Thursday, August 11, 2005

I was not expecting to find anything last weekend. In fact I was a little glum about yet another weekend with no critters. We flew into Columbus, Ohio, where I grew up and where my parents still live, for a shower for Jen, and I was resigned to another herpless weekend.

That’s not to say I didn’t have fun in other ways. On Saturday we drove about an hour and twenty minutes east to the Wilds. It’s an endangered animal breeding and research center, and visitors get to ride around the pastures in buses and get close to all kinds of large mammals, my favorites being the three-ton white rhinos and the Bactrian deer. They could use some space for tortoises, of course (no one’s perfect), but to their credit they are trying to study herp diversity at the site – we were warned not to disturb any sheets of metal we might see on the ground because they’re part of a reptile sampling study.

On Sunday we drove out to New Albany for the shower. New Albany used to be a small, unremarkable farming town outside Columbus. About ten years ago, though, Les Wexner, the insanely wealthy founder of the Limited clothing stores, decided to start a housing development there. New Albany is now home to golf courses and huge, Georgian-style houses. Our friends who were throwing the shower live in one of these, and after a lovely brunch (during which I chilled in the basement with the other few men there) and gift opening session, Jen walked out to the back yard to make a cell phone call. She came back in to report a frog in the back yard. I perked right up and ran out to look.

I could have mistaken it for a statue – an excellent representation of a green frog (Rana clamitans melanota), with stripes on the legs, and the back and front painted maybe a touch too bright a green.

The back yard of our friends' house is as much garden as grass, and in the middle of a patio area just behind the house is a small fish pond. In the middle of the pond is a pyramid-shaped island with a fountain in the middle. The frog was sitting at the edge of the island in the middle. Jen swore she had seen it breathe, so I circled the pond to get a better look at it. A flash of movement and a splash signaled something jumping from the plants next to the pond into the water, but the frog on the island stayed still. I leaned in closer, but it still did not move. Finally, I took off my sandals and started to swing a leg over into the pond, and it jumped. For a few seconds I was satisfied with myself for making it move. I realized, though, that I had just blown a chance to take a good photo of a frog in an unlikely location.

Anyhow, the moral of the story is that herps can be anywhere. Even if you’re out in the suburbs and stuck at a party with twenty five of your mom’s friends and stacks of new kitchen implements that you have no clue how to transport home to Philadelphia, you should keep your eyes open and your camera handy.