This has been the summer of frogs. This little tree frog was outside the window last night. Through its translucent skin, its heart rate could be seen as easily as the joints in its toes. On the veranda, two other tree frogs were hunting moths. When a dung beetle flew in, it was grabbed so fast I never saw the mouth of the frog open. But I did see the beetle dragged, its leg clamped in the frog's mouth, and the frog backing into the shadows. Was the beetle et? That will remain a mystery. The beetle was almost as large as the frog, whose eyes, being a frog's, were almost as large as its stomach. The gulp, with the frog's eyes pushing down the beetle—if this is, in fact, a frog whose eyes retract—would have been quite a sight.
Robert P. Levine, Jenna A. Monroy, and Elizabeth L. Brainerd must have many happy hours in their lives, due to their dedicated observations. They are the authors of "Contribution of eye retraction to swallowing performance in the northern leopard frog, Rana pipiens", in The Journal of Experimental Biology, March 15, 2004.
As to species, this is the best part of nature for amateurs like me. It gives us great excuses to buy guide books; and no matter how many we have, they are never enough. I can tell you with assurance that the frog above is not a Peron's tree frog, whose belly is merely 'smooth'. And I think that the two hunters on the veranda were Tyler's tree frogs, the larger one with the aspirational appetite being the female, and the small thin one the colour of a cucumber that is left too long and gone yellow, being the male in "breeding colouration". I hope I'm right, partly because their other name is Southern Laughing Tree Frog. The thing is, if this is true, then the female has been visiting on her own for weeks, pretending to be a Peron's.
But if only you could have been with me a day ago, when we both could not have seen but heard — a pobblebonk. Like some people, you don't have to see a pobblebonk to know it's unmistakably there. But a pobblebonk is a treat to hear.
And I highly recommend this dramatic feast for all toad lovers. This is one of my favourite passages in literature, so much so that I've made it a feature in my Virtuous Medlar Circle amongst the classics to enjoy rather than think you should have read:
Martha, Jane, and Babbette, a true story from A Farmer's Year by H. Rider Haggard