It all began with an email invite… Subject line ” Incredible opportunity for DT neighbors to experience amazing natural phenomenon.” My husband immediately told me to sign us up. Why…. because we’re both nerds of course! Actually there are probably three kinds of people who would be excited to go frog watching on a cold winter night… kids, old people, and nerds of all ages.
The email went on to say that we would be logging “the trek of the frogs and salamanders across a paved path next to the marsh area in the park. ” Wow… how cool is that (sarcasm intended)!
Just to be sure we knew what to look for, the organizer sent a link to pictures of frogs and salamanders plus more info about this annual frog trek. Apparently, at the end of Winter on the first night that it rains and temperatures rise above 40F, an internal clock goes off and these critters (similar to hibernating bears) know to awaken and go back to the place of their birth which is usually a vernal pond. Not only did I have an opportunity to go out on a moonless cold winter night, but I was able to add “vernal pond” to my vocabulary (i.e. small pond in the woods where critters plant their eggs).
We were told to bring flashlights, clipboard, and paper so we could record our sightings. Possible sightings included wood frogs, northern spring peepers, northern cricket frogs, eastern American toads, etc. etc. So, my husband, ex-Eagle scout, prepared for our adventure. If you were an Eagle scout or know one, you know they are always prepared. In fact, if you are ever going anywhere and are not sure what to take just take an Eagle scout with you because they will bring everything. My husband packed 2 chairs, 2 leather-bound portfolios for note taking, 2 steno pads also for note taking, 2 camp lanterns, 4 flashlights–2 small and 2 large. We were prepared!
As we were walking to what is locally called the “frog pond”, I asked the leader if the frogs would be scared away by the lights and noise. She wasn’t sure, but didn’t think so. Her lack of certainty made me roll back and begin to wonder about things that I should have considered in the first place like how do we get the frogs to stay still long enough to identify their type; and will they sit still for us to take their picture; and by the way… Did someone tell the frogs we’d be there between 7pm and 8pm? Answers… we can’t, they won’t and no one gave them the schedule.
Okay, so it wasn’t bitterly cold and it was pretty neat being in the woods at night with flashlights blazing while we talked and walked sentry duty around the pond listening to an incredible cacophony of noises. (We were told later that we should not have had so much light. Not have talked so much, and not have moved around so much… who knew?)
Had I been alone, I would have run screaming from the incredibly loud quacking mating calls of the male wood frogs plus all the other noises from an assortment of critters that we could hear but not see. But being part of a group somehow made it less scary. Plus if something wanted a human for a meal, it would have several choices while the rest of us ran away (i.e., safety in numbers).
By the end of our hour, we had seen one crayfish, and one fast moving frog (type unknown) crossing from the pond to the creek…. It was an amazing natural phenomenon (more sarcasm).