know how the heat will effect things. We’ve actually had a cooler-than-average summer here, with only two, shortish heat waves to date. (Guess we’re due for another one starting tomorrow.)

    Dick – And I can’t think of anyone better than a former rock and roller to represent the UK.

    ale – That’s awesome! I’ll be very interested to learn what dwells under rocks in central Africa.

    Natalie – See my reply to Leslee. Do what you can. I really appreciate your enthusiasm.

    Rebecca – My first answer would be, flip more rocks until you find something. But if you look under two dozen rocks and don’t find anything, that in itself would be worth blogging about, no?

  12. Dave, I always opened my presents first. How did you know? I was always very carefull. By the way, I also like to take the chocolates out of those nice gift boxes, turn them over and poke my finger in the bottom to see what is inside. Of course , I would then carefully replace the ones that I did not want to eat. When cheese balls covered with nuts were at a buffet in our home I would inspect them before the party. Th best way to do that is to turn them over and eat some of the cheese from the bottom of the ball and then replace it on the table with hole facing down.

  13. Wow, you were devious! I remember one time my brothers and I took the entire bottom half-inch off a 9 x 13″ casserole dish full of uncut bar cookies by carefully upending it onto a cookie tray. Mom never noticed.

  14. Would have been better in the spring here. Well, it’s be a bad year for rain.

    What if you flip a rock and there’s a rattlesnake underneath? (Run like hell!)

  15. I hadn’t thought about poisonous snakes. Geez, I hope no one sues us! Our eastern timber rattlesnakes aren’t very aggressive, but that probably wouldn’t be true of other species. Then there’s scorpions and spiders…

    This was a spur-of-the-moment thing, but if there’s interest we could always have another one in April or so.

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  17. My dear, late uncle Peter — my childhood mentor in things botanical and etymological (yes, words, not bugs) — introduced me to rock flipping a gazillion years ago. It’s how I first saw a salamander. Haven’t seen one since. I’ll have to participate in Peter’s memory !

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  19. Shai, you can blog about rock-flipping any time you want! But International Rock-Flipping Day comes but once a year. (And we haven’t quite decided whether that will be September 2, or the first Sunday of September.)

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  21. Thank you for reminding people to replace the rock. In a recent post, I showed some of the damage done to glade habitats south of St. Louis by those who flipped rocks and failed to return them to their original position. In some cases it may not be so important, but it could be critical in others.

    Best regards — Ted

    1. As Ted suggested please, please return rocks back to the position you found them *after* removing any snakes, salamanders, etc that are under them. You can use a stick to prod any snakes out from under the rock. If you’re not sure how to identify it, use a stick anyway just to be safe to gently move it. Set whatever you moved somewhere near the rock and it will go back under it most of the time. Don’t try to turn rocks over with snake hooks or sticks, that does not work and it will slip off and smash things. Use your hands.

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