Chubby Little Frog, Skinny Little Window

It was the second day in March and a steady wind was blowing out of the south. Up to this point spring had not put in any appearance, with temperatures twenty degrees colder than normal for this time of year. Here at last was a window of opportunity to look for a little frog that spends much of its life tucked out of sight.

The winds were strong enough that I burned an extra quarter tank of gas driving down to the bottom of the state. Close to sunset I met up with Scott Albert and Mike Steffen at a local gas n' grab.  Scott and Mike are third year students at SIU, and they get a lot of field herping done in the southern part of Illinois.  "The frogs are already calling," said Scott. That sounded promising.

We headed out into the surrounding farmland and pulled over next to an uncultivated field. I could hear spring peepers calling, and something else, a little lower in pitch; there was water out there somewhere.  Scott and Mike pulled on waders and I put on my rubber boots, hoping the pond wouldn't be too deep. I like my rubber boots, but I could see the advantage waders provided even in shallow water - one can kneel and take photographs without getting soaked in chilly spring water.

We waded out into more of a small pool than a pond, with tall grasses scattered throughout. The peepers continued their chorus, but there was still enough light for them to hush at our approach. It was tough to spot the little frogs in all the clumps of vegetation. Off in the distance we could hear the squawky chuckle of leopard frogs at another pond....The light continued to fade, and finally it was dark enough for the frogs to stop noticing us so much. The peepers were deafening, and underneath them another frog was sounding off with increasing frequency. This was the frog we had come to see. Now all we needed to do was see one.  We moved slowly, shining our lights at the clumps of vegetation.

I spotted a chubby little frog, standing almost upright in the middle of a grass clump. "I think I've got one here!' I said.  "Congratulations, Mike," said Scott.  "There's your first Illinois Chorus Frog."


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