This column, That Nature Show, is about the nature right under your nose: in our backyards, playgrounds and parks! Stop and look around, you’ll be amazed at what surrounds you.
My son’s birthday is March 20, the vernal equinox, and in his ego-centric nine-year-old way he thinks he has something to do with the return of the frogs. “We always start to see tadpoles right after my birthday, Mom.”
He’s not wrong. I’ve been making it my practice every day to hike, or at any rate walk, slow walk, a trail (outside! in Nature!) now that the weather is becoming less iglooish. I’ve been doing this for a few years now as a spring tonic, to get the blood flowing to the old noggin, and to release myself from my winter torpor in which I am much like a irritable honeybadger. Call me when it’s above 70 and sunny. Otherwise, don’t call me.
At the end of March I start seeing evidence. Eggs. Black and about as big as papaya seeds for the bullfrogs, curled in loop de loops of mucus in the tire ruts of the McDonogh cross country trail behind the horse barn. Did you catch the word mucus in that sentence? My son did.
“Gross and cool, Mom!” “Let’s go gather some in a bucket.”
Last year we successfully raised two bull frogs from eggs, by which you should understand that most of the eggs we collected croaked. We transferred the survivor tadpoles from the bucket to an aquarium where they scooted around adorably, eating the kale I whizzed in the blender for them, and we watched their miraculous transformation. Except when they didn’t. We learned that tadpoles eat the carcasses of their comrades.
But two of them lived and lost their tails and grew the correct number of legs and so we released them back into The Wild. My son and I did a huge high five. I got a little misty and I swore I heard strains of the song Born Free.