Friday, July 25, 2014

"Urban Herpin'" or "You can take the frog out of the city..."

Editor's note: I GOTS A NEW PHONE!!!!!!!!! FINALLY!!!!!!!!!! Samsung Galaxy S4...I know, it's not the S5, but fuck you. It's better than my 3 megapixel Conquer. So this means better pictures. Suck it.

I've totally slacked off with my herping responsibilities this year so far. I haven't gone out since turkey season in early May, so I've totally blown it more than usual. With that being said, I decided to really make an attempt to get out and see some stuff one way or another. I really have no excuse for the matter, as even living in South Philly, I have the perfect herping location blocks away from my house: Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park. You know, that park directly across from the sports complexes and stadiums. AKA to all the locals as "The Lakes"...'cause it has a bunch of big lakes in it. Duh.

A friend from work, who we'll call Apple (as she insisted upon it), wanted to hang out one evening. Who am I to deny someone my awesome presence and quality me-time?? She however made a great suggestion: let's take a walk somewhere; we'd been sitting in the office all day. I agreed, but then the little lightbulb in my head went off...a rarity, I know. I thought it'd be the perfect opportunity to get some herping in. Lil' Apple asked to go to a park, so of course I suggested FDR. She had no idea where or what it was, despite me explaining where it was, and despite the fact that she'd been down to the sports complexes before...and despite the fact that she Google'd it too. I assured her it'd be a good time (not telling her my master plan to look for critters), picked her up, and drove to The Lakes. We parked in one of the lots towards the west end and began walking around on the paved paths surrounding the lakes. Thankfully, parking was free, as there was a Phillies game going on, and usually they'll charge to park there and walk down the street to Citizens Bank Park. But the Phillies suck balls this season, so we were spared from paying $25 to walk around in a big circle and get bit by mosquitoes.

We parked and began to walk around the various lakes. I would venture closer to the water's edge every time there was a decent opening, hoping to either kick up some frogs or see a turtle or two on a branch in the water. After striking out a few times, we did manage to see two people rolling around making out, spooning and/or forking in a blanket in the grass. That was fun to see. Those two should be required by state law to keep their clothes on at all times, especially in public. Tuck your shirt in next time, in the least.

Other than those two wild animals wrestling in the grass, nothing was to be seen except for bird and squirrels, and few misplaced hipsters barbecuing at a picnic area. We made it around to one of my favorite lakes: Meadow Lake (yes, the lakes in The Lakes actually have names). This lake is a little secluded/removed from the beaten path, as you have to walk from the main road onto an offshoot sidewalk to get to a trail that circles the lake. This time of year, it's ridiculously overgrown. Apple was not happy about walking through the jungle of shrubbery overtaking the nature trail. She also asked if there were snakes about, to which I responded "Of course there are." Somehow, I convinced her come take a look around the lake by piggy-backing her through the thick stuff until we hit a point on the trail where it was a little more open. The ride was magical...for her, that is. This was the place I had released a dozen bullfrogs 2 years ago. This EXACT spot. It was pretty thick and overgrown, and I didn't want to trudge in closer to the water in sneakers, but I still saw no signs of anything. I snapped this picture:

Duckweed + algae = beauty
Apple proclaimed "Okay, it's pretty, now let's go" very promptly after I took the picture. Then she saw the sunset and decided she wanted to stay. That, or she has the attention span of a gypsy moth. She commanded that I "take a picture of the pretty sunset." It was pretty. I obliged with this stunning shot.

And when I didn't actually get the sun in the shot, I got yelled at to do so. Apple's so nice.

Are you happy now?!?!
I was disappointed: no frogs or turtles. This lake (almost) always has painted turtles basking on the logs and branches. Today was not one of those "always" days, apparently. We ventured around the lake as Apple got more relaxed being in the "outdoors"...until she heard something in the bushes and screamed. It was most likely one of the many stray cats that live near the service areas, but she was convinced it was a giant Apple-eating monster. She almost ran me over to get away from it. At a point, she was technically up my butt. 

After I removed her from my derriere, I showed her a sign for the park's restoration project. Basically: them trying to make the lake less shitty and promote the return of natural wildlife to the park and lakes.

And here's a bunch of shit you'll never see here: nature!

I was dead sure we'd see some painteds and some greenies, but the pond barely looked like it had anything in it other than duckweed and algae (which Apple called "seaweed". She's smart, too.) We walked around to where the trees closed in around the path and it got considerably dimmer as the sun was setting. I went to a spot that "always" has a few green frogs hanging around. Usually when I approach, they all jump in screeching like little frog maniacs. Yet this time, the sound of silence...

Apple was getting afraid of gnats and lightning bugs ("fireflies" to all you non-South Philadelphians)...even though she wanted to catch one, just not with her hands. She ran out into an opening in the woods to a field that would lead back towards the street/paths. I ventured forth to a spot where I've taken pictures of bullfrogs before. And lo! there was one (perhaps the same one) I've photographed before. He was a decent-sized specimen

"Daaaaammmmmmnnnn, look at all dis seaweed!!"
I didn't want to get too close as not to scare the one herp I saw that day, so I snapped this amazing shot with my awesome new S4 and called for Apple. No answer. I went back and she was running away from lightning bugs in circles in the field. I told her to follow me to see the bullfrog. Reluctantly she did. She was surprisingly pleased with the find, and started asking questions about it, all inquisitive-like. Like, what kind of frog, how do you know, are you sure, why don't my parents accept my life choices, etc. 

As we conversed about how she didn't trust in my species identification and judgement, the bullfrog jumped in and turned around. He'd either jumped in to eat something, or was totally spacing out and finally realized we were there and scared half to death.

"Duuuude...I was like, hearing colors and stuff, then like, they just appeared out of NO WHERE, MAN!"

I attempted to get closer to get a better picture. I almost slipped in, since the lake at least partially man-made with cement surrounding the bank. That gotta a giggle out of Apple, and scared my bullfrog in, and that was that. We left Meadow Lake and walked all the way around close to where we started. We people watched and made inappropriate conversation until the next big/main lake. I once again was instructed to take purdy landscape shots. 

A purdy landscape.
As I walked over, I looked at bubbles coming up from the shallows. Most likely turtles, but no way to know what kind, or if they were turtles for sure. I did happen upon a green frog sitting farther away from where I could get a better shot. My zoom only goes so far.

Apple came down behind me and asked what I had found. Again, she questioned why I knew it was a green frog. I explained in the absolute nicest way possible that I JUST FUCKING KNEW...and that he'd jumped in and made then familiar and unmistakable green frog screech as he high-tailed away from me.

Apple commanded ever-so politely for me to take an artistic picture of her. As she spouted orders at me on what to do, I actually took a decent one.

We walked around back to the car, mildly satisfied with my finds of the evening. I was really hoping for a wee bit more, but beggars can't be choosers. I kicked up two more greens as I hit the last spot around the lake before we left. The night ended with ice cream. ICE CREAM!!!!

Not a bad impromptu evening for herping in the city.

Monday 7/21 count:

bullfrog: 1
green frog: 2

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