Thursday, October 23, 2014

It was a Cloudy Dark Night

     At times I reflect on my past experiences, and think about just how I got to where I am today. As I followed the bread crumb trail to the beginning of last summer, I enjoyed one particular night out on the marsh with a friend of mine.
     This was at a time when I needed a few pairs of mating Woodhouse's Toads to use their tadpoles for my research project. The best way to accomplish this task is to go out when these toads are calling and catch them. A friend of mine was also interested in taking a few pictures of these anurans and recording their calls.
     As I finished cleaning a few tanks in the garage at the lab, I could see his red blazer roll into a parking spot in the steady rain. He quickly grabbed his gear bag and jogged up to the wide open garage door to greet me with a "Hello Dilly!" And we began to speculate about the prospects of the night. It was about the right time of year, or so we thought, and a big rain was all we needed, or so we thought.
     While waiting for the sun to go to sleep, the rain storm progressively got thicker and thicker. Pretty soon tidal waves of rain water were rushing down the drive way to the lab, as the water cannons shooting from the down spouts of the gutters flattened grass seven feet out in front of them. We were absolutely giddy! "This kind of rain could make the explosive breeders come out!" "We might see some Spea bombifrons tonight!" "Plains toads too!"
     The rain decided to let up enough for use to dash to the field vehicle and only get mildly soaked, but we had planned on getting drenched in the field anyways. On our drive, my friend Josh narrated a few of his favorite stories from last year when he was out at the marsh filming the frog calls. We were like two kids psyching each other up to go fishing, after watching the Bassmaster Classic on a Saturday morning. We didn't care about anything else, because we were dead sure we were about to see boat loads of frogs and toads.

     Well, to cut right down to the lean cheese, we didn't see a single amphibian that whole night. We wondered through the rain and the marsh like those poor folks lost in the rainy night in that Jurassic Park movie. Only we didn't find a huge T-Rex footprint in the mud, and no dinosaurs came to eat us. But we did find a snapping turtle! This is pretty close to a dinosaur for some people. But what a beauty! She was up 50 meters from the waters edge, wandering across our travel. Of course we did our happy dances and took pictures with her. We're wildlife biology nerds; it's what we do :)
     But in the big picture, it was just a tad bit too early in the season to really find some frog calling action tonight. So goes the life of a field biologist who hasn't had time to develop a reliable field journal yet. But the learning part is a great deal of fun for me too, even if I only find one massive turtle at a time.