The AgathaO Rules of Wood Frog Egg Discovery are:
- Go to a pond where you saw frog eggs last year or at any time in the past
- Go to a pond where you have heard frogs this year
- If possible combine 1 and 2
- Avoid a year round pond. Wood frogs protect their eggs by laying them in places where there are no predators because they dry up the rest of the year. Those are called vernal pools. (See Vernal Pool)
- Go to a pond the hound isn’t particularly interested in, if there are many smells it is likely that it is always there.
This week, the hound and I went to see if we could find some frog eggs. We do this every year. (See Looking for a Frog). We’d been told the frogs had been laying, we heard frogs, it was time. We aimed for a pool where we’d heard frogs a few days earlier. To get to it we first walk up the hill across from the house, and then halfway down on the other side. Walking up the hill, however, we impulsively said to each other, “let’s go check out the pools along the side trail up here — we saw eggs in the top one last year.”
As soon as we arrived at said pool we commenced breaking rules. We saw frog eggs last year in the vernal pool on the left of the trail. This time, there were also some juicy ponds to the right. Why not check them out? I’m no expert by any means but you could kind of tell they weren’t real vernal pools, as there was no sign of pool-ness. It looked more like temporary flooding, as if you’d lined a bowl with beech leaves, poured cool clear water on it, and threw in some maple blossoms for good measure. These pools would be gone in a couple of weeks so no frog in her right mind would lay her eggs here.
Nonetheless, we spent a good forty minutes making sure there weren’t any. (No wonder everything takes me so damn long. I look in the unlikeliest place first in order to make sure all possibilities have been covered.) Profit was made. The hound did very well at wading and tasting the water to make sure it didn’t taste of frogs. The reflecting was superb, of the tallest trees and bluest skies you have ever seen.
Once satisfied no frog had done the deed over there, we repaired to the murkier, deeper, pond on the left where we’d seen eggs last year. Unfortunately, there was nothing to be found here, either. Due to the glacier at the far end of the pool? Frogs like it cold, but one assumes even they need the place to defrost some. (Research has not yet yielded the needed temperature for wood frog egg development. They wake up when the ice recedes and then after a few days they lay eggs).
Feeling a sense of urgency due to dawdling, we repaired to the other set of bogs where we proceeded to break the rest of the rules. 1) The hound frequently going awol right here trashing around in the mud for quite some time in the summer. 2) I’ve not heard a frog here as I have never been this close to this pool it being a stinking mud hole most of the year and thus 3) we’ve never seen eggs here.
It was like I imagine a Louisiana swamp to be. A refrigerated Louisiana swamp. Gorgeous and eerie. Pools. Mossy trees. Many downed trees. No place to walk. I looked further in. Bingo. Frog eggs. Beautiful, A-number-one standard issue strings of masses of wood frog eggs, anchored in classic style around a couple of drowned branches. Not all one frog in case you’re wondrin’ about the size of the eggs versus the size of the frog. Wood frogs tend to lay their eggs right next to those of their sister-frogs, thus creating long strings of egg masses.
I tried not to look too interested in that particular spot for fear of inspiring the hound to investigate and muddy the waters before I could get there. But how to get across without wading in muck and ice water above my knees?
Before I go any further here’s a tip: If you’re into trying this kind of adventure, best to remove your hat when trying to cross through impenetrable alder and blueberry brush. Also, bring a ski pole or similar instrument to steady yourself on downed trees, small hummocks, and other squishy spots slightly above the water line.
Having not had the foresight to do either myself (I was just going to kneel by a pool and photograph frog eggs conveniently and photogenically anchored at the edge), I made do with blueberry branches, alders about an inch in diameter, and dead spruces, looking with some envy at the hound splashing around further down the bog.
Two wet feet, glasses on the ground, hat in the water.
Dear reader: The woman made it to the boggy miniature peninsula that gave access to the egg masses. There she spent some time on her knees and elbows, camera in and out of the water. The hound explored the rest of the swamp and then rested in the sun on a log like a crocodile to wait until she was done. Then they gathered themselves up, walked home, and did a tick check.
For the writer, as for the reader, a “mission accomplished” ending is almost like a defeat. No more adventures? Where is the alligator swimming in from left field? This is the conundrum resolved by the “happily ever after” ride into the sunset. The photographer has an advantage here: her story climaxes in the images she gets to sort and edit later. If she’s lucky some are passable. Some of those are here, along with a few others for purposes of illustration.
Yield: Wet arms and feet, freezing hands, 93 photographs, an hour of silence, and a wee bit of self-understanding. Not bad for a random April morning.
Click on a thumbnail to get the whole album. Unless you have a data pipeline much more efficient than mine, it may take a moment for the pics to get sharp.