Another warm night has begun. I step into my tall wading boots, slip under the cover of a long dark jacket, and ease beneath the slender strap of the light which will hang from my shoulder. At my hip this large beam will freely swing, slung like a purse, as I walk hands-free exploring the edge of Little Pond in the hours approaching midnight. My final garment-- the heavy winter hat, one that would appear to be far more than is needed on this evening late in March, I casually stuff into one gaping pocket. For it is warm and mild, a night lit in moonlight revealing a faded field bathed in a mist, thick and welcome on my face. I step out into the night, where from across the yard, the frogs are calling.
Spring Peeper, male calling
Like distant sleigh bells, the ring of spring peepers drawn to the basin of Little Pond sounds sweet and gentle, a light dusting of sound floating with ease on the heavy night air. I walk with each step, closer, down the path. And my light reveals the sudden retreat of hundreds of night crawlers, each shrinking back into its small hole as my footsteps approach their 8 to 10-inch emergence onto the lawn. In this warm and damp night, they have risen to revel amidst the short dew-studded grass before tunneling deep, beyond the reach of any summer drought. From the woods beyond Little Pond, a barred owl calls, and calls again. I cross the berm into the shallow water of this vernal pool, 30 feet across and almost perfectly round. The sweet ring from small frogs mounts now with such volume that above it no other sound is heard. From my pocket, I retrieve the heavy hat and tug it snuggly down, covering my ears—a muffler against the din that has become an almost painful roar. With a sweep of my light in a wide arc from side to side across the pool, the tiny tree frogs are hushed in an instant, surprised into a silence that quickly fades. In seconds, the first brave soul perched and projecting from a blade of grass, calls out into the night once more. And the uproar begins again.
Spring Peeper breeding pair in amplexus (smaller male clasping larger female as she lays eggs)
Wood Frogs' eye shine across Little Pond
In the beam of my light, the eyes of wood frogs return a golden glow as they float motionless across the darkened surface. Their quacking call, as if half dog, half duck, gathers them here from the woods yards away to breed in the waters of Little Pond. Large, ruddy females, eagerly clasped by the small, dark males, have already left compact clumps of eggs, golf ball-sized dark orbs, which by morning will have swelled to the size of grapefruits. Communal egg masses, gelatinous rafts several feet across will stretch to cover this quiet corner, moored to first-growing grass at the edge of Little Pond.
Wood Frog breeding pair
Wood Frog eggs
Wood Frogs leaving eggs in communal egg masses
Northern Leopard Frog breeding pair
Northern Leopard Frog pair in amplexus
Northern Leopard Frog eggs
Leopard frogs, too, large, but barely seen as the dark brown and green of their bodies blends with the tangle of grass at the edge, call to one another in a low, ticking snore. These first frogs of spring, at any other time buried in the depths of the woods or under the cover of tall field grass, now stare back at me from the cool water of Little Pond. With my light, I have stepped into their darkened world.
Spring Peeper and Northern Leopard Frog (for size comparison)
Winning image for the Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp competition!
The 2012 OWLStamp will be available for sale March 1, 2012 through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website and nature organizations across the state. Proceeds of the OWLStamp benefit wildlife conservation, research & education projects within the state of Ohio! I'm thrilled to have provided the winning image for such a wonderful program!
The Adventures of Red Canoe
Come along in Red Canoe as she explores the quiet backwater of Ohio's State Parks and the scenic streams and rivers of the Midwest. Discover the beauty hidden beyond the water's edge, quietly waiting, past access points, often only inches deep!
Grabbing every minute I can find to be outside--walking in it, sleeping in it ... breathing it in. The natural world has so much beauty to uncover.
It is my hope that by capturing my experiences with nature and by sharing the richness it adds to an ordinary life, others may discover the greatest gift waiting just outside their door.
A regularly appearing feature, "Have you seen..." takes a closer, more patient look at things usually not seen in a flattering light.Take a look!
The Sweetness of Spring
Each spring, as winter lessens its grip and days warm with the first fragrant breezes of a new season, we collect sap from our Sugar Maples and produce just enough syrup for ourselves for the coming year. The progress of this year's backyard endeavor is illustrated here.
A Bird's Life
Summer 2008, the tiny jewel of the avian world, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, nested just feet from my front door. Pictures of her nest and the changing lives within are collected in thisjournal.From life the size of a pea....