Saturday, September 03, 2005

[I meant to post this a couple weeks ago]

Weddings are not for frogs. Weddings are for dancing, long toasts, and seeing friends you haven’t seen since graduation. Weddings are not for herping. I did not go to Carl’s wedding with herping in mind. If he had gotten hitched in the most herpless place on earth (I don’t know, Iceland?), I still would have gladly attended. Carl got married in the countryside near Harvard, Massachusetts, however, a place much cheaper to get to from Philadelphia than Reykjavik, and with many more herps.

The green frogs (Rana clamitans melanota) at the wedding stayed off the dance floor. They were content to stay hiding in the longer tussocks of grass on the hill below the Fruitlands museum. That hillside was also the site of the guest group photos, and the frogs had to get out of the way of some two-hundred people trying each to stay in view of the photographer’s lenses. Jen pointed one frog out to me as I nearly stepped on it. It made a few hops straight into the path of a group of guests descending from the ceremony, and I grabbed it to get it out of the way. It was not the greenest of green frogs – mostly bronze, but the species is the same even if the common name is an occasional misnomer.

I heard shouts of another frog uphill, but I’m not sure what happened to that one. I hope it didn’t get trampled.

Carl and Elsie reserved a hostel for their friends from out of town. The place charged a lot for old twin beds and showers with no hot water, but at least it had frogs and snakes.

We found the first hostel frog at the ‘afterparty’ – when we sat around in the kitchen of the hostel catching up with old friends and eating leftover cake. Jen had stepped outside for a moment and spotted it next to the door to the patio. Another green frog, it sat in the middle of a water-filled tray from a plant pot, soaking and looking up at the moths bumbling about in the light on the side of the building.

The next morning we headed out to the woods behind the hostel. We were driven back out of the woods by hordes of mosquitoes and the realization that we were wading through poison ivy. We did see and hear an absurd number of green frogs crying ‘meep’ as they hopped and leapt back into the water. I’ll post the pictures once they’re developed.

A tiny toad was the next find. We had eaten as much fruit salad, bagels, and quiche at the brunch as we were going to, and we headed outside for a short walk. The toad was barely big enough to not be toadlet anymore – about half an inch. It hopped away in the grass of the hostel’s front lawn, and chirped when we caught it. Jen held it for pictures (also coming soon), and then I checked its belly to see what kind it was. American toads (Bufo americanus americanus) look a lot like Fowlers toads (Bufo fowleri). My favorite way to tell them apart is the belly: American toads have black wormy blotches on a white belly. Fowlers toads have a blank white belly instead.

We found another American toad on a walk out behind the hostel towards the garden about an hour later. This one was bigger, maybe two inches, and it tried to bury itself in the sod as Jen grabbed it - a move neither of us had seen before. Like its younger neighbor, it too chirped to be put down. Jen obliged.

Massachusetts is rightly not known as a hotbed of herpetofaunal diversity. It is no Everglades, and it is no Big Bend, but with next to no effort, we saw nearly twenty herps of three species.

The third species was looking for the first outside the brunch. We had stepped outside to begin our goodbyes. Elsie, the bride, was out on the patio saying goodbye to departing family members and friends, and I had the camera around my neck taking shots of people (for once). I spotted the garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis sirtalis) basking on a rock just off the patio deck. I got in a picture before it darted under the deck. It was a beautiful garter – dark background with grayish tan stripes. I got another picture of the snake sticking itself back out to poke around the groundcover, and then it shot away again. We said goodbye to Elsie and took a picture of her. We went inside and took more pictures of friends we then bid farewell to, including Brynn, a friend from college who now studies environmental science in Wisconsin. She gets a mention for introducing me to the USGS online frog call quiz ( and doing a dead-on American toad. I now have absolutely no excuse for not knowing what kind of frog I’m listening to.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

When I was 8, I would catch frogs and blow them up with firecrackers. Now THAT was real fun. Riiiibit.