Sunday, March 8, 2015

JSU Frog Pond

The first Saturday in March, April and May, Dr. Cline from Jacksonville State heads out to the Frog Pond from 6-8 pm and wades around in the water fishing out critters while curious folks pay $5 to stand on the wooden dock and look at and occasionally poke at them.  As soon as the event was posted, we signed up.  Well, Katy signed us up!  She's been the impetus behind almost everything I have actually gotten out and done the last month at least.  And on into the future as she picked our campsites for 2 upcoming trips, thanks, Katy!  :)

We arrived really early because I can never remember how far away the pond is.  We went here last on Mother's Day several years back and then again 2 years ago with Suzette while checking out a campground in the area.  At any rate, it's just over 2 hours.  Not nearly 3.  So with 45 minutes to spare, we wandered around a little while and Maggie (Katy's sister) showed up, I was charmed by darling tiny Lucky and we all chatted a while.  Lucky had a chameleon bubble wand and proceeded to blow bubbles until even I felt faint.  She's just turned 3, but since she was about 6 months old, she's been talking in complete and very complex sentences and is so freaking cute.  She looks like a fairy child with her long blonde hair and serious eyes.  When she was about 18 months old, she explained to me about her dog (also named Esther) who had undergone surgery for hemotoma in her ears.

Anyway, more and more folks showed up and Katy finally dragged in as we were headed to the pond. Now the pond is 1/8 of a mile south of White Plains Elementary School and 1/4 of a mile down Joseph Springs Motorway, which is a gravel and mud road that winds off up a mountain in the distance.  It runs to the Pinhoti in about 10 more miles.  You park in a tiny muddy gravel lot and walk down a solid mud road for about 200 yards until you reach the pond.  The woods around the pond have been clearcut recently, making it even muddier and it's ALL middle Alabama pine and red clay. If you have never walked in Alabama red clay, it's slick, sticky and the color NEVER comes out of light clothing.  By the time we got to the pond, everyone was 2 inches taller and slipping around standing still.

On the night before "Spring Forward" day, it was full dark by about 6:15, luckily I had a flashlight in my bag and Matt had actually thought ahead and brought his, too.  It never occurred to me!  Ben quickly took over mine and I floundered in the dark the rest of the night.  Oh well.

It was really dark!
We stood on this decking and Dr. Cline dipped into the pond and pulled out a huge assortment of things, considering it was early March and there had been an ice storm 2 days earlier.

Pinchy little waterboatmen, fairy shrimp, newts and salamanders, eggs galore (viable and dead) and a helgramite.

Alex and Ben spotted this glob of eggs, so he waded over and picked them up!

Salamander embryo!

The salamander mom would be 5-6 inches long and she made this glob of protective snot gel to encase the eggs from her tiny body.

He told us about a strand of toad eggs that went from one end of a football field and back again to nearly the middle-130 yards long!!  From ONE toad.


More eggs gobs:

Helgramite baby.
He's showing how long the adult fly (Dobson fly) will be.
The babies bite, the adults don't.

The boys spot another glob of eggs!

Their little noggins popped out over the ledge to watch, so sweet.
(I say little but Ben's head is a good bit bigger than mine!)

Poking the mass!

After about an hour, some folks started leaving as it was COLD.  We hung around until the end, mainly because Ben had my flashlight and he and Matt and several others in our group had headed out to skirt the edge of the pond and look at more stuff.

We heard chorus frogs, peepers and geese. We saw a couple bats!

We did not see any frogs at all, just salamanders and newts, but we could hear them quite well.  The chorus frogs are at the end of their mating cycle, they start around Thanksgiving.  I can't imagine being a frog and having to be amorous in ice water!  ACK.  And they are tiny frogs, too.  It seems like they would freeze solid in just a few minutes out there in the winter.  It's amazing.

After the talk, we slogged back and tried to get some of the mud off our feet! My pants were covered in mud, it looked like I had slid into first base, though I was upright the whole night.

We headed to get some dinner all together and ended up at Baja California in Jacksonville, which was HUGE and they had a big table just waiting.  We splurged on cheese dip (love it!) and had flautas, netting probably around 1200 calories to counteract the 2 hours of shivering we just endured.

It was well worth the drive and the shivering, science is the best!