Filed under: Adventures
I have a small garden pond in my city backyard (I’m 5 minutes from downtown), but it is an oasis of wilderness. My favorite creatures that inhabit the pond are the frogs. There are Green frogs (Rana clamitans melanota), and Bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana). The Bulls dominate the pond, eating everyone but the largest Green frogs. In fact, they eat everything that can fit in their mouth. I have seen Bullfrogs with 8-inch goldfish hanging out of their mouth, eating Goldfinches and sparrows, and even attacking (unsuccessfully) Mourning Doves. I once watched a hummingbird dodge a frog that launched himself straight up to catch the little bird. The hummer “stepped” aside like a matador, and the frog flew past with an open mouth. I have since read that Bullfrogs are the major predator of hummers. A hummingbird would only be a small, feathery snack for a big frog.
The best part of having frogs in the yard is their croaking. As soon as the evening air is warm, they begin the choruses of “Jug-O-Rum” (Bullfrogs) and the out-of-tune banjo pluckings of the Greens frogs. Loud noises seem to stimulate singing, like jets overhead or trucks rumbling by. I sometimes stand out there and croak at the frogs, getting them to talk back. Of course, my wife and my neighbors just think I’ve finally lost it. As mating time approaches, the males do combat like little sumo wrestlers. They go belly to belly, trying to push their rival over. They also try to jump on top of each other. There is a lot of competition for the choice nesting spots, usually at the base of some emergent plants like bullrush or water iris.
Last year I got to watch a green frog lay her eggs, with her attendant male hanging on in amplexus. The eggs spewed out in a couple of seconds, and the little white centers darkened quickly. The eggs hatched in just a couple of days, with tiny little black tadpoles wiggling free and sinking into the depths.
The pond is about five years old, and I’ve had a couple of crops of tadpoles make the metamorphosis. It takes two summers for the tadpoles to mature. Unfortunately, the adult frogs seem to love the taste of new frogs, so a lot of them get gobbled up before they’ve eaten their first bug. Garter snakes also take a toll, but that’s nature, and I enjoy seeing the snakes as much as I do the frogs. I get a thrill out of seeing a garter snake glide across the pond just as I would seeing an anaconda in the Amazon. You take your thrills where you find them.
Of course, the pond and its frogs are a great source of images for my artwork. Ponds and their reflections are endlessly fascinating. The frogs give it some personality.
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