Friday, March 26, 2010

First frogs

Little Pond

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)

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Lisa at Greenbow said...

I hope your book will have photos set with your prose. Count me in on the first printing. I can see why I don't see these things in person. I go to bed too early. Ha...Great photos. The one with wood frog eyes shining give the term Beady Eyes a greater meaning.

Murr Brewster said...

This whole thing makes me peep peep peep with joy.

holdingmoments said...

Excellent post Nina. I felt as though I was right there with you.

Carol said...

I miss being able to wade or swim in the ponds and rivers at night...down here it's feeding time for the gators...I am just starting to hear the little green frogs that live here in the Black Hammock (wetlands)

bobbie said...

I do miss the walks I used to take along the nature trail. Where water on both sides was hidden by reeds higher than my head, I listened to the peepers that I couldn't see.
Love your photos.

Anonymous said...

Yep, the peepers are out in full force! A beautiful serenade.

Pat - Arkansas said...

Fascinating photos and narrative. Thanks!

LauraHinNJ said...

I'm amazed with your photos Nina... for all their screaming I can never find a single frog responsible for all the noise...


Sally said...

Amazing photos, Nina. Especially appreciate the one of all the little frogs' eyes in the dark of the pond... You are very lucky to have such experiences (and of course knowledgeable)! Thanks for sharing them.

Nina said...

This has been an especially froggy spring--and on a dark night like this, they cover the area and hang out, rarely scooting out of my sight.
I'm sure the light has a lot to do with it--I feel well hidden behind it and can get very close for pictures.
Flash photography isn't my choice--but these guys only do their thing at night!

Susan Ellis said...

Spring inspiration! They haven't woken here yet, but now I can't wait to hear them again and to try and get a photo (or at least a look!)Well done!

pineyflatwoodsgirl said...

Enjoyed that, Nina!

Deejbrown said...

WOW! Stunning photos, sensitive prose...may we have more of both in this world....

Heather said...

How cool was the picture of all the frog's eyes in the dark - biggified, it was a fabulous treat, thanks!

Deborah Carr said...

Holy frogs' eyes Batman...This is very, very cool. Whenever I listen to the peepers at night, I wonder how many it takes to make such a racket. Now I know...lots.

Thanks so much for the reproductive lesson and the 'Peeping Tom' view.

I feel a bit like a voyeur.

RuthieJ said...

Wow Nina, your pictures are so amazing! I loved the one with all the little eye reflections!

vasanthalathika said...

excellent job..''I step out into the night, where from across the yard, the frogs are calling.''-these words brought so many memories.In our village there were somany ponds and fields.. almost filled with frogs and small watersnakes ..our village nights were filled with frog music ''maacro..macro..''like that..thanks for sharing the photos