Jun 07 2010
Late in May, while hiking along The River, I saw what I thought was a long tangle of coarse yarn floating in a sizable pool that had collected in a hollow in the riverbank bedrock. The “yarn” sparkled in the sun, and I figured it had been torn from the clothes of some drunken partyer. (The place is frequented by local teens, and there aren’t many Leave No Trace advocates among them.) In any event, I didn’t want to leave it there to ensnare the first unwary bird or animal to happen along, so I figured I’d have to fish it out. And after several failed attempts, I managed to snag it with my walking stick. But the strand broke up when I tried to lift it, and the fragments immediately drifted out of reach. Then I saw one small piece near at hand, and I bent down to look at it more carefully. Here’s what I saw:
No, it wasn’t yarn. It was frog spawn—a gelatinous necklace of fertilized frog eggs, each one about the size of a peppercorn. There must have been thousands of eggs in all. So I took a few photos and left, thinking that some lucky heron would have a feast.
By the time I returned to the pool, late last week, I’d completely forgotten about the frog spawn. I was intent on shooting pictures of the day’s dramatic cloudscape and its reflection in the water. Nothing more.
But as I approached the pool more closely, I noticed that it had become a pretty lively place. Hundreds of tiny, black tadpoles where darting every which way, roiling the water.
I managed to capture one in my cupped hand. Here it is:
The shot’s a little blurry, but I was shooting one-handed and I couldn’t focus properly. Still, if you look closely, you can see frog poop emerging from my captive subject. He (if it was a he) obviously didn’t think much of my efforts, and I lost no time in returning him to his home water, where he lost no time in joining his brothers and sisters in dining on a mixed grill of pollen and algae. Only then did I noticed that we weren’t alone. A green frog was keeping watch on the brood from one end of the pool, and she (or he?) wasn’t about to budge, even when I came closer to shoot this photo:
Look carefully and you’ll see some of the tadpoles swimming nearby, under the watchful eye of their guardian. Suitably chastened, I straightened up and beat a hasty retreat, leaving the pool to its rightful owners. I can’t help but wonder how many of the tadpoles will live to become full-grown frogs, though. Time will tell.