Thursday, May 21, 2009

panic in the parlours

Some rainy weather over the weekend caused me to check my pool's skimmer more often. At one point, I lifted the lid and saw two floating toads. The rain seems to wash critters into the pool every year. Thinking they were dead, I avoided touching them as I reached in and pulled up the basket

Fortunately, they were still alive! I held the basket under the eaves of the garage and let rainwater wash over the toads to rinse the chlorine off them. By the way, Sam's Club jacked up the price of chlorine tablets to $100 for a 40 pound bucket. Anyhow, the toads perked up and I took pictures before releasing them into the woods.

These little fellas got me thinking. I like frogs but I prefer the subset of toads and I like turtles but I prefer the subset of tortoises.

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

tawt I taw

The New York Times article on Twitter compared its appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" to the Beatles' first performance on "The Ed Sullivan Show." It also listed several little-known tricks for Twitterers and instructions on how to find the nearly hidden advanced search page.

My daughter does the Twitter and posted something today that made me laugh. She put a link to a URL on and commented that she would now have to re-alphabetize her entire collection. I clicked on it and was most amused.

My friend Bean has started Twittering too. Last week he posted vacation updates from the graves of dead presidents. Bean has suggested that I read the feed of "KingsThings," which purports to be written by Larry King. I've heard there are a lot of celebrity impersonators on Twitter. Maybe Larry really did write, "i am entertaining the crew w/ stories about Frank Sinatra and Don Rickles. almost showtime!"

An emailer pointed out that the video of my rumba with Emily Loyless has way more views than any of the other performances from "Star 102.1's Dancing With the Knoxville Stars" fundraising event. I would like to think it was due to my own blog posts but I strongly suspect that Don Geronimo's Twitter feed had a lot to do with it. You can still make an online donation, by the way.

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Saturday, August 16, 2008

it's alive

Before swimming each day, I use a net to get leaves and pine needles out of the pool. Then I empty the skimmer basket of leaves, bugs and the occasional bad surprise. Once the chores are done, I get in the water myself. As I was swimming the other day, something small and brown got my attention. It wasn't a leaf, as I might usually find. This little thing was swimming too. I got closer and realized it was a frog. I needed to get him out of the chlorinated water immediately.

Last Sunday on the cluster's public affairs show, my guest was Janya Marshall from the Knoxville Zoo. We mostly talked about tonight's Feast with the Beasts, one of my favorite annual events (and one of the top 20 in the Southeast). Janya also ran through a list of current exhibits including Toadally Frogs.

During the interview, I opined that frogs are the canary in the environmental coal mine. In explaining how fragile frogs are, I mentioned that the chemicals which keep the pool suitable for me are fatal to a frog. I scooped up my swimming companion and placed him among some leaves. I think it was a Mountain Chorus Frog, like the ones who lay their eggs on the pool cover in Winter, although its coloring was more solid. It stayed there to rest while I finished my laps, went in to get dressed and came back outside with my camera. I hope the little amphibian has learned to stay out of the pool. In honor of the Olympics, I'll call him Phrogger Phelps.

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

nice day to start again

There's a chance that Drury P. Armstrong might recognize his historic old house on Kingston Pike. If he were alive, of course. He hasn't been there in over 150 years. The Armstrong-Lockett House is now used for wedding receptions, which is why my family and I were there today. The multi-level William P. Toms Memorial Gardens fill the space between the house and the Tennessee River. Across the water, the cows at the UT Ag Campus were visible.

As we explored the terraced garden, my son noticed signs of life in a puddle near a fountain. It hasn't rained here in a while. My guess is that the water accumulates when the sprinklers are running. I remember Sir David Attenborough saying on one of his TV shows that life will always find a way to burst forth in any available space. The puddle was teeming with tadpoles of assorted sizes. We suspected that more than one species of frog has used that water to procreate. I used my cell phone camera to take some picture and to shoot some video of the little swimmers.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

there's waldo

The challenge was a tough one. Did you find the little mountain chorus frog in yesterday's photo of the leaves and rainwater on my pool cover? In case you had trouble, my son used Microsoft Paint to draw a circle around the frog for you.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

where's waldo?

Today turned out to be the annual tadpole rescue day at our backyard pool. Because the frogs seemed to start "singing" later this year than last year, I had thought that maybe there wouldn't be as many tadpoles to save. Also, I scheduled the pool opening for a week or so earlier this year in an effort to give the frogs less time to get all romantic on my pool cover. It didn't matter. There were still plenty of relatively large tadpoles for us to collect in a bucket today. In previous years my son and I had unsuccessfully tried to see the parent frogs in the accumulated rainwater. Today we spotted two and put them in the same bucket as the tadpoles. See if you can find the frog in this photo:

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

silence of the frogs

A couple of weeks ago a kind blog reader sent me a link to a story about a frog that may very well have been trapped in amber for the last 25 million years. That story got me thinking about the frogs in my own backyard. I haven't heard a peep out of them yet. By this time last year, the Mountain Chorus Frogs were singing like crazy, which I suppose makes them Crazy Frogs by definition. Why are the frogs not screaming, Clarice? Could it have anything to do with the weather? It was surprisingly cold this morning with a few stray snowflakes in the air. Frogs haven't survived for over 25 million years by letting their tadpoles freeze to death. What if the frogs know that Spring is not yet here to stay? Could they be thinking about the upcoming anniversary of the Blizzard of '93?

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

how about a nice Hawaiian pest?

Turtles and frogs have always been among my favorite animals. As kids, my cousins and I would look for box turtles and toads at our grandparents' summer cottage. Since starting this blog, I've saved a turtle and many tadpoles from my pool.

Whenever my parents traveled to Puerto Rico on business, they would hear the call of the coqui. One time they even brought back a coqui hand puppet for me. Coquis were recently celebrated at a Florida zoo. Knowing that, it's no wonder that a decorative front license plate caught my eye in a local parking lot. The plate had a picture of a little frog and several Spanish words on it including a word that I recognized: coqui!

I was photographing the truck when the owner approached and demanded to know what I was doing. I told him about my parents and the coqui and asked him to translate the rest of the license plate for me. He said that "Boricua" refers to someone from Puerto Rico and the rest of it means that he is as native as the coqui.

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Thursday, April 13, 2006

silly ribbit

Several Mountain Chorus Frogs have been heard in our backyard since February. Despite our efforts to discourage the lovestruck frogs from mating on our pool cover, there are dozens of tadpoles now swimming in the rainwater collected there. In preparation for the upcoming pool opening, my son and I have been siphoning excess water off the cover. Before starting a siphon, my son filled a bucket with rainwater and leaves and then used a skimmer net to collect as many tadpoles as he could see. Trying to save these tadpoles feels like the right thing to do but we may just be making it more difficult for ourselves. There's a pretty good chance the tadpoles which grow into frogs will return to their birthplace next year to make even more tadpoles on our pool cover. Here's a couple of baby pictures and a short video of the little swimmers:

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Wednesday, March 08, 2006

early frog gets the mate

The frogs in my backyard have decided that Spring is here to stay. My son and I listened to the mating calls of all the various species on the official Frogs and Toads of Tennessee website. We think we have Mountain Chorus Frogs in our yard. Their genus is Pseudacris, which sounds like a "faux version" of rapper Ludacris. Each year the frogs lay their eggs in the rainwater that accumulates on our pool cover. Unfortunately all that water will be gone before their little tadpoles grow up. Last year we were able to scoop out some of the tadpoles and move them into a bucket before the pool cover was removed. Two survived into froghood. Maybe this year we can do better.

In an effort to share the sounds of the amorous frogs with you, I recorded a 15 second video on my cell phone. The phone saved the video in the 3GPP2 file format, which my computer didn't recognize. Before giving up on the idea, I checked the phone's owner manual and saw that I should try downloading the newest version of QuickTime. Presto! We have frog sounds.

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