Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘amphibian

It-takes-two-toads-to-tango Tuesday

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‘Twas on Tuesday last that the previous afternoon’s rain had created a little pool in an otherwise still drought-dry tributary of Bull Creek that runs through Great Hills Park. I looked down at the shallow water and noticed a toad completely submerged. When the toad came out onto a dry portion of the creek bed, it revealed itself to be they, and in flagrante delicto, at that. Here’s what the Encyclopedia Britannica has to say on the subject: “In the sexual embrace, called amplexus, the male toad clasps the female from behind. The pair swims about as the female, swollen with eggs, selects a site for depositing them. As several thousand eggs are expelled from the female’s body in jelly-like strings, the male fertilizes them with sperm.” I saw no eggs, so perhaps things hadn’t gotten to that point yet.

I’m assuming this delictual duo was in fact toads, because when I searched online I found articles saying that frogs have smooth skin and toads have warty skin, which you can see these two certainly did. I also learned that toads move with short hops, rather than the long ones that frogs often take, and that also matched what I observed. Numerically minded me further found out that frogs and toads have four digits on their front feet but five on their hind feet. Wouldn’t they be more balanced if they had four and a half on each foot?

Photographically speaking, notice how the catchlight in the toads’ eyes mirrors the shape of the bulbs in my ring light flash. When processing the photograph I originally removed those reflections, but then the toads’ eyes seemed too dull, so upon further reflection I put the reflection back in.

Speaking of which, here’s a quotation for today, from Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Man:

Remembrance and reflection how allied!
What thin partitions sense from thought divide!”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 11, 2020 at 4:41 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Our water still remembers how to freeze

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With great anticipation I awaited the rain, sleet, and perhaps even snow predicted in central Texas for the night of January 15th into the morning of the 16th. I figured I’d finally get another shot at ice-encased plants like the ones from 2007 you’ve seen in the last two posts. The rain came right on time. The temperature promptly dropped below freezing and ended up staying there for a day and a half. Alas, the morning light on January 16th revealed that practically no ice had stuck to any vegetation. I decided to wait till the 17th to go out and see whether at least the prolonged cold would have produced some things for me to photograph. As I walked along the creek that runs through the southern part of Great Hills Park, the line that is the title of today’s post sprang into my mind.*

Both of the pictures included here from that day look straight down at places where the surface of the creek was turning to ice. The abstractness of the first image appeals to me. In the second photograph, notice the amphibian in the water beneath the ice. I was so intent on capturing patterns in the congealing surface of the creek that I didn’t see the animal till I looked at my pictures on the computer screen later, and even then it took me a while.



* I find the line has several virtues. The thought is poetic. The meter is iambic pentameter. As far as Google can tell, no one has ever written down that sequence of words. Thanks, mind, for the inspiration.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 19, 2018 at 4:50 AM

Not a kind of predation I expected

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Click for greater size and clarity.

On November 15th I drove down to San Marcos, a town about 40 miles south of where I live in Austin, to explore a place I’d discovered on the Internet, the Spring Lake Natural Area. Near the farthest place that I hiked to was a small pond, and on it what I took to be a small duck.* I switched to my longest lens, which I wished could have been longer, and took a few pictures. Then I walked a short distance past some cattails at the edge of the pond, and when I caught sight of the bird again a minute later it seemed to have something white in its mouth. A look through my lens revealed, to my surprise, that the white thing was a frog. Holding the frog in its beak, the bird tossed its own head back and forth, a movement that seemed intended to injure or kill the frog, though I didn’t understand why the bird would want to do that to an animal that I thought was too large for it to eat. After a while I couldn’t see the frog anymore, and I assumed it had either gotten loose or died, had swum or sunk beneath the water. Or maybe I was wrong and the bird had managed to swallow the frog after all.


* Commenters [see below] suggested that this isn’t a duck but a double-crested cormorant or a grebe. I did some research that provided evidence for this being a pied-billed grebe, Podilymbus podiceps. In The Birds of Texas, John L. Tveten writes: “A pied-billed grebe might be mistaken for a small duck, but the beak is like that of a chicken.” In photographs that I took of this bird without the frog in its mouth, the beak does look like a chicken’s rather than a duck’s. I even found a page online that shows pictures of a pied-billed grebe attempting to swallow and finally swallowing a large frog.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 21, 2012 at 6:20 AM

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