Camping in Kansas

This weekend, the other half and I celebrated the birthday of one of his close friends by going pseudo-camping. Pseudo-camping meant that we all got to stay in a heated cabin with convenient access to the football channels for those who were so inclined. For the rest of us, there was plenty of lawn, so it was easy to convince someone to teach us to play Bocce ball.

The other cool feature of our camping site was a pond. Not a very big pond, but it supported a thriving population of tiny fingerling fish.

Unfortunately for these fish, they were stuck in a very tiny pond with no cover and no outlet, which meant they were buffet food for all kinds of fun things like ginormous bullfrogs.

Unfortunately, these were smart buggers, too. I saw the first one dart off, and thinking it was a turtle or snake (remember, I’m not known for my common sense), I ran over to the pond and found my nemesis. Why was he my nemesis, you ask? Because if it tells you anything, none of the pictures on here are from him. He was a good 2 inches larger than any other frog that I saw at this pond, so it’s not like my camera couldn’t focus on him. He was just quicker than the shutter.

Even though we’ve seen bullfrogs before, we have to have a picture for it to go on the life list, so this was the perfect opportunity. I got the camera, slowly inched closer to him… Then my camera beeped, and he was gone. I waited a few minutes for him to return, then decided to check out another area of the pond. What did I find, but he was waiting there watching me, the cad.

So I got smart. I thought my shadow was a problem, so I lined up with a pole that cast a shadow, then snuck closer and closer… I snapped a single, far away shot of him, just in case the other half didn’t believe that there were evil mastermind frogs at the camp. Then, I was at the pole. I slowly inched around the camera (which was by now silenced) and pressed the button. As he turned around and darted off.

By this point, I was determined to get a bullfrog picture, so I walked to the other side of the pond. Have you ever wondered what synchronised bullfrog swimming would sound like? They were all lined up in a row on the side of the pond, and, one by one, they jumped into it with a cacaphonic splash. All I heard as I walked up was *splash, splash, croak, splash, croak*. I did finally get pictures, though!

Fun bullfrog fact: you can tell males and females apart from the size of their tympanic membrane. Amphibians and reptiles don’t have external ears; instead, they basically just have an ear drum on the outside of their head. On bullfrogs, males will have tympanic membranes larger than the size of their eyes, while females will have tympanic membranes the same size as their eyes. Perhaps it’s so they don’t have to keep hearing one-liners from all the males every summer…

Unfortunately, in my campaign to find bullfrogs, I scared the pants off a little killdeer that didn’t see me hiding around the corner while it was getting a drink.

See, he doesn’t have pants on anymore.

On the subject of birds, who recognizes this from fourth grade biology?

Did you say owl pellets? Yes! It even had little vole bones in it.

Aren’t they cute? We didn’t get to see the owl, though we did get to find something else unique.

One of our buddies came running in to the cabin with a tibia, so we had to go find where he’d found it. The area was actually used to clean deer last year, after which the skeletons were left to the elements. Yes, I know, the bone in the picture isn’t a tibia, but it is the first vertebra (also called the atlas) of a deer.

We also found some tracks that initially looked like bobcat (or exceedingly large domestic cat) prints before we saw the claws.

The significance of these tracks is that between the time of the property owners getting up in the morning and us walking out there, a skunk walked out of the woods and over to the front door of our cabin. While I think it’s totally awesome to see his tracks, I am also well aware of the risk of rabies and cat fleas from skunks, so I was glad we didn’t actually see him.

One final note: it doesn’t take much to miss what’s under your nose. While I was looking for bullfrogs, the other half was following tiny chorus frogs around the pond.

These little dudes are only an inch long and are very well camouflaged. They are also responsible for some really fun calls. If you’d like an adventure, try listening to a cajun chorus frog.

Even though the trip was only over the weekend, it was well worth it just to get together with so many friends we hadn’t seen in a while. And it’s a good reminder that no matter how hectic my schedule may seem, taking time to smell the… err.. bullfrogs is always worth the experience.


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