Friday, March 18, 2011

Spoiler alert: The frogs are awake!

This is why I will probably never be a real birder: Whenever there are amphibians or reptiles around, I find it nearly impossible to pay attention to anything else.

I realized this yesterday. There I was, walking through the woods, looking at water birds and chickadees and such, and I started hearing a strange sound. It was getting louder as I walked further, and at first I thought it sounded like a group of ducks all riled up and yelling at each other.

Then I got to the marshy area where the sound was coming from, and saw that OMG THE FROGS ARE AWAKE, THERE ARE FROGS HERE, and then half an hour had mysteriously disappeared and I hadn't moved.

Believe me when I say that there was something of a mating frenzy going on in these shallow pools. All these frogs, just woken up from their winter sleep, and with all the rain and warm weather we've been having, there was really only one thing on their minds. (That being said, they still stopped calling and dove under the pond-leaves when I got close, so they must not have been too absorbed in their activity to worry about their safety as well.)

These were mostly all Wood Frogs that I saw, although I might have heard a lone Spring Peeper calling a few times as well. I love Wood Frogs, probably because I'm not used to finding them very often, and I've certainly never seen them congregated in such large numbers before -- I guess I've just never stumbled on them at this time of year. Plus, they look really cool, all brown and leaf-patterned, with a sleek dark face mask.

Here's a cool thing about Wood Frogs that I learned today watching these guys: Their vocal sacs are not on their throats like most of the other frogs I know, but actually on either side of their heads. So when they call, these two gigantic balloon things inflate behind their ears, and it's actually a little disturbing. I couldn't get a good picture of these frogs in the act of calling, but this YouTube video shows it pretty well.

Incidentally, it's not just the amphibians that are waking up, either. This moth creature decided to use my pant leg as a place to soak up some sun for a few minutes, so I used the opportunity to take a picture of the first non-bird flying thing I've seen this year.

Towards the end of my walk, this brightly-colored butterfly flew across my path. In my attempts to identify this creature, I've narrowed it down to two possibilities (and I swear I'm not making these names up): It's either a Question Mark, or an Eastern Comma. Apparently the only sure way to tell the difference between these two species is to look at the back of their wings, where there is a tiny little white mark that looks like either a question mark or a comma (can you guess which mark goes with which species?). Since I couldn't see these marks, I'm just going to just go for its generic name: an anglewing butterfly. In any case, it was very pretty, and I was only sad I couldn't get closer before it flew away.

So it's official: Spring is definitely on its way. And from now on (or until next winter at least), my posts will no longer be monopolized by birds. Yay, diversity!

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