A rainy night in Georgia...the clouds are passing over quickly as they blot out the half moon and stars. Then the rain slows, stops...time for a frog walk. Time to get out and see what's shaking in the night-time world.
We're at Stephen Foster State Park, in southern Georgia and surrounded on three sides by the Okefenokee Swamp. All the other campers are still huddled in their tents and campers as we head out, walking down the single access road leading out of the park.
Under the last street light at the gate, the tarmac is spotted with small dark lumps. On closer inspection the lumps turn into Southern Toads, out to catch a meal from the insects attracted to the light.
Also in attendance are Southern Leopard Frogs, young ones, very small with an overly large eye. Are these last year's progeny? Probably so, it seems a bit early to get tadpoles up to froglet size, even here in the south.
Off to the sides we can hear the sharp gick-gick-gick of Florida Cricket Frogs, and sure enough, a few start turning up on the road. My pants are now soaked through at the knees from kneeling to photograph the amphibians we've found so far.
It starts to rain again, just a sprinkle, but enough to trigger action among the anurans on the road. They disappear, leaving the asphalt and into the weedy margins alongside the road. A few minutes later the rain ceases, and the frogs and toads return to the road again. What is it about the rain that drives them off the road?
As we slowly walk away from the campground, a new frog shows up among the others, the Pine Woods Treefrog. First one, then another, then a half dozen. It's a femoralis hot-spot. A Barred Owl calls in the distance; another even further away answers. Somewhere a mole cricket starts up with a trill that is very toad-like.
Time to turn back - we have a big day of canoeing in the morning. Here's a surprise - a Rabid Wolf Spider caught in my headlamp's beam. It's a mother, and her babies, her little spiderlings, are all clustered on her back for a ride. Where is she taking them, on a rainy night?
Eastern Narrowmouth Toads begin showing up in small numbers. We don't hear any Gastrophryne calling, however; their nasal, snore-like call is unmistakable.
Getting back close to the main gate and my eye catches a tiny frog near the road's edge. It's a Little Grass Frog, and I'm happy to see one - they are the smallest native frog in the United States, around a half-inch in length. They're much easier to spot at night on a dark road, away from the vegetation.
Time to head for bed. It was a pretty good end to the evening, and as we lay in our tents and drift into sleep, the little frogs and toads are out scuttling around in the dark, onto the road and elsewhere...
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