|Beaver Marsh Bullfrog|
I used to love visiting my dad's office in the basement of the Science Building at NCCU. I was just a little boy, maybe eight or nine when I saw something there I had never seen before. It was a whole box of live frogs. They had just arrived from Carolina Biological Supply. The box, full of round air holes, was still sealed but I could hear them scrambling around inside.
I could not wait for that box to be opened. I can't be sure what kind of frogs they were. Maybe small bullfrogs, maybe leopard or green frogs. I just know they were mostly green and brown and not very large. There must have been twenty or more of them in the box. A few were dead. That made me sad for two reasons. First of all I didn't like to see animals suffer and die. Second, the chances that I might get to keep one of them as a pet diminished with every dead body in the box. The others seemed to be doing well. Some seemed to be thriving. Dad put the box on a table near a refrigerator he kept in the lab next to his office. That cold place was going to be their new home. He pulled out one of the vegetable drawers, filled it with some damp wood shavings and put all of the living frogs in the drawer. He said the cold and dark would slow them down and keep them from eating each other. Then I understood why some of them looked so big and robust. He wrapped the dead ones in wax paper and put them in the freezer. All of them were destined for dissection and temporary preservation in formaldehyde. I still remember the smells of the lab.
I didn't know it at the time but my own turn with the frogs would come a few years later when I got to Mr Davis' biology class at Hillside High School. Yes, we did the whole drill of pithing, pinning and dissecting. I'll spare you the details but you probably know anyway.
Swim Like a Frog
Johnny McLendon, son of the famous NCCU basketball coach, John B. McLendon, and I were sitting on the sidewalk in front of my house playing with a frog we had caught earlier that day. We had him in a tub of water from which there was no escape. All he could do was swim around as we amused ourselves by making waves in the water and occasionally putting him on the ground so we could catch him again. I know now that it was no way to treat anything but that is who we were at ten.
Johnny's dad happened by on his way to work at the gymnasium. He stopped to see what mischief we were up to. This time we were innocent. Then, the coach and teacher that he was, recognized a teachable moment. He asked if we noticed how the frog swam with just his legs. He called attention to the webbed feet that looked like swim fins. He pointed out how long he could glide in the water by keeping his arms by his side and his legs straight behind.. It was the "frog kick." "People can swim like that," he told us. "Come on down to the pool this afternoon and I'll show you. You can swim just like that frog."
|A Long Time Ago|
Ms Glenn's eight grade science room at Whitted School always had at least one aquarium. I remember especially the angel fish that she kept. I always thought they moved very stiffly despite their very graceful appearance. I can say that for my money they were not graceful at all. They just never seemed to really glide. But compared to the bumbling bullfrog tadpoles that she kept in the same tank, angel fish were ballerinas extraordinaire. I think that in the aquatic world there are no clumsier critters than bullfrog tadpoles. They waddled to swim and seemed to bump into everything in the tank. Their tiny mouths pouting in front of those enormous heads constantly nibbled at some unseen algae film. What was remarkable about them, or so it seemed at the time, is that they never grew up. My memory may be tricking me but I could swear Ms Glenn had those same three tadpoles in that tank for a whole year or more. Sure, they developed those little tadpole legs but they never became frogs. It remains one of the mysteries of my childhood.
Those bullfrog tadpoles were so much different from the tiny black toad tadpoles I used to catch. They would thrive on fish food, become tiny toads in a few weeks, climb up on the rocks I provided, and inevitably escape only to be found dried up and dead and full of dust somewhere on the floor of my bedroom.
So there is some history with me, frogs, and toads. They don't have the same place in my heart as turtles but they are pretty high up there.
The Beaver Marsh Bullfrogs
Wander along the edge of the Beaver Marsh Preserve in Durham, NC and one will always hear some scampering and splashing as small frogs leap into the water to safety. Sometimes the splashes seem especially loud meaning you have disturbed one of the local bullfrogs. They almost always see you before you see them. It is no doubt how they avoid becoming meals for herons, snakes, and even raccoons who also frequent the edges of the marsh.
|Into the Secret Life of Frogs|
|A Camera Sniper's View|
|If it Fits, Eat it.|
Over the Summer the area became more and more impenetrable as the vines and shrubs thickened. My visits became less frequent as I became less willing to navigate the terrain. Now it is even more difficult because of a new fence around the culvert. Nevertheless, it remains one of my favorite places to check on when I visit the marsh. It still holds mysteries to solve and stories to tell. There will be more to come.
In the meantime Here is a little slide show of some my images of bullfrogs of the beaver marsh. It will open in another window on your browser. I hope you enjoy them as much as I enjoyed capturing them.