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Jun 22 2012

Interlude with Frogs

People may ask, “Dana, your day job entails getting screamed at by people, and sexist bullshit is rampant. How do you remain cheerful in the face of this?” Go on, ask, so I can say, “People may ask….”

There’s several answers to that, some involving rocks, some awesome allies leading the charge against dumbfuckery, and some the amazing regulars I have at this cantina. However, one answer is foremost in my mind at the moment: Froggies!

Froggies like this one, which likes to hang round in my friend Paula’s garden and is tiny but precious.

Fun little froggie. Possibly one of the local species, even! Image courtesy Paula.

I might have mentioned I’ve been after frogs. There’s a ditch that runs in front of the call center with water in, and whilst rambling about it one afternoon, I heard a rather large sploosh. This alerted me to the possibility of frogs in the area. I made it a mission to catch the buggers. Not literally catch, mind. The poor things are trying to relax, last thing they need is some weird human plucking them out of their hidey-place and eyeballing them. But I wandered down on breaks all the following week, practicing stealth approaches, and getting to know their habits. After a bit, I figured out where in the ditch they were likely to be: near the deeper water. Awesome! This is observation and, I believe, deduction. Or is it induction? What do you call it when you decide the frogs like deeper water because that’s the only place you’ve heard them go sploosh?

Anyway.

A few days of steadfast effort led to my first sighting of the main frog. It was resting on the bank in its slate-gray glory, and didn’t give a toss there was some woman standing on the sidewalk gawping at it just so long as the woman stayed on the sidewalk. Also, I didn’t have my camera. Wildlife is remarkably good at posing when I haven’t got my camera.

When I came prepared, this was all I saw:

Froggy peering from the water

I didn’t even see that much at first, because the little bugger had splooshed into the water the instant it heard me coming. How is it that the wildlife round here always knows when I’ve got the camera ready?

Fortunately, there are three froggies to choose from, and the one just down the way didn’t give a rat’s ass whether I had a camera or not.

Froggy II, otherwise known as Bullfrog the Bold.

And then, by the time I’d got back up to the main part of the ditch, Froggy the First was peeking out, and looked mightily astonished that freaky lady was back again.

Well, I was determined to get a photo of the first frog. I’m partial to it, for one thing, and for the second, it’s closer to the sidewalk with fewer obstructions in the way. And after a few days’ disappointment, I at last managed a few photos.

Froggy I, otherwise known as Frogerick the Freaked.

Got a nice set-up there, hasn’t it? Some soft mulch, there’s grass up the hill, rocks, pretty water plants, and a nice deep pool to leap into and hide when freaky people drop by.

Frogerick the Freaked hangin’ out. Look at the webbed foot! Look at it!!

I’ve begun leading field trips to the frogs. And it turns out that my friend Amanda is a frog whisperer. Frogerick the Freaked didn’t freak a bit when she approached with her camera phone: it sat there nice and quietly while she stepped closer, and she managed to get an excellent shot.

Frogerick the Freaked posing prettily for Amanda. Image courtesy Amanda and her mad skillz with a camera phone.

I’m a pathetic sucker for froggies. Even though I’m reasonably sure these are bullfrogs and therefore icky invasives, I still squee when I see them. Okay, so I sounded angry all week when I hadn’t seen anything more than the ripple of water left by their swift leaps to safety. I know I swore I’d “get those fucking frogs.” But I said it affectionately, and because it alliterates well. Now, every break, I go bouncing down to see the froggies, and do my best not to upset them too much, although the sploosh they make is bloody adorable. And they’re quite athletic. I’ve seen Frogerick the Freaked leap from that bank into the water many times: it has excellent form.

The old pond,
A frog jumps in:
Plop!

-Basho (trans. Alan Watts)

Did you know there are at least 30 English translations of Master Basho’s frog poem? Something tells me I’m not the only one semi-obsessed by frogs. I like the sound of the Japanese:

Furu ike ya
kawazu tobikomu
mizu no oto

It fits frogs, somehow. Simple creatures, simple acts, simple words, combined into enduring beauty.

That’s what keeps me happy. That, and rocks, and you.

8 comments

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  1. 1
    georgemontgomery

    Well, I like frogs too. I particularly like the frogs that go “eep” as they jump into the water.
    We have those bullfrogs in the woods across our street.
    Also, as I drive through the Pine Barrens on my way to work, I’m reminded of the arrival of Spring by the choruses of Spring Peepers.
    Today, I’m expecting the delivery of a new lens for my camera. Just in time for the weekend!

  2. 2
    DaisiesAndShit

    Would you consider making some of your wildlife photos available to the Encyclopedia of Life? http://eol.org

  3. 3
    Gregory in Seattle

    When I lived in Tucson, we had these big toads — 7.5 inches long and up to 2 pounds — that hibernated during the dry parts of the year and emerge for a fast breeding season when the summer monsoons hit. Their mating call wasn’t so much a croak as panicked squeal. Our first summer was very creepy: the sky turning suddenly dark, the heavens opening up with a deluge of Biblical proportions, lots of thunder and lighting… and about an hour in to this, listening to what seemed like dozens of javalinas, each stuck in the mud with a broken leg and being taunted by circling coyotes.

    It was cool, though, going out a day or two later and finding puddles filled with frog spawn. Those tadpoles grew awfully quick, too.

  4. 4
    HeatherR

    I have a friend (grad student in biology) down here in Florida whose summer job is going out to ponds in the woods and, by listening to frog calls, identify species and number. She can identify any frog found in the area. She’s employed by the water folks to monitor the health of the water supply by monitoring the number of frogs. Whenever she comes she tells me the types of frog croaking out on the lake.

  5. 5
    Blue Duck

    I love frogs too!! I grew up near the OR coast above a swamp, and every winter & spring I loved to lay in my bed and listen to the tree frogs (Hyla regilla, if I remember right) sing their froggy hearts out at night.

    And for funny froggy words – my tribe’s name for toad literally translates as ‘with-barnacles frog’. Funny description right in their name.

  6. 6
    chezjake

    Here’s a fun “quote” that’s been attributed to The Bullfrog King: “Time’s fun when you’re having flies.”

    And here’s a song about him by my friend Bert Mayne:

    BULLFROG KING

    Oh, I went for a walk late one night and talked with the bullfrog king
    He told me of the moon and the big green pond and several other things
    I’ve talked with many, many fascinating lads and it’s been most interesting
    But the very best tales that I’ve ever heard spun were the ones from the Bullfrog King

    He told me once he saw a fly so fine and fat and sweet
    With colors bright ‘twas such delight that he declined to eat
    Instead he said, Dear Mr. Fly, You’ve made my very day
    And the poor fly just did a double take and promptly flew away

    He spoke with horror of Julia Child and he made one hasty wish
    That she’d keep her lemon butter for exclusive use with fish
    He added that one of his relatives had once passed on flambe´
    But as for himself, he really would prefer to croak in the usual way

    As we chatted, he was sitting on his throne, a fine green lily pad
    He made broad sweeps with a cattail scepter inherited from his dad
    His royal clothes were impeccably cut and they fit him nice and neat
    He was one of those kings who’s so very much a king that you didn’t notice his bare feet

    The evening passed so quickly, it was time for me to leave
    And as I turned to go, the bullfrog king, he royally caught my sleeve
    He said, It’s been so pleasant, he was sad it had to end
    He asked me please to bring you all along when I come back again

    (Bert Mayne)

  7. 7
    Jes

    I have a photo you might like, but am not sure how to post such in comments. One morning while checking the cat kennels at the clinic where I work, I discovered a small frog in one of the kennels, curled up next to/under a sleeping cat.

    1. 7.1
      Dana Hunter

      ZOMG. If you want to send it in, I’ll elevate that to a blog post of its own! dhunterauthor at yahoo dot com.

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