Summer nights and bullfrog serenades

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The cancellations of summer camps this year has me feeling very nostalgic. While we had planned for a variety of camps for our four kids, the slate was wiped clean when every single camp was canceled.

The highlight of my summer from the ages of 11 to 18 was my week spent at church camp. Early morning polar plunges in the chilly pool, morning devotions, cookouts, the craft cabin, campfire songs and evening vespers collectively made up the pinnacle week of my summer break.

I loved it so much that I went back to work there after I graduated. The girls’ cabins and the staff building were located around Lake Snoopy. Long after “lights out” and whispered chats were silenced, the bullfrogs on the lake continued to fill the night air with echoing croaks. In the morning after breakfast, campers joined together singing in a round, “Hear the lively song, Of the frogs in yonder pond. Crick, crick, cricket-crick, Burr-ump!”

Missing the bullfrogs

I didn’t realize how much I enjoyed listening to the bullfrogs at night until I returned to college in August. I can remember trying to fall asleep listening to trucks rumble down State Street in Alliance instead of hearing the soothing sounds of aquatic life. As is true in other areas of life, I didn’t realize how much I loved those bellowing sounds until they were gone.

I may have mentioned once or twice to my boys that I really wanted bullfrogs for our small pond behind our house. Our pond was once used for raising minnows to take to the larger lake. The pond isn’t pretty to look at unless it’s winter and time for hockey. Tree frogs love the pond in the spring, but what it really needed was a few bullfrogs to serenade me in the summer.

Because we don’t use chemicals or an aerator, the pond is very suitable for a few bullfrogs. Also, it is shallow and has a large amount of plants along the perimeter. The challenge for me was catching the frogs. My two boys and their cousin very eagerly accepted the challenge.

The mission

“Operation Bullfrog” was scheduled for late at night under the cover of darkness. The plan called for a sneak attack. Our gear included headlamps, flashlights, five gallon buckets and a net.

One person needed to scan the pond scum with a flashlight to locate the well camouflaged bullfrogs. Their green and brown skin enables them to hide from predators and proved effective for hiding during special ops like our mission. Once the flashlight beam located the bullfrog and stopped, another person needed to lunge with a net and then grab the unsuspecting bullfrog.

There were too many captains and not enough cadets. Many orders were shouted; many frogs were missed. The disturbed pond scum reeked worse than dead fish. Flashlights were zooming and nets were flying. I could hear water splashing and the sound of sandals being sucked into muck.

Success

Somehow Operation Bullfrog was complete with the capture of five bullfrogs. We had a brief discussion about whether or not we captured males or females. The females are a little bigger than the males, but the males make the loud bellows I like to hear.

One other visual difference is the size of their tympanic membranes. Males have a large tympanic membrane that covers their ears, while females have smaller tympanic membranes that are about the size of their eyes.

Another clue to determine if the bullfrog is male or female is the color under its chin. The coloring of a male is yellow in contrast to the females brighter white coloration. However, this was a difficult distinction to make at night with our flashlights. The lunging, yelling, and splashing was counterproductive to scientific observations.

After the ruckus, I needed some time around a campfire to unwind. I tried unsuccessfully to get my rambunctious captains to quietly sing Kumbaya My Lord. Instead of Operation Bullfrog, I think next time I will lead evening vespers.

My new army of croakers at home in the pond will certainly have to be loud to compete with my crew. For now, I am satisfied with my new pond inhabitants and eagerly look forward to the return of summer camp in 2021.

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