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OUTDOORS: Frog Watching

OUTDOORS: Frog Watching

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This is pretty sad, but the highlight of my day comes each afternoon after work as my wife Nancy and I have a cold drink beside our goldfish pond. The cold drinks are nice, but they aren’t the highlight. The highlight is watching our frogs and hoping they catch a bug in midair. For us, this is exciting, and yes, it’s sad.

Frogs are truly amazing creatures. They begin their lives as frog eggs then become tadpoles, swimming and breathing underwater. Ultimately, the tadpoles shed their tails and begin to breathe oxygen exclusively out of water. At that point, they are true frogs.

I think we have three frogs now in our pond. One is very small, the last tadpole to lose its tail, while the others have really grown. They are all bullfrogs and we are really hoping they will winter near the pond and keep growing, and eventually bellow outside our window on summer nights.

Frogs are truly opportunistic predators. If it fits in their mouths, they eat it. I have a friend with a small pond who said that she once found a bullfrog with a goldfinch stuck in its mouth. Neither the frog nor the bird survived. Frogs are able to capture large prey because of their vise-like jaws. They clamp down then drag their prey underwater to drown it and then they eat. Frogs prey on mice, small lizards, snakes, other frogs and toads, spiders, insects, fish and even bats.

Are frogs quick enough to catch a bat in mid-air? Absolutely. I once saw a frog in our smaller lily pond nail a wasp in mid-air. The frog was sitting quietly on the side of the pond minding his own business, when the wasp flew within range and kapow! That was all she wrote for the wasp.

Usually, when we watch our frogs, they just sit motionless, but occasionally, we’ll see one move just a bit as he spies a fly or bug coming in his direction. They slither up on a pad, get in position and attack. Frogs, of course, have those big flippers for feet, and I assumed they were just for swimming, but they are like springboards when they attack. Frogs can push off, even in water, with those flippers and snatch a bug a foot or more away. They also use the flippers to leap long distances if they are out of the pond and need to get back in a hurry. We have one frog that shimmies his way up on the patio several feet from the pond in order to catch bugs. When we come, however, he leaps back in the pond, jumping as much as three feet or more, and he’s not a very big frog.

Unfortunately for frogs, lots of things eat them, including fish, turtles, birds like herons and egrets, and especially snakes. I once came home for lunch in time to see some sort of water snake exiting our lily pond with my pet frog in its mouth. That was sad, indeed.

Frog watching? It’s not for everyone, but it beats the heck out of watching the daily summary of new coronavirus cases in Central Virginia on TV.

—Contact Jim Brewer at j44brewer@gmail.com

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