|Camouflage is the name of the game if you are going to congregate in huge numbers and get noisy|
Yesterday afternoon, as I took a breath from dragging downed tree limbs off one of the dikes on a remote corner of the West Marsh, I couldn't help but find myself looking for the source of a chorus of amphibian love songs. The sun was bright, the mercury was climbing, and love was most certainly in the air.
|A second perspective on the long frog I could identify visually|
-- a solitary Northern Leopard Frog
That's what made yesterday's experience so awe-inspiring. What started as a casual gaze into shallow water eventually evolved into a 45-minute dedicated sit with the camera. I recall thinking to myself, "it sounds like there must be 1,000 frogs and toads out there," just based on the peeps and croaks vying for very species-specific attention within my earshot. As I've experienced many times before, the sounds were seemingly coming from everywhere, but when I focused on a specific area to try to identify the musicians, I was hard-pressed to find even a single source.
Finally, I was able to make out the telltale, bulging-eyed silhouette of a solitary leopard frog who, like its counterparts, lay nearly motionless just twenty feet away. I stress nearly motionless because the only way I spotted it among last year's downed cattails and this year's emerging reed canary grass is that it couldn't help itself from flinching a time or two as tiny midges bumped clumsily over the warming water's surface. One flinch caught my attention and a second flinch (pictured above) was caught on camera.
The whole experience felt significant for a variety of reasons. (1) Hearing and seeing frogs and toads this time of year is a ritualistic symbol of the passage of time; it's spring once again. (2) Taking the time to slow down for just an hour or so paid dividends in getting to witness this frog just being a frog; I don't think he (or she?) had any idea of my presence. (3) True wildlife photography is tough. I certainly don't claim to be much beyond an amateur with a decent camera, but the effort it took to get a common photo of a common frog makes me appreciate that much more what the truly talented do "to get the shot." Wildlife doesn't commit to an agreed upon time or location for a photo shoot. The photographer has to work hard, be informed, be patient, and -- as the best one's will tell you -- get lucky.
(One final note: the 'there must be 1,000 frogs and toads' thought from yesterday proved to be prophetic in a way. I just checked our statistics for the blog, something I do in detail about once a month now, and we have just surpassed 1,000 email subscribers -- 1,028 to be exact. In just over two years of posting, we have attracted more than one thousand people who want to read about our adventures on a day-to-day basis. I am humbled and excited by that interest. It's my hope that we can keep building the curiosity and enthusiasm for these incredible corners of our earth. As a final postscript, if you are not a subscriber and/or if you want to invite a friend, simply enter a valid email address into the "Follow by Email" box on the right navigation bar and click "Submit" -- it's as simple as that!)