Monday, July 07, 2008

‘Centennial Lakes’ has a nice ring to it. Once upon a time (In 1876 - dig the part about lakes being created in this 1875 NT Times article, first paragraph, line 21) these were beautiful human-made ponds surrounded by one of the nation’s largest and most elegantly landscaped public parks. Unfortunately both Fairmont Park West and the Lakes are not what they used to be. I figure their water levels (and inversely their exposed muck) rise and fall with our precipitation, but both ponds are littered with trash and ringed with dead fish that have drifted to the muddy fringes.

So, why on earth would I want to invite Vivianne and five nature-hungry boys to visit the Centennial Lakes? Jen asked me that question, and I asked myself that too on Thursday (July 3rd). After work we met Vivianne and her posse near the northwest corner of Belmont and South Concourse on a frogging mission.

Frogs were actually what moved me to suggest the Centennial Lakes, because whatever they lack in beauty, cleanliness, biodiversity, or fragrance they make up for with bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana), lots and lots of enormous bullfrogs.

Jen and I stopped by last summer and were surprised by the frog abundance. I thought to myself, "those boys would love all these frogs." The big difference was the weather. Last week's visit fell at the end of a long dry spell in Philly, and last year's must have been at a wetter moment.

I can’t say it was a total flop. After some early grousing by the boys, Jen spotted a frog just as it splashed away into deeper water. Her shouts perked up our junior herpers, and pretty soon they were stalking around the edges, watching their own frogs get away. I can’t say it was my best guided urban herping trip ever, but the complaints stopped after everyone had seen at least a couple frogs.

On a side note, those ponds are just crying out for snapping turtles. They’ve got fish that float belly up in the dry, low-water heat of the summer, they’ve got lots of Canada geese and goslings, and they’ve got scads of enormous water snails. Scott and Simon convinced me not to carry out my own re-introduction project (illegal, possibly doomed to failure), but I can’t say it isn’t powerfully tempting.