It was frog time at Lightwood earlier this month, which has become an annual highlight. I must confess I had to use a little chicanery to lure them from the depths, playing a little recorded frog song courtesy of the British Library. (I paid the price for cheating: I dropped my phone in the water!)
Slowly the males surfaced from the depths where they had previously taken fright. Gradually they filled in all around me until there were about 60 at any one sweep of the pond. Within short order their love lifes were proceeding as if I wasn’t there at all. Being able to get close, albeit in very low water temperatures that took a toll on my circulation (the frogs even permitted me to get out and back into the pond to raise my core temperature and, incidentally, how they manage to retain their ardour in such conditions is a source of amazement and deep respect) I found completely wonderful.
There are two parts to these frog encounters which are equally fulfilling. There is the endless pattern of their behaviour – the singing, the social interactions, the spawn mass, the timings, their coming and goings to the breeding ponds, the different colour morphs etc. The other great delight is their visual impact. Frogs have viscuous secretions that they discharge from their skin, which is partly a defence against predators, but their visual impact is revealed here. Frogs seem coated in a semi-permanent glistening sheen that extends over their exposed above-suface parts. The weak spring light then bounces off the water and off the frogs themselves creating exquisite refracted patterns that blend the beast to its environment perfectly. I find the whole thing magical.