I battled into a strong south-west wind, rain spitting in my face, feet slithering across the saturated, bitten-down grass. The hills were only vague outlines through the sweeping drizzle. It wasn’t much fun and there was precious little to see, except one striking feature: frogs.
It is that brief interlude in the year when they congregate to mate and spawn, and they are doing just that everywhere, including places that appear quite unsuitable. In one small stream, no more than a shallow runnel really, half a dozen of them row frantically upstream as I approach, the water barely covering their backs. One, still absurdly visible, hides its forequarters under a fig-leaf of water-weed. It seems the urge to mate and spawn has temporarily trumped the survival drive and left them hopelessly exposed. Overall perhaps this is a better gamble for the species.
In another roadside ditch a great mass of spawn is heaving like muscular mucus from the frantic activity underneath. So much effort going into producing spawn that will dessicate and die if the water levels drop in the next few weeks. But still there are plenty more of them. At a field pond a bit further on I hear the vibrant purring of dozens of frogs; the water is broiling with their sumo grappling.They seem oblivious of my presence until I take a step too close, then the sound stops as abruptly as a power cut; we hold our collective breath. They don’t strike up again until I am a full 40 meters away.
Arriving home there is a heron on our pond in the garden; an every day stalker at this season. It is knee deep, stock still and as taut as a weapon. With up to 300 frogs in the pond it is probably worth its wait to see who blinks first. This time, quite irrationally, I shout out ‘You leave my frogs alone’ and the bird lumbers into flight, shitting a retort as it goes. ‘My’ frogs indeed, who do I think I am to interfere? It doesn’t matter, the heron will be back in half an hour when I am skewered by my computer screen.