At least a less dim one

It has been a couple of weeks of things just not going quite right – not particularly bad, mind you, or at least not all of them, but very, very few things working out as intended, planned, foreseen, or whatever. Even things that I took great pains to try and prevent from going south, which is frustrating to no small degree (and I feel the need to point out that, in most of these cases, it was because I was counting on other people to have some modicum of competence, don’t ask me why.) July seems to have been a month of general goddammits.

Which is perhaps why today is At Least It’s Not All Cocked Up Day, the day when we look, maybe not on the bright side (because there isn’t necessarily one) but, well, see the title. You know, saying things like, “At least three of my tires aren’t flat,” or, “Hey, I lived to be older than Jimi Hendrix.” So in recognition of this (it doesn’t quite seem right to say, “celebration,”) I present a little something from last night that actually went as intended. Which, given the past few weeks, is a tad startling to me.

Here’s the backstory, even though it’s not Friday. I noticed a few weeks ago that one of the rainbarrels was hosting no small number of tadpoles, and not little ones either. For some reason, one of the Copes grey treefrogs (Hyla chrysoscelis) had elected to deposit her eggs in a barrel with rotten access rather than, oh, the freaking pond that sits a dozen meters away. Go figure. These are food-grade barrels, slick plastic sides with little spout-holes in one end, well away from the edges, to which I had added rectangular openings for flexible downspouts. This meant just one hole that would allow my hand to get into them with a small fishnet, and nothing else – no removable lids or anything, and at about 200 liters in capacity (that’s 50 gallons to typical ‘Murrkins,) they’re not getting dragged anyplace or even tipped to pour out of. So I fished out as many tadpoles as I could by hand, but knew there were at least a couple that had evaded my swoops with the net.

Thoughtfully, I took a length of bamboo and inserted it into the spout hole, thinking that if any tadpoles developed to the point of venturing out, they had something to climb to reach the outside world. And just last night, I had vindication that it had actually worked as intended.

Copes grey treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis escaping from rainbarrel on bamboo stalk
Overall length is probably about 20mm, soon to be much shorter as that tail vanishes. And I missed out on a nice juxtaposition, since when I first spotted this little guy, there was a grown adult on the very top of the bamboo, who failed to stick around while I fetched the camera and flash rig – shithead. There weren’t that many places for it to go in the immediate area, but it vanished entirely.

Meanwhile, I heard another calling not far away, and eventually determined from the peculiar echo-ey nature of the calls that it was within the downspout leading into another barrel, or the barrel itself – this is not the first time (nor the second or even the third) that this has happened, and I’m not sure why, really. Carefully removing the downspout revealed the frog floating in the barrel, the water level sitting several centimeters from the downspout and exit – whether it could have climbed the sides and overhanging top and gotten back out remains unanswered, because I fished it out by hand instead. It handled this with aplomb, despite looking far from pleased.

Copes grey treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis after a swim
I said before, I really need to replace at least this barrel with something more photogenic, because the brilliant blue just isn’t cutting it for natural backgrounds, and the frogs seem to prefer this one (though it wasn’t the one with the tadpoles.) While it is perhaps the easiest downspout to get into because it’s the shortest, they still have to enter it from the top, which is the gutter on the edge of the porch – I don’t know why they don’t stick to easier spots. It is entirely possible that if I understood the minds of frogs, a whole lot more of the world would make sense.

Or maybe not.

I brought a few buckets of water over from another barrel to raise the water level high enough to facilitate egress should it happen again, which is quite likely given the number of times it’s happened before, and the fact that my activity spurred the frog onto the porch supports, and then further up the very same downspout.

Copes grey treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis in comic-book action pose
I’m not sure if that’s a rude gesture from that thumb or not…

During our outing the other day, Buggato had asked me how my mantids were doing, and it occurred to me that I haven’t featured them for a bit. While they weren’t apparently doing anything last night, I spotted at least three of them, varying sizes but definitely getting a bit larger.

Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis perched under grasses
Unfortunately, the katydids seem to have gotten a big head start over the mantids and are, on average, much larger – so large that I saw one mantis actively avoid a katydid – but the size discrepancy is getting smaller and I’m hoping to get some video of a mantis chowing down on something substantial soon.

Chinese mantis Tenodera sinensis looking dapper
By the way, when I removed the tadpoles from the rainbarrel, they were all deposited in the backyard pond, which also plays host to three green frogs which I see on a regular basis. But I was keeping an eye on the pond to see signs of the tadpoles emerging. Despite finding several with hind legs and at least one with all four, I have seen no evidence of new emergents from the pond itself – until last night. Hidden deep in the scouring rush stalks (Equisetum hyemale) was a solitary frogpole, looking like little more than a blob of mud on the plant stem, but proof that at least one had left the water.

Copes grey treefrog Hyla chrysoscelis tadpole recently emerged from the water
If you want an indication of scale, those brown spears in the lower right corner are pine needles, otherwise known as pine straw.

By this point, the batteries on the flash unit were starting to peg out and my spares weren’t any good either. This was a little frustrating because these are practically brand new rechargeable batteries. So either a) these were nowhere near 3000mah rating as marked, b) more than a couple individual batteries are rotten, c) my charger is working poorly, or d) the flash capacitor is starting to die out. Figuring out which one will take some time, but it effectively ended my shooting for the evening. We’ll see how it goes from here.

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